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Once was mine
Some of the information may be opinion, not fact.  Use the material at your own risk.

It's the end of another semester ... my sixty-fifth at Sierra.  As usual, a lot of things went well and a few didn't.  About the usual number of students dropped and, I think, the usual number of students were successful.  That doesn't mean that everyone received the grade they wanted, but it probably meant that most everybody walked away from the experience relatively unscathed and with a much better understanding of electronics.  My true hope is that some of my students leave my class with a desire to learn more about the subject and maybe even make it a hobby or a profession.  Those are high hopes and possibly unrealistic, but the past has shown that it does happen.  

This semester's end was a little sad for me. It's not only the usual reason of losing students that I've come to know and appreciate, but also because I am not teaching MECH 10 next semester, and maybe never again.  I have requested the change in schedule for various personal reasons, but I haved loved teaching the "10" class.  I've taught one like it for most of those 65 semesters.  I'll miss it and the serious students that have always been a part of it and my "hobby" life.  It's an "empty" feeling, like I've lost an old friend.

Here's thanks to all of my soon-to-be former students and to those who have helped us all be successful (and happy).  Have a joy-filled and restful holiday season.    12-6-18

I am not on the school's class schedule to teach MECH 10 next semester (spring, 2019).  If I get the classes promised to me, it means that I will teach fewer days per week next term.  This will allow me to spend more contiguous time with family and time to do things, other than teaching, that I enjoy.  I have fond memories of teaching classes like MECH 10 (basic electronics), and those experiences go back more than thirty years.  I loved it so much that I ended my full-time career, and lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and benefits, essentially to devote my time to teach basic electronics.   10-15-18

I am somewhat saddened to give up my favorite class to teach, but I feel that this is the time to think more about my family and me.  I want to thank the hundreds and hundreds of students who have fulfilled my teaching "avocation" by becoming successful technical professionals.  I've always looked forward to teaching every MECH 10 class, and will undoubtedly miss it a lot.

Teaching a student who wants to learn is the most gratifying activity, and the most gratifying result is when they get a job     9-26-18

It's no secret.  These pages have proclaimed my love of teaching basic electronics, especially the MECH 10 class, for almost two decades (on the Web 18 years this month).  The class has changed over the years, but basic electronics hasn't changed much.  The only thing that truly has changed is the detail to which we teach basic electronics.  In "the old days," for example, we taught linear electronics (op amps, etc.) for about eight weeks Ö half a semester at that time.  Now, I teach them for three class meetings.  It's the same for transistors.  Most of the electronics math we used to teach is gone, too.  They say that students don't need to be "light engineers" anymore, so the technical details aren't required or even needed in industry.  If that's true, then I don't mind the simplification.  Maybe I even enjoy teaching some of it more that I once did, because this whole teaching thing, for me, was just a way to make people love the craft.  If they could become good at the craft, then the job should come along as a logical result.  I guess I was really a hobbyist trying to make more hobbyists.

All of this has become a subject because I am trying to reduce my work for the school.  I have asked to consolidate my teaching schedule to just one day a week.  That means IF they approve that request, I will have to give up teaching MECH 10 (a two day per week class).  It hurts me to do so.  I've been teaching a class just like MECH 10 for thirty-three years.  Thousands of students have passed through my basic class.  I know, for a fact, that hundreds of hobbyists and workers have begun their "formal" electronics training in one of my classes and have gone on to be happy electronics practitioners.  To do this job as well as I could, and because I like it so much, I have taken quite a hit on yearly income.  Teaching electronics has made me a lot poorer financially and will continue to do that.

So, you say, "Why reduce your favorite thing to do?"  Why reduce your income even farther?  The answer is that I am trying to slow down and take more time for spouse and family.  The spouse wants to travel more and I want to see family more.  The older generation in my family are all gone (no more aunts and uncles, etc.) and the siblings are getting to, or are beyond, retirement age themselves.  It's time to smell the roses Ö with spouse and family Ö more than I have allowed myself to do so in the past.

It might be that this semester will mark the end of a lifestyle.  Mine.  Teaching the other electronics class will not be the same.  The students who take the class for science credit are there for just that Ö science credit.  They generally have an interest, but not the desire to love the subject.  That's O.K., too.  Each semester, a couple of the students continue on, and that's something.

I hope that this is the right decision. I  hope they allow it.  If they do, I will try to make it work for me and try to be just as enthusiastic teaching the "one" class I have been teaching the "ten" class and all those other classes I have taught before.    4-8-18

The first month of each new year since 1985 brings the anniversary of my part-time teaching job.  While this year isn't an "important" milestone, such as the 20th or 50th, I realized that it marks a different kind of mathematical and emotional significance.  This month, I have been teaching for half of my life.  Last year it was 49.2 percent and next year it will be 50.7 percent, but those don't have the psychological impact of exactly half.  This recent realization had quite an impact on me.  It was more of a surprise and shock than my twentieth and even thirtieth anniversaries.  Those didn't "sneak" up on me the way this did.  

Numerology like this and setting milestones are just artificial places in time.  Every fifth anniversary seems to be taken more seriously than others (e.g., 5th, 10th, 20th, etc.), and everyone loves to state percentages (as in "The job is 90% done." or "Buy one and the second is 20% off.").  As much as that may be the truth, the impact of realizing that I have done essentially the same tasks for half my life seems significant.  It begs the questions whether that time was really productive or was something one settles into, like keeping the same bank because it's easier than changing or keeping the same post office box because forwarding is such a pain.  Was it money, complacency or did I love it so much I just couldn't leave?  

I'll consider these questions until the next thing to worry about comes along.  I realize that I need to do laundry today and that should take up about .00035 percent of my life.  Time's a wasting. 1-15-18

Going into 2018, I'd like to explain the photo at the top of this page.  The image shows a portion of a very special bicycle that is important to at least two members of my family.  I am one of them, as the bicycle was mine (as you can tell by the decal on the top tube).  After my cousin Rita taught me to ride a bicycle on a hill just off Searls Avenue in Nevada City, my mother went to Grass Valley and bought me a purple, full size, single-speed bicycle out of the front window of a used merchandise store on East Main near Spring Hill. Today, we might call it a "beach cruiser."  My mom was afraid for me to ride the bike on public streets; so, for the first year, I was allowed to ride it only on the short street in front of our house.  I must have made a million trips back-and-forth on that fifty-yard stretch of pavement. 

Eventually that purple bike gave way to a gold, banana-seat bike and that bike was replaced by a "ten-speed."  In college, that ten-speed was stolen and I had learned to drive, so I forgot about bikes for several years.  For the last two years of college, and several years of working around, I had returned to live in a place only two miles from where I had learned to ride.  My bike at that time was a cheap, but useable ten-speed.

At some point during this period, my car broke down and my motorcycle was my only means of transportation.  One summer, I decided to ride my bicycle to work.  I continued to do so and found that the extreme effort that was required initially began to fade and I could climb those hills with less and less struggle.  A coworker named Rick began to ride with me on weekends.  We rode everywhere and both of us soon became formidable cyclists.  

One day I rode past the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop in, of course, Nevada City and decided to stop in.  I really wanted a "pro" bicycle.  I was thinking a Colnago Master or a Schwinn Paramount.  I was wishing for Cinelli bars, Campi Super Record grupo, a multi-butted Reynolds frame and a few ounces of hand-cut frame lugs, etc., etc.  Most of all, I wanted light weight.  I knew the price tag would be big.  Maybe too big.  Probably too big.  But, I walked into the store anyway.  It wasn't long before the owner, Ron, came up and asked me what I needed.  He knew me and I knew him.  It was the only bike store in town and I had blown many a tire and tube.   My brother had trained with Ron and had worked in the store with him.  Besides that, Ron was the local racing legend.  He was a local hero rider that had ridden in many a Nevada City Father's Day Race, and had nearly won it once (see the quote below).  He was the man.

I told Ron I was looking to buy a new bike.  I described what I wanted and he showed me a bicycle or two I couldn't afford.  Then he showed me a used bike.  I had really loved my used, purple bicycle, but now, I was hoping for a new one.  He explained that this bike had it all.  The frame material, the hand-cut lugs, the fancy bar and stem, the Campi Super Record Titanium grupo and all the other cool stuff.  To top it off, this was a handmade bicycle, a one-of-a-kind that he, himself, had designed and built on the premises.  Indeed, he told me that it had been his personal racing bicycle and the last he had actually raced.  The price was high, but I really wanted that bicycle.  I had the chance to own part of the legend, part of my town, part of our local history.  Maybe the bike would somehow help me be the rider I envisioned myself to be.   It even had the brown Avocet saddle that only the racing team was allowed to own.  It all could be mine.  

I said I'd take it.  To this day, it is the third most expensive thing I've ever purchased just for me (not counting autos).

I really rode that bicycle.  It might not be an exaggeration to say that I put thousands of miles on it.  I loved it almost as much as the purple bike my mother had given me.  Each week I would ride it three times in a loop from Nevada City to Colfax, to Auburn and back to Nevada City and one loop to Marysville and back on the weekend.  In between, Rick and I would ride to North San Juan.  One day we rode from Nevada City to Modesto and another time I rode it from Nevada City to Sonora and back on Hwy. 49.  There were many trips.  I knew that I could jump on that bike and ride anywhere.

At some point, though, my knees started to go.  My job changed.  Rick moved.  I rode the bike less and less.  Riding less meant it was more difficult to do.  At some point, I took it completely apart, greased it and stored it away.  It stayed in the dark for more than twenty years.

One day, two years ago, my brother called.  My brother is a really good bicycle racer.  He had also ridden in the local Father's Day Race and had done well.  This is the same brother that had worked in the bicycle shop with the man who sold me the bicycle.  He had been a close friend and fellow rider with Ron.  Cancer had taken Ron at too earIy and age.  It turns out that my brother had helped order the parts and build the bicycle that was currently in storage.  He wanted to know about it.

I knew I'd never ride the bike again.  Both knees were shot and had been operated on.  My back wasn't the same.  It was time to get out of the way.   Advising him of its current condition, I offered the bike to my brother.  Because of his friendship with the late store owner and because he had a connection with building the bike, he said he wanted it.  I delivered it to him and last year he completely refinished each part and restored the bike to a better-than-new condition.

Ron's bike is now mounted on my borther's office wall with other memorabilia of the bike store.  It's a beautiful tribute to craftsmanship, dedication to a sport and to a man that was an example to all of us bike riders.  My brother and I have quite a few stories connected with this machine lovingly hung on his wall.  I'm glad to see it back in the light that it deserves.  Ron would be happy.


"The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should be the vehicle of novelists and poets [and brothers]."
             Christopher Morley (1890 - 1957)
             Journalist, novelist and poet

"On bell lap the throng roared for Miller to capture the victory that was deservedly his.  Miller reacted to the thunderous cheer from the 8,000 spectators as if he had been zapped by 1000 volts Ė he attacked and even Cook could not meet the pressure.  Miller managed a slight 10m. lead and on the undulating back stretch he increased the tempo still further.  When he hit the descent, Miller was clear by 25m.  When the crowd saw him screaming down the hill with visions of the first hometown boy to win the Classic of American classics, they went bezerko.  Miller didnít ease up: he shot through The Turn with the same speed and flair as he had the previous 39 times.  But, this time he lost it.  In the apex of the corner he hit, what he thought was a grease spot.  He skidded out of his line, slammed into the hay bales with such force that his toe straps seared open wounds on his insteps, and he ricocheted to the asphalt.  His bike careened crazily into the middle of the street.  Baldwin, who an instant before, had reconciled himself to fighting for second place, now had the door unexpectedly opened: he finished first several meters ahead of Cook.  Larry Shields, at 1 minute, finished 3rd.  The storybook ending didnít happen.  But, donít feel sorry for Miller: he put on one helluva show and loved every minute of it."
             Race History, 1977, Miller is oh so Close


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