Fan Free Baseball

The above photo was taken in July 2003 – during the SARS pandemic. There were a few fans present at Skydome / Rogers Centre that day. Won’t be happening this year though.

It’s not just the Blue Jays that will experience COVID weirdness. I watched the opening day baseball game in Washington DC last night. World Series championship banner raised with no fans in the park. Vacuous player introductions. Massive home runs clanging off empty seats. No broadcasters in the park – Matt and A-Rod were in a studio with appropriate social distancing. The coaches wearing masks. Canned crowd noise – sorta like a comedy laugh track, but less stimulating.

The most exciting thing was a huge thunderstorm that washed the game out in the 6th inning – Yanks win! Yanks win!

Honestly, I don’t see how baseball can possibly hope to keep viewers with such a depressing spectacle. Do they think that a live crowd. has nothing to do with the atmosphere?

I contrasted the live broadcast with a televised Sportsnet replay of the 1993 World Series game 6 – yes folks I was there. The crowd went crazy after Joe’s home run, but the atmosphere was electric all night long – and I don’t mean lightning and thunder.

Now I hear that major league baseball will expand the playoffs this year – even more games in empty ballparks.

It’s great if you want to watch bad umpiring without crowd reaction, or see a hanging slider go 460 feet to die on an outfield concourse without anyone to catch it. But it sure ain’t baseball. You can look it up.

Distance Education

Some 30 years ago when Maria was taking courses in Computers for Schools there was already a lively debate going on about the future of PCs in the classroom. Not to mention the future of technology on teaching and teachers.

As far as I could see at that time there were numerous logistical and personnel barriers to this Brave New World everyone was speculating about.

First of all was the cost. A single computer back then cost thousands of dollars. Many families couldn’t afford them. They were desktop models so the kids would have to share at home or in school. No school board could put 20 desktop computers in every classroom.

Then there was the question of standardization. Most PCs were Windows-based back then but a lot of schools used Macs. What’s a family to do? Get more machines?

Then there was the problem of technology. Networks were wired and difficult to set up and use. Even if a school had a computer lab with internal connections that is as far as it went. There was no Internet so homework would have to be sent home on a floppy disk back then. Ever heard of computer viruses? Scary.

Maria was learning about a Mac feature called Hypercard. I thought this was a dumb idea. Hypercard allowed you to connect your document to another one on your computer by means of a hyperlink. I thought for this to be of any practical use one would need incredibly powerful processors, unheard of graphical capability, and massive amounts of storage – preferably network storage. None of that was possible in 1990. Just a gimmick, I thought.

Last of all was the state of the people involved. Our generation struggled with computer tech; the younger one was adapting as they got access. But it seemed a lot of expensive training would be needed.

Fast forward to 2020. The oldest teachers have retired. The current teaching group is well versed in technology – at least as far as Pinterest and Facebook are concerned. We have the World Wide Web – which is Hypercard on steroids. We have desktops, laptops, smartphones, Chromebooks, Google, Skype etc. etc. The world has changed. Had classroom instruction with computers changed all that much?

Up until March 2020, I would have had to say no. But COVID-19 changed everything. Not only were students and teachers forced to use computer-aided instruction, they had to do it while practicing social distancing.

The kids were ready for it. The current generation have not only adapted to IT, they are immersed in it.

My grandkids are out here this week. No sooner had they got here than Veronica was setting up a Google Meet with her dad back in Ottawa. Teddy has a morning enrichment session with his classmates that went on after the official end of school. All of the kids have Google accounts set up through their school board, with their own Google Drive setups. Teddy keeps track of his Pokemon collection on a Google spreadsheet. Kids copy and paste into their browser like demons.

I have to admit that after 50 years of IT experience, my competence with online tools is roughly equivalent to that of my nine-year-old granddaughter. And I like to think I am pretty with it still. Go figure.

I may be wrong but I think this recent burst of distance learning is going to revolutionize the classroom – for better or worse. The stuff we only dreamed about in 1990 is here now, and the kids are spearheading its adoption. I only hope the current generation of teachers can keep up with them.

Fifteen Years Later

Paul Martin was Canada’s Prime Minister. Dubya was in the White House. If anyone said Donald, you thought of Disney’s cartoon duck.
Maria had just finished her teaching career, and I was 6 months into retirement myself.

We had never cruised at this point. We had no grandchildren. It was a world away from now. No pandemics to worry about although SARS was a recent memory.

This is what my computer setup looked like. No smartphones, laptops, or Linux.

On July 5th we finished our packing and loading and locked the door for the final time at 56 Pennington Crescent, Georgetown. As I recall it was in a heavy rainstorm.

We drove as far as Peterborough, stayed overnight in a tiny motel, and next day arrived in Almonte.

It was quite a leap of faith, moving to a small town we’d only visited a few times. But Sarah and Dave weren’t far away. Closer to Kingston too.

It’s worked out pretty well. We’ve used Almonte as a base for global travel. Lots of flights and ship voyages. We’ve met lots of great people both in Almonte and on the seas. Had our share of joys and sorrows to be sure. And we’ve grown old.

Our kitchen still has the porcelain cat cookie jar, but the fridge, dishwasher and coffee pot have expired. We have a new roof on the house, and the heating and cooling plant is getting a bit long in the tooth. That’s what happens when you spend some time in one place.

Winters can be vigorous here but we enjoy the clear air and dark skies full of stars.

We are well away from urbanity but we haven’t avoided the COVID-19 situation. Many old folks in an LTC home died right in Almonte. We are aware of our fragility and so we social distance. Traveling is a still recent memory and a long to be delayed future dream – if it happens at all.

At one time I contemplated spending the rest of my life in Georgetown. Didn’t work out that way. But hey, it’s been pretty cool to be here for 15 years. And the grandkids are coming out next week. They love it here as much as we do.

Not a bad thought for an anniversary, is it?

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