The V is a Universal Truth

The V is a Universal Truth

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I’ve got some really cool students. Every year I instruct a course in winter camping, whereby a group of students and I go out into the BWCA wilderness for a few days. Last year’s trip was particularly interesting. It was fairly cold by Minnesota standards with temps dipping into the -30F range at night and not climbing over 10 above or so during the day. The group was also particularly motivated when planning their route and decided to average 8 to 10 miles per day with an 18 mile “push” day.

If you’re unfamiliar with frozen lake travel on skis while pulling pulks, these distances are quite ambitious, especially for the uninitiated. As the instructor, I feel it is my job to facilitate the decision-making, keep everyone involved in the process, play a little devil’s advocate, and raise students’ awareness of the pros and cons of such an undertaking. In the end though the decision must be theirs and they must take ownership. This group was all in. To which, perhaps at some peril, I said “okay, let’s do it, but when it gets interesting out there we’re all going to have to harden the fuck up.” This added serious additional motivation to the plan and there was no looking back. They gave it the berries.

Fast-forward to a sea kayak trip in early May on Lake Superior where I happened to casually mention to my students that we needed to “keep it in the big ring”. Water temps that time of year in the Big Lake are right around 34F and I think my comment had something to do with the importance of completing our kayak rescue sequence. They took that to heart as well.

Upon returning to campus a student of mine named Levi brought me the parchment you see in the above photo. It reads “HARDEN THE FUCK UP” in either Runic or some old Norse alphabet. It hangs on the shelf above my desk. At least once a day Levi will poke his head in my door and point to the birch scroll he made for my office. This serves both as a reminder to me to live the V and as a demonstration of his personal commitment to the V.

The cool thing is that neither Levi nor any of my other students are cyclists. Sure, they ride bikes but they know nothing of the V on the road as a Velominatus does. But, to paraphrase the U.S. Constitution, they hold those truths to be self evident. Those truths being that one must Harden the Fuck Up and Keep it in the Big Ring if one is going to realize the maximum benefit that only maximum effort brings. They say it to each other all the time in order to spur one another on: to practice one more kayak roll, do one more climb, or ski or paddle a few more miles.

Chapeau Levi, and to the rest of you, for living the V.

// General

  1. Good on you for explicitly stating the rules and universalizing them like this. I had a more depressing experience with the same thing yesterday. After receiving a host of e-mails from students concerned about their first assignment, I went into class and told them to stand up, then sit down, then stand up again. As I had 120 students standing in front of me, I proceeded to lecture to them about not being sheep (they kept standing). At the end of my rant, I finished by saying that I was fed up with annoying questions about what they should or shouldn’t do in their papers (all I wanted was a smart essay) and that they all needed to harden the fuck up (I allow myself one f-bomb per class per semester). I told them to sit down, which they did. And asked if they had any questions. Hand went up: how many footnotes should their paper have? Gah! I’m tempted to hold my office hours on my bike. I’ll post the route for that session online and if they want to talk with me, they’ll need to keep up. If they ask a stupid question, I’ll drop them.

  2. @Steampunk
    HA! I love the sheeple exercise. Brilliant! I will employ that myself when needed (probably for some lecture class I teach). My typical response, in experiential tradition, is “I dunno, what do you think?” For chrissake people, think for yourselves.

  3. @Steampunk

    I’m tempted to hold my office hours on my bike. I’ll post the route for that session online and if they want to talk with me, they’ll need to keep up. If they ask a stupid question, I’ll drop them.

    That is positively the most brilliant approach to teaching that I’ve ever heard. My God. I’m not a teacher, but I still get plenty of stupid questions where if the person asking the question would invest even a 1/8 of every 7th brain cell, they’d have come up with the answer (or a viable solution) themselves.

  4. Thanks – I’m looking forward to the next “teachable moment” with my 18 y.o. son. I think these tricks could work wonders.

  5. I hope I end up with students 1/8th as rad as yours when I finish my PhD.

  6. @Steampunk
    Office hours on the bike? You truly are a leader in our field. Chapeau.

  7. @Joshua
    I can see higher ups frowning on this practice. The bigger question, though, is which is the appropriate beer for the office hours bidon?

    @Marko
    This kind of practice rules you out of ever hoping to receive runic/Nordic parchments from students. Very cool, that!

  8. @Steampunk

    When I have to do a semester or two teaching during my phd program, I might just have to do that. Everyone here in Ann Argor has a commuter bike to get around, so I think I could even pull it off. They may not learn a lick about AI, but they’ll learn a fuckton about not being a little bitch, which is a far more important lesson anyway.

  9. Higher ups? What are they? Don’t tell me you ever consider anything from admin other than what type of lipservice to pay them.

    I showed a student of mine the other day how to change a tire and fix a flat on his fixie. Cool kid but low on the bike repair skill spectrum. Kind of surprised me. I was tearing down and building up BMX bikes by the time I was in sixth grade. Now I’m thinking I should schedule an “office hour” with him to give him a lesson in the V.

  10. @Collin
    Much more important. Someone should write a dissertation on how not to be a little bitch/

  11. @Marko
    Jens already did.

  12. @Marko, @Steampunk

    Someone should write a dissertation on how not to be a little bitch.

    Jens already did.

    Classic. Just when I think the world has heard enough Jens jokes, I’m proven wrong again.

  13. @Collin
    Finally, someone with a CSci background! While I’ve never been accused of having a Ph.D. (or being smart enough for one), I did take various AI classes during my studies. I’m old enough that we did ours in LISP, which we called Llots of Insipid, Stupid Parentheses.

  14. frank :@Marko, @Steampunk

    Someone should write a dissertation on how not to be a little bitch.

    Jens already did.

    Classic. Just when I think the world has heard enough Jens jokes, I’m proven wrong again.

    You don’t decide when the world has heard enough Jens jokes. Jens does. Wait: that’s not really very good. Jens does and then he attacks. No: that’s not it either. (Bows head and slinks away…)

  15. @frank

    LISP is amazing. My first CS course in college was in LISP. You can think of the parentheses as stupid and insipid, or else you can view the true beauty of the language and the programs that result. The functional programming paradigm forces beautiful solutions because hacks don’t work, something a Velominatus should appreciate.

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