Thursday, July 20, 2006

Apollo Chronicles

I subscribe to a number of e-services, including this one from NASA (snglist c/o that connects me up to program lore. Today, I'm reading about the first Apollo lunar landing (left foot first) and Armstrong's fascination with moon dust (rose petals).

The story, relayed in grade school English, is full of suspense, as the Sea of Tranquility was anything but, from a needing to find a parking space point of view: rocks everywhere. Neil, his heart clocking 156 bpm, saved the day (and NASA's ass) with a last second touch down, fuel meter on empty.

If there's a NASA cable or satellite channel sharing more commemorative fare today, it's not easily accessible from my household (or maybe it is -- let's speak hypothetically). However, the Google video archive is pretty well stocked with lunar lander memorabilia.

There's enough on the Internet for a homeschooler to bliss out on, plus Netflix for movies and documentaries. But does our homeschooler have access to either?

Thanks to TCP/IP, many Portland homes now have at least a well-endowed library's powers, when it comes to archival access. The Oregonian's business page today is about the new metropolitan wireless system (construction begins), intended as a free public service.

Synchronous and even asynchronous archiving of overseas broadcasts was still more a job for embassies and listening posts in 2006, mostly under the control of governments and their contractors, although many expats could tune in their home country's TV via satellite services. In Portland, many expats speak Farsi, others Russian, others Japanese.

Given I'm a curriculum writer, sometimes back office, sometimes in the field, I have a natural interest in knowing a lot of what a librarian knows. I want my lesson plans to match up with actual resources. I'm not just interested in science fiction.

If students have access to Google Earth, that opens up a whole new set of possibilities. If they're patched in through some synchronous feed to a team in the field, say at a marine archeological site ala the Jason Project, then we'd plan the lessons differently.

Our thought is to organize the lesson plans database around tags listing the expected and/or necessary technologies, sometimes with alternatives. A teacher could narrow the search by entering locally available tools and/or topics of interest (Python, SQL...).

In 2006, many of our global university students don't yet have access to the basics (e.g. food, potable water), and so their education remains on hold while we continue debugging a lot of broken "first world" code. Sometimes it's easier to start fresh and just bypass the old stuff. Other times, the old stuff was well designed and proves readily adaptable.

Side light: Tara's sims family didn't pay any bills as it ran overnight. This morning, the repo men have arrived with their ray guns, and are making appliances disappear. Fortunately, her family has enough in the bank to replace some of their stuff. What a hassle though. Which reminds me, I need to get new DEQ tags for Razz.