The Eggman

I saw the eggman a few minutes ago.

I always wondered what Lennon was about with the “I am the eggman” line, and then I saw him. I was crossing Finchley road with Starbucks venti and hand, and there was a green van with an oval egg graphic on the side. Above the symbol, it said “The Eggman.” Below the symbol, “Mrs. North’s Egg Delievery Service.” I’ve seen morning milk delivery services in my neighborhood, but I gess there are egg services as well. Thus, the eggman was at the wheel of the small lorry.

It’s the first week of school, and many things are going on. I’ll post more soon about planning and projects, for for now my basic task list is too long for anything but work. Ta!

Daily Life in England

A carp in hand

For the curious, here’s a link to a photo gallery of our daily lives in England:

I’ve included images of our 3 bedroom flat in a converted Victorian, pics from our visit at Cambridge, Doug’s fishing adventures in Hampstead Heath, a sailing regatta on Welsh Harp reservoir, a finals cricket match at Lords, and a trip to Kenilworth Castle near Stratford-Upon-Avon. Cheers!

Remote Clients for WordPress

This post is a quick test of Deepest Sender, a basic extension for Firefox that enables a client-based application for creating a WordPress blog entry.  The command line is very simple, but it does include indents, image, and link insertion (as well as other standard text formatting tools).  Also, since is is part of Firefox, it has as-you-type spell-check and underlines missspelled words with a red line (something I’ve come to depend on a bit much.)

Image insertion is awkward, since the file already needs to be online before placed in, so I may need to search for something more comprehensive.  The simplicity of this is nice, however.

Academic Technology

I remember an interesting conversation. Some of us will become stock brokers, and others doctors, and some dancers, and others artists. In those professions, we might chat with colleagues about our opinions in the field. Conversely, everyone has an opinion about education. We’ve all experienced one form of schooling or another, and we all have an opinion based mostly on childhood experiences.

Given how personal technology is commonplace in the homes, in the workplace, and on one’s person, I’m wondering if we aren’t all developing opinions about technology. Like educational experiences, it’s becoming a common social denominator. I once heard that “guys” used to work in the garage on cars with their sons, but now it’s computers that are built or tweaked out. (Of course, given the volume and type of car ads on television, some one thinks they are still a social denominator).

As I work on technology in school, I wonder if we don’t all need more definition. Kids and their parents use a lot of technology at home for a wide range of things (work, communication, play, and more), and there is a lot of exploration going on. At school, we could recreate a similar range of choices, but really we need more defined goals. That’s why I’ve been thinking more of what “academic technology” means. I love to read novels to relax, but academic reading is different. Academic writing, mathematics and research are also different.

It comes back to the concept that schools don’t introduce children to computers, nor teach them how to use them. We do have a role, however, in clearly focusing that use. There can still be exploration and discovery and enthusiasm, but our mission is academic. As a friend once noted, “Not all work is going to be a pleasure, and we shouldn’t pretend it will be.”

A Catalog of Solutions

One objective this year is to improve the documentation of solutions. Many areas of expertise are separated, which is good for focus and research, but not-so-good when one person is gone and a problem comes into the office that can only be solved by that person.

Thus, we’d like to document solutions. For example, what’s the main steps if someone can’t get on the network. If it’s because of the new reserved IP address by Mac address scheme, that’s fine, but what’s a temporary work-around if the main solution is too complicated for everyone on the team to know or implement?

As for tool for this catalog, we could simply create another conference in First Class called “Solutions,” but First Class isn’t perfect in terms of readability (items, like emails, have to be opened to be browsed.” I also thought of a VBulletin or Simple Machines discussion board solution, but I don’t thing we’ll have enough users and contributors (only about 15) to make different topic areas worthwhile. If we split everything up from the start, I can imagine some areas getting very few reads.

So, I’m thinking of a WordPress blog, with the tech staff having posting and commenting accounts. Thus, we have an ongoing, easy to read set of posting with images and file attachments, but they can also be tagged into one or more “categories” of problem or issue types. The downside is that the staff needs to log into a web site to access and contribute information, but I think the advantages over First Class could be worth it.

Any other suggestions are welcome!

A Time of Wonder

London RooftopsHere’s a quick review of my day:

Right after getting up and having muesli and Cheerios (and toast with cherry preserves), I launch into building IKEA furniture (purchased only yesterday) in an attempt to convert our unfurnished flat into a furnished one. I built a black wrought iron stand for our tiled master bath (since it has neither shelves, storage nor electrical outlets of any kind. After that, I launch into a six drawer dresser for our bedroom.

After finishing the dresser (with wife’s help), we take a break at Starbucks on Hampstead High Street for coffee, tea and two orange juices for the kids. Note: UK Starbucks charge more (1.89 pounds for a venti drip coffee), the coffee is hotter, there is no drip decaf, and they don’t offer half-n-half (only whole and skim milk).

From Starbucks we descend into the depths to the Hampstead tube stop and take the tube to Bond Street. We backtrack on Oxford Circus, with my wife buing new clothes at H&M, and myself buying a Linksys wireless router for our freshly installed cable Internet (we also have 80 odd tv channels from Virgin Media, but no tv yet). At Totten Court Road we tube back to Hampstead, head home for a late lunch, and I install and configure the wireless access point (128 bit WEP).

After that, my wife and I build yet another six drawer dresser for our bedroom, which is a hot process given that it’s sunny and warm today. About 5 p.m. we break so I can take my son to see the new Harry Potter movie, and my wife and daugter go out for dinner. My son and I go to the Everyman Cinema Club where they have comfy couches in the theatre and we order drinks and some chili snaps with the film.

One thought about the film, and the Harry Potter series in general. Why are they popular at this given time? Obviously, they have struck a cord with children and more adults who are willing to admit it, but what is it about our time that makes the story a touchstone?

When the show’s over, my son and I hit the Tesco Express for a pizza, chips, and cookies for dinner and walk home. My wife and daughter are watching a DVD on our laptop while we eat, and I move out onto our fourth story balcony on our converted Victorian. I think it might be fun to use my new school laptop on the deck since the wireless is running, and I snap a shot of my favorite view over the rooftops to downtown. (See above.)

Overall, a good day. Tomorrow, I hope we can get organized enough to snag a train to Cambridge for a day trip. I should have a photo gallery of our flat-in-progress posted soon. Meanwhile, it’s completely dark out here on the deck now.

Elegance in Simplicity

I’ve been thinking about some of the Urban School presentations at the Lausanne Laptop Conference. For their laptop students, for example, they send home a decent-sized external firewire drive at the beginning of the school year. The idea is that students will use the drive to back up their data on their own, and the size of the drives makes it possible for them to back up music and video as well. In return, the school doesn’t provide networked storage space for students on file servers, but the FirstClass email system is used for class file exchanges and is relatively large.

What I find interesting about this approach is the “give/take” nature of the firewire drives, and the provision of a student-based solution. The network (no student fileserver) and image of the laptops is simplified (no auto or manual network backup scripts), but there are still opportunities for file sharing and collaboration.

Overall, I wonder if our technology approaches simply focus too much on input variables instead of output values. Too often, we seem to invest a lot of time on increasing the sophistication of what we offer and what we automate, but we pay far less attention to what others actually achieve. I’m certain that there are Urban students who don’t do a great job of using the firewire drives for back ups, but at least the plan was to enable them and provide a solution for all of their files.

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