Thursday, January 27, 2011

May their memory be eternal

January 27, 2011 marks the 44th anniversary of the fire that took the lives of Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grisson, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

The following day, January 28th, marks the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, which took the lives of Commander Francis R. Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair and Payload Specialists Gregory B. Jarvis and Sharon Christa McAuliffe.

Christa McAuliffe was our first teacher astronaut, selected from more than 11,000 applicants. She was a social studies teacher at Concord High School in Concord, NH, and today The Christa McAuliffe Planetarium/McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord is named in her memory.

In their honor, here is a favorite poem of mine, and of many astronauts and pilots. It was written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a 19-year-old American who died while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, just before the United States entered WWII.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.,_Jr.

Image from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In which we make house calls

This job has made me appreciate tech support people like never before. It's difficult, if not impossible, to give good phone support to people who don't have the vocabulary to describe what they are looking at on the screen. I have a "computer comfort class" for rank beginners, to start to give them mastery over some of the terminology they need in order to help themselves find their own answers on the Web, but very few people have attended it. Those who have learned how to do email by rote, and how to locate websites that they want, don't think they need to learn anything else. Until they need to learn something else. But then they don't know how to use terms like title bar, menu bar, file and folder hierarchy, navigate/browse to a folder, active window, maximize, minimize, etc.

I get a lot of these calls from our patrons. In many cases, they have a spouse or other family member who has more experience with computers but doesn't have the patience to impart that knowledge to their close family. So they call me.

One of our devoted volunteers called me last week for help with her new all-in-one printer-scanner-copier. Her tech guru had purchased and set up the printer for her, but hadn't shown her how to use the scanner function. She had over a hundred old photos that she wanted to scan and place on a CD to give to her children. She had been using it as a printer for some time, and she had tried scanning on her own, but she didn't know how to find the resulting images on her computer.

So I made a house call. Like I said, she's a devoted volunteer. It only took about half an hour, and she took notes. She called me a couple of days later, thrilled to report that she had scanned all the photos and copied them to a CD. She was going to make another one for another daughter, and one for herself for an archive. The best part? She's in her 70s. Successes like that really make my day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Media Player Classic saves the day!

The big meeting room got double-booked today, so the Wednesday matinee had to be moved upstairs, using the older portable projector and a laptop. But we couldn't get the laptop to play the DVD. Windows Media Player would play the video, but not the audio. IntermediaDVD would not play at all, complaining that the DVD was copy-protected.

So I downloaded and installed The Combined Community Codec Pack, knowing that Media Player Classic is bundled with it. Media Player Classic played the DVD without complaints, and now I have a laptop that can play DVDs, AVI files, and several other media formats that it couldn't play before.