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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Low-Cost Tech Tools for E-Learning Course Creation

There are a number of "one stop shopping" cloud solutions, but they can be expensive or limited. You can build your own solution if you use low-cost tools.

Here are some of my favorites:

Audio editing:  Audacity http://www.audacityteam.org/
Video editing: YouTube http://www.youtube.com
Collaboration content generation:  Google Apps, including Doc, Sheets, Slides

Webcasts / animated presentations:  Screencast-o-matic (http://www.screencast-o-matic.com)
Animated presentations: Knovio  (http://www.knovio.com)
Template presentations: emaze (https://www.emaze.com)

Animation: Powtoon (http://www.powtoon.com)
LMS / VLE Solution: Moodle Cloud (http://www.moodlecloud.com) and Canvas https://canvas.instructure.com/login/canvas)
Adaptive Learning: Smart Sparrow https://www.smartsparrow.com/

Synchronous and Archivable Webinar Solution: Big Blue Button https://bigbluebutton.org/
Online classroom management: Edmodo https://www.edmodo.com/
Quiz and poll generators: ProProfs https://www.proprofs.com/

Free images:  Pixabay https://pixabay.com/  Wikimedia
Photo editing:  Cloud-based – Ipiccy https://ipiccy.com/
Photo editing:  PicMonkey http://www.picmonkey.com
Image editing (must download):  GIMP https://www.gimp.org/

Stripping out Word macros:  Notepad++ (http://notepad-plus-plus.org )
HTML editor: SeaMonkey Project https://www.seamonkey-project.org/

Immersive Experiences:  Thinglink http://www.thinglink.com/
Free Multiple Choice Test Maker:  TestMoz  https://testmoz.com/







Monday, November 20, 2017

Quality Checklist for Training and Professional Development Courses for Associations

The members of associations and professional societies share common goals and interests; the most important of these tends to be professional advancement, enhanced knowledge, and networking.

At the center of achieving professional development is often formal training taught by experts, with credits officially awarded at the end, and records maintained by the organization.

Because the organizations represent the profession, they are under an ethical as well as a practical obligation to maintain high quality. However, it’s not always easy to develop a course template or set of criteria.

For convenience, here is a quick checklist of content and quality attributes to be sure to include in your courses.  Keep in mind that this is simply a quick checklist. If you would like a more detailed description, and an explanation of how to build the course itself for online, on-site, or hybrid delivery, there are a number of in-depth guides which I refer to at the end of this post.


Checklist of Content and Quality Attributes
Here are the essential elements that you need to include in your courses.  You may wish to formalize the list, format, fonts, etc in what is commonly referred to as a Course Design Document (CDD), which also includes instructional design guidelines. 
At the same time, you may wish to create a template.

•    Title of the course and the reason for its relevance
•    Learning objectives:  What will the measurable outcomes be?  What should the learner be able to do or demonstrate at the end of the course? What are the criteria for success?
•    Overview / brief description of the course
•    Bullet point of topics covered
•    Course materials:  Map them to the learning objectives

        * Main content
        * Engagers
        * Check your knowledge / interactive activities

•    Collaborative and individual activities:  Map them to the learning objectives
•    Assessment strategy:
  •     Activities in course – do they count?  How much? Why?
  •     Class participation and collaborations – How do they count?
  •     Final projects or exams
    • Rubric
    • Minimum passing score
    • Practice for multiple choice
Checklist of Instructor Qualifications 
In order to satisfy quality standards, it is important that your instructor and main subject matter expert(s) and that they have pertinent experience.
•    Relevant Experience
•    Educational qualifications
•    Experience in instruction

Checklist for Utilizing Learning Analytics and Effective Evaluations to Ensure High Quality Training:
As you review your course and the way you anticipate that the students will interact and engage with it, take a moment to develop a profile of your learners, their attributes, and learning goals. What are their needs?  Understanding the audience will help shape the following:
  • Learning Outcomes
  • Course outcomes
  • Course Design Document to tie LOs to content and assessment
  • Types of analytics that are available
  • Mastery learning
  • Time on task
  • Collaborations
  • Discussion
  • Formative evaluations
  • Engaging analytics (Did You Know?)
  • Summative evaluations
  • Assessments tying to learning outcomes
As you plan the courses, be sure to make sure that they are up to date, relevant, and they address current and emerging needs and trends.

References (please contact Susan for a free pdf of each).

Nash, Susan S. (2009) E-Learner Survival Guide. Norman, OK: Texture Press.

PDF (free)
http://zenzebra.net/elearner-survival-guide.pdf

Nash, Susan S. (2013) E-Learning Success: From Courses to Careers. Norman, OK: Texture Press.
https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Success-Courses-Careers/dp/0985008105

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Avoiding the Dangers of Dual Enrollment: Fast-Track to a Degree or Disaster?

In some institutions it’s called “concurrent enrollment.” In others, it’s “dual.” In both cases, the goal is the same: take courses that count toward both high school graduation and a college degree (usually a two-year associate’s degree.) Under ideal circumstances, it's a "win" for everyone -- students get a head start toward their degrees, parents save money and time, professors get to work with motivated students, colleges boost enrollment, and high schools can offer courses they could not ordinarily afford. But, like every utopian scenario, there's a dark side here. Promising honor students -- sophomores, perhaps even freshmen in high school, run the risk of developing a college transcript that is pock-marked by scholarship-killing C's and D's. If you're considering getting involved in dual-enrollment on any level, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the pro's, con's, and strategies for success for dual enrollment courses.



What is “dual enrollment”?
In the past, students could get a head start on college credit by taking Advanced Placement courses (AP) and by taking credit by exam tests (CLEP, etc.). But, with high school budget crises, being able to offer the courses and the prep courses became too onerous. So, many colleges and universities have decided to offer “dual enrollment” courses, which are offered to high school students, who can take them online.

What are the main benefits of “dual enrollment”?
The great benefit of dual enrollment is that after taking the courses, the students will graduate with a two-year associate’s degree as well as their high school diploma. Plus, they will have completed their general education requirements.

How old is the average student?
I’ve been surprised to find that students in the dual enrollment courses are as young as 15. They are bright and eager, but I often wonder if their parents realize how high the stakes are if they are not able to retake courses and replace the grades in their transcripts.

College Courses: Until now, the courses have focused on the adult learner
Also, the courses that are developed for universities are often developed with adult learners in mind. In doing so, they utilized Malcolm Knowles’s notions of androgogy (as opposed to pedagogy), and rely a great deal upon scaffolding and building on experience and prior knowledge. Not many 15 year olds have the life experience and prior knowledge of an adult who is returning to school. And yet, many community colleges have as their primary mission to reach the adult students who are returning to school many years after high school. The result is that the instructional materials, instructional strategy, and assessment strategies may be out of sync. 

What is the student expected to do?
The student is expected to be prepared to take online courses offered by the college provider. They have been developed in accordance with best practices and accreditation requirements.  

Is the young high school student REALLY ready for dual enrollment courses originally designed for returning-to-school adults?
The short answer is “hardly ever.” The average high school student will often have a steep learning curve as well as serious time management problems, not to mention feelings of frustration with a format that is very unlike that of high school.

What is the situation and how can a dual enrollment student succeed?
I recommend that the student work with a qualified coach and mentor, ideally one with a master’s or Ph.D. with experience in both online programs and working with adults, at-risk, and high school students.

A Personal Perspective
I have worked with dual-enrollment students over the last two years at two different institutions. I have come to the conclusion that a significant percentage will fail under ordinary circumstances.
And, if they do not fail, they will fall far short of their actual potential, primarily because of
a) technical difficulties;
b) communication issues;
c) failure to self-regulate;
d) frustration;
e) poor understanding of the way to prepare yourself for today’s online courses;
and, above all,
f) the need for a guide and/or mentor who will coach them through it.
In conclusion, here are a few pointers for dual enrollment students and the instructors who work with them:

1. Remember how students can get off to a bad start: They often check in late, and do not review the entire course to familiarize themselves. They do not make a calendar for themselves, or create a checklist of requirements.

2.  Avoid misunderstanding  the role of the discussion board: Students often do not realize that the purpose of the discussion board is interaction, and they do not write substantive responses, nor do they read the posts of other students.

3.  Avoid procedural errors – back up and building blocks: Students often write their answers directly into the empty answer box in the learning management system, rather than writing it into a Word document, which can then be copied and pasted into the answer block.

4.  Remember to communicate with your professor in more than one way.

5.  Plan. Don’t miss deadlines. Remember that some professors will lock down the discussions and dropboxes.

6.  Keep in mind that your fellow students can help you. Peers mean help, support, and a learning community.

7.  Avoid reading, re-reading, and still not understanding – Develop a good note-taking approach.

8.  Practice for great test resuls – Develop test-taking strategies

9.  Focus on good writing skills – Remember that neglecting the small things will add up to big problems

10.  Don't forget to read the texts – Learn how to read them and not get lost.

11.  Employ active reading, probing and outlining – Develop frameworks for your brain.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Interview with Melissa Shang: Wheeling through Middle School

Young writers are doing great things. Welcome to an interview with Melissa Shang who wrote Wheeling Through Middle School when she was 8th grade. It explores the impact of bullying on a girl in a wheelchair while it introduces a mystery. The book draws from Melissa's own experiences.

1.  What is your name and the name of your book?
My name is Melissa Shang and the name of my book is Mia Lee Is Wheeling Through Middle School.

Melissa Shang, author of Mia Lee Is Wheeling Through Middle School
2.  What is your book about? 

Mia Lee Is Wheeling Through Middle School is about a sixth grade stop-motion filmmaker in a wheelchair called Mia Lee and her experiences during her first year of middle school. In this book, Mia makes new friends, runs for Video Production Club president, and has to deal with a middle school mean girl. When Mia’s campaign posters get stolen, Mia and her friends are on a mission to figure out who stole them, and get themselves into exciting adventures along the way.

Cover for the book, Mia Lee Is Wheeling Through Middle School
3.  How did you get interested in writing?  Why did you choose to write about a middle school girl who uses a wheelchair for mobility?  
I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I remember going to the library every week to get new books. I love how reading gives people of all ages the ability to go into a new world and experience different things while physically never having to leave the house. Through reading so much, I started gaining an appreciation for the art of writing. However, out of all the books I’ve read, I’ve never read a story starring a girl with a disability. So many people don’t know anything about disabilities and what it’s really like to have a disability because they don’t see them represented in stories. And I wanted to change that. So I wrote Mia, the main character, as someone who used a wheelchair like myself. Instead of seeing the wheelchair from the outside, readers actually get to understand Mia’s perspective from the inside.

4.  Is your book drawn from personal experience?  How much? Why?
 Most of the book was drawn from personal experience starting middle school. For example, Mia’s friends Caroline, Rory, and Daniela were based off of my friends in middle school. Caroline is based off of my best friend Cassie, who I’ve also known since first grade. Also, like Mia, I love to film stop-motion videos of my dolls and post them on Youtube, and obviously, I also have a disability. While I wanted to keep the book as true to my life as possible, I also wanted it to be interesting and entertaining. I don’t normally solve that many mysteries!

5.  What are some of the most challenging aspects of middle school?  Have you observed bullying?  What kind? Is there anything that can be done? 
While I didn’t have direct experiences of bullying in middle school, the biggest challenge in middle school is making friends while being yourself. A lot of kids in middle school get really caught up with fitting in and being popular that they forget to be true to themselves. My main advice for middle school is to be open to new experiences while not forgetting to stay true to themselves. You see this with Mia and Caroline when on the first day, Mia just wants to move on and forget all their old traditions, but Caroline isn’t willing to try new things. Having a balance of both is the way to go.

6.  Do you think that Mia Lee Is Wheeling Through Middle School is just about kids with disabilities, or is it about something else as well?  What might those things be?
 Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School is definitely not only about kids with disabilities. A big part of Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School is actually about friendship and the way friendship can change as you grow up. Mia and Caroline started off as best friends forever, and Caroline was really afraid of losing that. However, by the end of the book, Caroline and Mia are part of this great new group of friends and their friendship has reached this new level. I think this is something that a lot of kids go through, with or without a disability. It was just important to me to show that kids with disabilities go through it as well.

7.  Are you working on anything now?
Right now, I’m in ninth grade, and I just started high school in a completely new school district after my family moved. I’m currently focusing on adjusting to high school, making new friends, and getting good grades, but I’m always looking for ways to stand up for people with disabilities and make my voice heard.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Making Money in Mature Fields Symposium: AAPG/SIPES Fort Worth

Don't miss a packed agenda with speakers focused on sharing new knowledge and experiences in making money with mature fields.


A Joint SIPES/AAPG Symposium Sponsored by SIPES Fort Worth Chapter, October 30, 2017

Hosted by TCU Energy Institute
Dee J Kelley Alumni and Visitors Center
  • 12 30-minute Technical Sessions
  • Up to 6 Continuing Education Credits
  • Continental breakfast and box lunch
  • Morning and afternoon refreshments
  • $50 per person all inclusive
  • Tell all your friends!
Dee J Kelley Alumni & Visitors Center
2820 Stadium Dr, Fort Worth, TX

Symposium Speakers

Morning- click graphicto enlarge

Afternoon - click graphic to enlarge


Location


AAPG Advanced Surface Logging Course in Houston - space limited / sign up here

A low-cost one-day course in surface logging (analysis of all the fluids, gases, and sample cuttings that come to the surface while drilling a well) will be hosted by the Petrophysical Technical Interest Group (Directors: Matt Boyce and Kirin Gawankar) on November 3 at the Southwestern Energy campus in Spring, Texas. The cost for the course is $200. Space is limited.

To pay via PayPal, please click here.



In recent years, surface logging technologies have greatly evolved and has seen some great advances in high quality data acquisition, measurements, technology and interpretation techniques which provide valuable inputs towards formation evaluation both in unconventional and conventional drilling wells. As the industry adjusts to the new lower price of oil, experts strive to optimize the cost of projects, without compromising on the data collection. Many operators drilling in both conventional and unconventional plays are now switching to advanced surface logging, which is a value driven approach for collecting high quality surface data and utilizing it for reservoir characterization purposes.

Advanced Surface Logging techniques deliver high quality measurements and data in real-time and deliver valuable information at a fraction of the cost of the traditional well logging suites, utilizing proprietary, sophisticated equipment on-site. This workshop will bring the attendees up to date with the latest academic and case-studies from the field, of the advanced surface logging technologies.

The course will cover:
  •     Basics of surface logging for formation evaluation while drilling
  •     Reservoir characterization from Advanced Mud Gas Logging
  •     Real-time Isotopic Analysis δ13C of C1, C2 and C3
  •     Source Rock Characterization
  •     Inorganic geochemistry of rocks
  •     Headspace and Interstitial gas measurements and analysis
  •     Bit-Wear Analysis
  •     Fracture Analysis from Advanced flow measurements
  •     Tools and Techniques for Wellbore Stability and Cleaning
  •     Drilling Optimization

Date of Event:   November 3, 2017
Time: 8:00 am – 3:30 pm
Location:          
Southwestern Energy
10000 Energy Drive
 Spring, Texas 77389

Who should attend?

Geologists and engineers.

How to register?

Send an email to pig.tig.aapg@gmail.com

Pay for the course via AAPG's PayPal account. 


Timing

Topic

08.00 – 08.05 Welcome and safety moment – Matt Boyce

08.05 – 09.00 Introduction to Surface Logging techniques for Formation evaluation – Isaac Easow

09.00 – 11.00 Reservoir characterization from Advanced Surface Logging – Isaac Easow

11.00 – 11.30 Fracture Analysis for Reservoir characterization – Barzin Chiniwala

11.30 – 12.00 How can surface logging aid operators in drilling and completions – Matt Boyce

12.00 – 13:00 Lunch

13.00 – 14:00 Tour of the Advanced Logging Unit – Paulo Esteves

14:00 – 15.00 Innovative Drilling monitoring and optimization Technologies – Barzin Chiniwala

15:00 – 15.15 Closing discussions/Questions
Instructors

Isaac Easow, GEOLOG Americas

Isaac Easow joined the O&G industry in 1991 as a Mud-logging Geologist with Geoservices after completing his Masters in Geology from University of Mumbai, India. He worked as a field engineer in various oilfield drilling locations in India, Indonesia and the Middle East as well-site geological logging engineer, pore pressure evaluation engineer and gas while drilling specialist. Since 2006 he joined the gas while drilling interpretation team to support real-time operations in North America, Latin America and West Africa. Since 2011 he has focused on interpretation and operations support for unconventionals in North America working with Geoservices and the Schlumberger group. In late 2014 he joined Geolog Americas and started his role as Advanced Technologies Champion providing real-time interpretation support for Reservoir Characterization services for both Unconventionals and Conventionals in North America, based in Houston Texas.

Barzin Chiniwala, Geolog Americas

Barzin Chiniwala is the Business Development Manager for Geolog Drilling Technology Services, currently based in Houston and focusing on promoting and executing drilling optimization services for U.S. Unconventionals and as well as global Geolog operations.

Barzin joined the Oil and Gas industry in 2001 as a Mud-logging geologist with Geoservices. He worked as a field engineer in different geographic locations for various operators in India, China, North Sea and Angola. 2006 onwards, he took up various Operations Management positions for the North Sea, based in the Aberdeen, U.K. In 2011, he joined Baker Hughes Drill Bits Technical Sales Team in UK, where he was responsible for drill bit and under-reamer sales to some of the major operators in the North Sea. Following that, in 2013, Barzin took up the global Product Manager Role for PDC Cutters and Bits, based in Houston. In 2015, with the benefit of comprehensive mud-logging and drilling knowledge, he took up the role of a GEOLOG Business Development Manager for Drilling Technology Services, based in Milan, Italy. A year ago, he moved to the GEOLOG Houston office to be able to work more closely with Global clients.

Barzin Chiniwala holds a M.S. degree from the University of Mumbai, India in Applied Geology.



 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Farewell, Silver Bird Presented at Library of Congress

Karolina Kolmanic's Farewell, Silver Bird, a story of love and danger set in Slovenia during World War II, has been presented to the Library of Congress by Vladimir Kolmanic, who is a member of the Slovenian diplomatic corps in Washington, DC.

Vladimir Kolmanic

Karolina Kolmanic, Farewell, Silver Bird

To order a copy, please visit this website.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

UFO Artifacts in Ojuelos, Jalisco, México

"Fernando has something he wants you to take a look at," said my dad. He gestured toward the third drawer in the dresser drawer where he kept maps, pencils, geological reports, notepads, envelopes and stamps.

He and Fernando shared a fascination with treasure hunting. So, I had a feeling it might have something to do with buried treasure, but I was not quite sure what.


I opened up the drawer, and in it was a box a bit larger than a cigar box. Inside were what looked to be carved and polished volcanic rock, something like the gangue one might find in Magdalena, Jalisco, in the opal mines. In addition, were dark polished volcanic rocks; I could not tell what they were, but they were quite heavy; if not ultra-mafic, definitely mafic.

The red-cream polished rocks (opal host rock, I believe) were carved into cylindrical beads.

The ultramafic dark gray stone was carved into disks and also into something that resembled a ceremonial knife. My mind immediately gravitated toward the cenotes of Yucatan where such items were found along with human bones and other incidentals.

Each item had carvings. In the center of each, where one might expect to see a human face was the unmistakable red ant-shaped head of the "Great Grey" variety of alien beings.  Coincidence?  I started to think so. But, I started look more closely, and to my surprise, I found little rounded mini-pyramid-like shapes which looked like the same vintage extraterrestrial equipage as the alien heads.  Curious, I looked more closely at each of the beads, disks, and knife.


To my astonishment, little worm-like carvings were, upon closer inspection, easily recognizable as spacemen, or astronauts, as you'd see in the early NASA program (1960s Gemini). There was one that even looked a bit more advanced - something of a body double for Neil Armstrong making his "One Step / Giant Leap" footprint on the cultural consciousness of the world.

"Did you take a look at these?" I asked my dad.

"No," he said. "Your sister thinks they're fakes. She said she saw glue."

"Did she say anything else?" I asked. "Fakes,  replicas, reproductions, sure.  But of what?"

"Fernando says they are 10,000 years old, and that there are lot more where these came from."

I held the knife with the alien face and what looked to be a flying saucer.  Then, I held up the ultramafic dark gray basaltic disk which had a prominent alien face in the center.

"Well. What we have is incontrovertible evidence of the visitation of alien beings, and the coexistence of aliens and ancient Mexican civilizations," I said, smiling. "Now we know how they obtained the technology needed to construct their amazing structures, and to create such detailed calendars."

I know it sounded as though I was mocking a bit, but I really was not. Of course, my first impulse is to be quite skeptical and to not believe it. I did not believe for a minute that what I held had actually been created 10,000 years ago. But, could they be replicas of something that really was that old?  Again, I doubted it, but I wanted to believe.

... Forbidden Planet  // Lost in Space //

The first thing I did was to do an online search on "Extraterrestrial UFO artifacts in Mexico."  I came up with all kinds of references to discoveries in Chiapas in the ancient city of Palenque. There were carvings that had been widely interpreted to be a Mayan piloting a spaceship. The interpretation was a bit fanciful, in my opinion, and the depiction made me think of the astronauts piloting their craft in 2001: A Space Odyssey. They did not look much like the artifacts that Fernando had presented my dad, but it was enough to convince me that there were, at least, numerous cases of artifacts purporting to document UFO / extraterrestrial contact with ancient civilizations.

"You know, if these really are 10,000 years old, Fernando could go to jail," I said. "I don't want to be involved in that. I don't want to hang out in a Mexican jail."

"He did not say anything about jail," said my dad.  He wanted you to take a look at them.

I doubted that my dad would pass on my thoughts.  He did not want to alienate Fernando, who was one of the few non-family members who visited my dad at the assisted living center where my dad was consigned to live after a series of health crises and complete failure at two rehab centers.  Now, he was better, but I know that it was very hard for him to think that he would never be able to go back home, and would spend entire days not leaving the room. Visits from the outside were tremendous bright spots.

I did not think much about them until the next week when I received a text message from Fernando. "Did you have a chance to take a look at the items I left with your dad?"

"They are interesting! I researched Mexican space alien artifacts. Are these from Palenque? Mayan?" I asked,

"Oh, no. They are from Jalisco. Ojuelos."

That surprised me. In looking at the map, I found that Ojuelos was located in the northeast tip of the state of Jalisco, far from Guadalajara, due east of Aguascalientes.

I spoke to a friend of mine who grew up on a ranch near San Miguel Los Altos that had no running water, no indoor plumbing. He and his 13 brothers and sisters dispersed to Mexico City, Guadalajara, and other cities in order obtain education and work.

"Ojuelos is a part of Jalisco that is totally desert and the main products are tunas."

"Tuna?"

"Prickly pear fruit," he responded.

I could not imagine surviving on the proceeds of prickly pear fruit. They must of have been quite poor.  My friend seemed to read my mind.

"My father used to say that he could not imagine a more hard-scrabble place. He used to hire people from Ojuelos because they so desperately needed work, but he said it was tough. They had no equipment. No tools. Just their bodies."

I was filled with admiration for the enterprising ones who decided to manufacture an alien encounter back in deep caves.


Further contemplation of the artifacts led to a few observations:

1.  Encounters with aliens, gods, or mystical beings often take place in the poorest of poor places, where the people have suffered. The examples are almost countless: medieval mystics (Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, St. John of the Cross); the various Virgin Mary sightings (Virgen of Guadelupe, Virgen of Caacupe, Virgen of the Apocalypse in Quito, Ecuador, etc.).

2.  Inexplicable building techniques are most easily explained by means of space aliens, extraterrestrials, etc., and the uses of the different buildings are assumed to correspond to current customs. This is particularly the case of the Egyptian pyramids. In terms of interpreting the uses of the buildings, I'm reminded of the Anglo-Saxon work, The Ruin, which describes Roman ruins. They were bath houses which even had plumbing (of lead, unfortunately) and systems of heating and cooling the water. The rooms, now empty, were said by the Anglo-Saxon author to be "mead halls" where people joined together in "beorshipe" (literally, "beership" which meant fellowship and friendship). Well, they were partially right -- friendship, but by maintaining cleanliness, not huddling in skins and furs, eating roasted meat off the pointed tips of knives in smoky rooms illuminated by open fires.

3.  When there are human events of great destructive force, it's perhaps not surprising to see a sudden flurry of sightings of angels
and space aliens who purport to be emissaries from a different dimension with a message of hope, support, (but generally apocalypse) for a powerful rallying cry.

4.  According to the Mexicans who have had contact with the artifacts, they are real. In fact, there are a few prominent (at least on YouTube) Mexicans who assert that there is something really remarkable about the Ojuelos artifacts. Supposedly, the transmit energy.

And that fact brings me to my next observation, which is that people are always eagerly seeking transforming energy.

The more I research this topic, the more I find and it's hard to imagine that all of it is of post-Forbidden Planet sci-fi provenance.

On some level the space alien carvings are real. All these artifacts are authentic. That is to say that they were carved by hand. But, are they really depicting space aliens? Were they really carved 10,000 years ago? They resemble 1950s pop culture representations of alien encounters. But, just because they resemble a phenomenon in our world, does that mean our interpretation is correct?

Again Anglo Saxons in early England come to mind. Long-abandoned Roman baths were"mead halls." They thought "beor shipe" when the Romans thought "spa day." Kant's synthetic a priori comes into play here. We can't transcend the cognitive or conceptual frame we've created for ourselves. So, what do we do?

I read an article where a supposed 10,000 year-old human skull-size carving which looked all the world to be the pinched head of a space alien was sold for $4 million.

Perhaps that's what Fernando had in mind.

Unfortunately, I don't think his alien-head skull carving would fetch a million dollars.  I found a place on Amazon.com where you could buy 1 - 2 inch long "space alien skulls" from Mexico for $10.99, shipping and handling included for Amazon Prime members.

Actually, they looked like they could do double-duty and be skulls (Calaveras) for Día de los Muertos as well as alien skulls.

Oh, and let's not forget how everything has been turned into fodder for a tourist spectacle; the most desirable are the ones that maintain themselves aloofly Post- PoMo, tongue in cheek, as they assert their position at the top of a boho-chic hierarchy.

And, I guess that's what it all boils down to. Some are hard and Machiavellian. Others are simply the dreamers who might have had benign dreams if they had not become infected with the twin fevers of quick profits and quick "mesalliances" with "outsiders" whom they think deserving of a good pecuniary scalping.

I'm a dreamer and I'd like the artifacts to be real.





Friday, August 25, 2017

New Certification and Micro-Credentialing

In 2016 and continuing through the summer of 2017, a number of universities offering either a traditional face-to-face 2-year MBA, or an executive MBA, began confirming what many observed: enrollments started to drop, and students and employers commented that the cost had risen too high. Students and employers could not justify the cost due to a lack of return on investment.

People are turning to alternatives such as micro-credentialing which forms the core part of a competency-based learning program. Even Google is offering micro-credentials in its G-Suite for Education, which helps students develop skills using its cloud-based software.

Organizations are developing fast-track certification and micro-credentialing programs in response to quickly evolving industries and the need to obtain and demonstrate mastery with specific skills and knowledge.  Some of the emerging areas include new data analytics techniques, new areas of medical technology, home health care provider management, hospitality marketing, technology entrepreneurship, drones and UAV operation and analytics, urban organic farming, and more. 

Certification providers include companies with specialized experience and experts, colleges and universities, professional associations, and government agencies.
  •  Assessment to determine needs for new skills and knowledge
  •  Emerging needs aligned with certificates
  •  Situated learning: connect knowledge and skill to real-life setting
  •  Fast-Track Certification: Fewer courses, tighter timeline
  •  Characteristics of a “Fast-Track” program
  •  Digital badges used to motivate
  •  Content quality control to assure relevance of the content
  •  Assessment strategies to apply knowledge and skills in real-life situations
  •  Collaboration to encourage learning from each other
Mini-credentialing and certification programs appeal to individuals who need to expand their skills, and to do It quickly. Ideally, an individual should be able to complete their training within six months. In addition, the program should be affordable so that there is a very clear positive return on investment which more than pays for itself in increased income, expanded opportunities, and enhanced adaptability.

Big Data and Machine Learning: Susan Smith Nash and seismic lines for the Gulf of Mexico


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Russian Horror Film, "The Bride" (2017) Does Not Disappoint

I recently saw the Russian horror film, The Bride (Svyatoslav Podgayevskiy, 2017).  The film is often listed as HEBECTA (pronounced Nevestia – which means “The Bride” or “The Fiancee”).

Any good horror film worth its salt is subversive. This film reminded me of that.


Okay, to start, let me make a confession. I’m not a fan of horror films. In fact, I would say that I avoid them whenever I can. I’m not sure why I thought that the Russian film, “The Bride” would be a chick flick. Probably because I did not watch the trailer. I was also wrong in thinking that it would be in Russian with English subtitles.  It was dubbed. So, I was prepared to be underwhelmed.

To my surprise, I liked it. And, I was reminded that horror is something that, if it’s really good, gives you insight into the dynamics of our social and political milieu, but in coded form, if you will.

Like the best horror films, the premise is of a scientific breakthrough and technology gone horribly wrong, combined with creepy anthropology and folklore.

Moscow University. Professor is talking about two things: first, the belief in the 19th century that the silver emulsions used in photography captured not just the image but the essence of the soul of the subject. So, they took to taking photographs of their dead loved ones .. painting eyes on their eyelids.


Second, the ancient Slavic belief that a wedding ceremony was actually a funeral ceremony for the bride, because she was dead to her old life – hence, the bridal veil (inspired by shrouds used to wrap the cadaver), the color white (of death; “purity” would have been good old nunnery and nun’s habit black), and the flowers.


Now, in the case of the movie, the bride died, and so a replacement bride was found to inter with the dead girlfriend and a silver emulsion containing her soul, with the hope that the silver plate would be as potent as lightning in Frankenstein’s laboratory. Yeah, a bit weak, and very derivative, but the fact that the entire film was shot in Moscow and the Moscow Oblast made it interesting.

So, here is a checklist underpinning ideas and psychological / existential anxieties:
Fear of women’s sexuality: CHECK
Suspicion of technology: CHECK
Belief in the suppression of scientific discoveries of the 19th century: CHECK
Belief in a hungry, devouring, undead entity that seeks to steal your healthy body, will killing your soul: CHECK
Belief that the body-snatcher is consumer culture?? NO NON NYET NYET NYET
Belief that the body-snatching soul-stealer is the GOVERNMENT (or that the “Bride” is ‘gasp' a politician!) CHECK CHECK CHECK

The special effects of horror leave me cold. I am disgusted by them.  I do not care to see wormy cadavers, or to vicariously experience a rotted zombie female checking to make sure that the prospective new bride is a virgin so she can consign her soul to her rotting cadaver, thus using the new, living bride for her evil designs.

Okay, I liked the Russian house. It made me think of the Romanov times, and the museums I visited in Russia. I also recognize the metonymical significance of secret passages, hallways, and ducts in the old house. The metonymical potential of the silver nitrate images on glass, and the images of candles, winding stairways, foggy trackless forests are also clear to me. I enjoy them, but they are like eating candy corn for breakfast. You’ve just substituted discounted Halloween candy for the tough, bitter, adult palate that prefers something steel-cut.



The subversive elements of The Bride have to do with the vexed relationship a culture has with its past. The past is usually mythologized, and history is hammered into a weapon or a plowshare to do the bidding of the one's in power. To have a past that persists, and actually devours today is quite a subversive message, especially in a culture that tries to build on past accomplishments to reinforce a national identity capable of cohering and fending off outside threats.  To have a being from the past who insists on taking over the body of a young, virginal woman admits that there is a profound fear of one's own latent impulses. Dostoevsky's doppelgangers (The Double and Notes from Underground) are alive and well.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Free Canvas Tutorials for Instructors and Designers

Canvas is a virtual learning environment and also a learning management system that makes it easy to collaborate through its incorporation of Google Apps.


It is also ideal for individuals who would like to offer their own course, since individual accounts are free.

The flexibility of Canvas has made it the LMS of choice for MOOCs, and many universities are transitioning to it because it is easy to integrate and can be launched with a minimum of disruption.
 
I've put together two collections of video tutorials for Canvas. Here are six samples that I've uploaded into a YouTube playlist.

Here's the link to the playlist
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfLhA1Ju1dqFLEW7B0HqPGapLH-BKhtJQ 

Here are the titles:
Planning and designing using learning objectives
 
Building collaborative presentations


Wikis

Learning through Collaboration


Assessment and Learning Objectives in Canvas
For More
Overview of the full Quick Start Guide to Canvas Video Course (with free sample):  35 modules / more than three hours of video guidance
https://www.packtpub.com/game-development/quick-start-guide-courses-canvas-video

 Overview of Canvas for Collaboration (with free sample) - 30 modules / 3 hours 10 minutes of instruction


Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Drones and UAV Software

Software for drones and UAVs cover a wide spectrum of possibilities. They range from very basic cloud-based applications that you download onto your smartphone or tablet, to extremely sophisticated programs that will allow you to work with all kinds of data from many sources, including photogrammetry, thermal, hyperspectral, multispectral, laser, and more. Some programs and packages have a steep learning curve, while others are intuitive and you can develop basic maps and 3D images within a matter of hours.

Images: Pix4D

But, let’s start with the basics.

What will you be using your drone-derived images for?  Let’s think about this a moment. Most drones and UAVs are used to create 3D images and also to try to detect anomalies.  So, what that means in practical terms is that you’ll need to be able to generate geo-referenced images that can be moved, manipulated, and rotated for a better look.  You’ll also need to be able to process data so that the values correspond to different colors, so that any anomalies really “pop” as in a heat map.

The second most basic issue is that of storage space and connectivity. If you’re able to use your phone and you have a good signal, you can take advantage of cloud-solutions and you can gather a lot more data. If not, you’re going to be stuck with what you can carry onboard, which means your sampling rate is going to have to go down quite significantly. It also means that you’re better off with a software package which allows you to adjust your sampling rate.

Keep in mind that software that contains pre-prepared applications will limit you, and you may not even know how you’re being limited. But, unless you’re NASA, a military contractor or a movie studio, chances are it’s not in your budget to pay millions of dollars for your drone’s software.

Here are some of the most widely-used drone software packages. Some are aimed more toward the lighter businesses uses, and others are appropriate for very demanding commercial applications.

In addition, some of the software includes flight planning as well as processing of the digital data once it has been acquired. Are you ready to upgrade your drone? Check out drones for sale.

It is good to keep in mind that for every day you spend in the field collecting information, you’ll spend at least two days at your computer in processing the information. You’ll spend even more if you use the data in the future for additional purposes, such as creating models for games or building simulations. 


DroneDeploy’s UAV mapping software is often the first mapping software that people use after they buy their first drone. It offers more tools and options than many of the software packages that come with the drones, and has the huge advantage of having a free “lite” version. With DroneDeploy, you can upload your data to the cloud. DroneDeploy gives you four main categories of images to choose from. Although they may not provide a wide array of options, they are easy and quick to use.
  •             Orthomosaics: Georeferenced, orthorectified
  •             Terrain models: Useful for topographic modeling. The maps have DSMs.
  •             NVDI analysis:  This is a “normalized difference vegetation index” that is used to identify live green vegetation. In this case, it is best to use a multispectral sensor.
  •             3D model:  DroneDeploy allows you to create rotatable 3D models and also point clouds.
Image: DroneDeploy
DroneDeploy is widely used in real estate, inspections, security, agricultural, and event management.  

Identified Technologies - https://www.identifiedtech.com/
Identified Technologies is a robust solution for individuals and companies that use the images for construction, large infrastructure projects, massive inspection activities and more. They work well for civil and environmental engineers, as well as construction and project managers. Their programs are ideal for project management because they allow one to evaluate progress.

For a wide range of industries, with customized solutions.
  • Change Detection Technology (CDT)
  • Truck IQ
  • Contour Line Map and Orthomosaic
  • 3D Volumetric Analysis
  • As Built vs As Planned Overlay
  • Excavation Progress Tracking
  • Highway Construction 3D Model
  • Watch Fly Through Video
  • All standard mapping formats
  • Boomerang
  • ·       3D Meshes
  • ·       Contours
  • ·       Digital Surface / DSM
  • ·       Orthomosaics

Pix4D is often the program of choice for individuals and companies that need an easy to use solution that can be customized for many different uses. They are the favorite of many surveying companies because of the granularity of the georeferencing. Each 3D point in a point cloud is georeferenced. Pix4D is very robust and can be used to develop high resolution maps for commercial, industrial, and personal use.
  • Pix4Dmapper Pro: photogrammetry software for professional drone-based mapping
  • Pix4Dcapture: Flight planning mobile app for optimal mapping data with your drone
  •             Android
  •             iOS
  •             Sorts most drones // basemaps – Google Earth or ArcGIS
  • Can use any handheld camera or drone
  • Optimized
  • Direct to cloud
  • Georeferenced down to each 3D point in the point cloud
  • rayCloud editor
  • 2D and 3D models, 3D point clouds, digital surface models, and orthomosaics
  • Surveying
  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Real Estate

Datumate has a number of advantages for companies and individuals who focus on photogrammetry. Their software is ideal for surveying and civil engineering purposes.  They even have a case study in which they use drone photogrammetry to create 3D images of a car accident for the report. What gives their software packages an advantage is ease of use and the fact that one can process volumetrics without having a constant internet connection. I do not know if it means that you have to download the package and run it on your computer or if you are emailed a link to download the solution when it is ready. In either case, it’s very appealing
  • DatuSurvey: Photogrammetry software for land surveying, construction, infrastructure
  • DatuSite: 3D mapping software for construction and infrastructure
  • DatuFly:  Drone app for land surveying and construction
  • Site Survey Solution:  Surveying suite for civil engineering 

ENVI (Harris Corporation) -  https://www.harris.com/solution/envi
Harris Corporation is a multi-billion dollar company that provides geographical systems support to FAA, NASA and the U.S. military.  They have provided imaging software for satellites for many years as well. Thus it is no surprise that their software for use with UAVs and drones is extremely robust and flexible.  Harris provides a wide array of industry-specific solutions, and they also allow one to integrate additional data sets with theirs, and to incorporate geographical information data sets from many different sources to build a robust, multi-layer geographical information system.

The cost of ENVI can be higher than other solutions, but if you are a company that provides analytical services, it would constitute the backbone of your business.  Large shipping, logistics, and transportation companies also use ENVI along with other integrated services.

More Software for a Future Post
Other notable image processing software for georeferenced, 3D, orthomosaics, point clouds, and more. I will review them in a future post.
End of Part 1.
Drones for Sale: https://www.wingsland.org/drones-for-sale

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Thou Art the Man: Sensation, Epilepsy, Genetic Determinism, and Feminine Spunk

For the podcast, click here: http://zenzebra.net/podcasts/braddon.mp3

Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1837-1915) is known for her sensation novels – novels written for all levels of Victorian readers, randing from those grabbing a cheap book bound in yellow covers and sold in railway stations to those who read work serialized in popular magazines (one of which she founded and ran). 


Her novels explored the dark sides and inner workings of Victorians at all levels: prim and proper professionals, landed gentry, impoverished women, people in desperate poverty. Her novels also explore secrets and the question: “What on earth do you do if you find yourself in an impossible situation?”  In that manner, she is not so far from Jane Austen, who explored the issue of women in states of abject powerlessness almost a century earlier in Sense and Sensibility. 
Mary Elizabeth Braddon in her early years when she earned her living as an actress. 

I often wonder what kind of father Mary Elizabeth Braddon had. Her books are chock-full of absolutely amoral (if not immoral) fathers, who are frauds, imposters, scam artists, wastrels, cheats, bigamists, and, in some cases sociopathic murderers.


In Thou Art the Man (1894), Braddon’s father figure plunges to a new low. He has used his friend’s fishing knife to stab a beautiful young woman to death in a dark grove simply because she rejects his proposal of marriage, which was motivated by a combination of self-interest (she had been promised a large dowry by her adopted (who turned out to be her real) father) and lust. The father figure, Hubert Urquhart, the heir apparent of an impecunious earl who married stunningly well, into wealth, beauty, and breeding, is a dissipated, gambling, vice-prone former cavalry officer, who is also a widower with a young daughter.


To listen to a reading, please visit the Librivox recording of Thou Art the Man click here




Urquhart gets away with it because his friend, Brandon Mountford, whose fishing knife he used, suffers from epilepsy and has memory losses after his convulsions. Not surprisingly, when Mountford happens across the dead woman, the sight of it triggers a grand mal seizure. He comes to consciousness with no idea what has happened. He does not think he had any reason to kill – but Victorian psychology held that epileptic seizures turned people into demons (remember, this was the age of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) who slipped into uncontrollable homicidal rages, that generally targeted lovely (and often hot-blooded) women who happened to stray into their way.


In fact, the mystery in Thou Art the Man revolves around the question of guilt and also the nature of epilepsy itself. Mountford has lived in a kind of existential horror as he has witnessed his seizure disorder slowly destroy his dreams of being an attorney, and then of love, since he was determined never to marry, have children, and potentially pass along the disease. He read the medical literature of the day which detailed the progress of the disease and the prevailing belief that the seizures transformed the sufferer into a violent beast with no self control, and later, no memory of their actions.


Exploring debilitating conditions brings to mind other sensation writers, namely Wilkie Collins. 

Three years later, Urquhart’s young daughter, Coralie, happens upon the aftermath. Mountford, thinking himself to be a ravening monster, runs away (with the help of the murderer, who wants to make Mountford look guilty). Sibyl, the wealthy heiress in love with Mountford, marries Urquhart’s brother, the Earl, because she thinks that the community thinks that she was somehow part of the murder because she helped Mountford get away. So, in this loveless situation, she moves forward with her life, until a few fate-triggering incidences happen – she helps Urquhart’s unfortunate daughter and invites her to stay with her, and a mysterious note is delivered to her by a wild-eyed possibly mad vagrant.


I’m providing a little bit of plot summary just to give you an idea of how tangled and dark the webs are that Braddon weaves, and how every little sticky thread has a secret, a hidden past, a shameful horror, and a glittering prism of feelings, ambivalence, and confusion about one’s own identity and the identity of one’s loved ones.


Unlike many of Braddon’s earlier novels, in Thou Art the Man, it’s hard to know who is the hero. I maintain it is Coralie, although in theory, it could be Lady Sibyl.  Sibyl is not as interesting, though, and even though she is the one who really solves the mystery of the murder, it is Coralie, whose ambivalence and questionable morality both problematize her and make her sympathetic. After all, she knows she is her father’s daughter, much to her growing horror.


So, when the story opens, we meet Coralie, who had been relegated to a finishing school, where she is constantly on the verge of being ejected for lack of payment, and whose clothes are so worn that she is mocked by her fellow students.  By the way, this condition is nothing extraordinary in Braddon’s novels. I can think of at least a dozen young women in Braddon’s novels, who, talented and sensitive, must bear the horrors of abject dependency on the good will of the female owner of a young ladies’ school. In Thou Art the Man, Urquhart’s daughter, Coralie, is rescued from this cold, humiliating limbo by Lady Sibyl, who gives Coralie a place to live and a dress allowance – just enough, as Coralie says, to keep her completely aware of her dependence.


And this, I think, is a good place to talk about what is really revolutionary and fresh about Braddon’s novels, and Thou Art the Man in particular.


Coralie’s voice constitutes a large part of the narrative. It’s not all of it, nor is the structure something like Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, which is, in essence, a series of letters, reports, and documents, none of which give us the calming “we live in an ordered universe” feeling of the omniscient narrator.


Coralie has her own thoughts. She innately distrusts (wise girl!) her father. When her father asks her to observe Lady Sibyl’s household and send reports, she decides to keep two journals: one for him, and one for herself. It’s fascinating to read her reports to her father, and then to read her personal diary and learn what she really thinks, and how she truly questions what is happening.


I’m not aware of any other novel that contains such a technique. What is interesting, too, is that Coralie herself has doubts about her own integrity. She readily admits that she tends to prevaricate, and that it is difficult for her to be transparent. The reader sympathizes immediately because the poor girl has been absolutely abandoned in the world except for a very damaged (and damaging) scion. Like many of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s heroines, such as Violet Tempest in Vixen, Coralie is perhaps not a hothouse orchid, but is a quick-witted and intelligent young woman, who, if not a classic beauty, an energetic, practical and attractive woman, drawn to horses and long, revitalizing walks in nature.  


Darwinian ideas are alluded to in Thou Art the Man, and they are challenged at every turn. Braddon champions the idea of self-determination, and provides refutations at every turn of the over-deterministic notions that you are and must be the product (or consequence) of your perverse parental genes.


Secrets, deception, and hidden motives are standard fare in the Victorian sensation novel. In Wilkie Collins's novels, the core dilemma is often a challenge to middle class mores and a secret longing for polygamy (or at least legitimized bigamy). The requirement for monogamy destabilizes identity and has all sorts of pernicious consequences; one being murderous tendencies, and the other, a sad longing for oblivion, usually in the form of laudanum.


Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s world is animated by secrets, but most are driven by the need to survive, and can be often excused as misdirected pluckiness. That is, except for the truly dissipated and scoundrel father figures, which are often undeservingly forgiven at the end.


In Thou Art the Man, perhaps the most satisfying moment comes when Hubert Urquhart meets his end. He is now an Earl. He is powerful.  He is rich. And, he is miserable and in hideously poor health, thanks to years of vicious living. The fact that he murdered the one true love of his life and then murdered his own brother never escapes the reader; nor does it escape the reader that he is part of the British aristocracy.


Yes, Braddon is subversive, but not in ways that favor anarchy. She uses sensation to problematize hierarchy, and thus encourages her female readers to dream and to envision their own personal path to self-actualization and empowerment.


****

Just a quick response to TinkieToes’s review: Thank you.  I recorded on Librivox as beyondutopia. I held myself back – I thought that some of the passages were almost pleading for an exaggeratedly operatic delivery.  Sensation invites the “camp” response. 

But – Coralie’s diaries and her realistic voice militated against high camp, so I read in what I thought was the most modulated and almost flat way possible. I’m a bit surprised that it was considered at all dramatic. Well. It’s good to know how others respond. At any rate, I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to read, and also of the positive response. Thank you.

*****

Gender

Now, just a very quick aside -- Brandon Mountford is portrayed in terms that are usually reserved for the feminine. As such, the dominating rhetorical mechanism is that of pathos. The character functions to trigger feelings of empathic helplessness, objectification, abject dependency upon the action of something or someone else...  and in that dependent state, there is an erotic trigger that is, above all, unhealthy. Braddon recognizes this.


So, when Mountford is held captive in an underfunded curate's crumbling extension of his cottage, it is not too surprising that he is utterly helpless and in his impotence, he is weirdly eroticized.



I suppose at the heart of it is the idea of power dimensions and differentials: the difference between Brandon's power (absolute ZERO) and anyone else's was something utterly empowering (and intellectually eroticizing). His seizure disorder stripped away his self-determination and made him weak and vulnerable. 

The implicit message is that you can have your way with him. That may not have been true, but it was the message. And, it was the message usually reserved for females. Does it take this sort of psychological atrocity to wake us up? It is good we know how it works.





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