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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."


"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 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 

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


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

 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 -
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) -
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:

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