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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Methods for Generating Heat -- Do They Work? Here's One ...

Oil wells often confront the problem of "gumming up the works" -- it can be due to paraffin buildup (waxy goo in the pipes) or the fact that the oil itself is like tar (low gravity) and does not flow unless it's heated up.

We know heat is the answer.

 But -- where's the cheap heat?
Where's the heater?
How can we apply heat where it matters?

Here's a suggestion -- Hot Pipes!

Pyrophase ..


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Drone Review and Reality Check: Capabilities, Flight Times, Costs, Best Brands - Interview with Michael Nash

Separating drone realities from drone hype is critical in an area that is seeing rapid development of technology, applications, and a legal framework that supports more uses of drones. Welcome to an interview with Michael Nash, Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. candidate with extensive experience in robotics (including drones).  In this interview, Nash provides a reality check as he details the capabilities of drones, their limitations, and discusses their potential.

Michael will be presenting a paper, "Drone Reality Check .. .What Drones Can't, Won't, and Flat-Out Refuse to Do" at the AAPG Workshop: New Opportunities with Drones:  New Needs,  FAA Rule Changes, New Technologies, Dec. 1-2, Houston, Texas.

1. What is your name and your relationship to drones?
My name is Michael Nash.  I am a doctoral candidate at the University of Oklahoma in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in robotics.  I have experience in aerospace system design and control systems and have practical experience combining the two in the design and development of drones from raw materials and mathematical modeling by integration as embedded firmware performing the sensor fusion to filtering to actuation.

DJI Phantom 3
2.  What is a drone, from your point of view? How is a drone not quite what the public generally thinks it is?
The common conception places drones as somewhere in between automaton and remotely-operated vehicle.  Most of the time they are imagined to be masters of their environments that live aloft. 
The way people should define a "drone" is between a hobby RC aircraft and self-piloting aircraft following GPS waypoints.  Both capable of collecting data with lightweight sensors, but none capable of spending a significant amount of time in the air (unless specially built by an aerospace/mechanical engineer).

3.  In your opinion, what are some of the most realistic claims that are being made about what drones will do for you?
Drones can provide non-flying humans with an "eye in the sky".

4.  What are some of the most outlandish?
Delivery drones come to mind.

5.  Please list and very briefly describe the types of challenges facing drone pilots?
Pilots of drones are pilots; piloting takes skill that takes time to develop.  The lay-man cannot pick up drone controls for the first time and fly a drone effectively.  Hundreds of hours of practice on a particular platform (be it rotorcraft or fixed wing) stand between the first-time enthusiast and competency.  Ironically, pilots needn't be college educated but can often be found at the local middle or high school.

If the entity wishing to deploy the drone does not wish to employ an experienced pilot, they should plan for repairs.  For rotary-wing aircraft such as helicopters and (tri, quad, hex, octo)x-copters, and propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft, nearly all crashes will break propellers.  Fixed-wing aircraft will frequently lose wings or receive damage to control surfaces; x-copters will break motor shafts, motors, and arms.  The electronics are fairly robust, but very often get pulled.  The most severe crashes will damage the on-board battery resulting in fiery explosion.

Hobby drones purchased for less than $100 made solely for flying in a gymnasium or low-wind field will be more resistant to damage and can possibly crash 100 times needing only propeller replacements, but they will not be capable of carrying special sensor systems (max payload likely less than 1kg).  Drones capable of a significant payload (yet still less than 5kg) will be less user crash-friendly and can be $1500 up. An example is the newest of the DJI Phantom series, the Phantom 4, with a fly time of 30 minutes.

No multirotor aircraft will fly for an hour (see the information at bottom).

No radio controlled aircraft will be controllable outside a couple hundred meters; if the controller signal is not attenuated, you won't be able to see it.  Professionals may argue this, but professionals don't need to use their drones to collect scientific data.

6.  Please list and very briefly describe the challenges facing the people programming the drone?  (please explain how a drone is or is not a robot)
If one is personally programming the drone's logic, then the skill can be shaved with programmed responses such as low-altitude altitude hold using distance sensors (such as infrared or ultrasonic rangefinders to continually monitor how far the ground is), interpreting pitch and roll relative to global positioning using GPS, or even converting the controller to an input to select waypoints defined as global coordinates to which the drone could travel.  None of these include interaction with sensory equipment, though for the most part it could be effective in a fixed position.

7.  What are some of the challenges involved in working with drone-derived data?

Drone derived data has its own unique set of challenges. 
The most significant is noise.  If your sensors are analog signals being measured by on-board computer, you will be struggling to shield the sensor lines from electromagnetic interference from the motors.

Parrot BeBop Drone

The high current pulses can also wreak havoc on magnetometers. 
Propellers or motors that are slightly off-balance will cause vibrations in the entire craft that can reduce image resolution on cameras at best, and rattle loose hardware at worst. 

Review of drones (quadcopters) with flight times and prices

A google search for "high flight time quadcopter", result #1 (for me):

Quadcopter Price (USD) with Flight time (min)

Holy Stone HS170
$40-$50 6-8 minutes

MJX X101C $140 8-10
Parrot AR Drone 2.0
$270 Up to 20 minutes

Traxxas 7908 Aton
$400 14 minutes

DJI Phantom 3 Std
$500 20 minutes

Chroma Camera Drone CGO2+
$600 30 minutes

Yuneec Q500+ Typhoon
$1400 20-25 minutes

3DR Solo Drone
$800 20-22 minutes

DJI Phantom 4 Pro
$1400  30 minutes

DJI Phantom 3 Pro.
$800 25 minutes

DJI Inspire 1 T600
$2000 25 minutes

From the next link, "5 Longest Flight Time Drones to Buy in 2016!" (

Quadcopter name with Flight time (in minutes)

DJI Phantom Aerial UAV Drone
15 minutes

Parrot Bebop Drone
18 minutes

DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
23 minutes

Yuneec Q500 Typhoon Quadcopter
25 minutes

Chroma Flight-Ready Drone
30 minutes

Would you like to learn more?  Working with Drone Data 101 Course | 30 November 2016.  This course is a primer on processing UAS acquired data, and leveraging it in common business platforms such as ArcGIS, Google Earth, SketchFAB and others. In this course the participants will learn about the types of data that can be acquired by drones, how to render that data into 3D models, and more…Register today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Rubrics As Full-Process Compositional Power Tools

Start, rather than end, with the rubric?
A rubric can be used in the invention phase of writing, not just in assessments.  It is just a matter of perspective, and whether or not you’re willing to create a rubric that piques the imagination and triggers a series of ideas of how to structure and build the essay or other piece of discourse.

The ideal rubric can be both a “triggering rubric” and a “checklist rubric” and can be used in the invention, outlining, drafting, and revision phases of writing. Here are the uses of a good rubric:

1.    Brainstorming / invention:  Reading the rubric can trigger thoughts and ideas, and help with narrowing / focusing the main idea and clarifying the desired outcome or goal of the writing
2.    Outlining: Developing an appropriate sequence, as well as connections back to the main idea and the writing purpose or goal
3.    Drafting:  Thinking of the best possible examples and supporting evidence, deciding where to place statistics, examples, case studies, and references to published reports
4.    Revising:  Triggering thoughts and ideas about where there might be gaps and a need for expansion, and also where it might be necessary to cut, prune, or re-organize

Customized Rubrics: Reinforce mission, passion, vision, and the “rhetorical situation”
Working with a rubric does not have to be a dry, boring experience. Yes, it can certainly be used to check boxes and to carefully assess whether or not a paper has met expectations at each level of competency.

For example, you can use your rubric to incorporate additional criteria besides the typical “purpose statement” and “organization.” You can add rows for additional criteria:

1.    Reflects ethical values, respect for diversity, and a sense of fair play
2.    Demonstrates competency in the technical area in the topic
3.    Exhibits rigorous research design and method
4.    Discusses competing perspectives or views in a thorough-going manner
5.    Uses several types of supporting evidence, which can include statistics, case studies, examples, and research study results

Don’t forget the Meta-Cognitive potential of the rubric

1.    Internalize the writing process
2.    Apply experiential learning
3.    Incorporate prior learning
4.    Situate the learning – place in a context

The following rubric is one that can be used for expository writing; specifically, for college-level courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. It can be used as a point of departure.

By adding additional criteria, which tie directly to a specific writing occasion, it’s possible to use the rubric at every step of the writing process, as detailed above.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Composition Invention Strategies: Power for the Paper You Must Write

There are many ways to kick off the writing process.  Some of the best approaches involve simply listing ideas or free-writing without any kind of censoring or restrictive thought. The key is to start the flow of ideas and to discover everything you can about what you want to learn about the topic, what you want your audience to do, what kind of discursive outcome (rhetorical situation) do you think you’ll be able to accomplish, and what uncovered (and creative) connections there may be.

Key elements:
* flow of ideas
* topic discovery
* audience persuasion / “do” something
* ultimate outcome
* unique and undiscovered connections

There are many effective techniques in the “getting started” phase. It is often a good idea to try more than one when writing.  

Topic bulls-eye: 
This is a great way to narrow your topic. Write down the first main idea or topic that comes to mind. Then, consider the topic and whether or not it is too narrow or too broad. Write down other terms or words that approximate or approach the main idea. Soon, you’ll start honing in on the topic that makes the most sense, given your goals.

Goals Description and Your Own Personal “Rhetorical Situation”:
What do you want your paper to do? Lloyd Bitzer wrote of “the rhetorical situation” in his now classic article (yes, please Google it now. It will do you good. I can provide a link but you’re better off looking it up yourself, and then thinking about how it ties to your own prior knowledge). The “rhetorical situation” is something I like to refer to as the “persuasion equation.” It’s the end-product and result of the actions and activities.

For example, if you want your piece of discourse to persuade a group of people to vote for a certain candidate, you’ll approach your writing activity much differently than if you want to persuade someone to purchase a new smoothie at a local organic grocery store. You’ll need to know something about your audience, their values, their goals, the context, and competing ideas or “rhetors.”

But, before we get too complicated or digress into some of the outer reaches of the “rhetorical situation,” let’s step back and break it down. To get started, we need to simply look at our goals and objectives. What do we want to accomplish?  Here’s where bullet points can be useful.

Quick-list of goals:
    * audience attitudes to change
    * audience actions to inspire
    * values and emotions to incorporate
    * author reputation to shore up

Uncensored Freewrite: The Deep Dive Into Your Unconscious
Can you write for 5 minutes without stopping? You might be surprised how difficult it is to do. Sometimes it’s almost impossible if you’re easily distracted by social media or the Internet. And, sometimes, you have to trick yourself and put your freewrite in a form that simulates a situation you care about. For example, you may need to create a situation in which you’re writing a letter to someone about a situation you care about. Or, you may need to pretend your writing in your journal about things that you observed but that bothered you, or which triggered emotions.

Of course, this is probably the most difficult of all things to do -- after all, we spend much of our lives trying to avoid emotions or at least to channel them. Self-control is a good thing, but sometimes it keeps us from really understanding ourselves, and it pushes us into a rut of predictable, proscribed responses.

If you have committed yourself to a freewrite, be sure to tell yourself that you do not have to show it to anyone, and also that grammatical errors, spelling, facts, etc. are not as important as you might think they are. They can always be revised later. What you’re trying to accomplish right now is a deep dive into your unconscious.

MindMaps: Triggering connections through graphical representation.
There are a number of tools that can help you if you prefer computer graphics to a pen and piece of paper in which you write words, and then associated ideas or concepts which you then branch out. The mindmap helps you visually see the way you relate your concepts or ideas, and the visual representation triggers more thoughts and ideas. After you complete the mindmap you can save it, or use it after you’ve completed your first draft in order to identify where you have gaps or unexplored connection.

Here’s a free mindmap program ( which does not have all the functionality of a MindMeister (or your own piece of paper and pen), but it’s a great way to get started.  If you don’t need all the functionality, you can always simply use Google Slides or PowerPoint to start some ideas and then share with your collaborators to start creating interactive brainstorming.

Here’s an example just using a word processing program (Okay, MS-Word):

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Escaping "Helpless Poverty" in Safety-Net-less Victorian England: Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Dead Men's Shoes (1876)

Victorian England was a time of industrialization and social change, which brought prosperity to some, and the end of traditional livelihoods to others. Social and income inequality created a huge chasm, the spectre of which inspired true dread because it could mean falling into wretched poverty and social oblivion.

Secrets, masks, deception, and deeply buried pasts with all their convoluted relationships lurked at the fringe, always threatening to destabilize an individual or a family, and cast them downward in social and economic hierarchies.

This was writer Mary Elizabeth Braddon's world, and her special perspective was one that plunged deep beneath the surface to explore the fear, greed, treachery, and longing of Victorians with secrets. Braddon, born in 1835 and dying in 1915, lived in the latter part of Queen Victoria's reign, and also into Edwardian England. Braddon's world was marked by the transformational magic of technology (transportation and manufacturing, in particular) which created opportunities for people to disguise themselves and their identities in order to achieve their desires.
In Victorian England, one could be "transported" to Australia, escape, and return to avenge oneself, or go to India to become either a nabob or at least someone capable of approximating a shipping mogul in the eyes of the individuals who felt both awe and vague resentment, jealousy, or distrust of those who left for the far reaches of the British Empire.

But, above all, the yawning chasm of poverty could be encountered at almost every step. Women were most vulnerable.

There were quite a few ways to fall into the chasm of sickness, poverty, and social isolation. For women, if one did not marry, and marry well, a live of grinding servitude awaited. There were more ways to earn one's own living, but still there were not many, and of those, many carried the unpleasant miasma of social opprobrium.

If you were a woman and from a "gentle" class, you could become a governess and slowly starve. You might start a small school for young women. Or, you could scandalize yourself and "tread the boards" (become an actress), write salacious novels (hoping for best-sellers in three-volume sets), become an artist or musician, or, lower yourself and start small shops or tea rooms.

Writing "sensation novels" - an emerging profession for literate women. Many published anonymously or as "Mrs. Fulana de Tal"  to avoid social censuring.
Or, you could involve yourself in intricate plots to capture the heart of someone who might leave you a legacy. Before reading Mary Elizabeth Braddon's Dead Men's Shoes (1876), I really did not know what the term meant. Basically, hoping for a "dead man's shoes," means to become a vulture and hover around, waiting for someone to die so you can take their shoes and wear them.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon captures the fear, social humiliation, and desperation of people living on the margins of gentility. In Dead Men's Shoes, the heroine, Sibyl Faunthorpe, who has made an unwise marriage to an impecunious but kind-hearted and creative gentleman, and because of his inability to find work, she is literally starving even as she is about to give birth to she and her husband's child.

The desperate need to do whatever she can is what forms the motivation for what appears to be greed of truly staggering proportions. The plot is absorbing and quite complicated, but to summarize, she returns to her childhood home where she was raised by her uncle, the local physician, and with her two younger sisters.  Sibyl arrives, concealing her marriage (and the fact she has just given birth) to try to ingratiate herself to her uncle, Stephen Trenchard, who has recently returned from India, now elderly and in poor health, from India. He he presumed to have converted himself into a nabob of sorts, and is presumed to be a wealthy magnate of a shipping company, and Sibyl schemes to position herself to be the legatee and to be the one who inherits his riches. By all appearances, he is truly a spectacularly wealthy tycoon, albeit a skin-flint.

It is probably useful to note here that Anglo-Indians (Britons who emigrated to India and settled there) do not fare well in Braddon's novels. They tend to be morally reprehensible and to bring shame of not complete and total disaster upon their extended families. The novels that feature truly evil Anglo-Indians include John Marchmont's Legacy, Henry Dunbar, A Phantom Fortune, and Dead Men's Shoes. In contrast, those who work in Australia usually come back with experience and honor. Examples of Australian success include Fenton's Quest, Lady Audley's Secret, and Dead Men's Shoes.

Sibyl's husband, abandoned, but still in desperately (albeit improbably) in love, tries to find her, but eventually gives up and goes to Australia where he is a successful agent for a trading company. Eventually he returns to find that he has inherited a title and an estate. Sibyl, of course, does not know this. She is trying to ingratiate herself and inherit her uncle's millions, hovering and hoping for a quick decline of health. In the meantime, she pays someone to take care of her little baby, who is quickly growing into toddlerhood.

Sibyl believes her enterprise is worthwhile because if she achieves her end -- the dead man's shoes -- she and her husband will be reunited, she will reveal that they had a little boy, and all will be nirvana, particularly with the balm of the peculiar and unpleasant old uncle's money.

If the avarice in this scenario seems preposterous, it seemed so to others who found out about her plans. And, it did not help that the rich uncle dies of cyanide poisoning, and Sibyl has, coincidentally taken a vial of the stuff from her uncle's pharmacy.

And, the dead man's shoes turn out to be worn out at the end of the day. He died almost penniless; and was banking on the bit of money he wrested from his illegitimate son back in India, and his reputation and fame for credit from the local shopkeepers. 

I won't go into details, but there is a very happy ending for all, or at least the promise of one. And, before you dismiss Braddon as a sensation novelist of over-the-top hyperbole, I'd like to mention that her ability to portray psychological depths and to show the complexity of heart, mind, and conflicting views of society is quite stunning. She also creates a role for the pure of heart and the individuals who cling to a vision of relationships and reality that rewards the stalwart and good of heart.

In addition to the psychological realism, the description of the social milieu gives incredible insight into the details of life in Victorian England at basically every level of society. In addition, one sees just how times of rapid technological change impact all levels, and while the disruptions create opportunities for others, the close doors and engender desperation in others.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Review of Visme: Presentations, Photo Editing, Animations

I'm reviewing the free version of Visme ( because I stalled around and let my free trial to the premium version expire before I had time to really work with the program.

There are quite a few sources of presentation templates and infographic software, and many are free. So, how does one wade through and finally decide which one to use? I like the idea of using quite a few of them.  Just for fun, I thought I'd create a collage with a few photos that I took along with some of the shapes in the Visme library of free items.

In order to use the graphic, I had to save it and then download it. With the free version, I can download a jpg graphic. But, with the  premium, I can save it as the following file types: PNG, PDF, and HTML5.

Visme graphic I created using the free version and playing with Visme's shape library and a few photos I took in Mexico.
Visme offers infographics, but most come with the premium version. If I had the premium version of Visme, I might prefer it. But, at the moment, my favorite infographic cloud-based software program is Canva ( It is easy to use, and the built-in template give me endless inspiration and ideas. As with all infographics, planning is the most important part. What do you want to communicate? What is your message? Why do you need to communicate the message in infographic form? What are your advantages?

After you've determined what your purpose is and what you want your reader to do with the information (the famous "rhetorical situation"), you can start taking the next step.

Canva is great for infographics, and it also has presentations. But, so does Google slides. And, for that matter, PowerPoint's many online repositories can provide you with templates.

So where does Visme fit in?  To me, what makes Visme really special is what lies beneath the first slide -- in the depth and breadth of the presentation templates, and that they are very easy to animate.

They can also be connected to Screencast-o-matic for excellent and easy-to-make audio-accompanied screencasts.

But returning to Visme -- here are a few of the advantages: 
  1. Visme's tools are very professional and allow you customize more than you can with some of the other templates and interfaces
  2. The photo editor is very easy to use and powerful
  3. The font library is fun and very extensive
  4. The banners are perfect of quick construction of banner ads for placement on websites
  5. The simple charts and graphics within the infographics section are extensive. They're not free, though. 
How much does Visme cost?  Right now, there packages for free, $7 per month, and $15 per month. If you're a designer and you use Visme to build ads, etc. the price is certainly worth it.

I personally think that Visme would be a better solution if it also included a library of cut-out characters. It's really a pain to have to subscribe to five or six different services just to create the kinds of instructional or promotional materials that you want / need to create.

Here's a social media graphic (using the premium version) that I assembled using photos from Pawnee, Oklahoma, where a 5.6 earthquake in September 2016 impacted historical buildings, some much more than others.

That said (and all whining for a utopian solution aside), I like using Visme, and love the results. Here's just one experiment -- photos taken in Mexico and in downtown Tulsa on Cinco de Mayo 2016 at the Chihuahua races :) :)

Friday, September 02, 2016

Review of FotoJet: Cloud-Based Collage, Design, Photo-Editing

I'm always looking for cloud-based programs to help me with graphics. My favorite photo-editing program continues to be PicMonkey (, but it's pretty limited when it comes to doing more than photo-editing and collages.

Plus, most of PicMonkey's best features are "premium" and so if I want to create a Zombie Apocalypse of last year's Tulsa Oktoberfest, I'm out of luck unless I pony up the $39.99 per year it costs. Granted, that's not a lot of money, but it adds up, and I have to actually use PicMonkey to get the value for my investment.

Fotojet's a little different ( First of all, it's free. It's somewhat limited, but adding new templates and features seemingly every day.  While it does not have all the cool fonts and design themes (Backyard Cookout, Stars & Stripes, Baby, and Vampires, just to name a few), nor does it have built-in beautifying touchups, it does work well with templates for social media.

It's designed to make your social media have a lot more impact through graphic appeal, and the Facebook and Instagram templates also work well for blog posts and LinkedIn.

Fotojet is also perfect for creating albums and materials for your scrapbooks or collages, and instead of having to host it on Fotojet, you can download the graphics in a number of formats.

I thought I'd try out Fotojet's Collage, Design, and Editing functions to see how they worked on a few of my photos.

Here's a quick collage I made of the a vacation to Lo de Marcos, Nayarit, Mexico. It was a snap to use the online editor to add text.

I used the Design tool to create a header for a social media post, or a digital postcard. It was very simple - I just uploaded my photo to the tool, and started to play.

While exploring the various templates, I happened across a new one on Collages. It is one that allows you to create a comics-themed or graphic novel of your experience. It's quirky and cute, and reminds me a lot of PicMonkey's Comics themed fonts, clip art, etc. What I like about FotoJet is that it introduces a design that helps you keep the process quick and the results uncluttered and professional. As you can see, you have quite a few to choose from. Use of the templates is free, but you must be a registered user.

I played around with the photo editor. In this one, I made the background black and white, and then restored color to my face and neck. Drama on a bleak, winter day. It gave it a Wuthering Heights feel in my opinion. I like it.

In this one, I wanted to emphasize the Wild West feel of the town of Pawnee, Oklahoma, and give the composition a grounded feeling, while also adding a bit of energy and focus. So, I combined a few effects. I like the results! My feeling is that the changes were subtle, but they add an element of interest and visual dynamcs.

Look closely at the building in the background. It was built in the early 1900s and the building stone consists of sandstone bricks. Unfortunately, the 5.6-magnitude Sept 3, 2016 earthquake damaged the buildings. I'm hoping that they will be restored.
 Finally, I returned to the collage tool to see what I could do with more photos of my New Year's Eve in Lo de Marcos, Mexico. It took very little time, particularly since I did not edit or enhance the photos themselves -- I just took them directly from my phone.
I'm very excited about Fotojet, and it will be my "go-to" tool for collages and social media templates. I'm eager to see what new templates will emerge. As far as I can tell, Fotojet is adding a template or two every week or so. It's easy, fun, and free -- and, the images inspire me to write stories, add posts to my social media, and think of the "same old - same old" from a new vantage point.

I love cloud-based tools because I consider them to be true creativity-enhancers and triggers for innovative thought.

And, I have not even gotten into how they can be used in the workplace to create a spirit of unity and enthusiasm!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gamification as Invention Strategy in Writing Essays and Research Papers

Using games can be a good way to get your mind moving when writing an essay, report, or research paper. Now you ask: What kind of games? It could be something where you have to search for something, but the quest approach sometimes does not yield what you need, which is a well-developed idea of the topic in which you are immersed to the point that you basically become the problem.  What we're describing is, as you can already see, a role-playing game. 

So, the very first step in gamification for brainstorming is to identify a problem. 

Next, start clarifying the mission and the characters for role-playing.

    * My Challenge: Dealing with escaped exotic pets in my neighborhood
    * Role Play:  What would a videogame hero, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 do?
    * Role Play, Second Round:  What would a famous videogame villain or bad guy do? (What would Bowser do? What would The Joker do?)

Now, once you’ve set up your scenario, don’t let a lack of in-depth knowledge about your selected heroes or anti-heroes slow you down. Remember, your goal is to think of solving a problem, and how to do it in an expedient way that may or may not be very ethical. If you are the extremely unethical Joker, then be sure to reflect on how and why your choices are so, well, evil.

Keep in mind that the gamified mind is the following:
    * Mission-focused
    * Aware of causal relationships / cause & effect
    * Very aware of surroundings
    * Able to predict obstacles and anticipate likely dangers
    * Very aware of competitors and impediments
    * Focused on winning / the prize (desired outcome)
    * Ready to maximize efficiency step by step
    * Willing to apply knowledge gained by prior experience
    * Able to quickly search for helpful information when needed

Gamifying your mind can be a powerful approach to brainstorming because it helps you overcome some of the blocks you might have when you try to develop an idea using written text and outlines, where you are staying perhaps too abstract and conceptual.

By adding the gaming approach, you’re involved in a simulation, and thus are engaging on a higher plane where you are a whole person, focused on an outcome. Focusing on an outcome allows you to organize, streamline, and reality-check your approach, and it forces you to become creative if you see certain obstacles or dangers. By role-playing both a hero and a villain, you’re able to evaluate ethical and unethical choices.

When might gamification not work?  It’s possible to completely stall out on gamification if
    * your goal is not challenging enough
    * your goal can’t be defined
    * you can’t identify any obstacles
    * there are no ethical challenges

If you’re stalling out, you may need to revisit your topic and consider how to make it more complex, so that you have more room to expand your thought process.

After you’ve completed your gamification scenario, the next step is to take a look at transforming the scenario into an outline. You’ll start with THE PROBLEM, and the move to SOLUTIONS, which will be your outline.

Free Video-Assisted E-Learning Text:  Available Now!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Drones on Verge of Boom: What You Need to Know to Make Money with Drones (UAS) -- Interview with Marc Johnson, skynce

Operating drones is about to get a lot easier with the implementation of Part 107 of FAA regulations. With that change, and the low cost of entry, we may see a step-change in implementation, and applications will be limited only by the imagination. Welcome to an interview with Marc Johnson, an engineer with 15 years in the oil industry, who builds and deploys drones for many different commercial applications.  

1.  What is your name and your relationship to drones?

My name is Marc Johnson and I have spent 15 years in the Oil and Gas industry applying my passion for technology working with data acquisition, control systems and software.  I love helping people with big problems to solve and take pride in delivering successful outcomes implementing technology.

I founded skynce, LLC a year ago in order to offer consulting services to organizations implementing Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS/drones) into their businesses.  Technology improvements resulting in better drones at lower prices have made UAS adoption practical for a number of commercial applications.  I work with my customers to implement the programs and technologies needed to execute UAS missions.  When we move into the part 107 regulatory regime skynce, LLC will begin offering our customers Remote Pilot in Command (RPIC) services for hire in addition to the technology consulting services we currently provide.

2.  When and how did you get interested in drones?

I have always been excited by UAS technology, I possess a mechanical engineering and computer science background and I have a passion for a wide variety of fantastic machines.

A couple of years ago I saw a $50 drone in the store and couldn’t refuse.  I just couldn’t believe that someone could build a flying machine for that price.  I had a lot of fun with that little drone in its short life, and like many of the drones that would follow it became a casualty in the name of furthering the science.

Intrigued by first experience I started investigating and was thrilled to find like-minded enthusiasts who were building their own drones out of relatively inexpensive components in their garages.  Being an engineer, I of course thought I could do better and within a week I had parts on order to build a drone for myself. 

Over the next year I would build a number drones for a number of applications. What really got me excited was using them for mapping and 3D reconstruction applications and I built a number of prototypes in my garage capable of capturing the required data. I was lucky enough to have a friend with a similar passion for flying machines with a large pasture that over time would turn to a veritable graveyard of drones.   We learned so much about the technology as we built, flew, crashed and repaired our flying machines. 

About the time I was getting my mapping prototypes airborne DJI released the Phantom, and it really changed everything.  You could buy a $1000 drone at WalMart that, when coupled with the right software, was able to create detailed maps and structural models.   Its introduction has enabled a whole new class of user. Cost effective and easy to use, its introduction is as significant as the personal computer or the Ford Model T.  (A good number of our readers (or their kids) probably already have one of these).

I found the inspiration to found skynce, LLC after an aspiring drone pilot came to me with a DJI Phantom 3 not quite sure what he could do with it.  He had heard about my experiments with mapping and was eager to learn more, I was eager to test the new Phantom so we spent a couple of days together in which we experimented with his new toy. The imagery I will present in this interview was captured during our time collaborating and learning.

I founded skynce, LLC, to help individuals and businesses understand and implement UAS technology, with a focus on how to utilize the acquired data for mapping and 3D reconstruction purposes.

4.  What is the regulatory environment like these days? Do you see any changes in the near future? If so, what will the impact be?

We are on the cusp of a significant change in regulations that is going to reduce a lot of barriers to entry that are currently in place to organizations seeking to implement UAS technology.    Specifically at the end of August the FAA will be putting into effect the new part 107 regulations.  These new regulations will lower the regulatory threshold to commercially operate drones while maintaining the importance of safety in operations.  A new class of commercial users will begin employing UAS technology as a routine function of their jobs.

While I am excited about the forthcoming part 107 regulatory regime that will be in place at the end of this month in April of 2015 the FAA in the face of media sensationalism about the potential for misuse introduced the burdensome process for obtaining FAA 333 exemptions for commercial drone use.

Under the current regulatory regime companies seeking to fly UAS commercially have to get a FAA 333 exemption, and all but the best-funded startups can afford the lawyers to get one in put in place.  Further the Pilot in Command of operations had to hold a sports pilot's license at a minimum to operate the UAS.  Reducing the number of projects that could be completed in a commercially viable manner.

As we see part 107 introduced in September, a lot of the regulatory overhead will be reduced for commercial operators.  Remote Pilots in Command will need to be certified under the new regime, but the requirement to carry a sports pilot's license will be dropped.   With these lower barriers to entry we are going to see professionals in a variety of markets adopt drone usage as a part of their day to day jobs. Insurance adjusters, realtors, landscapers, architects and yes, even geologists, are going to be adopting this technology.

Changing Regulations and Operators Demographic

3.  What are some of the areas of most dramatic growth in drone uses? 

If you look at the first 1000 333 Exemptions issued by the FAA you can get some insight into the early adopters looking to employ UAS as a part of their business.  As we move to the new regulatory regime we are going to see increased usage in all these market segments. 

A breakdown of the first 1000 FAA 333 exemptions

Real Estate shows up pretty high on the list of exemptions granted, it will soon be the norm that 3D models like this will be included in real estate listings.

Aerial Surveying is also one of the most filed exemption types.  Drones provide a means to capture up to date imagery of an area at a relatively low cost.  Further this updated data can be easily imported into mapping applications.  When we look at lof of the activities associated with resource development and construction these are both areas where data currency matters. 

The data collected for mapping applications can also be used to generate 3D models of terrain and other structures using a technique called photogrammetry. The resultant models can be used to complete tasks such as volumetric analysis and the generation of topographic maps.

UAS acquired orthomosaic map overlaid on dated satellite imagery

UAS acquired orthomosaic map overlaid on dated satellite imagery

Topographic map generated from UAS acquired data.

3D Structural model generated from UAS acquired data.

Agriculture is another an area where we are already seeing widespread adoption of UAS, use of specialized cameras and Normalized Differential Vegetation Indexing (NDVI) is enabling farmers to really take a bird's eye view of their fields and identify areas that need remediation, prescribe corrective action and then monitor success of corrective actions taken.

NDVI Map Generated from Drone Acquired data.

6.  How can an individual or a small business that focuses on natural resources development and geographical information get started? How best can they team up?

The first step is to really get educated about how drones can be used to support your business, and how the availability of current low cost aerial data will impact how you do business.

What you will find is that once you start exploring implementing this technology you will realize that finding a certified pilot and buying a drone is only a small piece of the drone adoption equation.

An organization needs to understand how it will plan, execute in compliance, process and ultimately use the data they acquire from drones.  It needs to understand the investments in technology, training and compliance required to fulfill their vision.

I work with my clients to help them understand and implement the programs and technologies needed to achieve their vision of drone adoption in their business.

7.  What kinds of drones are best to use and how much do they cost?

Earlier in this article I gave pretty high praise to DJI and there Phantom Drone, and all the imagery I have used in this article was captured using these devices that are extremely accessible given current pricing.

With that said a Drone should be selected as a function of what you are trying to accomplish.  The phantom is a great tool for surveying small areas of interest, for larger areas such as those encountered in agricultural applications fixed wing drones are often better suited for the job.  There are a quite few options for commercial fixed wing drones available with mission specific payloads. 

Further the cost of the drone is really only a small part of the investment required to leverage UAS technology in your business. Software, insurance, certification, location, size all factor into total operation cost. These things all need to be considered when planning a UAS operation.

8.  What do you see as the best opportunities in the medium-term?

Once we move into the new regulatory regime in September we are going to see explosive growth in all the fields mentioned above. A lot of projects that were not cost effective suddenly will be, further there will be less regulatory overhead. For a lot of business the next few months will be a key time to adopt this technology to gain a competitive advantage or to just keep up.

This interview was first published on the AAPG Learn! Blog by Susan Nash
Please stay tuned for information on workshops - How to Make Money with Drones

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How the Mind Makes Sense of Patterns

LifeEdge 043 focuses on how the mind makes sense of patterns. In this chat, Rick and Susan carry on with an interesting talk about patterns and how the mind makes sense of things. What really is reality? How are patterns present in your life? Can you change yourself by recognizing your habitual patterns? Tell us your thoughts!

Life Edge 043: How the mind makes sense of patterns from RELATECASTS on Vimeo.

Here are additional thoughts about making meaning from patterns.

Visual perception is a process, and there are three sequential stages:

Stage 1:  pass the features from our field of vision from the neurons in our eyes to the primary visual cortex in the brain. This is the pre-attentive stage.

Stage 2:  the brain divides the visual field and creates groupings based on their proximity

Stage 3:  the brain tries to make sense of the patterns and does so by moving between working memory and the image, in a process that involves querying

In machine-based pattern recognition, there are five main approaches (Jain and Duin, 2004):

1.  Template matching
2.  Geometrical classification
3.  Statistical classification
4.  Structural matching
5.  Artificial neural networks

The brain's pattern recognizing processes can bring a number of possible interpretations. When the affective parts of the brain are involved in the process (or the limbic), the result is a deeply impactful experience. Meaning / cognition are linked with emotion, and the result is often what is considered a religious experience. (McNamara, etal, 20016).
Hyperconnectivity between the limbic and temporal lobes, and investigators have found such connections in individuals who have described intense mystical experiences.

Con artists are effective because they understand how to trigger the meaning-making processes of individuals and guide them along a path to a certain interpretation. They do it by skillfully replicating enough of a pattern that the victim leaps to certain conclusions, and then, especially if it is connected with an emotional trigger, will go to great lengths to defend it (even when it is clearly not correct) (Konnikova, 2016).


Few, Stephen (2006) Visual Pattern Recognition. Cognos Innovation Center White Paper.

Jain, Anil K., and Robert P. W. Duin. (2004). Introduction to Pattern Recognition. in The Oxford Companion to the Mind, second Ediction. Oxford UP: 698-703.

Konnikova, Maria. (2016) The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It ... Every Time. New York: Viking, 2016.

Paloutzian, Raymond F., Swenson, Erica L., and Patrick McNamara (2006) Religious conversion, spiritual transformation, and the neurocognition of meaning making. Where God and Science Meet: How Brain and Evolutionary Studies alter Our Understanding of Religion. Vol 2: The Neurology of Religious Experience. ed. by Patrick McNamara. pp 151-170.

How the Mind Makes Sense of Patterns LifeEdge 043 #artificalIntelligence #neurocognition #patterns #neuralnetworks

Sunday, July 03, 2016

The "South Sea Bubble" and the "Mississippi Scheme" - Plumbing History for a Solution to U.S. National Debt

The U.S. National Debt is now around $19 trillion, which works out to more than $160,000 from each taxpayer. That’s a lot. Some day, we’ll need to find a way to address the problem. One proposal, which echoes what has happened in the past would be to grant “exclusives” to companies.

For example, could a company propose to take over the U.S.’s national debt in exchange for an “exclusive” – monopolistic control of the Internet?

If it’s any consolation, we’re not alone with our large, choking obligations. Many countries have faced enormous debt and a sluggish economy, so they have not been able to simply tax or confiscate their citizen’s earnings or assets.

So, what have they done? Let’s take a page from our economic history book and look at two very interesting cases of innovative solutions to national debt. Neither one worked out very well; in fact, you could say they were disastrous. But, could they work today? If we just tweak the approach, would it work?  The first was the “South Sea Bubble” and the other was the “Mississippi Scheme”.  Both had to do with the government giving “exclusives” and monopolies to individual companies.

The “South Sea Bubble”:  In 1710, England was facing serious debts from wars and other skirmishes, as well as anxieties about how to make its colonies start producing revenues. The Industrial Revolution had not occurred yet, and the big sources of income were from mercantile operations – trading with the colonies. Unfortunately, North America had not been the big bonanza they had hoped for. Spain and Brazil had all the luck – South America seemed to be dripping gold and silver everywhere they looked. (It’s too bad the English did not start in California, but that’s another story).

So, knowing what a good thing trade with South America could be, Robert Harley formed the South Sea Company, and then proposed to the government that he would take over the national debt (pay it off) if he could get an exclusive on trade with Spain.

The government of England was all for it. They eagerly supported him and even raised taxes so they could pay him a little extra.

But, there was one snag. Spain did agree to the trade deal. They agreed to one port, one time a year, and you couldn’t trade in gold or good – only slaves. And, they wanted 50% of the profits and a 5% flat tax. So, it was an immoral, low-profit proposition for the company. It would not work for the government.

What could be done?  The 18th century equivalent of an IPO was launched, with lots and lots of hype. No one bothered to describe the real deal. It was all blue sky and gold. And, the people bought it. Everyone did.

What resulted was a colossal bubble – and it was so clearly a bubble that the people embraced the concept. The idea was to buy while the bubble was still expanding, and sell at a profit. Unfortunately, no one really wanted to discuss the eventual outcome of all bubbles – the big POP. This was before the day of the SEC and Sarbannes-Oxley, and so it was not long before enterprising and creative entrepreneurs launched their own bubbles.

It worked for a while. But, eventually, when it collapsed, it wiped out the savings of people at all walks of life. There was despair, and there were suicides and murders.

But it did not stop the impetus of the “bubble” and the contagion of bubble enthusiasm. Everyone thinks they can game the system and time it. But, playing a bubble is filled with treacherous risk.

Across the English Channel, a Scottish visionary and economist, John Law, was proposing a similar deal to bail out the French government. He suggested giving a company a monopoly to do trade with the French holdings in North America, which included the Mississippi River and the broad swath of land.

His scheme was similar to the South Sea Company’s idea, but with a few key differences. John Law did it through opening a bank, the Banque Generale, and by getting permission to print bank notes. Paper money was new to France, and the idea was the more money you printed, the more you’d stimulate economic activity. Then, he was able to get an exclusive on the French North American trade for his “Compagnie d’Occident.”

There were many, many trading opportunities, and it seemed to be a great value. But, the problem was that John Law’s bank issued too many bank notes. What resulted was inflation and economic collapse for France, which lasted more than eighty years, and, which fueled the economic inequality which would fuel the French Revolution and fire up the guillotine.

 Are there any modern-day analogues?  Has the government given an “exclusive” or a monopoly on what could be a very lucrative commercial opportunity? What if you’re the only provider of the Internet (or everyone thinks you are)?

Let’s return to the first question posed. Could a company propose to take over the U.S.’s national debt in exchange for an “exclusive” – monopolistic control of the Internet? And, what if that company were secretly funded by another country?

The implications are quite interesting. I have a feeling it has been tried in other countries – for that reason, cell phones and internet access are controlled by a single company. But, we’re talking about a huge magnitude of difference, with dramatic and radical implications.

For further reading:

Harvard Business School. “South Sea Bubble: Short History”

Mackay, Charles. (1841) Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. London: Richard Bentley Press.

Mississippi History Now. John Law and the Mississippi Bubble: 1718-1720.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Develop and Host Your Course for Free: MoodleCloud Hosting

-->If you enjoy the flexibility of Moodle, but find that most hosting packages are too expensive for development and start-ups, or that you just do not have time to constantly add the updates, Moodle now offers free hosting through MoodleCloud ( I used it when I was writing Moodle 3.x Teaching Techniques, and I can say that the experience was very positive.  

Here are some of the highlights of my experience using MoodleCloud:

Latest version of Moodle:  I've worked with Moodle in a locally hosted setting, and also I've used cloud-based hosting solutions available online. was far superior. MoodleCloud has the advantage of using the latest version of Moodle, and all the updates are present. Not all the third-party plugins are available for the free version, and since you're not administering this installation of Moodle, you can't add them, but that is a very minor detail when considering all the benefits of Moodle and the solutions. 

Generous Package for Free:  The free version of MoodleCloud allows you to have up to 50 users, and to develop as many courses as you'd like. 50 users gives you enough flexibility to really try out a course, and to see how things will work once you start adding users. For example, using BigBlueButton for web-conferencing and webcasting works seamlessly and smoothly within MoodleCloud. This is not always the case using other hosting options.

Plenty of Bandwidth:  One problem with some hosting solutions is that they do not have enough bandwidth, or there are other routing issues that cause annoying slowdowns and time-outs.

Accommodates a Wide Range of Media: I wanted to include videos, audio, and also photos I took for the course I developed on Trends in Tourism. I wanted to focus especially on the Mexican Pueblos Mágicos (Magical Villages), which are very successful endeavors by the Mexican government to preserve historical, cultural, and natural landmarks while also stimulating economic development by means of tourism. Here's an example of a unit focused on saving endangered sea turtles. 

 Mobile-Friendly: The Moodlecloud hosting solution is mobile-friendly, which is extremely helpful since so many people now access courses using their mobile devices (phones, tablets, iPads, etc.).

Scalable:  The free solution is perfect for beta testing new courses, and also for trying out some of the plugins and features of Moodle. If your course or your institution's e-learning takes off, you don't have to change solutions. You can scale up quite easily by subscribing to a larger plan, which are quite affordable.

The only downside that I can see to MoodleCloud is that it is in a beta mode, and it's possible that they may discontinue it. I hope not! But, that said, Moodle is very popular and I think that it's possible that it will be the first-choice solution of many users.

Moodle 3.x Teaching Techniques - Now available!

Monday, June 06, 2016

Kick-Start Your Voice for E-Learning / M-Learning that Truly Engages Your Audience

You may be surprised to learn that your voice is a key determinant of success in a webinar, presentation (live or recorded), or video-based e-learning. While most people think that having sharp graphics is the key, if you deliver your message in a monotone, mumble, and ramble, you'll lose your audience, no matter how great the visual presentation.

Here are tips for making your voice keep your audience's attention and communicate your message:

* Audio recording for a presentation
* Podcast or voice over
* Audio accompaniment for images, PowerPoint, maps, instructions, e-learning
* Story

The tips are based on voice coaches and experts Tracy Goodwin, VoiceBunny, etc.

Interview with Tracy Goodwin, Voice Coach, on LifeEdge (hosted on Vimeo).

1.  Begin with confidence. Invite your audience to join you and communicate your enthusiasm. If it takes you 5 minutes to get "warmed up," it's too long. Your audience will have already abandoned you at the one-minute mark.

2.  Speak clearly. Don't mumble or start swallowing your words. Keep your voice strong and healthy. This may involve making sure that you're hydrated and that you are well rested.

3.  Avoid mispronunciations.  If you have doubts about how a word is pronounced, look it up in a dictionary, and practice. If you mispronounce technical terms and you're a technical expert, you have just undermined your credibility. (!)

4.  Avoid speaking in a monotone. Pause, create emphasis where appropriate, and communicate emotion. This ties to a theme that unites all the points: variety.

5.  Speak conversationally, and stay relaxed. This is especially important when you want your audience to feel comfortable and to trust your information and tips.

6.  Emphasize the key points. Know how to guide the audience to the most important part.  Pacing, pauses, tonal shading may all play a part.

7.  Talk to the audience, don't simply read. Do not simply read the same words that the audience will see on the screen.

8.  Personalize, if possible.  If appropriate, elaborate with brief experiential anecdotes. Jot down an outline or a full script of your anecdote so that you'll avoid rambling.

9.  Keep each point brief. Avoid digressions. If you are providing an accompaniment to a PowerPoint presentation, keep each point brief and stay focused. Less is definitely more.
10.  Vary pace, rhythm, tone, volume, breathing.  You may need a coach for this, but if you don't have the opportunity, you can at least practice recording yourself, and then listening. Do you put yourself to sleep? Do you find your mind wandering as you listen to yourself? If you bore yourself, imagine what you'll do to your audience.

11. Know your audience. Understand their expectations. If you don't, you run the risk of very negative reviews and feedback. I volunteered to read passages of a book by Wilkie Collins, and I thought I'd make it a lively, dramatic reading, replete with voices for the different characters (one of whom was totally unhinged, and murderously so). Well, for the one listener who wanted a bland, monotonous delivery, I was a disagreeable surprise. He/she wasted no time posting vicious reviews of my effort. The fact that several listeners applauded my performance did not really help. I obsessed about that negative review to the point that I stopped recording for almost a year!

There are several ways to record your audio:

Audacity:  This open source software program is by far the best option for creating excellent, easily modified and edited audio tracks. However, it does take a bit of time to understand how to convert to mp3 and also to use some of the features, such as noise elimination.

PowerPoint:  You can record your voice directly and embed the file in each slide. The result is a gargantuan file.

Record with your SmartPhone:  Android has a very easy to use Voice Recoder App. You can also then run the audio through speech to text and create a script.

Garageband: Garageband is easy to use and comes free on Macs and iPhones.

Links and Resources
Interview with voice expert Tracy Goodwin:

Improve your Speaking Abilities:

Top 10 Voice Over Tips:

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Pawnee Bill, The Wild West Show and the Ever-Changing American Identity

21st-century American identity and the 19th-century Wild West Shows are tied together in deep, often surprising ways. They persist and shape our cultural productions and even the way the world frames their political and economic discussions with and about the U.S. To understand why and how, it is useful to take a look at historical documents, artifacts, and reenactments. The Pawnee Bill Wild West Show is an example, and it takes place June 10-11, 2016, in Pawnee, Oklahoma.

The Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum has arguably the world's most comprehensive collection of Wild West Show artifacts. It was the home and ranch of Pawnee Bill, whose Wild West Shows persisted in one form or another, always bigger and better, for more than 25 years, from the late 19th century through the early 20th century.

Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum, Pawnee, Oklahoma
 The annual reenactment of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show takes place each year the second week of June. It spans two days, and starts with a parade at the town square in Pawnee, Oklahoma, and ends up at the site of the Pawnee Bill Ranch, where there are permanent show grounds, as well as a museum and preserved mansion, barn, and other outbuildings. The site also contains a working ranch with American bison, horses, and cattle.

The importance of the Wild West Show as entertainment is indisputable. Wild West Shows were popular both in the major cities as well as in rural America. For the inhabitants of the urban areas, the Wild West Shows represented a dramatic spectacle that fascinated those who attended, and who held a complicated and complex notion of the American West, at once the great, vast frontier of boundless potential, while also representing the darkest recesses of the human psyche, where violence, lawlessness, unthwarted desire, and danger abounded.

Interview with Erin Brown, Curator of Collections, Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum

 If America was the place of the "Great Re-Invention" as immigrants arrived with the idea of establishing not only new prosperous lives, but also new identities, then the "Wild West" was a place of absolute flux in terms of identities. It was a place where men wore hair as long as women, and ornamented themselves in silver, turquoise, and gold. It was a place where women stood on the back of horses and out-shot the men in accuracy and aplomb. 

It was also a place of caricatures and pernicious stereotypes, as commonly held and communicated ideas were routinely strip Native Americans, African Americans, Mexicans, Asians, and other groups of their humanity and even their lives.

The Wild West Show was, above all, a spectacle, with dramatic costumes, sharpshooting, rope tricks, stage coach robberies, horseback football, and other events.  Like a Las Vegas show a century later, the goal was to entertain the masses, and to have them arrive with dreams and stars in their eyes, all conveniently manufactured by the mass media of the day: dime novels, early moving pictures, handbills, daguerrotypes, ink prints, serialized stories in newspapers, costumes, and jewelry.

But, the question becomes, which came first: the dime novel or the Wild West Show? And, then, how did that shape the notion of American Identity?

The barrier between the two is miscible: think of the Wild West Show and the notion of American identity as fluids that constantly move back and forth, constantly mixing and changing.

Why does it matter?  Here are a few questions that are triggered by considering the Wild West Show and American identity:

* What part of "Wild West" shapes current ideas of identity?
* Where and when did the exploits of the "Wild West" merge into science fiction genres?
* Where does the Wild West Show show up in science fiction movies, television, and novels?
*What are the key characteristics of Wild West personae and the dramas depicted in the enactments of the show?

On the day of the show, many people come to Pawnee and role play their favorite Western characters (historical, cultural, or mythical). Here is the film / literature character from True Grit, Rooster Cogburn (enacted by Dr. Benes)
 Here are a few initial thoughts about characteristics of the Wild West Show and the archetypes / mythos that are generated and perpetuated:

    Clash between good and evil
    Showdowns and shoot-outs (duels, updated)
    "Cowboy" values: what do you stand for if you wear the white hat?
    "Outlaw" values:  what do you stand for if you wear the black hat?
    A place where anti-heroes prevail (the outsider, the outlaw, the disenfranchised, the outside-the-norm)
        Independent women (female ranchers)
        Tribes fighting to the death against the forces have sought to destroy them
        Counter-Christian beliefs
        The outlaw (of all kinds)
        The saloon girl / prostitute as a normalized female
        The Mexican wanderer / seeker
        The warrior who subjects himself to a "dark night of the soul"
        The vision quester
        Uncorsetted female
        The loner (often traumatized veteran)

May Lillie, of the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show

Perhaps all these questions and ruminations would be simply a pleasing anachronism, except that the ideas persist.

While some of the stereotypes are pernicious, others are very liberating and they encourage acceptance of individual difference. Further, they are constantly in flux, and form a part of a cultural mythos that is perhaps not as well understood as we need it to be, particularly as we live in a time of instant mass communication and rapid-fire meme generation. 

We need to know when we're responding to an image or a set of behaviors because we've been conditioned to do so by the socialization processes embodied in cultural myth and mythos.

Scenes from the Pawnee Bill Wild West Show, 2015
Blacksmith Adam

Chariot: Kevin Dibble

Drill Team Dibble

Mike Pahsetopah, Fancy Dancer

Contact information:  
Erin Brown /
Ronny Brown / 

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