Monday, May 2, 2016

Tradition meets Modern Times

Not my work,
but I thought this video shows well how traditional things can get combined with modern things.

Traditional music instruments and "lantern" lights,
modern tune and drones.

Well done!




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Online Learning for Free - a Comparison


In previous years, after school, all you had available for additional, continuing learning was either to go to evening school, university or sometimes learn all on your own in the library or via TV. I'm sure I missed a few other possibilities.

Now, with broadband internet and easy access over personal computers, laptops and mobile phones
learning has stepped up a notch for older learners (like me).

I have tried a few different websites by now. My courses were ranging from social sciences over some theoretical design to computer and website coding (aka programming).

The experience was very good a few years back; now it's more and more just a way to pass the time.
Why? Because when I did my first course on computer coding I really had to code myself to pass the course. Or in the social science one I had to write up some small essays that got peer reviewed and I had to do the same for my fellow students.
Now, all I had to do was answer some quizzes correctly in between the videos or just sit through them to get the certificate for completion / achievement of the course.
I have not tried the paid courses yet, as I don't want to "waste" money only to find out that you get a certificate too just for watching and clicking.

Anyway, the courses I did, in detail:

Udacity: Computer Science 101

This was my first online curse in 2012 to which I have made some blog entries here as well (links to those at bottom of the page):
I had to answer short quizzes during the video lectures, as well as right after them, to check how much attention I have paid to the presented material and do some external exercises.
After the lectures (spaced over some weeks) there was a final test. You had to pass 80% to get your certificate of accomplishment,
It was really learning and hard work to get there, not all of the students passed.
Here my certificate, of which I am a bit proud (but lots of what I have learned there I have not used later and thus basically forgotten how to use it).



Coursera: Social Psychology
Toward the end of 2013 I was getting bored at the computer so I signed up for some more online courses, this time with Coursera. Someone on G+ advertised a course in Irrational Behavior. Although the topic seemed interesting the presentation was more a sales show for the instructor's books, so I dropped out without even finishing the course. It is still available in my course portfolio though. So if I feel inclined I can still take that course.
A week later I signed up for Social Psychology. In this course we again had some small quizzes
during the videos and afterwards, but we also had to write some short essays, resumes or something similar, implementing what we had learned in that week. This then got peer reviewed and we had to do at least 5 reviews of our fellow students. The results of that was our % to move on.
While the course ran for the first time slight changes got made during the duration of it; the last essay was put into a contest as well. This way you could get 110%; but it was not compulsory to enter the contest.
Overall you had to reach 75%; which I think was quite fair to reach if you really learned and did your "homework" of writing and reviewing.
So this too is a certificate I can say I truly feel I have achieved.



Udacity: Tales of the Genome
Just as the Coursera course was done I signed up for this course with Udacity again. I got about half way through when life got it the way and I had to take a break. I still got my certificate though, as I had reached the required 50% of the course.
her we had very short video lectures with a advancing line on top that showed which parts you had seen and which were still not done - including where there were quizzes and test. I have reached the first exam part (of three and that was done half way - enough to pass it seems.
But maybe it was this way too as Udacity shortly after i had started the course changed from free to to free trail versions for most of their course.
To proof to myself that I do have earned his certificate i will finish this course as long as it is still available to me when I'm ready for that.



Cousera: Clinical Psychology
This Autumn I signed up for this course to continue from the social psychology. Mainly theory, this course had different lecturers in the videos that also were responsible for the quizzes at the end of the unit. Thus the difficulty of the quizzes were quite a wide range; from easy (with 3 attempts for solving it) over medium (with 20 attempts) to standard difficulty with a laughingly 99 attempts for 10 questions in 4 answers multiple choice questions. Anyone who failed that last one doesn't know about how to solve quizzes.
Nonetheless, if you paid attention and read the questions carefully 2 attempts would be enough to pass this course with 100% (only 70% were needed). The way the theories were presented was ok, sometimes filming outside did give sound problems and the transcript was not included but an extra download.
Overall, an easily achieved certificate.


Just as this course was done (and I had not yet received the certificate) I was asked to try out a similar course by a different provider for free online courses:

Open2Study: Early Childhood Education

My time for having little children up to school age is over, unless I get grandchildren. Still, this course interested me as it covered part of the previous course I had taken.
Here, the videos were short, with interactive transcription of what was being said. The given examples made it very easy to then answer the 10 questions following each weeks lessons. Lasting 4 weeks, I managed to do each week in a few hours including the quiz, which I always passed 100% on the first attempt.
Overall this was too easy for me; but I recommend this course to all parents-to-be. It does clearly show what it take to truly help a child to grow up.





















Since learning seems easy for me, I wanted to learn more about web design and/or programming to maybe make a better website for myself with what I have learned.
So, I searched for free courses that teach that (and my first computer programming course showed me I can learn stuff like that too).

Udacity does not offer those for free anymore, only for a 14-day free trial (about half way through the course), so I did not choose any courses there.

Coursera does have free courses, but they are all already half way though the course. Maybe next time around, when they start again.

Open2Study offers only one starting on 20th October ("Writing for the Web"). I will see then how that one is like.

So I searched for other sites with free courses.

Found one on Alison. The videos though are embedded (if you want them for free) in lots of advertising. I found it hard to follow; and thus it only presented the rudimentary basics I already know in a very dry way. I did not finish this course so far; might look into it at some alter point as there is no time limit on when you finish. ;)

And then there is Udemy:
Some free courses for programming and related to website writing .
I took one for Introduction for Graphic Design, hoping it would tell me something about how to organize images on websites. It did, but only in theory. And, worst of all, to pass you only had to sit through the 45 minutes of videos to get the certificate:


I feel disappointed that there was no way to check if I had learned anything at all. 

I tried another course; this time about web development.
Again, only videos, no quizzes. But it had a "lab exercise" at the end of each unit to implement what you have learned. Solutions are given in the download section to each lecture (which I didn't find at first. That sure could use a little make-over.)
The last lab exercise is to write your own form through which you can get your certificate.  
Here it is; with the form to make it, for which we had to copy-paste the html into our editor adding a few missing things like CSS styles and JavaScript to make the output as it is. 
When I first tried it, it was missing was the signature image. I found it in the downloads to the lecture under solutions. So actually, all you had to do was copy-paste this whole thing to get your certificate. Well, as this course is online for already over a year, I guess that's the only way to help students that don't manage to fill in the few missing things by themselves. 


Additionally (and that's a minus point  for this course), they give you a certificate anyway after sitting through the videos:


This course has helped me understand some of the things, I had been doing, in a different way. New to me was the CSS and JavaScript inside the html code. Not a thing for having many similar pages, or? There must be a better way to style your pages (and I am using a external style sheet on my website).
Might look into some more of the more specific courses there about CSS, Javascript and PHP.

And finally the links to my earlier blog posts about the very first online course I took:

http://michafire.blogspot.com/2012/03/learning-computer-coding.html
http://michafire.blogspot.com/2012/03/learning-computer-coding-update.html
http://michafire.blogspot.com/2012/04/learning-computer-coding-final.html
http://michafire.blogspot.com/2012/04/learning-computer-coding-result.html

I bet there a lot other places for free online learning, but I'm not going through all of them. 
And then there are those sites were you can learn other languages online for free too................. got to go on with those that I started some time back. :P
I guess, I have enough places now to keep me occupied and learning (and not just playing silly online flash games to pass the time). 


=)) Have a great time learning...................


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bloodplum Jam

I have this bloodplum tree growing in my garden


This year it had lots of flowers

and now it has a vast abundance of fruit.

cherry-sized and the same color as the leaves = hard to see
So many fruits that I harvested about 6 kg of them;
That's about 2 kg in a pot in this photo.
but only those that were within reach without climbing into the tree
or using a unstable ladder on uneven ground to get them.

May the birds and ants have the fruits that are still on the tree. =))

So, all that fruit was simply too much to eat for me alone before it would get moldy.
I decided to make jam from it.
Cutting the tiny fruits open to get out the stones was tedious work for the first two batches
(without photos and one with cinnamon and ginger spices, the other pure fruit).

So for my third batch I decided to try out something "new" to me:
I boiled the fruits first, complete with stones, but without any sugar or pectin for jelling.

I have not added any  water, it's all from the fruits from heating. 
It worked well, and after pureeing it and mashing it,
I had the pure juice and fruit pulp in the pot

and the skins and stones in the mesh. =))
(the yellow color is a reflection of the mesh, the true color is similar to the juice)
Now just and the sugar /pectin mix
using a 2:1 ready mix  (2 parts fruit 1 part sugar)
and cinnamon again (goes so well with plum flavor)

make it all boil until it starts to stiffen,
fill in twist-off glasses,

place them upside down to cool.


Viola - finished jam without time consuming work to get the stones out.

It tastes simply yummy - and I think the amount of jam I made will last a whole year.
Yes, I'm the only one that eats jam around here............



Thursday, June 12, 2014

Night Desert Safari Dubai, 2014

During my one week stay in Dubai this year,
I took a night safari in the desert.
( http://www.dubai-reisen.info/ausfluege/wueste_nachtsafari.html - website from which the tour was booked)
We were a group of 4 with a guide (from Egypt).

Pick-up time was 19.30 from the hotel.
It had to be this late for the temperatures to cool down a bit AND for ti to be dark.
The drive to the desert took about 45 minutes through the southern parts of Dubai;
were the world Expo 2020 is being constructed (and the builders live in large fast constructed villages).
We also passed the "Arabic" Dubai - a settlement for newly web Arabic "native" Dubai residence where each couple gets 500 m² for free (or a small house). So they don't die out. Dubai has now only about 14% natives. The rest are all foreigner workers.

Then we reached the Dubai Desert Conversation Reserve - yes, the tour is inside a reservation, to make sure the animals stay inside and no "hunters" (2- and 4-legged) come inside. There is also an extra part fenced off inside the reservation for intensive study on the animals and their food.

Entry gate to the reservation: more information in below links
http://www.ddcr.org/en/
http://www.ddcr.org/en/reserve/location/
It is better to have all the tourists concentrated in this one area - than have them wander off, alone or with guide, through the real desert, destroying the sensitive ecosystem there. But to have an exclusive and expensive resort there with a pool for each room/bungalow? That is a bit too much for the tourists. The managers there sure know how to make money ..................

Anyway:
We changed to the range rover - open and from the 1950's. It is a loan from the museum in private property of a sheikh to use until it breaks down. (There are about ten of those for those desert tours.) And the guide handed each of us 2 half liter bottles of cooled water - which we had no time to drink until the snack camp, where we got two more half liter drinks.
the car
We drove for a bit along desert roads, the guide pointing out bushes and trees that the nomads used for remedies and food. (Sorry, no photos from them.)
Then we went for a walk, about an hour and half. The guide had a torch and a UV light. The latter was very important as only with that you could spot the sand scorpions.
Sand Scorpion
in UV light and torchlight
in UV light










in torchlight with flash
The we also saw beetles:

This one kept putting the butt up and head down -
to protect its most sensitive body part











And we saw some bigger animals, like gazelles and antelopes (I don't remember their specific names):





Best of all I like the Gecko:

Then we had a small snack in the desert with a look at the major stars, like big and small dipper and the North star. And see the setting half moon through a telescope. 
Nope, I didn't use the sischa.
They even had built a toilet house out of stones in to the desert at this snack place for the tourists - with running water in the wash basin and water-flushed toilet like in a hotel room!!

By 23.00 it was time to go back - not without "bashing" some dunes with the car, the guide telling us to "hold on tight" for each deeper dip it took. It was fun, getting some hot dust into your face. Yes, it never cooled down really, temperatures stayed around 28°C. 

Just leaving the reservation gate I saw some more animals, ANTS.
Large ones - about 2cm long each, devouring some dropped fruits.

Tired, but happy tourist me at the reservation gate.,
camera ready for the paparazzi . 
This then ends my report from the night safari. If you ever get to be in Dubai - try and do one too. You won't regret it. =))

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Raven

I love my day job, I really do!

I get asked from customers to do something hand-crafty special for them there. Not just cushions, table cloth or curtains.
This time I was asked to make a stuffed raven from a photo:

She bought the material, and gave me the photo. The rest was mine to figure out.
So, first I had to make a plan aka pattern to get the 2D image into a 3D thing.

Luckily the photo was, although small, in the right angles to see some details of how it was formed. Having made stuffed animals from patterns before it was just an easy step for me to get the pattern drawn out on paper in the right size.


Fit the pattern parts on the different colored felt material and cut out. On the photo above you can see that step and the materials used.

Next step was to sew those parts together.

I only then realized that the beak was too small so I had to make a second, larger one. Luckily the material for that was enough.

After that came the stuffing. And only now could I be sure that it was the size it was supposed to be.

Finally, time to sew it closed and add the feet and eyes and feathery fringes on top.
And here the finished raven: 
Yes, it was perfect: =))
If you want to make one too, ask me and I can send you the pattern. This raven is 20cm high.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Low water in the creek - update March 2014

It's been some time I posted about the little creek running through the village where I live.
Last year the water levels were stable, although still low.
Only a few days they were the "normal" height. Those were the days right after we had downpours.

This winter has been the driest and warmest. NO snow except for a few days, and not much - maybe 10 cm at the maximum.

So, there is no Spring melt this year - the water level seems even lower than in the hottest Summer days.
Up to now Spring has been dry too; there is fire watch already for the forests.

The few times it did rain, the water didn't even rise. It only turned muddy for a few hours and then was clear again.

Here some visuals of what it looks now:





Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013 and Happy New Year 2014

I haven't posted much toward the end of the year here. I was busy; who wasn't? :P
Guess, it's a time for a resume.
Mostly I was busy all year writing stories for an anthology series called Theme-Thology on G+.

We, as a team, even managed to get a book out this year. More had been planned, but this got delayed.
So, I am now looking forward to get those stories published with the others in their respective anthologies -
or, if it gets cancelled, will try to publish them on my own in the coming year.

Another story of mine will come out at the start of 2014 in another starting anthology series:
NovoPulp. This one will be a print magazine/book. I have not only contributed my story Journey to this,
but also helped a lot to get the project rolling and along to the finish line. What we did get done before teh end of the year is get some fan articles out.

I want to thank all of the others in those two projects for working together to get our "dreams" into reality.

What I did neglect a bit is the painting and drawing. I hope to get the two birds, I started at the beginning of this year, finally done - and do more of those kind of paintings during the year.

I did manage to regularly take photos - and take part in diverse challenges and communities about photography on G+: Scavenger hunts and Treasure hunts to name some. Not all of those photos are public though; they are not always the best to show. I did join a new photo site too. Viewbug -- with contests. Mine never will win against all those amazing photos, but it's sure nice to get recognition from total strangers on your little works.

And I did a lot of handicraft too: crocheting, knitting and sewing (which is also my work).

So, the coming year, switching from writing, painting, photographing and creating things with my hands, I just hope to have enough time to relax and rest and recover new strength for all my little projects. Oh, and to learn new things as well Coursera and Udacity are great online places to learn in your own speed most of the time - and with people from all over the world.

And keep up with reporting about my activities, of course. If not, be assured, I will have fun and laughter and happiness anyway.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2014.


Yes, I remember Mr Rabbit and his visit to me at the beginning of this year - and I really enjoyed taking those photos with him. 

Be happy, don't worry and keep the Love in your hearts.