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Archaea – New Branch in Tree of Life.

Think life is simple. “Yes,” you say – “those with nucleus are eukaryotes, and those without are bacteria.” But, not so fast. A domain of single cell organisms that used to be called archaebacteria is now a whole new branch in the tree of life. We now give it its own name, “Archae”. Archae posses properties that separate them from bacteria and higher life forms. What makes Archae different? Their living conditions, energy sources and cell membrane lipids make them unique.

Archaea – new branch of life tree
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Correct action needs to be taken before it is too late.

Articles that describe plane disasters commonly talk about a pilot’s reaction that results in opposite course from what would have been a way out of a difficult situation. For example, when an airplane is loosing speed and starts nosediving, trying to pull it’s nose up only reduces the airspeed further and compounds the problem. Right action seems to be to nosedive and gain some speed and then have options at doing other things. Obviously, the correct action needs to be taken some distance before the ground.

Now, lets imagine a complicated situation of two planes on a collision course that simultaneously loose power and ability to maneuver right and left. The planes can adjust some altitude by using the nosedive maneuver to gain speed. So, there is some ability to move slightly up and slightly down while the airspeed still allows for gliding. If communications between the two planes occur ahead of time, there is a chance to agree on different altitudes to avoid collision. But, once the airspeed is near critical for one of the plains, the chances of positive outcome are diminishing exponentially. The results will be disastrous even if the second plane still has an option to nosedive to gain some speed. At late points, it would be impossible to avoid the collision because nosediving for the second plane only result in collision with the first plane that has not other course, but down.

Similarly, two people or two groups of people on a collision course have only a certain amount of time before collision is unavoidable. Communication ahead of time is the only solution to avoid a disaster. Don’t forget that we still did not figure out how the planes will land safely without the power.

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Old News are Hard to Find

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana. It is too bad that a few decades old news articles are very hard to find by searching the internet.

Surely, if someone is looking for a specific article and knows the exact date of a publication, there is a reasonable chance that something useful will come up, either in text search, or possibly in image search. But, if someone is looking for a broad topic that was potentially covered by major newspapers of 1920s or 1930s, good luck.

Google made an effort in the past to digitize historical content. For some reason, this effort was abandoned. Currently, the chance of findings anything useful becomes exponentially lower with each added decade prior to 1970s or so.

This most likely reflects popularity contest that even history has to compete in today’s world. Google’s services are designed to engage as many people as possible. It is completely reasonable to concentrate on the current history and data. Most people will search for recent events and opinions. Just like it is unlikely that thoughts of lonely shepherd who lives in high mountains will not be found at the top of search results, it is unlikely that there is enough interest to justify expense of digitizing every article ever written.

Another way to look at this is a “doughnut hole” perspective, similar to Medicare not covering certain expenses of a sub-segment of population. If we count old philosopher’s writings as “news articles” we can say that it is really easy to find old writings that survived the test of time. But, millennia between 300AD to 1970AD gets left out. So, online new version of “history” only reflects the very old and the very new. Since the majority of searchable text is very new, even this result is heavily skewed to the more current event. The “doughnut” is not even symmetric.

For now, the only solution that a lonely shepherd has to find whether a topic was covered in the news of early twentieth century is to travel to a large city, visit a library, and read the paper version of the old news. Let’s hope that Fahrenheit 451 does not happen to those.

Old news are hard to find
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Object Oriented Programming OOP – a misnomer?

Programming has been somewhat of a hobby. It is sometimes useful to find a computational solution to otherwise tedious task. Some say that today, programming is becoming almost like a writing/reading skill. The concept of Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) is not straight forward to explain without a video or a few examples to someone who has never encountered it before. Briefly, “containers” or “prototypes” of sort are created in computer code and later modified for a particular purpose.

Typical example involves an explanation that “car” is an object and models of cars are sub-types of objects, all based on that main “car” object. So, a programmer writes a few lines of general code that are later re-used for a more specialized task. But, is “object” a good word to describe this concept? Dictionary definition of an “object” is that “object” is a material thing that can be touched, seen, smelled, pushed, pulled, etc.

“Object” in OOP is not really that material, unless we want to consider that potential energy of 5V to create “0s” and “1s” is somewhat material. In reality, the “object” in OOP is nothing more but a collection of logical and data states in computer memory.

Would “Logical Construct Oriented Programming” (LCOP) be better? Sounds a bit complicated.

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Finger Zoom in Adobe Reader on Surface Pro

For years, my tablet was an Android device. If some text in Adobe reader was too small, all I had to do is zoom over a paragraph using two-finger spread. The focus stayed on the paragraph immediately after the zoom. Does not seem like a huge computational problem: first get the coordinates of touchdown, then zoom, then re-center to keep the original touchdown in place. So, why or why does the same Adobe Reader wants to jump to the center of a page after zooming on Surface Pro? Now, it’s two actions: first two-finger zoom, then one finger slide back to where you were reading. And, if you happened to zoom too much, your original spot is not that easy to find. Perhaps, there is a setting somewhere in the deep preferences corners to solve this, but sure not easy to find, if it is there.

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Updates Utopia

As I am typing this post, my desktop is sluggish. Another update is going on in the background. As a matter of fact, in the last three days I mostly used desktop Windows PC, Windows tablet, and Android phone. My tablet forced an update that slowed me down last morning. My desktop updated a large program, which resulted in about 5-minute slow down. My phone seemed to always be updating something. And, it was just a matter of random chance whether my text app or maps or email on the phone were slightly sluggish because something was also updating in the background. There were random program update offers too. I was in the middle of doing something else at the time, but was sidetracked into getting “the new most advance and secure” version that looked identical to the old one in my naive “user view”.

So, from now on, I am updating my “terms of use” of all software out there that I am using. It would be in the best interest for our continued relationship that software provider is allowed to disturb me with updates only on the last Sunday of a given month at 3 am by my time, wherever I happen to be. This agreement will supersede any our prior agreements. This generous offer on my part will be replaced with a more restrictive terms of only twice a year update allowance, if software providers do not honor this agreement.

Ya right… this is going to work. Back to reality…

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Unity 2018.2 Review

Unity 2018.2 is a game development environment that is a major development  platform in this field. There is a free version that is available for small aspiring game developers.

Installation is fairly straight forward, but like any other big package, takes a while.

An option to do tutorial right at the first start is a wonderful idea and I went ahead and clicked through the first two tutorials.

In all fairness, I so far, only spend an hour on this platform and will probably give it another chance. The points that are a bit confusing are the following.

The tutorial explains that GameObject is the primary point of interaction with this software. This is very understandable as Object Oriented Programming is ubiquitous everywhere. The tutorial also explains that GameObjects have Components. Ok, naming this whole set “Features” or “Attributes” may be a bit more clear, but it seems that each of the components has those as well, so we are at three layers of complexity here. Is each component an object within an object? Well, does not matter.

The really confusing part is “Assets.” Why are those separate? Why another layer of complexity? Unity Asset Store has some free models to download. Well, so far two different downloads did not work. Something happens, but way too quick. One of those deals, where you keep wondering if there was “Exception” type “please do not crash” code in there somewhere. Going back to the store and trying to download again results in “All assets from this package are already in your project.” Manually browsed to the Assets folder in the project, nothing there, except for the generic SampleScene stuff. Manual web pages did not help so far, as they seem to refer to some different 18.2 version from what got downloaded.

By the way, placing a project straight into Documents folder, at least on Windows 10, is not exactly an organized way of doing it. Having a separate working Unity folder would have been better.

So, overall, Unity seems to be functioning and probably worth a second look after some more tutorial viewing/reading. But, it is a good idea to check out the competitors before proceeding.

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Help Kids Stay out of Trouble

I remember my friend struggling with one of her kids. She was so frustrated and did not know what to do. As a parent myself I understand that sometimes is very difficult to point out why our children behave certain ways. I mentioned to her that she needs to pay attention to her kiddo, what I mean by this is: is the child always behaving like this or only at certain places? From then on you as the parent can come out with a plan on how to help improve his or her behavior. And whatever you do, do not pay attention to what others say. Concentrate on how to help him or her. Assumptions are not good.  Children as they grow they want their independence. My little one always wanted to do everything herself. Even now she still insists that she is right in certain situations. This behavior makes me happy because I can see she is getting in and out of situations. But what about when they start disrupting the class or they continue interrupting when I am talking with another adult. Most kids do this, but when you talk to them and explain they usually understand and follow directions. But what if they do not listen? What if the trouble in school keeps repeating? How can you find out when it is really a problem? When to take action?

When I see my kiddos, I see two little angels, how can this cuties misbehave at school, restaurant, grocery store, or anywhere else. Again, because they are growing up they will try their independence…and this is great but as a parent  we need to monitor their behavior because sometimes it changes. If we do not explain to them when they misbehave. Many times, we as parents do not want to see the reality of things. We want to see our kids behaving properly always, but the truth is we always need to encourage a positive and acceptable behavior not just in school but everywhere else. After all, we are their parents. Our job is to guide them for their future and many years from now we would be able see the beautiful, kind, respectful humans that we had guided. We as parents are like their mirror, they will repeat and act how they see us, this includes peers and friends. 

I always explain to my kids the importance of school and what to expect from them. I let them know what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not. Sometimes I have to really explain because they need to know that for every decision there is a consequence. For me and my husband  is very important to continue the same rules at home. If my boy shows good behavior at home he will most likely display that behavior in school. My grandma always gave me this quote: ” Remember, the apple does not fall far from the tree.”

I told my friend to talk to her child’s teacher. It is very important to hear what the teacher says about your child’s behavior. I notice many parents say how can their teacher know the child. Guess what? I have always seen the teachers like a second parent to my kids. They spend most of the day with them. For me, is very important to have a good connection with them. I like to hear what teacher has to say about my children. If there is a problem, the teacher will be able to help me correcting my child’s problem. When my kiddo was in kinder garden the teacher called me and said that he had hit another child. At home my kiddo is an angel. At the park, he always shared. So why would he hit? First, I asked him…he only said that the other kid was bad. I decided to go to the teacher and we came out with a plan. She monitored them during class…nothing happened. At lunch time I decided to go and talk to the teacher one more time. As we were walking in, we saw my son’s classmate kicking him under the table. The teacher decided that she needed to know why this boy was kicking my kiddo. It went on for a few days…it turned out that the boy was stealing my kid’s food and my kid had enough of the kicking. After we solved the problem my boy was very happy and I never heard another complain. They even became best friends.  Again parents, good communication with teachers is detrimental.

If their behavior has not change, try to keep records if possible just for a while. This will allow you to find the problem. It has really worked for me. If you find out that there is a pattern, it will be easier to help. Again, I will mention their teacher, they will  notice the child’s behavior at school. Maybe the child gets out of control in certain subjects. It could be that the child is getting nervous about certain things in class or lessons. Maybe they have a difficult time learning new material and do not know how to ask for help. It could be that somebody is saying something that gets them sad or angry and they react. 

The point is that if you want to figure out how to help them pay special attention to the times that they are acting up. If the child is getting in trouble at school, something might be bothering him or her. Maybe your child feels left out. Maybe math or another subject is giving him anxiety. Maybe is not school, and you need to look in other places outside school. Maybe there are changes at home. I asked my friend to pay attention to his sleeping time. I asked her if he was sleeping thru the night or not. I told her to do what I do: ask them what is their favorite time of their day and their worst. And why? Usually once I know what my child is going thru I am able to help more efficiently. You will be able to come out with ideas and solutions to help.

When to Worry

The point is not to worry, unless the child has no patience and gets angry way too often. Another signal is when the child acts against your authority and does not apologize or has any remorse. Ask the teacher if your child is aggressive with peers and how often he disrupts the class lesson or if the child is not participating. You can see this at home too. Is he getting in trouble always.

Most kids will listen and follow what their parents and teachers ask of them. Children need to feel that you as a parent or teacher are there to help and guide specially when they display their independence and their behavior.

*By the way, my friend found out the problem…her kiddo was having trouble when the teacher was asking him to work a multiplication problem on the board. When he was not able to do it, the kids were teasing at recess. Therefore, the child kept on acting up. Once it was solve, the teacher told her that he was listening and he was happy.

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Evolution of MOOCs

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are a relatively new invention. Pioneered by flagship educational institutions worldwide, MOOCs are now offered by many universities, colleges, and other enterprises, big and small. The usual topics that are covered by these courses are computer sciences, math and other basic sciences, marketing, and numerous others. Of course, quality varies, but in general, the courses were started by well established educators who were able to find time and resources to create cutting edge, high quality content.

Many high quality courses were free in the beginning. There was an option to pay for a verified certificate for some. As time progressed, the dynamics have changed. More and more courses are appearing that either put a time limit on free content, or require registration fee upfront. Some platforms always used paid models.  Now, even the platforms that had predominantly “free, open to all” type philosophy are being gradually changed.

This is natural. As users flood free platforms, operating and maintenance cost increases. As demand for content gets shaped by what students are looking for, more content needs to be developed.

It will be interesting to see how MOOCs evolve further. Will they become an advertising tool for colleges and universities to attract students or will they morph into new educational venues, where students will be able to get better knowledge in a subject, not a degree in a subject from a university.