Thursday, November 16, 2017

Learning the Python Programming Language

As I had mentioned in my previous post, Raspberry Pi and Minecraft Pi My Oh My!, the version of Minecraft that came pre-installed on my Raspberry Pi 3 was very rudimentary and in order to do some basic functions, like getting a TNT block to explode, you actually need to know how to do some basic programming. For my son, not being able to explode TNT was a major deal breaker, so... as I always tell him, quitting is not an option...

Where to go to learn Python? The first place I went to begin my Python crash course was Codecademy. I chose Codecademy for a few reasons. One, it is free. You can create a basic account and take, what is essentially a full course. If you upgrade to the paid version, it gives you access to multiple choice questions and projects. Another reason I chose Codecademy is that you do not have to download anything (we will get to that soon), it is all internet based.

(Hint: If you have trouble completing a Codecademy assignment, Google the lesson name and you can usually find discussion boards on how to get the correct answer/code.)

I had no preconceived notion that I would be an expert at Python once finishing the free Codecademy course but rather a very introductory view of it. I'd imagine it would take years of courses, training, and practice to become a "Pro". Now that I had a basic understanding of Python and some of its capabilities, it was time to accelerate my learning. I did a lot of research on the Internet to try and find additional resources and one resource I kept stumbling across was Reddit. Reddit is a large community of users that discuss various topics, ask and answer questions, and post content. I quickly found a Python Reddit, a Raspberry Pi Reddit, and even a LearnPython Reddit. I posted a question, "What are best tools/courses/etc. for learning Python?" and almost instantly I started getting responses. I kept seeing responses for ATBS but had no idea what it meant. I Googled "ATBS Python" and sure enough, I found it! Automate The Boring Stuff.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Rasperry Pi and Minecraft Pi, My Oh My!

Over the past few months I have not been very active with this blog. I apologize to all 3 of you! Haha, joking aside, I will be the first to admit; I was discouraged that my lists kept getting rejected, that my blog was not getting as many visitors as I would like, not to mention it was a lot of work. Then I got a new "toy", a Raspberry Pi, that kept me nice and distracted (and gave me an idea for a new blog series).

Raspberry Pi 3

The Raspberry Pi is a series of small single-board computers developed in the United Kingdom by the Raspberry Pi Foundation to promote the teaching of basic computer science in schools and in developing countries. In my particular case, my wife had read an article about it and decided it would be fun gift for my birthday so she got me a Raspberry Pi 3. I didn't know what to think or do with it but as soon as the box showed up on our doorstep, my 5 year-old's curiosity peaked. Then I read that it came with a version of Minecraft Pi already installed on it and when my son found this out, he had to try this Raspberry Pi thing. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

10 Infamous Elephant Poachers

Conservationists fear that approximately 96 elephants are killed every single day for their ivory tusks. A single large tusk can sell on the black market for six thousand dollars, ten times the annual salary of a typical worker in the same region. In 2016, The Great Elephant Census reported results of a multi-year effort to count elephants in 18 African countries and the results were very disheartening. The census found that savanna elephant populations declined by thirty percent, almost two hundred thousand elephants between 2007 and 2014. The number one reason for the decline, illegal poaching for the animals’ ivory tusks.
Yang Feng Glan
In 2015, authorities in Africa arrested the “Queen of Ivory” after Tanzania’s National and Transnational Serious Crimes Investigation Unit had followed Yang Feng Glan for over a year. She had been traveling between Beijing, Uganda, and Tanzania, facilitating the illegal tusk trade. She was the key link between African poachers and buyers in China, where ivory can be sold for very expensive prices.
Appearing in court in October 2015, Glan was charged with smuggling ivory, seven hundred and six elephant tusks worth approximately three million dollars between 2000 and 2014. Authorities suspect she could have been engaging in the illegal trade dating all the way back to 1980. Being right in the middle of the illegal operation, investigators are hoping Glan will help them identify other key players in the trade, leading to more arrests and protecting the elephants and rhinos from further poaching.
Jean-Phillippe Nkaga
Determined to be the owner of thirty-seven pounds of ivory that had been seized, Jean-Phillippe Nkaga was arrested in December 2013. Three poachers detained by police months before named Nkaga as the owner of the illegal ivory. Nkaga is known by local police for organizing the mass slaughter of elephants and coordinating the trafficking of the resultant ivory. Nkaga had previously been in jail for possession of drugs and firearms, assault, and even a murder in which there was not enough evidence to jail him for a long time. Nkaga is a very violent person. At the time Nkaga was arrested, the laws against poaching were not strong enough to encourage rehabilitation.
Boniface Matthew Mariango aka The Devil
Considered the most infamous poacher in East Africa, authorities suspect that Boniface Matthew Mariango and his gangs are responsible for thousands of elephant deaths across Africa. He was arrested on October 29th, 2015, in Tanzania, after escaping capture for over a year. The Devil, as he was nicknamed, managed approximately fifteen criminal poaching and ivory smuggling syndicates. Mariango’s capture came soon after a census report showed that the Tanzania elephant population dropped sixty percent between 2009 and 2014.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Listverse, Shutterstock, and More

In my first blog post, My Experience with Listverse So Far, I had just submitted my 2nd list and was waiting for a response. Well…. unfortunately, it didn’t take long to hear back from Listverse, my 2nd list, 10 Paranormal Anomalies at the Skinwalker Ranch, was rejected. Not only was it rejected, but it only took them 24 hours to review it. I’m fairly certain it was rejected due to length since it was right around 2,000 words and rejected so fast. I do have some confusion regarding this. I have seen at least three different word length requirements for Listverse:

1)      Between 1,000 and 1,500 words
2)      No more than 2,000 words
3)      Most recently, not less than 1,800 words

So which is it??? When Listverse rejects your list they e-mail you a cookie cutter template without any specifics (you can see examples in the rejected lists I posted) so it is impossible to know what the cause for rejection is. I figured since my list was rejected so quickly, my first list took a week, it was due to the length. There was a silver lining however.

After I posted my rejected list on my blog, one of the top researchers on the subject, George Knapp, retweeted my blog post and even posted a link to my blog on his website! People flocked to my blog, which was very exciting. I was very appreciative that he did that but it also made me realize that although Listverse didn’t think my list was good enough for their site, many people really enjoyed reading it. This fired up my motivation.
On Monday, December 26th I submitted my 3rd list. At this point it has been about 3 days so that is a better sign than last time. When I submitted my list I noticed it said your list should not exceed 2,000 words. In light of the quick rejection on my 2nd list, I kept this one fairly short, 1,300 words. Now I just went to the Listverse submission page and noticed the requirements changed! It says lists “should not be less than 1,800 words”. I sense a rejection e-mail coming.

Once you submit a list they notify you that they have received your list and that they will respond within two weeks to let you know if they accept your list for payment or not. I needed something else to pass the time while I waited for the answer, that is when I stumbled on Shutterstock.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Becoming A Blogger

I have always had an interest in blogging. I really enjoy writing, researching, and sharing my thoughts. In the past I have “built” a few websites and blogs but they never held my interest long enough to gather any kind of following. I used services such as Wordpress and Weebly to design very nice looking pages but then always ran into a significant roadblock. Getting traffic to your “nice looking” blog is very difficult! I never realized (or put enough faith in all the bloggers before me) on just how hard it is to get eyes on your content. So as time went by I would lose interest. I can list a number of reasons I would lose interest in addition to being frustrated by lack of traffic to my blog.

Here are a few:

Wasn’t emotionally invested in the subject
Discounted myself, since I wasn’t an “expert” why would anyone care what I say
Never fully committed to seeing project through
Didn’t understand demand for fresh content
Knew little about SEO (Search Engine Optimization)


Saturday, December 10, 2016

10 Paranormal Anomalies at the Skinwalker Ranch

Of all the strange and mysterious places on the Planet Earth, it might be a small ranch in northern Utah that is the strangest of them all. It is called the Skinwalker Ranch. Although relatively unknown, this ranch has arguably more documented paranormal activity than anywhere else in the world, including its famous neighbor, Area 51. From cattle mutilations to giant killer birds, Skinwalker Ranch has a little bit of everything for paranormal enthusiasts.

Navajo Skinwalker Legend
Dating back to the early 1950’s, the Skinwalker Ranch has been a hotbed for unidentified flying objects. A local science teacher, Junior Hicks, saw a large object in the sky during broad daylight unlike anything he had ever seen before. It wasn’t a figment of his imagination either, his whole elementary class also saw the UFO. Forever hooked on what he saw, Hicks ended up tracking over 400 separate paranormal events in the area of the Skinwalker Ranch over the course of 5 decades.

In 1978 area residents reported seeing an awesome dome shape UFO with very intense lights as reported by Deseret News. The UFO emitted a silent purring noise and onlookers recall feeling very frightened as if someone was watching them from the UFO yet they were unable to look away.

In 1994, Terry and Gwen Sherman purchased the Skinwalker Ranch to start a cattle ranch business. Much to their dismay, the UFO sightings from the previous decades were corroborated with their own sightings of multiple different types of UFO’s. Their family saw pyramid shaped UFO’s, box shaped UFO’s, a 40-foot-long UFO, and a huge ship the size of multiple football fields.

Invincible Wolves
A wolf, three times the size of a normal wolf, that can’t be killed by bullets sounds like something out of a Hollywood screenplay. In this case however, it was the real-life experience of the family who purchased the Skinwalker Ranch in 1994. On the first day of their new life on the Skinwalker Ranch they had an unwelcomed visitor, a huge wolf that seemed to be as domesticated as a golden retriever. As the family discussed keeping the wolf as a pet, even petting it a few times, the wolf snapped. Next thing the family knew the wolf was attempting to rip a calf through the metal bars of its pen. The father began to shoot the wolf with his .357 magnum revolver at very close range. He could see the bullets hitting the wolf however the wolf didn’t even flinch. After 3 shots from a magnum handgun the wolf let the calf go but didn’t retreat. Starting to get scared, the father grabbed his hunting rifle and shot the wolf, again with no tragic effect and the wolf simply turned around and walked away. More of these huge wolves would continue to be seen on the ranch during the Sherman’s time living there.

Mysterious Voices
Generally, when we hear a voice we look around behind us, to the right or left, looking for the person speaking to us. Normally you don’t have to look above you to seek out the source of the voices talking about you. In this case, there was no body to assign the voices to, anywhere. These mysterious voices were very clear although the language being spoke was indiscernible. People who have heard these mysterious voices at the Skinwalker Ranch could feel eyes watching them from above (approx. 20 feet).  

One researcher explained it “They [eyes] were like smoldering coals, burning hot with their hatred from behind a dimensional curtain.” He couldn’t explain how he arrived at that conclusion without even seeing anything. He knew they were discussing him, asking questions like “Why is he here?” and “Who is he?”, even though he couldn’t understand their language. Perhaps they were putting thoughts in his head? Most would believe this was a figment of the researcher’s imagination however multiple people, at different times, had the same exact experience. 

My Experience With Listverse So Far

I just sent in my second list of ten to Listverse. Hopefully I have a little better luck this time. I have to admit; I was disappointed after my first list was rejected. Not really because I didn’t my list published and make $100, it was because of Listverse’s response. First of all, I had no clue they were receiving 150 lists a day while only publishing 3!? Okay so my list wasn’t in the top 2% of lists, I was at least hoping for a few notes on what I did wrong or need to improve. Instead it is your standard cookie cutter response. Their website said, submit your list and “Either way you win—your list will be read by us and reviewed, and if it’s amazing it will appear on the front page of Listverse to be read by millions of people a month!” I took this to mean I would get a smidgeon of feedback but I understand that would be very labor intensive for the Company.

I am not here to complain about Listverse at all, I really like their website and plan to keep submitting lists, at least until I get one approved! However, I felt my first list was unique, I spent a lot of time researching it and there isn’t another list like it (to my knowledge), and I didn’t want to waste the content by just letting it sit on my laptop so I came up with this blog,

I am a little worried about my 2nd list submission. It was close to 2,000 words, which they say to only go to 1,500 on their website, but the topic was very interesting (at least in my opinion) and I’ve seen Listverse publish longer lists. Perhaps a little longer list with more details will stand out and get noticed when the odds are so stacked against it. We’ll see…… might have a new post here soon. Last time it took exactly one week for a response.