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The New Guy

Greetings! Marshall Herbst here… the really, really new guy, and welcome to my blog!  Just for your reference, I recently graduated Hanover College in Indiana and am currently enrolled in the MIC Program here at UK. I am also working as an Instructional Technology Assistant here in the College of Arts and Sciences  I think I am going to treat this like a journal of sorts. After my first couple weeks here at Online Ed, I feel like I am starting to get into the pace of things. With all the new programs to learn, the people to meet, and the problems to solve, it seems like each day flies by. The really cool thing about all this is that I really am beginning to see the value in what this office does for both professors and students, and appreciate all the work that goes into actually constructing, and maintaining, these online courses. I will admit, previous to my experiences over the past couple weeks, I did not acknowledge how online classes could be as effective as the traditional method of instruction, sitting in a class of peers with open communication with the instructor. Perhaps it is the History Major in me coming out, the one who is used to huddling in the library pouring over piles of texts to search for the perfect quote.

My Online Ed Experience

This summer I have taken my first online course ever at UK. Also at the beginning of this summer I was employed at Online Ed as a part of the Media Mafia. Thus begins my experience with two new things which became more closely intertwined than I would have thought. Beginning my employment, my first major project that I got to jump right into was helping film lectures for Dr. Nadel's Intro to Film class. I quickly realized that he was teaching the very class that I would be taking a few weeks later in the 8 week Summer II session.

Dr. Nadel's course basically consists of 12 video lectures, most of which I helped film and/or produce the final product. Some of you may think that this put me at some sort of advantage, but it hasn't. Filming them is one thing, and watching them within the context of the text book and films is a whole other game. This class has become a fantastic exercise in reviewing and critiquing my own work here at Online Ed. So far the lectures have been great and we did a lot of things right while filming these, such as taking the time to find an intersting spot to film the lecture rather than having Dr. Nadel in an anonymous blank classroom somewhere. Most of his lectures we filmed at the Niles gallery in the Fine Arts building.

Lessons in Life

Life is precious…

I had to learn that the hard way this past week. I think many of us seem to forget just how vulnerable we are in this world and while it is true that no one lives forever many of us tend to forget that.

A close family friend passed away this week as a result of a car accident, she was only 23 years old. She was studying in medical school at the University of Louisville. She had her whole life ahead of her, but that wasn’t her fate. While she was driving on the highway she encountered a bike that someone must have dropped and swerved to avoid it, but as she swerved she lost control of her car and crashed into the guardrail on the side. She was transported to UK hospital but the damage was already done. She never made it out of surgery.

Many of us had to deal not only with the sadness of losing someone we care about, but also with such a tragic story. Death can have a silver lining though. It can bring people together who never thought they would speak again, it can bring a community together to grieve regardless of race, religion or color, and help the family by comforting and supporting them, it truly can remind us of how precious family, friends and life really is. And it can change us for the better, when we realize just how fragile human life is.

Freedom is priceless

We should never take our freedom for granted.

As events are unfolding across the Middle East it has become abundantly clear that what we have in this country is so precious.

Imagine what it would be like to have the very basic freedom of peacefully saying what you want to say thwarted by an unimaginable amount of violence. Well that is what is going on today in the Middle East. Hundreds upon hundreds are getting killed in many Middle Eastern countries all because they are taking to the streets,demanding freedom, and they are suffering.

The protests have always been close to my heart because I can’t stand to see people suffering in such an inhumane way, but now it has hit closer to home. My family is originally from Syria, so now I personally experience the struggle in many different ways.I experience it when my uncle tells me that he can't go to the store and get the basic necessities of life because there are military tanks in the middle of the road. I experience it when I hear my grandmother who is crying on the phone because she is so afraid, she is afraid of what is going on, she is afraid that one of her children will get killed or maybe even worse get detained in government custody, she is just afraid, she cries and I cry with her.

I Don't Remember That...

Everything seems to be going ok in the Anthropology course I am taking. Blackboard is actually cooperating for once, and I’ve had no major issues from the system. The first exam becomes available in Anthropology, and I am feeling pretty good about it all, that is I open the exam and the question is completely foreign to me. So of course I begin to immediately panic. Dr. McDonald is coming back from her trip to Europe at this current point and time so we have the TA to fall back on. Although they were both out of my reach (even through email) until I finished the exam. I try my best to calm myself down but that is not very easy when I already have such high test anxieties in the first place.

 

My son comes up to me and asks, “Mommy, are you going to be ok? Because I will help you, would you like for me to rub your feet?” I couldn’t help but smile and realize that I was becoming so frantic that my kids were picking up on it. So thanks to my 5 year old son I was able to calm down enough. All I could do is keep answering the questions that I knew, and attempt the ones that I didn’t know. However, I would be sending a frantic email to the TA and Dr. McDonald. We were able to be re-take the exam this past weekend, with the correct set of questions, and at least on my end, everything went well.

 

Quick Reminders

For this week’s blog, I’m doing a bit of self-advertising to talk about a video series I’ve started called Quick Reminders.  The videos focus on the adventures of two stick people, New Cheerful Employee and Disgruntled Senior Employee, as they explore the dos and don’ts of office life in POT. It’s rather enjoyable, but it’s taught me a few things in the short time I’ve been working on them.

First, animating videos takes a long, long time.  The first video I did was only about three minutes long, but it took a good six hours to put together, even with computers doing most of the work.  I can’t even fathom how long it would take for a professional animator to put together a half-hour or hour-long cartoon, since they’d have to put far more effort into the artwork than I do.  Next time you watch a cartoon, take a moment to thank the animators for throwing countless hours of their life into making a project designed solely for your amusement (particularly those cartoons done before the advent of computers, when everything had to be hand-drawn).

3D and Faking It

Faking 3d

One important aspect to 3D art is optimization. What I mean by this is that, if you make something appear the same or similiar to a more detailed object then that greatly decreases rendering/computing time. This is certainly paramount in video games since the computer must make calculations on the fly but still important in movies because it cost money that is usually determined by rendering time. Without further ado, I will briefly introduce one method to "Faking It."

Normal Mapping

Netflix Select Your Major

Many of us are familiar with the movie rental service Netflix. One of the features of Netflix is a recommendation system that recommends movies to the user based on their past selections and the data from similar users. While the system can't always predict perfectly what you will enjoy it is fairly accurate in gauging your tastes and using them to find movies or tv shows that you would enjoy. This system uses a technique called collaborative filtering for filtering through the company's vast collection of user data. The system is similar to Amazon's recommender system although a different type of collaborative filtering.

Renaissance Faire

     Last weekend I went to the Kentucky Renaissance Faire over by Louisville and had a great time.  Every year I make it a point to go there and have never had a bad experience.  Not only was the weather perfect last weekend, but I highly enjoyed the various staff, shows, and vendors.  Also, there were so many different kinds of people there in different costumes that it made me think about how multi-cultural and accepting the platform of a Renaissance Faire can be. 
     Originally, a Renaissance Faire was meant to celebrate a very specific time period within European history.  Now, however, almost any fantasy or historical costume can be found walking around the festival grounds.   I know I saw people dressed up in Elizabethan costumes, as 18th century scientists, barbarians, fairies, demons, dragons, even pirates.  Anything seemed possible and no one argued over it or seemed to pass judgment.   What impressed me more was that everyone was mingling together peacefully and truly having a great time.  

Gaming Platforms

            Earlier this week, some people heard me declaring my intense dislike towards the evil known as Thomas Edison and asked me to do my blog on why I consider him to be a mustache-twirling arch villain.  As much as I’d love to rant about why he’s a lying thief, that will have to wait until next time, because I’d much rather rant about people ranting about something near and dear to my heart; video games.

            Before we get into this, I want to say that I’m stuck in the awkward age where I’m too young to have grown up with the 8-bit games that made the industry what it is today, but am too old to have played my first Pokemon game on a Nintendo 3DS.  My nostalgia period is 2001-2007 on the PS1 and PS2, with a few outliers like Spyro, Final Fantasy VII and Gameboy Color games. Now that you have the appropriate background, here’s the reason for my blog.

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