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Potential 2018 draft “Wardaddies” for the Cowboys and Jerry Jones – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

Potential 2018 draft “Wardaddies” for the Cowboys and Jerry Jones
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Blogging The Boys Blogging The Boys, a Dallas Cowboys fan community. Log In or Sign Up · Log In · Sign Up · Fanposts · Fanshots · Sections; Library; Cowboys · Odds · Shop · About · Masthead · Community Guidelines · StubHub; More. All 319 blogs on.

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U.S. Colleges Have $500 Billion to Invest. Now Where Are All the Green Deals?

If you guessed that the University of California system would champion “sustainable” investing, you’d be correct. The catch is, the shelves in the sustainable investing aisle aren’t especially well-stocked with opportunities.

U.S. college endowments altogether hold more than $500 ­billion in assets, a growing part of which they’ve allocated to sustainable or “impact” investing. Yet they also face something of a paradox: Where, exactly, does one invest that money? The easy answer, and one popular among smaller endowments, is to buy funds of stocks deemed green.

Another option is real assets, says Jagdeep Bachher, who oversees the University of California’s $100 billion portfolio, which includes retirement funds for one of the country’s largest public university systems in addition to the school’s $10 billion endowment, the 12th largest in the U.S. “Institutions are lazy at some level,” he says. “We wait for pitch books to show up.” But that isn’t satisfactory for the Regents of the University of California. The reason: Staving off the worst effects of global warming will require much more investment than is being deployed—trillions of dollars more in coming years, according to estimates from the International Energy Agency. That’s why the system has become prominent in a group of institutional investors deploying money to green projects.

The group has committed to putting more than $1 billion into clean energy- and water-related projects that the Obama White House promoted two years ago. In addition, the investors helped create an advisory group called Aligned Intermediary Inc., which functions like a co-op for them, sourcing investments.

The deals Aligned Intermediary identifies are big: They range from $50 million to $500 million, according to co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Peter Davidson. Its members, which also include the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Trust and the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, seek real returns from direct investments in infrastructure—renewable energy, water, even garbage—as well as from loans to projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “The economic returns are there,” Davidson says. “The responsible investing idea is there. It’s a market imperfection that we need to solve.” The University of California has committed $500 million to these types of projects. While the group’s first transaction, an investment of about $50 million involving water infrastructure in the Western U.S., is on the books, details haven’t been disclosed.

For endowments, these types of direct investments have advantages. They skirt private equity and hedge funds’ controversial 2-and-20 fees, and the projects’ timetables run into the decades, substantially longer than a typical fund life of up to 10 years.

Endowments such as Yale’s helped start the trend toward illiquid, alternative investments three decades ago, with a move into private equity and hedge funds. Yale and Harvard—the wealthiest college funds, with more than $60 billion collectively—were also pioneers in buying real assets, particularly timberland. Yale has even invested directly in a 22-turbine wind farm in Maine. The school’s endowment in a 2009 report extolled four green investments that have partly turned out to be duds. One solar company, for example, went bankrupt. Meanwhile, green funds that bet on clean energy and technology, launched in the past decade, have underperformed.

While there’s demand for investments that help address global climate challenges, opportunities aren’t especially easy to find—and most endowments, especially private schools, operate in opacity, so it’s difficult to identify case studies. Williams—the richest U.S. liberal arts college, with a $2.3 billion endowment—provides an interesting glimpse into the difficulties.

In September 2015 the Massachusetts school said it wouldn’t divest from fossil fuel holdings, despite pressure from students. (Protests calling for endowments to divest from fossil fuels have been a campus constant in recent years.) Instead the college said it would seek investments with the condition that they can be measured to show an impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A year later, Williams officials recommended an alternative energy fund to its investment committee, which approved the proposal, according to the alumni magazine. “We are working hard to look for these types of investments, but they are not easy to find,” says Collette Chilton, the chief investment officer. “We’re not giving up, because this is important to the Williams community.”

It’s also been laborious for the University of California to find the right deal—even with the staff of Aligned Intermediary on the case. Aligned was structured as a benefit corporation, and its operational funding was provided by philanthropic groups, led by the Planet Heritage, William and Flora Hewlett, and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundations. The organization provides expertise to find deals, perform due diligence, and, if necessary, help oversee the managers running projects. The University of California sifted through 90 proposals before finding the water deal that closed late last year. “You need flexibility and you need patience—and we have these things,” Bachher says. The university will act only when it sees an opportunity that meets all of its requirements, he says.

In addition to the deal the University of California inked, others are in the pipeline, Davidson says. They include an investment in a solar power developer in North America, expected to close in June, and a mezzanine loan to a large-scale private wind, solar, and biomass company that operates globally.

The Ontario pension plan, a partner, has experience with these sorts of investments. It’s put money in Ararat, a 75-turbine wind farm that opened earlier this year, becoming one of Australia’s largest, and in Toronto-based Firelight Infrastructure Partners LP, which focuses on wind, hydroelectric, and solar projects. Both are expected to generate double-digit returns, says Hugh O’Reilly, president and CEO of the Ontario-based pension fund, which has C$19 billion ($14 billion) under management. “We do this to make money,” he says. “We have an expertise in energy and renewable energy.”

Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec—which, with C$271 billion under management, is Canada’s second-largest public pension fund manager—found a triple whammy with its investment in an electric train project in Montreal: a real asset that’s long term and will reduce emissions by taking cars off the road. “We’re a long-term investor,” Michael Sabia, president and CEO, said at a Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in April. “It’s not the next quarter, it’s the next quarter century.”

Laurence Siegel, director of research at the CFA Institute Research Foundation, is bullish on clean water and air and alternative energy. The horizon for the return on investment is unclear, though. “In the very long run we’re not going to use that much oil,” says Siegel, who worked for 15 years at the Ford Foundation in an investment capacity. “These other alternative sources of energy are going to have a larger and larger market share, so you want to be invested. Is it 20 years? Is it 100 years? If it’s 100 years, the rate of return isn’t competitive. If it’s 20 years, it’s probably fabulous.’’

Endowments have historically invested in energy through their outside managers, who buy public and private oil and gas companies. “The endowments have done a remarkably good job in picking managers,” says Ashby Monk, executive director of Stanford’s Global Projects Center and chairman and co-founder of Aligned Intermediary. “That will inevitably shoehorn them into the types of strategies where that access point is the most efficient. To invest in these kinds of innovative assets, you have to be innovative in your investment organization.”

That appears to be the case for the University of California. In fact, Bachher says he feels like he’s in a “lonely spot” with his endowment colleagues. He’s optimistic, nonetheless. “With time, we will see more endowments involved,” he says. “It takes time for people to see the risk-adjusted returns.”

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Banned FIFA President Sepp Blatter Is Still Getting Paid

FIFA’s Sepp Blatter may have been banned for eight years from the game but he is still receiving his president’s salary from world soccer’s governing body, a spokesman for FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee told Reuters on Monday.

Blatter was suspended for 90 days by FIFA on Oct 8 and then banned from the game for eight years last month for ethics violations over a $2 million payment FIFA made to European soccer boss Michel Platini with Blatter’s approval in 2011.

But Blatter, a Swiss national who has been president of FIFA since 1998, will continue to be paid until a new president is elected on Feb 26, the spokesman Andreas Bantel said. That would mean Blatter would have been paid for nearly five months during which time he was unable to carry out his duties, and a period in which FIFA has appointed an acting president, African soccer head Issa Hayatou.

The compensation sub-committee of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee recently ruled that it could stop Blatter’s bonuses but not, according to his contract, his salary.

“Until the election of a new president on February 26, Mr Blatter is the elected president and therefore – according to his contract – is entitled to receive his remuneration,” Bantel said.

Blatter’s U.S. lawyer and his Switzerland-based spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

FIFA is facing the worst corruption crisis in it history as a total of 41 individuals and entities, including many former FIFA officials, have been charged with corruption-related offences in the United States. The U.S. investigation is far from over and FIFA also faces a parallel Swiss probe.

Blatter’s bonuses have been stopped because he was not carrying out his duties of supervising the organization, including its general secretary.

Only last week, FIFA announced that Jerome Valcke was fired from his position as general secretary. It gave no reason but an investigation had followed allegations of corruption related to World Cup ticket sales.

Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatte was banned from the game for eight years for ethics violations.

COMPENSATION A SECRET

“The duty of supervision is listed explicitly in the target agreements for the payment of bonuses. The compensation committee has therefore decided, at its last meeting, not to make any further bonus payments to Mr Blatter,” said Bantel.

The size of Blatter’s compensation from FIFA has remained secret although reforms to be voted on at the organization’s February Congress call for the disclosure of individual compensation for the president and top executives.

It is also unclear what Hayatou is getting paid to be acting president.

FIFA’s finances may have taken a blow in the past year because of the costs and distractions of the corruption scandal. According to a report from the UK’s Press Association late last year, the organization suffered its first loss last year since 2001.

Bantel declined to discuss what proportion of Blatter’s payments came from his bonuses.

The FIFA Ethics Committee said the payment to Platini, made at a time when Blatter was seeking re-election, lacked transparency and presented conflicts of interest, though both men denied any wrongdoing. Platini has also been banned from soccer for eight years.

Both Blatter and Platini have said they will appeal against their bans.

Related On HuffPost:

15 Reasons Why FIFA Is The Worst

15 Reasons Why FIFA Is The Worst

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Its Former President Took Major Bribes
Former FIFA president Joo Havelange took $1 million in bribes from a sports marketing company, said an ethics committee report. The money crossed now-president Sepp Blatter’s desk, but he claimed he didn’t know it was a bribe.

AP

Its Former President Took Major Bribes
Former FIFA president Joo Havelange took $1 million in bribes from a sports marketing company, said an ethics committee report. The money crossed now-president Sepp Blatter’s desk, but he claimed he didn’t know it was a bribe.
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The Current President Sucked Up To A Dictator
FIFA president Sepp Blatter paid a friendly visit to Liberian president Charles Taylor in 1999 to thank the dictator for his support in the previous year’s FIFA elections. Taylor would later be found guilty of war crimes at The Hague, but his atrocities were well known at the time of Blatter’s visit, says journalist Andrew Jennings.
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And Other Pleasant Fellows
In 2009, Blatter handed a FIFA medal to Moldovan president Vladimir Voronin, just as the politician had been suspected of torture and voting fraud.
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Some Officials Make Racist Statements
“I do not believe a Jew can ever be a referee at this level. It’s hard work and, you know, Jews don’t like hard work.” – FIFA senior vice-president Julio Grondona, on refereeing standards in Argentina, in 2003.
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And Others Have Tricky Fingers
Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) vice-president Jos Maria Marin was caught pocketing a winner’s medal meant for a player at the Sao Paulo Juniors Cup in 2012. He has since been named CBF president.
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It Limits Freedom of the Press
FIFA threatened to ban reporters from the 2010 World Cup if they wrote stories that brought the organization into “disrepute.”
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It Banned A Soccer Legend When He Alleged Corruption
Pel once accused the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) of corruption after its chief, Ricardo Teixeira, allegedly asked for a $1 million bribe as the soccer legend sought broadcast rights to the 1994 World Cup. Then-FIFA president Joo Havelange subsequently struck Pels name from a guest list for the World Cup draw in 1993.
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It Banned Newspaper Vending Near Stadiums in 2010
FIFA banned street vendors from selling newspapers near stadiums at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, despite it being an activity that helps poorer citizens make money.
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Officials Allegedly Solicit Bribes To Support Bids
Former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner (pictured) asked for a reported 2.5 million payment as countries looked to snag the 2018 World Cup, former English bid chairman Lord Triesman told a select committee in 2011. He also alleged that Nicols Leoz, a FIFA member from Paraguay, asked for a knighthood.
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Bribery Allegations Surround Qatar’s World Cup Bid
Former FIFA vice-president Mohammed Bin Hammam paid soccer officials US $5 million to support Qatar’s World Cup bid, claims The Sunday Times. Qatar denies wrongdoing and says Bin Hammam had no official role in its bid.
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And This Is How The President Responds
Sepp Blatter called criticism of Qatar’s successful World Cup bid “racist.” He also said that people were “plotting to destroy” FIFA, though he never specified who he was talking about.
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Its People Dodge Taxes
FIFA executive Ricardo Teixeira was convicted in 2009 of smuggling goods through customs as he and Brazil’s national team returned from their World Cup victory in 1994. Teixeira threatened to cancel the victory parade if their baggage didn’t go through unchecked.
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And Set Up Havens In Host Countries
FIFA demands tax exemptions from countries bidding on the World Cup. This includes its “revenues, profits, income, expenses, costs, investments and any and all kinds of payments,” according to a Dutch government memo.
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It Doesn’t Take Racism Very Seriously
Chelsea FC captain John Terry (right) was alleged to have racially abused Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand (left) during a game in 2011. How did Sepp Blatter respond? He downplayed the issue of racism, saying players should just settle it with a handshake. He later apologized.
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And Its President Disrespected Nelson Mandela
Sepp Blatter cut short a minute-long silence honouring Nelson Mandela at the World Cup draws last year. “That was a shameful action,” said Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal.
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So While We’re Excited For Some Soccer
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We Can’t Ignore The Truth
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FIFA May Be Ugly
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But This Is Still A Beautiful Game
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Flush with funding, Instacart accelerates US expansion

Grocery delivery startup Instacart recently closed a $400 million Series D round of funding at a valuation of $3.4 billion. Now, the company is putting that capital to work by accelerating its expansion across the U.S., and offering free Instacart Express memberships to entice new users wherever it goes.

According to the companys vice president of product, Elliot Shmukler, the company is operating in 41 U.S. markets today and is launching into four new markets this week, including Detroit, Las Vegas, Columbus, Ohio and across Texas Rio Grande Valley. New customers in Texas and the Midwest will be able to try its Instacart Express membership free for one year, he said.

Typical Instacart Express members use the service 4-5 times per month and spend $450 per month on groceries and deliveries through the platform, the company claims. The geographic push and Instacart Express trials will require the company to hire at least 1,000 more shoppers to fulfill orders in the new markets, Shmukler said.

Overall, Instacart aims to make its service available to 80 percent of U.S. households by 2018.When news of Instacarts latest funding round broke, some Silicon Valley observers cried bubble, and compared the company to Webvan, the dot-com-era e-grocery that raised $800 million and went public before eventually going bankrupt.

The two companies both had Sequoia Capital as an investor and Michael Moritz as a board member. But thats about where the likeness stops.Moritz has spoken frequently about the reasons why Instacarts model works today and Webvans didnt back then.

For one, Webvan failed to become profitable in one market before proceeding to new ones, the investor has noted. Plus, Webvans timing was early. Home internet use was growing in the U.S., but e-commerce was barely nascent and mobile commerce still more than a decade away when it first started. Finally, Webvan fulfilled orders for groceries from its own warehouses, which proved more costly than taking advantage of other groceries infrastructure, as Instacart does.

Its still fair to ask if Instacarts latest funding round is excessive, and how the company could possibly deliver returns to investors at such a high valuation. Notably, the Instacart Series D looks outsized compared to on-demand delivery startup Postmates, which raised $140 million at a valuation over $600 million last year.

Postmates, which started before Instacart, has been delivering food from restaurants, as well as groceries, to customers doors. Instacart is focused solely on groceries. Still, the businesses look alike in other ways, with both companies relying on 1099 workers (with vehicles) to fetch and make deliveries to their customers doors. And both companies make a chunk of their revenue from delivery fees.

We asked Instacarts chief of operations and chief financial officer Ravi Gupta why Instacart needs all that scratch, and how the company plans to generate good returns for investors. A condensed version of that interview follows below.

Ravi Gupta

Why did you raise such a massive round of funding?

We really want to expand aggressively, blanketing the country with Instacart. We have found an economic model that works, and now we want the majority of the country to be able to use our service.

Weve never done marketing in the history of the company and only brought on a CMO recently. So we will also invest in telling people about the product and service. And we will be investing in our product, building on the lead that we have already.

How did you convince investors to back you at this level?

Theres a lot beneath the surface here that is exciting to us and to our investors. This market is enormous, as you know. Our investors see both a big opportunity, and a big prize. There was so much demand [for equity in Instacart]we didnt even have to do a road show.

Were you profitable prior to closing the Series D?

We make money both on a gross margin basis and a contribution margin basis.

So, if you take out things like your corporate real estate and engineering salaries, youre profitable?

Yes.

How do you make money?

This is a good question. People dont always realize how we do this. Whenever a customer places an order on Instacart for groceries delivered through a retailer, we generate multiple streams of revenue.

First, the retailers pay us a revenue share. They use Instacart to offer something their customers want, and expect, which is delivery. This is of real value to people. But we also generate incremental sales for our grocery partners, which is why they are willing to share a piece of revenue with us.

We also generate a fee for the delivery, which is the obvious piece of it.

The third, and fastest-growing piece of our business comes from consumer packaged goods, brands that have a chance to uniquely reach customers at the point of purchase through Instacart.

Do all the stores you work with pay Instacart a share of sales?

We have 135 grocery partners from small local favorites like Bi-Rite or Molly Stones here in San Francisco to Whole Foods and Costco. Eighty percent of the groceries have a revenue share arrangement with us. We drive incremental sales for them. We help them give their customers something of real value, and that customers just expect these days, which is delivery. And when they work with us to offer delivery they can start doing it within days without a huge capital outlay.

What would you say are Instacarts biggest expenses?

Our biggest cost is payment to our shoppers, meaning the labor cost. In addition to that, we factor in credit card fees, transactional costs, insurance we have to pay which is workers comp and auto insurance, Costco memberships we buy and appeasement costs, which are when someone does not get exactly what they wanted and we work to make that right.

Ultimately, how are you going to give VCs thoseblockbuster returns they look for in a deal?

We have a data science and engineering team working to make sure our delivery is super efficient. Thats powerful and improving all the time. And weve been really thoughtful about choosing the markets were in. We know this works, absolutely, throughout the country. Not just the top 10 most populous cities.The funding allows us to go out, take the economic model we built and as we scale we make more money. Its really straightforward.

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53-man roster predictions: Which positions will the Cowboys go long and short at? – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

53-man roster predictions: Which positions will the Cowboys go long and short at?
Blogging The Boys (blog)
Others will depend on many factors including talent, depth, money and suspensions. Where the Cowboys decide to go … Suspensions on defense will help a guy or two make the initial roster but it's hard to see it staying that way. Keep in mind that it's

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Reasons for blogging. Or not blogging. Meow! – ChicagoNow (blog)


ChicagoNow (blog)

Reasons for blogging. Or not blogging. Meow!
ChicagoNow (blog)
Three years ago, blogging and social media shenanigans got kicked down to the bottom of my priorities list for a number of reasons, important reasons and a shifting of priorities. These reasons and priorities took up most of my time. But not all of it

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5 WTF Ways The Future Is About To Change Movies

As anyone who has gotten into a knife fight over an electrical outlet at an airport terminal can attest, computers control our lives now. And while the good ones deliver us funny dog videos and pornography, the bad ones are trying to steal our jobs. But while we tend to associate the threat of automation with factory workers and travel agents, those artistic types in Hollywood ought to be sleeping with one eye open too. That’s because …

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Smart Cameras Are Replacing Camera Operators

Being a camera operator requires a steady hand, a bunch of technical know-how, and enough social skills to not bludgeon the director’s head in for his unreasonable demands to “just shoot it upside-down.” It also requires having a camera, we should point out. And while advances in camera technology are making the camera operator’s job easier by the minute, how easy can a job get before it simply stops existing?

Robotic arms aren’t only an issue if you’re an autoworker in Detroit. For Microsoft’s new Surface Studio commercial, the director used KIRA, a robotic arm that handled all of the camera movement:

Rather than relying on crappy humans who shake the camera with their stupid breathing and pulses, the cold, emotionless robot is able to move the camera smoothly and repeatedly to the director’s exact liking. That means every single reshoot will be the same, to the millimeter. Now, this technology isn’t exactly new — the famous dinner scene from Back To The Future II in which Michael J. Fox plays three of the characters was one of the first movies to use a similar technology. The difference now is that instead of using them to shoot scenes that physically cannot be shot by a human, we’re using them for things as mundane as TV commercials. Or Gravity.

But even KIRA needs an human master to operate. The next generation of cameras will be calling the shots with their own cold robot brains. In The Robot Skies was released late 2016, and is the first movie to be shot entirely with drones. So what’s the big deal? Camera operators have been using drones to line up tricky shots since wearing T-shirts under blazers was fashionable. The big deal is that Robot Skies used an entirely new breed of drones. Old drones still had humans operating them, deciding what shots would look good and how the camera should move. Working with an artificial intelligence lab in Belgium, the Robot Skies filmmakers built drones with “cinematic algorithms” that would let the little buggers decide for themselves what angles and lighting would look good, and adjust their flight paths accordingly. With enough research, we could very well be seeing movies in the future from Steven Spielbot, Wes Andercyborg and QuIntel Tarantino.

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Even Scripts Are Being Written By Machines

As much as engineers would like to try, it’s impossible to replace all liberal arts majors with a bunch of machines. Take writers, for example. Surely they must be immune to the rise of the machine worker, right? Right? Well, while a robot may never write the next Moby Dick, it wouldn’t take more than a toaster strapped to a typewriter to come up with garbage like Dumb And Dumber To. The machine writer is coming, so you better get your ass in gear and finish that Goonies 2 spec script before it does.

In 2016, an independent filmmaker named Jack Zhang started a Kickstarter for a horror movie called Impossible Things. He claimed that 85 percent of movies don’t make money because studios are taking a mishmash of things and not considering what the audience wants to see, which is an odd criticism to aim at an art form that pays marketing departments to host test audiences. To reintroduce populism into moviemaking, Zhang decided to feed plot points from the most popular horror movies into a computer and create the most popular story arc possible. The result was “a grieving mother who, after the death of her young daughter, succumbs to a severe case of supernaturally induced insanity.” Oh, and the trailer should feature a scene with a piano and a bathtub. If that sounds like a mishmash of every bad horror movie you’ve ever seen, that’s kind of the point.

The Impossible Things trailer was at least enough for the Kickstarter to be fully funded, giving this indie horror a budget of a whopping 30,162 Canadian dollars. Still, and we’re not trying to shit on horror movies, but it might be easier to convince people of computer-generated storytelling by looking at a genre that’s a bit more story-driven. Sci-fi might be a step in the right direction, like the movie Sunspring, a short film experiment made for the 48-Hour Film Festival in London, which was written by an AI program called Benjamin. The producers fed the data of dozens of popular movies into this neural network, and it spat out a script, complete with dialogue, based on the prompts given to it. The producers then made a nine-minute film based on Benjamin’s screenplay:

The movie is amusing, in an uncanny valley sort of way. Most of the dialogue is what could be called “coherent gibberish” — the sentences are grammatically correct (mostly), but they are otherwise incomprehensible. This goes for the directions as well, like this:

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“When you think about it, aren’t we all standing in the stars, man?” *bong rip*

Ironically for a sci-fi movie written by a robot, there’s not a lot of science going on in the plot. The dialogue is mostly about misunderstandings, love triangles, and disappointing sex. The movie ends with a nonsensical Gone Girl-esque monologue about the regrets of lost virginity. Despite being utter nonsense, the movie is still kind of engrossing, even if it’s in a cloning-experiment-gone-wrong sort of way. Maybe the problem here is that Benjamin isn’t in the right business. Maybe its true calling is being an electronic songwriter:

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We’re Teaching Computers To Be Animators

We’ve talked several times before about how getting into VFX or the CGI industry in Hollywood these days is a bit like getting into the anchor-selling business on the sinking deck of the Titanic. The companies spend so much time undercutting one another that they can’t turn a profit on their work, leading to situations like that of Rhythm and Hues, a VFX company that went bankrupt from working on Life Of Pi two weeks before winning an Oscar for their work on Life Of Pi. So naturally, the industry is working tirelessly to reform and make sure that these artists are properly compensated for their work.

Just kidding. They’re trying to replace the artists with computers, because in addition to being less temperamental, they’re also far less needy. But can they truly distill beauty like a visual artist can?

Yup.

Since our progress in the field of Frankenstein-like reanimation has been frustratingly slow, Microsoft and ING teamed up to create a machine that can pretend to be dead people. Rembrandt, more specifically. The computer, appropriately called “the Next Rembrandt,” employs complex algorithms to generate an entirely new painting in the style of Rembrandt. And we don’t just mean that the computer generated a digital replica of a Rembrandt; it recreated the brush strokes and textures using a 3D printer. While it might not be enough to fool experts, it’s certainly good enough for your parents to see it and cancel payments for your art school degree.

But this potential revolution is not without its critics. Keisuke Iwata, a Japanese animator and president of a popular anime channel, sees projects like the Next Rembrandt as the harbinger of doom for meatbag animators. Iwata believes that in the near future, computers will be able to compete with humans in terms of creativity and skill, and computers don’t have preposterous demands like “compensation” or “healthcare.”

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Mostly.

Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, whom we can reasonably call the god emperor of animation, thinks that this AI animation is some depressing nonsense. During a demonstration of AI animation software, which was being used to generate unusual body movement for a horror game (computers can’t think of a reason not to use a head as a foot), Miyazaki wasted no time in saying that he was disgusted and called the demo “an insult to life itself,” which would be pretty stiff criticism coming from a random YouTube commenter, much less one of the most influential animators of all time. He went on to lament that, in our eagerness to figure out ways to outsource our creativity, “humans are losing faith in ourselves.” He’s not wrong. Using a head as a foot? That’s the wave of the future? A bunch of second-graders came up with that exact same idea in the last five minutes. C’mon humanity, we still got a few good decades left in us.

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Cinematography Can Be Done In Post-Production

From the beginning of cinema up to the olden days of the mid ’90s, there wasn’t much dispute over what exactly the director of photography did. While directors were busy yelling at actors, they worked tirelessly on set to make a movie scene look as good as possible, a lot of which involved waiting patiently for the sun to get into the right fucking spot for the perfect lighting. With the onset of digital cinematography, however, it’s become more and more difficult to determine who should accept the Oscar for Best Cinematography — the director of photography or the green screen?

Oscar contenders with a lot of post-production have drawn criticism from all the insufferable artsy cinematographers who insist on doing things the old-fashioned way. For example, in The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino and cinematographer Robert Richardson not only decided to shoot everything on traditional film, but they also did all the post-production work like color correction using chemical developing techniques (nearly all modern movies shot on film are still digitized for post-production work). For his work, Richardson was nominated for Best Cinematography in 2015. However, in 2012, Claudio Miranda won Best Cinematography for Life Of Pi, even though most of the movie was made on a computer. While Miranda undoubtedly deserves recognition for his camerawork, we can also see Richardson’s point that there’s a pretty big difference between capturing a gorgeous sunset with the right lighting, lens, film, and camera settings versus just CG-ing a sunset later on.

But even in Life Of Pi, Miranda still had to do stuff like focus the camera and use the right kind of lens for the shot. But we’re quickly making that a thing of the past as well. A company called Lytro has developed a new type of camera which, through science/magic, captures holographic images instead of flat 2D images like most cameras.

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If you’re really a huge nerd, here’s a 25-minute video about it.

With a normal camera, you would need to reshoot the same scene with three different focus and aperture settings to capture the three images above. With Lytro’s Cinema camera, you only need to take one picture and then tell a computer what parts of the scene you want in focus and which ones you don’t, as it captures the image in 3D instead of the 2D of a regular camera. You can also completely remove or add background from a certain depth, essentially making even green screens obsolete. With technology like Lytro’s, cinematographers will again have to relearn what the job entails. And if we know greedy studios, that job will entail them learning how to say “Do you want fries with that?” without bursting into tears.

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Post-Production Will Be Done By AI

Eventually, film sets will be nothing more than Tom Cruise shadowboxing in the Universal basement, with someone filling in the blanks three months later. Except by that time, even that someone will almost certainly also be a computer.

Post-production, or just “post” if you’re the type who thinks shooting one student short makes you part of show business (or just “showbiz”), encompasses a lot of different things. One aspect is the addition of sound effects, which ranges from T-Rex roars and lightsaber whooshes to mundane stuff like leaves rustling and doors closing. Researchers at MIT decided to see if they could teach a computer to match up sound effects with certain on-screen actions, and what do you know, it worked! Their little silicon-powered editor automatically added sound effects to a series of video clips, and human test subjects were unable to tell the difference between the computer’s work and authentically recorded sounds.

Editing is on its way to being automated as well. It’s an expensive process, making a masterpiece out of miles of film (or hundreds of hard drives) which show the same actor mispronounce the word “spoon” 20 times in a row. Naturally, filmmakers are keen to find cheaper ways to do it. In 2014, a group of researchers working for Disney published a paper on an automatic editing algorithm they created. By calculating the 3D position of the cameras in a scene, computers were able to determine what the cameras were focusing on and used that information, along with some basic filmmaking rules, to determine when to cut to different shots. Here’s a sample video filmed using some smartphones and GoPros:

But this isn’t just for editing your snowboarding fails or sex tapes. In 2016, the producers of the horror movie Morgan decided to outsource their trailer to Watson, the IBM supercomputer that made Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings look like the guy you skip over when picking a team for bar trivia night. Specifically, they wanted to it to be scary, so IBM had to teach Watson about fear, and what humans in particular fear. Then they fed it the movie, which is about an AI that becomes too scary for humans so they try to destroy it, and told Watson to make us shit our pants.

We can’t help but notice that this trailer contains neither a bathtub nor a piano.

It might not be perfect, but for a first attempt, Watson still has a disturbingly good grasp on what gives humans the absolute heebie-jeebies. So thanks to Morgan, we now have an advanced computer intelligence that knows how to manipulate human emotions. But hey, it saved some editor a day’s work, so all in all, a fair trade.

When he’s not teaching Watson how to produce constant low-level anxiety in humans, Chris plays piano in the bathtub on Twitter.

Also check out 5 Automated Jobs That Seem To Suggest We’re Trolling Robots and 5 Real Robots Who Totally Suck At Their Job.

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How Irene Falcone turned $100 and a small online blog into $20 million natural beauty retailer Nourished Life – SmartCompany.com.au


SmartCompany.com.au

How Irene Falcone turned $100 and a small online blog into $20 million natural beauty retailer Nourished Life
SmartCompany.com.au
We sell all around the world, but I'm not really doing this to make money. I'm doing it because I have a real passion for the planet, and for Australian women. We get a lot of wonderful products from around the world, but international sales aren't my

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Jaylon Smith taking first team snaps after Anthony Hitchens injury – Blogging The Boys (blog)


Blogging The Boys (blog)

Jaylon Smith taking first team snaps after Anthony Hitchens injury
Blogging The Boys (blog)
“We don't in any way want to get away from the game plan that has worked so well for Jaylon, in terms of his pitch counts and what he's going to do and don't want to jeopardize anything that we've done with him. But we do think he can certainly share

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Face recognition app taking Russia by storm may bring end to public anonymity

FindFace compares photos to profile pictures on social network Vkontakte and works out identities with 70% reliability

If the founders of a new face recognition app get their way, anonymity in public could soon be a thing of the past. FindFace, launched two months ago and currently taking Russia by storm, allows users to photograph people in a crowd and work out their identities, with 70% reliability.

It works by comparing photographs to profile pictures on Vkontakte, a social network popular in Russia and the former Soviet Union, with more than 200 million accounts. In future, the designers imagine a world where people walking past you on the street could find your social network profile by sneaking a photograph of you, and shops, advertisers and the police could pick your face out of crowds and track you down via social networks.

In the short time since the launch, Findface has amassed 500,000 users and processed nearly 3m searches, according to its founders, 26-year-old Artem Kukharenko, and 29-year-old Alexander Kabakov.

Kukharenko is a lanky, quietly spoken computer nerd who has come up with the algorithm that makes FindFace such an impressive piece of technology, while Kabakov is the garrulous money and marketing man, who does all of the talking when the pair meet the Guardian.

Unlike other face recognition technology, their algorithm allows quick searches in big data sets. Three million searches in a database of nearly 1bn photographs: thats hundreds of trillions of comparisons, and all on four normal servers. With this algorithm, you can search through a billion photographs in less than a second from a normal computer, said Kabakov, during an interview at the companys modest central Moscow office. The app will give you the most likely match to the face that is uploaded, as well as 10 people it thinks look similar.

Kabakov says the app could revolutionise dating: If you see someone you like, you can photograph them, find their identity, and then send them a friend request. The interaction doesnt always have to involve the rather creepy opening gambit of clandestine street photography, he added: It also looks for similar people. So you could just upload a photo of a movie star you like, or your ex, and then find 10 girls who look similar to her and send them messages.

Some have sounded the alarm about the potentially disturbing implications. Already the app has been used by a St Petersburg photographer to snap and identify people on the citys metro, as well as by online vigilantes to uncover the social media profiles of female porn actors and harass them.

The technology can work with any photographic database, though it currently cannot use Facebook, because even the public photographs are stored in a way that is harder to access than Vkontakte, the apps creators say.

But the FindFace app is really just a shop window for the technology, the founders said. There is a paid function for those who want to make more than 30 searches a month, but this is more to regulate the servers from overload rather than to make money. They believe the real money-spinner from their face-recognition technology will come from law enforcement and retail.

Kukharenko and Kabakov have recently returned from the US, and Kabakov was due to travel to Macau and present the technology to a casino chain. The pair claim they have been contacted by police in Russian regions, who told them they started loading suspect or witness photographs into FindFace and came up with results. Its nuts: there were cases that had seen no movement for years, and now they are being solved, said Kabakov.

The startup is in the final stages of signing a contract with Moscow city government to work with the citys network of 150,000 CCTV cameras. If a crime is committed, the mugshots of anyone in the area can be fed into the system and matched with photographs of wanted lists, court records, and even social networks.

It does not take a wild imagination to come up with sinister applications in this field too; for example authoritarian regimes able to tag and identify participants in street protests. Kabakov and Kukharenko said they had not received an approach from Russias FSB security service, but if the FSB were to get in touch, of course wed listen to any offers they had.

The pair also have big plans for the retail sector. Kabakov imagines a world where cameras fix you looking at, say, a stereo in a shop, the retailer finds your identity, and then targets you with marketing for stereos in the subsequent days.

Again, it sounds a little disturbing. But Kabakov said, as a philosophy graduate, he believes we cannot stop technological progress so must work with it and make sure it stays open and transparent.

In todays world we are surrounded by gadgets. Our phones, televisions, fridges, everything around us is sending real-time information about us. Already we have full data on peoples movements, their interests and so on. A person should understand that in the modern world he is under the spotlight of technology. You just have to live with that.

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