Saturday, October 26, 2019

Zombie Flash Mob

Redmond, Washington is the home of Microsoft, berry picking, and zombies. I’ll let you guess which is the scariest.

For zombies, the Redmond Town Center had the annual Thrill the World Event today. Just like last year (see my post), I got there early. I suddenly realized this fellow was in the back seat of the car next to mine. I’m not kidding.

People were just dying to get in there.

So here’s the official banner.

Quite a crowd showed up.

click to enlarge any of these pictures

Notice the non-zombie people on the upper level watching. Redmond Town Center is a nice outdoor mall with a large Marriot inside. I noticed a couple people walking by dressed very professionally, and other people just come to visit the stores. I heard one man ask, “Why are there so many zombies?

Here’s a zombie nurse.

And here’s another one. I could say the shadow on her face is symbolic . . .

. . . but really, she was trying to get the sun out of her eyes. 

The chiropractor was in. 

Seriously. Chiropractor. 

Here are some of the winners for best zombie makeup.

And here’s a zombie family.

The kids were moving around, so the mother’s face was blocked.

Maleficent was also there.

I think the zombies would have been afraid of her.

Edward Scissorhands and Kim paid a visit.

Isn't it weird when Wonder Woman photobombs your picture? 

How was your day? 

For my review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, click here
[Permission granted to use any photo on this post, so long as it is labeled “Photo by Mark Murata”]

Friday, October 18, 2019

Book Review: Sea of Glory

Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery: The U.S. Exploring Expedition was penned by Nathaniel Philbrick, well-known for In the Heart of the Sea and Bunker Hill. This recounts the epic voyage of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, otherwise known as the Ex Ex. From 1838 to 1842, they explored Antarctica, then the Pacific—including Fiji and the Hawaiian Islands—and then Puget Sound and the Columbia River, going on land to explore what are now the states of Washington and Oregon.

The Ex Ex was potentially as significant as the Lewis and Clark expedition on land. But hardly anyone knows about it. And thereby hangs a tale.

I was astonished there was such an expedition, sailing from Virginia down to Antarctica—in wooden sailing ships! Then they went on to encounter Pacific Islanders, some friendly, some violent. Considering where I live, I had great interest in their exploration of the Columbia River. I had no idea the mouth of the Columbia is considered the third most dangerous river mouth to traverse in the world.

But why don’t more people know about this expedition? Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, who was in charge of the Ex Ex, was far too inexperienced a man to be in charge of such an epic voyage. By the end of the expedition, all his officers had turned against him. Wilkes was put on trial for his outrageous behavior. If any of his officers were more competent than he was, he would humiliate that officer in front of the men, give him reduced responsibilities, or put him off at a friendly port. By all accounts, he was an incompetent and a coward. Much of the expedition’s discoveries went unpublished.

If anyone thinks his side of the story should be told, by all means read Sea of Glory. But it seems to be the old story of the Navy taking a smart young man and unaccountably thrusting him into a position where he was in way over his head. For years. To Antarctica and back.

I have to say I found Sea of Glory depressing. A much more uplifting book is Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time by Michael Palin, which I reviewed here. This British expedition had competent commanders. There’s some sort of lesson here, don’t you think?

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Better Call Saul—with DeepFake

I previously blogged about DeepFake videos. At that time, they could not also fake people’s voices. (There is fake voice and lip-movement technology, but that is separate and incompatible at this time.) Now the fake videos are to some extent able to fake voices. If you watch the clip below, sometimes the words don’t match the lips, but the voice sounds real.

It features Trump’s face mapped onto Bob Odenkirk’s face. Since it has the Trump voice saying a nasty word, I'll just leave the link here if you care to explore it.

The major concern as these fakes get better, is that we might see on the internet a video of President Trump or Kim Jong-un announcing they’ve launched nuclear missiles.

On a more mundane but personal note, are you eager for video banking? When someone can fake your face and voice, then tell the bank to transfer your savings to some account in the Bahamas?

And I would be remiss if I didn’t put in an excerpt from my novel Alpha Shift. Captain Christina Chechi is about to find out how badly her ship’s communications have been hacked.

A wall monitor gave a nonsensical message from Captain Akajima that didn’t mention her, Captain Chechi.

Arms at her sides, Christina made both hands into fists, hard, as if she were a teenager willing herself to grow taller. She raised one of them and tried calling the bridge.

A smiling picture of herself showed, wearing the wrong red dress. The image was an abomination of perfect hair, makeup, and costume, and it gave a winning smile as it said that all conditions were normal.

Christina hit the wall monitor.

She put her hands over her eyes and told herself to simmer down. Then she considered anew the general quarters alarms. This is not just about me. Even though she was captain, she was just one person, but communications in general had been sabotaged. They’re trying to take the ship. My ship.


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