Tuesday, February 28, 2017

(TV)THE WALKING DEAD Season 7 Episode 12 TRAILER & PREVIEW (2017) AMC Series

The Walking Dead Review: ‘Hostiles and Calamities’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 11
By Garrett Yoshitomi

This week, The Walking Dead veers away from the main March to War storyline, in favor of the more self-contained, Eugene-centric episode, “Hostiles and Calamities.” “Hostiles and Calamities” takes place during the events of the previous two episodes, and focuses on The Saviors’ kidnapping of Eugene, as well as the fallout from Daryl’s escape. Typically, The Walking Dead suffers greatly when it jumps back and forth between its main storyline and supporting “filler” episodes. Most shows with a large ensemble cast (think Game of Thrones) incorporate multiple storylines into one episode, in order to maintain its pacing.

The Walking Dead has mostly had to avoid this due to budgetary constraints, giving us stretches of episodes like the first half of season seven, where the week to week focus shifted from Carol and Morgan at The Kingdom, to Daryl and The Saviors, all the way to an episode dedicated entirely to Tara- considered by many to be the worst hour The Walking Dead has produced, yet. With that being said, the first two episodes of season 7B have included multiple storylines, and it’s probably no coincidence that both rate higher on Rotten Tomatoes than every 7A episode, save for “The Well.” With “Hostile and Calamities” representing a return to filler, it’s only natural to assume that its quality is less than stellar. But, this is a surprisingly solid episode, anchored almost entirely by the unexpectedly compelling Eugene.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
Eugene is pretty easily the show’s most interesting supporting character, which is just as much of a testament to Eugene, as it is an indictment of the pu pu platter side cast we’ve been forced to endure for the past several seasons. Eugene made his mullet-y debut way back in season four as the precious cargo of Abraham and Rosita. The two were escorting Eugene en route to Washington D.C., under the impression that he was a high-ranking government scientist capable of reversing the effects of the zombie apocalypse. For some fans, Eugene’s storyline actually took The Walking Dead somewhere worth exploring- a chance for our ragtag group of heroes to finally find a cure and save the world (as all good protagonists do). Alas, this hope was fleeting, as Eugene was eventually exposed for lying about his job, and the possibility for a cure, as a cowardly ploy for self-preservation.

Since this relatively major storyline, Eugene has been relegated to little more than the show’s resident coward, whose feebleness serves as little more than an episodic plot device. Sure, he’s flirted with bravery from time to time, most notably in the season six finale, but it’s always fleeting and usually disappointing. For once, it’s nice to see Eugene get a significant chunk of plot thrown his way, and this episode does a good job of making his current storyline feel organic, unlike say, Rosita who’s suddenly been thrust into her current “burn The Saviors to the ground” arc, after multiple seasons of very little character development.

If there’s anything this episode shows, it’s that Eugene is indeed a survivor. While he lacks (and probably will always lack) the more obviously useful skill set of a Rick or Daryl, he can be just as adaptable, maybe even more so, especially when forced to navigate the social hierarchy of an unknown group. Eugene knows he's not punching or shooting his way out of a situation anytime soon; so instead, he stays in his lane, and relies on carefully crafted deception, as well as his non-threatening appearance, to get by. Only time will tell how Eugene’s stay at The Sanctuary ends, but it’s hard to imagine he’ll be able to dupe The Saviors for long. Negan’s a lot of things, but a fool isn’t one of them- Eugene’s playing with fire, and it’s only a matter of time until he gets burned.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
Even with all of the tragic character development he’s received this season, it’s really, really difficult to like Dwight. Most fans (including myself) still haven’t forgiven him for stealing Daryl’s crossbow and motorcycle, and he certainly didn’t win himself any points with the way he treated Daryl during his stay at The Sanctuary. I think it can definitely be valuable for a show to explore the complexities of its antagonists, and Dwight’s relationship with Negan is certainly just that, complex. I enjoyed learning the details of Dwight’s off-screen reunion with The Saviors, following his first encounter with Daryl in the middle of season six, and I found the dissolution of his marriage to be an interesting contrast to the love and relationship were used to seeing develop between members of Rick’s group. Overall, taking a deeper look into the motivations of a key member of The Saviors is not the worst use of screen time, but I do wonder if this time might be better spent on developing Negan, a major character who we still know surprisingly little about (other than the fact that he can lean really, really far back when he talks).

“Hostiles and Calamities” continues the fairly strong start we’ve had for season 7B. None of the first three episodes have been incredibly flashy, save for the highway scene from the mid-season premiere, and that’s okay. Cool special effects will always be important for a show like The Walking Dead, but it’s the characters that matter most; and so far, season 7B has been fairly consistent with delivering strong, character-driven episodes. Next week looks to be a closer return to the main storyline, with Rick and Michonne going on a run, while Rosita starts her own search for guns. It stills falls more on the filler side of things, but given the way this week’s episode is handled, I’m cautiously optimistic that the good times will continue to roll for The Walking Dead.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

(The Big Disrupt) driverless cars: Why Google's Lawsuit against Uber is a brilliantly cynical move

In what has been a terrible February for the Uber, sometime ally and enemy Google decided to pile on to a Uber's self inflicted woe by filing a civil lawsuit against the company accusing them of stealing key aspects of their self driving car tech . 

Google's self driving spinoff Waymaccuses former employee Anthony Lewandowski of stealing 14,000 files on its LiDAR designs which allows its cars to use lasers to navigate the physical world and using the stolen files to form a startup called Otto which was acquired by Uber last August . 

The civil lawsuit marks a new low in Google's relationship with Uber which has  been strained since reports leaked two years ago that Google was planning to launch its own rideshare service with a driverless fleet, a move that would see Google compete with Uber directly.  

Since then, Uber have been very proactive about developing its own fleet of driverless cars which would significantly cut down their costs which have so far seen the company burn through cash at an unprecedented rate. Uber have made a lot of progress in the last two years largely through famously raiding Carnegie Mellon's much respected robotics department for talent, securing key partnerships  with automakers such as  Toyota who outstrip Google in driverless car patents and smart acquisitions but they still lag behind Google who have been pioneers in the space, particularly LiDAR technology.    

One of the major costs hampering the development of driverless cars for the mass market is the prohibitive cost of LiDAR technology which encouraged Google to develop its own LiDAR to lower costs which have declined steeply since google forked out a whopping $75,000 per unit 8 years ago. Google itself has managed to cut Lidar costs by a whopping 90% but leading Lidar maker Velodyne plans to cut the price of lidar sensors even further to a mere $50 per sensor. What this all means is with cheaper lidar sensors, Google can provide a cheaper driverless car to mass market. 

This is bad news for Uber and other players in the race to bring driverless cars to market as while the price for lidar sensors have plunged, Google is the only player to come up with it's own in house solution which gives them a major competitive advantage. The only reason Uber brought Otto just three months after it was formed was to develop its own in house solution and hire Lewandowski to lead the effort but just six months later, Uber are almost certainly going to pay dearly for their $680 million acquisition regardless of what happens going forward. 

In sum, Google and Uber have been on a collision course two years and with Waymo willing to drag Uber's name through the mud in what may be one of the nastiest trade secret battles ever, expect more of the same as the two former allies lock horns.  

(The Big Disrupt) Driveless cars: Google vs Uber

If you’re like most people, you hate your morning commute. It’s an unfortunate fact of life for many of us. Bus, train, car, or subway, many of us have to get from point A to point B for a variety of reasons. The internet may be a killer tool and fun place to play, but the fact remains that certain activities simply cannot be accomplished on a computer.

There is up and coming technology that may change how we understand, and use, transportation: self-driving vehicles. These machines have long been the topic of intrigue, but the idea has only been taken seriously since the turn of the century. In the early 2000’s a number of auto manufacturers started taking an interest in autonomous vehicles. Big names like Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, and Tesla, to name just a few. In 2015, five states in the USA were pioneers that allowed for the testing of such vehicles on their roads (under heavy regulation).

As one can expect, there is fierce competition around this topic. Just like Bell Telephone and other industry pioneers, there is a lot money to be made as the first to a new market. And where there is big money, there are big risk-takers. Case in point: Google just filed a suit against the freelance taxi company, Uber, on February 23rd, 2017 (WIRED). The basis for this suit is Google’s allegation that a former Google employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole proprietary information and, after resigning, used that information to start a self-driving truck company. This trucking company, Otto, was recently acquired by Uber. As part of the acquisition Levandowski was placed in charge of their self-driving tech. According to the NY Times the acquisition happened about seven months after Levandowski left Google.

It certainly seems suspicious doesn’t it?

As the sparks fly between Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and Uber it is worth noting that the two companies have friendly ties in their past. Alphabet had invested in Uber once upon a time and even shared an executive with Uber’s board of directors. Oddly enough, that executive had stepped down due to ‘overlap between the two companies’ shortly before the theft is reported to have happened. Coincidence?

The more tech we invent and involve in business, the more frequently this is going to happen. It is getting easier and easier to pull stunts like this and, most likely, what we see publicly is not the half of it. A person no longer has to be an ‘expert’ to be able to accomplish these acts. There are plenty of people out there who are motivated by money and all it takes is with a thumb drive and the right motivation. As life and business become easier and more streamlined with new technology, so too does corporate espionage.


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