Add Photographs To The List Of Things That Can Now Be Faked Too Convincingly To Be Trustworthy

And the race to make sure that we’ll eventually not be able to trust any goddamn thing ever again continues. Thanks, Nvidia.

The woman in the photo seems familiar.
She looks like Jennifer Aniston, the “Friends” actress, or Selena Gomez, the child star turned pop singer. But not exactly.
She appears to be a celebrity, one of the beautiful people photographed outside a movie premiere or an awards show. And yet, you cannot quite place her.
That’s because she’s not real. She was created by a machine.
The image is one of the faux celebrity photos generated by software under development at Nvidia, the big-name computer chip maker that is investing heavily in research involving artificial intelligence.
At a lab in Finland, a small team of Nvidia researchers recently built a system that can analyze thousands of (real) celebrity snapshots, recognize common patterns, and create new images that look much the same — but are still a little different. The system can also generate realistic images of horses, buses, bicycles, plants and many other common objects.
The project is part of a vast and varied effort to build technology that can automatically generate convincing images — or alter existing images in equally convincing ways. The hope is that this technology can significantly accelerate and improve the creation of computer interfaces, games, movies and other media, eventually allowing software to create realistic imagery in moments rather than the hours — if not days — it can now take human developers.

Nvidia’s images can’t match the resolution of images produced by a top-of-the-line camera, but when viewed on even the largest smartphones, they are sharp, detailed, and, in many cases, remarkably convincing.

A second team of Nvidia researchers recently built a system that can automatically alter a street photo taken on a summer’s day so that it looks like a snowy winter scene. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have designed another that learns to convert horses into zebras and Monets into Van Goghs. DeepMind, a London-based A.I. lab owned by Google, is exploring technology that can generate its own videos. And Adobe is fashioning similar machine learning techniques with an eye toward pushing them into products like Photoshop, its popular image design tool.

The technology behind this is all extremely cool and I don’t doubt for a moment that it’s going to be used extensively for its intended purpose. But like I’ve said before, I also don’t doubt for a moment that it’s eventually going to fall into the wrong hands. And when that happens, we’re all doomed. Even if a majority of us somehow simultaneously develop a keen ability to think critically and put partisan agendas aside in the name of truth, what is truth going to be when it’s so easily manipulated into whatever this or that bad actor wants it to be?

I don’t have a good answer to any of this, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be doing any of this research. But I certainly don’t think that the people who are doing this research are giving nearly enough thought to the implications of it, at least not publicly.

Mr. Lehtinen downplays the effect his research will have on the spread of misinformation online. But he does say that, as a time goes on, we may have to rethink the very nature of imagery. “We are approaching some fundamental questions,” he said.

What a completely irresponsible, kick the can down the road statement.

We aren’t approaching anything, sir. The moment you figured out that these things are possible, those questions arrived. And before the problem has a chance to get out of anyone’s control, it’s time to start thinking about answers.

I Probably Shouldn’t Say This

Don’t let the fact that you had records as a child make you feel old, Gill. Vinyl is big business now. If your family had an 8-track collection like mine did, let that make you feel old instead.

Next October I hit a milestone when I turn 40, which has me feeling old lately. Here are some of the items that make me feel like an ancient.

  • I had Star Wars on VHS. When I was in 3rd grade 30 years ago I asked my uncle to tape me the Star Wars Trilogy, the real one.
  • I had records when I was little. The first one I remember getting was The Mini-pops We Are The Mini-pops. For those not in the know, the Mini-pops were a group of British kids who sang anything from Diana Ross to Boy George.
  • My sister and I had to actually haul rump to the neighborhood library to research things. I was practically out of high school when Google was a baby.
  • I remember original clunky car phones. I was in 8th grade when we got ours.
  • Scariest of all, I could be mom to at least half of my church youth group.

Question

What makes you feel old or weird about your place in life?

Movies And TV

I respect that everyone has their own way of doing things, but I’m so glad that my family never told me I couldn’t watch or listen to things like Gill’s did. A: It doesn’t work. Kids will always find a way to get their hands on the forbidden fruit, which tastes sweeter and is extra tempting because it’s forbidden, it should be pointed out. And B: Being able to watch things gave me the chance to ask questions about them, which helped me figure out the differences between fiction and real life. And the people around me answering those questions made me feel comfortable coming to them with other pressing questions later, because I knew that they were going to be as straight as they could with me. Mutual trust goes a long way.

A few years back I spoke of the first movie I saw in a theater, along with the stinkers I’d had the misfortune of seeing. Let’s dive a little deeper into the topic of movies and TV.

Growing Up

Depending on where, when, and how you grew up, you might have been allowed a little or a lot of freedom to watch whatever you chose. I grew up in the time of the Slasher movie of the 1980’s. I remember seeing adverts for Friday The 13th and Nightmare On Elm Street, however I was specifically forbidden from watching them due to the violence. This caution spilled over to TV, as my sister got nightmares from Rescue 911 and America’s Most Wanted.

Vicarious Living

Because I was prohibited the watching of movies like Chucky and Candy Man, I would often hear stories from the other neighborhood kids about possessed dolls and other stuff off limits to me.

I Watched It Anyway

Knowing that my folks forbade certain TV shows because of my sister I would sneak upstairs to my parent’s room and watch Rescue 911 with the door closed, making sure that when I heard footsteps the remote was close at hand.

How This Affected Me

I’m grown and living over 100 miles from home, however I still hold on to the reminders of what I was allowed to watch, and if I had children I would be the same way. I also remember watching my first overtly violent movie at 21-years-old and having a panic attack.

Question

What were and were you not allowed to watch as a child, and how has it shaped what you view?

The Letter

To mark the anniversary of his death, Gill wrote a couple of letters to a dear friend. Here they are.

If you read the site about four years ago at this time, you would know that the world lost one of its finest people. Here are just a few things I’d tell him if I could talk to him again.

In Memory Of Eric Williams Jan. 2 1976-Apr. 22 2014

Dear Eric:

Forgive me for all the fights we had. You meant well, and I was wrong. Maybe we both were.

Four years has pretty much come and gone since you’ve been gone, and so much has changed for me.

I broke my ankle in that time, and you weren’t there to comment on “my punk ass` traveling the streets of suburbia in a wheelchair. Yes, I still am that stubborn person you hated and loved at the same time.

I also moved. How happy you would be to know that I’m very happy where I am.

I’ll give you a short tour of my penthouse apartment. Technically I’m still living in Section 8 housing, but this is far less ghetto than where I was before.

The kitchen’s a bit bigger, and dining room and living room are open concept. My bedroom is bigger than my old one, and the bathroom’s right next door. Unlike my old place I have to pay for laundry, but if that’s the only issue it’s pretty alright.

I also moved churches. I now am basically the only white person in the congregation. Sometimes looking at well dressed black men makes me think of you, and I am sad for a moment. Don’t worry, none of them could hold a candle to you.

I will always remember the times we talked all night, and how you would make me laugh with your thickening country accent.

They also say that time makes things better, but that only works for some I guess. I still miss, think of, and talk about you.

Ms. Thang

A couple of days ago I wrote the first half of a letter to someone who meant the world to me. You might have noticed that I signed off with “Ms. Thang.” This is something he called me from time to time, and it basically is a term meaning wonderful.

Dear Eric:

Let me start again by saying how happy you would be that I’m finally getting the chance to sing a solo at church. I know you always liked hearing me sing, and I know you found it cornball when I sang “I can’t fight this feeling anymore.” You might have known how deep my feelings actually were. Below the flirtatiousness was something much deeper. For a time after you left this mortal frame I couldn’t hear that song with out wanting to run and hide.

I must admit that I had some rather lusty thoughts about you when we first met. When we were introducing ourselves and you spoke, my first actual thought was, is it getting hotter in here or is it just you? I also wondered how you felt about inter-racial marriage. I’ll also always remember how when I poured my heart out in that letter and you didn’t laugh how good it made me feel. For the record, you looked sexy with your full head of curly black hair.

Even four years on, some days are harder than others. I sometimes see cool nerd stuff on TV and think to myself “gotta call Eric to tell him.” But then I reach to dial your number, and reality slaps me hard and fast. Someone else has your number, and would probably frown on some weirdo from another country phoning

I miss your calls on my birthday. You with that sexy Southern accent, yum-yum!

Seriously, they didn’t make a lot like you, a true gentlemen. They also say the good die young, and you were one of the best. When I see you again, know your getting a hug from me, and a kiss on the cheek.

Your hair looked blue to me.

Ms. Thang

No National Service Dog Team Standard! Yea!

I have a happy update to the Canadian service dog team standards story. They have scrapped it!

I guess all the comments, meetings with MP\s, and whatever everyone else did convinced them that a one-size-fits-all standard does not work, as we all knew it wouldn’t.

Of course, there are articles like this one that make the standard’s being scrapped sound like a horrible idea.

The future of the federal government’s bid to pair veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder with service dogs was thrown into doubt Wednesday by the unexpected decision of a federal regulating agency to pull out of the project.
The Canadian General Standards Board announced it will not develop a nationwide code of acceptable training and behavioural standards for the animals.

I’m sure if Veterans’ Affairs wanted to, they could learn from the many accredited guide dog associations how to build a good standard. This one was going to cause all kinds of problems for current service dogs, and they wouldn’t have wanted that either.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that some other entity could start trying to draft another blanket standard, but for now, it looks like we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

The Further Adventures of Googoo and Odessa

Here’s another video demonstrating why Grandma would not like an Amazon Echo.

It doesn’t matter how many times I watch this video, it’s just as funny. I can’t help but crack up when she yells “Ok Goo goo!”

It’s fascinating to watch her hitting the speaker thinking that will make it wake up. It totally makes sense, it just doesn’t work that way. It’s the little things like that that I forget would be super weird for an older person to get used to.

I really thought it was funny when she ran away from the speaker when it told her the weather. I wonder if she ever got it to play her song.

And just for fun, here’s a funny Amazon Echo video, but not about seniors.

That would so be happening to my dad…if he could remember to make sure it was on.

Chucking My CD Collection Seems Like A Great Idea Until It Doesn’t

When I put up Gill’s last thing, I also went off on a bit of a side tangent about physical CDs and how I don’t have much use for them anymore. As often happens, one of the next things I saw completely out of the blue was a post on that very subject.

The consensus there seems to be good lord no, you’ll regret it, but that’s not much of a surprise considering the source. It’s Alan Cross’ website, and he and the people who frequent it tend to take their music and their collecting of it quite seriously. But though I’m not so much a serious collector as I am a guy with a decent amount of music kicking around, I think they’re right. As much as the thought of dragging hundreds of these damn things around if/when we move again pains me and although I rarely if ever dig one out and listen to it instead of hitting Spotify or whatever, I can’t bring myself to ditch them like I did my VHS tapes last move. Not a single day has gone by that I truly miss those, but I can’t imagine feeling the same way about all the music.

I don’t get attached to artwork or liner notes since I can’t really look at them, but there’s still a specialness (pretty sure that’s not a word) about the objects that a digital file could never quite replace. Some of those CDs have fun memories attached to them, like visits to big cities with their awesome, gigantic record stores or the joy and sense of accomplishment I felt when I finally got my hands on something I didn’t think I would ever find. Music discovery algorithms can be quite fantastic and I’m certainly not saying that there’s no joy whatsoever in finding something you didn’t know you were looking for that way, but I have yet to feel the same feelings because of Discover Weekly that I do when I flip through the CD collection and think back to rummaging through bins at one of the local secondhand shops and finding that someone had just gotten rid of something that I could now take a chance on for cheap.

So unless I have a fit of fuck it fever one day and get rid of everything before I have time to think, I guess I’m stuck with these things. That’s probably ok, at least for as long as they get to stay where they are.

My Nerd Palace

Gill is imagining what her dream house would look like. I haven’t thought about mine in so long that the last time I did, the main feature was going to be a giant room dedicated to nothing but my music collection. But thinking about it now, I could probably use that room for something else. In the last decade I’ve been given more physical albums than I’ve bought. I think I can count the number of CDs I’ve purchased for myself on one hand and still have fingers left over. I used to be attached to the idea of holding something in my hand, but now, with very few exceptions, I do not give the first damn about that. I’m all about digital and streaming nowadays. Sure there’s a risk that content gets pulled or that the store you bought your albums from goes out of business and you can’t get a redownload if you need one *coughcough* HMV Digital *coughcough*, but generally it hasn’t been a big problem, plus it’s nice not to have to find new places to put everything or lug more and more crap around every time you move. And we haven’t even gotten into the problem of disc rot. For all I know I could be sitting next to a shelf full of garbage right now.

People have, on occasion, asked me what my dream home would look like. Well, stick around and I will tell you about Nerd Palace.

Main Floor

When you come inside, don’t forget to take off your shoes. You can put on some slippers if you need to.

Take a turn to the left to my kitchen. It’s inspired by one of my favorite things, my love for trying new foods. There are Southeast Asian style curtains, the flooring is wood from here in Canada, and the walls are painted to look like an African sunset.

Heading down the hall to the right we see the “chill room.” here we have a stereo system with cool jazz playing. This room is done in turquoise and sea foam.

Now we head further down the hall to the first “rumpus room.” this has an actual repurposed 1980’s arcade with only the classic games like Asteroids and space invaders.

The Basement

Now let’s head on downstairs. Here is where the true nerding out happens! In one section we have a theater room just waiting for people to kick back with anything, Back To The Future, Star Wars, you pick. Right in the thick is a virtual reality set. You can wear the helmets and head as far into history or the future as you like. And of course no nerd palace is complete with out tons of wifi.

Upstairs

Although mostly private, I will show you two rooms. My quiet room is where I go to think, do Bible study, or just be alone. Now my sleeping quarters. My room is painted in my two fave colors, olive and black.

Now You Know

Thank you for stopping into this virtual tour of my dream home. Feel free to tell me about yours.

Who Was That Masked Man? It Was Kerry

Update: Somewhere between me hitting publish on this and going to the site to make double sure that I hadn’t messed anything up, the second Facebook post went from looking for him to noting that he was captured. Never underestimate the power of the Vomit Comet.

Original post:
Police in Georgia are looking for Kerry Hammond, a 22-year-old man they say broke into a GameStop.

But wait, didn’t you say in your headline that he was wearing a mask?

I sure did, but I also put his name in there because the mask in question was pretty damn awful.

Water Bottle Plastic Wrap Disguise

DID YOU EVER give any thought to what your disguise was going to be when you decided the life of crime was your bag of water? Well this guy did! And YES he used a plastic bag used to package bottle water. This puts new meaning to the term WaterHead! In all seriousness, this craftily disguised gent, decided to burglarize GameStop here in St. Marys last night. DO YOU KNOW WHO HE IS?You can help us catch him, once you stop laughing. Please give our detectives a call at our office at 912-882-4488, the non-emergency number to 911 at 912-729-1442, Crime Stopper Tip Line and remain anonymous 912-576-0565. We'll be sippin' water while we wait!Please LIKE and SHARE – More Photos and video in the comments

Posted by St. Marys Police Department on Friday, April 13, 2018

Yes, genius here “disguised” himself in one of those clear plastic things that bottled water comes in. It worked about as well as you’d think.

*****He has been captured and subsequently bonded out of jail. *****Calling ALL CARS……Calling ALL CARS Be On The…

Posted by St. Marys Police Department on Tuesday, April 17, 2018

If you know where he might be or if you somehow recognize him out and about without his mask on, give them a call.

It Just Made Me Happy

Gill is thinking happy thoughts and memories of her grandma today.

As for an answer to her question, it wasn’t a specific place, but I remember when I was young my grandpa and I would often drive around to nowhere in particular while chatting about nothing in particular. On the way to nowhere in particular there was always a store from which we would buy chocolate milk before getting back on the road. It was a simple thing, but it was nice. Now and then grandpa and I still talk about those days. Hopefully we get a chance to do it again sometime.

I often talk about serious issues in my blogs, but today I’d like to cheer all of you up out there. So, why not sit back with a cup of something warm and I’ll walk you down memory lane to a place I went to as a child.

Fridays

When I was little, I went over 100 miles away to attend school for the blind. Each Friday I would look forward to getting into the van and heading home. When I started at the school the bus company did not do door to door service, but instead would drop me around thirty miles from home. I would often hope that my maternal grandmother {Doris Hewgill} would come meet me at the stop.

The Delightful Spot

My grandmother had a knack for making things like my journey home fun. Half way between the bus stop and home was a little roadside mom and pop place owned by a German lady. It would be here that my grandmother would have tea, and I would have soda and something called an Orange twist. In case you’re wondering, an Orange twist is an oddly shaped orange colored doughnut. The place itself had a homey atmosphere that might make one think of a German village restaurant. My grandmother and I came up with “The Delightful Spot` as a name after hearing it on one of the cartoons I watched.

That Was Then

The calendar has rolled over thirty times and my grandmother has since passed on, but sometimes if I’m out somewhere I still think of that little place.

Question

What was a favorite place you enjoyed going to as a child, and is it still around?