Infrastructure improvements could offer common political ground

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest By Matt Reese and Ty HigginsThere is not much that politicians on opposing sides of the aisle agree upon these days, but improving the nation’s transportation infrastructure could be one of them.“If there was a to-do list for the American people, I would say political acrimony and obstruction are not on it, but infrastructure is. It is encouraging to see both Republicans and Democrats have both come to the conclusion that they need to justify they deserve to be there. One of the most effective ways to do that is to actually get something done and I think infrastructure is the best opportunity to do that in a bipartisan manner,” said Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. “But you’re not just making an allocation of funding for a short period of time. It is something you invest in your long-term competitiveness. For agriculture, we really need that right now. As the federal government looks at what tools it has in its toolbox to help farmers, the message we are conveying is that infrastructure investment is one of those tools.”In the extensive series of roads, rails and rivers throughout the country connecting farms to the rest of the world, there are plenty of areas in need of improvements.“We need to make sure we are focused on the inefficiencies and challenges of moving agricultural freight. That includes rural roads and bridges, inland waterways, and our ports. They all have to work in concert with one another,” he said. “One mode hands off to another mode. It doesn’t do a lot of good if one link in your chain is in exquisite condition if another link in your chain is in dilapidated condition.”With major issues facing agriculture and international trade, infrastructure is one course of action that Congress has the power to move forward.“Farmers, particularly soybean farmers, are really taking it on the chin due to this dispute with China. This is an industry that was actually improving our trade balance and our relationship with China but yet is the industry most adversely affected by this larger issue,” Steenhoek said. “We talk about this aid package and these bilateral trade agreements with other countries and those are fine and good, but I think a nice compliment to that is infrastructure investment.”While there are almost endless options for spending money on infrastructure, there are a few priorities that could have a broad and significant impact.“We need to make sure locks and dams are fortified and well maintained so you don’t have that catastrophic failure. I think that one project that would provide pretty quick bang for the buck would be dredging the lower Mississippi River at New Orleans from its current depth of 45 feet to 50 feet,” he said. “All of these big soybean producing states channel their soybeans on the river out to the international marketplace. The price the farmers receive is largely a function of the efficient transportation system after they make the delivery. If you have a problem in the river, farmers see a widening basis because the supply chain isn’t working. If you improve the efficiency, the inverse is true, and farmers actually see a positive impact on their basis. This is a way to put an infusion of money into farmers’ wallets by making the supply chain more efficient. There could be $461 million annually for American soybean farmers by just that one infrastructure project.”last_img read more

VFX Master Michael Conelly Talks AR and VR Technology

first_imgVFX world influencer Michael Conelly gave PremiumBeat an in-depth interview on the unlimited possibilities of AR and VR technology.PremiumBeat: You’ve worked in the VFX world for a long time as a supervisor on projects such as Snow White and the Huntsman and Charlotte’s Web. What is your process? Are you normally involved with the producers and director during pre-production regarding what can be live action and what should be an effect?Michael Conelly: It varied quite a lot per show. Generally speaking, I was involved very broadly across the whole production spectrum — often on set, often involved in the design phase — but the bulk of my work came in the form of steering very large teams of artists, making sure they were all working in sync with the best tools for each phase of work, and that the kinds of assets they built fit the director’s vision and the producer’s time and budget constraints. It was a very complex job, but very rewarding for the enormous range of work I did from show to show.One might invent a new workflow or piece of software one day, then hand it off to a team and teach them how to use it. Deep in production, it’s more about making sure predictions are smoothly turning into actuals — that characters perform the way they need to, that render times are manageable, that shot complexity doesn’t overwhelm production, that change orders are folded smoothly into a complex flow of work. There’s a lot we could go into more detail on, but that’s the gist.Image via Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal Pictures).PB: What is AR/VR technology, and how is it transforming storytelling?MC: Broadly speaking, I’m far more interested in VR than AR, particularly as a storyteller. There are very few stories that are best told in my kitchen, or wherever I happen to be. There’s a very good reason that movie theaters go black before the movie starts. We want full access to your senses, we don’t want you distracted, and we don’t want you expecting that a story must somehow integrate with the physical world — where you find yourself — when the “play” button is pressed.As far as the technology, we could speak for a long time about what all is required for VR and AR to work seamlessly, but broadly speaking, VR technology is based on a computer knowing exactly where your eyes and hands are (the more of you the computer knows about the better). Once the computer knows where your eyes are, we can draw pictures for each eye that mimic the kind of perspective and parallax that you experience in the real world. So, we can make it seem to you (visually) that you’re seeing a whole other world that maps perfectly to how you’re moving your head and eyes and body. This is complex stuff. We need to update the image ninety times a second in order to trick your brain into thinking it’s really somewhere else. And if the images we draw don’t conform exactly to how you’re moving, it starts to feel really weird, really quickly. There are incredible issues with optics that need solving; there are issues with how to track your motions within a large room; there are issues with wanting to make sure you don’t walk into things in the real world, once you have the headset on. It’s all delightful when it syncs up. It’s engrossing and captivating in ways no other form of media can approach. From a storytelling standpoint, it’s an absolutely remarkable medium. I can think of no better way to transmit imagination from my head into yours.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.PB: Your Blackthorn Media has created a 360-virtual reality, interactive origin story called Caliban Below. What is the user experience and what are the new special effects — and how do they yield the emotional result you want with the story?MC: Caliban Below is a short story, which is part of a much larger project called The Abbot’s Book. So there’s some lineage to the piece, but it’s carefully constructed to work as a stand-alone experience, too.With each of the pieces we’ve made, we’re targeting a broad audience. We want to appeal to gamers (since they’re currently the most likely to have VR gear), but even more, we want to appeal to people who just like movies and TV. This is why we’ve been so pleased to present our work at film festivals. People have heard of VR, but most people still haven’t experienced it. So, the stories we make first and foremost are built for people who have never done VR before. We have an “on ramp” for the piece that orients our visitor — gives them a framework for the experience — it’s 1680AD, Northern Italy. And then, we teach them just the bare minimum necessary to have the story experience. We teach them how to move around with little teleports we call “blinking,” we demonstrate that their hands can interact with the world, and then we tell them that they will play the part of Caliban: “The scion of a broken lineage, struggling to understand his dark inheritance.” It’s a mystery. It’s a world to explore. A story is there to be found, and your place in it yields some wonderful moments of empathy and, I think, a very new and organic way of experiencing a story. People who go into this world don’t know what to expect, and they come out having a pretty sophisticated understanding of a much larger world, and a sense of generations that have preceded their visit to the place.In terms of “special effects,” I think that’s the most special. There are all kinds of technical things going on under the hood, but the real magic of the thing is that this “recipe” for storytelling is purely experiential in a way that no other medium has previously achieved. You become this character, you live in this world that moves and changes as you go through it. And there’s a bit at the end, in particular, which engrosses and captures the visitor in a very unique way. I don’t want to give away the ending — it’s quite an effective and wonderful moment of living a narrative.Michael ConellyPB: With Caliban Below, the technology is engaging the viewer in a very immersive, unconventional way. You’ve collaborated with Game of Thrones sound designer Paula Fairfield – how does the use of movement and locations connect to music and sound?MC: I’m such a big fan of Paula. We’re great friends now, after years of collaboration, and I can’t say enough great things about her. She’s like a magician. So creative, so interested, so able to produce a tapestry of aural experience that is absolutely crucial to the end result. She really fell in love with the power of VR and audio as a medium along the way. I think she’s pretty hooked now, making her own stuff. I’m hoping to collaborate with her on a whole new project she’s dreamed up — we’ll see how that percolates in the coming months.Back to your question though, the sound is so massively important to Caliban Below. There are so many tiny details that you feel subconsciously, rather than in the front of your mind. A bird roosting in a ruin, for instance, can be a passing detail, but it instantly fires a host of associations, and helps you understand the world better: “Ah, this place is old; no one cares to clear the birds out. I wonder how long it’s been this way?” Somewhere else, there might be the sound of a trickle of water, and while we may not see it, that too can speak to important backstory. There are thousands of these moments that fly by, and they form a richness that helps sustain a complete illusion.Image via Caliban Below.PB: Where do you see the future of VR?MC: Oh, great question. We’ve been hoping that VR would take off as a mass medium sooner than it has. I continue to love it, but when you compare the audience size for VR versus TV or movies, the economics of it have been pretty janky.What I’ve continued to watch for is the “big boys” of the technology continuing to invest in it: Valve, Oculus, HTC, Apple, Google. Their interest in AR and VR evolves over time, but in general, the technology continues to improve. If the tech stagnates, then I think it would be hard to justify sticking with it. As it is, it’s moving slower than I’d like to see. But — and this is a big but — one of these days, it’ll be good enough and cheap enough that I think it finally will break through. That’ll be great to see.When used right, there really is no medium more potent for transmission of ideas and feelings. And so the future continues to be promising. I think it’ll get here someday, it’s just a question of when. It would be spectacular to see the budget of a Marvel movie funneled into a VR experience. The things you could do with a “proper” budget would be mind-bending and electrifying. With any luck, someday the market economics will support that evolution. Until then, we’ll have to make do. I think the love of the work shines through just fine today. With any luck, more is in store in the not too distant future. Til that fine day!Looking for more industry interviews? Check these out.Industry Interview: Emmy-Nominated Composer Dominik ScherrerIndustry Interview: Documentary Editor Aaron WickendenIndustry Interview: DJ Stipsen, DP of “What We Do in the Shadows”The Sun is Also a Star Film Composer Herdís StefánsdóttirIndustry Interview: Miles Hankins — The Composer Behind “Long Shot”last_img read more

You Are Your Dream Client’s Second Brain

first_imgIf there is information parity between you and your dream client, then what you know is unnecessary. What you know is redundant; it’s superfluous.Your dream client wants to work with someone who knows more than they do in that person’s area of expertise. They need someone who has the knowledge they are missing so that they can fill in the gaps. Your prospective clients want to work with someone with subject matter expertise in their domain, as well as the situational knowledge that comes from spending time helping people with problems, challenges, and opportunities like theirs.The dream clients you call on could learn more about your area of expertise if they wanted to. But they don’t because they believe you are supposed to be doing this on their behalf.If you aren’t reading newspapers, magazines, and journals (on or offline) to keep pace with the changes in all the things that might affect your dream client’s business, you aren’t going to be invaluable.Showing up without a point of view about your client’s greatest risks and threats and the real dangers they are facing makes you irrelevant. If you don’t have a irrelevanireel on the opportunities available to them, then you lack the ability to consult with them on what is possible. If you can’t provide information, experience, ideas, and recommendations, then you literally can’t be an advisor.You are the value proposition.If you aren’t a second brain for your dream client to count on to think through things in the areas you serve them, you are subtracting value from the relationship. Not knowing what your dream client needs to know means they have to either work to learn more themselves or work with someone who already knows more than enough to help.Your product isn’t enough. Your solution isn’t enough. Without you as a second brain, your value proposition isn’t enough.Get you some chops.last_img read more

I hate love stories, says Shah Rukh Khan

first_imgShah Rukh Khan.Superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who has collected the maximum number of Best Actor awards for My Name is Khan this year, has no reservations about being given the Golden Kela award for Worst Actor for the same film.”I think they did not have my address to officially invite me for this award. But, I want to ask these people as to why they are copying the Hollywood concept of giving away the Razzies. Why can’t they come up with something original?” SRK quipped.The actor has a very philosophical take on various awards conferred on him. “There are people who praise you endlessly while there are people who are ready to rob you off those praises.These people think that may be you were not as fantastic. I feel that the truth is somewhere in the middle, you can’t take either too seriously,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of the recent India Today Conclave in the Capital. “As a public figure you have to live with it. It is normal to have the darker side attached to your image. Besides, public perception is always varied.”SRK, who was till recently seen sporting the Rasta hairstyle, which he had acquired for his forthcoming film Don 2, has gone back to his original short crop. “It’s very difficult to maintain long hair,” he said. “The ‘Rasta look’ idea was developed by my hairstylists Dilshad and Adhuna Akhtar, wife of Farhan Akhtar who is directing Don 2.In the first half of Don 2, where my character is shown to have spent a long time in jail, I had to sport long hair. I have tried various looks in films such as spikes, the Japanese look and now the Rasta look,” he adds. Dismissing the buzz about Shakira making an appearance in the Kolkata Knight Riders music video for the forthcoming season of IPL, he said: “There is hardly any time left for me and Shakira to shoot together. I don’t think it is happening.”advertisementRegarding his much talkedabout mafia flick Xtreme City, directed by Paul Schrader and co-produced by Martin Scorsese, there has been the buzz that Leonardo De Caprio could be doing a cameo in the film. “We are working on this film. I think the news about such projects become too big instantly. Paul is still conceptualising the film and it is not decided as to what role would be offered to Leonardo and if he chooses to be a part of the film.”Shah Rukh is known as the ultimate romantic icon in Hindi films thanks to blockbusters such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam. But in his forthcoming releases, Ra One and Don 2, he has been cast as a superhero and an antihero respectively.”I hate love stories. I don’t think I have ever been a romantic hero in the real sense. The nineties was a period of love stories, but these were not pure love stories. Most of these films were family films with lovable characters. It’s not that I am going away from any set image. I have been recently offered a romantic film by Yash Raj,” he added.This takes us to another muchtalked about film – Vishal Bhardwaj’s adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s novel 2 States.”Vishal and I had a few meetings and he is right now working on the adaptation. We will finalise on how Krish and Ananya, the two lead characters of the story, should look on screen and how my character should be shaped.”So, after Aamir Khan, who at 44 played an engineering student, it is SRK’s turn at 46 to play a student. “It’s not difficult at all. I was supposed to play one of the students in 3 Idiots. As far as 2 States goes, it’s a story of an IIM graduate, so we can have a slightly elderly look,” he concluded.last_img read more

Malaika wants to maintain her CWG form

first_imgMalaika Goel (left) won the silver medal in the 10m air pistol at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.As a child, Malaika Goel was not scared of arms and ammunition. The daughter of a police officer, weapons were nothing new for her. But it was only after she saw Heena Sidhu shoot to glory in various events on television that the young girl from Ludhiana decided to take the plunge into the world of shooting.”My father never brought guns to the house, but I had often seen them. So, I was not at all scared when I held my first gun,” the Commonwealth Games silver medallist in women’s 10m air pistol told Mail Today.Malaika, who beat her idol Heena in Glasgow, couldn’t do much in the junior event at the ISSF World Championships in Granada, Spain, last week. But 16-year-old Malaika feels she can put up a good show in the Incheon Asian Games.”I don’t believe in setting prefixed goals. Winning silver in the Commonwealth Games has given me immense confidence. Since I have performed well in Glasgow, I am confident of performing well in Incheon too,” she said. “My target is to get better. So, I usually don’t think about the colour of the medal. It is about giving my best and the results will follow.”The shooter, who took up the sport in 2008 when she was just 10, says winning the Glasgow silver was special, but not beating former World No.1 Heena, who finished seventh.”I have known Heena didi for some time now. So, if I was to pick a special moment between winning silver or beating my idol, I would say winning the silver medal was more special for me,” she said with a laugh. Unlike other teenagers, Malaika is not a fan of social networking sites and prefers to stick to sports even in her leisure time.advertisement”I have always been a sportsperson. Besides shooting, I like swimming, badminton and football. Ever since I took up shooting, it has become my life,” she added. Her mother Amarpreet makes sure she travels everywhere with Malaika, the youngest member of India’s shooting squad.”Having mom besides me is always an advantage. In 2012, when I travelled for my first international event, I was just 14 years old and had never travelled independently. I needed my mother and ever since she has been accompanying me to all the events,” Malaika said. “Being the youngest in the squad, my seniors also take good care. They keep giving advice on the do’s and don’ts.”tazeen.qureshy@mailtoday.inlast_img read more

El Clasico: Zidane’s Real Madrid eye revenge against Barcelona

first_imgFacing his first ‘clasico’, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane knows nothing other than victory at Barcelona will be enough.The former midfield great replaced Rafa Benitez three months ago, but his star-studded team is virtually out of the Spanish league title race, 10 points adrift of Barcelona in third place.”I know how things are at this club,” Zidane said on Friday, a day before he takes his team to Camp Nou. “The important thing is to win, we all know it. I was here as a player. I know the demands that this job comes with.”Zidane has a lot riding on how well his team performs on Saturday following an irregular managing debut that has swung between blowouts of small teams, costly draws on the road, and a disappointing loss to second-place Atletico Madrid at home.Despite Madrid’s best chances at a trophy resting in the Champions League, where they play German club Wolfsburg on Wednesday in the quarterfinals, Zidane said his team is focused on Saturday’s match.”Maybe the game has a different role, but that won’t change anything for us,” he said. “We will do our best and start strong. For me the most important game is tomorrow. We will play tomorrow’s game and then look toward Wednesday.”Zidane played his last ‘clasico’ 10 years ago, and he said that the clash between the fierce rivals is ‘the most beautiful game that exists for a player’.”Now I get to experience it as a coach and I am happy for that,” he said. “I want to make the most of it and have a great match.”advertisementZidane’s challenge, however, is daunting.Under second-year coach Luis Enrique, Barcelona are on a Spanish record streak of 39 matches without a loss across all competitions. That run has kept the team on course to repeating its rare treble of Spanish league, Champions League and Copa del Rey titles from last season.Barcelona, who haven’t lost at home to Madrid since 2013, crushed Madrid 4-0 in their first meeting this season, a humiliation that went a long way to the eventual firing of Benitez.”If we win, we would deal a definitive blow to Madrid and Atletico would be our only rival for the league,” Luis Enrique said. “We are leaders because we have earned it and now we only need to finish it off and that’s why we need the three points tomorrow.”Much of Luis Enrique’s confidence is based on Barcelona’s awesome forwards trio — Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. They have combined for 107 goals in all competitions this season, far ahead of the 80 goals tallied by Madrid players Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.Barcelona also have a Champions League quarterfinal with Atletico looming on Tuesday.But the Catalan club can find extra motivation in honoring former player and coach Johan Cruyff on Saturday, their first game since the Dutch great died of lung cancer.last_img read more

Dummy candidates for a price: India Today busts racket of election fixers in Uttar Pradesh

first_imgAn extraordinarily wide choice of candidates, deceptively similar symbols and namesakes on your electronic voting machines and some visibly extravagant campaigns in your constituencies can be far from a coincidence.India Today’s special investigation team has busted the illusion of transparency that many politicians create in national and regional elections.Posing as lobbyists for established leaders, India Today’s reporters cracked a dubious ring of small-time politicians setting up dummy candidates to swing results.The operatives were part of more than 1,900 groups listed as unrecognised but registered parties.Private firm involved in vote rigging At Delhi’s Ashoka hotel, the national convenor of the UP-based All India Muslim Majlis, Wasi Ahmad, told the SIT he had been fielding puppet candidates in state elections since 2002.Ahmad offered fake nominees for next year’s assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.His bogus candidates would stand for the Rashtriya Awami Dal, another local group that he claimed to be running separately. The Rashtriya Awami Dal is designated by the election commission as a registered unrecognised party.”Listen, so far as a dummy is concerned, one can be put up as a candidate of the Rashtriya Awami Dal. I am the signing-authority for it,” Ahmad told the undercover reporters.”But did Rashtriya Awami Dal fight any election before?” asked one of the journalists.”Yes, in 2002… (on) ten (seats),” Ahmad replied.Ahmad then explained privileges puppet candidates like his bring to their sponsors from their entitlements, such as permits for campaign vehicles and additional bank accounts to manipulate spending.advertisementThe election commission has capped expenditure of candidates fighting parliamentary and assembly polls. The limits vary from state to state.According to the EC’s online handbook for candidates, non-compliance to the ceilings could attract serious action.AIADMK leader caught on camera: Cash for vote becomes cash for ‘aarti’ The EC has placed no restrictions on the number of campaign vehicles. But it’s mandatory for contestants to obtain official permission for each car and two-wheeler they use in their canvassing.Any unauthorised vehicle in campaign fleets can be seized and taken out of the election exercise.”The advantages that more cars from the dummy’s quota can be added (to the sponsor’s campaign fleet)… (campaign) expenditures can be manipulated out of the dummy’s allotted budget,” Ahmad said.But his proposition was expensive, with a Rs one-crore for his party and a separate fee of Rs 10 lakh per puppet.”I’ll take the money for my candidates later. But for now, it’s Rs one crore for the party fund. See, ten lakh (separately) is enough for one dummy candidate,” Ahmad demanded.The deadly secrets of sting Singh India Today’s special team then met Rajesh Bharti,  president of the Swarashtra Jan Party. His group from Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh was registered in 2011.Bharti also offered a candidate, whose primary role would be to cut into the votes of his financer’s opponents.”This is also a sport for me to help someone (the sponsor) win. His victory will be mine,” Bharti said.His phony candidate would participate in campaign, but with a brief to eat into the support of his sponsor’s rivals.”He (the puppet) will use our party flag not yours. He’ll have his posters everywhere and will have car passes issued in his name. But when he will move out to campaign, he’ll discretely talk to people about you. On the face of it, he’ll be representing his own party,” Bharti said.Thereon, India Today’s crew visited Shariq Usmani, who is in charge of the Apna Desh Party’s western Uttar Pradesh unit.Everything and anyone can be bought, he told the undercover team as he quoted a stunningly high price for his fraudulent tactics.”For 20 (dummy) candidates, it will be at least between Rs 10 crore and Rs 12 crore,” Usmani said. Cash-for-vote scam: Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu’s purported conversation adds new twist Rajesh Kushwaha, another UP politician the SIT met, was willing to play a dummy himself in next year’s UP elections.Kushwaha, vice-president of the Bharat Rakshak Kranti Party, cited what seemed to be inadequate safeguards that allow patrons of dummy candidates to pull the strings in elections.”Here, the election commission cannot do anything. It cannot do anything because we, being a party, have announced our candidates,” he claimed.  “The election commission is not concerned whether that candidate is actually campaigning or has disappeared. The election commission is not concerned who (which party) is actually using cars registered for campaign,” Kushwaha added.Watch the video herelast_img read more

Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle to play T10 league in UAE

first_imgVirender Sehwag, Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi and Kumar Sangakkara will be part of the T10 league, named Ten Cricket League, in the UAE.Teams playing in the league are – Team Punjabis, Team Pakhtoons, Team Maratha, Team Banglas, Team Lankans, Team Sindhis and Team Keralites, among others.Afridi will lead Team Pakhtoons.Habib Khan, owner of Pakhtoons commented, “I am excited to have Shahid Afridi, one of the greatest cricketers ever, to lead my team and you will see Pakhtoons in full force.”The league will have 10-over-a-side matches with 90 minutes of action, spread over four days.The event will begin on December 21 and culminate on December 24 at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.Shaji ul Mulk, president of TCL, said, “We are very excited about the concept of T10 as it brings cricket to the level of world sports of 90 minutes and fast pace action.”We all enjoy T20. Wait till you experience T10! We have based this league on a South Asian concept as we have a dominant south Asian, cricket crazy population in the UAE and GCC,” he said.The auction will be conducted in the United Arab Emirates.last_img read more