2015

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With the hope of virtual reality at height, Microsoft recently introduced the new Hololens^TM.  In 2013, however, my idea was challenged by the Oculus Rift. The Oculus Rift provided images cut in lenses at such an angle that our brain can process it as very similar to our naked eye’s vision. However, one of the major downfalls of it was its non-realistic and gaming-only approach. It caused the product to not be as popular as it could have been.

The new Hololens beats oculus rift and introduces itself with an everyday usable mode which allows the user to wear it as he pleases and explore the possibilities beyond just glasses. HoloLens has see-through lenses, spatial sound, motion sensors to capture information about the environment. It can process very high quality image and sound with its high-end CPU and GPU. With such specifications, projects interactive holograms with sound and movement detection.

Unlike the previous popular head wear, Google Glass, Hololens are made to provide the user an all-round real, yet processed world with holograms and touch interaction. However, Google Glass is intended to be of a different use than Hololens. Google Glasses are intended to be an undistracted reality with an interaction on the top right corner if the vision, while Hololens are intended to be an add-on to our current environment with a complete interactive shell. While many of the technical specification are yet to be released, the founder, Alex Kipman, also considered “The father of Kinect” reveals that it uses virtual heat detecting sensors similar to those of Kinect.

Currently, Hololenses come with many digital games, including Minecraft. Minecraft is shown as one of the base program to reveal what the new lenses are capable of. With extremely smooth performance and agility, the new 3-D version of the game is far beyond the imagination. However, Microsoft has not stopped there at its gaming capabilities; the new Windows 10 Gaming SDK includes the ability to program for the Hololens’ API. With it, not only developers are able to create new material, but users themselves will be able to take part in programming as well. It’s designed to be a rather simple platform where customers are welcomes to create their imagination as they please.

Stepping outside of gaming and specifications, Hololens also seem to be a new major social media platform.  Its current Skype app allows the caller and the user to interact with holograms and images. The caller is able to draw holograms from their own computer directly to the user’s vision. One of the major aspects of the drawing capability is that it’s not 2-D. Therefore, it’s clearer and realistic at its person-to-person interaction. Many of the users at CNET also noted that Hololens seem to be another step in perfecting the one-on-one live interaction without actually being present.

One may be wondering at this point: “So are there any detriments to these glasses?” Well, the answer may be hidden at this point of the product. With it just being its showcase, many factors such as battery life and price is kept hidden from the consumers. As if the battery life was simply just an hour, the fear of constant being plugged into a wall would be standing. Additionally, health factor may also be a challenge depending on the equipment used in the lenses. If the equipment is similar to that of an LED, it would be extremely damaging to use over 8 hours up most. Sadly, the battery life and health issue may not be the only cause to its sale. The design itself is an all-round head band with a surprisingly thick bezel and a large surface area. If seen from normal distance, it appears as a giant pair of glasses with on-ear headphones. Many viewers are unhappy from nothing but the design as they believe it would force them to appear as robots.

 

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The History is Pretty Neat!
Vocaloid is a musical voice synthesizer that had been developed with the research led by Kenmochi Hideki at the Pomeru Fabra University in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain in 2000. the project itself was backed up by the Yamaha Corporation as to help develop the software despite not originally intending to be as popular and for commercial use as it is today. It had been released on January 15, 2004 and the stable release as of today is the Vocaloid 4. It was intended for professional musicians as well as light computer users seeing as the developers had their users sold on the idea that “the only limits are the users’ own skills.”
It is currently available in Japanese, English, Korean, Spanish, Chinese, and Catalan. The operating systems needed to run this program include Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8 and the Apple iOS (also iVocaloid, but that is a product exclusive only to Japan).

User Friendly!
The users type in lyrics and melody in order to synthesize together a song as the program itself has specially recorded vocals of voice actors or singers. A piano roll type. The users can change the stress of pronunciations, add effects (such as vibrato) or change the altogether dynamics of the voice. The vocals are also refereed to as ‘a singer in a box’.

Awesome Singers!
It was originally only available in English with the first singer in a box, Leon, Lola, and Miriam. The later Japanese modification added Meiko and Kaito, as the addition with Vocaloid 3 included Bruno, Clara and Maki for the Spanish update. Later, the Chinese update added Luo Tianyi and Yahne, as the Korean adjustment added SeeU. The most popular Vocaloid singer however is none other than diva pop star Hatsune Miku from Japan.

How does it work?
The system uses concatenation synthesis that is specially programmed to splice and process vocal fragments extracted from human voices singing in singing in synthesis to produce realistic voices by adding the different forms of information to add different vocal expressions such as the vibrato (in short, it’s a smart recording program that you can mess around with). The Vocaloid synthesis technology had been originally named “Frequency-Domain Singing Articulation Splicing and Shaping,” but it was too difficult to remember for most users and Yamaha dropped the name, going as far as to not use the name on their websites.
The Vocaloid 2 synthesis engines had been designed for singing and not reading text out loud despite software such as Vocaloid-flex and Viceroid having been developed for that very reason; naturally, the voices cannot replicate singing expressions like hoarse voices or shouting.
The main parts to the system is the Score Editor, the Singer Library, and the Synthesis Engine. The Synthesis Engine receives score information from the score editor and selects appropriate samples from the singer library, and concatenates them to output the synthesized voices. Yamaha had provided that there be almost no difference in the Score Editor and the Synthesis Engine among different Vocaloid 2 products. Currently, the system operates in Japanese and English, but other languages may be optional to operate under in the future.
The Score Editor is a piano roll style editor that allows the user to input notes, lyrics, and certain expressions that is then automatically converted into phonetic symbols using the built-in pronunciation dictionary which  can be directly edited by the user. The editor itself has a supportive program of ReWire that can be synchronized with the DAW as well as the MIDI Keyboard program having the user able to have a real-time

Singer Library?
Each Vocaloid liscence is in the Sibnger Library that has all possible combinations of  phonemes (pronunciations) of the target languages as well as a chain of diphones (stitching together of the sounds). An example would be to make the word “sing” as to synthesize the sequence of diphones “#-s, s-I, I-N, N-#”. the system itself is able to change the pitch of the fragments so that it could fit the melody by using three or more pitch changes as three or four different ranges are required to be stored in the library. The Japanese singers usually have less diphones as they basically use only three patterns of the diphones containing a voiceless-consonant, vowel-consonant, and a consonant-vowel. English, however has many closed syllables ending in a consonant and a consonant-consonant as well as a consonant-voiceless diphone. that being said, more diphones are to be used and recorded into the English library than the Japanese ones and it is because of this that a Japanese library would not be correctly suitable for singing in English as most would assume.

Software Bridges
Other softwares that were made after Vocaloid include:
Vocaloid-Flex: A speech synthesizer to get the tone naturally closer to a human’s to be used in other programs (this was used in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker).
VocaListener: Allows realistic songs to be produced.
MikuMikuDance: A 3D modeling system to move characters, stages and props as well as enter music in the background and render into videos (also known as MMD).
NetVocaloid: Uses synthesized singing voices connected to the internet, however after 2012, Yamaha no longer offered it on their website.
MMDAgent: Allows users to interact with the 3D models of the Vocaloid mascots
NetVocalis: Similar to VocaListener
Vocaloid Editor for Cubase:
Vocalodama: an iOs game app using the Vocaloid software
Vocaloid Net: A replacement of the NetVocaloid service that added cloud storage
Vocaloid First: offered as a free version on Vocaloid that contains the VY1 vocal in low quality form, released for the iPhone
Other hardware bridges include the Vocaloid-Board and the eVocaloid.

Cultural Impact
Ths software itself had become very popular in Japan upon the release of Crypton Future Media’s Hatsune Miku Vocaloid 2 software and her success leading to the popularity of the Vocaloid software in general. Japanese video sharing website NicoNico had also played a large part in its upbringing popularity. A user of the Hatsune Miku singer released a video that showed “Hachune Miku,” a super deformed Miku that held a Welsh onion (also known as Negi or Leek) and sang the Finnish song “Ievan Polkka” that much resembeled the flash animation “Loituma Girl.” As the population of the Vocaloid software grew, NicoNico Douga became a place for collaborative creation in where 2D and 3D animations and remixes were created by the users to make videos. The software has also been used to tell stories using the song and verse to make the Story of Evil series popular. Another theatre production based on the Cantarella song had hit the stage and ran in Shibuya’s Space Zero theatre in Tokyo from August 3 to August 7 in 2011. After a while, YouTube and file sharing sites found their way across the world and spread its influence like wildfire across the US and China, making its way to Europe and other such countries.

Detective Deadlock – Chapter 4: Big Alexander

Officer Winston stepped out of a doughnut shop holding several sugar-coated pastries in his hands.  He approached his police car and attempted to reach for his keys.  Instead, his keys fell out of his pocket and into a nearby sidewalk gutter.  The heavy rain began pushing it further down the street.  He set his doughnuts on the car and chased after the keys.

“No, no, no!” Winston held onto his buckle as he ran toward the keys.  He reached down to pick it up only for it to slide loose from his hand once again.

Every huge step he took, his body jiggled a bit.  He ended up chasing the keys down to a nearby street.  When they finally came to stop at a piece of trash stuck in the gutter, Winston heard gunfire erupting in the distance.

One of the bald men fell to the floor electrified after Annika lined up a perfect shot.  Deadlock on the other hand was locked in close quarters with the other goon.  Both of them had their hands on the rifle as the opposing kept trying to push it to the other’s face.  Annika charged up her tazer again and aimed at Deadlock’s adversary.

The man kicked the detective down and knocked Annika’s tazer out of her hands.  He grabbed her neck with his bulky hands and lifted her up into the air.

“It was a foolish move to have a child fight me, detective!” he sulked.

Suddenly, the man’s kneecaps popped open.  Several powerful bullets pierced through, causing him to let go of Annika and tumble to the ground.  Winston held a magnum revolver with a smoking barrel in his hand.

“Man, it sure has been a while!” Winston said excitedly.

“My legs!  I can’t feel my legs!  I can’t!” the goon cried.

Deadlock got up to his feet.  He looked around at the situation; Winston holstering his revolver again and Annika grasping her neck to try and soothe it.  Behind both of them he saw Detective R pointing into the building where the men were unloading the crates of guns.  Detective R walked into a nearby alleyway out of Deadlock’s view.

“Annika, follow me.  Winston, make sure no one gets out of here. Call for backup,” the detective ordered as he rushed into the building through its open garage.

Deadlock held his gun closer with his sights aligned with his eyes.  Annika was behind him, looking for anything suspicious.

“Did you see that boy run in here?” the detective asked about the teenager from earlier.

“I-I’m not sure.  I lost sight of him.”

Deadlock held his hand up and gestured the rookie to stay silent.  He overheard someone’s voice down the hallway.  The ceiling lights flickered as the two detectives moved in.  The voices were heard behind a solid metal door.


“What do you mean Darren and Joseph were captured?  Why weren’t you there to help them!” a strong-toned man shouted.

“I’m sorry, boss.  The officers-Deadlock is with them!” the teenager warned.

“So what?  A cop with a good nose ain’t worth nothing in these parts.  He’s as good as dead if he expects to take someone like Big Al down!”

Deadlock kicked down the door and scanned the room with his gun in hand.  He noticed a bulky man wearing a thin striped grey suit and the teen from before wearing a black hoodie.  Annika and him aimed both their weapons at the two.

“You led them to me, you useless mutt!” the man smacked the back of the boy’s head.

“I’m sorry, boss!” the boy dashed toward a high up window and climbed through an opening.

“Annika go after him!  I’ll take care of Mr. Meat here!” Deadlock ordered.

The rookie ran right after the teen and followed through the same opening.  The detective in the meantime, held his magnum steady on the bulky figure.

“Tell me, Al…Where’d you get the mutation serums you’re handing out?”

The bulky man held his hands up and started circling around the room as Deadlock opposed him.  “Handing out?  I think of it as kind of a charity.  Giving the loneliest souls a brand new power and purpose.  Stirring up havoc in a city like this, it’s an anarchist’s dream!”

“Is that your plan?  Causing mayhem like some kind of joker?”

“Of course not.  What good is spreading chaos if you can’t be the boss anymore?  I run the streets below you, I have connections that go far beyond the city, and it’s just your police department and that random psychopath that keep my plans from going through!” Big Al shouted.

“Psychopath?  Tell me if we’re talking about the same person…mohawk?  Checked shirt?” Deadlock asked.

“Dark blue jeans, not really much of a mohawk anymore, more or less she just braided the side of her head.”

“Oh the coincidences are finally adding up.  Was it your goons that were shot up the other night?”

“Yeah…yeah!  Were you there too?  Maybe we can work together and compromise, say?” Al suggested with a condescending tone.

“Sure.  When hell freezes over.  You’re coming with me, Al,” the detective kept his magnum fixed on the bulky figure.

Then he noticed Detective R right behind him.  He was pointing toward the window that Annika and the teen escaped from.  A slight scraping sound was made followed by the entire window shattering.

“I was afraid you were going to say that…” Big Al said disappointingly.

Several mutants bashed through and snarled at Deadlock.  They jumped right at him while Big Al ran out the door.  One of the mutants had a maniacal laugh as he clawed at the detective’s overcoat.  The other two grabbed the detective’s legs and began pulling.  Frustrated, Deadlock stuck the magnum’s barrel in the first mutant’s nose.  He shot the high powered round, silencing the laughter and sending the now headless mutant off of him.  He grabbed another mutant with his mechanical arm and wrapped his fingers around his skull.

“You pull my leg one more time, I will bash your head open, got it?” the detective aimed his magnum at the third as they both stared at him.

Officer Winston entered with several other cops.  They pried the mutants off of Deadlock and helped him up.

“Winston, where’s Annika?” Deadlock asked.


“Hey you!  Stop!” Annika shouted as she chased after the teenager down the empty sidewalk.

“Forget you, lady!”

“Stop right now!  I’m a CCPD Officer and you are under arrest!” Annika said panting.

The teenager climbed up a few dumpsters and grabbed onto the fire exit of a brick building.  Annika fired her tazer but missed and hit a brick near the teen’s head.  The teen pulled a firecracker from his hand and threw it at Annika.  It popped near her feet and sent her tumbling back in shock.

“You little!” Annika stood back up and followed him up the fire escape.

Annika reached the roof and spotted the teenager make a dash for the edge.  She tackled him down and got in an arm lock.  The teenager forced the rookie’s hand away from him before she could charge up the tazer and fire it again.

“Big Al says you cops shouldn’t get involved here!  Even one of your own got down to our level!” the teen shouted.

“What!” Annika kicked the teen’s shins.

As soon as he tripped, the rookie took the opportunity and fired the tazer at him.  He shuddered as the electricity surged through his veins.

“What do you mean one of our cops got down to your level?” Annika asked.

“I-I ain’t no snitch, y-you ain’t gettin’ nothing outta me!” the boy responded.

“Well, let’s see if my superior has anything to say about that…” the rookie remarked as she handcuffed the teen and pulled him toward the fire exit.

His feet hurt.

Sure, everything else wasn’t doing too great either but his feet hurt worst of all.

And why wouldn’t they? As he wandered through the ruins of his once beloved city, his bare feet endured perpetual pains of sharp glass, rough concrete, and piercing pieces of rubble.

With the sounds of gunfire drawing nearer and nearer, the young boy began to hurry. He didn’t have any particular destination in mind but he kept going nonetheless. He realized long ago that he wasn’t necessarily looking for an escape; he was merely trying to stay alive.

His breathing became ragged and heavy as he stumbled through the various pieces of debris and climbed through the crumbling houses, trying to avoid stepping on the especially sharp pieces of rock. He could see a warm mist escape his mouth with every pant and after a short while began to feel a growing pain in his right side. Disregarding the pain his body felt and ignoring the tortuous fire growing in his feet, he continued to run through the ruins.

His foot-eye coordination failed him for a fraction of a second but he nonetheless landed hard on a deformed rock that was sharp, ragged, and bent his foot in a weird way upon contact. With a cry of pain and a moment of panic, the boy fell to the ground clutching his right foot. As he lay there among the rubble, the sounds of gunfire considerably quieter than they had been a few minutes ago, he began to feel a warm liquid run over his hands. He raised his head and looked at his foot and saw his hands were almost completely covered in blood.

He raised himself up to a sitting position to examine his foot further. Slowly, he removed his right hand from his wound and applied even more pressure with his left hand. Being careful not to aggravate the wound or make a mistake, the boy carefully grabbed a fistful of the fabric that used to be a shirt and ripped a large piece off. He then began to wrap his foot as best he could using this makeshift gauze. With the small yet painful wound closed up as best as possible, the boy sat back to examine his feet.

Both were covered in so much dirt that they were almost as black as the pair of shoes he was wearing on the day of the attack. This instance of falling and cutting his foot was not the first time he’d experienced such a thing. His feet were covered in scabs and scars that only formed over the past few days. Both feet were so dry and dirty and scabby that small aggravations were enough to tear open the skin and unleash onslaughts of blood.

It took a while for the boy to realize he had started to cry. It took him even longer to realize why it was that he was crying. He wasn’t crying for his parents, wherever they may have been, or for his destroyed home or for his fallen friends or for his destroyed city or for the terrible fighting that was happening all around him at this very moment. No, he was crying for the loss of those little black shoes. They had been a brand new pair that he was wearing for the second time on the day of the attack. They were small and hard and were made of leather; they were a gift from his father, which was in it of itself a rare occurrence.

The boy knew that if only he still had them, then his feet would be protected from the merciless battleground and he would be without this constant pain and suffering that made him wish to run up to a soldier, grab his gun, and shoot off his own feet.

Thinking of his shoes, the boy began thinking of the day of the attack, which had only been a mere three days ago.

He had been in his house with his family as they all prepared for supper. He and his mother had just come back from the market purchasing ingredients so he still had on his new pair of black shoes. He had preparing the dining area, his mother had been making the final preparations for supper, and his father had almost returned home from his work.

Just as he was setting the final dining spot, however, he felt a rumble coming from somewhere. He didn’t hear anything, he didn’t see anything, but he knew something was wrong nonetheless, a strong feeling in his gut told him so.

Suddenly a far-off vibration could be heard and it grew louder and louder until the sky instantaneously opened up into a chorus of mechanical screams and roars. The boy dropped the plate he was holding, ignored the loud crash and subsequent rain of broken glass, and ran outside. He looked up at the late, blue-yellow sky and saw multiple bomber planes race across the airy expanse.

Just then, he saw one of the bombers drop what looked to be a large black egg onto a neighborhood that was a few miles away from his own. The neighborhood lit up in a column of fire and smoke and the force of the explosion tore across the landscape and pelted the boy with such fury that his hat flew off his head.

Somewhere far off, the boy heard his mother scream his name. He heard her rush outside and run to his side. He felt her shaking his body and trying to pull her with him. However, he paid her no mind as his full attention was focused on the scene unfolding before him. Dozens of bomber planes jetted over his city and dropped bomb after bomb after bomb. Houses exploded, churches flew into the sky in balls of fire, parks and ponds were covered in layers of soot and smoke. His vision was getting blurry and for a moment the boy worried that he was about to pass out or even die. It took him a second to realize his eyes were overflowing with tears.

His mother finally succeeded in pulling him away and then commenced a terrifying period of 48 hours in which he and his mother attempted to make their way to the capital building of the city which had a secure bunker deep beneath the ground.

They travelled inseparably for the first day, running through alleyways, over rooftops, and across busy streets with their heads ducked and their knees bent. He never let go of his mother’s hand through it all.

That is, until, they met up with another group of survivors that was also making its way to the capital. At one point, when trying to cross an open street, the de facto leader of the group, an aging man with a patchy, white beard, ordered the members to cross the group one pair at a time. Before his mother could protest, another woman grabbed her hand, ripped her free of the boy, and dragged her across the battlefield. His mother cried the whole way across the street and began wailing hysterically as soon as they reached the other side. The boy also felt a moment of dread and unease but the leader’s reassuring hand in his own helped to calm his nerves.

However, just as they were about to make a break for the other side, a flurry of bullets began erupting from each side of the street and multiple bombs and grenades exploded all over the street. Deeming the street now impassible, the leader yelled across the street for the remaining members to head to the capital building where he and the boy would rendezvous with them there.

The boy’s mother would have raced across the street at that moment if not for some man holding her back and dragging her around the alley corner. After seeing his crying mother disappear from sight, the boy began to sob there in the alleyway as the sounds of war raged around him. The leader got down on his knees to look in the boy’s face and did all he could to assuage the young child before finally grabbing his hand and whisking him away.

From there the two of them travelled across the ruined city together. For almost 18 hours, the boy and the leader travelled in the shadows and under cover hoping to make it to the capital unharmed. And they would have, had it not been for an incredible stroke of bad luck and the leader’s selflessness.

When making their way slowly through an alleyway, one of the doors in the alleyway suddenly burst open and there stood a fully armed soldier. The soldier spotted the boy and the leader and began shouting commands in a language that was unknown to the boy. Without hesitation the leader rushed to the soldier and began wrestling him for control of the soldier’s rifle. Screaming through gritted teeth, the leader ordered the boy to run away and make it to the capital building and back to his mother. The boy still stood there, though, distraught as he thought of the possibility of losing yet another person. With tears in his eyes, he decided to stay by the leader’s side at all costs. The leader then looked back over his shoulder a second time, met the boy’s eyes with his own, and screamed at the top of his lungs for the boy to get away.

Terrified, hurt, and heartbroken, the boy ran. He ran and ran without thought. He ran even after he heard the sound of the fatal gunshot ricochet off the alley walls. He ran even after he heard the soldier bark orders at him as he gave chase. He ran even though he had yet to completely acknowledge the fact that he was now all alone.

The boy eventually lost his pursuer and collapsed against the wall of a house he had wandered into. As he sat there, trying to catch his breath as the sun’s dying light slowly moved across the opposite wall, it was then, at that moment, that the boy realized that at some point throughout all the chaos and mayhem, he had lost his little black shoes.

The boy did eventually make it to the capital building…or at least, where it once stood. In its place was a mountain of rubble that rose high above the boy’s head. He collapsed in front of the rubble as he realized, without a trace of doubt, that he’d never see his mother again; that all those people who did make it to the underground bunker were gone forever; that there was no hope left for the city or for its inhabitants; that he would be alone for the rest of his life.

There he broke. He collapsed to the ground and rolled around and around, sobbing. His face became a wet, sticky mess and he screamed so loudly that every breath hurt and every convulsion racked his insides until his stomach and sides were sore and cramping.

After he ceased his crying, he continued to lie there, in a paradoxical sort of undisturbed peace and calm, until night fell and the sounds of fighting began to draw nearer. That was when he began his barefoot wanderings.

After reminiscing on the past few days and after crying over the memories, the boy slowly rose from the rubble and began walking once more. He tested the makeshift bandage on his foot tentatively and was pleased to see it held.

He began walking again. Once more, he had no idea where exactly he was heading but he continued traveling nonetheless.

He limped along an alleyway when a door opening from the alley burst open and there stood a fully armed soldier. After looking around the alley, the soldier locked eyes with the boy and the two of them froze. After what felt like an hour had passed, the boy broke his trance and unleashed a terrified scream and turned around and ran for where he had come from.

Before he could get away, however, he felt a powerful hand envelope itself around him and pull him back.

“Wait, wait, kid, calm down.”

The boy resisted the soldier’s grip and fought against his pull.

“Kid, relax, I don’t want to hurt you.”

Unsure of the language the soldier was speaking but able to understand his tone, the boy ceased his struggles and looked at the soldier. The soldier was dressed differently than the one who had killed the leader; the color and design of his uniform were different.

Then the soldier removed his hat and sunglasses and smiled at the boy. His eyes were a beautiful blue that twinkled in a way the sun couldn’t and the boy melted in his arms. He burst into tears and collapsed into the soldier’s arms. The soldier slung his rifle over his shoulder and picked up the war-torn boy in his arms. He brought his radio to his mouth and spoke into it but the boy paid him no mind. He simply lay there in the soldier’s arms as the exhaustion and heartache escaped from his body and soul.

At some point the boy fell asleep and the soldier carried him to his convoy and back to his base camp. There he delivered the boy to the refugee center and personally clothed him in a new, clean set of clothes. While folding away the boy’s old, torn rags, the boy awoke in a start. He began to panic and looked around the tent bewildered and afraid, he began to hyperventilate and cry until the soldier went to his bedside.

“Woah, woah, woah, calm down, it’s okay. You’re safe now.” The soldier smiled again and once more his eyes lit up.

The boy calmed down and overcame his initial distraught.  Then his eyes began to wander around the tent he found himself in.  Cots lined the lengths of the tent, a few filled with people who looked as bad as the boy felt.  While still looking around, the soldier spoke up.

“So tell me, what’s your name, kid?”

The boy looked at the soldier, confused.

The soldier cleared his throat and made sure to enunciate slowly. “What is your name?”

Again, the boy gave no response.

The soldier sighed and turned and called over a medic who spoke the native language. The medic translated the soldier’s question for the boy.

The boy looked from the medic then back to the soldier.

“Mohamed.”

The soldier smiled and reached from behind him.

“Well, Mohamed, I was waiting for you to wake up before I gave this to you. Now I’m not sure it’s an exact fit but I made the best measurements I could. But after seeing the condition of your feet, I thought you’d appreciate these.”

Mohamed cocked his head to the side in confusion but before the medic could translate, the soldier brought his hands forward, each one holding one half of the soldier’s gift.

A brand new pair of clean, white shoes.

The Interview – Columbia Pictures

“The movie that some dare to watch.”  The Interview was a movie that shocked us all. A movie that made fun of Kim Jon-Un, the most dangerous man at the time, and even plot the movie about having to kill him. I had my theories on the movie, but never watched it. When it made the fastest appearance on Netflix I knew I had to go see it. It starts off with James Franco as David Skylark and Seth Rogen as Aaron Rapoport.

While watching the movie it was clear that they were going for a not so subtle comedy.  In my opinion, some jokes should have never made the script. That got me thinking that the way Kim was portrayed in the movie was funny but a bit racist. The movie  calls Kim a liar, and acts like a god for his people. The movie was funny and had a nice pace. To be honest it is hard to find a lot of bad things other than how they make fun of North Korea. From a personal stance I loved it. When I ask all around it gets is good reviews and made me think that no one should fear the movie.  I don’t think we will get bombed or anything. The movie showed good points on the economy there, and I see this as a way where America can see that this is a real problem and to take it seriously, but then again it is a comedy so it will be hard.

This movie is for the people who can get a good laugh out of real things. If I could rate it, I would give it a four out of five for the good aspects but not a five because of some unnecessary content. Some is just bad. I feel like they don’t even try at some points. For example, paying Eminem to say a line that would cost millions. Some of the jokes and content were just blankly thrown out there. It really makes you wonder if they really tried some times. Having a knowledge in acting, they where good when it came to the acting. Casting was perfect. The team of James Franco and Seth Rogen, having a past of creating amazing movies together, did come out to pull out a good movie. I think they can top this, but we may never know..

Detective Deadlock – Chapter 3: Detective R

“Knock, knock.”

Officer Winston walked into Detective Deadlock’s office.  He closed the door behind him and took in a deep breathe as he stretched out his fixed tie.  Deadlock was searching through multiple papers, his coat on his chair and his fedora hung on the coat rack next to the door.  He had thick framed reading glasses as he analyzed any bit information linking to his case.

“What do you need, Tommy?  I’m in the middle of a case here…” Deadlock held two papers that could have information about the woman he saw in the park to a location.

“About that.  You reported the shootings in the park, right?” Winston asked.

“Yeah, there was, what?  Like forty casualties from this one woman, possibly more,” Deadlock fixed his glasses.

“Deadlock, Jean.  How long have we been in the same squad?” Winston said the detective’s real name as he sat down in one of his chairs.

Deadlock shrugged, “I don’t know, probably five or six years.  You’re the only officer that still remembers me joining.  All the other guys here don’t even know where I come from.”

“Jean.  How are the mechanizations coming along?” Winston stared at Deadlock’s arm.

“I’m getting by, Tommy, get to the point, I’m busy.”

“Deadlock there was no woman,” the officer said abruptly.

Detective Deadlock smiled.  He looked at Winston expecting to see a similar expression but instead he was given a very serious look.  The detective still chuckled to try to shake Winston’s seriousness, but nothing budged.  He reflected the serious look and stood up from his office chair.

“What the hell are you telling me?”

“The woman.  There were no traces of her being there-“

“She could have ran away!” Deadlock objected.

“There was no one in Central Park, it closed several hours after you showed up, how you got in without alerting any security is the only mystery there!”

“The security could’ve been patrolling another part!”

“There were no bullets from a chain gun.  There was no one else in that park other than you and those men!”

“No, no, no, no!  I know what I saw!” Detective Deadlock became frustrated.

“There was no one there!  Deadlock, in all the years I’ve worked with you, you have never acted this crazy!  Please tell me, is the medicine the mechanics giving you messing with your head?”

Deadlock looked at a bottle of pills he had taken out of his cabinet from earlier.  He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes.  Before Deadlock could even mention anything, Winston spoke up again.

“Chief gave you a new case.  The ‘mutant’ you helped catch earlier is in interrogation downstairs.  He wants you to find out where this guy came from.”

Winston left the detective in his office.  Deadlock was in a quiet rage, but he kept it together before heading out to the interrogation.  He stepped out of his office and spotted Annika setting up in her new desk with office supplies and photo frames.

“Annika, meet me downstairs, there’s an interrogation and I need you to soak up some experience,” Deadlock headed toward the elevator as he straightened out his fedora.

“Okay, okay.  I’ll see you down there!” she tripped on her desk with some of the office supplies.


The police station consisted of three different departments.  The top floor was headquarters for Homeland Security, the second floor was the ‘Deadlock’ department, otherwise known as Anarchy Control, and the bottom floor belonged to the Private Investigation Bureau.  In the corner of the bottom floor were several interrogation rooms.  The rooms themselves were small, blue brick compartment-like storages, furnished with a single hanging lamp and several metal chairs accompanying a table.

The mutant that was shot and captured earlier was handcuffed to the table.  His wounds were only minor due to his sped up healing, leaving only one enormous bandage covering what use to be his hand.  Deadlock entered the interrogation room and sat in a chair opposing the suspect’s.  He looked all around the room, jerking his head to each corner in a sarcastic fashion to sort of mock the mutant.

Quietly, he heard a voice in his head, “Find out where the mutant came from.  His answer will lead to more…”

“So, how did you end up all like that?” Deadlock asked the mutant.

“Like hell if I’m going to tell you.”

The voice spoke again, “Get the answer.”

Detective Deadlock thought recklessly.  He grabbed the mutant’s head and slammed it on the table.  “Tell me where you got these mutations, now!”

“Go to hell!”

“More intimidation.”

Detective Deadlock stood up from the chair and headed directly to the door.  The mutant looked at him in shock.

“So is that it!?  You bash my skull and just leave?!” the mutant shouted.

Deadlock paused before leaving.  In a heartbeat, he pulled out his handgun from his holster and pressed it against the mutant’s head.  In fear, the mutant stumbled back into the corner of the room, dragging the metal table with him and knocking over the chair.

“This isn’t the 21st Century, scumbag!  With your mutations you are not getting any trial!  The person who mutated you not only corrupted you with power, but also took away your future!  The people of each neighborhood take one look at you and then you have CC Military crawling up in your business.  You either tell me who mutated you or I’ll save the military’s trouble by just ending it right now!” Deadlock shouted.

“Okay! Okay!  I got the mutation from a guy named Alexander!  They called him Big Al!  I never actually met the man in person, I just got the injections from one of his contacts!  I swear I don’t know where he is!” the mutant shouted back in pure fear.

“Alright.  The guys here will take you to the hospital to pick at your mutations.  Afterwards you should probably see a therapist…or a bartender…or both…” Deadlock holstered his gun, “Thank you for the info.  Have a nice day!” Deadlock waved back at the mutant as he left the interrogation room.

After closing the door, he was faced with an impressed Winston and a completely shocked Annika.  They stayed silent as Deadlock sighed and stared back at the mutant through the one-way glass.

“Wait was that it?” Annika asked.

“Yep,” the detective shuffled his collar, “Al, anything on this guy?” Deadlock asked Winston.

“I’ll check the data files.  I do remember someone ran an operation with him near East Road.  Maybe you can take the rookie out for her first run,” Winston smiled.

“Sure, sure.  East Road is halfway across the city, maybe I can cover a few more things with her.”

Annika and Deadlock shared glances.  Winston entered the interrogation room with the mutant while the other two went off to East Road.  The rain was still pouring outside, the signature weather of the city.  There was barely any traffic that day on the highways.  Annika looked away from the detective, trying to avoid conversation.

“So.  Tell me a bit about yourself,” Deadlock spoke up.

“O-Oh, um.  I…what did you want me to tell you?” Annika asked.

“Where are you from, family, how’d you make it into Anarchy Control?”

“I…I’m from Province 62, my mother and father were killed in the 62 Bombing.  Terrorists struck the city, so I moved here with my brothers hoping to find a new start.  I graduated from this city’s academy about a few months ago, I went into Anarchy Control because they had good detectives and officers like you-“

Annika was interrupted by Deadlock hitting the brakes.

“Listen, newbie.  I’m not the best teacher, I’m not the best older brother or father-figure or whatever you look up to me to be as.  I’m sorry if I’m flat out rude or do things recklessly.  Just warning you now, I will stop at nothing to get the bad guys off these streets and to keep the city safe, alright?”  Deadlock looked at her as she nodded back.  “One more thing, what was the weapon the academy assigned to you?”  he asked as he began driving again.

Graduates of Cohld City Police Academies are assigned weapons designed on three factors: their mental state, accuracy, and their final score on their graduating test.  These weapons consisted of tazers, magnum revolvers, handguns, and in extremely rare cases; a fully automatic PDW (Personal Defense Weapon).  Deadlock’s score had exceeded most other police officers and he had received a prestigious revolver passed down from the former detective he had replaced.

“I was assigned a tazer, sir.”  Annika revealed a battery-charged electrical disperser.

“Was the test really that difficult?” Deadlock rolled his eyes.

“With all do respect, sir, it’s not easy for everyone…” Annika put away her tazer in a smaller holster similar to Deadlock’s under her arm in her gray coat.

“No worries, I’ll look out for you as long as you have my back,” the detective cracked a smile.

“Right turn.  Alexander is right around the corner,”  the ominous voice spoke in the back of Deadlock’s head.

He made an aggressive right turn just barely dodging a taxi cab and sliding along the rainy asphalt.  Annika held onto her armrest trying to keep her head in place.

Deadlock turned to Memoir Street, twenty miles away from East Road.  This area of the city was known for being incredibly worn down and left to be a dump, a perfect place for gang activity.

“Building to our left.  First floor.”

“Sir?  What are we doing here?” Annika asked.

“Al is in this building, we’re going to pay him a visit,” Deadlock smiled.

“How are you so sure?  Sir, the mutant didn’t tell us he’d be here!” the rookie said worriedly.

“If you want to stay here you can, just call for backup the minute you hear gunshots.  Keep your eyes open, this might be your first firefight!” Deadlock got out of his car and rushed into the building, his revolver at hand.


The detective kicked down the door to a worn down brick building.  The wooden floors rotted from its bright brown color to a light decaying gray.  Deadlock wiped the brim of his fedora and straightened it out.  His eyes scanned around the living room; everything looked usual for a derelict of an apartment.  Toppled over dining room tables, a rotting couch, rats and rodents scurrying across the floor; everything was what normal would be.

Deadlock sighed.  He had realized that he was getting careless with his work.  His ambition always counteracted his professionalism.  The entire department knew that, they knew he had to be looked after.  The detective acknowledged this fact, it didn’t help to realize that he had left his new rookie in the car outside without even informing her of the detour.

“Are you going to keep bashing at yourself?” the voice inquired.

“I knew there was more to this.  Who are you and what are you doing inside my head?” Deadlock asked calmly.

A few old papers rustled in from the kitchen of the bottom floor.  Deadlock kept his eye on them, but turned away as soon as he heard footsteps behind him.  Nothing.  When he turned back, he was faced with a taller man in a black suit with a dark blue tie.  His eyes were a shining gold and his hair a distinct combination of black and gray.  Deadlock stared for a moment, memorizing his face and its structure, how his posture was, and even managed to get a hint of his emotion.  Doing so allowed him to track this man again anywhere among crowds of people.

“I’m someone sent to keep an eye on someone like you.  You are in no means in any trouble, but, my superiors required me to keep constant checkups on you.  Do not be alarmed, I’d rather assist than hinder,” the man said in a slow, monotone voice.

“What’s your name?  How did you get into my head?” the detective aimed his handgun at the mysterious man.

“My name, well, isn’t really important.  I am a friend.  As I said before, I am only here to observe.  If you really must need a name, you may call me Detective R.”

“Which police department do you serve?  Why am I even talking to you!” Deadlock holstered his gun and rushed to the door.

“I only serve the greater good.  Whoever the superior is..  Now, the superiors are taking your favor.  The foe known as Alexander is located on East Road talking to one of your police officers.  If you request any assistance at all, feel free to ask me when you do happen to notice.  Good luck.”

Deadlock rushed out the front door and back into his car.  Annika was asleep leaning next to the passenger door.  The detective smiled as he put on his seat belt and started the engine.  His assumed to be hallucination claimed that Al was at East Road at this instant so he sped up his car.

Annika slowly awoke after one of the turns, “Huh? What’s going on?”

“Thanks for listening for any gunshots.  Next time fill up on some caffeine or something, can’t have you sleeping on the job,” Deadlock explained as he focused on driving.

“I’m sorry, sir.  I didn’t get any sleep last night.  My first day on the job, not to mention one of the most dangerous, it makes you lose some Zs,” the rookie rubbed her eyes.

“Well, might wanna hold on tight.  Speeding plus rain does not equal smooth driving,” he said as his car slid across the shining asphalt of the road.

“Get your tazer ready.  There might be some surprises ahead,” Deadlock warned as he activated his car’s police sirens.

In a matter of three minutes, Detective Deadlock had dodged traffic and sped through stoplights reaching East Road.  He slowed down and turned off the sirens as soon as he saw several men unloading a truckload of wooden crates into a warehouse.  The detective turned a corner and parked.  He and the rookie got out and peeked around the corner of a concrete building.

“See anything out of the ordinary?” Deadlock asked.

“Not something too noticeable, sir.  What am I suppose to be looking for?” Annika inquired.

“Didn’t the academy teach you anything?” Deadlock sighed, “Look at what those guys are unloading.”

Annika noticed the crates were unmarked.  One of the men tripped and dropped one of the boxes.  The top fell open revealing multiple machine guns and rifles.

“There are no military outposts here.  Get your tazer ready and make sure they don’t get a shot on you,” Deadlock hid his magnum in his trench coat’s side pocket.

The two CCPD officers approached the three men.  Two were bald, well-built men while the third was a scrawny-looking, long haired teenager.  One of the bald men picked up a rifle the minute he noticed Deadlock.

“Evening, gentlemen,” Deadlock spoke softly.

“Is there a problem, officer?” the teenager noticed Annika’s police badge on her belt.

“May we ask what you’re loading here?”

“Just some…stage props, you know, musicals and plays and stuff like that,” the other bald man explained.

“Then you wouldn’t mind if we just took a look, right?” Deadlock reached for one of the rifles from the opened crate.

The first man revealed the rifle and aimed it directly at the officers and prepared to fire.

The sky is gray; the sun is just barely peeking over the horizon. There is a cold bite in the air; icy winds whip throughout the campus. A light fog lingers in the hallways and some of the school’s night-lights are still on. Solitary footsteps echo off the empty walls as a group of 27 students meet in B-9 for the Academic Decathlon.

For these students, waking up before dawn and arriving at school before teachers was normal; all throughout the 2014-2015 school year they would make the same journey to class every single early morning. Their advisor, Mrs. Menter-Hartman, specifically selected each of these students to represent Corona High School at the 2015 Riverside County Academic Decathlon.

(from left to right) Zachary Devereux, Nicholas Sanchez, Carlos Barron, Vicky Le, Mrs. Menter-Hartman, Christian Vargas, Nazibah Chowdhury, Nicholas Stabile, Garrett Wilson, Alejandro Escalante
(from left to right) Zachary Devereux, Nicholas Sanchez, Carlos Barron, Vicky Le, Mrs. Menter-Hartman, Christian Vargas, Nazibah Chowdhury, Nicholas Stabile, Garrett Wilson, Alejandro Escalante
(from left to right) Front Row: Sahill Patel, Alejandro Escalante, Nazibah Chowdhury, Madelaine Nguyen, Destiny (FIND LAST NAME), Mrs. Menter-Hartman, Vicky Le, Stacy Jo.  Second Row: Eddie (FIND LAST NAME), Daniel Corona, Nicholas Sanchez, Nicholas Stabile, Garrett Wilson, Zachary Devereux, Alfredo Reza.  Back Row: Yasha (FIND LAST NAME), Kevin Jackson, Rahim Lateef (?), Christian Vargas, Carlos Barron
(from left to right) FRONT ROW: Sahill Patel, Alejandro Escalante, Nazibah Chowdhury, Madelaine Nguyen, Destiny Aguirre, Mrs. Menter-Hartman, Vicky Le, Stacy Jo. SECOND ROW: Eddie Romo Daniel Corona, Nicholas Sanchez, Nicholas Stabile, Garrett Wilson, Zachary Devereux, Alfredo Reza. BACK ROW: Yasha Panahi Pour, Kevin Jackson, Rahim Latif Christian Vargas, Carlos Barron
(from left to right) Front Row: Sahill Patel, Madelaine Nguyen, Destiny (FIND LAST NAME), Nazibah Chowdhury.  Second Row: Alejandro Escalante, Stacy Jo, Vicky Le, Garrett Wilson.  Third Row: Eddie (FIND LAST NAME), Alfredo Reza, Nicholas Sanchez, Daniel Corona.  Fourth Row: Yasha (FIND LAST NAME), Nicholas Stabile, Christian Vargas, Carloss Barron.  Fifth Row: Raheem Lateef (?), Zachary Devereux.  Top Row: Mrs. Menter-Hartman.
(from left to right) FRONT ROW: Sahill Patel, Madelaine Nguyen, Destiny Aguirre,, Nazibah Chowdhury. SECOND ROW: Alejandro Escalante, Stacy Jo, Vicky Le, Garrett Wilson. THIRD ROW: Eddie Romo, Alfredo Reza, Nicholas Sanchez, Daniel Corona. FOURTH ROW: Yasha Panahi Pour,, Nicholas Stabile, Christian Vargas, Carloss Barron. FIFTH ROW: Raheem Latif, Zachary Devereux. TOP ROW: Mrs. Menter-Hartman.

The Academic Decathlon is an annual competition in which students gather to compete in a multitude of events. Each year, the Academic Decathlon adopts a new topic to be the focus of that year’s competition. For the 2015 competition, the topic was “New Alternatives in Energy: Ingenuity and Innovation.”

The first leg of the competition took place on the last Saturday of January. On that day, the students dressed in their best attire, wrote an essay that pertained to this year’s topic, gave a prepared, four-minute speech concerning anything the student desired, and then delivered an impromptu speech based on prepared topics. The second leg of the decathlon was held on the first Saturday of February, and it was then that the students sat in the auditorium of Heritage High School and were tested on the Math, Literature, Science, Music, Art, Social Studies, and Economics, after those tests—and after a much-deserved break—all of the teams (nineteen in total, with Corona represented by two teams) gathered in Heritage High School’s gymnasium to partake in the Super Quiz..

The Super Quiz is an event in which students are shown a projected question related to any one of the subject areas and are given seven seconds to answer each question. The Super Quiz is divided into three divisions (as are each school’s team) according to Grade Point Averages. Varsity students have a GPA between 0 and 2.999, Scholastic students have a GPA between 3 and 3.749, and Honors students have a GPA between 3.75 and 4.00 or above. For the Super Quiz, all students competed only against others that were of their same division and their scores were categorized accordingly.

After a total of 36 questions, the Super Quiz was over. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators soon thereafter gathered in Heritage High School’s theater for the awards ceremony.

The night didn’t appear to be going in Corona’s favor. The majority of the medals that were awarded for each specific competition and for each GPA division were won by either Hemet High School (the reining champions), West Valley High School (last year’s runners up), or to Elsinore High School (who came in third place last year). By the end of the awards ceremony, Corona’s two teams (Red and Gold) had only accumulated two medals, Nazibah Chowdhury (senior) from Red Team and Madelaine Nguyen (junior) from Gold Team each won gold medals for their superb essays. Due to Corona’s blatant lack of awards, it appeared as though their top-five aspirations were not meant to be. It was generally agreed upon by Corona’s students that a fifth place finish would be ideal and would be the most realistic finish.

However, that was not the case.

Beaumont High School finished as the fifth best team in the county. As Beaumont cheered down the aisle and climbed the stage to collect their trophy, the Panthers were disheartened. Watching the students of Beaumont raise their trophy over their heads was akin to watching the Panthers’ hopes and aspirations ground into dust before their eyes. As the students of Corona hung their heads in shame and thought of the somber tension that would surely follow on the bus ride home, the host of the awards ceremony, once again alone on stage, stood at his podium, leaned closer to the microphone, and uttered words that would forever thereafter ring in the ears of the Panthers.

“And the fourth place team for the 2015 Riverside County Academic Decathlon is Corona High School Red Team.”

In a state of shock and disbelief, the Panthers of Corona’s Red team made their way to the stage and raised a trophy of their own so high above their heads it almost seemed prepared to pierce the boundaries of the heavens.

Even though the typical trifecta of schools dominated the top three (West Valley claimed first, Elsinore trailed at second, and Hemet fell from grace to a third place finish), all of Corona’s Panthers, from both the Red team and the Gold team, rejoiced at their unprecedented success. Because even though it was Corona’s Red Team that won fourth place, the students from the Gold Team were just as influential in Corona’s success. It is for that reason that the trophy belongs not to just the Red Team, nor to just Mrs. Menter-Hartman, but to all the students and teachers and faculty who were a part of Corona High School’s Academic Decathlon program.

Reflecting on Corona’s success, senior Vicky Le, who was in her fourth and final year in the Academic Decathlon, stated that “[Winning fourth place] was a huge surprise but a very good one. I was happy to know that all of the hard work we had put into this throughout the year had paid off in the best way possible. I’m happy we were able to be so successful in my last year competing and I know that Corona will only improve in the years to come.”

Gold Team Captain Stacy Jo, a senior, commented on how both Gold and Red team performed: “I’m just really glad that everyone got the chance to experience something so amazing and unique. Although we didn’t place, I feel as if the gold team really bonded over the year and especially through competing. I’m also really proud of Maddie for winning first place! I’m also so proud of Red Team for winning fourth place, and it’s great that their talents were able to shine brightly. Rather than separating the team into Gold and Red, we’re just Corona High School’s academic decathlon. We’re one team and practically one giant, nerdy family. I’m glad that I was blessed with Acadec and my fellow teammates this year!”

Words like these show just how much of a close-knit group this zero period class is. On a typical day, after the studying and competing is done, these students can be seen conversing and laughing and enjoying one another’s company. At the end of the day, these students come to this early morning class every day not so much for the thrill of competition or for the allurement of trophies, but more for the community that has been created in B-9. Corona’s Academic Decathlon is more than a club and far more than just a class, it’s a microcosm wherein students from all ages, all grade levels, all cliques, and all backgrounds come together to work together, to compete together, to persevere together. Not only has this organization found much success in the county competition, but it has also allowed for some of the school’s brightest students to gather together in an organization they can thrive in.

The sunflowers swing from side to side,
doing a giddy little jive.
The wind blows the swaying green,
None the same the flowers swing.

To eyes of those none the wiser
know not who’s behind the flowers fire;
put easily in a hypnotic trance.

The sunflowers swing from side to side,
doing a giddy little jive.
The dance forming to he winds new trend,
every fluttering leaf and bending stem.

Try as they might to stand stiff and tall,
all circum to the wind and fall.
Like a surfer on an ocean wave,
Choosing to ride out the force a giant made.

The sunflowers swing from side to side,
doing a giddy little jive.
Then Autumn sweeps through the fields,
Marking each flower with its own brown brand

A process all call natural
and although this is factual.
What outside force killed the fun?
Or were the flowers the ones who had it done.