Saturday, December 30, 2017

Bitcoin is quite a bit stupid ..

You’re saying to yourself,

“I wish I had bought Bitcoin a year ago, or even a month ago”

  • Bitcoin is one of the biggest scams to ever hit the internet. Yes, even more so than the Nigerian Prince wanting to send you part of his fortune. 

Bitcoin has zero value, and possibly even less considering how you can spend it. It also has no intrinsic value - you can neither sell it on the street or wear it or posses it in molded metal or cut gem form. It is neither antique nor backed by any amount of security. It also does not bear an interest rate. It cannot be collected like a toy or trading card and it’s history of who owned it isn’t visible.

It’s use and explanation is so convoluted that not even the most serious IT or hacker truly understands it. It was created in the underground by Satoshi Nakamoto. Here’s your biggest red flag. The creator just cashed out all the Bitcoin he owned. Ponder for a moment that a known hacker created a currency, and then just cashed out for millions. Bitcoin is headed for a complete crash - possibly even elimination.

Financial Investment Firm, Morgan Stanley on Bitcoin’s true value. “We remain unconvinced that Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency has any fundamental value and therefore, its price is largely driven by the supply and demand for the digital currency,” There is an infinite supply. Nothing has infinite demand. It’s kinda like stupidity personified. Stupidity is in infinite supply. Buying Bitcoin without understanding it is infinite stupidity.

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Movie Review ..

2017 Movie Review ...

2017 will go down as one of the worst box office years in recent memory - not because there were bad movies, but there weren’t a lot of great ones. There were so many movies that I didn’t want to see. IE Matt Damon’s Great Wall, Transformers: Dark Knight, War For The Planet Of The Apes, and Kingsman: Golden Circle, Fifty Shades Darker, XXX. The Fast & The Furious movies have become a see it on TV if it's on kida franchise to me, so I didn't see it either. Then there were movies that just ended up being awful despite hype and decent box office performance. 

There were some bright spots however.

Here are some movies that I saw this year ...

I’ll start off with the movies that were awful.

Atomic Blonde. I wanted this movie to be great. A female James Bond is how it was being promoted. Instead, it had a convoluted plot with unnecessary elements solely to push an R rating. It also had one of the most ridiculous endings in recent memory for a movie - adding 5 different twists in the last 20 minutes of the film. Don’t even bother with this movie even if it’s free on TV.

Logan. I’m a huge fan of Hugh Jackman. I love his version of Wolverine. However, this is the first time I was absolutely bored with the X-men franchise or watching any Marvel movie. The movie was ok, but I’d probably flip past it if I saw it was on TV.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I had been hyping this movie to myself and everyone that I know for years! It looked amazing. I love the visuals of Luc Besson (director) but this movie was near painful to sit through. Artistic? Yes. Visually stunning? Yes. But, story and actor chemistry? Negative numbers.

It. I realize that some reading this don’t like horror movies. I’m not a big horror movie person myself. I do enjoy reading Stephen King and I enjoy seeing the translations of his books into visual cinematography. The original TV miniseries is one of the best adaptations and translations of any author’s work ever made in my opinion. This modern twist on the tale is just hype. It wasn’t scary. It wasn’t well acted like you’ve heard and the clown - the centerpiece of the horror in the story - is downright stupid. In fact, I’d even say that this clown portrayal took away some of my fears of clowns that the original instilled. I ended up leaving the movie in the last 5 minutes it was so bad and I haven’t done that in years.

Mother! This movie is weird. It tries to be good. It was cast well. It’s just it’s director and writer - known for artsy films - tries too hard to be - ummmm - artsy.  

So-so movies:

The Star. This should have been a TV special with 30 minutes cut from it to add space for commercials. Good family movie, but kinda boring in places. Highlight: Kelly Clarkson’s portrayal of a weird lamb.

Kong: Skull Island. Good action. Good Special Effects. But just good; not great. Catch it on DVD or streaming for sure.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie. It was ok. Everything good is in the previews though.

Justice League. It was ok. It was worth it for the Wonder Woman scenes.

DownsizingNo twist. If you’ve seen the preview, you’ve actually seen all the movie minus the boring parts. You’ve also seen more in the previews than the actual movie as several scenes from the previews aren’t in the final cut.

It did bring up some interesting conversation.

Jumanji. A funny sequel that takes itself less seriously than the original. Okay. That’s about the best I can give this movie that I didn’t hate.

John Wick: Chapter 2. If you liked the first movie about a former hit man for hire getting revenge for thugs killing his dog -you’ll like this installment better.

Alien: Covenant.  I’m an Alien franchise fan and huge fan of director and writer Ridley Scott. This entry doesn’t disappoint.

Now, on to the bright spots:

The Greatest Showman

Good inspirational story that a family can watch together. Great visuals. Catchy musical numbers and decent story.

The only exception I take to the movie is that it’s historical fiction. Barnum was an odd looking man (unlike the model Hugh Jackman). He was a crooked person and swindler who later became the poster example of a crooked politician.

I was glad to suspend reality though for this musical. I definitely think this would make a fantastic broadway play. I felt like my movie price was a “twofor” - a good movie and a broadway play with a-list talent.

Beauty and The Beast (live action) - this was a perfect translation of an already perfect animated movie. I enjoyed every moment of it. I was very disappointed in the crowd that tried to destroy the experience with a made up “gay scene”. This is a family movie - well acted.

Wonder Woman. I have to admit, I was in love with Lynda Carter when I was young. I loved watching Wonder Woman and reruns. This movie was a perfect translation. I loved every moment of it. Gal Gadot’s portrayal of Wonder Woman was also one of few bright spots in the first Justice League installment that came out later in the year. I also personally think that my wife looks like Wonder Woman so that helps my like this movie as well. For the record, despite how you heard it pronounced, the correct pronunciation is GAL GUH DOT - not GUH DOE.

Coco. I love Pixar movies. I loved this movie too. I loved the justice in the afterlife this movie had. I loved the visuals. It was long on parts and the film tried too hard to delay the reveal of the twist. I think it’s a hard movie for children to sit patiently through. But, I still put this in my top 5 movies of the year.

Spider-Man Homecoming. This is the Spider-Man movie we’ve been waiting for. Finally a superhero movie that didn’t worry about a backstory. Finally, a superhero movie that put Micheal Keaton as a bad guy. I enjoyed every minute of this movie. I do think it earns a true PG-13 rating though and I’d highly suggest that you stick to that age suggestion before letting kids see this movie.

Murder On The Orient Express. Perfectly acted. Perfectly directed. Perfectly cast. This is a great take on the old Agatha Christie classic. This is a great family movie too - despite the title. 10 and above will love it.

Wonder. Beautiful story adaptation of a great book. Good family movie. Be prepared to cry.

The LEGO Batman Movie. I laughed constantly during this movie. I was pleasantly surprised at how creative and funny this movie was.

Blade Runner 2049. I’m not sure how it’s possible to outdo a cult classic movie, but this movie accomplished that. This movie was better than the original. It honored the original movie, but is a perfect standalone film. Stunning visuals. Great new story. Great political allegory. Perfect acting.

Honorable Mentions:

Thor: Ragnarock. Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Hella was amazing as was Jeff Goldblum’s Gamemaster. This was a fun and funny movie to see.

Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 2. Better than the first. Funny. Adult humor. My only qualm with Marvel movies including The Gaurdians franchise - marketing to very young children - when the content is as close to Rated R as it can get. I think it’s funny and you definitely have to add context and character to the lines, but it’s embarrassing to me to be in the theater with 5-15 year olds - including my daughter and a sex or genitalia joke is cracked. Doesn’t really bother me, just in the back of my mind, I sigh.

I’m giving my movie of the year this year to Star Wars: The Last Jedi 

This ninth installment (chronologically) really transforms the narrative of the franchise and finally aims to take it into a new direction. It made me even more excited to see the next installment.

My full review is here:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII½ The Last Jedi or Star Wars: The Crass Jedi

Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

(No spoilers)

This fanboy was clad head to toe Darth Vader. Darth Vader stocking cap ✔️. Vader T shirt ✔️ Vader underwear ✔️. Vader socks ✔️. Black New balance shoes and black sweatpants ✔️. Schnauzer in crate at home during movie viewing with Darth Vader hoodie ✔️

To me, that is the best element of all the Star Wars movies I’ve been to. It’s one of the few movie franchises where the experience in the theater is still the biggest part of the movie. Hearing everyone talk about the plot, characters, and past movies before the previews start builds you up even further.

I also like that you can be safe taking your entire family to a Star Wars movie (if they can handle intense action) ... as there’s no cursing - well - at least translated into an earth language. There’s romance but no bedroom scenes. There’s no nudity. There is artwork, beautiful designs, humor, and there’s always victory.

So, on to the review ...

I have a hard time ranking the individual installments because they are altogether - one story. I would however rank this episode, which is technically #9 chronologically - at the top. I will say that this part in the series represents a true break from the storytelling. The theme - amongst all characters is both verbally and emotionally stated throughout the movie ... “Let the past die.”

“Let the past die,” is a message to the fanbase more than a character arc though. While this movie brings back more cuteness in the franchise (and you are going to wish porgs were real and in your immediate cuddle after watching) - it also steps into more modern storytelling. The Last Jedi, like Rogue One, aim to show you that there are so many other characters that contribute to the plot. Just like in real life, a lot of times, the real heroes aren’t the ones recognized - meaning to say - sometimes - the same people always get recognized - almost as if that’s part of their role in life. This movie really goes to lengths to show that even the hated, even the cute but unimportant have a role. For instance, Chewbacca needing something to cling to after Han Solo being killed. He finds that bond - and in the most unlikely place - in a very heartwarming way. Rey, finds her place, by realizing that it doesn’t matter why you’re there, it matters what you’re doing WHILE you’re there.

As with all Star Wars allegory - there is the promise in redemption and life  lesson in pacing yourself towards your goals. Throughout The Last Jedi, the theme repeats as it has throughout ... your help is needed in the quickest manner possible, but don’t make decisions in haste because you seek revenge or recognition. 

A lot of reviews seem mixed. As, most of the movies outside the original trilogy have. Go into the movie knowing that you’ll be entertained - and that whether you’re an ardent fan or just an occasional moviegoer - Star Wars is always a fun ride!

I plan to see it at least one more time in theaters and will buy the video to add to my complete collection.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why you should(n’t) care about Net Neutrality ...

I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of coverage today on the topic of Net Neutrality being repealed by the Federal Communications Commission.

What is “Net Neutrality”?

In essence, it portends to be the level playing ground that will keep internet and communication companies competitive by not allowing them to charge more for competitive services or less for their own service.

Example: Charter cable couldn’t (under Net Neutrality regulation) charge a fee to stream Netflix nor could they do what’s known as zero-rate their own service. In other words, they’d have to penalize you or not penalize you for either service. There couldn’t be an imbalance.

What “Net Neutrality”  is NOT ...

Many are framing the argument that it’s the regulation that sticks it to the big corporations like Charter, Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon - that it’s the regulation that was put into place in 2015 by the Obama administration that was your defense - because dang it - these companies are evil and they have bad customer service and forget them!

Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with making evil companies better or any company competitive - like big guys (think Charter) vs small guys (think Northland Cable) in the market.

I used to be a heavy supporter for Net Neutrality. I admit I drank the kool-aid and I fought hard to keep my sugar rush of what I thought was freedom on the internet. I was told there’d be higher prices. I was told there’d be anti-competitive monopolies. Then, in 2014, Verizon did something rather odd. In a move to end their unlimited plans, they decided to limit specific streaming service Netflix for its users. Why? The biggest reason is that Verizon was trying to push its own streaming services up North. Verizon’s biggest cellular customers were also starting to complain about network congestion. So, Verizon made up this ridiculous restriction on their network which wasn’t even at 85% capacity in most areas - in an aim to publicly pronounce “measures to please our customers”.

I thought, “Evil Verizon, I moan git em!” I put a lot of advocacy into fighting FOR Net Neutrality."

Then, a good friend and trusted politician posed this question to me,

“How can you be against socialism, yet for socialistic internet?”

He explained that “a level playing ground” in economics, sociopolitical ideals, or the internet is just the last word to fill in the blank of this sentence...

“Socialism aims to make the playing field level for all people in regards to _______________.”

He asked me to think about that for a week and then call him back.

I’m the kind of guy that is stubborn about facts and sticking to those stubborn facts. However, even with my arsenal of good reasons to support Net Neutrality, I didn’t have an answer for him.

Then, Trump was elected. With him came a new appointment to the FCC named Ajit Pai.

Pai promised that there’d be little to no enforcement of Net Neutrality rules. Immediately, AT&T offered a new unlimited wireless plan to compete against T-Mobile who had been gaining subscriber ground for a few quarters. Then Verizon brought back their unlimited plan. Then AT&T one upped them all by giving a steep discount on DirecTV and giving away AppleTV devices to stream TV and offering free wireless to WiFi connections (tethering) - services that were usually $40 each to add.

My monthly AT&T bill went down over $100 and I was getting many more perks and services.

T-mobile started offering free Netflix and free streaming of Netflix. Last week they announced that they too will start offering a TV streaming service soon - one that will outprice AT&T.

To make my point - all I see is competition. All the talk about there being anti-competitiveness is just that - talk. 

Whatever did we do before 2015 (before Net Neutrality was enacted)? Was the "internet broken" before 2015?

Friday, December 08, 2017

Rustomers: Rus's IT Customer Tales

My name is Rus.

In a former life, I repaired computers - more specifically - Apple computers. From time to time, I still dabble in IT work as a side income.

I say the words, "former life" almost literally as I feel I may have died - several times - come back only to be able to relate these stories to you  ... much like the character in the TV series "Forever". (preview below)

Here is one of many insane stories of customer service nightmares I've had to deal with over the years. I'll add to this story in the weeks to come.

  In the times before Apple Stores were within a reasonable driving distance, I was in pretty high demand. Also, in some cases, certain people, for certain reasons didn't want to go into a large retail establishment - especially a shopping mall.

I used to work in a small computer repair shop as
"The Apple Guy" ← that was kinda my unofficial title.

One day, a tall, rail framed, young white male with a scar through his left eyebrow, diamond stud earrings, a backwards hat that said "Brooklyn" written in graffiti-style cursive above the plastic sizing snaps, acid washed jeans about mid-thigh, jockey underwear showing, a sports jersey style shirt that said "00" and "Brooklyn Dodgers", and a very large gold chain around his neck with what seemed to be a solid gold and diamond studded emblem that said "BOSS" around his neck - came into the shop to ask for a diagnosis of his Apple laptop that wasn't booting.

I should stress that he asked for a diagnosis - and specifically said several times to call him before I made any repairs. The diagnosis was a standard $35 dollar charge - of which - the balance was applied to your final bill should you have our shop repair your computer. I confirmed that the unit was not booting in front of him while he turned the laptop towards me over the customer counter.

I don't want to make this sound stereotypical - but it was. This guy had bloodshot eyes. He had what looked to be heroin bruise holes and belt/tourniquet marks on his arms. Every sentence he spoke began with, "Here it is" like he was about to break dance for me and every sentence ended with a hip hop style, "you know what I'm sayin' yo"

He filled out his paperwork with only a first name and a phone number. 

The first name he wrote?

FIRST   _____BOSS______      LAST _____________

I didn't question the contact information. 

He left the shop and I started immediately into it. As was my standard practice, I used a program called "Diskwarrior" to see if I could diagnose and fix the booting process and then go from there.

Diskwarrior booted the unit fine. I started the Diskwarrior processes. It completed. I restarted the unit. It booted perfectly.

Upon finalizing the boot, several programs/documents were apparently set to launch on startup. A map of a nearby neighborhood popped up that had red dots on it. An excel database popped up with names and phone numbers. A word document with numbers that looked to be balancing a checkbook popped up. I honestly didn't examine it thoroughly, but it was kinda obvious what popped up. It was a narcotics delivery and balance sheet.

I immediately shut down the laptop. I waited a little while then consulted with my colleagues about the situation. We agreed that I would wait 30 more minutes then call him and tell him his computer had been diagnosed and to come back in. I should have followed that exact plan. Instead, being excited that I had fixed the unit in less than 15 minutes and his only charge would be the diagnosis fee - I called him after a little more wait and said ...

"Your computer is fixed."

I was going to add that it was fixed in the process of diagnosis, but I was interrupted with a very loud scream through the phone.

"WHAT!!!!! I told you to diagnose it yo! I told you to diagnose it yo! I said mother[bleep]in' diagnose NOT FIX yo! I'm coming up there!"

I started running all sorts of scenarios through my head. Was he loading bullets into a gun? Was he loading bullets into guns, plural? Was he about to crash his car through the lobby? Should I call 9-1-1?

He arrived. His face was red. He opened the door violently - and if any harder - he'd have ripped it from the hinges like The Terminator after John Connor. He came up to the desk and said,

"Where's my computer yo? I told you to diagnose it yo! That's what I said! You heard me! Diagnose! I didn't say fix! I said call me before you fix it yo! You said, "Yes." I said, "You know what I'm sayin" You said, "Yes" again. What did you do? What DID YOU DO? You fixed it and that's not what I said, you know what I'm sayin'?"

The more he yelled, the more purple his face turned - the more I could see his jugular vein in his neck pulsing.

He continued for another 2-3 minutes - repeating the same thing over and over. All of my colleagues came out. One of my co-workers who was a rather big guy said,

"Look, how about we give you your money back. It looks like the Apple Guy here followed your instructions exactly, it's just that sometimes - the diagnosis fixes a computer. There just wasn't a lot wrong with it. Just something out of place."

He started breathing hard. I could see what looked like the outline of a gun on his hip slightly protruding after each stomach pump from his hard breathing

With not a word further. He put a $50 bill on the table. He stormed out with his laptop like King Kong about to scale the Empire State Building with a girl in his hand.
The End.

More to come soon.