Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

After months of sequestration due to the Wuhan/COVID19 Pandemic of 2020, my wife and I decided to catch a movie. Sadly, however, the feature that we chose to see was Wonder Woman 1984. I'll provide more details in a moment, but for now let me summarize my opinion of this motion picture: I would give it a C- for a grade, although on a scale of 1 to 10 I'd probably give this sorry cinematic offering a 3.

ww84-w-logo-rating

WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!! (You have been warned.)

As I just mentioned, there are several major spoilers in this post, so quit reading if you haven't seen it. With that being said, here is my list of gripes from this thoroughly pedestrian movie:

  • The film was easily 30 minutes too long. Part of the cause for that excessive running time are the numerous and boring fight scenes that drag on and on and on and on and on and on...
  • Bringing back Chris Pine's "Steve Trevor" character was a ridiculous plot point, and served no purpose other than getting Chris Pine back on the screen.
  • Seriously, Wonder Woman - it's been 70 years since Steve Trevor died and you come from a land where men are unnecessary; you really need to move on already. Pining over Chris Pine (pun intended) just makes you look weak.
  • Chris Pine's fashion show of 80s-era clothing had no point whatsoever and could easily have been cut to reduce screen length. And the fanny pack should have served a real purpose and/or saved the day at some point during the movie - that would have actually been funny, which is probably why DC missed that opportunity.
  • What happened to the hapless dolt when Steve Trevor took over his body? How did he come back? Does he know that someone else was using his body for several days while injuring it in fights and having sex while using it? Isn't this more than immoral and really kind of gross?
  • Wait - Wonder Woman can fly now? With no wings? And no invisible airplane? Who writes this crap?
  • There is NO WAY that a jet fighter can fly from the USA to Egypt on a single tank of gas - that plane would have gone down over the ocean and both Wonder Woman & Steve Trevor would have been dead and the movie would have been over.
  • Somehow DC hasn't figured out Marvel's way to make an action movie with superheroes that has actual humor, so every attempt at a joke falls flat and the trailer for the movie steals all the best scenes.
  • This movie was another offering from DC where the entire world is largely destroyed, and and yet no one is held responsible and everyone's lives are happy again in the very next scene.
  • 1984 had to have been chosen as the year when this movie takes place due to George Orwell's famous novel of the same name, but ultimately this film has nothing to do with Orwellian themes, and as a result its title and setting are nothing more than a cheap stunt at getting butts in seats with instant name familiarization and periodic 80s nostalgia.
  • Whatever happened to the "Dreamstone" after Pedro Pascal's "Max Lord" character renounced his wish? That was a MAJOR plot hole.
  • Wait - there's a broadcasting system that can simultaneously take over all of the communication systems across the entire planet?
  • Somehow Wonder Woman was able to convince the ENTIRE PLANET to renounce their wishes at the same time? And for some reason they all spoke English? I have three words for that: Deus Ex Machina.
  • A far more realistic ending would have been for the world to revert itself after Max Lord renounced his wish.

I could go on and on about all of the major issues that I found with this film, but I should end my thoughts about my experience seeing this movie by saying one thing positive: the Red Vines licorice that I consumed during the movie was great.

Decorating Christmas cookies with the family

My wife and I spend a happy afternoon baking, decorating, and sharing Christmas sugar cookies with our family. That being said, can you guess which of these cookies was decorated by me?

christmas-cookies

PS - My granddaughter chose the cookie that I decorated, so I feel vindicated. Of course, that cookie spoiled her dinner, so... my work here as a grandparent is done.

Winking smile

Summarizing how we feel about 2020 with RGB

As we draw close to the end of this particularly difficult year, I think that most people's attitudes for 2020 can best be represented by the following shade of red...

rgb(239,32,32)

(If you don't understand the meaning, don't bother asking...)

Coloring Historical Photographs - December 22nd Edition

A friend of mine posted a link to an article titled Deconstructing the Reconciliation Narrative of the Civil War, which was a fascinating article that presented an interesting look at a difficult time in the United States' troubled past: the period of Reconciliation that followed the post-Civil War Reconstruction. If you're into history as I am, it might be worth your time to read.

That being said, the article contained a wonderful photograph of General George H. Thomas that I thought would make a great candidate for colorization. With that in mind, here are the before and after views of that photo.

General George H. Thomas.before-and-after

One interesting item of note about the final image: as I have always done in the past, I had edited all of the imperfections from the original photo; the scratches, discolorations, tears, etc. However, the fully-restored image of General Thomas over a flat background looked so unnatural that I decided to overlay my "finished" image over the original to add back a few imperfections. In the end, I think this looked photo looked far better with a few problems in it.

25 Years at Microsoft

Today marks my official 25-year anniversary with Microsoft. I've had a blast, and I've had the privilege to take part in some pretty amazing projects. I can honestly say that several of the products that I helped design are running on millions of systems around the globe, and I worked with some amazing people to bring those ideas to life.

These past years have been great, and I hope that I have many more to come.

Robert_25_years.edited


POSTSCRIPT:

If you'd like to see some of my personal history with the company, here are several videos that I recorded for Microsoft over the years.

Refusing to Wear a Mask is not Fighting for Freedom

The following image has been making the rounds on social media…

Anti-Mask-Self-Deception

This image has prompted me to ask the anti-maskers who are still promoting this anti-scientific drivel the following series of questions:

First of all - are you for real? Refusing to wear a mask is somehow fighting for freedom? I'm pretty sure that our forefathers and ancestors had an entirely different opinion of what constitutes "fighting for freedom."

Next, just whom are you fighting against? There's no oppressive regime here; there are no dictators, no despots. The CDC - which is an organization that is ACTUALLY fighting for something tangible (your health) - has recommended that people wear masks; but it's largely your peers who would like you to wear a mask, and wash your hands often, and keep your distance as much as possible. All of these simple actions will reduce the spread of disease during this pandemic.

Let's reexamine the original proposition for a moment; this image claims that you're "fighting for freedom," but for which freedoms are you fighting? You still have freedom of speech. You're still free to travel. You're still free to buy the things you need, to pursue the career of your choosing, to marry whom you want, to live where you choose, to own your own home, to start your own business; you have a host of freedoms at your disposal that the downtrodden masses in other areas of the world can't even dream of having. In fact, as I look at the Bill of Rights in the Constitution, I can't seem to find any freedoms that you're actually in danger of losing.

Let's step back a bit further - just how are you "fighting" for the freedom of others? By choosing to not to wear a mask? I'll grant you that abdicating your moral responsibilities in society and endangering the health of others might be a cheap form of protest where there's little chance that any harm will come to you, but I'd hardly count that as "fighting for freedom."

On the contrary, I come from a family with five generations of military service, and I personally served 8 years in the Army. At the end of my tours, I was able to return home, but some of my friends weren't so lucky. I have stood on enemy soil and made hard choices and did things that meant some bad guys didn't go home to their families, but because I did my job some of my comrades were able to make it home, too. In other words, I know exactly what "fighting for freedom" really means, and the fact that someone would somehow equate the genuine sacrifices of others with their illogical and irrational fears through the measly act of refusing to wear a mask is disgusting and insulting.

So let me make this clear to all the anti-maskers out there: you are not fighting - because there is no enemy that you are up against. You are not preserving freedom - because no freedoms are being suppressed. You are simply being asked to adopt a few simple practices in order to safeguard the health of your community. If you cannot manage to set aside your unwarranted paranoia and step up to your responsibilities as a productive member of society, then yes - I kinda think you're acting like a disease spreading, defiant, imbecile.

That being said, stop claiming that you're fighting for freedom - because you're not.

Anti-mask Absurdity Strikes Again

Over the past several months, I've posted a few blogs about the silliness of the anti-maskers who have remained steadfast in their ignorance of basic science. (See Just Shut Up and Wear the Darn Mask and Numbers Never Lie for two examples.) Thankfully, most of these intellectually-challenged, anti-mask simpletons went silent on the topic of mask wearing when the election came to town, because they needed to devote all of their time and efforts to promote one candidate or other. (Although, to be honest - it was generally just one of the candidates; but that's a different discussion for a different day.)

Anyway, the anti-maskers' silence had lulled me into a false sense of complacency, wherein I thought that all of their anti-mask foolishness had finally gone the way of the dodo bird. Alas, that was too much to hope for; and so it was with a sorrowful heart that I read the following article that one of the unwavering anti-maskers that I know posted to Social Media:

CDC Accidentally Admits Masks Won't Protect You From Coronavirus

Really? Are we still having this argument? Have all of the weak-minded anti-maskers learned nothing this year? Apparently not, I'm afraid. And with that in mind, let's examine this latest claim.

First of all, no - the CDC did not "accidentally admit" to anything. The CDC has said many, many times that:

"Masks offer some protection to you and are also meant to protect those around you, in case you are unknowingly infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. A mask is NOT a substitute for social distancing. Masks should still be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart."
(See https://bit.ly/3oeUdGf)

Masks are not 100% effective, and no one ever claimed that they were. Masks are just one of several deterrents that people should be using; e.g. masks, social distancing, washing hands, quarantining people who are infected, etc. In other words, if you're wearing a mask and you let someone with COVID19 lick your face, then you're probably going to catch their disease. However, if you happen to meet someone who was infected and you were wearing a mask, and they were wearing a mask, and you stayed six feet apart, and you washed your hands after you met them, then you probably aren't going to catch their disease. That's the same message that has been circulating for months: masks serve a purpose, but they are not a magic cure.

With that in mind, I have a public service announcement for all of the anti-maskers out there: please, please, please - for the love of God and all that is holy - please stop posting ridiculous anti-mask propaganda. The only thing that you achieve by promoting anti-scientific drivel is that you reduce everyone else's estimation of your grasp on common sense, and you help reinforce the Darwinian theory that pandemics are randomly introduced by nature to thin the herd of its weak-minded members.

The Downside of Kickstarter Part II

A little over two years ago I wrote a blog post titled The Downside of Kickstarter, wherein I described a Kickstarter campaign that was a deliberate ruse to scam investors. I won't go into all the details, because you can read that post in its entirety if you're curious, but here's the summary: it's pretty easy for a swindler to create a Kickstarter campaign for a startup company with no intention of providing any reward for his/her investors. (To this day I fail to realize why these hucksters are not guilty of mail fraud, wire fraud, and/or conspiracy to commit fraud.) But there is one thing that I should repeat from my previous post about the way that Kickstarter works for investors:

"Participation on Kickstarter is simple: you pick a project you think looks appealing, and then you choose the level of your pledge to help bring that project to life. Depending on how much you give, you generally get something in return - which is typically the completed product before it is released to market."

Having said that, here are the details for another situation that took place recently. A few years ago I pledged to a campaign that was seeking to create a new type of mirror for bicyclists (see Sehen for the details). As an avid cyclist who has nearly been killed on several occasions by careless motorists, I was intrigued by this company's mirror design. In the interests of full disclosure - I received my "backer reward" a long time ago, and I must admit - the Sehen mirror was a much better design than other mirrors that I had tried. However, I received my reward so long ago that I thought the campaign had ended successfully, and I wasn't aware that I was one of the minority of investors who received a reward.

With that in mind, I was somewhat shocked when I saw the following video on YouTube from Arkady Borys, who founded the startup company that created the cycling mirror.

Despite the fact that Arkady's video was the most-detailed explanation that I have seen for any Kickstarter campaign of where the money went and what went wrong, several of his backers were still screaming for "refunds" and calling this a "scam." With that in mind, I wanted to offer some additional perspectives about what it means to back a Kickstarter campaign.

As I have explained elsewhere, Kickstarter is not a product catalog - it is a business investment. When you are pledging for a campaign, you are not buying a product - you are investing in a startup company that is attempting to bring a new product to market. Each startup offers several rewards to their backers/investors, with the understanding that each backer/investor will receive their rewards ONLY if the company succeeds. When backers submit pledges for a campaign, they agree in the terms and conditions that they might not receive a backer reward if the company fails, and if so - the manufacturer is only required to provide an explanation of what happened.

Think of it this way: let's say that you were walking by a new restaurant that was still being built, and you decided to stop by for a few minutes and give the new owners $50 to help them get started after they promised that they would try to serve you a free lunch some day in the future. However, their business folded before they could make good on their promise, and they sent you a text message to let you know why they wouldn't be able to honor their part of the deal. That sort of situation would essentially be the same thing as backing a Kickstarter campaign for a legitimate startup company that fails to bring their product to market despite their best efforts.

In the specific case of the Sehen campaign, backers weren't buying a product from Arkady; backers were helping Arkady launch a company. He tried, and he failed. Unfortunately, that happens every day with small startups.

For what it's worth, I have invested in several Kickstarter campaigns, and a few haven't come to fruition - that happens from time to time. In a few of those situations, the startup provided some sort of cheesy "We ran out of money" explanation, and that's all that the backers will ever see of their investment. On the contrary, the explanation that Arkady provided in his video was extremely detailed, and he takes full ownership for every bad decision that he made. In addition, he provides a great deal of behind the scenes information about the percentages of funds that were absorbed by Kickstarter and the other companies that were involved with launching in his campaign; that information was extremely useful for me to consider when I am deciding whether to back other campaigns in the future. Arkady's backers should be thankful that he took the time to provide them with as much information as he did, because it was far more information than he was required to give, and his video was a great deal more informative than other failed campaigns.

As I read the comments that were posted to Kickstarter after Arkady posted his video to YouTube, there were a few backers who were demanding that Arkady should refund any pledge funds that weren't used. Those people obviously didn't pay attention to the video; Arkady very clearly explained that 50% of the pledge funds were consumed by companies that were associated with launching the campaign (think of those as startup fees). After Kickstarter and the other campaign-related companies took their cuts, Arkady's company was given the remaining 50%, which was quickly spent on production costs for the product. Once Arkady's company ran out of money, they took a loan to keep going. Then another loan. Then another loan. In the end, there were was no money left to return to investors; all of the pledge money was spent a long time ago. With that in mind, my advice to backers who are still demanding that any unspent funds be returned to investors would be for them to spend 30 minutes of their time to watch Arkady's video and pay close attention to the details that he provides, because he explains everything.

In closing, I truly feel sorry for any backers/investors who did nor receive their rewards; and I don't mean to sound patronizing since I received mine. However, I think Arkady went above and beyond with regard to letting his backers/investors know exactly why they may never receive their rewards. It is unfortunate that this situation happened, but that is one of the risks that backers must be willing to take when investing in a startup business, and the losses that Arkady encountered are part of the risks that entrepreneurs must be willing to take when starting a new business.


POSTSCRIPT:

There is a sad epilogue to the story that that I told in my original Downside of Kickstarter post: after all of the public outcry that took place in the wake of that scam, it appears that the person who was behind the fraud, Brent Morgan, took his life. That news was extremely sad for me to hear. I will admit, I wanted "justice," but only in the sense that I wanted Mr. Morgan to face criminal charges in a court of law for defrauding his investors. However, it appears that his guilt was overwhelming for him, and I truly feel sorry for his family.

Flight Simulator 2020: First Impressions

I've been a fan of Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) since it was first introduced. (Or even earlier if you count SubLogic Flight Simulator that preceded it.) I have owned every version of MSFS, and I usually rushed out to buy each version when it hit the stores.

flight-simulator-box-shots-mosaic

I would have to say, though, that my favorite version had been Flight Simulator X (FSX), which was released in 2006 - the levels of detail and realism were amazing. Unfortunately, FSX was the final version of MSFS. Microsoft chose to unceremoniously kill off MSFS in 2009, and like every other MSFS fanboy, I was quite upset to see it fade into the sunset. There were a few failed attempts to breathe life into the franchise via Microsoft's Flight and Steam's rerelease of Flight Simulator for their gaming platform, but each offering fell far short of the goal.

fsx-box

Needless to say, I was thrilled when I heard the news that Microsoft was reviving the series with Flight Simulator 2020, which promised unbelievable video quality and unparalleled realism. As I had done with every previous version of MSFS, I bought FS2020 on the day of its release and installed it immediately. As soon as the installation was done, I launched the application to see - nothing. MSFS displayed a message to inform me that my GeForce 9800 GTX video card was not powerful enough to run FS2020.

This was disappointing, to say the least, but I wasn't too worried - because I had already purchased an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 video adapter for my computer. However, I had too many tasks competing for my limited time, so I had to delay the installation of my new video card. That being said - today was the day! I powered down my system, swapped out the old video card for the new card, and rebooted. As soon as the operating system was up and running, I launched FS2020 and was excited to see - nothing. Well, not exactly nothing; what I saw were two error messages:

msfs2020-connection-lost-please-ensure-you-have-an-internet-connection
Connection Lost - Please ensure you have an active internet
connection, and check the forums for additional information.

-and-

msfs2020-access-to-the-content-servers-is-unavailable
Access to the content servers is currently unavailable. Please
ensure you have an active internet connection, and try again later.
Please visit https://flightsimulator.zendesk.com/ for additional information.

Unfortunately, those error messages sent me into an endless loop that always resulted in my seeing these same messages again and again; and since there was no other way to exit the application, I had to hard kill FS2020 using the Windows Task Manager. I followed the advice from the error messages and I checked the forums, where I found the following two threads that described my exact situation:

I tried everything that was suggested in both of those threads (as well as suggestions from several other forum threads and blog posts), but so far - no luck. I still have yet to see anything from MSFS2020, but I'll keep looking.

Annoyed

With that in mind, here are my first impressions of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020:

  • Game Experience = I have no idea. I have yet to see the actual game.
  • Installation Experience = terrible. The minimum requirements are excessive, and when an end user can't get a game to run as soon as they're done installing it, that's a catastrophic failure for which the game designer is solely responsible.
  • Troubleshooting Experience = terrible. End users are pretty much on their own when something fails. Microsoft's single troubleshooting recommendation is for users to check the forums, which is way below par for a major software product from a major software company.

On a related side note, I installed MSFS2020 using the Microsoft Store application for Windows 10. That app is relatively easy to use, but it could be a lot better in my opinion; I often find myself highly annoyed at how difficult it is to find apps that I know have been released and install them.