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Where Are All The Good Computer Movies

This is NOT why I became an actor!

– Sir Ian McKellen on filming the Hobbit entirely with a green screen

When filming the original Star Wars (yes, I know it’s called Episode IV, but it wasn’t when I saw it in the theater back in 1977) George Lucas and crew spent hours setting up an elaborate set with models in order to film a few seconds of a rebel ship exploding. The entire movie was filmed the old fashioned way.

Today, computers are as much a part of movies as the actors and the music. All the interesting backgrounds in your favorite Marvel movie, or Lord of The Rings movies are all done via computer, after the acting is complete.

That’s what caused “Gandalf” to complain. The actors who played the dwarves in the film are average height, as is Sir Ian. To make the dwarves appear short and Gandalf to appear extra tall, McKellen had to do all his acting alone with a green screen and the dwarves were added later.

So, CGI, or computer-generated imagery, is the norm for movies today. But, what about movies that feature computers? They are much tougher to do.

It’s easy to pick movies that do a poor job of featuring computers and technology.

It’s easier to set a story 500 years in the future than it is to get it 50 years.

– Sir Arthur C Clarke

Too often movies that try to focus on technology end up aiming too low. Think of the Star Trek universe. When the original series was released September 8, 1966 it was way ahead of its time. The technology was mind boggling. It should be. It represented the year 2265.

Today? That technology isn’t so futuristic.

Here are just a few examples of the cool Star Trek tech that we ended up with courtesy of qz.com.

  • Tablet computers
  • Tricorders
  • Flip communicators (and wearable badge communicators)
  • Hyposprays
  • Voice interface computers
  • Transparent aluminum
  • Bluetooth headsets
  • Google Glass
  • Portable memory
  • GPS
  • Automatic doors
  • Big Screen displays
  • Real-time universal translators
  • Teleconferencing
  • Diagnostic beds

Had Star Trek been a series interested in highlighting cool computers, it would have hopelessly been outdated. The fact that it’s not is because the series wasn’t about technology. Technology was used to tell us stories about human interactions. Star Trek addressed many social issues of the day. It managed to skirt the censors by making the racism about aliens. Literal aliens, not just people in the United States illegally.

Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek imagined it as “Wagon Train to the Stars.” In other words, timeless stories set somewhere else.

Stories have to be able individuals. It’s hard to make computers, real computers, very interesting. I once saw a report about a show where a network was going to broadcast a real hacker breaking into a real computer system.

I’m not sure it ever broadcast. Because, unlike the movies, hacking is boring. Finding an exploit involved typing the same command over and over while changing a single parameter.

I have 13 children. The last two are about to graduate from high school this year. Out of 13, only 1 has decided to follow me into IT/Computer Science.

Apparently he didn’t pay attention to Dad’s job as carefully as his siblings did growing up.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

That’s My Boy

I would kick you out, but I don’t think you could make it on your own.

– My father to the 19 year old me

I moved out the next day. My father was both right and wrong. I wasn’t ready to be on my own. But, I’m not sure we ever are. I went to live with a friend of mine, Mark Whitaker. He’s my oldest friend in the world. We’ve known each other since we were in the 5th grade. We are now well into our fifth decade. My buddy only lived a few blocks from my girlfriend.

I rode busses a lot. I walked. I had a couple of jobs. I was supposed to be saving money for a mission. The good friend/girlfriend living situation didn’t last long. Eventually, a church leader stepped in and found me a place to live with church members, much to my parent’s consternation. I did managed to go off to the Missionary Training Center and serve a two year mission working with deaf people.

My girlfriend didn’t last through my mission. She might have waited if I’d asked her. Instead, I broke it off after a few weeks.

Was I ready?

No.

Did I go anyway?

Yes.

Did it work out?

Eventually.

My son is 18 and plans to attend a local college. He has a job at an auto parts store. No girlfriend. But also no drivers license. He has a bike, but I haven’t seen him even take a test ride. He has a few weeks of high school left.

Is he ready to be on his own?

No.

Is he going anyway?

Yes. (Our decision, not his.)

Will it work out?

Probably. Eventually.

Our children grow up and get to the point where they need to move out into the world. It’s change, and change is hard. I’m not sure who it’s hardest on, him or me.

The kids will be alright.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Guilty

I try to keep this a politics-free zone. But, I was happy to see the verdict in Minneapolis today.

<h2>Guilty</h2>

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

But, I Don’t WANT My House Value To Go Up!

The value of my house has tripled in the past few years.

I’m not happy about it.

I have a daughter who is building a new house. I have another daughter looking forward to buying her first house.

Our first house was $40,000. It was 1990. The house was in Spanish Fork, Utah. It was 1100 square feet. Since it was just my lively wife, me and our young daughter, that was plenty of room. I remember thinking as we signed page after page after page of documents that buying a $50,000 car would have taken less paperwork. And it’s not like they had to worry about someone driving off with the house.

When we left Utah and moved to Washington we bought a slightly bigger house. We had two kids and my brother-in-law and his family were staying with us. Not the first time we had family using our spare rooms.

Our house in Maple Valley, Washington cost $119,000. We, as we always do, made some improvements. We sold the house a few years later for $129,000.

We back to Utah after that. On a visit to Washington a few years later, we noticed our old house was again for sale. The price? $300,000.

We bought our current house in 2012. It was a different real estate market back then. Our house had an unfinished basement. As an incentive to purchase, the seller offered us $10,000 cash at closing to finish the basement. It’s how we ended up with 9 bedrooms in our 3800 square foot house.

My daughter who is building a house has been looking for a lot for some time. When they made an offer on the first lot, they offered $50,000 over the asking price. They barely beat out another couple who had offered tens of thousands over asking. The cost to bring utilities to the lot was $250,000, so they passed.

The second lot they again offered above asking price.

As they put their house on the market one offer came as as “$10,000 above the appraisal amount.” The current market is crazy.

Last year, developers built new houses one block from my house. The new ones were all custom homes that sold for $600,000 to $800,000. That’s three times what I paid for my house. This is great news for me, right?

Not really. My property taxes will go up. But, I could sell my house and triple my investment. That’s a good thing.

Well, not really. First off, I’d have to go buy a new house, like the one I own now.

Second, and most importantly, rising house values are only good if I want to sell. And I don’t ever intend to move.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?

Did you see Jacki Robinson hit that ball?

Did he hit it? Boy, and that ain’t all.

He stole home.

Yes, yes, Jackie’s real gone.

– lyrics by Buddy Johnson

Baseball marks the start of Spring for me. It doesn’t matter what the calendar says. This year Opening Day was April 1st. No joke. (You know, not like last year.) In 1947 teams played a shorter schedule; 154 games rather than the 162 regular season games played currently.) That meant a later Opening Day. In fact, I can tell you that Opening Day in 1947 was April 15th.

I don’t know what day of the week it was. I really couldn’t tell you much about it at all. Except I know it was on April 15. In fact, yesterday, everyone knew celebrated Opening Day for the 1947 season. That might seem like a strange thing to celebrate.

They aren’t celebrating the day. They are celebrating first basemen. Okay, not all the first basemen. Just the Dodgers first baseman. Not the LA Dodgers, they played in Brooklyn 74 years ago. And on April 15, 1947 the Brooklyn Dodgers first baseman was a man named Jackie Robinson. And prior to that game he was about to do something that hadn’t happened for 63 years, since 1884. A black man was going to take the field for a Major League Baseball team.

Robinson was already a star in the Negro Leagues. His first season with the Dodgers he played for their AAA team, the Montreal Royals. By 1947 he was ready for the Dodgers. The league was not always ready for Robinson. His first year he batted .297. He led the league in sacrifice hits at 28. He lead the league in stolen bases with 29. He also won the Rookie of the Year award. It was the first year it was offered.

Today, the Rookie of the Year award is called the Jackie Robinson award in his honor. Robinson wore number 42 when he put on Dodger blue that Spring day in 1947. Nobody wears number 42 in baseball anymore. The last player to wear 42 was the great Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. When he retired in 2013 the number 42 was also retired for good.

In 1997, the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s MLB debut, MLB took the unprecedented step of retiring his number throughout all of baseball. No one would ever be allowed to wear it again.

Except. . .

Except that today, everyone wore #42. Every player, every ballboy, every manager. Every single player in the Major Leagues today wore #42 to celebrate that day three quarters of a century ago when the Dodgers brought up their new first basemen.

Happy Jackie Robinson Day.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

And YOU Went To Harvard?

The worst think about graduating from Harvard is that if you make a simple mistake like miscounting your change, people say, ‘And YOU went to Harvard’!
– Conan O’Brian Harvard class of 1985

The Internet made writers of us all. It also made us all editors. Some of us are better editors than others. Many Internet and facebook “discussions” feature the Grammar Police jumping in to correct grammar or spelling.

I once had a guy working for me named Mark. Mark was really smart. He was a great engineer. He, like many people wanted, to promoted. He certainly had the skills for it. Unfortunately Mark was a poor speller. His sentences were fine, but, like many of us, he’d mess up the spelling on simple words.

As his manager, I could recommend him for promotion, but the other managers in the department had influence as well. And there was no way they were going to recommend someone who sent out misspelled emails.

Mark and I worked on it for months. He turned on spellcheck. He started asking me to review his department-wide emails. And the next time promotion boards came up, his name was at the top of the list.

Mark was the same engineer in both scenarios. But, people judged him, as often happens, on his ability to spell. Mark is now a Global Architecture VP for a large bank.

I have a friend who is a New York Times bestselling author. He’s sold millions of books and earned a lot of money and more importantly a lot of fame as an author, editor, and instructor.

My friend is offering a class on writing that I’m taking. We meet once a week via Zoom. He has a PowerPnt and goes through the writing, editing, publishing process. The course, is the same one that Stephanie Meyers took before she wrote Twilight. It’s a really good course and he’s a really good teacher.

However, during every class there is at least one slide where my friend says,

Sorry, it says ‘hot’ on the screen, that should be ‘not.’

Or something to that effect. His slides are full of typos. This man who makes his living writing for a living, and teaching others to write, has multiple simple spelling errors.

How would you feel about paying money to take a class on writing and the instructor’s slides are full of errors? Would it influence your opinion of the class? Of the instructor?

Our class yesterday was all about agents and publishers. The course is normally about an hour, but this one went much longer. Finally, as he completed the last slide, my friend looked at the clock and without a hint of sarcasm said,

And I covered all of that in 24 minutes.

He literally thought that he’d been talking for less than 30 minutes.

Wait, is my clock right? Is it really 8:24?

He lost track of the time. He has taught at universities. He gets paid to travel around the world giving speeches and presentations and he honestly mistook 84 minutes for 24.

I’m a reasonably talented public speaker. I’ve done it at times and been paid a lot for it. I know how to avoid all the “ticks” that presenters should do. Don’t giggle your keys. Don’t snap your pen. Clean the white board by erasing up and down, not side to side. (Otherwise your butt wiggles.) One of the big ones is to avoid awkward words or pauses. Don’t put in “um,” “ya know,” or “ok.”

My friend ends nearly every sentence with “Ok.” It’s not even a true question. It’s a filler word.

All of these might make you think that my friend’s course probably isn’t worth the money. After all, it’s full of mistakes. It has poor presentation. He loses track of time.

But, just like Marc, the engineer that worked for me, my friend is extremely talented. And spelling is not what he’s necessarily talented at. The course fills up instantly. It has a waiting list. He could teach twice or three times as many courses.

Too often we use the wrong criteria to evaluate people. I know a young man who just became a Journeyman electrician. He’s 20 years old and running crews much older than he is. But, he doesn’t even have a high school diploma. He got a GED and then learned to be an electrician in Job Corps. It would be wrong to judge him by his lack of a diploma.

Just going to Harvard doesn’t mean you never make a mistake. Being a world famous writer doesn’t mean you can spell. Look at what people can DO. Stop using the wrong metrics.

Oh, that also means that you are qualified and capable at what you do!

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Why I Like Crying Babies. . .On Planes And Elsewhere

I used to travel a lot. I spent a lot of time in airports. I spent a lot of time on planes. I had an entire routine for when I got to my seat. I’d put my carry on in the overhead. I’d put my computer bag under the seat in front of me. I’d pull out my water bottle and stick in the seat back pocket. Put the knock pillow behind my head. I’d turn on my iPod and put on my noise cancelling headphones. Then, I’d lean back, close my eyes and enjoy the flight.

I’d often miss the in-flight beverage service. I like to sleep on planes. Occasionally, I’d watch a movie instead of listen to the iPod; on my noise cancelling headphones, of course.

I really like those headphones. I’m partial to Bose. But, I also had Parrot headphones. My first set of Bose headphones were great. I really like them. They were $300. That’s a lot of money to drop on a set of headphones. A friend of mine asked me if they were really worth it. I offered to let him borrow them. He was a gamer. The next morning he came into my office and tossed the headphone case back on my desk.

Thanks a lot! You just cost me three hundred bucks! Did you know that in the Star Wars game you can hear the ice clinking in the glass?

At one point I broke my headphones. I called Bose to see, even those they were old if it was possible to get them repaired.

Mr Bliss, were you happy with your previous set of Bose headphones?

I cried when they broke.

I’m a huge fan. And they work great. It’s why I won’t fly without them.

You might think that I don’t mind sitting by crying babies because my headphones block out the crying baby sound.

Nope.

Bose headphones block out ambient noise. It’s a frequency thing. But, they allow the frequency that human voices use. So, that crying baby won’t be drowned out by the airplane engines.

So, why am I okay being seated by the crying baby?

I raised 13 kids. They all cried. Some a lot. Some a little. And like all parents, I stressed over their crying. Sometimes, several would all cry at once. It was nearly overwhelming at times.

What changed? Why am I so calm now when I hear a crying baby?

Because, I just think, it’s not my crying baby!

And that thought makes me smile!

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

When They Can Do Nothing For You

We’re playing the trade-up game and wondered if you had anything you might be willing to trade that’s bigger and better than this softball?

They looked about 13. Just a couple teenagers out on a Monday afternoon. Did I have anything? Sure. Did I have time? Yeah. Was I going to gain anything from it? Nope.

Oh sure, a softball. I’ve got a box of them that haven’t been touched in years. I don’t need another softball.

I traded them a scooter. Also not been used in years. The boys were pretty excited. I never played the trade-up game. But, my boys did. We spent years with an old kids electric car in our backyard from one of my boys games.

Of course, I didn’t have to participate at all today. I could have told the boys I was busy. I mean, I was working on stuff. You know. . .stuff. . .in the garage. Stuff.

I have a friend on facebook who is a young woman in the theater business in New York. She’s working like mad to make it as a member of the crew. Honestly, I’m not sure what she does. She’s the daughter of a good friend, who passed away a few years ago. I’ve stayed in contact, but honestly, I’m not really part of the circles she moves in. I’m old. I’m married. I live in Utah. Some of my kids are her age.

I have a few friends in the theater industry and when she was looking for work, I put in a good word for her. I think a job came out of it. (He was a pretty influential friend.) Did I have to help her out? Of course not. In fact, she would never have know if I didn’t call my friend. What’s there in anything in it for me? Not really. Just helping out a friend’s daughter.

Why do we help people that can do nothing for us?

Psychological egoism: The view that humans are always motivated by self-interest and selfishness, even in what seem to be acts of altruism.

Is psychological egoism correct? Do we always look for what’s in it for us? Why did I help the boys? Maybe so I could feel good about myself. Maybe so I could get rid of a scooter?

What about my friend’s daughter? Maybe so that someday if she becomes a big important Broadway producer I can score free tickets?

Karma: A belief in Hinduism and Buddhism that the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence decides our fate in future existences.

Also, the idea that our actions cause our fate.

I’m not a huge believer in karma either. I don’t do nice thinks for people so that somehow the universe will reward me.

I’m a believer in just being a nice person. I think if more people stopped looking for what’s in it for them, and instead looked for opportunities to practice random acts of kindness, the world would be better.

Maybe I am thinking there’s something in it for me, after all.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Corporate Training. . .And Baseball Games

I love baseball. I like baseball more than anyone I know. I attend games whenever I can. I used to travel around the US a lot. This gave me the opportunity to attend a lot of baseball games in the evenings. I would often drive 3 hours one way for a game. Shreveport to Dallas, Columbus to Pittsburgh, Port St Lucie to Orlando.

The only item on my bucket list is to watch a game in each of the 30 Major League ballparks. I’ve been to 12 so far. I got zero added last year, not surprisingly. Eventually, I’ll get to the remaining 18.

In the meantime I pay $25/month to watch the games on mlb.tv. I’ve caught just about every Mariners game this year. They are 4-4. Their ace pitcher has an ERA over 10 and their number 3 pitcher is out with an arm strain and might need Tommy John surgery. It’s okay, they aren’t supposed to be good for another couple of years on their rebuilding schedule.

I would prefer to go to the ballpark. But, in the meantime, I make due by watching it remotely. There are been a lot of close plays this year. Baseball instituted instant replay a couple years ago. Not every play is reviewable, But, many are. And the games have turned on a couple of the calls this year.

During the time that the umpires are reviewing the play, the broadcast shows the replays. They show them from multiple angels. They slow it down. They talk about it. And then finally, they agree or disagree with the official call.

But, you know what the fans in the stands get to see during a replay? Not much. They see a little bit on the big screen, but mostly they get to watch the umpires with headsets on and their head under a hood.

The home experience is actually better in that respect. During the game, there’s an app that shows the location of every pitch. You can see in game stats. You can check previous year stats. You can check other scores. You can pretty much find anything. You can switch between the home broadcast and the away broadcast. You can pause. You can rewind.

In nearly every way the at home experience is superior. But, superior doesn’t mean better.

For many years I was a corporate trainer. I would teach classes of people who to use Microsoft, or Novell, or various other products. I loved classroom training. I enjoyed the interaction between myself and the students. I enjoyed the performance aspect of it.

Before COVID, most corporate training was done in person. During the pandemic, we all started consuming training remotely. Now, it’s possible to teach from and to anywhere. I attend a writing class. Sometimes I’ve had a conflict. I just find the recording and watch it and don’t miss any of the experience. Also, during a class, I can be doing research. I can chat with other participants. We can post questions and get answers. The PowerPoint presentations are available before and during the class.

As a remote learner I can do nearly everything in a superior fashion.

But, I miss the classroom experience. Superior doesn’t better.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

We Built A Library. . .Twice

We moved into our home about 9 years ago. I don’t remember the date. But, Facebook does. It showed me this picture of our library that we setup shortly after moving in. I like books. My lovely wife likes books. My kids love books. We own a lot of books.

We also have lots of computers. And Kindles. And, of course cell phones, both Apple and Android. We have multiple ISPs. So, we have access to lots of electronic reading material.

But, we also have books.

Lots of books.

Our books span the gamut. We have Westerns, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Reference, biographies, Young Adult, Children, Mysteries, Technical, non-Fiction, Historical, Religious, Comedies, Plays, Picture books, Hiking, Camping, Classics, boring books, thick, thin, small, large, Art, Photography, Computer, Landscaping, Woodworking, Graphic novels, Travel, Dictionaries, Scout. (Admit it, you quit reading a couple of lines ago.)

Recently, we ended up with a free room. When you have eight kids at the time you move into your house, and three of them leave, you end up with extra rooms. We converted one to the library. I didn’t think it would take that much room. I was wrong.

I enjoy reading online, but my first love is and always will be the dead tree editions.

Hopefully you have plenty of books in your space.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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