Jun 20

750 quick words on Trek

I’ve lately been idly listening to Star Trek while doing other things. Today we met the Klingons for the first time again, which means we’re on episode 26, a third of the way through the run of the original series … and it’s just about ready to get good, I guess. They had a narrow window through which to reach out and impact the world, when you think about it.

The third season is almost universally panned, the first 10 or 12 episodes of the series have a few interesting moments, but once you remember that this is the series that bred continuity into the zeitgeist, it was woefully inconsistent. And that’s even after allowing for the production values of the day and the new genre they were helping to pioneer. It’s all over the place.

This is how you met the universe’s running baddies on a Thursday in mid-March of 1967:

And the next week, this episode plays itself out. Kirk and Spock beam down to head off the enemy threat. The locals aren’t bothered at all and perceive no threat. (It’s an allegory, you see.) The threat appears, and John Colicos is warm and real and full and does a lot with a little, to be honest. Now the good guys are trying to blend in with the locals to subvert the threat. This goes poorly, and Spock told you so, what with his cool calculations and his odds.

There’s a fanfic out there somewhere that reveals he was just making up numbers, and, when confronted by this charge, he runs away crying. There has to be. After all, one of the dramatic devices they routinely revisit is Spock telling everyone who will listen just how bad the odds are. And, of course, they emerge from the problem relatively unscathed, minus a few red shirts. No one ever calls him on this. Ever.

So Kirk and Spock, having failed to talk the backward and humble-looking Organians into coming under their protection, try to take matters into their own hands, but then then Organians stop all of this by making both the Federation members and the Klingons hot. Ow!

Because, I guess, having people mimic a warm stove eye was as inexpensive a special effect as the show runners could pull off.

Someone out there has compiled some of the original shots next to the 2009 remastering, which is what I’m watching on Netflix. This is a fine and fun bit of side-by-side video.

Note how George Takei is playing Sulu when they first come under attack. Note how Colicos is almost licking his lips, “A shame, Capitan. It would have been glorious.” It’s a moment at the end of the episode that’s so beautifully, rhythmically paced that it sets the whole mood for the ever-changing archenemy-cum-tense-ally. It’s a shame it took 30 years to get him back into the franchise.

And, too, note how not every update is a good one. Specifically, when the humble Organians return to their natural form. In the original it is a brilliant white light. In the reworked version they take on the lighting effects of a bad rave.

It was good for it’s time, this episode, I’m sure. It’s hailed as a classic, and it holds an 8.6 rating on IMDb. But today its interest is purely historic. This one sequence goes a long way toward guiding the rest of the entire franchise:

It also sets up the biggest plot hole in the entire Trek universe. If the energy beings abhor conflict and can stop it this quickly, the Federation should have drawn any number of enemies to this planet, playing this out over and over, creating new allies across the quadrant. Or the galaxy. Or whatever they called it that week. (They were really loose with the language in the early days. It’s amazing that fans found it in their hearts to forgive the show for that.)

Also, this episode figures into one of the big musical hits of the late 1980s.

And a segue like that lets us wrap this up with our favorite game, The Passage of Time. That episode originally aired in 1967. That song was a hit in 1988. We’re (much) farther removed from that song than they were from that episode.

Within the franchise, the time between us and the debut of Deep Space Nine is greater than the time between the Deep Space Nine’s beginning and the episode above. Deep Space Nine debuted in 1993.

Remember, this was an allegory then, but what is it today?

Jun 20

More little things

Today’s bike ride was all about hill repeats. We would go out to one of the lakes and find a great big hill and go up and down it a few minutes at a time. This particular torture apparently makes me a better climber. as I am not a climber and still no better at it, clearly I’m doing something wrong. There are many reasons, I understand them all.

Anyway, being a sunny and warm Friday, we decided to avoid the lakes because there are often boats pushing trucks toward them. We went on campus instead, which was delightfully quiet.

So quiet, in fact that we saw a guy spraying a bit of herbicide on one of our trips up this great big hill we found. He stood out because he was there, I guess. How often do you note a guy just doing his job? Someone else did, too. On my next trip up the hill two police cars rolled up, and then a third cruiser. On the next trip a fourth cruiser was out front of the building. They took his ID, talked to him under a shade tree. He’d shed the high pressure sprayer that was on his back. And the conversation, whatever it was, took forever. For my next eight or nine trips up the hill they stood there chatting.

Eventually the fourth and the third cruisers melted away, and some time after that the first two officers that rolled up moved on as well, leaving the guy to pack his stuff up and go about his day.

The worst part of it all is that just after the police left we were done with our hill repeats. So the poor guy probably thinks the two people who were riding up and down the hill, up and down the hill, up and down the hill, were the ones that called in the four cops on him. We were not. I am not one to think a guy with a high pressure sprayer on his back and obviously tending to weeds is a bad person. But, then again, I have a long record of being pro-landscaping.

Pictures of small things time. I picked up these crinoids a few days ago down by the lake while The Yankee swam. For this installment I remembered two important steps in light box photography.

It’s been a while since I’ve done this, you see, so the tricks are coming back one by one. I don’t know all the best techniques because I’ve only dabbled in this style of photography. Probably on the next batch or two I will peak. Maybe, on the next batch, I’ll remember to focus!

Anyway, there are around 600 crinoid species left in the world, but a few hundred million years ago there were many more sorts of these little creatures. Limestone beds are good places to find these fossilized fragments.

I’m using three lamps and a translucent storage box for this and I suppose it’s coming along nicely for a project that has cost me no money and doesn’t have to be perfectly perfect. But wouldn’t it be nicer if it was?

Well, there’s always next week for that. For now, it’s time for the weekend.

Jun 20

Beware hyphenated beverages, and television tropes

After the meetings were done and the work completed, it was time for a bike ride. We took the usual Friday route, and today that meant about 42 miles. I rode it very fast, which means decidedly average.

After the second stop sign I caught a break in traffic and decided to see how long I could stay out front. So I looked over my shoulder for the next 36 miles. But my shoulder and my wheel stayed clean.

I knew if “I make it to there, I can stay out front until … ” and then I did, which meant I had to keep reshaping those observations. “OK, if I can make it to the climb … ” and then I did, so I did that four or five times and I found myself shooting for the place where she caught me last week. At which point she was well back and I thought I might stay out front the entire way, if traffic would cooperate. So then I had to ride harder to be sure. And that’s how I stayed out front the entire way, which never happens. Turns out my legs felt tired, but it was a pretty good ride. And The Yankee didn’t have her best ride. That’s what it takes to stay ahead of her. (She’s very fast.)

Sometimes, you can say it all in 280 characters.

But why stop with one 280-character style tweet when you own a domain where you can throw another 1,450 characters and 322 more words on it?

They made a movie based on the television show a few years ago. I understand it was very bad. I listened to some people complaining about that, another part of their childhood ruined, basically, before saying “It isn’t like the show was high art … ” and everyone had to agree.

I call it the Yoo-hoo phenomenon. You remember that drink. It was so good.

It isn’t good at all.

This used to be the Chocolate Soldier phenomenon, but that drink disappeared before the turn of the century — and not a single soul outside the creation of the product noticed — but Yoo-hoo, somehow, survives.

Point is, things that you thought were great when you were a kid are probably not good at all. And after you get over watching GTOs jump over every ravine that doesn’t exist in south Georgia, and realizing that it always seems to be infrastructure week in Hazzard County, there’s not a lot to the show.

I’d like to see the Amazon metrics, is what I’m saying. How many people are streaming that show, at this point? It is, I would imagine, a vanishingly small number. Also, it’s disappeared before, only to quietly return, so what do I know? What does this Time author of 2015 who decided to re-watch the pilot episode know? (Update: A week later, it’s still there, but a bit harder to find. And you can still by t-shirts or fake rustic tin sizes featuring the car. There are also 66 purchase options for Yoo-hoo.)

In more ways than one, The Dukes of Hazzard are a chocolate-flavored drink. It’s not milk; it’s barely a chocolate. People that endured the Dukes because the kids loved it could have said the same thing, then. And who among all of us are streaming shows like that now?

Go try that Yoo-hoo. Next time you’re out, pick one up, buy it, shake it, slam it. You’ll see.

Jun 20

Wrapping up this week

There are a few Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) down at the lake. I’ve seen them flying around and play-fighting a few times. Photographing butterflies is easy with a proper camera. If you’re using your phone you have to be first, sneaky, and, then, lucky. And I was almost one of those two things today:

That was while The Yankee was getting in her laps, though one doesn’t really do laps in a lake. She’s doing concentric shapes, and always improving the open-water swim. It’s the opportunity found in all of the pool closings. Plus, butterflies.

And, now, some scenes from today’s bike ride.

It was a light week, so we only rode two hours today. That is a thing you say, sometimes. It is one part posturing. “Yep. Light day, just two hours.” It is also one part something you can be incredulous about: “I’m not even training for anything and this was a light day and it was two hours.” Or you could be incredulous in another way, as I was: “It took me how long to go that far?”

Anyway, today’s route was a simplification of the recent Friday regular. We just went out a ways and then turned around and retraced the route. Instead of making the big circle, or having the one proper climb in it, we went close to the lake. All of the fun, without the refreshing water views or the dreadful climb after.

It was good, then it wasn’t. Then it was all over the place, which is what usually happens with my rides, so it was good. Except for the parts that aren’t.

I went through one little slice of town and set out for more rural communities and pedaled 55 minutes in one direction, at which point I turned around, figuring that’d the reverse course would set me up at one hour and 50 minutes, which was, I think, the goal, and my understanding of math. And the math worked out, perfectly, before I added an extra mile or so at the end to put a unique finish on a regular route.

Now we just have to find some long flat routes around here. (We won’t.)

Much more on Twitter today, like …

Be sure to check me out on Instagram and listen to the On Topic with IU podcasts, as well. And have a great weekend!

May 20

Brief notes about a now regular route

At the end of the workday, at the end of the workweek, it was time for a bike ride. And, on Fridays, we ride a bit longer. This involves leaving the usual route through the adjoining neighborhoods and then turning left, instead of going straight.

Going left meant different rollers, and two or three cycles through the same red light, cars parked in the bike lane and a small handful of other indignities to a good ride in the first four miles. After that, though, it moved along nicely.

The next 45 minutes were all on the same road, so you settle in and duck the wind and try your best. We’ve done this route the last three weeks in a row and if you do such a thing often enough you begin to have an understanding of what you can do over such roads. Sometimes you do your best, which is great! And sometimes your legs and your mind and your bicycle have formed an unconscious understanding of what your best can be and you do even better, which is great! And sometimes it just isn’t in you and you underperform. Which is, you know, just great.

Anyway, you do your best until you pass through two little communities and over the county line where you can enjoy a short and steep downhill. After that you turn left and run along a causeway over a lake for three miles or so. And it was somewhere in there that I set a New Personal Best Top Speed of 49.1 miles per hour.

And, boy, are my jokes tired.

Right after that, the road goes up and away from the lake and there’s one stiff hill you have to get over. Eventually, you take a few turns and you’re back on that first long road and headed back toward where you started. It let me breakaway from The Yankee for about 20 miles before she caught me in traffic.

And soon, at around mile 30, we caught up to these nice people:

I’ve read about people on bike tours using pool noodles. And now I have seen a family do it. That one guy is hauling two kids on a pull-along, and they all count as cyclists. After we did a big circle we saw them again from the other direction. They waved and said hello and we waved and said hello and I hope they were having a fine a time on their bikes as we were having.

Got to the house at precisely the right time:

And began to think I should start adding some serious miles back into my routine. Some how. Some when.