One of the sure signs of Spring in our area, at least in my opinion, is the dirty snowbank.
As the winter plods on, plows push snow into large, dense mounds lining the edges of streets, driveways and parking lots. In moving this snow, the plows also scrape up a lot of the sand which the Department of Public Works trucks spread on the pavement to give drivers a bit more traction on the slippery stuff.
What happens as the weather starts to get gradually warmer is this: The snow begins to melt, and the piles of snow to shrink, and as they do, those particles of sand within the piles begin to move closer together, becoming darker and more obvious against the snow, rendering what were previously almost pristine white mounds of snow into blotchy messes.
It's deliciously ugly, because even as these unsightly shrinking mounds become ever more unsightly, they tell us that the warmth is coming… just wait! -- PL
A thick accumulation of snow -- something we have seen far too much of in recent months -- can seem almost featureless in certain lighting conditions. The homogeneous nature of the bright white blanket makes it difficult to see the underlying shapes upon which that frosty mantle rests.
That's why I have always enjoyed the way that trees can help to reveal the hidden geometry of snow, especially during those times of days when the angle of the sun drapes the trees' cold shadows over the landscape. Graphic against the pale snow, these broad, stark lines show us much as they ripple over hillock and plunge into decline. -- PL
As part of my plan today to forestall the inevitable moment of removing myself from the warm comfort of the bedcovers and getting out of bed to face another day of bleak snowy whiteness and cold, I played a game of computer Scrabble on the iPad I keep beside the bed. At one point, I made a desperation move -- one which I think all Scrabble players have made at one time or another -- and put some letters down to make a word which was not known to me, but which fit nicely onto the board.
This technique, employed in one of many (notice how I did NOT say "countless") epic Scabble games with my late brother Don, actually acquainted me years ago with a cool word -- "xeric", meaning "dry or desert-like" -- which became the name of the charitable foundation we established a couple of decades ago.
This time, however, it was "ulu". Imagine my surprise when the computer didn't reject it and force me to return the offending tiles to my rack. Of course, I had to find out what this formerly unknown and now very useful word meant, so I hustled over to dictionary.com, and found the following:
1. a knife with a broad, nearly semicircular blade joined to a short haft at a right angle to the unsharpened side: a traditional tool of Eskimo women.
... but it got my attention today when I went online to check my email. Here's a cropped screen grab of the thing:
Perhaps it was because this past week a friend mentioned in an email that she was trying to get to the "Zero Inbox" stage, wherein you keep your email inbox free of clutter, to the point where when you leave it each day, it is empty.
For this particular email address, I have not done that in quite a long time, if ever... and today, I noticed with a small blip of amusement, that the number of emails currently in the inbox for that address was 1234.
Yeah, okay, it's stupid... but these are the things one amuses oneself with when trapped in one's house by a raging blizzard and the attendant ban on driving. (I use the words "raging blizzard" somewhat sarcastically, as the storm we are getting here today in Western Massachusetts, while certainly significant, is hardly the worst we've ever had... and from where I sit, looking out at the occasional random swirl of snowflakes, clearly not signifying desperately difficult or unsafe driving conditions.) -- PL
I'm a big fan of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog -- they have a good selection of interesting and useful objects, some entirely practical, some fanciful… and some a combination of those two qualities.
But I was startled when I saw the cover of their latest catalog (or, if not the latest, at least the most recent one I've received) and saw what my eyes immediately told me must be some kind of nifty licensed "Star Trek" product.
It was some sort of complex metallic gizmo whose unusual shape instantly made me think of "Terok Nor" -- the Cardassian space station taken over by the Federation in the third "Star Trek" TV series, "Deep Space Nine". The station was, in fact, renamed "Deep Space Nine" by the Federation in the storyline of that series.
Here's an image of the space station from the TV series "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Notice any similarities?
This thing in the catalog was a pretty cool-looking product, whatever it was… and I found the answer to my "What is it?" question on page 69 (I think -- I don't have the catalog in front of me as I type this). It's a "24th Century Time Machine" -- essentially a high-end timepiece made by L'Epee of Switzerland, and you could have one for the price of a nice car -- $35,500.
But I searched in vain for anything in the description of the product which would reveal a connection to "Star Trek" and/or "Deep Space Nine". The closest the copy in the catalog came was this phrase: "Suggesting a remote station set amid the void of space".
But it is also clearly meant to resemble the titular space station in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". I showed the cover of the catalog to Jim Lawson -- who is not a huge "Star Trek" fan -- and asked him what it looked like, and right away he said "The space station on "Deep Space Nine"!"
So… what's the deal here? It is hard to believe that there is no one among the folks behind the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog who would have noticed that this product bore a very close similarity to the design of the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" space station. In my opinion, it appears to be a pretty brazen conceptual appropriation with absolutely no credit being given to the original source.
I don't get it. Am I missing something here? -- PL
[Note: The images of the catalog cover and the interior page are not scans from the printed catalog itself, but screen grabs from the Hammacher Schlemmer website -- they're not exactly the same, but as far as I can tell, the descriptive information is identical.]