Monday, February 25, 2013

A very disappointing "tour" of one of my favorite starships

(Note: This is a review I just posted on, the online retailer from which I purchased this product.)

This is the line in the description of this... thing... that sucked me in:

"Enclosed with the book is a fabulous CD-ROM that gives viewers a detailed tour of the Enterprise ."

Don't believe it.

The reality isn't even remotely close to what this line promises.

What you get are a few panoramic still images of a few of the important and often-used areas of the Enterprise from "The Next Generation", like the bridge and sickbay, images which you can zoom in on (a little bit) and look left and right and up and down within...

... and that's IT.

There is no "tour" of the Enterprise... at least no "tour" in any sense of the word with which I am familiar.

Hugely disappointing.

I really wish would allow zero star reviews, or better yet, negative star reviews. I could definitely have used one for this thing.

On the plus side, it only cost $12.91. That's about ten bucks more than it's worth.

If anyone from Paramount is reading this, I would happily pay ten -- maybe even twenty -- times that $12.91 for a product which was an actual TOUR of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Imagine starting off like this -- you have an option to beam onto the ship, or arrive in a shuttlecraft. From your arrival point, you point and click your way through the entire ship -- and I mean the ENTIRE ship, not just a few rooms -- getting a sense of how huge and complex a Galaxy-class starship is. And I'm not talking about some lame "zoom" in on a few images -- I mean click and move down corridors, through doors which WHOOSH open when you get to them. In short, a tour where you could go anywhere the Captain of the Enterprise could go, if he wanted. Every room, every Jeffries tube, every turbolift, every transporter, every engineering access tunnel, every room in the crew quarters, every lab, every holodeck -- everywhere.

Of course, putting something like that together would take significant effort... something which was clearly not considered for this product. -- PL

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cold and warm

A couple of days ago, I decided to take a walk around the pond at Mount Holyoke College in nearby South Hadley, MA. It's usually one of my favorite walks, but sadly -- due to recent heavy snow, then warming, followed by freezing -- the path around the pond had turned into a rough-edged nightmare of uneven and very slippery ice where previous walkers had left their multitudinous boot prints in slushy snow which had then frozen solid and slick. I realized after struggling on this surface for a hundred feet or so that (a) it was not going to get any more pleasant and (b) I was very likely going to fall on my ass, so I decided to walk elsewhere.

And that was fine, as it gave me a chance to take some photographs of ice formations I found interesting at various spots on the river which runs from the aforementioned pond through the middle of the campus.

As I walked past the college's greenhouse, my eye was drawn through a slightly frosted window to a group of curious flowers, with bulbous, almost pumpkin-shaped blooms. I walked on, but a few minutes later, curiosity won me over. I returned and went into the greenhouse. I'd never been inside before, but the sign on the door said "Public Welcome", so I spent about twenty minutes exploring the various rooms and the beautiful plant life contained therein.

I took a number of photographs, though I neglected to get any shots of the labels for each of the plants. Still, I think the shapes and colors speak for themselves… and they say "What a nice, warm place to be on such a cold and icy day!" -- PL

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Avengers" visual magic

While visiting one of my favorite tech sites ( this morning, I stumbled on this video showing some behind-the-scenes work by the special effects artists at Industrial Light and Magic for last year's "The Avengers" movie.


It is truly amazing what can be done with green screen and computers and a lot of creativity and artistic vision. -- PL

P.S. Though I really enjoyed the movie -- I think I saw it in the theaters three or four times, and probably have watched it five times on Blue-Ray -- it is not without flaws, and one of them has only become apparent on repeated viewings -- the use of the word "play" in phrases like "What's his play?" or "That's your play". I haven't actually counted how many times it's used like that, but I think it's at least five times... and it gets really annoying. Grating, even. Why not substitute "plan" or "strategy" or "scheme" for one or more of those instances of "play"?

It's a minor thing, to be sure, but it does bug me.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Here's the front of the card I made for Jeannine this year...

... and the inside.

I am happy to report that she liked it! -- PL

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cleaning up from "Nemo"

We got a lot of snow here during storm Nemo, more than I can remember getting in one storm within the last few years. Last winter in particular was extremely mild, and I think it spoiled us.

I knew I would have to do some snowblowing around the house, so after breakfast I went to the garage, and upon opening the garage door, saw this:

The photo I took is kind of dark, and you can't actually see where the bottom of the doorway is, so I put in the red arrow to show just how deep the snow was up against the garage doors.

My Honda snowblower is usually very efficient at moving snow, but this stuff -- though dry and light -- was both deep and somewhat packed down from the wind which had blown and pounded on it all night. I ended up going at a crawl, but did make it outside and started clearing away the drift in front of the garage bay on the left side, where Jeannine parks her car.

I think it took me about half an hour to clear a single snowblower's-width path around the house, partly so Jeaninne would be able to get to the birdfeeder,  and then I started down towards the barn, because I knew the snowblower would shortly be running out of gas, and I keep some fuel down there. It's roughly a couple hundred feet down to the barn, and as you might imagine, that also went slowly. I stopped to take a few photos of the cut I'd made through that expanse of snow.

With this much snow, it's sometimes surreal to look at the snow cut your snowblower makes, which is typically very straight-edged and sharp, unlike the rougher, more chaotic path a shoveler creates. It's almost like you've cut your way through a gigantic layer of Styrofoam which has, overnight, been laid down over your property. And even though I hate dealing with this stuff, I must admit there is still some beauty in it, as the colors in this photo of tree shadows falling over the snow and the snow cut demonstrates.

Getting to the barn, I had to snowblow a path to the doorways so I could get to the gas can. You can see in this photo that the snow there was almost as deep as the snowblower is tall,

Once inside the barn, I was confronted with a strange phenomena which I don't think I'd even seen before. There were snowdrifts INSIDE the closed doors!

Apparently, the consistent high winds and fine snow over the course of the previous night were sufficiently powerful  to blow enough flakes through the tiny cracks under the doors to allow for this much accumulation.

Although we do have a guy who plows our driveway, and who is reliable about it, yesterday it looked like he might have gotten -- pardon the pun -- snowed under with his other plowing work and might not get to us until late. Although neither Jeannine nor I really had anyplace we needed to get to yesterday, I started to have that slightly panicky feeling I occasionally get when there is something blocking our egress from the house. Sometimes it's been trees blown down across the driveway, but in this case, the snow was so deep that even my four wheel drive truck would not have made it more than a few feet out of the garage before getting hopelessly stuck. And Jeannine's sedan? Fuggeddaboutit!

So I decided I would fire up the old Dodge Ram truck, the powerful ten-cylinder model I bought years ago and on which I had a plow installed. It's gotten pretty ragged with age, but it still starts and runs and -- for now at least -- plows snow like a demon.

Which is a good thing, because even it had a bit of a hard time with this much snow. I did manage to clear the driveway, but got the truck stuck when I attempted to plow the space in front of the barn. But a little while later, with some judicious snowblowing of the area around the truck, I was able to get it free and carry on.

By this time I had been out doing this stuff for almost three hours, a fact Jeannine alerted me to when I saw her doing some shoveling up at the house. I figured that was enough of that for the day, and parked the truck, ran the snowblower into the garage, and took off my boots, gloves, jacket, balaclava and Tilley hat.

But before I changed out of my sodden, clammy, snow-encrusted pants for some warm, dry sweatpants, I decided to grab a yardstick and see if we did, in fact, get two feet of snow. As you can perhaps see in these photos, it varied in depth by a few inches, but in at least one spot there was almost exactly twenty-four inches.

That's a lot of snow.

Here's hoping this is the last big storm we get this winter. -- PL

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"The frolic architecture of the snow"

After a long night of blustery winds, we woke this morning to a lot of snow, snow which was piled high in some places and swept away in others. It kind of made it hard to tell exactly how much had fallen.

But it was clearly quite a bit.

Here's a photograph showing how high it drifted against the door to the small deck outside our bedroom...

... and another showing the window in our laundry room, which is on the second floor. (No, we didn't get fifteen feet of snow -- there is a porch roof right outside that window, the sloping surface of which starts about a foot below the windowsill.)

Now it all needs to go away.

If not now, soon.

Please?  -- PL

P.S. The title for this post came from a friend's Facebook page, and it is a lovely phrase from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which can be found here (as well as other places, no doubt).

Friday, February 8, 2013

What a difference a day makes...

Our front yard twenty-four hours ago:

Our front yard a few minutes ago:

And the storm's just getting going -- most of the accumulation (some are saying up to two feet) -- is supposed to arrive during the night.


I hate winter. -- PL

Saturday, February 2, 2013


I took another walk in Look Park today -- colder and a lot less foggy -- and went off on a side jaunt on a short trail leading up to a dam in the small town of Leeds. GIven the large amount of rain we had a couple of days ago, and the subsequent cold snap, I thought there might just be some interesting ice forms there.

And I was right.

Standing almost under this bridge by the waterfall, staring at the the ice coating on the rocks formed by the spray of water from the waterfall, I wondered if anyone had ever set up a camera and gotten a time-lapse movie of these beautiful shapes in formation.

There were many odd-shaped chunks of thick ice on the riverbank, but this one really caught my eye. 

I love the patterns in this piece of ice, and I could only guess at how they were made. -- PL

Friday, February 1, 2013