ST:TNG Treadmill Review #54: Check out the big brain on Barclay!

The Nth Degree
Season 4 Episode 19
Original airdate: March 30, 1991

Netflix Synopsis

When assigned to investigate an unknown probe, Lt. Barclay receives an unexplainable boost of confidence and a vast increase in his knowledge.

My Brief Review

I often skip the Lt. Barclay episodes. I just can’t handle his twitchy nervousness and I have trouble believing someone so pathologically insecure could manage to get promoted to Lieutenant and score an assignment on the Federation’s flagship. But this episode stands apart, because for half of it, Barclay isn’t himself.

Who is he then? While investigating a mysterious alien probe that has knocked out a telescope array at the edge of Federation space, Barclay gets blasted with a beam of energy and is suddenly a confident super-genius. Which predictably goes to his head. Eventually he enters the Holodeck, not for one of his typical escapist fantasies, but to have the ship’s computer build a neural interface so his brain can merge with the computer itself.

This kind of thing has been done before (and since), but it’s still a pretty solid episode. I was reminded of Flowers for Algernon as Barclay’s IQ swelled. And there are definitely traces of HAL-9000 in Barclay/Computer’s interactions with La Forge as he’s trying to configure a bypass to the ship’s controls. “I’m afraid I can’t do that, Geordi.” OK, he doesn’t actually say that line exactly, but he might as well.

Memorable Moment

There were several moments in this episode that piqued my faded memories of this episode from high school, but the one that stands out the most is certainly when the giant floating head of the aged hippie Cytherian appears on the Enterprise bridge. I feel like the 10 days Enterprise supposedly spends with them would have made for an interesting episode — or at least a few minutes’ worth of this one. But I suppose the writers or special effects designers ran out of ideas for how that all would work.

Crew Rando

Barclay himself, of course! I understand it’s a practical matter in casting and production of a TV series, but it feels weird that Barclay is a full-fledged member of the crew, one of Geordi’s best engineers (according to Geordi himself in this episode), and yet we only ever see Barclay in episodes that are about him. It’s hard to suspend disbelief.

Distance Rating: 4K

IMDb rating: 8.1/10

I just had a dream about the most horrible food imaginable

I rarely share my bizarre dreams with the world, but this one was so bizarre, so incomprehensible, that I just had to share it.

I was at a McDonald’s on the East Coast (in New Jersey, I believe), and I discovered they served all kinds of items that are not on the menu at McDonald’s in the Midwest. One in particular was Salisbury steak. But that’s not the most horrible food imaginable. It is part of the most horrible food imaginable.

I can’t even remember exactly what they called this culinary disaster, but I do remember its name ended (ironically? cruelly?) with “Delight.” First, they started with a bed of rice. That’s the only marginally healthy aspect of the whole meal. Next, they placed two Salisbury steaks end-to-end atop the rice. Then, on one steak, they placed four of their standard hamburger patties, each topped with a slice of cheese. On the other steak, they placed four Filet-O-Fish… uh… “filets”… each also covered with a slice of cheese. And then they topped it all off with two more Salisbury steaks end-to-end, and drenched the entire thing in a generous pour of thick brown gravy.

I have attempted an “artist’s rendition” of this horrible food nightmare, for your misery. (And, yes, it was served in a paper tray exactly like this one.)

The inspirations behind Anagrammatic Pseudonyms

Anagrammatic Pseudonyms Influences and Inspirations iMixI am the first to admit that I emulate my musical influences. I’m pretty confident that I always manage to fall well on the proper side of plagiarism, but it’s impossible not to emulate the styles of the musicians I admire. In fact, emulating their styles is pretty much the point.

With that in mind, I compiled a list of the artists and songs that influenced me as I created Anagrammatic Pseudonyms just like I’ve done in the past with the album notes I post here.

This time I’ve taken it a step further though: I’ve created an iTunes iMix. You can buy it now on iTunes. Here are the songs:

“Pocket Calculator” by Kraftwerk
“Axel F” by Harold Faltermeyer
“Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown
“Let’s Work” by Prince
“White Mountain” by Genesis
“Inertiatic ESP” by The Mars Volta
“Out of Town” by Zero 7
“With Jupiter in Mind” by Joe Satriani
“Nobody’s Fault but Mine” by Led Zeppelin
“Anchor Drops” by Umphrey’s McGee
“Your Most Valuable Possession” by Ben Folds Five
“Hold the Line” by Toto
“We Own the Sky” by M83
“Clocks and Clouds” by National Health
“Down by the Sea” by Men at Work

Note that the songs in this iMix are in the same order as the songs on Anagrammatic Pseudonyms that they influenced (although there’s not a 1-to-1 relationship: some AP songs have more than one representative here — “Candor Stetson” has four — and some have none).

This iMix has a total running time of 73 minutes, which means that it’s a great set to put on a CD if you decide to go buy it (or if you’re as crazy as I am and already have all of these songs in your iTunes library).

Fun with site usage stats

OK, “fun” may be an exaggeration, but it is interesting to look at these stats for courtesy of Google Analytics.

The usage statistics that are always of the most interest to web designers and developers are the web browser and operating system breakdown among site visitors. “Conventional wisdom” is that Windows makes up about 90-95% of most sites’ users (with Mac OS X making up almost all of the rest), and that among Windows users, Internet Explorer is at about 80-90%, with Firefox making up the bulk of the rest, while on the Mac about 90-95% are using Safari and the rest are on Firefox.

The stats for my site paint a much different picture. Now, granted, I am probably by at least a couple of orders of magnitude the most frequent visitor to my site. I can accept that. So that means Mac OS X/Safari should skew high in the results. But just how high? Let’s take a look.

The following are stats from the past month, January 19 to February 18.

Web Browsers

Here’s the breakdown of web browser usage among my site’s visitors:

Site Usage: Web Browsers

Firefox appears to be winning this war, with Safari close behind and Internet Explorer strong, but decisively in third place. Chrome trails far behind in fourth place, but I get a twisted pleasure from seeing Opera disappearing into irrelevance.

Operating Systems

And now for the operating systems:

Site Usage: Operating Systems

Well, how about that? There are enough other people looking at my site that Windows manages to still be the most widely used OS, though its 56% share is far below the roughly 92% share it (supposedly) holds among the general populace of computer users. And what do you know, the iPhone is third! Actually, iPhone and iPod should be identified together, since they run the same OS. I’m not sure why Google breaks them out (but doesn’t break out something much more useful: the different versions of Windows). Look at #7: the Wii! Sweet. Those were not from me. I must confess I’ve never heard of Danger Hiptop, but it’s obviously a mobile OS. Perhaps I should care, at least 0.04% of the time. (That works out to about 2.9 hours a month. Considering the average time on my site is about 3 minutes, one could [carelessly] deduce that Danger Hiptop users like to spend nearly 60 times the average amount of time per visit!)

OS/Browser Combinations

And now, all together:

Site Usage: OS/Browser Combinations

It’s no surprise that the Windows/IE combination manages to land the top spot, but it is surprising that the combo’s share is less than 29%. I’m a little surprised that Windows/Firefox also edges out Mac/Safari, although I should be glad that I represent, at most, about 1/5 of the visits to my own site. (I’m sure it’s actually only about half that!) Fully 12% of visitors to my site are coming to it on an iPhone or iPod touch. That’s incredible. And almost none of those are me. I guess it’s time to make sure I’ve optimized for that platform! I think this represents a turning point in the viability of mobile browsers, and we web designers and developers had best take notice.

I’ve seen this before just finished reading an article in a recent issue of the New Yorker entitled The Ponzi State. It talks about the collapse of the real estate market in Florida, specifically in and around the suburbs of Tampa.

The talk of plotted out but undeveloped (or underdeveloped) subdivisions, with streets and street signs and street lights but no houses, or a few scattered houses surrounded by overgrown empty lots, all struck me as eerily familiar: it sounded just like Salton City, California, a place I’ve blogged about and made music about, visited once a decade ago and learned about in a great documentary called Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea.

You see, Salton City was once a speculator’s dream, a boom town that never boomed, a suburban paradise-to-be that never quite managed to happen. In the 1960s a city that would ultimately boast a population of well over 100,000 people was conceived, laid out, and to some extent even built — the streets are there, and in many places even the necessary water, sewer and electrical hookups — but now it’s virtually a ghost town, or at least it would be a ghost town, if it had ever really been a town in the first place.

The Salton Sea is a strange place, a cautionary tale to the rest of us, but few have even heard, much less learned from, its lessons, and it seems now that we’re watching the same story unfold — on a much larger scale — throughout Florida and elsewhere in the wake of the housing bust.