ST:TNG Treadmill Review #12: Up the Long Ladder

Up the Long Ladder
Season 2 Episode 18
Original airdate: May 20, 1989

Netflix Synopsis

When Starfleet receives an old Earth distress signal from deep in space, the Enterprise is sent to investigate.

My Brief Review

Shit sandwich.

But seriously. I should have known from early in the episode when they all (including the computer) pronounced “hegemony” with a hard G. (Kind of the reverse of “1.21 jigawatts.”) This definitely the worst episode I’ve bothered to watch so far.

The Enterprise follows an antiquated distress signal and discovers a forgotten 22nd century Earth colony. Its ship departed with an odd mix of high technology, farm animals and spinning wheels.

The people Enterprise finds are an agrarian society that plays up every imaginable Irish stereotype. Their planet is endangered by solar flares, and they need to be evacuated — along with their farm animals. Hilarity ensues.

On board Enterprise, the daughter of the leader of the colony, inexplicably dressed in a cable knit crop top, makes out with Riker (a subplot that never comes up again); meanwhile the leader himself asks Picard about the other colony. (Ah, so that’s where all of the technology went.) They locate an M-class planet a half lightyear away, populated by a society of erudite, celibate clones. It turns out only 5 members of this colony survived the landing on the planet, and they used their scientific knowledge to populate the planet with copies of themselves. But genetic degradation is creeping in and their society is doomed.

Long story short, they steal DNA samples (hence the episode’s title, I guess) from Riker and Dr. Pulaski, who then beam down and kill their own clones. Then Picard sets up a meeting between the two leaders, a real Odd Couple, to concoct a harebrained scheme to merge their societies as a solution to both worlds’ problems. Of course there will be polygamy.

We never find out why these two groups left Earth together in the 22nd century. Or anything else that would help this terrible, sloppy episode make any sense.

Memorable Moment

I didn’t even mention that the episode starts with Worf grunting at his station and then collapsing. He apparently has the Klingon equivalent of the measles, which humiliates him, but Dr. Pulaski keeps his secret and he thanks her by performing the Klingon tea ceremony. Which has nothing to do with anything else in the episode, and of course is not mentioned again.

And another throwaway moment: we learn that Geordi’s visor is basically a lie detector. Who knew? (Apparently no one before or after this episode!)

I really feel like this episode was the result of every writer on the staff throwing their worst idea in a hat, and then stitching them together into a bare semblance of a story.

Crew Rando

None. Even the red shirts had the good sense to avoid this disaster.

Distance Rating: 4K

IMDb score: 6.3/10

Responsive horizontal scrolling tables for phones in CSS with no additional HTML

For some reason I always forget how to do this, and most tutorials out there suggest wrapping your table in a container <div> tag but as long as you’re using <tbody> (and, ideally, not using <thead> or <tfoot>) then it’s easy with a small bit of CSS and no HTML changes at all.

The trick is to display your <table> as a block, and your <tbody> as a table!

Here’s the code. Fit it into whichever breakpoint makes sense for your site. Mine shown here is the standard phone width breakpoint for WordPress (782 pixels):

@media screen and (max-width: 782px) {

  table {
    display: block;
    overflow-x: auto;
    width: 100%;

  table tbody {
    display: table;
    width: auto;


Of course, right after I posted this I found that I had already written about it two years ago with a slightly different solution. Never hurts to have a slightly different perspective.

The Post-it note that started it all

My recently completed rock opera, 8-Bit Time Machine, did not begin as most of my albums do, with a list of song titles to serve as inspiration, an overarching concept, and a handful of drum beats or keyboard grooves.

No, it began with this Post-it note.

8-Bit Time Machine chords Post-it

You see, I keep my cheap Fender Strat hanging next to my desk in the studio, so whenever I feel inspired or just need a mental break, I can take it down and noodle for a few minutes. In September I started tinkering with a chord progression, which I had to write down so I wouldn’t forget it, and then I continued to expand on it and rework it, until it became the structure for track 10, “You’re Not That Old Anymore.”

In fact this chord progression ended up serving as the basis for almost the entire album, as it first appears (in its entirety) on a keyboard in the opening track, and crops up again in bits and pieces in other tracks (especially #2, “Daydream of the 8-Bit Time Machine”, and #7, “(No) Meaning in the Machine”), before getting its full realization in the album’s penultimate track.

I kept this Post-it note stuck right on the front of that Strat for over a month before I actually began recording the album. At that point the chords were in my blood and I no longer needed a cheat sheet to remember them. But I kept it anyway as a rare physical memento of the unusual origins of this most unusual album.

Obviously not everything from the Post-it was entirely relevant. There’s nothing on the album in 5/8, for instance, although perhaps that interest in 5 is what inspired the crazy quintuplet drum fills in the loud section of track #8, “Horizontal Hold”.

Top 5 albums of 2010

It’s that time again. Well, OK, maybe I’m jumping the gun a little. If a sonic masterpiece floats down from on high (mixed in with all of the snow) in the next two weeks, I’ll amend my list. Otherwise, get ready because here comes my list of the top 5 albums of 2010!

5. Broken Bells

As I wrote in my midyear assessment of the music of 2010, “Take one member of The Shins and one of Gnarls Barkley — two bands I generally dislike — and put them together, and strangely, you get a band I really do like.” Strangely enough, not long after I wrote this, I was captivated, along with much of the rest of the country, by “Fuck You,” a delightfully melodic and lyrically brazen single by the other half of Gnarls Barkley, and Cee Lo’s full-length album The Lady Killer just missed the cut here. As for Broken Bells, the album has held up well, and I still find myself listening to it on a regular basis. It may not be a masterpiece for the ages, but it’s solid, tuneful and engaging.

4. Field Music (Measure)

Here’s another one I wrote about back in July. I still hear the Gentle Giant similarities I’ve always found with this band’s music, but I have started to notice the band’s stated (although perhaps semi-joking) Led Zeppelin influence as well. This is the kind of music that could make unironic prog rock popular and critically acclaimed tolerated once again. Whatever the case, I’m glad the sibling duo worked out whatever issues they had with each other and/or their departed third member and produced another album, and by any… measure… their best to date.

3. Spoon: Transference

I swear I’m not just stacking this list with albums I already wrote about just to be able to crank out this post faster. Transference was the first new album of 2010 that I bought, way back in January, and I knew right away that it was going to be on this list. It’s great, minimalist, Krautrock-influenced alternative power pop. I don’t know… throw in a few more loosely-defined subgenres and maybe it will all make sense.

2. Kings Go Forth: The Outsiders Are Back

The lead-off track on this album, “One Day,” is one of those amazing pieces of music that leaps out of the speakers and grabs your attention. It’s unbelievably infectious and energetic, and refreshingly lo-fi and organic sounding. It’s the kind of song where you forever remember where you were when you first heard it. In this case, we were driving in downtown St. Paul when The Current started playing it. It was at once familiar, timeless, and like nothing I’d ever heard before. And I’m pleased to say that the rest of the album lives up to the standard. This Milwaukee-based funk/soul outfit is gaining more and more attention from a national audience, and I wish them the best of luck for continued success.

1. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross: The Social Network (soundtrack)

This is the first time I’ve ever declared a soundtrack the “best” album of the year… especially when it’s from a movie I haven’t even seen! I’m not sure I ever really want to see The Social Network — it’s one of those movies I avoid far longer than I can justify, like Titanic, which I finally saw when it was in second-run on its rerelease, well over a year after it came out; and I still have never seen Avatar. But my disdain for popular movies is not limited to the oeuvre of James Cameron. It doesn’t even matter if I ever see the movie though; the soundtrack is freaking awesome. It’s simultaneously atmospheric and energetic. It proves that music doesn’t need words, and a soundtrack doesn’t need a film: it’s a great soundtrack for whatever you’re doing. I love listening to it while I work, and it inspires me to want to cultivate more of my own soundtrack recording projects. Put it this way: it beats wasting time on Facebook.

Honorable Mention

As usual, it was tough to pick just five. A couple of albums that just missed the cut were I Learned the Hard Way by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Interpreting the Masters, Volume One by The Bird and the Bee. The latter is a strange beast indeed: a collection of covers of the Hall and Oates classics I grew up with. These versions aren’t superior to the originals, and they’re not particularly inventive, but they’re catchy as hell, and it’s fun to hear Inara George’s unique vocal style paired with classic Hall and Oates melodies and lyrics.

My strange solution to Apache not starting on Ubuntu Linux server with SSLEngine on… (YMMV)

The situation: I’m running a web server on Ubuntu Linux using Apache 2. I have two sites on the server that need SSL. I obtained a second IP address (since you can only have one SSL certificate per IP address) and configured Apache accordingly. I was able to get regular old port 80 non-SSL pages to load just fine on virtual hosts configured to use both IP addresses.

I created my key files, got the certificates from the CA (GeoTrust, in this case), all that business. Put the files in the right places, configured the Apache files, all that jazz. Made sure mod_ssl was enabled, yes. All of that. Trust me, I did it. Don’t bother asking. And yet, whenever I tried to run Apache with SSL configured… nothing.

And I mean… nothing.

I’d restart Apache at the command line, and nothing. No error messages of any kind. But Apache wasn’t running. I checked all of the log files (and I mean all of the log files), nothing. DOA.

Eventually I tracked down the culprit as the SSLEngine on line in the Apache config file. With it in there, Apache wouldn’t start. Comment it out, Apache starts up just fine, but of course you don’t have SSL.

I’m using the arrangement of Apache config files as they’re installed in a default Ubuntu build. That means /etc/apache2/httpd.conf is actually empty, and most of its usual contents are in /etc/apache2/apache2.conf, with a few other settings dispersed into a number of adjacent files. There are some critical settings in /etc/apache2/ports.conf and then everything else is in the individual config files I’ve created for each site on the server, stored in the /etc/apache2/sites-available directory with symbolic links for the active ones in /etc/apache2/sites-enabled.

Well… that turned out to be the problem. I’m not sure why it matters, but I was putting the VirtualHost configurations for the SSL sites in the respective sites’ existing configuration files. But no… all of the SSL-related (port 443) <VirtualHost> blocks needed to be put in the 000-default file. That made all the difference.

Well, almost all the difference. My private key files are encrypted with pass phrases, and Apache needed me to enter them when starting up. But, funny thing… it didn’t ask me for them all right away. I had to fiddle around with starting and stopping it a couple of times (which I bothered to do because it still wasn’t running), but eventually it did ask me to enter the pass phrase for both sites, and after I did that, everything is working. Both SSL sites, all of my non-SSL sites, it all works.

I’m a little concerned that Apache is going to require manual input of these pass phrases again whenever it restarts (e.g. if the server reboots). I hope not, but for now I am at least able to move forward knowing it works at all.