ST:TNG Treadmill Reviews #55 and #56: Wherein I am beginning to lose steam for this project

Over the weekend I ran on the treadmill twice and watched ST:TNG as usual, both times. In this case I watched Qpid (S4E20, 4/20/91, IMDb 7.3/10) and The Drumhead (S4E21, 4/27/91, IMDb 8.4/10).

Both were good episodes that I enjoyed, but my timing was bad, and I did not have a chance to write my blog entries immediately after watching them.

“Qpid” (featuring Q, of course), was the kind of episode I might typically hate, but I actually found it exceedingly entertaining, with Picard as Robin Hood, leading his band of Merry Men to rescue Maid Marian (Vash, from the episode where Picard punches a Ferengi in the face). The episode even pays homage to one of the funniest moments in Animal House.

And then we had “The Drumhead,” featuring Jean Simmons (who I recognized best from having just seen her in an old episode of Miss Marple that I watched a week or so ago) as a witch hunt-leading admiral. The episode, once again, felt very timely with what’s been happening in the U.S. politically in recent months. When episodes like this originally aired, I saw them as symbolically representing tyrannical governments of the 20th century, but I foolishly maintained an “it would never happen here” mentality. Now I know better. So I didn’t exactly enjoy this episode, but I found it compelling.

Sorry for breaking the formula with this review; I’m just trying to get caught up!

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

Reflecting on my own experience with Brooks’s Law

An interesting take today from Gruber on a concept (Brooks’s Law) that you may not know by name, but may have witnessed in your life.

Personally, I have vivid firsthand experience with Brooks’s Law, from the 7 months I worked at Best Buy corporate in 2000. The dev team was ludicrously large, and I honestly couldn’t figure out what 99% of them were doing there. Aside from a few project managers, a handful of content writers/editors, and 4 of us on the dev team — 2 front-end devs (including myself) and 2 back-end devs/database admins — I really feel like no one else needed to be there, and the fact that there were so many people made everything take way longer and cost way more than it needed to.

Microsoft contributed $150 million worth of software and consultant time to the project, including a relatively huge team working with some of the other devs at Best Buy who I never had any contact with, all for the process of customizing a 7-figure behemoth Content Management System (CMS) called Vignette StoryServer to suit our needs.

That project dragged on for months, including many months beyond when I left. In the meantime, I spent a weekend building a quick-and-dirty, database-less (since as a front-end dev I wasn’t allowed direct access to databases, because roles!) CMS to allow our writers to load their own content into pages instead of having to send Word docs to the other front-end dev and myself to key in as HTML (stupid!)… and my QDCMS worked so well, they were still using it almost a year after I quit!

ST:TNG Treadmill Reviews #52 and #53: Night Terrors and Identity Crisis

I’ve been getting a bit off track with both my running and my reviews, so here’s a catch-up post.

I skipped S4E16, Galaxy’s Child, because… well… “As Geordi La Forge finally meets the real Dr. Leah Brahms, a tragic first contact leaves the Enterprise with a gigantic galactic infant suckling the ship’s energy” sounds excruciating. I already endured an episode with Geordi fawning over a holographic simulation of Dr. Leah Brahms, and if I recall correctly this episode has an awkward moment where the real life Dr. Brahms discovers Geordi’s holoprogram. And “a gigantic galactic infant suckling” is just too much. So we move on…


Night Terrors
Season 4 Episode 17
Original airdate: March 16, 1991

Netflix Synopsis

The Enterprise has finally tracked down the missing starship USS Brattain, but Troi senses trouble with the life on board.

My Brief Review

No one on board is dreaming except Troi, who has a recurring nightmare of floating in a green void with the binary stars they’re orbiting floating far above her (yet she somehow can’t figure out that that’s what they are). An alien voice keeps saying “Two eyes in the darkness. One moon circles.” After a couple of weeks they finally figure out that some aliens are trapped just like they are, and are telepathically asking for hydrogen so they can set off an explosion to free everyone. It works. The end.

Memorable Moment

When they finally figure out the hydrogen thing.

Crew Rando

Fightin’ Ensign Gillespie. Chill out, dude!

Distance Rating: 3K

IMDb score: 7.2/10


Identity Crisis
Season 4 Episode 18
Original airdate: March 23, 1991

Netflix Synopsis

La Forge’s friend Leijten expresses concern about the whereabouts of their former crewmates. Soon both begin suffering worrisome ailments.

My Brief Review

For some reason this episode gets an extremely middling review from IMDbers, but it’s one of my most memorable. I didn’t recognize it from the synopsis, but within 5 seconds, I knew it immediately! The one where Geordi recreates a mission log video on the holodeck and discovers the shadow of an unexplained figure. I love that moment. Eventually Geordi, like the others who had been on that mission 5 years earlier, begins to transform into a weird alien species that blends into its environment, acts solely on instinct, and glows like a Tron character in UV light. But his friend talks him off the metaphorical ledge before his transformation is complete, and we get our old friend Geordi back!

Memorable Moment

That moment.

Crew Rando

Honestly, Lt. Cdr. Leijten is kind of a rando even though she’s one of the main characters in the episode, because although we’re told what her relevance to the story is, I don’t think we’re actually told how she ends up on the Enterprise for this episode. Oops.

Distance Rating:

IMDb score: 6.8/10

A tribute to Chick Corea (1941-2021)

This week we lost one of the all-time great jazz musicians: pianist, composer and bandleader Chick Corea. He first came to prominence as a sideman in the ’60s, eventually joining Miles Davis’s Lost Quintet around 1968, and very notably playing on the revolutionary fusion album Bitches Brew. In the ’70s he formed his own highly influential jazz fusion band, Return to Forever, and he continued to play a major role in both the fusion and traditional jazz scenes for the rest of his life.

He was also a Scientologist, which… well, I’m just putting it out there.

My introduction to Chick was, sadly, probably the least enduring of his work, the extremely ’80s (in a bad way) Elektric Band. I bought the newly-released fourth Elektric Band CD in high school when I was just discovering jazz, and it did nothing for me, so I kind of ignored Chick for many years, until the classic Return to Forever lineup (Chick, Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White) reunited to tour in the 2000s. I saw them live and was blown away, and then I began to explore Chick’s amazing work from the ’60s and ’70s… all of the RTF albums, plus albums like 1978’s Friends (which featured Smurfs on the cover, before they were “a thing” here in the U.S., at least), Now He Sings, Now He Sobs (1968) and my absolute favorite, Light as a Feather from 1973.

In addition to that Return to Forever show, I also got to see Chick play with Steve Gadd at the Dakota Jazz Club here in Minneapolis in 2017. That show was a lifetime music highlight for me… two of my favorite musicians in an intimate venue. (We were sitting in the mezzanine, directly above and behind Steve Gadd’s drum kit, so I could watch everything he was doing!)

Last year when I was working on my Northern Daydream album, there were two additional tracks I had originally intended to include but abandoned midway through: Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay,” and Chick Corea’s “500 Miles High,” from Light as a Feather.

Yesterday I decided I needed to pay tribute to Chick by finishing my recording of “500 Miles High” with an accompanying video. Problem is, I had not started doing video yet when I recorded the fretless bass and electric piano parts (the only parts I had recorded) last year, so I had to start over. Luckily I still had the Logic project file, so I had a head start on doing the re-recording. I managed in one 8-hour blast to record new bass and electric piano parts, as well as the tenor sax and drum parts I had never gotten to the first time around, mix and master the recording, edit together the video, and even add an animated opening title sequence! It was definitely the fastest I’ve ever turned around a project like this, but I wanted to keep the momentum going.

Here it is!

In case you’re wondering about this weird orange space I record in, a bit of the secret is revealed near my sock-feet in the keyboard shot.

Sadly I do not (yet) have a proper recording booth built out in my house, but I do have a freestanding space in the basement, created by hanging four heavy moving blankets from the rafters, to form a 5′ x 5′ “booth” of sorts, with a fifth blanket above as a ceiling. A patchwork of rugs on the floor completes the sound dampening effect. It is most definitely not soundproof, but it is acoustically “dry,” which I have come to realize is more important!

The only downside is it’s right next to the furnace, so I do have to turn the heat off when I’m recording with microphones! But any other noise from upstairs — talking, walking around, etc. — does not get picked up noticeably by the mics.

This is better than the sound booth I created in a small closet at the shop I was renting for several years. I spent several hundred dollars on acoustical foam to cover every inch of the inside of that closet, but it could not compensate for the fact that Pizza Hut’s walk-in freezer was directly on the other side of the wall!