Posts Tagged With: Star Trek

Smart Clothes

Smart watches that can check our email. Virtual-reality headsets. Smart eyeglasses with teeny computer screens—an exciting idea, maybe, unless you’ve ever had trouble getting used to bifocals. Clothes that can use energy from your movements to recharge electronic devices.

Wearable technology might be mostly at the experimental stage, but the melding of fashion and technology into smart clothes isn’t just for “Star Trek” anymore.

Let’s set aside for a moment the question of whether technology geeks are really the people we want designing our fashions. Here are a few smart-clothes options I wish they would work on:

• Clothes smart enough to pick themselves up off the floor, wash themselves, mend themselves, and put themselves away.
• Clothes smart enough to convert spaghetti-sauce stains into energy.
• Clothes for toddlers with sensors to alert parents if kids climb up on top of the refrigerator or find the hidden stash of gourmet chocolate.
• Clothes for women of a certain age, programmed to send a flow of cold air through their fibers at the first sign of a hot flash.

In the meantime, while the scientists and engineers are happily playing with wearable electronics, here’s a low-tech bit of design that would make life easier in today’s high-tech world. Pockets.

It makes no sense to me. Right now, cell phones are evolving from accessories to necessities. They’re getting bigger and smarter. They are becoming lifelines to the rest of the world, not just for communicating with other people, but for everyday activities like taking photos, reading, navigating, finding addresses, making grocery lists, and looking up answers to random questions like, “Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable?” (It’s a fruit; I looked it up.)

Because phones are used for so many things, they are increasingly important in a “don’t put it down except in the shower” kind of way. They are always just a ringtone or a vibration away.

So why don’t today’s clothes have pockets big enough to carry them in?

Oh, many men’s clothes do. But just look at the current styles for women. Skinny jeans so tight that, if you have a quarter in your pocket, people can see whether the outer side is heads or tails. Tights. Tall, form-fitted boots. Short, form-fitted jackets. Clingy layered tops. Dresses so short that pockets would hang lower than the hemline.

It might be useful if some of those creative techie nerds would turn their attention to designing better ways to carry around our essential electronics. Phone sheaths in those tall boots, maybe. Shoulder holsters. Necklaces—known, no doubt, as “neck-tech.” Wrist straps. Fashionable phone belts. Phone-holding scarves. Small, obedient, tech-toting dogs.

Except, if we’re honest about it, we know why this is a place that fashion designers refuse to go. Even the most stylish woman outfitted with such accessories would look like a refugee from a bad spy movie or a geek wearing a tool belt. No wonder so many women still lug purses the size of carpet bags.

And come to think of it, those “Star Trek” uniforms didn’t have pockets, either.

Categories: Fashion | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

House Guests, Mutant Mushrooms, and the Prime Directive

Warning: If there is a possibility that you may be an overnight guest in my house in the near future, it might be a good idea to skip this.

Okay, I tried. You’ve been warned. It’s not my fault if you’re still here.

At least it’s you, and not the intergalactic police force from the United Federation of Planets. Before they show up to arrest me and haul me off to some remote prison planet, I might as well confess and get it over with.

I have violated Star Trek’s Prime Directive. I have broken this crucial law which forbids interference with alien civilizations.

What I interfered with was alien, all right, though I’m not sure it could accurately be described as “civilization.” The word “culture” certainly fit, though. That’s culture as in “stuff growing in a Petri dish,” rather than culture as in “going to the opera.”

It all started with house guests. Not, let me hasten to add, that I have ever had house guests that could be described as “alien.” Well, there was that one guy. . . . He wasn’t a relative, though.

One of my most recent house guests happened to be at the sink in the downstairs bathroom while I was in the shower in the upstairs bathroom. When we met at the breakfast table a short time later, he told me he had been dripped on.

Yep, there was a leak, all right. The plumber came two days later, took apart the faucet in the upstairs shower, and discovered that it had been leaking inside the wall for a long time. The two-by-fours were spotted with yucky black stuff, and the whole thing smelled like the kind of basement you don’t want to go into even with the lights on.

After he fixed the leak, the plumber recommended bleach. Use a fan to dry out the wet area, he said, then apply generous amounts of one part chlorine bleach to three parts water and dry it out again.

The first time I did this, I thought the odd clumps of tannish stuff on the two-by-fours were bits of wood and sawdust left inside the wall by various plumbers and carpenters.

The second time I bleached it, I was wearing my reading glasses. Big mistake. It allowed me to see that those clumps were something living that had grown there. They were some sort of fungi or mutant mushroom. Alien life forms, for sure.

Did I call in a mycologist to identify them? Did I apply for a National Science Foundation grant to study them? Did I at least scrape some of them into a baggie for possible drying and smoking?

Nope. I doused the little critters with bleach. Not only did I interfere with that particular alien culture, I did my best to destroy it.

Maybe, by not eating or smoking them, I missed an opportunity for enlightenment. Never mind. Breathing the bleach fumes is hallucinogenic enough. If you were planning on visiting any time soon, I’d recommend waiting till the aura of chlorine has dissipated.

Besides, by the time I bleach the afflicted area, dry it out, and pay the plumber, I will have gained valuable insight and wisdom anyway. To wit: A little plumbing leak, ignored long enough, will grow into a bigger plumbing leak. That’s quite enough enlightenment for one week.

Categories: Just For Fun, Odds and Ends | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Born to be Mild

Bungee jumping? No thank you.

Roller coasters? Did that once, thanks. Once was once too often.

There's an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Captain Picard, having learned about some consequences of a youthful misadventure, is regretting what he sees as his character flaw of recklessness. He is taken back through his life to explore how it might have been if he had taken fewer risks. It turns out he would have still ended up on the Enterprise, but as a low-ranking, undistinguished member of the crew. The risk-taking he had seen as a flaw was part of what gave him the ability to command a starship.

Unlike Picard, when I look back I don't regret my past reckless behavior. Quite the opposite. As a child, I believed that rules were meant to be obeyed, boundaries to be respected, and lines to be colored inside. Not only was I rarely the one suggesting anything adventurous, I was often that annoying kid warning the others that they were going to be in big trouble.

This was less about respect for the rules, actually, than it was about being chicken. I was simply born to be cautious. On the very few occasions I did let peer pressure lure me into wilder behavior, I usually lived to regret it.

Like the time at church camp when I was a teenager. Everyone else was doing it. (Well, as is usually the case, not quite everyone. Several people were doing it, including a boy that I wanted to impress.)

No, not drugs. Not smuggling pine cones into the counselors' beds. Not smoking cigarettes or necking out in the woods. A few kids very likely did those things, but they didn't tell me about it.

Someone had come up with the bright idea of putting a plank across a log to make an impromptu teeter-totter. The smaller person, aka the girl, would stand on one end. The larger person, aka the guy, would jump onto the other end, sending her into the air. Her hair and sometimes other parts of her anatomy would bounce in an appealing manner, and she would squeal and giggle and come down more or less on her feet.

It looked like fun—sort of. One of the boys doing the jumping was the one I was hoping to impress. I didn't want to look like the chicken I really was. Even though my sensible side tried to talk me out of it, I allowed myself to be coaxed onto the short end of the board.

He jumped onto the other end. I went flying. If my hair bounced in an appealing manner, I didn't have time to notice before I tumbled sideways and the ground came up and hit me.

My wrist hurt and started to swell. The camp director insisted on taking me to town for an X-Ray. Instead of playing my guitar at the campfire sing-along that night, I spent the evening in the emergency room finding out my wrist wasn't broken. They sent me back to camp with an ice pack, which soothed my bruised arm but didn't do much for my bruised pride.

In the years since, I've become far more adventurous in a lot of ways. I've learned to take a few more risks—at least of the emotional and social kind. But physical? No thanks. I still don't do carnival rides that fling you around like Raggedy Ann on speed. I don't stand at the edges of cliffs when I'm hiking in the woods. I take my vitamins, eat my vegetables, use sunscreen, keep my gas tank at least half full, and always fasten my seatbelt.

Maybe that explains why no one has ever put me in command of a starship.

Categories: Living Consciously, Remembering When | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Final Decorating Frontier

On my way through the living room the other day, I happened to notice that the mantelpiece was bare. No, a burglar hadn't come down the chimney and grabbed the heirloom Sevres porcelain. Nor had the butler taken the silver candlesticks away to be cleaned. We had, in fact, cleared off the mantel over a month ago to put up Christmas decorations.

Our design scheme included hanging ornaments from the antlers of the deer skull that hangs above the fireplace. (No duct tape was used, however.) The look may not have worked for Martha Stewart, but I bet Red Green would have loved it.

We took down those decorations a few days after Christmas. A week or so after that we went out of town for a week. We've been back for a while now, and it took me this long to realize the space above the fireplace was still empty.

Several of my friends would have already decorated that tempting six-foot bare expanse. They would have arranged some color-coordinated combination of ornamental objects in an elegant display that might even enhance the antlers. Then, a few weeks from now, they would take that stuff down and replace it with something equally attractive and tasteful.

Not me. True, as a person with a college major in art, I do claim to have some esthetic sense. I have never owned a painting of Elvis on velvet, bought a couch pillow in fluorescent green, or worn plaids with stripes.

And I do recognize bad decorating when I see it. For example, take—please take, preferably as far away as possible—the Wisconsin motel that my late husband and I once stayed in. On a last-minute impulse, we had flown to the huge air show at Oshkosh. The closest available room we found was in a small town some 150 miles away. It shall remain anonymous, partly to protect the guilty but mostly because I have blotted its name from my memory.

The motel, called something like the Fantasy Inn, was apparently intended to attract honeymooners and those in search of romantic weekend getaways, licit or otherwise. Each room, the clerk informed us, was decorated around a different theme—a jungle room, an Arabian Nights room, an Egyptian room, and so on. You get the idea.

Either because we were Star Trek fans or because it was the only one left, we ended up in the "outer space" room. It turned out to be less than stellar.

Imagine a set for a zero-budget elementary school play about landing on the moon—on the dark side. The hot tub sat amid fake boulders intended to look like moon rocks. The walls and ceiling were black and ornamented with a faint scattering of amateurish painted stars and planets. There were a couple of dim lamps, plus a 20-watt light bulb over the bathroom sink. Applying eyeliner in the dark could make anyone look like an alien. Big round eyes or not, there was no way ET could have found a telephone in that room so he could phone home.

The focus of the décor was a round waterbed inside a structure designed to look like the nose cone of a space ship. To complete the futuristic theme, a video game screen was built into the inside of the "space capsule." Apparently this was the backup plan in case that whole romantic weekend thing didn't quite work out.

Compared to an esthetic disaster of such galactic scale, the potential for even a decorator-challenged type like me to mess up a simple fireplace mantel is minimal. It's just too bad the geologist in residence doesn't have any moon rocks.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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