Spolier alert: Five stars plus! A must buy.
Let me open with an observation that has nothing to do with iPads. It has to do with television and the way episodes are presented. Carol and I love the Closer and so we always follow it with the new show Rizzoli and Isles which is really a woman bonding show with just enough guns to keep their boyfriends and spouses from playing another recording on the DVR.
In the final scene of last night’s season finale, Angie Harmon manages to out Bruce Willis Bruce Willis by shooting herself through the stomach to kill the bad guy who’s holding her hostage. (Willis shot himself through the shoulder in the last Die Hard installment.) Never mind that we could see this coming because they switched to slow motion as soon as she reached for the gun. In fact, I had time to say to Carol, “Oh, look, she’s going to do a Bruce Willis.” And Carol had time to say, “It looks like she’s going for a guy shot” before she even pulled the trigger. And while she wall falling we both had time to congratulate ourselves on seeing it coming.
As soon as she hit the ground, they cut to credit.
Was there any suspense as to whether or not Angie Harmon’s character would live? No. And why not? Because three minutes earlier, the network ran a commercial that said, “Want more Rizzoli and Isles? Don’t worry. They’ll be back with more episodes next summer.”
What a drama killer.
That would be like Showtime announcing before last season’s Dexter finale, “Want to see more of Dexters’s wife, Rita? She’ll be back along with the kids and his sister in Season Five.” Of course, they didn’t. And Rita isn’t coming back because she’s already switched to the role of a lesbian stripper with a heart of gold in Desperate Housewives and a super heroine in another ABC show this fall. But that’s not my point. If she were coming back to Dexter, it would kind of ruin the whole ending to announce Rita would be back before we even see her lying dead in a bathtub.
What was the network thinking?
That would be like a network announcing before a playoff game with the Yankees on the verge of elimination, “Want to see more of the Yankees? Don’t worry, they’ll be back tomorrow night for game seven.” Or announcing before last year’s Super Bowl, “Want to see more of the New Orleans Saints? Don’t worry, we’ll be interviewing them as they pour champagne and run around with the trophy immediately after the end of tonight’s game. Oh, and we’ll interview the losers too.”
That would be like the Bible saying, “No one knows when Jesus will return on October 7, 2014.” It kind of defeats the purpose of suspense.
Summer’s over, the bosses are looking at the end of the fiscal year and deciding what fat to trim to meet the bottom line and cash in their bonuses. The last thing to go will be their expense accounts because, God knows, they need those perks after dealing with all those underlings worried about their petty little jobs, and the corporate car and apartment isn’t going either. They aren’t selling off infrastructure or equipment because they haven’t depreciated fully yet. They’re certainly not going to scale back on the executive corporate retreat because they need the inspiration to make their employees’ lives miserable for another year.
So that leaves your job on the chopping block. Or your cubicle mate’s job, or the job of the woman sharing your computer because they reallocated hers to the boss’ girlfriend when they hired her for the typing pool. Could be all three of your jobs, and most likely they won’t tell you until the week before Christmas so they can write your entire salary off for the current tax year without taking the hit back on unemployment until after the new tax year.
Stressed? Of course you’re stressed, and iPad developers have released a number of stress management tools to keep your blood pressure from shooting an anurism through the back of your skull. Some of them look good, some of them are worthless and at least one will cause more stress than it relieves. I will look at several of them in the upcoming weeks, but today I’m going to focus on Koi Pond HD.
Koi Pond emulates the time honored tradition of Zen-based stress reduction. Surround yourself with a peaceful atmosphere and meditate on the beautiful fish. With the ability to choose a number of different ambience settings, you can wash the stress of the office from your mind and regain your tranquility and composure.
That’s the theory anyway. Fortunately, Koi Pond’s developers never really call this a stress management tool (even though the zen connections are clearly there) and stresses the fact that this is a virtual koi pond. The app is about as cool as an app can get. It’s not the developer’s fault that some people will never find Koi exciting, much less relaxing. They’re more likely to think the koi pond is boring.
This isn’t the aquarium we would recognize from the old Mac screensaver days, brightly colored and packed with brightly colored fish and interesting aquatic species. This is a koi pond with no filtration system, no water cleaner and a complete lack of daylight shining through the glass walls from every side. It is a muddy, cloudy, murky pond—albeit, a pond that you can brighten if you want—and totally cool.
Koi Pond is like a Barbie doll. The doll itself is fairly bland (except when you’re at that certain age when boys—and a few girls—realize Betty and Veronica are more interesting than Archie and Jughead but before they move on to real girls), but you can dress her up any way you want even if you have a lousy sense of fashion.
When I was a kid they didn’t have GI Joe until I was in junior high so I was stuck with Ken for dress-up action fantasies. I would dress my Ken in his slacks, jacket and oxfords and then want to use the microphone as a grenade and crash the plastic Barbie car like James Dean. My mom and sisters told me that wasn’t how you played with Ken so I would toss him back in the toy box and run outside to sit in our Oldsmobile and pretend to drive it through the backyard fence and shoot the bad guys on the other side.
That’s kind of what I do with Koi Pond. I spend half an hour creating a new pond, watch the fish for a few seconds and then move onto something else. But I also sit through stress management seminars waiting for something exciting to happen. So this isn’t the apps fault
You start with a few fish in a murky pond
With a little experimentation you can create totally new environments with custom lighting.
Total environment control
The developers put a lot of thought into the environmental details that affect the ambience of a koi pond, from artifacts to lighting, water turbulence and reflectivity. You can even select the ambient background sounds.
The basics are easy to figure out. The menu provides a collection of objects to decorate the pond itself, as well as objects to float on the surface. You can alter each object’s color, rotation, size and depth in the water.
Koi Pond also allows you to place and edit multiple light sources, including room light above and below the water and lights on the water surface.
You can drag objects onto the surface or under water,
and edit light sources for both.
The amount of control even extends to the color and clarity of the water as well as surface reflectivity. You can choose which types of koi you want to include in your pond and even add fireflies to the surface.
The level of control over the water and pond population are amazing.
If this weren’t impressive enough, you can control the overall ambient sounds, including birds and turbulence.
In fact, the only criticism I have of the app is that it isn’t informative enough. It never actually tells you what the ambient sounds are. You have to figure that out from the button images and by toggling back and forth between the pond and the elements menu to see how things have changed. I still haven’t figured out what sound accompanies the bamboo button.
Furthermore many of the water settings are hidden from view with no arrow or any other indicator that more settings are available. A very slender scroll bar appears when you touch the screen to change the first level of settings, but it’s barely noticeable. I had created several different environments before I realized the additional settings were available.
The pond itself is amazingly realistic. The developers really understand how they eye and screen interact to create the illusion of real fish swimming. What’s even more cool is that when you tap the screen the water ripples and the fish scatter away. I’ve played with Koi Pond dozens of times, and I remain impressed with the illusion it creates.
Even if you think fish tanks are stupid, you should really check out Koi Pond. And if you want pets, but you’re too lazy to feed them and clean the water, then Koi Pond HD is the perfect app for you.
Jenny Manytoes rates Koi Pond HD
Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits on Koi Pond. In fact, I already have to replace the screen protector on my iPad from where she tried to scoop one out of the pond with the eight claws on one paw.