Public service announcement: keep those bike tires inflated

For only the second or third time in recent memory, I have remembered to inflate the tires on my bicycle before they’ve gone completely flat, and without damaging the tire or bike in the process. So therefore I wish to remind my fellow cyclists to check your tires and keep them inflated. I find that a properly inflated tire gives a much easier ride, and helps avoid costly trips to the bike shop.

I think the experts say to check your tire pressure every time you ride the bike, or at any rate more frequently than I do. I always seem to remember it when I’m at the other end of my commute from my bike pump, and by the time I’ve gotten home, I’ve forgotten. I don’t know exactly how long it’s been (a few months at least), but I normally inflate the tires to 65 PSI, and they were around 20, so that’s not great.

“The Counter-Clock Incident”

After writing that most of the Star Trek animated episodes seemed to have a direct tie to an original series episode1, I was interested to see that most of the next set of episodes (from the late first season and second season) are more stand-alone. The last episode of the show, “The Counter-Clock Incident,” was a little bit surprising, though. There was a mention of the planet Babel (from “Journey to Babel”), and then immediately the episode introduces Robert April, first captain of the Enterprise. This is a major connection to the rest of Star Trek—or was it?

My years of Trek fandom had cemented this character and his background into my mind, so it took me a moment to remember that, in fact, this episode is the only place where Robert April is ever mentioned, let alone appears on-screen. As a kid, I had read so many Star Trek reference books and novels that of course I knew that Robert April was first captain of the Enterprise, before Christopher Pike and before James T. Kirk.

Amusingly, when I heard Robert April speak, I immediately identified his voice with the character. As with most of the male “guest stars” on the animated series, the character was voiced by James Doohan2. One of the Star Trek novels that April appears in was Final Frontier, by Diane Carey. As it happens, I used to have a cassette tape with the audiobook version of this novel, which was read by—wait for it—James Doohan.

1 I was amused to see that the TAS DVD set has a special feature “What’s the Star Trek Connection?” detailing in excruciating detail dozens of cross-references between TAS and the other Star Trek series and films.
2 Doohan could do a multitude of voices and accents, and since they were already paying him to do Scotty, it was cheaper to have him do other characters than hiring more voice actors. Likewise, many of the female guest characters were voiced by Majel Barrett or Nichelle Nichols.

More on Star Trek: The Animated Series

Finished the second disc, so now I’m at episode 12, more than half way through the series. I’ve been enjoying it; like the original show, but more cartoon-like in appearance.

One thing that is notable compared to the original: There are far more internal references. Of the dozen shows I’ve seen so far, three are direct sequels to a TOS episode (“Yesteryear” from “The City on the Edge of Forever”, “More Tribbles, More Troubles” from “The Trouble with Tribbles”, “Once Upon a Planet” from “Shore Leave”), and a bunch others feature direct references or characters from TOS episodes (e.g., Robert Wesley from “The Ultimate Computer” in “One of Our Planets Is Missing”, the Eugenics Wars reference in “The Infinite Vulcan”, Harry Mudd in “Mudd’s Passion”, Kor from “Errand of Mercy” in “The Time Trap”).

In part, this is so because the original series was so lacking—by modern standards, at least—in continuity. I suspect, though, that it is not so much that the animated show’s creaters felt differently about episodic television, but more that they were excited to be working on Star Trek (by then a pop icon). Tying back to the original series as often as possible was probably fun, and helped “prove” their Trek-ness. Also, since Trek was well-known by 1973, many of the viewers probably enjoyed the back-references.

On a side note: The TAS DVDs are, unfortunately, similar to the other series’ box sets in their annoyance factor. All the Star Trek DVDs I’ve watched so far make you sit and wait for several minutes after inserting the disc before you can select an episode and watch it. I believe the first four DVD series (TOS, TNG, DS9 and Voyager) were all produced basically at the same time, and are similar in form. Since TAS was just released this past year, I had hopes they would have made the discs more usable. Instead, they added previews for other shows. This does not bode well for the Enterprise DVD sets, also produced more recently than the others but before The Animated Series

Finished Star Trek: Voyager, now watching Star Trek: The Animated Series

I finished watching Star Trek: Voyager last week. Overall, I enjoyed the final few seasons of the show, which I had never seen before (except for the series finale, which was not spectacular). Even the parts of Voyager I had seen before I thought were much better than I remembered them. Perhaps I had lowered expectations, or less to compare it with. When Voyager was on the air the first time around, I was watching it along with Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5, both superior shows. So maybe the lack of direct comparison helped it.

I’m now watching the Star Trek animated series. It’s out of order, but it was just released on DVD recently, so wasn’t around when I finished the original series almost two years ago. I had seen a couple of these episodes before (Nickelodeon used to show them), but long enough ago that I don’t remember anything about them. It took a few episodes to get used to the animation—the episodes feel very slow and static (even though they’re only half an hour long), because there’s not much motion in most scenes. Presumably this was to save money when drawing the animation.

I was surprised that both the episodes I had heard of and was looking forward to seeing (“Yesteryear” and “More Tribbles, More Troubles”) were on the first disc, so I have no idea what to expect from the rest. There are only 22 half-hour episodes, so it won’t take long to find out.


Over the next few weekends, we’re going off to visit some of the graduate schools Laura’s considering. We’re going to visit Austin this coming weekend (March 23–25) and Seattle the next (March 29–31). While Laura is visiting the schools, I’ll be wandering around the cities; does anyone have any suggestions for things that would be good to do, see, or eat in Austin or Seattle?

RIP: Ramon’s Burrito Real

Last night, I decided to go to Ramon’s Burrito Real, on Rengstorff, for a taco salad. Imagine my surprise when I pulled up, got out of my car, walked inside, and discovered that while it was still a Mexican restaurant, it was a different Mexican restaurant. Apparently Burrito Real is no longer in business.

I believe Burrito Real was started by the same people who run La Costeña, and the burritos at both are nearly identical (and top-notch), but Burrito Real had a more varied menu, including the Real Salad which I liked and isn’t available at La Costeña.

I didn’t try the new place (“Tapatio’s”) to see if it was any good; there are plenty of Mexican restaurants I know I like already. I usually prefer the taco salad at Buenobueno, but sometimes I’m in the mood for the one at Burrito Real instead, and I will miss it.

“Flashback” (Star Trek: Voyager)

“Flashback” was Voyager‘s tribute episode for Star Trek‘s 30th anniversary. Janeway and Tuvok engage a mind meld and relive the events of Star Trek VI through the eyes of Tuvok, who was a junior science office on the Excelsior. This episode is not the best, but it was not nearly as bad as I remembered it being. It aired about the same time as the much-superior Deep Space Nine episode “Trials and Tribble-ations”—where the DS9 crew travel back in time to the original Star trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles—and I think the Voyager episode paled in comparison.

My recollection of this episode, which I hadn’t seen in over ten years, had been that it did a poor job of honoring the original series. I remember Janeway telling Tuvok he was right to object to Sulu’s command to rescue Kirk and McCoy, and then her speech:

It was a very different time, Mr. Kim. Captain Sulu, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy. They all belonged to a different breed of Starfleet officer. Imagine the era they lived in….
It’s not surprising they had to bend the rules a little. They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive, and a little quicker to pull their phasers. Of course, the whole bunch of them would be booted out of Starfleet today.

On re-watching, the episode is a little more nostalgic. Janeway finishes with “But I have to admit, I would have loved to ride shotgun at least once with a group of officers like that,” and later expresses satisfaction with Tuvok’s memory and his nostalgia. It’s still not the adoring romp through the past that was “Trials and Tribble-ations,” but perhaps it will do.

The other thing I remember, though, which still holds up ten years later, is that George Takei’s acting seemed off. Sulu seemed very over the top, and while he was always exuberant, this episode seems more like Takei impersonating Sulu rather than playing him. Perhaps it’s just that he’s reproducing scenes from Star Trek VI, the direction is different, and they don’t match up in my head, but it was as jarring to watch this time as it was the first.

Most telling, though, may be that as I was watching “Flashback”, I noticed each time they re-used an effects shot from Star Trek VI, or re-shot a scene with different words, or cut between new and old footage. On the other hand, when I watched “Trials and Tribble-ations,” even though the episode was one giant visual effects trick, I forgot to notice. The story was compelling and natural enough that I actually forgot that they had inserted the DS9 characters into scenes shot thirty years earlier. It wasn’t until I watched the “Making of” special on the bonus disk that I realized I had forgotten they didn’t just go back in time to 1968 to film new scenes with Shatner, Nimoy and the rest. It was that good. The Voyager episode was not up to par, although passable as a standalone piece. I give it a B-.

Last time, on Star Trek: Voyager

Haven’t written in a while. Here’s an update: I finished watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I couldn’t quite bring myself to start Voyager right after that, so I took a break and watched season five of The Sopranos. Then I started Voyager; I’ve just started the third season. I always thought I stopped watching Star Trek: Voyager after the second season, but I think I’m still in familiar territory, so it must have been after the third season when I stopped watching.

Ezri ezri ezri

I haven’t written much about Star Trek in a while, but I continue to watch, and I’m now about half way through the seventh (and final) season of Deep Space Nine. I made the mistake of reading something online that complained about the character of Ezri Dax being featured too often in the last season of DS9, and now of course it’s all I can think of every time I see her.

I’ve just seen four episodes in a row where the only characters we spend much time with are Ezri and the Ferengi (“It’s Only A Paper Moon,” “Prodigal Daughter,” “The Emperor’s New Cloak” and “Field of Fire”). And I don’t dislike Ezri, but the repetition bothers me. Also the lack of ongoing plot and focus on character stories while we’re supposed to be in the middle of a war.

Overall, though, I like Deep Space Nine a lot. I will be a little sad when it’s over. I haven’t decided what to watch next, though. I haven’t decided whether to see Voyager and Enterprise next, or stop Star Trek altogether. The original idea, when I started watching these DVDs fifteen months ago, was that I would be able to wrap my head around the whole Trek canon at once. That’s failed; I can barely remember what happened at the beginning of DS9, let alone the original series.

When I started watching, Enterprise had just finished airing, and I wasn’t that interested in seeing it again, but it’s now been over five years since I saw its first episode, so I’d sort of like to see it again. And as for Voyager, well, it comes next… Actually, I stopped watching Voyager after the second season the first time around, so I’ve never seen most of it. I heard it got better, though, so maybe I should give it a shot.

Tricks of the trade

I wrote a while back when we had some trouble with our car’s transmission. The problem recurred this week, but unlike last time, it didn’t get better, so today I had the car towed in for repair. The car’s problem is that it won’t shift out of park. It’s a front-wheel drive vehicle, so with the transmission stuck in park, you need to tow it from the front. But the car was parked in its garage space, nose-first, so the tow truck couldn’t get at the front wheels. I didn’t really have a good idea how the guy from the towing company would handle this, but luckily he did:

He backed up his tow truck and hooked up to the back wheels. He had another guy sit in the driver’s seat with his foot on the brake. Then he took a can of WD-40 and sprayed it under the car, beneath the front wheels. Then he went back to his truck, and skidded the car along the concrete floor of the garage out into the street, where he could maneuver his tow truck to the front wheels. It was quite impressive.

Some days, Murphy just wins.

Got back from Ashland this evening. Great vacation, wonderful plays, nice B&B, etc etc. But the last hour or so has been quite exasperating.

Weird Al’s new album (Straight Outta Lynwood) came out last week, and I had preordered it from Of course, the Post Office delivered it Thursday about forty minutes after I left for Oregon (excellent timing), but I was happy to discover on my return that they had managed to fit the Amazon package into my mailbox instead of leaving it with the office, so I could actually listen to it this evening. Well, at least I could try.

One of the reasons I ordered the CD instead of, e.g., buying it from iTunes, is that, besides getting the nice physical package with the liner notes, etc., Straight Outta Lynwood is a “DualDisc”, which means that one side is an ordinary CD (more on that in a minute), but the other side is a DVD, which has on it music videos, a documentary, and versions of the audio tracks in 5.1 surround sound and karaoke. So it seemed like a good idea.

But in the end, I really do want the music in iTunes. Which has proved exceeding difficult. As the nice sticker on the package says:

*The audio side of this disc does not conform to CD specifications and therefore will not play on some CD and DVD players.

So far, I’ve discovered that…

  • …when I put the disc, CD-side-up, into my PowerBook’s combo drive, it makes noises for a few songs, and then spits it out (but not all the way, so I have to pull at it for a bit before it comes out.)
  • …an external FireWire CD-RW drive I have thinks about the CD for about a minute, then gives up and pretends that there’s no CD present.
  • …my MacBook Pro recognizes the CD, and iTunes looks up the GraceNote information and starts to import, but stalls half way through the second song, and I need to force quit iTunes and wait a few minutes before it will let me eject the disc.
  • There is an every-so-tiny scratch on the CD side of the disc, that might be at about the right place to match where it stalls, although I’ve seen far worse on audio CDs, and TiVo can play that track through without any trouble, so I’m not sure it’s physical damage. TiVo doesn’t help me import the disc as an audio file, though.
  • …all my DVD-capable drives seem perfectly content with the DVD side of the disc, but that doesn’t help me get the tracks into iTunes.
  • …the little red “Everything you want to know about DualDisc” booklet says “The CD audio* side pays on all but a limited number of CD and DVD models,” but apparently “limited” means “Alexei’s.”
  • …when you’re frustrated and aggravated, Weird Al isn’t very funny.

Update (10/2/06): I was finally able to import the CD into iTunes today on one of the computers at work. It was also pointed out to me that the trouble I had with the CD was likely due not just to the extra thickness and weight from the DVD layer glued to the back of the CD, but that the CD side was probably copy-protected. Either way, I’m taking Sony/BMG off my Christmas card list.

This is no time to make mistakes…

Today in the mail I received a letter from an agent of the New York Life Insurance Company. It begins:

Dear Mexei Kosut,

This is no time to make mistakes with your money.

Apparently it’s okay to make mistakes with other things, though. Like potential customers’ names.

Whole Foods: Now Open

When I checked the Whole Foods new stores list a week ago, the Los Altos store was still listed as “Opening date to be announced,” but they apparently opened this last Wednesday. I haven’t been in yet, but I passed by this evening, and it looked quite busy. I did find this blurb in the store page amusing, though:

Los Altos is located in the heart of world famous Silicon Valley and is considered one of the most prestigious city’s in the Bay Area. Just 40 miles south of San Francisco, Los Altos is a residential community with tree lined streets served by seven small retail areas.

That’s a charming description of the city of Los Altos, but it has nothing to do with Whole Foods. The store is on El Camino Real, one of the busiest and largest streets in the region, directly across from one of Mountain View’s several enormous retail areas. I think the only trees you can find nearby are the ones that will be sold by the board-foot at the Home Depot planned to open there next year.


I noticed recently that if you take the word iPod, add an exclamation point, and then turn the whole thing upside-down, it still spells iPod!