It’s a Weird Al kind of day

  • This evening, I finished watching The Weird Al Show on DVD. I think I had always assumed I had seen most of the show back when it aired on CBS, but watching it, it’s pretty clear that I had only seen the first episode aired. I guess Weird Al was not sufficient motivation to wake up early on Saturday mornings back in 1997.
  • I discovered this morning that Al has a new album coming out this September, Straight Outta Lynwood (Google tells me that Lynwood is a city in Los Angeles County, and it’s where Weird Al was born). This was not announced today, but I found out about it today.
  • However, actually today—just a few hours ago even—you can download one of the singles from the new album from Weird Al’s MySpace page. The song is called “Don’t Download This Song”, which I assume is some sort of humor.
  • You can also download “You’re Pitiful” (which is not on the new album) from This actually happened a few months back, and I knew about it at the time, but since I didn’t post anything about it at the time, I will now, in case you missed it.
  • It turns out Weird Al has a MySpace page. Who knew?

Supermarket Shuffle

Our local Albertsons is closing. I knew the company was closing a large number of its Bay Area locations, but didn’t know they were closing ours until I saw a man with a sandwich board advertising an inventory blowout at “up to 60% off”. I went over today, and discovered that “up to 60% off” is marketing-speak for “there is one item at 60% off”. Greeting cards, that’s it. Everything else is at a lower discount: 10% for meat and produce, 20% for bulk and frozen groceries, and 40% for non-food “general merchandise”. Milk is not discounted at all. I suppose it makes some sense; they can’t keep a large stock of perishables anyway, so they probably expect to sell it all out before closing. On the other hand, dry goods also seem to me the easiest to transfer to another store and sell eventually. I guess they know what they’re doing.

I’m a little surprised that this store is closing. Albertsons is supposedly closing the underperforming stores, and this one always seemed pretty busy. The lines were long, at least, although that may just have been because they replaced half the cashiers with computerized self-service machines that no one could ever seem to figure out how to use. I was also surprised to see that the Albertsons Pharmacy is transferring prescriptions not to another Albertsons, but to the Safeway Pharmacy across the street. It seems uncharacteristically helpful.

On the plus side, they’re building a Whole Foods a few blocks away. It’s supposed to open in August, and be three times the size of the Palo Alto store. That’s something to look forward to.

Charleston Plaza: A Report

I admit I had begun to get a little suspicious. Barely a month ago, I was lamenting that our nearest Bed Bath & Beyond was almost ten miles away in Santa Clara. Then last week, I was looking through the mail and came across an ad from Bed Bath & Beyond telling us to shop in new their Mountain View location. Yesterday, I was thinking it would be nice if there was a good place to buy a Nintendo DS Lite in the area. Today in the mail came a coupon from PetSmart telling us to visit their new store. Now, I’m quite certain that PetSmart has no store closer than Sunnyvale, but the little map on the flyer said it was right there next to the Best Buy and the REI. Two stores which also have no location in Mountain View.

So I drove out there, and sure enough, Mountain View has a new shopping center. Charleston Plaza is across Charleston from Rengstorff Center (aka Costco), right next to 101. It’s got a Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond and PetSmart that are open now (well, they’re closed now, but they were open half an hour ago), and an REI “coming soon”. There’s also another building still under construction that looks like it will house smaller shops or restaurants.

It’s weird; I’m used to “new car smell” and “new electronics smell”, but I didn’t realize until today that there’s a “new store smell.” Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond certainly had it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dedicate the rest of my evening to my new Nintendo DS Lite.

Update: Corrected the name of the shopping center.

Star Trek: Intersection

As I’ve been approaching season seven of The Next Generation, I’ve been wondering what to do about Deep Space Nine. DS9 and TNG were on the air simultaneously, so I’ve been wondering how best to watch them, whether to finish all of TNG before starting the DS9 DVDs, or to interleave them in air order (either by disc or by episode, although the latter would probably require upping my Netflix subscription). Turns out the decision got made without my realizing it.

I had always assumed, because I sort of remembered it, that DS9 premiered the same time as TNG’s seventh season. So I was quite surprised to start watching “Birthright: Part 1” (episode 16 of season six) and find that it takes place at Deep Space Nine. It turns out—and I remember it now—that DS9 began to air in January 1993, about half way through season six. So I’ve been five episodes into Deep Space Nine and didn’t even know it. Oops. Guess I’ll keep watching TNG, then.

Search results

I have just now discovered that if you search for “dos equis”, you get three results: two kinds of Metamucil and some Bayer aspirin. I’m not sure what this means.

(Apparently, not finding any results for my search, it assumes I meant “dose equis”, and those are the products that have “dose” in the description. Amusing, though.)

Update: Laura thinks people reading this might not know what Dos Equis is. It’s Spanish for “we’re out of Corona.”

And all I ask is a tall month and a star to steer her by

All day, I’ve been wondering why my iCal window seems so cramped and busy, even though it’s the same size it’s always been. I finally realized it’s because April 2006 spans six weeks, rather than the usual five. So iCal’s month view shows 42 days instead of 35. I’ve made my window larger, and that seems to help.

It’s interesting that I’ve never noticed this before. Maybe I’ve just never paid enough attention; I do occasionally feel the need to resize iCal to fit everything comfortably, and the last six-week month was October 2005, which was over five months ago. The next one is this July.

The next four-week month is February 2009, the last was in 1998 (February 2004 also started on a Sunday, but it was a leap year).

TiVo Service Update

Yesterday, my TiVo recieved a service update, with some new functionality. I really like the “Recently Deleted Folder”, which shows everything you’ve deleted but hasn’t yet been recorded over. It’s a good concept, since I’ve accidentally deleted things I’ve realized later I actually wanted to see. I have a few quibbles with the implementation—for one thing, it could use a nicer icon in Now Playing (right now it looks the same as any other folder, which it’s not), and I had gotten used to hitting Page Down in Now Playing until it bonked to get to TiVo Suggestions, which doesn’t work anymore—but I think it’s a good thing overall.

What I don’t like about the update is the “Improved TiVo Suggestions”. The message tells me that “the TiVo service is better than ever at suggesting shows you might like”, but I don’t want it to do that. I want it to suggest shows I will like. I had gotten TiVo into a nice rut where it was recording episodes of basically the same seven or eight sitcoms whenever they were on (if you must know, Frasier, Friends, Cheers, Mad About You, Wings, That 70’s Show and a few others I delete), and I like all those shows, so I would watch them. Since yesterday, it’s been recording all sorts of odd things I don’t usually watch, or have never seen before—it just picked up a bunch of really old sitcoms from TV Land, like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Green Acres, I Dream of Jeanie and Leave It To Beaver, and as we speak it’s recording The Tonight Show, so I don’t know what to think. And, of course, it managed to find one of the half dozen episodes of Ellen I’ve seen before. Maybe these are shows I would like, but I had gotten used to the old behavior, and TV isn’t where I want to experiment with change.

All better now

Laura got the car going again: She got off the train, got in the car, yanked on the gearshift, and it worked. I am glad the car is working again, but I am a little flummoxed as to why I couldn’t get it out of park, either last night or when I tried again this morning.

Well that was fun

I parked the car at the train station this evening, and when I went back to it twenty minutes later, I couldn’t make it go. It started, but I couldn’t shift it out of park. I tried all the steps listed in the manual, but to no avail. More than a little frustrating, of course. I tried calling AAA, but they insisted that all they could do was jump start or tow, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to have the car towed just yet. Eventually, I decided maybe I should just leave the car and take the bus home. The 35 had been parked stopped at the bus stop for a while, and I figured that once it turned on its lights and route sign, I could wander over and hop on. Turns out that it pulled away without ever turning on the rear signs, and there wasn’t going to be another one for an hour. Sigh.

I ended up taking Caltrain up to San Antonio, and walking home from there (carrying the groceries I’d bought earlier in the evening), and now I’m home, safe and mostly sound. The car is still parked at the train station, and maybe tomorrow I can figure out how to make it go, or have it towed somewhere where they can fix it. Or maybe this is a sign that it’s time to decide that I’m never going to be able to afford to own property in the Bay Area anyway, and spend all my savings on an extremely expensive brand new car.


A month ago, it was spring. It was hot and sunny and the cold and rain stopped. Then it came back. It’s raining right now, and it’s been raining for hours. Which would be fine except for having to bike home in the rain. This morning, the rain had stopped by the time I left for work, and I biked to the train station in an extremely light drizzle, and I hadn’t really thought about the afternoon, except to assume it would probably clear up by then. It never really did, though. It was a slight drizzle pretty much all day, up until the time I left for work. Which is when it started to pour cats and dogs.

Normally, I keep an umbrella and a plastic poncho in my backpack in case of rain. Not today. I can take the bus instead of walking or biking, but I lacked exact change. I stepped into Subway to get some food, and maybe some change, and by the time I stepped out again, the bus had come and gone, and I really didn’t want to wait half an hour for the next one. Besides, how much rain could there be?

I do not think I have ever been more wet than I was by the time I got home. It’s only a ten minute bike ride, but I do not think I could have been thrown into a swimming pool without becoming more wet. The jacket did a decent job of protecting my upper body, but the helmet does little for the hair and face, and the sheets of rain beating down on my glasses make it difficult to see. Sitting on a bicycle, the lower body (being exposed, horizontal, and unprotectd) bears the brunt of the downpour, and by the end of the trip, my legs and feet were pretty well soaked. The final experience, which I have never before had, was that somehow the rain got into my pants, and water started pooling up between my and the bicycle seat inside my clothes, similar to a wet suit, such that I was basically sitting in a pool of water as I biked. That was fun.

Tomorrow, I make sure to bring change for the bus.

TNG Update: Most of the way through season four

Watching through the Star Trek: The Next Generation DVDs, I’ve been getting increasingly apprehensive, because I’ve known that I must be approaching a certain episode. This is an episode that I found incredibly scary when I first saw the show on its first-run airing; I was twelve at the time, and I had nightmares for days afterwards. Yesterday, when I saw the title of “Night Terrors”, I was worried that it might be the episode I remembered, and watched it with a certain amount of trepidation. It turned out not to be, and a bit relieved, tonight I watched the next episode, “Identify Crisis” with my guard down, and hiding behind that innocuous title was the episode I had been dreading. Actually, it turns out it wasn’t that scary this time around. Ironically, I found “Night Terrors” far more frightening.

I’ve noticed that the episodes have a tendency to come in groups; these are things you notice watching them back to back that are harder to spot when there are weeks or months between them. Two horror episodes in a row, for example. Earlier in season four, I noticed two episodes in a row that introduced significant elements to the Star Trek universe: “Data’s Day”, which introduced us to Keiko and Spot (who had both apparently been on the ship for some time, although we never saw them), followed by “The Wounded”, where we first met the Cardassians (who had been at war with the Federation for years, but somehow managed to avoid ever having been mentioned before).

I have also been meaning to mention what is, so far, my favorite DVD of the series: Season Three Disc Four. “Deja Q,” “A Matter of Perspective,” “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “The Offspring.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

Little lost pooch

As I mentioned, I recently acquired Greg McDonnell’s Field Guide to Modern Diesel Locomotives, which has a good coverage of, well, modern diesel locomotives. In the introduction, McDonnell writes: “This work picks up new locomotive production where Louis Marre’s Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years (Kalmbach 1995) leaves off,” and he recommends that book for discussion of earlier diesels. Marre’s book is out of print, but I was in the Train Shop the other day, and they had a copy, so I picked it up. It’s a good book; it doesn’t have as much detail as Modern Diesel Locomotives, and it’s black and white instead of color, but it’s about twice as thick, and covers many times more models of locomotive.

I have discovered a problem, though. Diesel Locomotives: The First 50 Years covers, as per its subtitle, “diesels built before 1972.” The Field Guide to Modern Diesel Locomotives picks up in 1972 for EMD, but only covers GE locomotives produced in 1977 and after. I understand this choice; almost every GE locomotive produced in the mid-70s was a model introduced in the ’60s, and GE completely changed their product lineup with the introduction of the Dash 7 series in 1977. Almost every earlier model is covered in The First 50 Years.


As near as I can tell, there is exactly one model of North American diesel introduced by General Electric after 1972 but no longer in production by 1977: The P30CH, nicknamed “pooch” because of its name, was a six-axle 3000HP cowl unit built solely for Amtrak in 1975 and early 1976 (roster). I guess, after the failure of the EMD SDP40F, Amtrak tried a similar unit from GE before the four-axle EMD F40PH took its role as ubiquitous Amtrak engine. There is some information about the P30CH on the Web, but I’d really like to read a few pages of well-researched history and description. It seems a real shame that it’s missing from these books.

Update: I’ve discovered a second missing GE diesel, the U36CG, another existing freight model modified for passenger service. The P30CH was essentially a U30C with a head-end power generator and a custom cowl, and the U36CG was a U36C with a steam generator. According to an online roster, 20 were delivered to National de Mexico in 1974.

Woo hoo!

I got this voice mail the other day:

“I’m calling on behalf of Chevys Fresh Mex Restaurants. I’m calling regarding a contest you entered back in October through Chevys “dineline” program. By calling and providing us with feedback on your visit to Chevys you also entered a contest and won a Chevys Fiesta Pack. This pack includes a $25 gift certificate and a Margarita Musica CD containing an assortment of festive tunes.”

Is that cool or what?