Monday News Chum

It’s Monday, the election is over (but for the electoral college)… this must mean it is time for a mostly non-political news chum:

  • From the “Gift that Keeps On Giving” Department: A reminder for those giving gift cards this year: Be careful about the retailers you use, because if the retailer goes belly-up, the gift card may be worthless. This happened to folks with The Sharper Image earlier this year, and given today’s news, I’d spend that Circuit City card sooner than later.
  • From the “Room 222” Department: The economy is not only affecting gift cards. Schools are also feeling the pinch–private schools in particular. Parent’s can’t afford the tuition, and the income from and value of the endowments are way down. Will the parents move to public schools? Unknown, but if they do, the budgets there will be tighter as well. Further, fundraising won’t be as easy… as bake sales are now subject to school nutritional rules. That’s right: no more selling those homemade or purchased cookies or brownies or cupcakes. Food served at school must be healthy and nutritious. So keep your eye out for more carwashes.
  • From the “Pata Pata” Department: Today’s news also brings the report that Miriam Makeba has died. I learned of Ms. Makeba when Pata Pata became the new dance at CHK/GHC in the early 1970s. What I never understood was why an African song became popular at a Jewish summer camp… and it is still popular these days!
  • From the “Sorry, Tiffany” Department: There’s a hot new name for babies: Barack. Evidently, this is something that happens most election years: there were lots of Dwights and Lyndons (although I’ve never met a Lyndon) back in the 1950s and 1960s. We haven’t had odd names for president’s in a while; after all, John, James, Richard, William, Ronald, and George are always popular. Folks also use last names as first names, so there is also a rash of “Obamas”. This explains why Clinton was also a popular first name. Still, some names just never caught on, such as Nixon or Bush.
  • From the “Another Sign of the Economy” Department: Lastly, want to get your child a classic toy, something just inducted into the toy hall of fame. Go outside and get him a stick. Yup, the humble stick, as well as the skateboard and the baby doll, have been inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. Previous inductees range from the bicycle and Mr. Potato Head to Crayola crayons and the cardboard box. The stick is a special addition. Curators praised its all-purpose, all-natural, no-cost qualities and its ability to serve either as raw material or an appendage transformed by imaginations into something else.

And speaking of toys, a popular toy is the toy train… and a popular toy train is Thomas the Tank Engine. You could have seen a full-size Thomas last weekend at OERM’s Day Out with Thomas. But don’t fret. You can still see Thomas tomorrow, Veteran’s Day, as well as next weekend November 15-16. As an added bonus — no extra charge — if you come tomorrow you can see me and nsshere as we work as Thomas Car Attendants (alas, you won’t be able to see gf_guruilla, as it looks like she has to stay home with pneumonia). So if you’re in SoCal, and not working (or able to take a vacation day), come on out to OERM in Perris, CA and say “Hi”. Go for an early or late ride and save $4 off the tickets.


OK, I Dare You.

It’s a Monday. That means a slow news day. Since I don’t want to blog about my weird dream concerning driving my vanpool in a bus where I couldn’t get back in time from a midday activity to pick everyone up, here are some news articles of interest. I dare you to find a connection between them.

  • From the “OERM in the News” Department: The Daily Breeze is reporting about an interesting discovery during a remodel of a French Normandy style house in the Pt. Ferman area. No, not a body. No, what was found was a section of wooden rail ties, which turned out to be the remains of a buried piece of track that a century ago carried the Pacific Electric Red Car on the Point Fermin Line. This line traveled south along Pacific Avenue to take people to Cabrillo Beach, making a jog into the Point Fermin neighborhood (then only sparsely developed) and hooking north onto Paseo del Mar, where the trolley turned around. Where does OERM come in? Let me quote the article:

    John Smatlak, who has researched the PE lines and is affiliated with the Orange Empire Railway Museum, has been researching the line, which ended with a sight-seeing stretch known as the “Triangle Trolley Trip.”

    Smatlak is working with the Port of Los Angeles, which is weighing the possibility of extending the milelong waterfront Red Car line south to Cabrillo Beach.

  • From the “The Right Way to Drink Coffee” Department: Don’t like going into Starbucks because you think it is too liberal leaning. Is the company from Seattle just a front for that Obama propaganda. Perhaps you should visit the Conservative Cafe in Crown Point IN. The Tribune Syndicate is reporting on this Starbucks-beater. This is a coffee-house with a decided conservative theme. Ann Coulter books sit stacked by the fireplace and a picture of President Reagan hangs on the wall. Fox News plays on all the televisions and stock market quotes scroll along an electronic ticker above the cash register. Blends available include the radical right blend, the cafe’s strongest roast. The other blends are conservative, moderate and liberal — the latter of which is described as a “Colombian decaf with no substance.”
  • From the “But They’ll Never Admit It Publically” Department: According to the SF Chronicle, a new study suggests that a surprising number of overweight people — about half — have normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while an equally startling number of trim people suffer from some of the ills associated with obesity. The results also show that stereotypes about body size can be misleading, and that even “less voluptuous” people can have risk factors commonly associated with obesity. Somehow, I don’t think they will stop harping on the obese, though.
  • From the “Is a Shul a Shul” Department: The SF Chronicle is also reporting on a new synagogue in the Richmond District of SF. The new home of Congregation Beth Sholom at the southwest corner of Clement Street and 14th Avenue is evidently quite a stunning building, which suggests nothing so much as a giant menorah in a silvery frame. The “menorah” is the sanctuary, a bowl-shaped form of sandy windowless concrete the width of four adjacent houses. It sits atop a one-story base of offices clad in zinc-plated aluminum panels; there’s a small courtyard and then, backed against Clement, the panels climb to enclose a box the height of the sanctuary that contains a small chapel and kitchen beneath event rooms. The concave sanctuary has seating that climbs up either side of the “bowl”; at the bottom is where services are conducted and the rabbi and members read from the Torah. It truthfully sounds like a fascinating building. Has anyone seen it? Has anyone visited it?

OERM Car is Back In Service

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article on Muni No. 162’s return to active service. This is a 1914 streetcar, manufactured by Jewett Co. It was taken out of service in the 1950s, went to OERM, where it sat waiting for volunteers to work on it. It apparently never got worked on (that happens with volunteers), was deaccessioned for whatever reason, and went back to San Francisco. In 2004, the nonprofit Market Street Railway raised $70,000 to buy the old car back. Muni stripped the car, rebuilt, painted and polished. Old oak seats were rebuilt and varnished. Brass “match striker” fixtures that passengers used to light matches in the smoking section were installed. Old signs were reinstalled. Some modernities were added: the old headlights were replaced with halogen, and the car got an electronic gizmo that connects with the signal system and throws switches, as well as (literally) some new bells and whistles to attract the attention of the iPod generation.

It’s always nice to see old cars come back into service. This one is almost 100 years old. Try doing that with today’s buses or more modern rail vehicles!


I Think I’m Finally Cooling Down

It was a hot day at the museum (the high was around 95°F). Luckily, I spent most of the day inside one of the Montreal Commuter Cars as a car attendant. The Railfest went pretty well — attendance seemed reasonable, although the place wasn’t packed. There were some glitches, as might be expected with a new setup. They had Thomas photo opportunties at the members crossing, which meant when Thomas was there you were shunted off on a poor dirt bypass just S of Carhouse 4 trackage, crossing the rails on ballast right infront of the carhouse, and then back up to member’s parking. The problem is: the CAP Cadets weren’t directing folks there. There was also confusion on getting car attendance assignments — you went to the supervisor, who sent you to dispatch, who sent you back to the supervisor. I prefered the old system of just assigning the cars outright. Perhaps next spring…

Other than that, it was a quick in and out, because (being Pesach) I brought my own food. A number of folks asked about the Matzah :-). But things ran on schedule, there were no major mishaps, the Steam Train ran all day (I was on the ATSF 98), so it was a fun (but tiring) day.


Rail Fest Tomorrow

This is a reminder that this weekend is the 2008 Rail Festival and Hit Favorites Fun Festival™ out at Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. Quoting from the website:

Enjoy a full day of trains, exhibits and fun for the whole family including a train pulled by our operating steam locomotive, trolleys, and an antique fire engine gathering. New this year will be the HIT Favorites Fun Festival™ starring Barney™, Bob the Builder™, and Angelina Ballerina™! Also a special appearance by Thomas the Tank Engine™!

Now, I can’t speak to the opportunity to see Barney™ or Bob the Builder™, but I have been a member of this place since the mid-1980s, and the family and people here are wonderful. It is a great place to come out and see some California Rail History. Ride a steam train or ride a trolleycar. Explore our car barns and the Middleton Museum. There just is a lot to do, and I’m amazed by the improvement every time I could out to the facility (it is basically all volunteer-run).

By the way, speaking of volunteers… if you are out on Saturday, come find me and say hi. I should be a car attendant on the main line during second and third shifts. I’m pretty sure larymotrmn will be out there as well, but I don’t know his assignments.

If you’re in the San Fernando Valley (or along my route of travel) and want a ride, let me know. I plan to head out in the early morn (my goal is to be out by 8 or before), and to return after my shift ends (i.e., around 630p-700p).

P.S.: If you’re on my friends list, and you’re coming… I can get you $2 off admission. Just drop me a note before I leave and I’ll send you the information.


We’re Back From Perris… and we visited the MotherShip

We made it back from the Orange Empire. Today seemed to be a slow train day… at least on the car we were working (B on the Thomas Train), we had no passengers after 2pm. Paul says the second weekend of Thomas is always more crowded due to word of mouth, so I hope attendance picks up next week. However, we won’t be there to see it due to nsshere’s 13th birthday on Saturday.

On the way back from the museum, we stopped by the new Whole Foods in Pasadena for dinner. Evidently, this is a mother-ship Whole Foods (the region’s flagship), but not a DeathStar (the chain’s flagship). Their restaurant still has kinks to be worked out (and not the good kind): ordering was slow and confused. However, they do have a great GF selection (certainly much more than our local Whole Foods, which is in a converted Alpha-Beta). Naturally, gf_guruilla and nsshere wanted to explore and shop. I was tired from the day and fighting acid-kickback from something I at at OERM, but we did get a bunch of stuff (and I think they are happy).

Now, we’re home, and its time to toddle off to bed. Unlike the guvvies, I have to work tomorrow :-(.


Thomas at Magic Mountain?

On today’s Morning Buzz at la_observed there was a reference to some changes coming at Magic Mountain. It noted that Flashback and Psyclone, a replica of Coney Island’s famous Cyclone, have already been pulled from the website and are likely to be razed this year for park expansion now that Magic Mountain will remain open. The source was Theme Park Insider, so I went over to take a look.

They have some interesting speculation that may affect OERM. Specifically, they note that CEO Mark Shapiro noted in the January 12 live conference call that a new 3-stop “train/monorail” attraction would be introduced in 2007 at Magic Mountain, and the guess at TPI was that it will be a fully refurbished Metro with a new name and theme. Shapiro also mentioned Magic Mountain would also be home to a Coldstone Creamery and a undisclosed brand indoor burger/American cuisine restaurant this year. TPI stated that fans of the park weren’t surprised by FlashBack being torn down, considering that the ride closed in 2003 and has been rusting away ever since.

Here’s the interesting part: TPI noted that the recently cleared area out back behind Psyclone and the space freed up by the roller coasters’ footprint will be large enough for an elaborate Thomas & Friends themed area as well as for the two new food operations. TPI noted that Thomas & Friends replacing Psyclone was purely speculation on their part. Still, this would have an interesting impact on both OERM and the Fillmore Train Museum, as both regularly host Day Out With Thomas. Good? Bad? I’m not sure yet, but likely bad. Then again, it may not make a difference, given that no one goes to the Molehill anymore anyway.

Update: The Daily News gives a few more details. Flashback, a steel coaster that opened in 1992, has been closed the last couple of years because it’s right next to Hurricane Harbor, and the noise it generates interfered with lifeguards. It may be re-assembled somewhere else at Magic Mountain, but it won’t be operating this year. Psyclone will be smashed and scrapped within four weeks. It opened at Magic Mountain in March 1991, and it has a wooden frame with 11 hills. The structure is made up of Southern pine, unpainted to make it look more natural. Workers spent a combined 40,000 hours building the ride, ridden by 17.1 million people before it closed. As for what the park says about their replacements… a spokescritter said, “We’re always looking to add areas of the park that appeal to a wide audience”.