Weis drops the ball

My wife and I are both in the “at risk” group regarding COVID-19. So we’ve been getting grocery delivery at home. Our closest grocery store is a Weis Market. This is where we used to get our weekly groceries. On any regular day the service we can expect from Weis is mediocre to non-existent but since the COVID-19 crisis has begun, they Weis has stepped down to provide even worse service than usual.

Our Experience

For our very first grocery delivery, we tried Weis. At the time, they had temporarily shut down their Weis 2 Go service and were directing customers to Shipt. We tried Shipt and regretted it. Our shopper declared many items to be out of stock. The store is 5 minutes away from our house, and I immediately ran over there to check whether the things that were out of stock were really out of stock. About half of the supposedly “out of stock” items were in fact in stock. I cancelled service as soon as possible. I write “as soon as possible” because Shipt did not make it easy to cancel. I had to ask four times before my cancellation request went through.

Our next two deliveries were done through Walmart. We were overall satisfied with Walmart’s service. On one occasion, Walmart went above and beyond to make good. They replaced one item in our order that had gone out of stock. However, it turned out the replacement was of terrible quality (and it was Walmart’s own brand). When I initiated a return through the web site, the site told me I’d have to return the item in store. Since the whole point of getting delivery was to avoid the store, that was a no-go. I contacted customer service through Walmart’s chat system. I suggested mailing back the item but the CSR offered a refund without having me return anything. Wow! Talk about customer service! (And what a contrast with my experience dealing with Shipt’s customer service! With Walmart, a single CSR took care of my issue. No fuss whatsoever. With Shipt, I had to deal with four different CSRs before they finally cancelled my service!!!)

The one sore point with Walmart’s service is that there are some things they just don’t seem to stock. For instance: margarine. You can get dozens of varieties of butter, but no margarine.

After our two Walmart deliveries, we went back to Weis. The reason was that at that time Walmart seemed to be having provisioning issues and it was difficult to figure when our delivery might happen. Also, Weis had reopened their Weis 2 Go service. Boy, did we regret going back to Weis.

Weis 2 Go is Unreliable, Here’s Why

Now, after two deliveries through Weis 2 Go, we’re going back to Walmart, because Weis is just too unreliable.

An Aspirational Inventory

When you shop on Weis’ web site, there is no indication whatsoever as to the availability of the items. I call the inventory that is presented through the shopping site “aspirational”: “We’d like to sell you this thing, if it turns out that it is available when we put your order together.”

Having more of a feel for things now after two deliveries, I swear Weis will let you put in your basket things that you have almost no chance of being able to get because they are chronically out of stock. You can’t tell from the interface.

Mind you, it can also happen with Walmart that things we order become backorder before our order is put together. However, when Walmart is at its worst, Walmart is still better than Weis, when Weis is at its best. In our last order with Weis, one third of the order was backorder. This is, bar none, the highest proportion of an order we’ve had be backorder.

No Substitutions, Except When Weis Feels Like It

Weis says they won’t do substitutions during the COVID-19 crisis… except that they do substitutions anyway, except when they don’t… End result, they apply substitutions randomly.

With Walmart, I’m always in control. And the one time Walmart messed up a substitution, they made good. (See above.)

Weis Disallows Changes to an Order, Once Submitted

Weis does not allow you to edit an order once it has been submitted. On the other hand, Walmart allows us to edit an order up until about 1am on the day of delivery. This is HUGE! If you go to Weis or Walmart’s web site and checkout, the first delivery slot available will be about 6-7 days in the future. With Weis, once the order is submitted, it cannot be changed, so during those 6-7 days if you find you need something, you are forced to put in a new order (which will be delivered 6-7 days after you submit it). With Walmart, you can just add to your existing order.

Walmart actually generally allows you to edit your order. You want to change what may be substituted? Go for it. You don’t need some item after all? Remove it. There are limits, but it is still much better than Weis’ inflexible approach.

And the Winner Is…

Walmart, of course. We tried Weis through Shipt, and it was a disaster. We tried Weis, again, through its own Weis 2 Go service, and it was a disaster again.

France Gall

Working? Music. Resting? Music. Driving? Music. Traveling? Music. In Taiwan, pining for my wife who is a world away? Music. I like to have music on. When music is so well crafted that it resonates with me, it brings tears to my eyes. And if the lyrics on top of the music are evoking tearful emotions, I’m even more likely to tear up. And if the emotions evoked by the music are those that I’m already feeling, watch out.

The musicians, the singers, the lyricists I like: they are for me the stars in a musical firmament. The north star in my firmament went out last week.

France Gall died.

In my firmament no genres are excluded. Oh, I have preferences, which change with time. For instance, I no longer seek heavy metal music like I once did. I still appreciate how well crafted a heavy metal song can be. It’s just that I don’t usually feel like listening to that genre, anymore. So yeah, I have preferences, but if I let my player shuffle music for me out of the ones I thumbed up, hello genre-whiplash! Some electroswing, some country, a Sanskrit poem, a novelty song, a classical piece, some bosa nova, some plain old swing, rock and roll, … Billie Holiday followed by Deadmau5? Why the hell not?

I’m not faithful to any artist. Musical appeal for me comes from the individual songs rather than from the artists themselves. In the vast majority of cases, I love only a few of an artist’s songs, and I am indifferent towards the rest, or downright detest it. It is rare that I’m going to just like everything an artist does. Like genres, though, some artists resonate with me more than others. There are those few artists whose work I usually like. Instead of selecting from their opus the few things I like, I eliminate those few songs of theirs that I don’t like.

France Gall and Michel Berger are in that latter group. In the case of France, there’s a demarcation line between what she sang before and after she met Michel. I hate most of what she sang before Michel started writing for her, and love most of what she sang after he started writing for her. What a gift it was that France and Michel found each other! What music came out of their union! What love!

That mention of Taiwan at the top? Yeah, that was not random. France and Michel were with me for my stint in Taiwan. Before Taiwan, I knew France but not Michel. I became aware of her from listening to “Ella, elle l’a” and “Papillon de nuit”. I loved those songs when they were released and playing regularly on the radio and TV but I did not seek more from France at the time. I don’t know why I did not seek her albums, really. I cannot find any good reason. I also knew “Sacré Charlemagne” from my childhood but I could not have told you that France was the one singing that. In the early 2000s, I came across other songs of hers, and my interest grew. It is in Taiwan though that France and Michel moved to the center of my musical firmament. It is there that I figured out that her songs were written by Michel, and sought his music in addition to hers.

If you like music, you certainly know the difference between hearing a song and listening to it. (Heck, if you’ve lived for a while, you know the difference between hearing and listening, in general. Hearing your significant other versus listening to them? Major difference, which you ignore at your own peril.) There’s one song that really highlighted the difference for me: “Rhythm for You” by Eddy Christiani. I heard it quite a lot, at first. Then, one day, I put everything down and I finally just… listened… to… the… GODDAM… SONG! Magic! I looked at that gem for years without seeing that it was a gem. What a moron I was! (Incidentally, Eddy died last November. Another star gone.) I guess it is like when one day you really look at someone you’ve known for years and finally you really SEE that person, and fall in love. So yeah, there are songs I hear and hear and hear, and I like them, but one day I finally BLOODY LISTEN, and I fall in love. It is in Taiwan that I fell in love with France’s and Michel’s songs. I missed my wife, and I listened to their songs, especially the love songs. France, Michel and I were all pining, together, for my wife. France, Michel and I also celebrated the birth of my first granddaughter, Olivia. Michel had written a beautiful song, “Mandoline”, which was perfect for the occasion. Okay. France and Michel were not physically there, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. So there…

I talked about France as the north star earlier but really, if you haven’t guessed already, she’s one of a binary system: France and Michel rotating around one another. Michel died in 1992, before I even knew of him. The binary system at the center of my firmament had been a single point of light from the start. Now France is gone, and the brightest start my musical firmament has gone dark. The binary system is no longer visible.

There are other stars in the firmament, yes. And I can still enjoy the incredible gifts that France and Michel gave all of us. In one interview I listened to, France was talking about the premature deaths of Michel and of their daughter Pauline. She said she was so lucky and grateful to have had them in her life at all. Taking a page from France’s book, I’m grateful that her songs and Michel’s were in my life at all.

Why I Plan to Ditch Ubuntu

Throughout the years I’ve used Slackware, Debian, Red Hat, Debian again, Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Ubuntu again. Except for that brief stint with Linux Mint, Ubuntu has been my distribution of choice since Feisty Fawn but lately I’ve been thinking about ditching it. Canonical has made a number of terrible decisions that have damaged Ubuntu’s value. In this post, I’m going to go over the issues I have with Ubuntu. Continue reading


Ok, so apparently the following is valid JavaScript:

var undefined = "blah";

Yes, you’ve read that right. What I’m doing there is redefining the undefined symbol to “blah”.

I learned from Angus Croll that this is something ECMA added to ECMA 3. Presumably, in earlier versions you could not do something as pants-on-head stupid as this but someone someone thought that adding this capability would be an improvement. How did that work exactly? “Hey! JavaScript is not sucky enough. Let’s allow undefined to be redefined to arbitrary values.”

Here’s how an intelligently designed language handles this kind of nonsense:

$ python
Python 2.7.4 (default, Jul  5 2013, 08:21:57) 
[GCC 4.7.3] on linux2
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> None = "blah"
  File "", line 1
SyntaxError: cannot assign to None

Angus points out that ECMA 5 disallows assignments to undefined so I guess one of the ECMA luminaries had an epiphany.

Boss Battles

Yahtzee in this Extra Punctuation column argued that boss battles ought to fit in with the rest of the game. That is, a boss battle should not require the gamer to rely on a specific set of skills which have hitherto been considered optional in the game. A good example is that if a game gives you the option of creating a super stealthy character rather than a brute force fighter, the boss battle should not be winnable only by brute force. I agree. In the comments on his column the following opinion was expressed:

Well, some skills are better than others and if you did not select the skills which would allow you to win the boss battle, then it just sucks to be you. It is like real life. If you are trained in nuclear physics, you are unlikely to survive a fight with a ninja.

This is a paraphrase capturing the gist of the original statement. I do not cite because it would open issues I don’t want to deal with. I’m going to explain why this opinion is terrible.

Continue reading

The Finale of Lost? Meh…

Lost started with a bang but ended with a whimper. After last night’s finale, I have to say that Lost is going to become my go-to example for illustrating how easier it is to sprinkle a story with mystery without having any idea of how the mystery is going to be resolved than it is to write a solid story in which mystery serves the purpose of a well-crafted plot. I am reminded of J. Michael Straczynski (creator of the sci-fi show Babylon 5, among other things) saying that people often came to him with “ideas” but that what matters to an author is not an idea but a story. It seems to me that Lost was a show in which too much emphasis was put on ideas and too little on story. Read on for more thoughts…

Continue reading

The Definition of “Activist Judge”

So Justice Stevens is about to retire. Already there are calls for the President to make sure that the judge nominated to replace him is not an “activist judge”. I imagine a discussion about the meaning of “activist judge” going like this:

Alice: “The president must not nominate an activist judge!”

Bob: “What do you mean by activist judge?”

Alice: “Well, an activist judge is one who is imposing his values on me by means of judicial decisions.”

Bob: “What if the judge shares your values? Is he then imposing his values on you?”

Alice: “No, because our values coincide.”

Bob: “So only a judge who does not share your values could be an activist judge. In effect, your real position is that the President must not nominate a judge who does not share your values.

All the blah blah about activist judges amounts to “let the President nominate a judge who shares my values.” Using the word “activist” instead of spelling out the real intent (“shares my values”) is just a way to disguise a selfish desire under a cover of pseudo-fairness.

(Oh, and don’t assume that in this discussion one side is inherently Democrat and the other Republican. No matter which roles the parties are playing in the current context, the roles are quite reversible and have in fact been reversed again and again.)

The Drive-by Yoda

There is a certain type of person often encountered in public forums on the Internet but also in “real life.” I call this kind of person, the “drive-by Yoda”.

He is a “Yoda” because like Yoda, he likes to speak words of wisdom. However, his method is to spout wisdom while driving by his target. In a drive-by shooting, a criminal tries to kill a target by shooting bullets out of a moving car. In a similar way, the drive-by Yoda tries to make a point (i.e. hit a target) by spouting wisdom while “driving by” a discussion. I’m talking here about discussions in which all the parameters of a problem have been explained. The drive-by Yoda, because he is driving by at a fast pace, is unable to seize the whole picture. It may be that he is lazy, that he can’t be bothered to really think about the problem, or that he thinks the problem is not worthy of his attention. At any rate, he whizzes by but rather than apply a healthy dose of self-awareness to realize that maybe he does not have the full picture and therefore should remain quiet, he still offers pearls of wisdom. Yet because the drive-by Yoda has not seized the problem, his contribution is faulty. He fills the gaps in his understanding of the problem with wild guesses and offers an answer which is patently inadequate to anybody who paid attention to the parameters of the problem.

It is a bit like in the American Idol auditions at the start of a season. Very many contestants who could not sing a tune to save their lives consider themselves to be great singers. The drive-by Yoda thinks his contribution is worthy of a prize when in fact it ignores the problem being discussed.