The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

August 31, 2007

Get it While it’s Hot

Filed under: Technology — Brian Lutz @ 7:39 pm

A couple of evenings ago, I was preparing a ribeye steak for the grill.  I had lit the grill beforehand, but before I could put the steak on, I found that I was a few BTUs short, which seemed to be due to running out of gas.  Rather than let a perfectly good steak (well, not really all that great, to be honest – ed.) go to waste, I set off in search of a propane refill.  At the local Home Depot, I found this:

Propane Vending Machine

It’s a propane vending machine.  With a swipe of your credit card and a convenient empty cylinder, you’ll be cooking with overused cliches in no time at all!

I was about to say that this just might be one vending machine that the Japanese haven’t thought of yet, but scrolling down the page on that link reveals a kerosene vending machine, so I wouldn’t be surprised…

August 29, 2007

I guess everyone needs a hobby…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 4:30 pm

You’re 81 years old, retired, and got nothing to do but hang out at the casino all day.  Need a hobby?  Why not try loan sharking?

August 28, 2007

Highlights from PAX ’07 – The games

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 4:57 pm

For some of the people who attend PAX, the main attraction of the place is the huge crowd to hang around with and play stuff.  For others, it’s the concerts and the panels.  I suspect that for most people there though, it’s the chance to play upcoming games that’s the big draw.  Here are some impressions of a few of the games I tried out.  Unfortunately, my camera doesn’t do a very good job of picture taking in the low light conditions of the exhibition hall, so I don’t have a lot of good pictures.  I did post some of the ones that did come out though:Project Gotham Racing 4

Project Gotham Racing 4 (360):  At first, this game doesn’t look like a huge improvement over its predecessors.  Then again, they did a pretty good job with the graphics with PGR3, so there isn’t a whole lot of room to do much there (at least on the current hardware.)  Where they did improve, however, was in the sense of speed conveyed.  In a brief play session, PGR4 just seems to be faster than PGR3.  It is apparent that they are continuing to mess with the Kudos system though, and I’m not sure whether the result is going to improve or diminish the experience over previous games.  I also didn’t get a chance to try out motorcycles (even though they were present on the track I wasracing on.)  Given the relative lack of competition in the niche that the PGR games fill in between the hardcore sims (Forza 2) and the pure arcade stuff (the Burnout series,) I suspect that this will do pretty well.

More after the jump.

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August 26, 2007

Highlights from PAX ’07 – The Show

Filed under: Games — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:30 am

Back in 2004, the guys from Penny Arcade got the crazy idea to put on a convention for gamers.  They rented part of the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, and thought they might be able to attract about a thousand people or so.  I was able to attend the first PAX because it just happened to be nearby, and because I was able to get in for free by responding to a message at work asking to let them borrow copies of SoulCalibur 2 for their tournament, and the first one was a relatively modest affair.  The exhibit hall was just a medium size room, and the most notable item on display was Forza Motorsport (which was then still several months from release) running on three screens with a racing wheel.  Even so, the attendance at the first PAX more than tripled the estimates.

 Fast forward four years, and PAX has grown into one of the largest gamer conventions in the USA, with attendance this year expected to be somewhere around 30,000 people.  This year to accomodate the growth, they have moved PAX to the much larger Convention Center in dowtown Seattle, and more than doubled the size of the exhibit hall over the previous years.  I’ve been to PAX all four years of its existence now, although for one reason or another, I’ve always had some time constraint that has kept me from being able to stay for more than a few hours.  This time around, it was a wedding reception in the evening, although I did still have enough time to get a good look at the exhibit hall.  After the jump, some of the highlights (and lowlights) from PAX 2007, complete with photos.

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August 12, 2007

Whatever happened to Plain Vanilla?

Filed under: Culture, Food — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:44 am

Up here in the Pacific Northwest, it almost seems like we’ve been getting a bit shortchanged on our Summer weather this year.  Although the conventional wisdom suggests that all of us up here should have just built an ark and rode it down the coast to California long ago, the summers here don’t generally produce a whole lot of rain.  In fact, most of the time I’ve lived here, I’ve found that there tends to be a period between late July and the middle of September in which there’s mostly clear skies, hardly any rain at all, and frequently temperatures during that time can easily reach the high eighties and low nineties.

 This year’s weather has been a bit unusual in that regard.  Although there’s still some summer left for it to change, there has been more rain than we usually get in the Summer (including a couple of significant storms more typical of November weather than July,)  and for most of the past few weeks it seems like there have been just enough clouds in the sky to make it look like we’re going to get rained on, but not quite enough to make it actually happen.  This weather pattern does have the effect of keeping the temperatures down somewhat, but it just doesn’t feel like Summer.  Sure, the 90-degree heat doesn’t seem like too much fun when you’re blazing hot and sweating like crazy, but at least you know that it’s Summer.

 One side effect of this watered down summer weather is that it doesn’t seem quite right to participate in typical Summer activities.  Sure, you’ll still go swimming or grill up some burgers in tbe backyard like you normally would, but it almost feels like you’re doing it out of force of habit.  The weather is nice enough, and you know you’ll feel like you wasted the Summer when the rainy season starts if you don’t use it, but it still doesn’t quite feel right.  With the more temperate weather, there is also less need to cool off, which means that I actually still have some of last year’s Otter Pops in my freezer, and it looks at this rate like some of them may last another winter.  It also means that it’s been a while since I bought ice cream.  Apparently there was a memo I didn’t get somewhere along the line, because even something as simple as ice cream has become needlessly complicated these days.

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