The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

January 31, 2008

Fruity, But With Just a Hint of Whatever I Rolled In Down in the Yard Last Week

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 11:53 pm

Just in case you have had that little nagging sense of guilt over the fact that you aren’t spoiling your dogs enough lately, over at Neatorama today they link to something that should rectify that quite nicely.  The fine folks at Bark Vineyards have turned their attention to the four-legged members of our respective families, and have produced a variety of “Wines” intended for consumption by dogs and/or cats.  The term wine is used only loosely, as the product contains no actual wine, and in fact doesn’t involve grapes anywhere in the process of making the stuff.  With names like Sauvignon Bark, Meowlot and Pinot Leasheo, the ingredients for most of the “varietals” consist mainly of chicken or beef broth with a few dehydrated vegetables and things like that thrown in, and these concoctions are intended to be poured over your pet’s food as an added treat. 

The end result is probably a lot more palatable to a dog than a bottle of your finest Pinot Grigio would be, but it comes with a hefty price tag of more than $20 a bottle, which might be just a bit hard for most pet owners to swallow, especially for something that one could probably mix up in their kitchen without too much trouble if they were so inclined.  It appears that the product is being positioned more as something to be given as a gift rather than something one would serve to their own dogs, as evidenced by the assorted paraphernalia available to compliment the product itself.  On the other hand, if you’ve made the decision to become a food snob, why not take your pets along with you?  You might find it difficult to train them to be picky eaters such as yourself, but in the end you’ll have yet another feather in your proverbial cap the next time you need to belittle some pesky commoner.

Hot on the Trail: The Curious Case of Sunjel and the National Consumer Confidence Commission

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:47 am

In creating the posts that show up on this Blog, I do a fair bit of wandering around, and most of the posts I make come from the results of that wandering.  I usually don’t dig too deep into things when I’m doing this, since there usually isn’t a whole lot to dig into.  When I was at the local Target a couple of days ago, while wandering the aisles I found a number of cans of Sunjel, labelled as being an “Earth Friendly Premium Gelled Alcohol” product, somewhat similar to the more well-known Sterno, but apparently targeted for use in ventless fireplaces rather than for warming of food.  In this case, there isn’t anything particularly notable about the product itself (it’s basically a can of gelled alcohol, with what is claimed to be an organic gelling agent) but some of the details on the can seemed just a little odd.  Normally I would just take a picture of this, use it for some sort of quick post and call it good, but some further digging on this turned up some rather unusual stuff.

Anyway, Here is the can itself (enlarged a bit to make it a little easier to make out some of the details:)

If you still can’t read the text on the top of the can, it reads as follows:

We are approved by The National Consumer Confidence Commission

Verify everyone’s service & product certification on including ours

And the text on the banner reads:

Voted Favorite Brand By Consumer Poll

Since 1985

We’ll get to the first part later, but for a relatively mundane product found on the shelf at Target with no obvious competition. it seems like they are making an unusual effort to assure the customer the legitimacy of their product.  It seems to me that there shouldn’t be a whole lot to question here.  Either the stuff catches fire when you light it and continues to burn for some reasonable length of time, or it doesn’t.  The information listed on the back of the can points to a website for the company found at, which I went to in order to try to get some more information on the product. (more…)

January 30, 2008

More Restaurants You Didn’t Know Existed Here

Filed under: Food, Seattle and Vicinity — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:46 pm

I meant to post about this back in November, but forgot about until I went through my photo backlog last night.  This is down in Federal Way, next to the recently opened Wal-Mart Supercenter:

 It’s a Del Taco restaurant, and as far as I can tell, it is currently the only one to be found anywhere in the Puget Sound area (the website shows one location in Vancouver and one in the Tri-Cities, but no other ones near here.)  Much of the menu here falls into roughly the same category as Taco Bell:  pseudo-Mexican type fast food for cheap, although they also have burgers on the menu for some odd reason.  I did try a couple of items while I was down there, but it wasn’t enough to really get a good feel for the place.  Looking at the franchising section of their website, it does appear that they are interested in moving further into the Seattle area, but seem to be focusing on the area to the south in Tacoma, Olympia and Centralia, as well as Bremerton.  I will note that the “Beyond hot” Del Scorcho sauce they provide is exceedingly wimpy, especially given the hyperbole used in the name, which has inspired the design of a monster truck

Also of note is the co-branded KFC/Long John Silver’s in the background.  Long John Silver’s is another brand that I have not seen in this area before, although with much better alternatives for that type of food to be found around here, I’m not sure why they bother. 

January 28, 2008

The Perpetual March of Technology and Buyer’s Remorse

Filed under: Entertainment, Technology — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:52 am

About two years ago,  I purchased the HDTV which I currently have in my living room.  It is a Viewsonic N3250w 32″ LCD with 720p resolution, and aside from the fact that doesn’t have a digital tuner and that it doesn’t seem to be compatible with any remote I have but its own, it has worked reasonably well for me.  At the time I purchased it, there was a coupon book deal at Costco Home* for $200 off the standard $1,000 price (which, if I recall correctly, was itself about $200 less than most places in town were selling a similar model for,) and the final price ended up being $800 plus tax.  This was a significant bargain for a TV of this size, and when I went to pick it up, it turned out that a few other people had the same idea, to the point that the initial shipment of 90 units was gone in less than an hour, and by the time I got there I ended up at position #250 on the waiting list they had created for future shipments of this model. 

At this point I assumed that I had roughly zero chance of ever getting one of these things, so I started looking for a Plan B.  I figured that I had managed to live for six months without having a TV in my apartment, so I could probably last a little while longer.  It was somewhat of a surprise when I got a call several weeks later that my turn had come up on the waiting list, and a TV was waiting for me at the store.  Not wanting to have them sell off my TV to the next guy to show up, I dropped everything and rushed over to the store, and  must admit that I may have exceeded the posted speed limit along the way a time or two.  After all,  a deal like that didn’t come up just every day.  Thanks to a somewhat inaccurate estimate of the size of the TV in relation to the size of the backseat of my car (if you recall, this was back when I was still driving my beater Camry with a non-openable trunk) they were somehow able to cram the TV into the backseat of the car, but there was no way the box was ever going to come back out in one piece.  Ultimately it was necessary to rip the box to shreds and extract the contents that way, but not before adding a number of additional rips to the upholstery in my car’s backseat, and breaking off one of the grab handles.  I can’t recall the last time anyone rode in the backseat of that car anyway, so this was no big deal.  After all, the TV was worth more than the car it was being transported in at the time.

Fast forward a couple of years, and suddenly that screaming deal doesn’t look quite so hot anymore. The 32″ LCD TVs that cost roughly $1,200 two years ago have come down in price by at least a third, and there are even 32″ models that can be found for $500 or less if you know where to look.  The $800 I paid for my TV will easily buy a 37″ model, and 42″ and 47″ 1080P models don’t cost a whole lot more than that.  Even Sony TVs are starting to get to the point of being almost affordable, although they continue to command a price premium of several hundred dollars over the competition.  Far be it from me to sound ungrateful, but at times it can be just a little hard to walk into a store and look at the ever shrinking pricetags on ever growing expanses of glowing pixels and wonder how I could have paid a whole eight freakni’ hundred bucks two years ago for what I could have gotten for $600 or less now, or noting that for not too much more than that $800 I could be the proud owner of a shiny new 47″ 1080P LCD. 


January 27, 2008

Fresh From Highway 23

Filed under: Food — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:17 am

Harley Davidson Motorcycles have always had a certain image associated with them, one of rugged individuals in leather jackets with big American motorcycles seeking adventure on the open road and/or at the nearest roadhouse.  It’s a culture that I have little familiarity with, and it’s definitely not a lifestyle for everyone, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to  look like they’re a part of it.  Oftentimes old-school Harley riders have been known to lament the increasing number of RUBs (short for Rich Urban Bikers) in their hobby, riders who treat their bikes as just one of the many toys they bring out on the weekend whenever they feel like it and generally make fools of themselves in the process.  For anyone out there looking to take part in the tough guy biker image without all the painful tattoos or overgrown facial hair, Here’s one way to start:

It’s not just any beef jerky, it’s Harley Davidson Road Food, Fuel for the Wide Open Road (or so the packaging claims.)  I suppose that this is one way to get your product to stand out in a field of basically identical competitors (I suspect that an untrained observer would probably find it impossible to distinguish one company’s jerky from another,) although this means that you end up paying for the name.  At this particular store a 3.25 ounce package of the Harley-branded jerky costs the same price ($5.99) as a 4-ounce package of Oberto jerky.  This means you’re paying roughly 19% more to have the legendary Harley Davidson logo emblazoned on your package of beef jerky.  It’s clear that people will gladly pay extra money for a prestigious brand name on a lot of products when a less expensive yet functionally identical substitute is available, but what isn’t exactly clear is that people will do so for their snack foods. 

There’s also the fact that of all the products that one might wish to label as “road food,” beef jerky would definitely fall somewhere on the less advisable side of the list.  When you’re buying potato chips or a pack of Twizzlers, you can be reasonably certain that they didn’t scrape it off the side of the road, stick it in bags and charge $6 a pop for it, but who knows where this stuff is coming from?  It’s all part of the adventure of it, I guess.  And although it’s not particularly clear from the picture shown here, the display you see pictured here just happens to be in the supermarket’s beer aisle, which happens to be the last place in the supermarket (or anywhere, for that matter) that I would ever want to be finding people buying “road food.”  Of course, the crusty old Harley diehards out there would probably tell you that the bugs in your teeth are the only road food you’ll ever need, but that’s beside the point.

January 25, 2008

Free Communicable Diseases With Every Purchase

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 3:07 pm

Around here, door-to-door salespeople are a (thankfully) rare occurrence.  Aside from the occasional kid trying to sell off expired candy at ripoff prices for a dubious “charity,” or a visit from the friendly neighborhood scientologists, I rarely see solicitors of any type here.  I must be living in the wrong neighborhood, because over in Springfield Missouri, it seems that they’ve got a Door-to-door tattoo salesman these days.  Armed with a homemade tattoo gun, he somehow managed to convince at least three people to make use of his services.  To date, one of his customers has been hospitalized, and the other two have infections at their tattoo site, and have been advised to get tested for HIV and Hepatitis.  Needless to say, there seems to be a bit of regret involved.

 On something that you’re going to go through a fair bit of pain to acquire and that you are going to most likely have for the rest of your life, chances are that you are going to want to give at least some thought to quality control procedures.  For one thing, a tattoo is not the type of thing that most sane people would be inclined to make an impulse buy out of, unless they either have 35 of the things already or have managed to drink themself into a stupor.  Even assuming that one’s inhibitions have been dulled to the point where they would entertain such an idea, who in their right mind is going to trust a complete stranger with homemade equipment and questionable sanitation to jab needles repeatedly into their skin in the comfort of their own home?  Personally, I think if I had this guy show up on my doorstep I’d be a lot more likely to slam the door and call the cops, but if you’re too lazy to drive over to the nearest tattoo parlor and feeling adventurous and/or incredibly foolhardy, why not give it a try?

A Not-So-Super Bowl

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:28 am

Well, the Big Game That Nobody is Supposed to Name Without Paying Outrageous Licensing Fees(TM) is just a little bit more than a week away now, and if you believe some of the ads that the various electronics stores are running lately, FCC rules mean that it is now illegal to watch said game on any TV smaller than 47 inches.  Surprisingly, in spite of the ever increasing tendency for the various stores to merchandise the heck out of pretty much everything, football related stuff seems to be in relatively short supply.  A few bits of merchandise have made it through the cracks though, including this:

It’s a football-shaped snack bowl, which opens up automatically by pressing the “cleverly disguised” button on the side, and plays the Fox NFL Sunday theme (licensing fees paid in full, I’m sure) before closing itself.  In spite of the relatively voluminous football shape, the interior snack-holding cavity of this thing has roughly enough capacity to hold about ten pretzels at a time, which is about eight more times than the people you’re watching the game with will tolerate this being opened before someone punts it out the window.  Oh, and did I mention that the thing costs $25?  If you can live without gratuitous random fanfare, you can grab a couple of these for $1.60 a pop and actually be able to put a decent amount of snacks into them, and possibly save yourself from being uninvited to next year’s party in the process.

January 24, 2008

Factoria Mall Just Keeps Getting Emptier

Filed under: Malls, shopping — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:55 am

As reported by commenter Greg Shill on my original Factoria Mall post, several long-standing stores in the mall have now closed down after the mall’s management did not renew their leases.  Among the recent closures are the Flavor Bakery and Cafe (which is apparently moving to a new location in Redmond,) the B. Dalton bookstore and the Orange Julius.  According to the post, the Jamba Juice (which, as I noted in my earlier post, replaced the mall’s arcade just a few years ago) and the Seattle’s Best Coffee near this entrance are also going to close, although for the time being both of these are still operating. 


As you can see, for the time being the Jamba Juice is still open, but the bookstore has now closed. Newport House (the womens clothing store that previously occupied the space in the foreground) has moved to a space across the hallway from here, but the appearance of the space looked rather temporary.  Beyond these now empty (or soon-to-be empty) spaces some restaurants (Red Robin, Cold Stone Creamery and Goldberg’s Deli) remain, along with a day spa and the Nordstrom Rack.  Judging from the fact that the Nordstrom Rack store has undergone recent remodeling, I’m guessing that they are not going anywhere for the time being.  No word on the restaurants in the area though.


Elsewhere in the mall, the Orange Julius has now closed as well.  I’ve always had a hard time placing the style used here, which seems a bit more modern than the typical Orange Julius, but the look doesn’t seem to have aged well.  In particular, the gratuitous use of patterned sheet metal  seems to be a design trend that was past its sell-by date by sometime around 1998 or so.  Before the place gets knocked down, let’s look at a couple of details from the interior after the jump.


January 23, 2008

Now With 50% More Dog Drool Than the Leading Brand

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:51 pm

Over on his blog, my uncle Jeff posted about a rather unusual water bottle he came across at REI designed to let you share water with your dog while you’re out on the trail, noting the less than completely hygenic nature of such a product.  On one hand, I tend to agree that of all the things one might be inclined to share with their dogs, the water dish definitely isn’t one of them.  On the other hand, if you have excitable dogs like Imola and Minardi around, you probably stopped being horrified by their face-licking tendencies quite some time ago.  I think that a more likely problem with a product like this is getting a dog to actually use it in the first place.  I suspect that most dogs are not particularly concerned about the cleanliness of their water sources, and would probably be content to drink from whatever random puddle they happen to come across. On the other hand, if you’re concerned about this type of thing, why not just bring a separate dish for the dog to drink out of in the first place? 

January 21, 2008

Chalk Up the Savings

Filed under: Art, shopping — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 3:01 pm

The local art supply store is having a sale, but their method of telling people about it seems just a little odd:

 You mean to say that out of a whole store full of art supplies (and with a staff that could be assumed to include one or more artists) this is the best they could come up with for a sign?  Granted, we’re not expecting a  Julian Beever level production, but I’m sure that just about any random nine year old could have made something more artistic than this.

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