The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 28, 2008

Have Yourself a Merry Little Easter

Filed under: Culture — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:24 pm

It’s that time of year when Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes the celebration of Easter.  Throughout many fine local retail establishments, a mind boggling array of baskets and bunnies has appeared, along with plenty of other things to make your Easter Sunday happy and bright.  Let’s take a look at a sampling of some of the fine wares that have been proffered for our Easter enjoyment:

To start, why not hang some of these festive Easter lights to add a few splashes of bright color to the room…

And while you’re at it, why not add some of these hanging decorations to bring the Easter spirit into your home?

One of these special bunny rabbit filled snow globes will further compliment the decor and instill the children with a sense of wonder. 

Don’t forget to hang the wreath on the doorway…

…And pick up a few extra ornaments.  And why would you need those, you may ask?  Surely you jest…

They’re to hang on the Easter tree, of course. 

Whether you choose to stick to the traditional style or opt for something more modern,  you can be secure in the knowledge that you are carrying on a centuries old Holiday tradition.  In time, it will all seem familiar to you as you prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth and/or resurrection.  Come to think of it, all this stuff seems oddly familiar already.  It seems like I’ve seen this somewhere before, but I can’t quite seem to figure out where.  Anyone got any ideas?

February 26, 2008

How to Make a Left Turn Into the Redmond Wendy’s

Filed under: Redmond — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:59 am

When most people think of Redmond these days, they probably imagine a booming metropolis just brimming with all sorts of technology everywhere that you look (either that, or some dark village from Mordor ruled over by Bill Gates with an iron fist, but that’s another story.)  To some extent, this is true, but the history of Redmond dates back to long before Microsoft even existed, and for much of its history Redmond was a largely rural community comprised mostly of loggers and farmers working in the surrounding area.  Because of this, the roads running through Redmond’s downtown area weren’t exactly designed in a logical fashion.  The most dubious feature of this design is the split of Redmond Way into two one-way roads (the other being Cleveland Street) running through much of the downtown area, but traffic through downtown Redmond has long proved a challenge.


For example, take a look at this picture, taken from the Birds-Eye View of Live Search Maps.  The arrow (excuse my somewhat lacking drawing skills here) shows the left turn to get from Westbound Redmond way in the downtown area, right near where Cleveland Street splits the eastbound traffic off of Redmond Way.  This is a pretty straightforward turn, although it could be tricky to make sometimes when there was a lot of traffic.  Because of the split here, the majority of eastbound traffic is going to be turning right onto Cleveland St. here, with lesser amounts of traffic either turning left onto 160th Ave. NE, or going straight (the lane continues for about another block before the eastbound traffic is forced to turn left onto 161st Ave. NE.)  For context, you can find the map showing the location of the Wendy’s and the surrounding area here.  As you can see, the left turn lane here is rather short, and it is easy to imagine this turning into a bottleneck for people trying to go straight or turn right onto the left lane of Cleveland street during periods of heavy traffic.  Recently, a change was made to this intersection to increase the length of the left turn lane.  This might alleviate whatever bottleneck might be going on here, but at the same time it also makes it impossible to make a left turn into the Wendy’s.  After the jump, take a look at just how much more difficult a few chunks of concrete on the road have made it to get to the Wendy’s.


February 21, 2008

Why Try to Be Everything to Everyone?

Filed under: Games — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 10:23 pm

WARNING:  This post contains gratuitous video game nerd content, and will probably bore some of my regular readers.  The standard fluff you’ve come to expect of this Blog will return shortly.

It’s been quite a while now since I’ve done much writing about anything video game related here.  This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been playing any video games lately, (for the last little bit, most of that time has been spent on Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness for the PSP, which is the type of game that will make insane completist RPG fans and MMOG spreadsheet junkies forget to eat for three days in a row if they let it,) just that I haven’t found a lot to write about on the subject lately.  After the deluge of high-quality games that showed up over the course of the last couple of months in 2007, there’s been a bit of a lull for the past couple of months as gamers digest the pile of late 2007 offerings.  With this week’s Game Developer’s Conference this week comes an early glance into what gamers can expect in the coming months, and the strategies that the companies are pursuing in that time.

By all accounts, Sony has the most to gain from 2008 at this point.  With an apparent end to the high definition movie format war falling in Blu-Ray’s favor (at what cost this was accomplished remains to be seen)  and the shipment of system-selling games they ordered back in ’06 set to at least partially arrive this year, they will most likely improve over last year.  Over the course of the past year, Sony also seems to have toned down their rhetoric and worked toward getting past the ill-advised hyperbole of Kaz Hirai and Ken Kutaragi into a more customer-friendly public image.  With games like LittleBigPlanet and Echochrome on the PS3 and Patapon on the PSP coming up in the near future, they also seem to be moving in directions that would have been unheard of at the height of the PS2’s popularity.  Part of this is the result of an industry-wide move toward more casual-friendly games fueled mainly by the success of the Wii, but it does also to some extent indicate a greater willingness to cater to niches in gaming than they have previously shown.

It is because of this that a comment (via Kotaku) made by Phil Harrison about third-party games on the Wii at a GDC lunch earlier today seems a bit puzzling:

“Due to competition with Nintendo’s unstoppable games…Your addressable market is only 40% of the installed base.”


February 18, 2008

Is it time to start thinking Spring yet?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 11:53 pm

I’m sure that by now, most people here are getting sick of Winter.  Even if you happen to be the type of person who enjoys Winter outdoor activities (I am not that type of person,) there has to be a point where you get sick of scraping the ice off the windshield for the umpteenth time, and head to Expedia to go look at flights to Hawaii or some other equally sunny destination (and in some cases, actually booking stuff.)  My parents have already booked their next Caribbean cruise for April, and my brother and his wife will be joining them.  I would probably be seriously considering the same thing, if not for the fact that I am not expecting to have any vacation time available until either July or August (and even then, it’ll be only a week,) and the fact that I ended up owing money on my taxes this year and have a car insurance payment due soon (although I was pleasantly surprised to find that the reptile-endorsed car insurance company I go through actually reduced my rate by nearly $100 this time around) kind of put a damper on that. 

If the weather we’ve been getting here over the last few days is any indication, we’ve turned the corner and although it’s still more than a month away, it looks like Spring might actually happen again this year.  Currently the temperature outside is reaching into the mid Fifties, with a nice clear sky.  The picture above shows the view this afternoon from my place of employment, as well as the little construction project going on next door to my building  It’s clear that we’re not out opf the proverbial woods yet (we’ve got at least a good six weeks before the trees decide to wake up,) and the overnight lows are still creeping into the lower thirties, but at least the weather has been nice enough to venture outside without forty pounds of Arctic survival gear for a couple of days.  The forecast looks to be headed back toward the usual clouds and rain for a while, but the temperatures seem to be staying up in the more civilized range.

I get the sneaking suspicion that this means we’re gonig to find ourselves buried under six inches of snow at some point before the Spring manages to finally get the upper hand, but for now, we might as well enjoy the weather while it’s here.

Nice Try, But That’s Not How You Gain Enlightenment

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:54 am

For better or for worse, depictions of religious figures have become increasingly commonplace these days.  Whether for the intent of veneration, sacrelige or just plain kitsch, you can find a staggering array of figures depicting the deity of your choosing you can think of (the ones considered to be punishable by death notwithstanding.)  I don’t think it matters what religion you choose, I think we can all agree that this is just plain tacky:

I don’t understand a lot about the philosophy of Buddhism (mostly what I learned from research for a project in high school), but I do know that Buddhist philosophy isn’t big on materialism.  Although I doubt that the Buddha would say anything about something like this, I suspect he would disapprove of it as well.

February 13, 2008

I Guess That’s One Way to Generate Excitement About Your Products…

Filed under: Random Stuff, shopping — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 10:17 pm

When you have a company with more than 33 years of experience in the housewares industry, there’s a good chance that you’re doing something right.  Functional products such as the ones that the InterDesign corporation specializes in provide quick, low-cost solutions to everyday problems, and for that reason, there will always be a demand for such things.  In spite of this, there’s no getting around the fact that such items are by their very definition generic and rather unexciting.  So what do you do to differentiate your product on a shelf that might be filled with virtually identical competing products?

Why not try using gratuitous punctuation?  After all, doesn’t it sound a lot more exciting if you’re buying products for the kitchen! rather than just a plain old kitchen?  But the kitchen!(TM) is just the start.  After the jump, see what else in your house InterDesign is trying to make sound a lot more exciting than it probably is.


Are You Looking for Tremendous Savings?

Filed under: shopping — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:04 am

If you happen to be one of the three people out there who might still be looking for one of these things, why not buy today and save (.)20% off the regular price?


These vera low prices can’t last, so don’t let another minute go you by!

February 9, 2008

Small Tales from Route 66

Filed under: History — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 9:16 pm

For those of you who have seen the post I made on abandoned Route 66 gas stations a few months ago (which seems to consistiently be among the most popular posts on this site, mostly from people searching for abandoned gas station photos,) I thought I’d call attention to a very interesting comment that was posted to it earlier today by Don Christiano, a former resident of Truxton Arizona in the early Seventies before I-40 bypassed this particular stretch of the old Route 66:

The two gas stations in Truxton are different stations. I lived at both of them in the early 70’s. The Texaco at that time was owned by Ralph and Emily Hunter. They lived in a doublewide behind the station. Ralph caught himself on fire while smoking a cigarette and standing in gas. Burned badly. Not sure what happened to them after that. The other station was part of the Truxton Cafe. Went out of business when I-40 went through. Most of those cars have been there since the 60’s. People would break-down, have no way to pay and hitch a ride to california. Most of them never reclaimed the vehicles later. Belive it or not, before I-40 went through the town had tons of life. There was a bar across the street where the Indians from Peach Springs would walk over to drink at and tons of traffic. We moved a few months before I-40 went through and I haven’t been back since.

When most people think of Route 66, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is one of the images that comes to mind, with its Depression-era tale of people fleeing the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma for a new life in California.  With the recent surge in nostalgia for the glory days of Route 66, with its images of sparkling roadside diners and motels with gaudy neon signs, we should keep in mind that for a lot of people, their trip on the Mother Road was a one-way journey, and with cars generally being a lot less reliable and hitchhiking being generally more socially acceptable than it is today, I could see where someone might have just decided to ditch their car and thumb it the rest of the way to their new life.  There are some cars parked at the Texaco that are clearly newer than that (the link goes to the full-size version of that photo,) which leads me to wonder what the story behind those might be.  It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in some cases, that same picture just might have a thousand stories behind it as well, and it’s fortunate that we get to hear a couple of them.

 Oh, and just in case anyone here hasn’t figured it out yet, don’t smoke cigarettes while you’re standing in a puddle of gas, OK?

Always Keep a Spare Handy

Filed under: Technology — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 3:37 am

Of all the gadgets and gizmos that I’ve got lying around my apartment these days, I think the oldest one I have might be the old clock radio in my bedroom.  It originally resided in the bedroom I shared with my brothers while I was growing up, and I don’t recall exactly when it was purchased, but I can distinctly  remember using it to listen to radio coverage of the returns on election day in 1996 (the first one I was old enough to vote in), and I know it was around for at least a few years before that.  It is by no means pretty (back in those days, none of them were,) and the layer of dust doesn’t help that either, but a clock radio is one of those things that you rarely give a second thought to until the power goes out and you need to reset the time.  You expect it to tell time, wake you up when you set the alarms, and listen to the radio, and as long as it does all of those, why bother replacing it?  For that matter, as long as it keeps accurate time, that’s enough for most people.  I can’t remember the last time I used the alarms, or even the radio for that matter.  (And yes, I know I need to dust.  I’ll take care of it sometime this year.  Just don’t ask how the rest of the place looks right now…)

Last Summer, when I was out on a typical Saturday morning garage sale run (something I do quite often during the Summer,) I happened to come across a clock radio identical to mine.  On one hand, it was only a buck, and even though the old one has kept going for this long, it is not without its issues (the snooz(sic) button no longer works,) so why not keep a spare around just in case something happens to the old one?  On the other hand, it’s not like there is any particular reason why I would actually want another clock radio like the one I have already.  To be blunt, even in the context of late 80s/early 90s design the clock was never all that pretty, and adding another 16+ years worth of use certainly hasn’t done anything to change that.  Nonetheless, partly due to the low price (notwithstanding the fact that an attitude like that will eventually get you a house packed to the rafters with stuff you’ll never use) and partially for the novelty of finding another example of something that’s been around for that long, I ended up buying it.  It turned out that the snooze button (just because the clock itself misspells it doesn’t mean that I have to) worked just fine on the “new” one, so that one took over timekeeping duties in the room and the old one was relegated to the closet.

Fast forward to last night, when as I prepared to go to bed I noticed that for some reason the clock was just sitting on 12:00.  Further investigation revealed that the clock seemed to be “ticking” (when you press the button, you can see the seconds ticking by) and could be set as usual, but for some reason the current time shown on the display would just stay on wherever it happened to have been set.  Since the primary purpose of this particular clock is to be able to look up from the bed and see what time it is, this tends to make it rather useless.  Fortunately, the old clock remained in the closet, which meant that at roughly 3:30 in the morning last night I was able to swap out the malfunctioning clock for an identical spare.  To be honest, I’m not sure if this means that I wasted a buck on the duplicate clock radio (after all, it was the “new” one that ended up failing) or if I was going to have a clock radio fail on me either way, and buying the second one saved me from some sort of temporal crisis.  Then again, since I only use the this as a clock anyway this isn’t exactly a life-or-death situation.

 For that matter, I don’t even use the alarms on this clock anymore.  In general, the alarms in alarm clocks like these are good at getting you to wake up, but the alarm sounds generated by most alarm clocks are about as pleasant as listening to a vomiting cat scraping its claws on a chalkboard.  You get the suspicion that years of intensive research has gone into the subject to create a noise that is just grating enough to ensure that you’re too annoyed to get back to sleep, but not quite enough that you throw the alarm clock through the nearest window.  Instead, I use the alarm function on my old Dell Axim X5 PocketPC to wake me up in the morning.  Compared to the alarm clocks discussed above this particular device is far newer, but at this point even the Axim is five years old.  It was long ago replaced by my X50v (and later my Sprint PPC-6700) for everyday PDA use, but this particular device still sees virtually daily use as my alarm clock and as an e-book reader.  Instead of the aforementioned horrible wake-up noises,. I get to use whatever sound I want as the alarm (currently, and for quite a while now, I use the Roadrunner’s “Beep Beep” sound from the cartoons,) and I get a lot more flexibility with setting alarms than I would from using the alarm clock, being able to set specific times on specific days.  There’s just one drawback to this approach:

Rather than having a plain old snooze button, the alarm function in PPC2003 gives you a whole laundry list of different snooze settings.  There’s the ever popular 5 minute setting, but you also get 10, 15, and 30 minutes, then 1 hour, 2 hours and so on.  I’m pretty sure if you scrolled down the list far enough, you’d probably find a Rip Van Winkle option on there somewhere.  It’s great for E-book reading, even better for other PDA functions, not so great for actually getting you to wake up in the morning.  Even with all this fancy (if not particularly new) technology, it’s still no replacement for an old-fashioned clock when all you’re looking for is the time.  Just don’t count on that always being there when you need it…

February 6, 2008

Forgot something?

Filed under: Bellevue, Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 11:32 pm

“We’d like to welcome everyone out to the first 2008 meeting for the Bellevue Friends of the Library.  As you know, 2007 was a great year for our organization, and for the Bellevue Library, but in spite of all we accomplished, I can’t help but get the sneaking suspicion that we all forgot something important last year.  I just can’t quite seem to figure out what it was.  Anyone have any suggestions?  Anyone?”

Incidentally, the reason I was at the library was to dig through the microfilm archives, where I was able to locate a number of newspaper articles and advertisements related to the opening of the Totem Lake Mall (which actually turns out to have been called the Totem Lake Center at the time, and heavily themed to match the name) in 1973.  Watch for this stuff to get posted soon..

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