The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 29, 2008

BeagleFest 2008: Tale of the Tape

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:08 pm

By this time, things have pretty much settled into a routine with Imola and Minardi.  As long as they get their two trips to the dog park per day, they’re generally pretty well behaved, although they’ll still get worked up about one thing or another if the opportunity arises.  Since this doesn’t leave a whole lot of adventure and/or misadventure to report, I thought I’d go ahead and take a chance to discuss the two dogs, and their personalities a bit.

Imola is pretty typical for a beagle in many ways.   She has a slightly smaller build than some beagles, and a fairly typical appearance for the breed.  She is by far the more adventurous of the two, and when we’re out and about, she will usually be the one to lead and Minardi will be the one who follows and the one whose attention will be caught by whatever happens to be interesting.  At the dog park, this means that she will wander a lot more than Minardi does, although it doesn’t take much to get Minardi to follow along.  Of course, if  one of the two gets to barking, the other one will usually be barking right along in no time at all.  And man, can these two bark.  If one of them finds some reason to start barking, you’ll know it, and pretty soon half the neighborhood is going to know it as well.  On the other hand, Imola also likes to be around where people are, and when the time comes to wind down. she’s usually going to find her way into someone’s lap.  She also gets very enthusiastic at times, and will frequently try to lick your face whenever she gets excited,  She also seems to spend a lot of time just sniffing around at various things, and is generally a lot more excitable than Minardi is. 

Minardi is a bit unusual for a beagle in a number of ways.  Both of these dogs (as well as one of the two owned by my sister) came from the same breeder at the same time, and if I understand correctly Imola and Minardi have the same father, but came from different mothers, which would make them half-sisters.  Some of Minardi’s personality and appearance are a bit different from that of a typical Beagle, which has led us on occasion to wonder if she might actually have picked up a bit of Jack Russell Terrier in her genetics somewhere along the line. For all intents and purposes we just consider her to be a Beagle, and she passes off as one just fine.  The fact that her and Imola have grown up together has made the two inseparable, and you will very rarely find one of these two without the other close by.  Minardi was the runt of her litter, and has a bit of a crick in her tail as well, but at her fully grown size she is only very slightly smaller than Imola.

Compared to Imola, Minardi is a bit more reserved.  Although she will gladly follow Imola around in a lot of instances, there are also times when she will just stick close to the pack leader at the dog park, especially if there are other larger or more aggressive dogs around.  At home when things are quiet, she will often find her own little place to take a nap away from the hustle and bustle, although she has no problem with people being around her when she’s napping.  On occasion, she can be excitable though, and frequently she ends up being the first one to start the frienzied barking if something gets her attention.  She also has a cute little bark that she makes when she gets excited, mostly as a result of being given food or treats. 

Compared to some beagles that I know, these two are actually rather well behaved a lot of the time, although if they get ramped up there’s not going to be a lot you can do to get them to calm down until they managed to get it out of their systems.  As I have said previously here, Beagles are very friendly and very loyal dogs, but they can also be too smart for their own good at times, and also tend to be very high-maintenance at times, especially for a small dog.  Still, I enjoy having these two around, especially when I can actually go home and let my parents take care of all the dog-keeping chores.

At Least My Face Isn’t On One of These Yet

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:36 pm

As I’ve noted here previously, milk is one of the numerous free beverages provided in the drink coolers in the breakrooms here, and at this point just about the only one I actually drink.  It comes in the small 8-ounce cartons that are more normally associated with school lunches than with humongous software corporations, so that means we get milk cartons that have this kind of stuff on them:

I guess they couldn’t get “Sit around and play video games all day” to fit on the carton, so they had to go with these two options.  I don’t know if this is supposed to be considered entertaining or what, but I don’t think you could even keep a Kindergartener occupied for more than two seconds with this type of thing unless they have to ask what some of the big words are supposed to mean..  Apparently, you’re supposed to be able to go to this site and find the answer to this, but at the moment it claims that this particular activity doesn’t exist.  I can’t say that I blame them too much…

BeagleFest 2008: A Tour of the Marymoor Dog Park

Filed under: Dogs, Redmond — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 11:29 am

 As much as I enjoy the chance to hang out with Imola and Minardi this week, there are very good reasons that I have never given much thought to getting a Beagle of my own.  Sure, I might have names picked out already if I ever do happen to get a beagle or two of my own (the next ones would be named Mugello and Fiorano,) but in my current situation I would be ill-equipped to take care of any dog, much less a challenging breed like a Beagle.  Most beagles do not do well at all in confined spaces, and very few beagles do well in apartments.  Even in a decent sized single family house such as this one the dogs can get a little loopy if they aren’t given the chance to run around for a while use up some of the energy that they seem to come by so easily. 

It is for this reason that we are fortunate to have the Marymoor off-leash dog area nearby.  Although there are a number of other off-leash dog areas in the general vicinity, the one ar Marymoor is the closest, and by far the largest, encompassing nearly 40 acres of space.  To a human unfamiliar with the place, it doesn’t look like much more than a big open field with some trails crisscrossing it and a couple of places to access the river.  To a dog, on the other hand, this place must be something like Disneyland, with all sorts of open spaces to run around in, plenty of interesting new dogs to meet every day and scents to follow, and places to go for a nice refreshing ball-fetching swim.  The nice weather we had on Saturday brought a multitude of human and canine visitors to the park, so I thought it would provide a good opportunity to take some photos of the place.  After the jump, a tour of the Marymoor off-leash dog area.

(more…)

April 28, 2008

BeagleFest 2008: Raining Cats and… Oh, Never Mind

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 9:55 am

No, the weather at the dog park this morning didn’t look anything like this.  When I woke up this morning (at 7AM no less, these two seem to be determined to turn me into a morning person whether I like it or not) there was some light to moderate sprinkling outside.  As we went through the morning routine (still having some issues with getting them to go to the bathroom outside) there appeared to be an opening in the rain showers to take the morning trip to the dog park, so we headed out.  Once we got there, it had started raining again, but not too much, so we continued as usual hoping that it would let up again.  Unfortunately, it never did, and in fact about halfway through our usual loop through the park the rain turned into a torrential downpour,  The dogs didn’t seem to care too much though (which seems odd, since they don’t seem to care much for the water at the edge of the dog park,) and just proceeded along on their walk as usual.  My jacket, which normally does a pretty good job of keeping me dry in the rain, was thoroughly overwhelmed by the deluge, and by the time we made it back to the car, the jacket was completely soaked through, as was just about everything else I was wearing.  If there was one thing I was thankful for, it is the fact that I picked a very good day to accidentally leave my cell phone at home. 

Fortunately, the temperature was warm enough that this wasn’t too big an issue, and I made sure to dry Imola and Minardi off some before they went into the crate this morning.  If I was thinking far enough in advance, I could have just brought along some dog shampoo and took care of two things at once (although someone might get mad about that if I tried it…)

April 27, 2008

Ack! Blogmemed.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brian Lutz @ 11:16 pm

Dang.  I thought I managed to get away from these blogmeme things, but apparently Kiley couldn’t think of anyone better to send this stuff to, so somehow I ended up getting tagged.  I suppose since some of you are probably getting sick of all the dogblogging going on here lately, so here goes:

4 Jobs I’ve Had in My Life:

  1. Some sort of data extraction stuff for a small startup company out of White Rock, NM, for about six weeks during the summer my freshman year of high school.  I don’t remember much of this to be honest, only that they ended up looking for someone with a CS degree and experience  afterward, presumably to clean up whatever mess I made out of the stuff.
  2. Tech Support Guy at the Keane Seattle tech support call center and Federal Penitentiary for two years out of high school, and in a couple of short stints later on.
  3. Contract Software Tester, what I’m doing now
  4. Helping out with a rollout at the toilet paper factory (another temp job that involved mostly setting up computers at, yes, a toilet paper factory up in Everett.)

4 Movies I Have Watched Over and Over:

  1. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  2. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version)
  3. A Christmas Story
  4. This one, for a number of various reasons, most of them rather unfortunate…

4 Places that I have lived:

  1. Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, NM (born here)
  2. Los Alamos, NM
  3. Redmond, WA
  4. Off in my own little fantasy world (it’s one of those flowery places with rainbows and waterfalls all over the place too.  Unfortunately, most of it hasn’t been remodelled since the early 1970s, and most of houses are covered in either avacado green or horrendous plaid patterns.  Oh yeah, and in case you’re wondering, unicorns are highly overrated…)

4 People who e-mail me regularly:

  1. My manager at work
  2. People on the GramrCat alias at work (which probably explains where most instances of watching movie #4 come from…)
  3. My Aunt Pam (passing on her son’s weekly missionary e-mail)
  4. WordPress comment notifications

 4 of My Favorite Restaurants:

  1. Torero’s Taqueria at Crossroads
  2. Niko Teriyaki
  3. Bella Vista (a now defunct restaurant that was located in the Sandia Mountains outside of Albuquerque that had great big all-you-can-eat fried fish and chicken meals served family style with fries, cole slaw and garlic bread.  It’s not that the food was anything special, but it was always a fun place to go as a family , and the restaurant itself was a cool (if slightly rickety) old place with a maze of sprawling dining rooms, creaky wooden floors and candles on the tables.
  4. Gardunos (also in New Mexico, although I haven’t been to one since I moved away thirteen years ago)

4 Places I’d Rather Be Right Now:

  1. At home
  2. Somewhere that I don’t have to chase rebellious dogs around all day
  3. Wherever my parents happen to be right now (on a cruise ship out in the Caribbean)
  4. In a newly remodeled version of my own little fantasy world, preferably one with about 73% less unicorns than the current one.  Oh, and a dragon or two might be interesting, just as long as they’re not the type that destroy everything in sight and need some knight in shining armor with a magic sword to get rid of.)

4 Things I’m Looking Forward To in 2008:

  1. Being done with this whole BeagleFest thing
  2. Having a car with air conditioning in it when August rolls around
  3. If I can convince anyone else to go with me, going to the American Le Mans Series race at Laguna Seca in October
  4. Turning 30 (Oh wait…  Am I suppose to look forward to that, or am I supposed to dread it?  Oh well, I’m out of ideas anyway, so I’ll leave it there.)

4 People to Tag With This Thing:

Oh, I’m too lazy to tag people right now.  If you’re one of the first four people to wander too close to this thing have to do this.  And if you happen to be one of them and don’t do it, the unicorns are going to come and chase you around until you do. 

BeagleFest 2008: Bored, Wired, and Something’s Crawling in the Yard

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 9:44 am

Yesterday, the sun finally managed to chase off the clouds for a while, which gave us a nice clear day with temperatures in the seventies.  Given the fact that it was snowing here less than a week ago, this was a welcome relief from the not-so-springlike weather we’ve been getting around here lately.  While the sun was out, the dogs seemed content to just hang out on the back deck and lie in the sun.  Because of this, I thought that one trip to the dog park in the afternoon would be sufficient, since I was going to be attending the Mariners game in the evening.  Naturally, with the nice weather, the dog park was packed, which caused Imola to take a wrong turn once in the confusion of the mass of people and dogs.  This was only for a brief time though, and other than that the walk went without incident. 

The ballgame was somewhat of a disappointment, even though many people from the Singles Ward were there, and the Mariners won on the strong pitching of Erik Bedard.  In my experience, baseball games don’t really work out as well as some activities due to the fact that there’s usually too much socializing going on to pay much attention to the game, and too much baseball going on to properly socialize.  Although the ticket to get into the game only cost me $5, a parking spot near the stadium went for $25 due to a simultaneous motocross event going on across the street at Qwest Field (parking spots closer to the stadium went for as much as $40) and since we were in the cheap seats, there wasn’t a whole lot to see.  I ended up leaving before the Seventh Inning Stretch to get back home since the dogs hadn’t been fed yet.

After getting home and feeding the dogs, it quickly became apparent that the lack of a second trip to the dog park had left them with a surplus of energy, and I suspect that feeding them at this point probably didn’t help the situation any.  As soon as Imola caught a glimpse of something running around in the yard, they spent a good fifteen minutes running around, staring out the window and barking at the top of their lungs, and spent most of the rest of the evening trying to track down whatever it was that caught their attention (I’d guess some sort of small animal.)  Eventually they (mostly) settled down, but it was clear that they had a bit too much energy.  Needless to say, I think I’ll probably be sticking to the two trips per day for the rest of the week, since it certainly makes them a lot easier to deal with.

April 26, 2008

Have You Wished You Weren’t Driving a Ford Lately?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:12 pm

Let’s say that your job involves driving around a work truck, but the one that the company gave you runs afoul of whatever brand loyalties you might have for such a vehicle.  What do you do?  I caught this, er, creative solution to the problem in the rear view mirror while I was waiting at a stoplight earlier today:

Just take the front grill off something you found in the junkyard, add a few zip ties, and nobody will know the difference, as long as they aren’t really paying close attention anyway.  Call me crazy, but I get the sneaking suspicion that this particular individual would probably rather push a Chevy than drive a Ford.

BeagleFest 2008: Wait, Didn’t I Live Here at Some Point?

Filed under: Dogs — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 9:37 am

It is now day 3 of BeagleFest 2008, and so far, everything seems to be going well.  The dogs managed to get themselves a bit wound up before last night’s trip to the dog park, but seemed to be just fine while we were there.  The weather has gradually improved over the past few days, so last night the dog park was rather busy.  Fortunately, Imola and Minardi seem to be pretty good about keeping track of where I am and usually remain reasonably close.  Imola tends to wander a bit more than Minardi does, but if Imola comes across something that catches her attention Minardi will follow her pretty quickly.

As for myself, part of the deal was that I am staying at my parents’ house while they are gone to take care of the dogs.  Even though I lived here for ten years while I was growing up, a lot has changed around here since then.  For one thing, me and my parents are the only ones in the family who live in Redmond anymore (I’ve got a brother and sister and brother-in-law who live down in Provo Utah, and my other brother and sister-in-law live in the small town of Sultan in Snohomish County, as do my other sister, brother-in-law, their two boys and two beagles of their own.)  This, combined with the fact that I remain single for the time being meant that I was the only one who was really in a position to take care of the dogs.  The house itself has seen an extensive remodel in the past year, and although it is still easily recognizable as the house I grew up in, a lot has changed as a result of that remodel.  This includes a number of shiny new appliances with all sorts of bells and whistles, although I’m led to wonder if that’s always a good thing.  In the apartment where I normally make my home, the stove is a fairly basic model, and is rapidly approaching an age where it would be old enough to vote if the 28th amendment to the Constitution happened to grant suffrage to household appliances.  This means that you’ve got a total of six knobs (one for each burner and two for the oven.)  The recently purchased new stove at my parents’ house, on the other hand, has a control panel that looks like this:

So far, I haven’t even bothered to try to figure out what half of those buttons are supposed to do.  So far, I think I’ve figured out the “incinerate” and the “show seizure inducing flashy patterns on the display” buttons, but I haven’t ventured too far beyond those basic functions yet.  In what may be one of the greatest feats of dubious engineering in the 21st century, somehow they’ve even managed to complicate the temperature knobs for the burners on this one, providing two different low/high scales for the front burners.  It’s not just the stove either;  The toaster’s encrusted with more than its fair share of buttons (I’m trying to figure out exactly when people decided that toasters needed “cancel” buttons to pop the toast back up instead of just lifting the slider back up, but that’s another story,) and i haven’t even tried to operate the dishwasher yet.  I’m dreading the inevitable day when refrigerators start coming with “open” buttons instead of handles to open the doors…

Fortunately, I think there’s enough cold cereal here that I could probably survive off of if I can’t figure out how to cook anything else without setting it on fire, and if worse comes to worse, I’m only about a mile from my apartment anyway, so I’ll probably not starve.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see if I can find the manual to explain how to get the front door open again… 

 

April 25, 2008

Is That Where Half-Baked Ad Campaigns Come From?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 12:27 pm

It seems that someone over at WordPress could use to spell check their spell checker.  This was one of the words that got flagged by the spell checker while I was editing the previous post, along with some of the suggestions that it offered to replace it:

What the heck is a “pr oven” supposed to be anyway?  Do I even want to know?

Building a Better Sledgehammer, One Exorbitant Purchase at a Time

Filed under: Site Stuff, Technology — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 11:54 am

Lately, you might have noticed a few changes to the site, particularly with regards to the photos used in my posts.  This is because I’ve finally managed to get around to upgrading a number of the items used to produce the site, especially the photos.  For some reason, it seems that lately I’ve managed to let a lot of the miscellaneous technology which I use on a day-to-day basis get fairly old, which is really unusual since I usually make at least some effort to keep up with the latest technology.

This recent (and ongoing) round of upgrades started with my phone.  For the past couple of years, I have used a Sprint PPC-6700 (Also known as a HTC Apache) as my phone.  Although this particular phone has worked well for my needs during the time I have used it, it is definitely beginning to show its age by now, with the rubber part on the front of the D-pad missing for several months now, as well as a missing stylus and a battery that holds a charge for about six hours on a good day, assuming that you don’t actually use the phone for anything.  Since the 2-year contract on which I bought that phone on was going to expire at the end of this month, I was making plans to get a new phone, and was looking at the HTC Mogul on Sprint, which is basically the replacement for the 6700.  Fortunately, before the end of the month came around, I managed to get a really good deal from a friend that I could not pass up on a slightly used Mogul, which not only saved me a fair bit of money over what I would have spent buying a new one,  but also means that I don’t need to go onto a new 2-year contract to get it.

In just about every way imaginable, the Mogul is an improvement over the phone that it’s replacing.  With more memory, Windows Mobile 6, better battery life and some nice features like built-in GPS.  In fact, there’s only one major feature that I have a problem with:  The camera on the phone doesn’t work all that well.  It operates at a higher resolution than the PPC6700’s camera, but the fixed focus design that the Mogul’s camera uses means that it is basically useless for taking close-up pictures.  As anyone who has been reading this site for any length of time knows, I use a lot of close-up pictures here, and not being able to take those is obviously a bit of a problem.

Which brings me to the next recent upgrade.  Even without the somewhat earlier-than-expected phone upgrade, I had already been considering an upgrade to my digital camera for some time anyway.  For the stuff on my site that hasn’t been covered by the cameraphone, I have been using a 4-megapixel Olympus point-and-shoot camera that I have had for about four years now,  While it has also worked out reasonably well, I have always had an issues with photos not turning out with the thing, and it usually took 2 or 3 shots to get a good one (which I understand is pretty much standard practice if you’re doing any sort of serious photography, but I’m far from serious.)  I have also found that this camera’s low light performance leaves much to be desired, and the not-so-standard XD memory that the camera uses has also proven to be a pain, since even if you have a reader which supports the format handy, transferring files off the card is still rather slow.  The final straw came when I was recently working on my writeup of the Crossroads Mall (yes, I am actually working on it) and realized that far too many pictures for my liking had not turned out for one reason or another.  I have also found the camera difficult to work with for taking pictures from microfilm, as I have for some of the research projects I’m working on currently.

In spite of this camera’s shortcomings, It’s been all over the place during the four years that I have owned it for.  Just within the past year this camera has been to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and plenty of points in between.  It has also taken trips to Disneyland, Florida and even the Caribbean.   Even so, this camera is so old at this point that pretty much anything you’re going to find on the shelf these days is going to be a huge improvement over this one.  Having done some research on the subject, I found that the Canon Powershot SD series cameras seemed to be the best fit for the type of photos I take.  I need something that’s nice and compact (as well as fairly discrete, since I frequently end up taking pictures while in stores) yet takes good pictures.  Quite frankly, with as old as my other camera was pretty much anything I could have bought would have been a significant upgrade (I don’t think you can find much of anything that shoots less than 7.1 megapixels these days), and based on my findings, I decided that the Canon PowerShot SD850IS would be the best fit, and ordered one off of Amazon.  I’m still getting used to that camera, but so far I have found that it takes pictures a lot faster than the old camera, handles low-light situations a lot better, and the image stabilization also helps quite a bit.  In addition to these, there are other nice features like the ability to take 30fps video at 640×480 and 60fps at 320×200, a bunch of bells and whistles like an image stitching assistant (which should help with some of the newspaper stuff), far better low-light performance than the old camera, which became pretty much useless in low-light situations where the flash couldn’t be used.  For example, this is the type of photo just wouldn’t turn out with the old camera:

On top of all that, the new camera is also significantly smaller (and thus more portable) than the old one was, making it a lot easier to carry around on a day-to-day basis.  Using the new camera, I have gone back and retaken a number of the Crossroads photos which did not turn out the first time I went over there, and I should have enough stuff to finish putting together my initial profile of the mall.  That should be coming shortly (and this time I mean it, I think…)

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