The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 29, 2008

We Do Chicken Right; Math Not So Much

Filed under: Food, Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 9:41 pm

Even though there really aren’t a lot of places to get fried chicken around here, KFC still doesn’t rank all that high on my list of favorites around here.  There’s a Popeye’sdown in Renton (and one in Federal Way) that serves up some pretty good chicken, but that’s just a bit too far to go for dinner.  Beyond that and and Ezell’s (a small local chain) up in Woodinville, you pretty much have grocery store chicken and KFC.  KFC seems to be one of those things that you eat just often enough to remind yourself why you don’t eat there more often.  It sounds tasty at the time, but you always seem to end up regretting it later.  On the other hand, the KFCs around here have a special on Tuesdays where you can get a 2-piece meal with mashed potatoes and corn for $2.99 that I’ll pick up every once in a while when I’m feeling a bit too lazy to do much cooking.

Every once in a while, they’ll also send out a page of coupons in the mail along with the usual bolus of weekly dead tree spam.  Most of the coupons are pretty much useless for a bachelor living on his own (I’d like to think that I was brought up by my parents at least well enough to realize that I should refrain from trying to eat an entire 8-piece bucket of chicken in one sitting,) but every once in a while there’s a coupon or two that might be useful.  Then every once in a while, you get this:


For those of you who haven’t had advertising for these things drilled into your head repeatedly by now, Snackers are basically KFC’s entry in the highly competitive “El Cheapo Chicken Sandwich” category that every fast food joint in town seems to be selling these days.  Snackers are a bit smaller than the other ones, but use chicken that looks like it might have actually come off of a chicken in one piece.  If you can manage to get some that haven’t been sitting in a warming drawer for nine hours, they are actually fairly decent.  Aside from the fact that I wouldn’t advise trying to actually eat five of the things in a single sitting, there’s one little problem with the coupon:

The things normally sell for 99 cents apiece, so at the regular price, five of them would be $4.95.  The coupon above offers five Snackers for $4.99, meaning that in the unlikely event that you could get your local KFC to actually take the coupon, you’d actually be paying them four cents more than you would if you just ordered them without the coupon.  I suspect that there are probably places out there where the Snackers cost more than 99 cents apiece, but given the fact that they emphasized the whole 99 cent part of the deal pretty heavily when they introduced the things, I’m not sure where that would be.  The practice of sending people “coupons” for deals that they can get without using a coupon is nothing all that unusual (Arby’s in particular seems to do it a lot) but I think this is the first instance I’ve seen of a coupon that would make you pay extra to use it…

July 27, 2008

What $240 Million Gets You These Days: A Look at the Westfield Southcenter Expansion

Filed under: Malls, shopping — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:07 am

Yesterday morning, after two years of construction, Westfield Southcenter’s new $240 million expansion officially opened its doors to the public with much fanfare.  A crowd estimated to be 6,000 people showed up (some of them arriving as early as 1AM) to be among the first to shop in the mall’s new stores, and although I wasn’t able to attend myself due to work, I was able to get down there this morning to check out the place.  As I had mentioned previously, last weekend the movie theater was already open on the third level of the new atrium.  This provided a chance to take a sneak peek at the new expansion, but at the time I didn’t take any photos since there was still a fair bit of stuff that was unfinished, and most of it was roped off anyway.   

With the new expansion, Southcenter now solidifies its position as the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Northwest, and although it doesn’t add any new anchor stores (currently, the mall’s former Mervyn’s store remains vacant,) it still brings in several new major retailers, five new sit-down restaurants, a brand new food court (or “dining terrace” as they prefer to call it) and a 16-screen cinema.  After the jump, a look at some of the new features that the Southcenter expansion has to offer.


July 26, 2008

The Study Was Going Great Until the “Bright Shiny Objects” Test

Filed under: Advertising, Food — Tags: , , , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:07 am

For better or for worse, I seem to be something of an expert on the subject of distraction, mostly because it happens to me a lot.  For example, when I write stuff here, it is rare that I am able to just sit down and hammer out an entire post in one sitting.  Usually when I write, I tend to write a couple of sentences, then go wander around the apartment for a bit (usually ending up in the kitchen and snacking, which probably isn’t the best thing to do either.)   When I manage to get back to the computer, I end up checking my e-mail to make sure that nothing important has shown up in the last two minutes since I last checked it, go check a Blog or two and get lost in some 300-post fanboy flamewar comment thread on Kotaku before remembering that I’m supposed to be working on a Blog post.  When I get back to the post, I usually end up rewriting something I wrote three paragraphs ago and tinker around with the graphics a bit, then I finally get around to writing some more stuff before repeating the whole process over again.  Sometimes, it’s a wonder that I manage to get anything posted at all.  At times, even the most trivial of posts here can end up taking hours to write.  I usually just refer to it as “multitasking” and call it good.

After work today, I took a trip over to Costco to go grab a few things (it’s funny how “a few things” at Costco always ends up costing at least $50 and usually closer to $75, but that’s another post.)  Among the stuff I picked up was some cereal to take to work for a quick breakfast.  Frosted Mini-Wheats is one of my typical choices, since I’m rapidly approaching the point where I should probably stop trying to live off of sugar-soaked kid cereals but still somehow fail to do so much of the time (and no, that’s NOT my box of Cocoa Puffs in the cupboard, why do you ask?)  The packaging for the cereal contains what may be one of the more unusual claims I’ve seen printed on a cereal box:

 Everyone in the cereal aisle these days seems to be trying to convince you that Vaguely Fruit-Flavored Technicolor Puffs and Sugar-blasted Cocoa Bombs (of Doom) are healthy because they heard a rumor that someone might have tripped on a catwalk and spilled a sack of whole wheat into the production line last Thursday.  Unless you happen to be eating the stuff that Great Grandpa ate back during his stay at the Sanitarium that nobody likes to talk about or some of the new-age hippie stuff like The People’s Glorious Organic Wheat Puffs (also of Doom,) rarely do you see anyone making such bold scientific claims about the magical powers of cold cereal.  Yet for some reason, Kellogg’s is now claiming that Frosted Mini-Wheats have been clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%.  Why, the stuff is practically a Family-size box of edible Ritalin, without the pesky side effects of making people stay up half the night and write about empty shopping malls on the Internet!

Of course, due to the Truth in Advertising laws, you can’t just go around claiming that your product will make the kids stay focused on their arithmetic lesson even when the pet rabbit in Mrs’ Ryan’s fourth grade class manages to escape from its hutch and wander into the room without some proof to back it up, so further explanation is provided on the side of the box.  As you might expect, they’re not talking about any sort of miracle cure for bright shiny objects here, just the usual bit about how eating food somehow manages to makes you feel less hungry than not eating food.  It goes on to explain how fiber slows down the eating process and “may contribute to a feeling of being full.”  Of course, I’m pretty sure that the cardboard that the box is made out of would contribute to a “feeling of being full” if you somehow managed to eat the stuff in suffcient quantity (not that I have any experience on the subject or anything…)  I don’t think it takes a clinical study to figure any of that stuff out.  So where’s the clinical study anyway?


Buried in the fine print, of course.  What the whole thing boils down to is that over the course of three hours, kids that eat Frosted Mini-Wheats manage to somehow be 18% more attentive (which apparently rounds up to 20% to provide a nice round number to plaster on the box in huge fonts) than kids who didn’t eat any breakfast at all.  An earth-shattering revelation to be sure, but that still doesn’t really say anything about what was done to prove this.  To find out more info on the actual testing that was done, you have to go their website (annoying Flash warning).  Aside from the so-called focus games (just a basic Memory match thing and a Sudoku puzzle, much better versions of which can be found at pretty much any reputable and/or disreputable Flash games site,) the site continues to hype the clinical study.  Clicking on the news link greets you with yet another page of breathless hyperbole, with tales of Moms cheering on their Mini-Wheat fueled offspring as they outperformed a group of children that weren’t given any breakfast on some standardized test.  Aside from the fact that the whole entire scenario seems thoroughly absurd (unless the tests were being administered by Bob Barker and the winners were receiving a new car for their efforts,) exactly what kind of example would that be setting for the children anyway?  If your kid comes home from school and complains that there’s a bunch of wheat-eating maniacs on the playground running up the score against the third graders at kickball, at least you’ll know who to blame. 

But even after all that nonsense, they still haven’t bothered to explain anything about how the actual clinical study was done.  For that, you have to click yet another (rather small) link on the page to get to one more page, which finally has a few actual details buried in more of the usual “eating breakfast is good for you” mumbo-jumbo.  It references something known as a “Digit Vigilance test” that is supposed to measure attentiveness, as well as a reaction test.  Some searching on the Internet revealed this example of a Digit Vigilance test, although I can’t seem to actually get it to work.  Given the fact that other places that come up in the search results are trying to sell you these things for hundreds of dollars a pop, I’m going to guess that this is probably a fairly standard test for this type of thing.  They’ve also got the Choice Reaction Time test here, which does seem to work, but it doesn’t seem to give you any resuts from the test (presumably, that’s the part you’re supposed to pay the big bucks for.)  As can be expected, the results here are the same  as everywhere else, although here they’re slightly less gilded in marketing mumbo-jumbo.

So in the end, it takes wading through several pages of fine print and marketing speak to get down to the fact that eating sugar-encrusted breakfast cereal makes you 18% more attentive than not eating sugar-encrusted breakfast  cereal.  Why exactly did we needed a clinical study to tell us this?  Somehow, I think that weasel words would have been cheaper…

July 24, 2008

And They Wonder Why Their Customers Keep Flying Away

Filed under: Food, Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:57 pm

Here’s a handy tip for advertisers:  When choosing where to run advertisements, it helps to check that the business you are running ads for actually exists in that market.  For example, take this ad for Chili’s, found on the news website of Seattle-based KOMO TV:

(Apologies for the leftovers from the screen capture utility on the above image)

There’s just one slight problem with this:  Two of the three Chili’s locations in the Seattle Metro area closed down just a couple of months ago (one of these was located at Crossroadsin Bellevue, and the other was in Issaquah,) leaving only one location open.   The one remaining Chili’s found in the area just happens to be located behind the security checkpoint at the Sea-Tac airport, making it a somewhat poor choice for your Friday date night unless you happen to be headed out of town.  Besides the Sea-Tac airport, here are the closest locations to the Seattle area:

As you can see, the next closest Chili’s to Seattle happens to be on the outskirts of the Portland Metro area (although there were four others in the Portland area that closed at the same time as the two up here.)  If you wish to stay within the state of Washington, you’re going to need to head to Spokane for your plate of Baby Back Ribs or your Big Mouth Burger (there are two other locations in Spokane besides the airport one shown above.)  Given my experiences with the Crossroads Chili’s shortly before they closed, I don’t think people are going to be rushing for the state line anytime soon.  The food was decent there, but the service was overwhelmingly mediocre, and it took quite a while to get a check after the meal was completed, and water glass refills were nonexistent.  I suppose it’s all a moot point now though…  Oh well, maybe it’ll free up some money to run more advertising in areas where practically nobody can actually go there without driving and/or flying into the next state…

July 22, 2008

The New Southcenter is Almost Here…

Filed under: Malls — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:05 am

Among the malls found in the Seattle area, Westfield Southcenter (more commonly known by its previous name of Southcenter Mall) in Tukwila is one of the largest and busiest in the area.  Originally opened in 1968, much of the mall’s original 1960s architecture remains surprisingly intact, particularly on the distinctive ceilings in the mall’s corridors, and on the exterior architecture of the JCPenney and Macy’s (formerly Bon Marche) stores.  The Malls of America Blog (which, unfortunately, seems to have stopped being updated about a year ago) has several vintage photos of the mallin earlier days, and aside from a much smaller Nordstrom Best store than the current 2-story Nordstrom that is there now, the Fredrick and Nelson store being replaced by a Sears, and some changes to the signs, much of the mall looks the same today as it did back in the Sixties. 

In an effort to solidify their position as the largest shopping mall in Washington, an ambitious new expansion to the mall has been under construction for the past couple of years now, adding 75 new stores, a completely new food court, and a 16-screen cinema, as well as a pair of new parking garages which opened some time ago.  Thankfully, the expansion to Southcenter has left the classic details of the old mall almost entirely intact, with only the old food court being demolished to make room.  By choosing to expand the indoor mall, Westfield has decided to buck the trend toward moving outdoors, as seen at Northgate and Alderwood malls, and soon to be seen at Totem Lake and Factoria. 

I was here on Saturday, and found that the new AMC theater at Southcenter is already open, which allowed an opportunity to take a sneak peek of the new Southcenter.  There was a roped-off corridor between the old mall entrance across from the Macy’s and the theater, and the atrium entrance was also open at the time.  I took the photos of the exterior you see above, but didn’t take any photos of the interior since there was a lot that was still unfinished when I was there, and I don’t think there was much to see but a bunch of undressed mannequins at the time.  I also noticed that there were a number of stores from the old mall which were in the process of packing up and moving into new spaces, although it appeared that the new areas were being occupied mostly by new tenants. 

The Ribbon-cutting on the Southcenter expansion is set to take place on Friday morning, and once it does, I’ll be sure to head over and check it out.  If all goes well, I am also looking at putting together the profile for Southcenter sometime in the near future.

July 21, 2008

Reruns: The Deadly Tunnel of Furniture

Filed under: Ancient History, Reruns — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:30 am

One of the things that I have been meaning to do on here, but haven’t ever gotten around to actually doing is to bring over a few of the more interesting posts from some of my earlier efforts at writing stuff on the Internet, perhaps adding a bit of commentary that a few additional years of wisdom and/or painful learning experiences might have added to the mix.  In addition to the original website from which this Blog gets its name (which for some inexplicable reason I keep a link to on the sidebar, there was another Blog over on Blogspot that I wrote on intermittently on for about a year or so before getting sick of Blogger and abandoning it to the great big bit bucket of Internet limbo, where it remains to this day. 

This weekend’s festivities (or lack thereof) included a trip to the local IKEA store, since the chair from which I write this Blog was starting to get just a tad ripped up and worn out.  In the process, I was reminded of a post from my earlier Blog, dated August 22nd, 2004 in which I detailed a prior trip to IKEAwhen I purchased a (sort of) nice new computer desk with which to replace the old folding tables that had previously held the computers in the den.  That particular desk, as well as some of the other furniture which was acquired at that time, remains in use here to this day, since I have found little need to bother replacing it with anything else.  I’d provide photos, but right now my desk is a serious mess (andI’ve been putting off actually doing anything about cleaning it off for way too long now,) so I’ll refrain from the time being.  Besides, the last time I posted a picture of something in my house, I had multiple siblings tell me I needed to clean stuff up, and I’m sure that the same thing would result from this. 

Anyway, the original post (found after the jump) is presented in basically unedited form, with the exception of correcting some of the numerous typos that were contained in the original post (I’m sure I missed some of those anyway.)  I’m not going to bother providing a link to the original source of this post, but I’m sure anyone ambitious enough to actually search for it could probably find it without too much trouble, warts and all.  If I ever bother cleaning my desk, I’ll probably make another post on that, and some of the other stuff I saw at IKEA when I was there this weekend.  Again, the original post is found after the jump.


July 17, 2008

All This for a Hot Dog? – More Yakima Valley Sightseeing

Filed under: Wanderings, Washington — Tags: , , , , — Brian Lutz @ 3:05 am

This is a continuation of the post below, in which I highlighted some of the natural and agricultural sights that are found along Interstate 82 in Eastern Washington.  Of course, as with any sufficiently long stretch of road, there are bound to be a number of interesting sights along the way.  Travelers so inclined could probably spend days along this stretch of road, hopping from one winery to another (preferably with someone else to handle the driving for them, of course)  but even for those people that prefer to prefer to enjoy their trip down I-82 in sobriety, there are a number of interesting sights to see.  Of course, even for a slightly impulsive and easily distracted person such as myself, there’s not much point in heading out for a nice long drive like this without having at least some sort of destination in mind (trivial though it may be.)  In this case, the destination was the city of Kennewick,for reasons that soon be made apparent. Before we get to that though, let’s take a look at some of the interesting sights to be seen along the way, which you will find after the jump.


July 15, 2008

Sightseeing at 75 MPH: Wandering Through the Yakima Valley

Filed under: Wanderings, Washington — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:36 am

With the drastic rise in gas prices over the past few months, I have found that I just haven’t been driving as much as I usually do.  Last year I managed to put in more than 4,000 miles behind the wheel on a pair of major roadtrips that included visits to both Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, a cruise down some of the remnants of the old Route 66and a short stay in Las Vegas, as well as several shorter trips within a couple hundred miles of home.  With the increase in gas prices and my work schedule, I don’t believe that I’ve made it more than about 50 miles from home at any point this year.  Although an opportunity to take a trip down to Cancun with my parents and other members of my family may present itself in October (which would probably be in lieu of going to the Laguna Seca ALMS race that I discussed a few weeks ago,) there just comes a point when you just completely forget how much gas costs these days, and hit the road anyway.

After the Singles Ward campout discussed in my previous entry, I figured that I was already most of the way across the pass, so I decided that it might be a good opportunity to go spend a bit of time on the road, and do a bit of exploring on the other side of the mountains in Eastern Washington.  Fortunately, the weather cooperated (sort of) with cloudless skies and temperatures well into the Nineties, making for nice pictures. After the jump, a brief tour of Washington’s Yakima Valley, as seen from the road.

July 12, 2008

Moblog: Roughing it? Not really…

Filed under: Mobile, Moblogging, Wanderings — Brian Lutz @ 1:26 am

I’m hoping that the photo above actually works. If not, I’ll fix it when I get home tomorrow. Yes, you can blog from a PocketPC on WordPress… Sort of. Appaarently this also means you can blog from the middle of nowhere these days as long as you can get a cell phone signal… No EVDO, but enough to do something with.

Currently I am about 75 miles from home at Ensign Ranch for a campout with my singles ward at church. The place is next to I-90 between Easton and Cle Elum. Lovely drive to get here, assuming you can catch any of the scenery as you blast by at 80 miles per hour. The campout is fun, but a burn ban means there is no fire, and it seems to be a tad nippy out. It’s probably a good thing I planned to sleep in the car.

Here are my “sleeping” arrangements for the evening. I’ve done this once before, and didn’t have enough padding to make it all that comfortable. Hopefully I have the bugs worked out a bit this time, and I can actually sleep.

I will be doing a bit of wandering on the other side of the mountains tomorrow (as long as I’m over here) so I will have more on this when I get back. Mostly I just want to see how well I can get the moblogging thing to work here and see if it works for photos.

Edit 7/12:  Just got back into town Yeah, apparently it works.  That doesn’t mean that the user can’t do something to mess things up. without the help of the system (fixed the cris-crossed photos.)  Plenty more stuff from a day of wandering around the Yakima Valley coming soon.

July 10, 2008

Factoria Mall Redevelopment Update: The Beginning is Near (Updated)

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

Update 7/10:  The photos I was unable to upload when I first wrote this have now been added.  I have added some additional info as well.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on the situation at Factoria Mall, but a number of recent moves seem to indicate that the beginning of the construction process that will eventually turn the mall into the Marketplace at Factoria will be coming soon, and in some places has even actually begun.  After the jump, a summary of some of the changes that have going on at Factoria recently in preparation for the long anticipated redevelopment. 


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