The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

November 29, 2008

Why Settle For Less? We Have.

Filed under: Random Stuff, Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:33 pm

Although the family Thanksgiving trip has been (mostly) enjoyable, the fact that I’ve been a passenger on this particular trip means that there has been little opportunity to explore here, which is a bit of a shame.  From an urban archaeology perspective, Provo is a fascinating town, with all sorts of old buildings and a bunch of stores that were obviously something else at some point in the past.  Of course, everyone else in my family finds this stuff to be rather boring, so I’ve just had to go with the flow and follow everyone else around.  In spite of this, there have still been a number of interesting bits and pieces that I’ve run across.  Here’s one from across the street from where I’ve been staying:

Surely there has to be some sort of story behind this one.  If you’re making the best tacos and (some other unknown Mexican food item) in Utah, why would you stop?  Has the economic slowdown forced them to focus on their taco making and switch to making mediocre burritos?  Has the Enchilada cartel warned them that bad things might happen if they don’t fall in line?  Has the place fallen afoul of the Zagat survey?  Either way, if you’re looking for the best tacos and (deleted) in utah, here’s your place.  This guy seemed to like the place, but I haven’t had a chance to try the place, so your mileage may vary.

i’ve got a number of things that I’ve run across here, but I’ll probably save those for after the drive back home tomorrow.

November 28, 2008

Some of the Ties That Bind

Filed under: Family — Brian Lutz @ 12:15 am

The good news is that I managed to make it through the remainder of the drive down to Provo relatively unscathed, aside from a dodgy inverter that blew out fuses in two different cars before we made it out of Oregon.  All things considered, the drive actually wasn’t all that bad,  The next couple of days, on the other hand, might be just a bit more of a challenge than I was expecting.  Although Thanksgiving dinner was a much smaller production than the customary Vanderhoeven versions that I’m used to, it was still far from being small.  Between the seven of us who came down from Washington, and four more from down here (Jason, Heather, Brooks and Tijs Sirrine,) we still managed to have eleven people for dinner at the Lively apartment, shown here before dinner. 

The apartment is actually quite nice, but with that many people, the place can get a bit crowded after a while, especially with a couple of toddlers in the room.  Since at this point I seem to have little practical experience in the time honored profession of parenting, I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with rambunctious two year olds yet.  This means that when the going gets tough, jumping off the nearest third story balcony hasn’t quite been eliminated from the possible list of coping strategies.  I’m guessing that there’s some secret parental switch that gets turned on when the time arrives for such things, but as a single guy used to living in a nice quiet apartment, remaining calm at the point where a curious two year old discovers the wonders of stomping on the floor of a third story apartment can be a bit of a challenge, and makes the future challenges of parenting to come (I think) seem all that more daunting.

One thing that I have learned is that some of my dogsitting experience has proven surprisingly relevant.  Earlier in the day before dinner, a number of us went to a nearby park to get out of the house while preparations were underway.  Connor came with us, and as could be expected of a toddler, every little thing was a source of wonder and fascination.  As with Imola and Minardi at the dog park, this means that on occasion, he’ll completely ignore everything else and focus on something like a few bits of gravel on the ground or some random puddle.  Unlike the dogs, I don’t think that there’s much chance that I’d be able to get his attention back with a couple of pieces of chicken jerky (and I don’t think that Jacki would care much for me trying to do so either.)  Connor is actually getting to the point where he is starting to actually recognize people (my name is still missing most of its consonants, but we’ll work on that part later.)  It’s just dealing with the tired and cranky stage that I need to work on a bit (sometimes, the kids can be a bit tired cranky too…)

To be honest, I should probably not complain about things like this so much, since It’s not like I won’t ever see these people again (and in fact I have to ride back up to Redmond with them in a couple of days.)  The situation is a bit easier to deal with when I have the option of eventually going home to my own apartment, but when that happens to be about 900 miles away, there isn’t much to do but sit quietly and ponder that third story balcony option, but realize that the whole thing won’t last forever.  After all, they have to turn into angst-riddled teenagers at some point, and by the time I have some of those I’ll probably be longing for the days of the noisy toddlers…

November 26, 2008

Are we there yet?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 2:37 pm


In spite of my best efforts, I seem to find myse3lf unable to resist the call of the open road, since right now I am writing this from the middle seat of a Chevy Suburban from some unknown location on I-82 between the Tri-Cities and the Oregon border.  Unlike the last time I was out here a few months ago, the scenery doesn’t seem quite as nice, and the view out the window seems to vary between big brown fields and big white fields, although there are still a few fields of green scattered here and there.  I’m pretty sure that in spite of the apparently gargantuan size of this thing, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of legroom in this thing, especially in the backseat.  I’m guessing it was probably a bad sign when the “8” was in quotation marks when they called this thing an 8 passenger van.  Fortunately, I’ve managed to figure out how to tether my notebook to my EVDO connection, so I’ve got Internet here out in the middle of nowhere.  Good for Blogging, not so great for getting away from it all.

So far, things seems to be going reasonably well, and I haven’t shown too many signs of insanity just yet.  There’s still a good 700 miles to go though, so there’s plenty of time for things to go horrendously wrong.  I might still need rescuing around Boise or so, so stay tuned…

November 24, 2008

If the Open Road Calls, Tell it I’m Busy

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 12:37 pm


As I mentioned briefly in the previous post, Thanksgiving is going to be on the road this year.  After having spent the last fourteen Thanksgivings here in Washington, this year’s festivities will be down in Provo with Jason, Heather and Brooks.  Of course, this means that we’re going to have to get down there somehow, and in this case, that somehow involves a 14-hour drive each way, in an 8 passenger SUV with myself, my parents, Jacki, Terence and their two sons.  Of the recent roadtrips that I have taken (within the last couple of years or so,) for most of these I have been on my own, and I can’t recall the last time I was on a roadtrip of more than a couple hundred miles with that many people in one car.  It should be… interesting.

To be honest, unless I’m the one driving I’ve never been all that great at dealing with the whole roadtrip bit.  Part of this has to do with the fact that I just can’t sleep in a moving vehicle much smaller than about 50,000 tons or so, be it a car, an airplane, an RV, or just about anything else that isn’t stationary.  This isn’t as much of an issue when traveling during the daytime (which I tend to prefer,) but at night when there’s no scenery to speak of and a good 600 miles to go in order to get to the destination, it can make for some rather boring travel.  Although a significant portion of this particular trip will be during the daytime hours.  I have yet to see what the effect of adding a couple of toddlers to the equation will be, but something tells me that it should make things… interesting.

Fortunately, this time around I should be bringing my typical array of gadgetry along for the ride, which should make the trip a little bit easier to deal with.  Based on checking coverage maps for Sprint, it looks like I might even have EVDO through the I-84 corridor in Oregon this time around, which means that I might even make a Blog post or two from the road.  I figure that one way or another I’ll get through the trip just fine, but if anyone out there happens to be reading this from Boise, be ready to rescue me if needed…

November 22, 2008

Going Around the Table

Filed under: Family — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 3:36 pm

One of my family’s longstanding traditions on Thanksgiving is that either before or after dinner, we will all go around the table and state the things that we are thankful for in our lives.  This year, things are a little different, as the family seems to have become a lot more far-flung than we have been in the past, which means that for the first time in thirteen years,  there won’t be any representation from the Lutz family at the big Vanderhoeven Thanksgiving get-together.  Instead, myself, my parents and the Keenans will all be renting a big 8-passenger SUV and driving down to Provo to have Thanksgiving with Jason, Heather and Brooks.  While it should be fun to get the family together down there (assuming I manage to survive the 13+ hour drive  each way with two toddlers in the car at least,) at the same time it means that we won’t have the usual chance to go around the table (although I suspect that the obligatory “Oh no, not turkey again!” whine from all the kids before dinner is served will probably proceed as usual.)  In lieu of this, my Mom has decided to put this into a Blog post, and Heather and Jacki have followed suit, so I guess that means that it’s my turn to post some of the things that I am thankful for in my life.

These days, when everything seems to be off to you-know-where in a handbasket, I’m fortunate that so far, things have worked out pretty well for me.  Sure, there are a few things that I need to work on (mostly little things like figuring out who I’m supposed to spend the rest of eternity with and actually ensuring that I actually meet that person at some point in my life,) but all things considered, I can’t complain (but, as Joe Walsh observed back in the Seventies, sometimes I still do.)  I’m thankful that I’ve finally managed to get past the point in my career development that I felt I was stuck at for several years, and that I have been able to find a good team at Zune to work with to help get versions 3.0 and 3.1 (released earlier this week) out the door.  My contract there is actually just about to end as my annual 100-day break in service comes up, but it’s been an excellent opportunity, and it’s kind of cool to be able to go to the store and see a product that I helped make sitting on the shelf (even if I have to dig through a big pile of iPods to get to it.)  There are definitely some interesting things planned in the next couple of years for Zune, and although I can’t talk about any of them right now, I hope to be able to go back when I am eligible to do and continue to help bring those ideas into reality.

Sure, there seems to be a fair bit of uncertainty ahead, but I know that throughout the years, one way or another things have worked out.  On occasion I find myself getting just a bit impatient with the whole process, but one way or another, things work out eventually.  I’m thankful that I have a loving and supportive family to fall back on when needed, and that my parents are the ones with the dogs so I can go visit Imola and Minardi whenever I want, but that I get to go back to my own nice clean house (yeah right) afterward.  I suppose if I wanted to, I could claim that I timeshare on a couple of Beagles since I seem to be over there dogsitting a lot lately, but that’s beside the point.  I’m also thankful that in spite of some of my shortcomings and occasional shortsightedness, I have yet to make any of the really big mistakes, and I hope that I can continue to avoid making any of those.  It’s kind of nice not having my life be messed up too badly…

Finally, I’m glad that I’ll finally be able to take a vacation down Florida in a few weeks, even if I haven’t got the slightest clue what I’m actually going to do with that time yet (aside from figuring that I can probably skip most of the Princess-related stuff for the time being.)  Sure, it may not have all the excitement and thrills of driving down bumpy old highways and  taking pictures of abandoned Route 66 gas stations, but I’m sure I’ll manage to figure out something to do while I’m there. 

So, who’s next?

November 19, 2008

Not-So-Great Moments in Seattle Sports History

Filed under: History, Sports — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 6:58 pm

As you might be aware, this weekend, the annual Apple Cup game between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State University Cougars will be taking place in Pullman.  As one of the storied rivalries in college football, this game often attracts national attention.  This year’s game is no exception, although the attention it is attracting this year is for an entirely different reason than usual.  Going into this year’s Apple cup game, these two rivals have a total of one win between them.  The Huskies go into this game with an 0-10 record, and a lame duck coach. The Cougs are barely any better off right now with a 1-10 record, that one win coming against a lower division school earlier in the season.  At least College Football fans (if there are any left at this point) can take solace in the fact that barring some catastrophe (I wouldn’t discount the possibility at this point) someone is going to have to win the game.  You know it’s getting bad out there when you start hearing the obligatory “How many Cougs/Huskies does it take to change a light bulb” jokes from your own fans. 

In honor of the Apple Cup (not to mention the Seahawks’ current 2-8 record, the Mariner’s 61-101 season in spite of a $116 million payroll and the Sonics skipping town,) I present an article that I came across in a 1977 edition of the Journal American which seems oddly appropriate about now to remind Seattle sports fans that things can always be worse (albeit not by much.)  The Seahawks, at that point in their second season of existence, managed to scrape out a 30-23 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (also a recent expansion team at that point,) but did not appear to win much respect in the process:

"Tampa Bay Outloses Seahawks 30-23", Journal American, October 17 1977

After losing the first four games of the season, this win improved (if you could call it that) the Seahawks’ record to 1-4.  Tampa Bay, on the other hand, had yet to win a single game at this point, having gone 0-14 in their inaugural season, and 0-5 to this point after this game.  Ultimately, the Seahawks would finish with a 5-9 record, and Tampa Bay would manage to win the last two games of the season to end a 28-game losing streak (an NFL record that still stands) for a 2-12 record overall.  How’s that for futility?

November 18, 2008

Selling Out to the Mouse

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 11:08 pm

Eighty years ago today on November 18th 1928, a film by the name of Gang War played in the 79th Street theater in New York City.  This particular film was accompanied by an animated short known as Steamboat Willie, which featured a full-length synchronized soundtrack, an innovation that had not been seen previously in an animated cartoon.  The feature film which played that night is now all but forgotten, but the animated short seems to have proven quite popular, and the star of that short has managed tostick around for a while.  To celebrate what is recognized as the official 80th birthday of Mickey Mouse (although Steamboat Willie was actually the third Mickey cartoon produced, it was the first to be widely distributed,) I booked a trip to Disney World in December today. 

If you’ve been reading this Blog for any length of time, you might have noticed that it seems like every time someone goes on vacation around here, I seem to end up staying here and dogsitting for my parents.  This has been mostly the result of a work schedule which seems to alternate between having nowhere near enough time to go take a vacation or way too much time on my hands (it all comes with the territory as part of working as a contractor.)  Since I will shortly be approaching the latter portion of the cycle in which I need to take three months (and change) off before being eligible to return to contracting at Microsoft, I decided that now would be a good time to sneak off and take a few days of vacation in December during the week before Christmas. 

Although this will be my first trip to Disney World, I’ve been to Disneyland a couple of times already (once in 1987, and most recently at the beginning of 2006.)  From the first trip I only have vague memories, which is mostly because I was nine years old at the time, and also because I ended up spending a significant portion of the trip sick with one form of galloping crud or another.  The second trip in 2006 is a little bit better documented, and I still have quite a few photos and even a detailed trip report that I posted on one of the Disneyland fan boards.  Although there were a number of weather related issues during that particular trip (yes, even at Disneyland it rains every once in a while) it was still enjoyable.  At some point I’ll have to post the trip report here, but it’s just a tad jargon-filled in its current form (When in Rome…) so I’ll need to clean it up a bit in order to put it into a form suitable for posting here.  In the meantime, I’ve got about a month to figure out my plans for the upcoming trip.  I’ve got flights and a hotel booked, but so far I haven’t figured out anything else yet.

One thing about me and vacations is that in spite of best efforts, I just plain can’t relax on vacation for some reason.  I have this annoying tendency to think I need to be doing something practically every waking moment (or at least until I find myself completely zonked out after spending all day running around the place, at least.)  I also have a tendency to be unable to suspend disbelief, so often if I’m on a ride like they ones they have at Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom, I’ll find myself forgetting to follow the story and trying to figure out how they managed to create the special effects.  To me, places like these are as much a museum as they are an amusement park, and although to some observers it may make it look like I’m bored when I’m there, it just happens that I have a slightly different definition of “interesting” than they do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go watch a few more YouTube videos of It’s a Small World, just to make sure I’ve completely lost my mind by the time I actually get there…

November 16, 2008

Another Look Into the Old Bellevue Safeway

Filed under: Bellevue, History, shopping — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:22 pm


Boys Not Sacked, Girls Just Bag It (Click for a larger version)

 Here’s another interesting item that I came across some time ago when doing research in the microfilmed Bellevue American archives, but my first attempt to get photos came out blurry, so I had to make a second attempt to grab it.  This is an article which came from a November 1969 edition of the Bellevue American (unfortunately, I forgot to note the exact date) talking about three Bellevue High School students who were working as bag girls at the old Safeway in downtown Bellevue.  In this day and age, when we shop at the grocery store we generally don’t give more than a passing thought to who happens to be bagging our groceries at the checkout line, but apparently back in 1969 this task was generally delegated to boys, and it was apparently unusual enough to see girls bagging groceries to warrant a newspaper story.  I don’t know if any of the three girls pictured here are still around the area (and even if they were, I suspect they’d be married with different last names,) but they’d be nearly sixty years old by now. 

The text of the news article these photos came from has been placed after the jump.


November 14, 2008

This is What a Slow News Day Looked Like in 1967

Filed under: Bellevue, History, Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 12:33 am

I made another research trip out to the Bellevue Library this evening (from which I should be posting a few more historical items related to Crossroads later on this week,) and while digging through the microfilm from the middle of 1967, I came across an apparently short-lived bout of UFO fever in Bellevue.  This story was on page 1 above the fold of the April 20th 1967 edition of the Bellevue American:

I’m sure that if such incidents actually warranted the attention of the government at the time, they probably would have claimed it to be a weather balloon.  In this case, they wouldn’t have been too far from the truth.  A week later, the following was published, also on page 1 right below the masthead:

I’m not sure if this could be called a correction, a clarification, or a nice way of phrasing the obligatory “Boy we sure feel stupid for putting that up on the front page last week” statement, but  either way, that must have been one heck of a slow news day…  Or maybe that’s just what the little green men WANTED us to think.

November 10, 2008

Whither Totem Lake Mall?

Filed under: History, Kirkland, shopping, Technology — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 4:51 pm

In order to raise awareness of the ongoing plight of the Totem Lake Mall in Kirkland, Rob Butcher of has asked me to put together an article for that site about the mall, its history and its future.  The resulting article has now been posted in three parts over at that site.  This article provides a (somewhat) brief summary of the current state of the mall, its history, and the apparently stalled redevelopment plans to bring the mall back to life.  Hopefully this will help the people who live near this mall to have a better understanding of what is and isn’t going on over there right now, and to take a part in shaping the future of Totem Lake.  Links to these articles can be found below:

The Colorful Past and Unwritten Future of Kirkland’s Totem Lake Mall:

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