The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

January 30, 2009

Buy in Ridiculous Quantities and Save

Filed under: shopping — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 10:30 pm

With all the various supermarkets competing with each other around here, it’s no surprise that they’ll often tout their low prices (or in the case of the place I usually end up doing my shopping at, their slightly less horrendous prices than usual, provided you remembered to bring along your sell-your-soul-for-savings card. )  Of course, if they’re selling the stuff cheap they’re going to be trying to make it up on volume, so oftentimes it means they’ll be trying to get you to buy in quantity when they do put things on sale.  One of the more common versions of this is the “10 for $10” sale, which apparently sounds more grandiose than saying each item costs a buck.  Of course, every so often they’ll complicate the heck out of things.  For example, right now they’re running the following sale on Pepsi products:

Buy 2, get 1 free.  Horrendous mangling of a classic logo aside, that’s a deal that’s easy enough to figure out, right?  Over on the Coke side of the aisle, theyre making things a bit more complicated:

That’s 5 12-packs for $14, after some sort of largely superfluous “buy four get one free” deal as long as you buy them all at once.  This means they’ve either got truckloads of the stuff sitting in the backroom that they need to get rid of, or that people won’t have any idea how much it would cost to buy those individually and just toss five into the cart.  Either way, it’s probably a decent deal if you happen to need to stock up on sugar-laden beverages (and actually have somewhere to put all that stuff,) but at the rate I drink soda around here it would literally take me years to go through that much of the stuff.  I’ve still got root beer in the fridge from back when Jones still used corn syrup to make the stuff, to give you some idea of how slowly I go through it.  Of course, if you’d like your sugar buzz in a different form, they can cover you there too:

(Apologies for the blurry photo.) 

Over in the sugar-soaked cereal department you’ll find Cap’n Crunch and Life Cereal for $2.50 a box, or $2.00 a box if you buy 10 (all in one purchase, of course.)  As I’m sure any beleaguered parent out there could probably tell you, ten boxes of Cap’n Crunch is probably just about the last thing you’re going to want to have around the house unless for some reason you actually WANT the kids climbing up the walls for the next month and a half.  For those parents looking for a (very) slightly healthier alternative they provide the option to get a Life (or 10 of them, as the case may be) instead, but even if it’s a bit less sugar-soaked than the alternative, if you’re going to end up buying that much of the stuff  you better hope that Mikey likes it, otherwise you might find yourself eathing the stuff til the cows come home.  And not a moment too soon either, because by theat point you’ll probably have run out of milk.

January 29, 2009

A Clean Desk is the Sign of a Sick Mind.

Filed under: Personal Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 5:05 pm

Anyone who knows me is most likely well aware that I’m not exactly what you’d call a neat and tidy person.  In fact, most of the time I am far from being neat and tidy.  For some time now, my apartment’s cleanliness level has been hovering somewhere in the thin range that falls between “cluttered” and “messy”.   If there’s someone around to tell me that the place is a mess and that I need to clean stuff, I’ll actually clean stuff up (sometimes,) but with nobody else living here and with visitors to my place being rather infrequent, the stuff does tend to get ignored every once in a while, until I finally get stick of looking at it.

In particular, my den/office (actually a second bedroom, but since I have the place to myself its my office) has been particularly messy, mostly due to the shockingly large pile of miscellaneous crud which usually covers up most of the desk.  For various reasons, I have managed to put off actually doing anything about the mess for far longer than I really should have, but today I finally reached the point where I got sick of looking (and having to walk around) the mess for long enough to actually do something about it.

Although there’s pretty much nobody to blame but myself for the whole place becoming so dang messy in the first place, if for some reason I was to assign blame (theoretically, of course) for why it took so long to actually clean it I’d probably have to go with this shredder, which could barely make it through the six sheets of paper it claims to be able to handle in the first place, clogged up with paper debris every few minutes requiring frequent excursions into finger-mangling territory (with the cord unplugged, of course) to clear it out enough to keep using it, and then eventually it just decided to bite the proverbial dust about halfway through the big pile of pay stubs, credit card offers and other such documents I had accumulated on my last attempt to clean this place up.  Given the fact that this was far from the first cheap document shredder that I have gone through around here, I decided that it was time to stop messing around, and get something that would actually do the job it was intended to do.  A trip to Costco and ninety-nine bucks later, I came back with Shredzilla:

Well OK, it’s not much bigger than what I had before, and it’s not intended for more than medium duty use, but compared to the dinky little thing I was trying to use previously this thing is a beast.  The remainder of the (rather substantial) document pile was dispatched in five minutes flat (it’s a lot easier to do when you don’t have to remove everything from the envelopes and feed it in three sheets at a time) and once that was out of the way, the whole thing became a whole lot less daunting.  This morning, I got the stuff cleared off the desk, cleared off far more dust from the desk than I care to admit, and after a bit of rearranging I have the desk looking pretty good, and with a whole heck of a lot more room than I would have with half a ton of miscellaneous junk sitting on top of it.  There’s just one little problem left to deal with…

Now what the heck am I supposed to with all the stuff that came off the desk?  I’ve gone through and done an initial sorting of the contents to clear out the stuff which is obviously trash, but most of what’s left here seems to be too useless to keep around but too useful to throw away.  I suppose I could meticulously sort through it all, winnow tbe pile down to the truly useful items and then store them in a n easily accessible place, but since I don’t have the attention span for that I think I’ll just toss all the stuff into a storage bin and hide it somewhere out of sight and out of mind.  There’s still plenty of cleaning to do here (and that’s not even taking the rest of the apartment into consideration,) but at least I can actually see the desk again for now.  Oh, and if you happen to be wondering about that ugly black-and-blue thing in the corner…

Long story.  I think I’ll save it for another post though…

January 26, 2009

Pizza Hut Ordered To Go

Filed under: History, Redmond — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:14 pm

Update 04/23/09:  The Redmond Pizza Hut has now reopened in a new location at Cleveland Street Square (I don’t have the exact address since I just saw it while passing by earlier today, but I will add the info once i get it.)  Also, for a more in-depth look at what will be coming to the new Redmond Center, be sure to check out this post:

If you’ve driven through Downtown Redmond at any time within the last few days, you might have noticed something missing at Redmond Center.  It seems that the Pizza Hut located at the entrance to one of Redmond’s older strip malls has vanished, and as of Saturday about half of the building next door (which was most recently used as a physical therapist’s office, and previously as a Payless Shoe Source) had disappeared as well.  These two buildings are being demolished to make way for part of a new expansion and overhaul of the east side of Redmond Center, one of Redmond’s oldest major shopping centers.  More details on this demolition and the future construction that will be coming to the center, and a bit of the history of this site, can be found after the jump.


January 24, 2009

Disney World Trip Report – Part 3: Just Another Day in Never Never Land

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:09 pm

Note:  In case you missed them, the first two parts of this trip report may be found here:

Given the fact that it’s been more than a month since I actually got home from this trip and with this particular installment I will be barely finishing off the first day of the four-day (and change) trip, I suspect that it’s ultimately going to end up taking a while to finish off this trip report.  I’m hoping to get this finished at some point before I actually end up going again.  Given how much stuff I missed on this trip (including missing an entire park) I’m pretty sure I will go again at some undetermined point in the future, and if I can spring for it staying closer to the parks so it doesn’t take 45 minutes on the buses to get there and back (I hear the Polynesian is a nice place, if a bit on the not-so-cheap side…)

When I last left off, I was spending the first day of the trip in the Magic Kingdom, where I was mostly wandering through the parking semi-aimlessly going on whatever rides looked interesting (and some that common sense would suggest I avoid like the plague, but that’s beside the point.)  I ended just after riding on Disney World’s version of Space Mountain for what would be the only time of the trip (and the only time before it gets a major overhaul that will take most of 2009 to complete.)  I will pick up from that point, after the jump.


January 20, 2009

Can a Piece of Cutlery Jump the Shark?

Filed under: Cooking, Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 11:24 pm

Anyone who has seen me cook knows that sometimes I can be just a bit of a knife snob.  Trying to cut things with dull knives is something of a pet peeve of mine, and over the years I’ve dealt with my fair share of them.  Sure, you might run into a knife somewhere along the line that might be too dull to cut through an onion without excessive amounts of brute force, but unless for some odd reason you somehow accidentally found yourself trying to julienne something with the honing steel, there’s a good chance the knife will be sharp enough to slice, pierce, cut, rip, mangle or otherwise maim perfectly good fingers, most often the ones on your own hand.  I have found out from painful experience that this happens a lot more often than I would like it to.  Granted, I’ve managed to accidentally cut myself more times than I would care to admit even while using reasonable sharp knives , but usually I can (grudgingly) blame my own carelessness for those incidents.  If the knife is dull, it makes it a whole heck of a lot easier to just blame the equipment and call it good.

For the vast majority of my several culinary misadventures, my tools of choice have been the two knives pictured above.  These two chef’s knives are part of a block set of Faberware Pro Forged knives that I think I paid all of $25 for at Ross back when I was moving into my first apartment.  In total, the set came with five knives, a pair of kitchen shears, a honing steel and a block, although out of all those I rarely make much use of anything besides the two big knives in the set.  Although they could definitely use a good sharpening about now (it’s on the big to-do list I never seem to get around to actually doing anything on,) with proper honing after use and keeping them out of the dishwasher these knives have held their edges quite well over the years.  I have had far more expensive knives come out of the box much duller than these two, and I’ve seen other knives fall apart after much less use than I’ve gotten out of these.

Of course, in some circles, the old-fashioned chef’s knife has fallen out of favor, and for some time now, the Santoku knife seems to have replaced it in many kitchens.  In traditional Santoku knives, the design of the blade (which is designed to be flat, in contrast to the more rounded edges of the typical chef’s knife) is intended to allow for thinner blades to be used for more precise cuts, but the typical Western version of the Santoku knife borrows little but the blade shap, adds indentations in the side of the blade that aren’t present on traditional versions, and has to use thicker blades to make up for softer steel than that used on the typically very hard traditional Japanese versions.  Each different type of blade has its own merits, but I can’t help but think that most of the recent popularity of Santoku knives is more a result of their frequent use by various celebrity chefs than it is by any particular merit of the knife type over similar chef’s knives.   After all, if Rachel, Giada or Ina is using it, it must be good, right?  We’re talking about people here who practically sprint to the nearest mall and buy whatever Oprah tells them to, so  there’s a good chance they’re not going to be doing much comparison shopping for their cutlery needs.

Another part of the problem is that it seems like you can get away with calling anything a Santoku knife these days.  Case in point:

It would seem that someone here is trying to pass off that questionably useful piece of green plastic in the center of the picture as a Santoku knife.  Aside from the fact that I’m trying to figure out exactly who is was that decided you’re supposed to use a great big plastic knife to cut lettuce with in the first place (I guess you’ll maim yourself 18% less with one of those if you happen to be clumsy, careless, inebriated or otherwise incapable of wielding such a dangerous object while preparing food,) it is becoming increasingly clear that they’ll try to pass off just about anything as a Santoku knife these days if it means someone will buy the things.  Even a lot of “real” Santoku knives don’t seem to have much to do with the originals, and seem to be primarily cash-in attempts on the whole trend.  If they’ve reached the point where they’re making the things out of plastic and expecting people to actually buy the things, I think we can safely say that the whole Santoku knife trend has officially jumped the shark, hacked it to bits, sliced it to ribbons, chopped  the pile into an unrecognizable pulp and sold the stuff off as fish sticks in the frozen food aisle at your local grocery store.  You heard me, Santoku knives are officially done for.  You may all now go back to using real knives, except for those of you who shouldn’t be trusted with sharp pointy objects in the first place, in which case you should just order pizza delivery from now on.  Oh, and by the way, watch where you’re pointing those things…

The Redmond Costco Moves Forward (Updated 9/19/15)

Filed under: Redmond — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:01 am

Update 4 (9/19/15):  Almost six years after the last update to this post, there’s a new update to report:  Even though I had assumed that this project was dead in the water many years ago, it seems that it has recently been revived, and actual construction work on the site has finally begun.  Looks like Redmond is getting a Costco after all…

Update 3 (9/9/09):  An article over at the Redmond Reporter about a recent public Q&A session with Redmond mayor John Marchione contains the following information about this project:

One resident asked about the plans of Costco coming to Redmond. Marchione confirmed that Costco planned to open in store on Union Hill, but negotiations between the land owner and Costco have stalled, putting the plans on hold. He declined to comment further about the Costco development, but did say he is optimistic that a deal will get done.

I’ve heard mixed messages about the status of this project, ranging from it being on hold for economic reasons to having been cancelled completely.  Either way, I’m guessing it’ll be quite some time before we see anything happening here, assuming anything happens at all.

Update 2 (1/20) : Another version of this post has now been posted at Kirkland Views, which discusses the potential effect that a Costco in Redmond may have on the Kirkland store, which is a significant source of sales tax revenue for the City of Kirkland.  That article may be found here.

Update (1/20) :  In response to an inquiry, I have received the following information from Asma Jeelani, the City of Redmond project planner working on this application:

  • The application for the Costco store itself has been approved;
  • A public hearing for the gas station has been scheduled for February 9th (as mentioned below);
  • The city is working with the applicant on civil construction plans;
  • Construction of infrastructure and roads for this project is expected to begin by April 1st.

I will also post any further updates that I hear of on this.

I am just now getting around to some of the things that I missed around here last month while I was either trying to hide from the weather, run away from it or celebrate it in some festive manner, all while trying to convince myself somehow to believe in fairy tales.  It turns out that there’s a surprising amount of stuff going on around here, so I am trying to catch up on some of the things that I missed, and try to get a couple of other projects underway.

For some time now, we have known that Costco has been planning to build a new warehouse in Redmond out near Union Hill Road, although for one reason or another, the process has been delayed for some time.  Initially, the proposal made in 1997 when the portions of the current Cadman site it will be built on was purchased was for it to be open by Fall of 2008, but since we now are into 2009 and nothing appears to have happened yet, we can assume that this schedule has been pushed back.  There was some concern when a proposed Costco store in Bellevue was cancelled that it might affect the proposed Redmond location as well, but since it turns out that the cancellation in Bellevue was more the result of zoning issues and red tape than economic issues, the Redmond location would not be affected.

In mid-November,  three land use applications were filed with the City of Redmond pertaining to the Costco store and its site which shed some light on the proposed Costco store’s location, and what else might be done with the area.  Two of the three applications pertain to the Costco store itself and the Costco gas station which will be located on the premises.  Included in the application for the store is the tree preservation plan shown above, which not only shows how the site will be landscaped, but also how the site will be laid out.  The store itself looks like it should have virtually the same layout as the Woodinville store that opened a couple of years ago.  The third application deals with plats  for the Costco site and seven other sites in the area totaling 60 acres,  as part of what will eventually be known as the Union Hill Corporate Center.  This application also deals with construction of the necessary roads, as outlined below.

Click image for an interactive map

Click image for an interactive map

Based on the information in the land use application, we can also get a better idea of the location as well.  The new Costco store will be located at the corner of NE 76th Street and 188th Ave. NE, which turns out to be an intersection which does not even exist currently.  There are two different segments of 188th, one short segment north of Union Hill Road next to the Millennium campus, and one that goes from 202 up to NE 68th, passing through a residential neighborhood and next to the Genie Industries plant.  Under the proposal, 188th Ave. NE would be extended from NE 68thto Union Hill Road, creating another link between the two major roads.  NE 76th  (which passes between the Target and Fred Meyer stores about a half mile west of here) would also be slightly extended to intersect with the newly extended 188th.  The map above shows the site of the Costco store in blue, the other proposed sites in gray below, and the proposed road additions in red.

January 17, 2009

More Pampering Than You Can Possibly Handle

Filed under: Random Stuff, shopping — Brian Lutz @ 12:56 am

One of the things you see in virtually every mall around here (and a lot of the major shopping centers as well) is one or more shops filled with all manner of exquisitely fragranced bath products and lotions that you can usually smell from a hundred yards away.  If you’re a guy, you will most likely avoid these places like the plague unless you have about five minutes to buy a present for some female of the species and haven’t got a clue what to get (although in that case, I suspect that just sleeping on the couch would probably easier.)  In particular, being a bachelor with few visitors to my apartment, I am far more likely to buy my shampoo and other personal grooming products by the half gallon for eight bucks a bottle from the warehouse club than I am to be buying three ounces of the stuff for twelve bucks in a scent that I can’t even pronounce.  Still, apparently there’s enough demand for this stuff that it seems like every mall has at least two or three of the places.  Over at Bellevue Square, there’s another Bath and Body Works store on the way (I could have sworn they had one already, but I must not have been paying attention,) as evidenced by the walls over their future location: 

For those of you who might be better acquainted with the various pampering options available for people more inclined toward luxury than my budget and/or masculinity will allow, I’m sure that the whole ultra-pampering thing sounds pretty nice (even if, being Bath and Body Works, it is pretty much a self-service affair.)  On the other hand, having been raised on low-budget sci-fi, Saturday morning cartoons and junkfood, I’m pretty sure that luxurious spa treatments weren’t the first thing to come to mind when I happened to read that.  Instead, whenever I see that term I keep picturing some sort of  Ultra-Pamperer 6000 contraption straight out of an old Jetsons cartoon that ultimately ends up with Mr. Spacely getting contorted in hilariously painful ways as he loudly fires George for the bazillionth time.  Of course, if you’re raising children, I suspect that “ultra-pampering” just might come with a completely different meaning…

Needless to say, I don’t see myself doing a whole lot of shopping at this place anytime soon.

January 13, 2009

I’ve Got Just One Single Problem…

Filed under: Personal Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 5:48 pm

Image credit: Flickr user doubl

There is a piece of apocryphal folklore (no definitive attribution exists for the quote) within the LDS church that the prophet Brigham Young once said that anyone who was over the age of 25 and unmarried is  a menace to society.  A number of ancient cultures actually imposed legal penalties on men above a certain age who were unmarried, ranging from taxation to some form of public humiliation.  In fact, in some cities in Germany there is  a tradition known as Treppe fegen where an unmarried 30 year old is made to sweep the steps of some public building (usually the City Hall) on his birthday.  This is usually done using a rather small and impractical broom as the man’s friends sprinkle sand, bottle caps  or other similar detritus on the steps as he goes along.  This sweeping is supposed to continue until the bachelor in question is kissed by a virgin.  If you do a search for “Treppe fegen” on YouTube, you can find several videos showing this

Fortunately for me, no such customs or laws exist in America that I am aware of, otherwise the steps of City Hall would probably be incredibly clean by now.  By choice or otherwise (to be honest, I’m not entirely sure which,) I find myself in the position of being 30 1/2 years old and still single, and at the present time haven’t ever really done a whole lot to change that.  To be honest, there is quite a bit about the whole bachelor lifestyle that I enjoy, mostly the part about being able to do pretty much whatever I want (within the limits of the law and society, of course) without anyone telling me what to do, being able to stay up until 2am every night, and other things like that.  On the other hand, not having anyone around to tell me what to do means that my apartment has become something of a mess (I am not going to even talk about how long the pile of clean laundry has been on the floor by now) and often I find it difficult to keep track of what I am supposed to be doing when I’m trying to manage my own time.  Regardless of the merits (or lack thereof) of the whole bachelor lifestyle, the fact of the matter is that I am just really starting to get sick and tired of being single at this point. With my 31st birthday (at which point I will be too old to attend the Young Single Adult ward at church) just a few months away, I’m also starting to get the sneaking suspicion that the proverbial clock is ticking on the whole thing, and if I don’t find someone soon there’s a good chance I never will.  There’s just one minor problem:  I don’t have a clue where to look.

Yes, there are the other members of the Singles Ward I attend, but to be honest, there is only a handful of people (male or female) within the ward that I even really know all that well, and even those people I rarely have any contact with outside of church itself.  Part of this has to do with an inability to remember names and faces until I have talked with someone many times.  I can have a conversation with someone I am not familiar with, and five minutes later I will have completely forgotten their name or what we even talked about.  The other problem I seem to run into with this is that the women within the ward that catch my attention are invariably the ones who are already taken.  I can name at least three people who have been in the ward during the time I have been there who I really would have liked to have at least taken out on a date or two or possibly even pursued a relationship with, but by the time I realized this they were either steadily dating the person they would eventually marry or already had an engagement ring on their finger.  I suppose that means I should be a bit more proactive about this type of thing, but there’s still the pesky matter of actually FINDING Ms. Right somewhere first, and to be honest, I’m probably doing a really lousy job of that too.

Nonetheless, I believe that somewhere out there, there’s a young woman with whom I can spend the rest of mortality and eternity with and raise a family, and I’m guessing that by now she’s getting sick of waiting around for me to find her too.  I’m just not sure if I’m looking in the right place to find her, or if she’s been here all along and I just haven’t been paying attention.  All I know is that one way or another, marriage is something that I’d really like to get right the first time, because it’s enough of a pain finding the right person to marry the first time, and there’s no way I’d ever want to go through it all again.  Maybe she’s even reading this and wishing that I’d hurry up and find her so we can both get on with our lives and quit being so freakin’ single all the time.  In the meantime, I wonder if it would help if I went out and swept the stairs at City Hall for a while?

January 11, 2009

Bedtime Stories for Insomniac Toddlers

Filed under: Family, Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 12:15 am

Yesterday, my nephew Corey celebrated his first birthday, and as is typical in our family, we had a little get together at Jacki and Terence’s house to celebrate the occasion…  Well, the grownups were celebrating anyway, Corey himself seemed mostly to be vaguely aware of some new toys appearing and wondering why everybody was watching him eat cake, but we’ll give him a year or so to figure out the whole birthday bit.  My sister Jacki put up a post over at their family Blog detailing the celebration, which mostly involved frying things, something of a tradition within the Vanderhoeven Machine for celebrating various  things in a not-entirely healthy manner.  Between the Krokets, Lumpias, and just about everything else in the house that could be battered and deep fried. I don’t think there was too much calorie counting going on.

Among the presents that Corey received for his birthday was this board book:

I’m sure anyone who has or has had children at some point is quite familiar with these things.  For the most part, these types of books tend to top out at about 10-12 pages, and might fill those with all sorts of cute little baby animal pictures (as seen in the example above) or other similar material, and if the author of the book was feeling particularly ambitious  this time around you might get about fifty words worth of story (give or take a dozen) crammed into those pages in big,  toddler-friendly lettering.    This book, on the other hand, seems to buck the trend.


I didn’t bother counting the pages in this particular example, but compared to most of the toddler-oriented literature I have encountered in my 30 1/2 years on this planet, this thing is huge.  I can think of grownups (well, at least one anyway) who might not  have the attention span to get through this whole thing in one sitting, no matter how many cute baby animals it might contain.  If you do decide to read a big thick board book like this, you might want to take a few precautions to make sure that you don’t end up falling asleep before your kids do.  Then again, there seem to be a lot of kids out there these days reading through big 700-page epics at an age when most of the kids were barely getting past the Dr. Seuss stuff when I was in school, so I guess you might as well start them early.

January 10, 2009

Disney World Trip Report – Part 2: Now With Actual Disney in it!

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:52 am

When I last left off on my trip report for my recent (well, not so much anymore) Disney World trip, I had somehow managed to get out of Seattle just after the weather got really bad and escaped from the snow and freezing cold…  Or so I thought (I don’t think I need to remind anyone how well THAT one turned out.)  Fortunately, the temperatures in Orlando were just a bit more to my liking, and Disney World was just around the corner (well OK, it was actually a 20 minute bus ride away, but that’s close enough, right?)  I had just made it to the hotel last time, and was about to check into my room, where a couple of surprised awaited…

This, plus much more (and yes, there’s acutal Disney content in this one) after the jump.

In case you missed it, the first part of the trip report can be found here:

Disney World Trip Report – Part 1:  Getting There is Half the Fun, Right?


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