The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 31, 2009

Random Observations Made While Loitering in the Frozen Food Section at the Supermarket

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:19 am

Well, it looks like the worst of this big heat wave is over with.  Thanks to the air conditioning at work and in my car (which actually performed quite well considering the circumstances and its occasionally lackluster performance in less extreme conditions) I managed to make it through mostly unscathed.  The good news is that even in this blazing hot weather, my apartment managed to remain a fair bit cooler than some of my siblings’ houses.  The bad news is that even with that in mind, it was still eighty-freakin’-three degrees in here the whole time, and when it’s still over 90 at 11pm, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to bring it down.  The photo above shows my return home from work on Wednesday evening, showing a temperature that I seriously doubt (and hope) I’ll never be seeing on there again while I’m living up here.  Phoenix and Las Vegas can go ahead and keep their weather, thank you very much. 

Of course, the cooler temperatures are all relative, as it’s still 70 degrees outside as I’m writing this at 1 in the morning, and tomorrow’s high is still expected to hit 85 here, with the potential for a 90 or two over the weekend before we finally get some real cooling off in the middle of next week.  Eventually, we should settle back into our standard-issue Seattle August weather of 85 and muggy.  On the other hand, I really can’t complain too much about it.  Once you get past the usual weeping,wailing and teeth-gnashing over the whole thing (and believe me, there was plenty of that to be found,) it really wasn’t all that bad.  I even found the time to go linger outside for a while (in the shade, at least) during the hottest part of Wednesday, and as long as the stuff eventually goes away (and there’s a way to get out of it) it’s kind of nice.  I suspect that some of my friends that take Hot Yoga classes might have even got a chance to go have class outside for once.

Even so, this is the type of weather that few sane people are particularly inclined to linger in for too long, so eventually one is going to want to find a way out of it.  After spending the day in the relative comfort of my air-conditioned building at work, I returned home, noted the temperature of my apartment, and decided it would probably be a good time to make a trip down to Ikea for a few finishing touches to the new “do things that don’t involve sitting at the computer all day” workbench in the corner of my den added to provide a more suitable workspace for RC car tinkering and other stuff (more on that later.)

Then again, not everyone has an immediate need for Scandanavian-themed furniture and accessories (or an air-conditioned vehicle in which to journey there.) so they might go looking a bit closer to home for a cooling-off spot.  The supermarket seems as good a place as any to go, since you can be reasonably certain that something in there is going to be cold.  Not that anyone’s really going to want to do much cooking in this weather, but this type of weather has a definite tendency to make people give much deeper consideration to their vegetable purchases than they usually would.  After all, buying asparagus is a major commitment, and you definitely wouldn’t want to rush into that, right?

As you might expect, the frozen foods department is a popular destination in this type of weather, and the one here shows all the telltale signs of the heat wave.  There wasn’t a bag of ice to be found anywhere in the store, and the ice cream and frozen novelties sections were pretty well picked over by the time I got there.  Elsewhere in the store, the section that just a week ago housed the store’s selection of fans and portable air conditioners has been erased from memory, filled in with miscellaneous storage containers.  In spite of the fact that the entire month of August with its typically hot weather still lies ahead, it’ll probably be next May before another air conditioner is to be found anywhere in the store.  It appears my strategy to pick up another fan or two for the house when they reach closeout pricing has backfired on me.  At least the overworked oscillating fan I picked up on closeout four years ago when I moved into this place is still operating, but for all I know the thing could go at anytime.  That might start to make it just a tad unpleasant around here.  I suppose if I needed one that badly, I could probably find them on Craigslist at inflated prices.  I’m not going to bother looking to find out though, since I really don’t want to know.

Although the whole store is air conditioned and generally a much less unpleasant place to be than outdoors, the aisle with the coolers is where all the action (or at least all the nice cold air) is, although it generally doesn’t provide a whole lot in the way of scenery.  One side contains all the standard-issue deli meats and low-end cheeses, while the other side carries the store’s selection of beers and other recreational intoxicants,  In addition to the standard domesic and import beer sections, another section of this cooler is curiously labelled “New Age Beverages”.  I have no idea what’s supposed to be “New Age” about any of the stuff in this section, which seems to be filled mostly with malt liquor and other stuff generally found in the “get really drunk in a hurry” category of beverages.  An Internet search on the topic doesn’t reveal anything useful, with the possible exception of this market research report being offered for the bargain price of only $5,795.  Needless to say, I don’t think I’m going to be breaking out the credit card for that one anytime soon.

Of course, nothing goes with Summer and hot weather quite like a nice serving of ice cream, and this…  Well, actually I haven’t got a clue what this stuff is supposed to be.  It appears to be a vaguely ice-cream like substance by the name of “frozen dairy dessert,”  which seems to exist primarily for the reason of being cheap.  I haven’t bothered to look too closely at the ingredients on this stuff (something tells me I probably don’t want to know anyway,) but it does seem like it at least contains some sort of actual dairy component (unlike some stuff.  I seem to recall at one point when our family was working at the concession stands at Safeco Field that the soft serve they had there was made with no dairy products at all.)  Perhaps this stuff is meant to be the “New Age Beverage” of the ice cream world?  Although buying cheap ice cream-like substances and somehow getting plastered by eating the stuff might be amusing in a tragic way, I don’t plan on trying to find out what that would be like.

There were probably more interesting things I could have learned from my excessively long visit to the frozen foods section if I had been so inclined, but if I had spent too much more time there I might have been mistaken for a drunkard.  I’ll probably be back at some point though.  Maybe when whatever horrendous stuff Winter decides to throw at us to make up for this stuff on the other end comes around, I’ll go back to the supermarket and loiter in front of the deli case…

July 28, 2009

OK, That’s Hot Enough, Thank You Very Much. (Updated)

Filed under: Random Stuff, weather — Brian Lutz @ 6:53 pm

In spite of its rainy reputation, Seattle has always had a fairly temperate climate.  To this point (at least at the time of this writing,) there has never been a recorded temperature in Seattle over 100 degrees, nor had there ever been a recorded temperature below zero degrees.  The next couple of days promise to threaten that record, as the current forecast for Wednesday is quite suggesting the possibility of a temperature as high as 103, and predicting temperatures well into the Nineties for pretty much the rest of the week before finally cooling down to vaguely reasonable levels sometime early next week.

Naturally, just as the whole Seattle area turns into one ice-encrusted mess the second anything resembling snow shows up, people around here seem ill-equipped to deal with a heat wave of this magnitude.  A run on fans and air conditioners (presumably by the same people who wait for a snowstorm to arrive before thinking about the potential need for a snow shovel) has cleaned out every store in the area, and this morning I heard a report of 100 people camped out in front of Costco for a shipment of 60 air conditioners.  I suppose it’s either that, or they were just waiting to get in so they could go hang out in the big walk-in fridge for a while.  On a hot day like this, that actually starts to sound like it’s not such a bad idea.

Fortunately my apartment is on a ground floor with relatively low exposure to direct sun and large slabs of concrete under it, so it doesn’t get quite as hot as some places might.  Unfortunately, when it manages to stay this hot for this long, all that doesn’t matter too much, as the place is still going to end up uncomfortably warm.  Checking in what is probably just about the most unscientific way possible (an instant-read thermometer intended for kitchen use) showed a late-evening temperature of roughly 79.5 degrees in my apartment, with an ambient outside temperature in roughly the same range.  Not unbearably hot, but definitely heading in that direction.  Fortunately, the evening temperature made for great conditions to head out for a late-evening drive with the windows and sunroof on my car wide open, and Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album (which seemed oddly appropriate for the circumstances) on the stereo.  Even with the temperatures still being in the upper 70s to lower 80s, the stiff breeze generated by driving at highway speed still proved refreshing.

That still leaves the question of what I’m supposed to do with the next few days.  Here at work the air conditioning seems to be holding out for the time being, although I understand other buildings on campus have experienced AC failures, including some server rooms.  On a good day an AC failure in a server room is bad news, but with heat like this, an AC failure is pretty much a “shut everything down and hope nothing melted before you got it off” level crisis.  Having worked in some test labs full of computers, they’re not a fun place to be when the AC goes off. 

Come to think of it, when it’s this hot outside, just about anywhere is not a fun place to be when the AC goes off (or doesn’t happen to exist in the first place.)  In the meantime, Stay cool out there, or at least try to melt in a location that’s easy to clean up, OK?

Update:  To give you some idea of just how rare this kind of heat is around here, this is what today’s extended forecast (as reported over at KOMO’s website) looks like for the next few days:

As you can see, that 101 showing for tomorrow’s expected high doesn’t exactly fit on there.  Apparently whoever it was at KOMO that designed the page figured that they’d never need to put three-digit temperatures on there.  Of course, given the fact that there’s never been a recorded temperature in Seattle over 100, I can’t exactly blame them for that one.  I’d hate to think what a 104 (which some of the forecasting models suggest is well within the realm of possibility tomorrow) or even a 106 would look like on that template though…  Let’s hope we never have to find out.

July 26, 2009

Bringing Nothing to the Table

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 2:33 am

Once again, I should probably apologize for the recent lack of posts here.  Over the past week I’ve been busy with all sorts of nothing in particular, very little of which seems to end up here for some reason.  I’ve actually got a number of things in the queue that I need to catch up on (including an update on the construction at Redmond Center and some actual work on something over at Factoria Mall,) and I should be doing some of these within the next few days.  In the meantime there’s also my Twitter feed on the right side of the page which gets updated relatively often (or can be found here, for those of you who might be reading on RSS.)

One part of the stuff I’ve been dealing with recently is some uncertainty with regards to my housing situation here, a concern which has now been resolved.  The lease on my apartment was coming up for renewal at the end of this month, and the initial renewal offer that was made by apartment management, although it was somewhat lower than the previous lease, was still not only well above the going rate for similar apartments around here, but also well above the maximum monthly rate for this style of apartment as listed on their own website.  Naturally this wasn’t going to work out, so I did some searching for nearby apartments in the area, and found that I could quite easily get a much better rate than what I was being offered here.  I’ve never been all that thrilled with the prospect of moving (which probably explains why I’ve spent nearly four years living here)  and I have actually quite liked where I was, so I was keeping my options open for staying if I could get a more reasonable rate.  Finally after a carefully worded 2AM nastygram to apartment management was issued, they came back with a much more reasonable rate, although at that point I had yet to make my decision one way or the other.  Ultimately although I looked at a couple of places with some advantages (and disadvantages) over where I am now, I couldn’t really think of any overwhelming reason one way or the other, and decided to just stay put for another year.  On the other hand, a couple of months ago there was the rather distinct possibility that I could have ended up packing everything up for a move to Utah around this time, but that’s a story I’ll save for later.

Anyway, with the apartment situation settled, there are a number of things that I have been looking to do for a while now, mostly with regards to rearranging my den here and making another doomed attempt at decluttering the place.  The biggest trouble spot in here is the rather large desk, which has a nasty tendency to accumulate stuff at a rather alarming rate.  I’ve made a number of attempts to try to get rid of some of this, but the accumulation just keeps coming back.  This makes it difficult to use the desk for much of anything besides the computer.  Another issue that makes it difficult to do much with the desk is the fact that the lighting in here is pretty horrible right now.  The one lamp I have for ambient lighting doesn’t provide nearly enough light to do much besides not trip over things on the floor (another ongoing problem area,) and there really isn’t much of anywhere to put another one (I blame the guy who stuck a giant arcade game over in the corner to sit around and hog all the space.)  I also seem to have inherited my mother’s distaste for overhead lighting, so that’s not an option (and the one overhead fixture in here is even more worthless than the lamp anyway.)  Finally, up until yesterday, an old armchair that I got from my parents when I moved into this place took up a fair bit of space on the back wall of the den, and pretty much never got used.  Eventually it too began to accumulate assorted detritus, rendering it even more useless. 

In an effort to not only solve these problems but also to provide a designated workspace where I can tinker with RC cars and other assorted projects, and to fill in the big hole left by the removal of the old armchair, I have decided to put together some sort of basic workbench.  Since I also planned to get some drawers that I might be able to use to store away some of the crud on the desk, it had become necessary to make yet another perilous journey into the vaguely Eurocentric modernist realm of Ingvar the Terrible, the Deadly Tunnel of Furniture (well hey, it’s not like I can afford anything TOO nice here at this point.)  Fortunately, I think I’ve got a reasonable handle on the place by now (I even know where most of the shortcuts are so I don’t have to slog through the bedding department.)  Unfortunately a couple of the items I went looking for were not in stock, and the set of drawers I had originally planned to buy turned out to be junk, but I found something else that would provide more space and look a bit less clashy for the same price, and ended up getting that instead.  I also managed to find a relatively inexpensive table made of semi-cheap solid wood rather than cheap particle board, and decided to pick that up. 

Ikea likes to tout that this particular line of tables lets you make all sorts of different combinations by choosing different tabletops and legs.  What this means is that they don’t even bother providing instructions on how to assemble it, requiring a somewhat uncharacteristic bit of improvisation to put this together.    In fact, I think this might be the first thing I’ve ever bought from there that didn’t come with a vague set of wordless directions.  I think even the cookies over in the food section came with an instruction sheet.  On the other hand, there wasn’t anything too difficult to figure out, at least in theory.  Each of the table legs (sold separately) came with a sheet of directions which seems almost entirely superfluous, since I think a resourceful three year old could have figured out that part.  Getting the legs onto the table itself was the tricky part, since there weren’t any visible holes to be found.  There are a couple of vague notches in the wood to suggest where these might go, but I didn’t figure that out until two of the four legs were already attached.  Fortunately, stuff I remembered from my High School geometry class (which I think may have been the only math class in high school I did better than a C+ in) got this part figured out, and thanks to a drill I borrowed from my Dad, I got it put together in a somewhat presentable fashion. 

The next job on the agenda is sanding and staining, since the table came unfinished.  Fortunately, thanks to having a father with a large collection of power tools, I was able to borrow a random orbit sander with which I could make short work of the sanding, and the first coat of stain went on this evening (at which point I realized a little too late why rubber gloves are suggested for that part.  Once I get the drawers assembled (they’re still in the box right now,) the table finished, and some of the accumulated crud cleaned up, hopefully the den will be a lot more presentable, and I won’t need to do quite so much cropping on any photos I take in here… At least until the next batch of accumulated desk crud shows up anyway.

July 23, 2009

Local Reactions to the First Moon Landing

Filed under: History, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:59 am

As you are most likely aware, this Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a momentous occasion which I arrived on this planet about nine years too late to witness for myself, but one which I have read about with great interest over the past few days leading up to the actual anniversary.  One thing that strikes me about the whole thing is that in spite of the hundreds of people and huge budgets involved, there still seems to be the vague sense of a duct tape and bailing wire feel to the whole operation.  Even today it seems people like to talk about the “space age” technology in their products, seemingly unaware that the Space Age (or at least the interesting part of it anyway) happened back in the Sixties.  Of course, in spite of forty years of technological advancement between then and now, the reality is that there’s no way we can actually get back to the moon anytime soon, and few people willing to do more than pay lip service to the idea of doing so.  I’d like to think that will change someday, but it seems that (some) people these days are more interested in a return to the Stone Age than a return to the Space Age.

Nonetheless, when Apollo 11 made its historic visit to the Moon, the extensive TV coverage of the event made it one of those “where were you” moments that sticks with an entire generation of people.  In commemoration of the Event, the July 24th 1969 edition of the East Side Journal featured a number of anecdotes from Eastsiders on how they (or in one case, their children) experienced this historic event.

Click for larger version

Click for larger version

 Reverend Roland Hutchinson of the Kirkland Congregational Church (who, according to the church’s own history, had just become their minister in February of 1969, and would remain as such until February of 1993)  used this opportunity to reflect on the significance of this event, and made comparisons to the pilgrims who had come across to settle America.  Meanwhile, another Kirkland resident by the name of Russ Hulet discussed the excitement of his children over the launch of the Saturn V rocket on which the three astronauts would make their journey, and the improvised repair to a non-functioning alarm clock to ensure that they would awaken on time to watch the liftoff. 

Click for larger version

Click for larger version

Other reactions printed in the paper included those of Lake Washington High School Science teacher George Palo, and two engineers from United Controls, a local company which had prepared a number of components for use in the Apollo Program.  Mr. Palo wrote briefly about the accomplishment as a product of society as a whole and the knowledge and learning it had accumulated over its history, and emphasized the need to continue to prepare for challenges ahead.  Phillip Linwick and T.M. Thomsen of United Controls talked (very) briefly about what it felt like to actually be involved in the preparations for the moon shot. 

Surprisingly, the same day’s edition of the Bellevue American made hardly any mention of the moon landing, opting instead to allocate its headline to the announcement of the soon-to-be-built Sears store in the Overlake neighborhood.  I don’t think there were even any special moon sales going on the ads or anything like that.  Either way, there didn’t seem to be much of interest (with regards to the current subject anyway) in that paper.

July 17, 2009

A Glimpse of the Kirkland That Never Was

Filed under: History, Kirkland — Brian Lutz @ 12:08 am

Although you would be hard pressed to tell it from the relatively quiet suburban character of Kirkland today, the city was originally envisioned as a major industrial center, with a massive steel mill at its heart.  In 1886, a businessman by the name of Peter Kirk moved to Washington hoping to build a steel mill on the shores of Lake Washington which could be used to exploit coal and iron ore deposits in the Cascade Mountains nearby forming what Kirk hoped would become the Pittsburgh of the West.  Although the land was acquired and portions of this steel mill were built, the refusal of the railroads (which were heavily invested in Tacoma as the major transportation hub of the region)  to build lines to Kirkland, financial shortfalls and the Panic of 1893 resulted in a major economic depression, and brought about the failure of Peter Kirk’s steel mill before it was ever completed.  Over the years various industrial concerns have set up shop in Kirkland (including the Lake Washington Shipyards and Washington’s first woolen mill (which supplied many of the wool products that made their way to Alaska during the Gold Rush and later supplied wool to the US government during World War 1,) but Kirkland never truly became the industrial center that Peter Kirk had originally envisioned it to be.

Fast forward to 1959, when a previously unknown drawing from 1891 of the planned steel mill was discovered in a book owned by a resident of Woodinville.  This was newsworthy enough to merit this brief article in the July 9th, 1959 edition of the East Side Journal.  From this, we can get a brief glimpse of a Kirkland that never was, and most likely never will be.

July 15, 2009

At Least We Know Their Marketing Isn’t Half-Baked

Filed under: Advertising — Brian Lutz @ 11:14 pm

Tanning salons seem to be the type of business that comes with a built-in image problem, especially during the Summer.  Aside from the fact that basically they are trying to compete with the sun itself for at least three, possibly four or even five months out of the year, there’s also all the pesky “tanning is evil” propaganda from the usual set of scolds they have to contend with.  I really don’t have an opinion either way on the whole subject, but while waiting to catch a plane out of Salt Lake a few weeks ago there was one of these joyless heliophobes lecturing on the inescapable CNN airport feed, and man she was tedious to listen to.  I stopped paying attention (as much as you can avoid CNN in the airport, which is often very little) around the time she started explaining why it’s necessary to wear sunscreen every day (even in the dead of winter) and why you really shouldn’t ever be going outside for any reason whatsoever anyway.  But I digress.

In order to try to drum up business in what must be their slow season, one of the local tanning salon chains sent out this flyer in this week’s batch of dead tree spam, complete with an allegedly happy couple exhibiting some serious tans and complexions that must have taken hours to photoshop into that level of perfection.  If I ever had the inclination to try to attain that level of tan, I’d probably be a lot more likely to end up burned to a vaguely leathery crisp.  I suspect the reality of the whole thing is a whole lot less glamorous than they’d like you to think…

… probably something more like this.  I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be some sort of light, or if she’s just fallen asleep and been in there for three hours, but the combination of the blazing red skin tone and the dark vacant stare of those UV goggle things makes her look like she’s about to rise from the dead to go snack on some brains.  The text on the back of the flyer advertises the availability of all the latest UV and UV-free tanning beds, but unfortunately doesn’t say much of anything about zombie-free tanning.  I think it’s best that I not take my chances with that one, thank you very much.

July 10, 2009

It’s All Fun and Games Until Something Falls Off

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 1:21 am

As I blogged about a couple of weeks ago here, recently I have become the owner of a Traxxas Revo 3.3 nitro powered RC truck.  Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have had the chance to break it in, break it out, and just plain break things, and although as a relative novice to the whole serious R/C car bit, I’m still getting used to the whole routine, I think I’ve had enough of a chance to get a feel for how it runs now.  I’ve also had several opportunities to break out the tools to work on stuff, mostly as a result an occasional tendency for the thing to find its way into the nearest tree trunk at high speed (occasionally aided by the guy holding the transmitter, I suspect.)

The Revo 3.3 comes in what is referred to as a “Ready to Run” package, as opposed to the unassembled kits that some (not a lot these days actually) R/C cars and trucks come in.  Basically what this means is that you could fuel it up and go, but in reality it means that you need a number of items before you can run it.  First of all, you need nitro fuel (which, runs as much as $40 a gallon,) a fuel bottle to get the fuel into the truck (because for as much as nitro fuel costs you certainly don’t want to be spilling the stuff if you can help it,) a 7.2v battery for the starter, a charger for the battery, a glow plug igniter (because I found the Traxxas EZ-Start unit to be basically worthless for starting the plug, but it’s possible mine was broken out of the box)…  Oh yeah, and 12 AA batteries for the transmitter and receiver.  Pretty soon all this stuff adds up, but most of these are one-time expenses, and probably shouldn’t come as too much of a shock.  The good news is that once you have the stuff you’re basically ready to go.

As soon as I got the thing running for the first time,  I could immediately tell the thing was nothing like any of the other R/C cars I might have driven over the years.  For one thing, getting the thing running for the first time actually proved to be a bit of an ordeal.  Actually, I managed to get the thing going almost immediately, but the motor ran for about ten seconds, stalled out, and from there, it took another hour of trying with my Dad’s assistance (and replacement of the glow plug, which burned out almost immediately) before we could even get it fired up again.  Even then, it took some leaning out of the carburetor before we could get the thing to not stall out at the slightest application of throttle.  Once we got it going though, it was clear that this sucker was going to be fast.  Even during the slow going of the first couple of break-in tanks of fuel at 1/4 and 1/2 throttle, it could run at a pretty decent pace.  This made control a bit trickier than I had originally anticipated, which probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given the low stance (for an R/C monster truck anyway) and wide wheelbase.  At the very least, I did manage to avoid flipping the thing over until I was on the fourth tank. 

Of course, the general rule for break-in on nitro powered R/C is to go slow early on, but Traxxas’ instructions for the last break-in tank (there are five total) are to run it up to full-throttle over three seconds, and keep it there for another two.  This proved tricky without a lot of space, and somewhere along the line during this last tank I put it into a wall somewhere and managed to break the right front suspension A-arm and bend the pushrod which connects the wheel to the large single shock located inside the body of the truck via a set of rocker arms.  Fortunately Traxxas provides detailed exploded views of everything, and once I began to figure out where things were and how to get them apart, the repair wasn’t too bad.  Oh yeah, and somewhere along the line I managed to break the end off the transmitter antenna as well, just for good measure.

Once I finished the break stuff – er, I mean break-in period, a couple of days later I got a chance to go out with dad and Jared to try out the truck at Marymoor Park, where there are a couple of big piles of dirt out near the dog park that work well for R/C bashing.  No longer being constrained by the break-in settings, it was now time to tune the engine for optimal performance.  This, much like getting the engine started in the first place, was easier said than done.  There are a number of different adjustments on the carburetor, and mostly I was trying to keep from running too lean, which would result in stalling if I let off the throttle.  Eventually I got something that (mostly) worked, and got a chance to mess around some. 

I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s just something satisfying about kicking up a big cloud of dust, especially if you’ve got something that does it as well as this thing does.  There aren’t a lot of chances to do jumps here (unless you want to go off the top of the big pile, which I did a couple of times) but I’m still getting used to things. 

Unfortunately, this time around it was my Dad’s turn to break stuff, as his truck took a tumble and hit a rock in a bad spot, resulting in this busted fuel tank.  Fortunately, one nice thing about these is that at least when cheap plastic parts break, they’re relatively cheap to replace.  And break they will.  Although I made it through this particular session with my Revo relatively unscathed, some running down in Bonney Lake on the Fourth of July resulted first in more trouble tuning, then some issues with the slipper clutch getting loose (and a burned finger while investigating the problem.)  Once I got those out of the way (tuning is pretty much a constant thing when you’re running nitro trucks)  I finally got it running well, just in time to put the thing into the nearest tree at high speed.  Initially, the impact didn’t look like it had done much, but on closer inspection I found that I had managed to bend the pushrod on the front right corner again. 

The good news with that was that I had another spare from the last repair job to replace it with.  The bad news is that once I got the pushrod off, I found that it had been hiding a broken (but not quite broken enough to cause any failure which was obvious on initial inspection) CV shaft.  Fortunately, the local hobby store has the stuff to fix this, and it’s not even all that expensive.  Unfortunately, there’s also a clip that didn’t come with the replacement half shaft assembly that broke when I was taking it off, and they don’t stock the clips separately.  Unless I want to try the other store up in Woodinville or shop online, it looks like I might have to buy a $10 kit full of parts I don’t need (right now anyway) to in order to get a 10-cent clip.  Until then, the truck is sitting in pieces on one of the end tables in the living room, waiting for a ten cent part that’s probably going to cost considerably more than ten cents to come up with.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, especially when my brother (the one who started the whole thing) said that the fact that you need to fix things when they break is a feature of the whole R/C experience.  I actually do see his point and I don’t mind fixing things, but it might be kind of nice if I could at least come up with different things to fix every once in a while.  I suppose it’s supposed to be a learning experience, although I suppose if I could just learn to stop running the thing into trees I wouldn’t have to be dealing with these things so much in the first place…

July 7, 2009

It’s Like Christmas, But More Flammable

Filed under: Holidays — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 8:00 pm

For years now, the Fourth of July around here has been a pretty humdrum affair.  Aside from the scattered public fireworks displays (and the horrendous crowds associated with them) and the various ad hoc displays that pop up in spite of the longstanding fireworks bans in place on the Eastside, there hasn’t been a whole lot to see or do from here.  Then last year’s Fourth of July came around, which was spent at an uncharacteristically small gathering down at my Aunt Pam and Uncle Mike’s house in Bonney Lake.  With fireworks permitted in Bonney Lake and relatively close proximity to various Indian reservations where all the big stuff was readily available, the cumulative results of all the various displays in the area were nothing short of breathtaking.

For this year’s Fourth of July, the word had gotten out, and practically the whole family was participating.  All who were so inclined were encouraged to bring along fireworks, and given some of the Vanderhoeven family’s latent tendencies toward casual pyromania (fortunately not the anti-social type, just the part that likes to set things on fire for fun) this year’s show promised to be huge.  Of course, since there’s nothing more powerful than so-called “fun” snaps and party poppers available around here, it was time to go pay a visit to the Reservations to go take a look into the highly combustible world of Indian fireworks.  After the jump we’ll check out the stuff (well, some of it anyway) that you can get on the Reservations.

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July 3, 2009

Recycled Newspaper: The Eastside Celebrates America’s Bicentennial

Filed under: History, Kirkland, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:05 am
East Side Journal, June 3rd 1976

East Side Journal, June 3rd 1976

Here on the Eastside, the Fourth of July tends to be something of a low-key affair these days.  Here in Redmond, the annual Derby Days festival generally takes place a week after the Fourth, so most of the time little is done by the city to celebrate the Fourth.  Kirkland and Bellevueeach have their respective civic celebrations and requisite fireworks displays, and then there’s always the ones in Seattle (well, only one this year, since the 4th of Jul-Ivar’s show seems to have been cancelled.)  Beyond that, there’s generally not much to do.  Throughout the Eastside and most of the area personal fireworks are banned outright (a subject that remains a sore spot with your Blogger, but that’s a topic for another post that I’ll just go ahead and spare you from) so aside from fighting the crowds at one of the public fireworks displays, you’re pretty much on your own.  That doesn’t mean that people won’t find a way to celebrate.  For some people, that means heading off to somewhere that fireworks are allowed and setting them off there (the unincorporated Kingsgate area of Kirkland is one of the few places on the Eastside in which fireworks are allowed still, although if Kirkland’s proposed annexation of the area is approved in the November elections this will undoubtedly change) and for others it means going and finding some activity of their own.

Of course, some Fourth of July celebrations are bigger than others, and few have been bigger than the celebration of America’s Bicentennial on July 4th 1976.  For this Recycled Newspaper, I thought I’d take a look through the local newspapers around this time period, and see how the Bicentennial was celebrated here on the Eastside.  For the purposes of this post all of this material comes from the East Side Journal, but virtually all of this can be found in identical form in the Bellevue American issues from the same time period.  At this point, the Bellevue American had bought the East Side Journal, and within a few months of this the two papers would merge with each other to form the Daily Journal-American.  In fact, although it is not included here, one of the papers from this time period included the first in a series of editorials discussing  the upcoming merger of the two papers and explaining the rationale behind it.  Nonetheless, that was still a few months off at this point, although it might be covered at a later date.  In the meantime, let’s take a look at how the Bicentennial was celebrated on the Eastside, after the jump.

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