The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

August 29, 2009

The New Redmond Center Takes Shape (Updated)

Filed under: Redmond — Brian Lutz @ 10:10 pm


Update (9/20):  An article in the Redmond Reporter gives an opening date of October 9th for the Trader Joe’s store.

As you may have noticed if you drive through Redmond on a regular basis, construction activity at Redmond Center has been winding down, and a number of new stores are preparing to move in. 

Less than seven months after demolition work began on the site, Niko Teriyaki was able to reopen was able to reopen in their new location at the beginning of August, and seems to have settled in with little trouble.  Although it isn’t entirely certain what all of the spaces will be used for just yet, there is a coming soon sign up for an HSBC bank branch next door to Niko.  This might seem a bit odd, since the only HSBC branch I am aware of around here is the one in downtown Seattle.  Aside from that, there really isn’t much to say.  It’s a bank.  And a rather large (multi-national) one at that. 

Meanwhile, on the other side of the newly constructed portion of the center is a Qdoba Mexican Grill.  This is another one that might be familiar to people around here, as a number of locations exist in the area already, including a Redmond location in the Overlake neighborhood on Northeast 24th Street.  I used to eat there fairly often when I worked in building 44 at Microsoft, and although the food was decent, I went there mostly because I could get there to grab something and get back to my desk within fifteen minutes (yeah, I seem to have the bad habit of eating at my desk way too often.)  I do still make it over there every once in a while, but not all that often.  Since they took my favorite item (the Chicken Mole Burrito) off the menu, I don’t really find all that many compelling reasons to head over there (the fact that the Taqueria Guadalajara taco truck is just a couple of blocks away and a lot easier to get to from a traffic standpoint doesn’t help either.)  Still, as long as you don’t set your expectations too high it’s decent.  Based on what was going on inside, I’d say this one’s ready to open just about any day now.  There are a couple of spaces in between here and the Niko Teriyaki that don’t show any obvious signs of what they are going to contain yet.


Finally, the one that everyone’s waiting for: Trader Joe’s.  Earlier this week a “coming soon” sign showed up, and subsequently came back down.  Nonetheless, the forthcoming Redmond location is now being listed under the “coming soon” section of their website.  There’s still a fair bit of construction going on inside, and I suspect they’ve still got a fair bit of work to do before this store will open.  Trader Joe’s should be familiar to most people around here (in fact, the historical timeline on their site mentions the Bellevue store as the first in Washington, and the second in the Pacific Northwest) but with the two closest locations being on 156th in Bellevue and at Totem Lake Mall in Kirkland, they tend to be a bit tough to get to.  Nonetheless, TJs has a pretty devoted following of budget-minded foodies, and they should do well in this location.  It will be interesting to see if this store has any effect on the QFC store in this shopping center though.  Although the two stores won’t be directly competing with each other (Trader Joe’s sells mostly their own store brand products,) it’s rare to see two grocery stores in one shopping center these days, and this particular QFC store is a bit of an oddity already because it’s located three blocks from another QFC (the one in Bella Bottega, which originally opened as an Olson’s in 1993 and was converted to a QFC when they merged in 1996.) 


There are also a couple of additional spaces behind the Trader Joe’s store, but there’s pretty much nothing going on here.  Just four semi-finished walls, a roof and a floor.  I’m guessing these ones haven’t been leased out yet.  Nonetheless, there seems to be quite a bit going on around here still, and the Trader Joe’s store should bring a fair bit of traffic to this shopping center.  It’ll be interesting to see what else pops up here…

August 26, 2009

How Would You Redevelop Totem Lake Mall?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:03 am

Admittedly, along with just about everything else I’ve been doing around here, my ongoing malls project seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent months.  While part of this is just the fact that I’ve had other stuff going on lately, much of it has to do with the fact that there hasn’t really been much of anything to report here.  There’s actually been some remodeling that has recently commenced over at Factoria Mall, but it’s mostly just cosmetic upgrades to the mall interior, and the major redevelopment of the site which had previously been planned seems to have been put on indefinite hold.  There will be more on this at a later time.   Totem Lake Mall, the Seattle area’s poster child for empty malls,  remains just as empty as ever.  Itwas unofficially put up for sale by its owners back in March, and virtually all mention of the once pending redevelopment of the site has seemingly disappeared from DDR’s webpage on the mall.  Oddly enough, a shockingly generic but apparently official  website for the mall has appeared recently at (it seems that  whoever made the site couldn’t even be bothered to get the name correct) with a seemingly incomplete tenant directory (unless there have been some recent closures that I have missed,) some basic info and little else.

But let’s just forget about all that for a minute here.  At this point, it’s pretty clear that it’s unlikely that Totem Lake will be anything besides a mostly-empty mall for the forseeable future, but just out of curiousity, let’s say that somehow the forty million or so that the relative of some deposed Nigerian politician was promising actually happens to show up, and we were somehow able to purchase the Totem Lake Mall, and have enough left over to redevelop the place, even to the point of knocking it down completely and just starting over.  Basically, you can build whatever you want here (within reason and within some degree of financial constraint.)  There are a few things to keep in mind here for the purpose of this exercise:

  • It is highly unlikely that you will ever be able to get the zoning of the land changed.  Based on the previously approved redevelopment plans, it should be possible to put residential units into the property if you’d like, but I doubt you’d be able to just turn the whole thing into condos.  By the same token, there’s also no way in heck that the City of Kirkland is going to let you plop down a couple of 40-story highrises on this site either.  There will also be some environmental impact issues to consider with Totem Lake itself nearby, and you’ve also got the Evergreen Hospital on the other side of the property that would presumably be given some say on what could and couldn’t be done here.
  • Whatever ends up getting built here would need to be a commercially viable property.  Sunshine, rainbows and cute little puppies are always a nice thing, but you’ve got to have something there to pay the bills or you’re just going to end up with a slightly nicer looking dead mall 15 years down the road.
  • There are certain elements within the population of Kirkland that seem rather antagonistic when it comes to the subject of development within the city.  Granted, most of these people seem to be concentrated within the downtown area, but it’s likely you’d run into people opposing the whole thing on nothing more than general principle.  The redevelopment of Kirkland Parkplace, which had been scheduled to start earlier this year, has become mired in seemingly endless lawsuits and appeals, as have a number of projects in and near downtown Kirkland.
  • It’s up to you whether or not you want to leave the existing tenants in the northern part of the upper mall (Car Toys, Famous Footwear and Ross) in place and build around them (as the redevelopment proposals suggested) or if you’d like to just knock those down too and start with a clean slate.
  • The Chase (formerly WaMu) bank branch in the upper mall parking lot is not actually part of the mall property, and would most likely have to remain.
  • Although you could basically knock down everything else and start fresh, the street which divides the mall property (120th Avenue NE) will have to remain.

Aside from those constraints, you’ve basically got a blank slate to work with.  That said, the floor is open.  What would the readers of this Blog do to redevelop the Totem Lake Mall property if they were given the opportunity to do so?

August 20, 2009

The Peril of Proofreading with a Thesaurus

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:23 pm

In the cafeteria at work today, I came across this poster touting the premier (sic) of a new Tamil movie by the name of Kanthaswamy at the Totem Lake Cinemas this evening (yes, those Totem Lake Cinemas.)  In a brief attempt to try to alleviate my lack of anything even resembling knowledge of Kollywood cinema (in fact, before  today I didn’t even know that there was any other type of Indian movies besides Bollywood films,) I found out that this movie has been touted as the Tamil equivalent of Robin Hood (for whatever that means) and was made with the shockingly large budget of 800 million rupees (equivalent to about $16.5 million in US dollars) making it one of the most expensive films ever to come out of India (although much of it was filmed all over the world.)  When you’ve got a picture that big on your hands, what do you do for the premiere?  Well, you can start by bucking the trend of Tamil movie premiers in Seattle.  After all, you’ve got the grandiloquent movie next only to superstar  Rajnikanth’s Sivaji to screen a premier show, so you might as well go all out.  After all, with a budget that big, they can certainly afford to stick some five-dollar words like “grandiloquent” on the flyers, right?

There’s just one little problem here:  I don’t think that word means what they think it means.  While we should give the benefit of the doubt to whoever made this flyer based on the fact that they most likely don’t speak English as a first language, right offhand I can’t think of any situation in which that word would be useful.  In fact, I think this might be the first time I ever had to go look up a word that I saw on a movie poster. defines Grandiloquence as “Speech that is lofty in tone, often to the point of being pompous or bombastic.”  So basically, what that means is that you pretty much can’t use the word “grandiloquent” without being… well…  grandiloquent.  And unless you happen to be making a big-budget remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Chennai, grandiloquence is probably not something you want to be putting too much of in your movies either.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a grandiloquent big-budget Kollywood blockbuster to make your summer complete (and you happen to speak Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Italian or Spanish,) don’t miss this one.  Oh, and your homework for tomorrow is to find some way to use the word “Grandiloquent” in casual conversation, and report back here on how you managed it.  If any of you manage to do so, I’ll be thoroughly shocked.

August 18, 2009

A Lesson in Fiscal Irresponsibility

Filed under: Advertising — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:06 am

For some reason I haven’t ever really figured out, I still listen to the radio in the car a fair bit.   I’m not sure why, to be honest;  I’d probably be perfectly fine to just leave it off and forget it, and even if I did want to listen to music I’ve got a 6-disc MP3-capable CD changer in the dash, or my Zune that I could listen to instead.  The problem with the Zune is that it’s just a hassle to deal with plugging it in, turning it on selecting stuff to play and fiddling with the volume and shuffle settings unless I’m going to be spending a significant amount of time driving.  The CD changer isn’t much better, since most of my MP3 CDs date back to my first portable MP3 CD player I got for Christmas around 2003 or so, and “Disc 3, folder 21” means nothing when you’re trying to find something specific. 

As far as convenience goes, radio is still hard to beat.  About the only station I bother listening to these days is KZOK, so I just leave it there.  On the other hand, it does have one big disadvantage:  Commercials.  Over the years, I’ve become a lot pickier about trying to avoid listening to ads, which means that probably at least half the time I just keep the radio off, mostly because a good chunk of the ads found on the radio these days are either played incessantly for at least six weeks after they have been run into the proverbial ground, or they’re just so insipid in the first place that you can almost feel your brain rotting just listening to the things.I’ve already ranted in depth on the topic some time ago, but this evening while I was out for a short drive I came across a commerical so thoroughly ludicrous I thought it warranted mention here.

The commerical seems to be trying to tell a little story, and starts off with a spendthrift young woman who had been saving up to go to France, but instead ended up blowing all her money on overpriced fashions, and was thus unable to save up enough to go on the trip.  Her mother, sensing her disappointment about this situation, has a few options in this situation.  She could:

  • a): Use this as a valuable lesson to teach the importance of being fiscally responsible;
  • b): Just pay for the trip, leaving  her daughter none the wiser (and all the more spoiled) for it; or
  • c):  Just say “deal with it” and move on.

While all three of these seem like plausible outcomes for this scenario in real life, none of them would make for a good radio commercial (aside from the first one possibly being turned into some sort of public service announcement, although it would work out much better as some sort of high school Home-Ec film for when the teacher wants to take a nap in class.)  Of course, this being a commercial, Mom had other ideas, leading to:

  • Option d): Take her daughter out to the casino.

And since the whole exercise would be otherwise completely pointless, Little Miss Spendthrift proceeds to win a jackpot on the slot machines, and gets to go to France anyway (and blow a whole bunch more money on expensive fashions in the process.)  As I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily have anything against gambling (in fact, I’ve been known to do a bit of it myself, although only when I’m on vacation and on the assumption I’ll lose everything I put in,) but this whole thing sounds pretty dang close to the worst possible lesson to be teaching here.  It’s stuff like this that turns an occasional “drop a few bucks on the Roulette table here and there” gambling habit into a “trying to pawn off your internal organs on the street corner” gambling habit.  Of course, none of the Tribal Casinos ever seem to bother with any sort of problem gambling disclaimer on their ads;  Apparently it’s only possible to get addicted to the Lottery.

I couldn’t find the radio spot anywhere on the Internet, but a video version of the same story (with a few details omitted) can be found on this page (#35.)  Either way, this just sounds suspiciously like exactly the wrong message to be sending, but it’s not like that ever stops anyone anyway…

August 13, 2009

It All Breaks Eventually.

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:52 am

Although I haven’t had as much opportunity to use my RC truck as much as I would like to since I’ve gotten it, I’ve found that in the somewhat limited time I have used it for it has held up surprisingly well.  For a number of runs now, the Revo has held up with no significant repairs needed, and aside from a fuel pickup glitch I encountered while out in the middle of nowhere, has functioned pretty much flawlessly.  This, of course, meant that I was just about due for some breakage, and on a relatively brief trip out to some BMX ramps up at the top of Education Hill near Hartman Park earlier this week, things broke.  All sorts of things broke, in fact.  On the plus side, I think I managed to put one of these things on the Christmas list of one of the bike riders who showed up while I was there.

A bad landing from a jump resulted in this bent exhaust header pipe, which by itself wasn’t really enough to put the truck out of commission, but it was enough to affect performance and bend some other things out of shape.  Expecting this to be a fairly minor (if somewhat involved) repair, I bought the replaement part and set sbout taking things apart to make the repair.

For comparison, here’s the part, compared to its replacement (one guess which is which.)  Note that the broken one also reflects a bit of mangling required to bend it out of the way of the screw that holds it onto the engine bl0ck. 

Of course, one problem is never enough, and if you dig down deep enough you’re bound to find more.  Sure enough, removing the engine from the block revealed that somewhere along the line, I managed to break the engine mount as well, requiring another trip to another hobby store to pick up one of those (and another $20 for the part.)  Breaking small metal pieces on this thing seems to be a considerably more expensive endeavor than breaking small plastic pieces.  After getting back from the hobby shop with that piece, I soon discovered that one of the bearings in one of the rear axle carriers had seized up (which would probably explain some of the damage to the wheel mounted on that axle.)  Following a THIRD trip to the hobby shop, I finally had the stuff to put it all back together.  Also while I had the whole thing apart, I also changed out the oil in the rear shocks to a higher weight, to try to help stiffen up the overly soft out-of-the-box suspension a bit more. 

Finally, after several hours of tinkering around uninstalling, reinstalling, re-uninstalling and re-reinstalling stuff, something mostly resembling an RC monster truck has once again emerged from the random pile of parts strewn about the desk, as seen in the first picture.  There’s still one pesky issue I need to resolve with the exhaust hanger, but other than that I should be good to go, and managed to get a couple good evenings of quality not-sitting-around-on-the-computer out of the deal.  It also provided a good opportunity to make use of the workbench-like object I’ve recently added to the room  This job would have been a serious pain to do on the end table in the living room where I had done my RC wrenching before I got the workbench, if for no other reason than the sheer quantity of parts strewn about and disassembled at one time.

August 9, 2009

A Bit Too Slow to Beat the Heat

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 11:53 pm

Around this time a week ago, we were all broiling in the tail end of a record-breaking heat wave here in Washington that managed to sell out air conditioners everywhere, and in fact made just about everything with a temperature below eighty degrees disappear from store shelves in surprisingly rapid fashion.  People reported trying just about every place they could think of within thirty miles of here in search of fans and air conditioners, to no avail.  A week later, it looks like supplies have caught up:

As long as you aren’t picky about random off-brand stuff that you’d probably need to ship off to some random address in China to get any warranty service on, you should have no problem finding an air conditioner at this point.  Or a few dozen air conditioners, for that matter.

In fact there’s just one little problem with the whole thing:  As soon as the heat wave left, it was quickly replaced with unseasonably cool temperatures in the upper 60s to lower 70s (and even rain in the forecast for the next few days,) which isn’t exactly optimal weather for selling a couple of truckloads of air conditioners.  Oh well, with any luck (and barring any further heat waves that might show up over the remainder of the Summer) I might be able to grab one on closeout in October.

August 6, 2009

Should I Be Concerned?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:54 pm

The last time I checked, the Laws of Physics seemed to be a pretty much immutable thing.  Sure, you might get some random scientist here or there meddling with things they don’t understand and creating some anomaly that last about sixteen femtoseconds, give or take a few attoseconds (which is also about how long it takes a peer-reviewed scientific journal to dismiss the results of the experiment as miscellaneous crackpottery) but for the most part, all the various things that we might deal with on a regular basis tend to hold pretty steadfastly to the Laws of Physics as we know them.  Thus it has never really occurred to me to figure out what I would do if I were to encounter a situation where this wasn’t the case.  For example:

What the heck am I supposed to do about this?  This particular roll of toilet paper (presumably a common item found in nuclear physics labs, albeit for a completely different reason than what’s shown here) has stubbornly decided to remain where it was placed prior to the removal of the roll underneath it. 

Although some would dispute my findings, it is my opinion that this particular roll is clearly in violation of the Law of Gravity.  So far, it’s been up there for at least two days now as of the time I’m writing this, and seems to show little inclination toward coming down from its current position.  I’m not sure what exactly the penalties are for violating the laws of physics, but I’m guessing I really don’t want to find out.  Would I have to bring a lawyer or a mathematician with me to the trial?  What would be the consequences if the case made it all the way through the system to the point that the Supreme Court was to declare the Law of Gravity unconstitutional?  Is there anything in my lease that would prevent me from turning my apartment into a roadside tourist trap?  I suppose I could just pull the thing down and be done with it (I’m not sure what the Statute of Limitations on that type of thing would be though,) but I’m actually kind of curious to see just how long the thing would stay up there for.  Maybe if I ever start to really run out of ideas for Blog posts I’ll post updates on the thing.

Doing My Spring Cleaning in the Middle of Summer

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 11:12 pm

Yeah, I’m STILL slacking off on the whole Blog posting thing these days.  After all, it’s summer, and even though within the course of the week we’ve gone from excruciatingly high temperatures to unseasonably low ones (with a fair dose of rain in the forecast for next week) I’ve still had a fair bit going on over the last week or so, most of which is a bit too mundane to write much about here. 

I’m still (in theory anyway) in the process of trying to get my apartment back in shape and cleaned up to a reasonably presentable form on the off chance that anyone ever decides to visit the place.  Without too much effort, I can manage to at least make the living room area presentable, but it’s the rest of the place (especially the den) that’s the tricky part.  Every so often I make an attempt to at least run papers through the shredder to get rid of some of the miscellaneous accumulations, but eventually it all manages to find its way back onto the desk.  I’ve ultimately been forced to concede the fact that my desk, huge as it is, is probably too cluttered to ever really effectively use it as a workspace for much more than the computer.

In order to solve this problem in a somewhat less-than-optimal way (and to fill in some space vacated by the recent removal of an old armchair) I have added another desk (or table, as the case may be) to the back of the room.  I mentioned this in a previous post, but I have since completed this setup.  At the present time, I am using this as a workbench I can use for my RC car, and the inevitable breakage and/or upgrades that will result from the ongoing use thereof.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) the last couple of outings have failed to produce any significant breakage to fix, so I haven’t had a chance to do to much here yet.  It’s kind of ironic actually.  When I was doing my research before buying a Revo, the general consensus on it in comparison to the HPI Savage X (the one my Dad has) is that the Revo is faster but not quite as durable, while the Savage X is much more durable but not as fast.  A month (and change) later, the only repairs that I’ve needed on the Revo are a couple of fixes to the front right suspension (an A-arm, two pushrods and a CV shaft) after ramming it into things at high speed (and a change of the front shock oil to stiffen it up a bit) while my Dad’s Savage has already been through a steering servo, two broken fuel tanks, stripped-out differential gears and a blown-out shock.  When it’s running though, I’d say his is probably actually a bit faster than mine though (thanks to the 4.6cc engine compared to the 3.3 in mine.)  Maybe I need to go jump the thing over some houses or something to catch up in the breakage department.  But I digress.

Even though I’ve got my fancy new workbench-like thingy over on the other side of the den, I’ve noticed that it hasn’t yet managed to magically get rid of all the clutter i9n here.  Apparently I’m supposed to do that part myself.  In addition to the workbench, I have also added a small chest of drawers to the room (which sounds like a really overwrought term to use for something I picked up for $40 at Ikea) to try and at least get some of the clutter out of sight, so I have plenty of room available in which to store the next batch of clutter.  It’s a vicious cycle.

Of course, if I ever manage to get that part figured out, the next big challenge is my bedroom.  I don’t  ever have anyone except myself  (and maybe the apartment maintenance guy a time or two) in there, so that place has really gone downhill these days.  I actually think that one wouldn’t be too bad to get back into shape, but I’m just really bad about folding laundry these days, so the stuff has a tendency to stick around for far, far longer than it really should.  It’s just way too easy to blow the whole thing off when nobody else ever has to look at it (I can just close the door in there if I have company coming over.)  I really need to just go in and clean everything up one of these days though; if nothing else, after being here for four years the carpets could use a good cleaning, and just running a Rug Doctor around the pile of stuff on the floor apparently isn’t the proper solution to that particular problem.

Maybe if I had a wife to bug me when things got too messy this all wouldn’t be a problem anymore.  Any volunteers?

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