The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 28, 2010

My Next Relaxing Getaway Will Probably Be in a Coffin

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

Let me guess... Off with my head?


From all that you’ve probably heard about Disneyland, you wouldn’t think of it as the kind of vacation one would need to recover from, but as anyone who has ever been there for more than a day or so can attest, it’s no walk in the park.  Actually, I take that back. It is a walk in the park, albeit a long one, dragged out over three days.  Having been through several of these trips and being curious about how much walking was involved, I wore a pedometer into the parks for two of the three days on this trip, and came up with numbers ranging between 10-14 miles of walking per day (although I can’t entirely trust some of those numbers, as some of the rides probably skewed the count a bit.)  Either way, these parks are destroyers of feet, and over the course of three or four days you’ll probably find yourself dealing with foot pain a lot sooner than any other sort of fatigue starts getting in the way (although I suspect that most of that may have been the sugar talking.)  It’s not even the walking that’s to blame for most of it; it’s the standing around in lines.  The foot pain generally goes (mostly) away after a day or two of taking it easy, but somewhere in the course of my trip (if I had to guess, I’d say the flight down is the most likely suspect) I also managed to pick up a nice little cold, which was at least considerate enough to wait until I was home to start taking effect.  The worst part is that I have the sneaking suspicion I probably got charged $20 for the privilege.  Combine that with the relative lack of sleep over the course of the trip, and I suspect it’ll probably take the better part of a week before I’m back to normal. 

That said, I quite enjoyed the trip, and at some point I should be posting in a bit more detail on it later.  In the meantime, I’ve included a few photos and some of my observations from the trip after the jump. 


May 21, 2010

Sky-high and Sleep Deprived

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 7:27 am

I’m starting to think that the whole business model for in-flight wifi is based entirely on getting people to write “Look ma, I’m using the Internet on a plane!” Facebook updates and Blog posts. Unfortunately there isn’t any wifi on this flight, so i am writing this offline on my iPad as I fly down to Orange County for my latest jaunt into the aforementioned kingdom of unattainable princesses and grim grinning ghosts. For reasons that still elude me at this time, i somehow managed to book myself onto a 6:30am flight, which when combined with parks open until Midnight on all three days of my trip, should ensure that I’ll probably be a wreck by the time i get home. I have already warned my co-workers that I may be staggering into the office on Monday looking half-dead, zonked out, sugar-buzzed like crazy and carrying a new pirate curse or two.

I am actually using this trip as a bit of an experiment to determine the viability of ditching the notebook at home and traveling with just my iPad. The main issue I have with this at this point is that I can’t tether it to my phone the way I can my notebook, so i am pretty much dependent on hotel wifi for an internet connection, i have heard some reports that it’s a bit spotty at the place I’m staying at, so I will have to see. Then again, if i can’t get on the net, I’m on vacation anyway, so who cares? It would have been nice to find a camera connector kit (see previous rant below) but i suppose I can probably live without that. I’ll just have to wait until i get home to see the photos,

In the meantime, I will most likely be updating my Twitter feed throughout the weekend (over on the right side of the page) and posting some stuff when I get back home, I seriously doubt I’ll be doing a full blow-by-blow trip report this time around, but I’ll be on the lookout for interesting stuff to write about. In the meantime, here are a couple of random thoughts:

  • HTML tags are a serious pain to try to insert into a post on the iPad soft keyboard, I’m not really sure why i am using them here in the first place.
  • Cut and paste isn’t really any better.
  • I am legally obligated to note the following: Pixie dust is a substance which has been found by the state of California to cause cancer in lab rats.
  • Magical talking rats, on the other hand, seem to be safe.
  • i may have said this before somewhere along the line, but one of the advantages of planning travel on the Internet is that you can find a community of slightly obsessed fans of just about any destination you can think of, which provides am excellent source of info and valuable tips. For Disney, I have been using disboards,com as my main planning resource, and found it to be quite helpful and friendly. On the other hand this does also come with the risk of stumbling into a highly obsessed community of fanatics, which will probably end disastrously for all involved, so be careful…
  • We already know how Peter Pan would fare in a fight against Captain Hook, but my question is this: Who would win in a fight between Peter Pan and Jack Sparrow? Someone needs to make that one (and i get the sneaking suspicion that somewhere along the line they probably will.)
  • I suppose i should actually try to ride the Tower of Terror this time.
  • If Disneyland is supposed to be the happiest place on Earth, why do you see so many temper tantrums there? Not that I have firsthand experience with that or anything…

Anyway, by the time this gets posted I should be in the parks, so have.a magical day (or whatever day it is that you plan to have.)

May 20, 2010

Thanks, But My Princess is in Another Castle

Filed under: travel — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:57 am

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never quite understood what the big deal is with princesses.  Sure they tend to be improbably beautiful and often come with plenty of magical friends, but they also tend to come with baggage in the form of pesky unwanted villain issues.  When that happens you generally need to dig up some sort of handsome prince in shining armor (or at least some commoner with a mysterious past which turns out to include a previously undiagnosed case of latent princehood) to get things back in order, which is usually messy business that involves pushing villains off a cliff in dramatic fashion.  Daring rescues by improbably handsome princes inevitably lead to romances with improbably handsome princes, and by the time we start messing with romances and living happily ever after (or until the inevitable sequel,) none of the rest of us stand a chance.  Oh, and did I mention  the fact that they also seem to end up talking to animals a lot?

To make a long story short, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to have to worry about any princesses falling madly in love with me anytime soon.  This is probably a good thing, because I’m pretty sure I’d mess up the daring rescue part in disastrous-yet-oddly-hilarious fashion and inadvertently doom just about everyone in the process, after which she’d run off with the guy who swooped in and got the whole mess sorted out.  So if by all indications I seem to be destined for a mostly princess-free existence, then why do I seem to keep ending up at Disneyland and/or Disney World?  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure myself.  For the reasons discussed above princesses are out, and I think if I went anywhere near any of the fairies they’d probably ship me off to Disney jail.  Of course, there’s still plenty of other stuff to see there.

When I go this weekend, it will actually be my third trip to Disneyland.  The first time was one day with my Mom, brothers and sisters back in 1987, and most of my memories of that particular trip tend to be a bit hazy (Being 9 years old at the time probably doesn’t help much.)  Mostly I remember my sister being freaked out by the Haunted Mansion, thinking Star Tours (the newest ride in the park at the time, which will be closing down a few months from now to be modernized with a new show) was the coolest thing ever, and being freaked out myself on the Rocket Jets in Tomorrowland.  It took a second visit in January of 2006 (a few months before I started this Blog) to really become familiar with the place, and to realize that the vast majority of my recollections from the previous visit were a bit faulty.  Then again, 19 years had passed between the two visits, in which time a whole new park sprang up in what used to be the parking lot, as well as the Downtown Disney area and two more Disney-owned hotels, so I had at least some sort of excuse for not remembering much, since a lot of what’s there now wasn’t there back then.  Even in the four years since my last visit there’s been a lot of new stuff added to the parks (and by the time the major renovation of California Adventure is completed in 2012, there will be even more.)

Although on one hand Disneyland is always evolving and changing, to a large extent, I find it to be as much a museum as it is a theme park.  Walt Disney intentionally designed the park to never be “finished” (it is rumored that this is symbolized by one of the spires on Sleeping Beauty Castle being left unfinished,) yet numerous remnants of the park’s past remain.  In the four years since I last visited, the long-dormant Submarine Voyage ride has come back to life, California Adventure has gained the Toy Story Midway Mania ride which was all the rage over at Hollywood Studios last time I was there (with plenty more to come as the new World of Color show opens next month and the new Cars Land takes shape over the next couple of years.)  Yet in spite of all the changes and additions, my two favorite rides at Disney remain a pair of the classics:  The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.   If not for the perpetually horrendous lines it draws, Peter Pan’s Flight might make the list as well, but it seems that you have to get there roughly three minutes after the park opens to ride it without at least a 30-minute wait. 

Sure, some people may say that they’ve been there and done that, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be interesting…  Now I just need to figure out what the heck I was thinking booking myself onto a flight leaving at 6:30 in the morning…

May 13, 2010

A List of Some Things Which I Have Recently Made Lists of

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:39 am

 Lately it seems like every time I try to figure out what to Blog about, I inevitably come up with a laundry list of other stuff that I should really be doing instead.  Since I haven’t really got any better ideas right now, here is that list.

Some of the things I need right now:

  • A box of dryer sheets
  • To renew the tabs on my car
  • A life (Yeah, still trying to figure that one out.)
  • For Ms. Right to show up at my doorstep wondering where I’ve been all her life, preferably with enough advance notice that I can clean the place up a bit first
  • To do something about the colossal mess in my Den
  • A 3-day Disneyland Parkhopper pass (I’ve got just about everything else worked out now for the trip next weekend except for this)
  • A vacation (see above)
  • To return the Mini/Micro USB cable I bought from Best Buy to sync stuff to the Android devices for work, but not only did it turn out to be a charge only cable, but apparently it somehow even manages to suck at that.
  • To finish the iPad review that I would have had up here three weeks ago if it weren’t for (insert your favorite lame excuse here)
  • To write an excessively long and rambling enumeration of just how much of a freakin’ pain it is to install a development build onto a Blackberry device
  • A haircut (as I’m sure my Mother will remind me of the next time I see her)
  • to figure out what the heck I’m supposed to do with a 400-pound arcade cabinet when I end up moving out of this place
  • To get the brakes checked on my car.  I helped replace the rear pads a bit more than 5,000 miles ago, but lately the brakes just feel a bit mushy for some reason.
  • To replace the taillight on my car which burned out again after I replaced it less than six months ago.

Some of the things I don’t really need right now, but would be nice:

  • An iPad Camera Connector kit.  I’ll spare you the rant about how Apple not only took functionality that should have been built into the device and stuck it on clunky $29 accessories instead, but they also made the things impossible to find anywhere.  Every Apple store I’ve checked with invariably says the things are out of stock with no ETA on getting more in.   Come on, it’s just a freakin’ piece of plastic with a few circuits in it, how impossible can it be?
  • An HTC Evo 4G.  The official release date and pricing for this highly anticipated Android phone just got announced today, and it just happens that this comes out four days before my birthday next month.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to get one to replace my aging (and presumably seriously thinking about biting the proverbial dust any day now) Mogul, but I’m not so sure I really want to tack an extra $30 onto my phone bill each month to enable the much ballyhooed tethering feature.  It would be nice, but how often would I really use it?
  • A new notebook computer.  The one I have is getting old, and 7 1/2 pounds and change is kind of a pain to haul around on a regular basis.   And while the iPad is nice for some things, there are other things (which happen to be tasks I deal with on a regular basis) for which it is almost completely unsuitable.  Thus the continuing need to keep a notebook computer around.
  • A  new set of bed sheets that actually fit.  Yeah, I still haven’t ever figured out how to solve this problem.
  • Dual monitors for my desktop system at home.  Heck, I’d settle for just having a taskbar that’s twice as wide at this point.  Apparently when I’m working on stuff I can’t manage to get anything done without at least half a dozen windows open, and to be honest, I’m not a big fan of how Windows 7 handles this stuff. 

Some of the things in my life over which I have no control:

  • These days, it doesn’t matter where I go, I just have way too many cables.  Combine the usual cable mess that accompanies a modern desktop PC with all the various sync/charge cables I need for all the mobile devices I’m dealing with these days, and I’ve seen plates of spaghetti more organized than my desk, either at home or at work. And come to think of it, I haven’t heard from the expedition that wandered into the snakepit of cables behind my TV in a while.  Maybe I better send a search party…
  • The fact that the direction my life has taken recently has now made it necessary for me to carry around a man-purse.  Speaking of which, apparently I need a new one of those too, since the handle on the one I bought just a couple of months ago managed to break at a rather inconvenient time.  Then again, I paid $12 for the thing at the Eddie Bauer outlet, so I suppose I can’t complain too much.
  • The fact that the entire contents of my sock drawer have recently begun to self destruct at a rather alarming rate.  I could understand one or two socks ending up with a strategically placed hole here and there, but twelve pairs all at once?  If the socks really wanted out that badly you’d think it would be easier for them to just get themselves lost in the dryer or something…
  • The fact that I can’t seem to find a pair of jeans that manages to fit properly, not  fall apart if you so much as look at them funny or cost a ton of money.  It seems to be one of those “pick two” scenarios.  You can get jeans that fit reasonably well without being too expensive, but will rip to shreds under little more than muttered threatening, Jeans that don’t fall apart or cost too much, but just plain don’t fit (you’d be surprised how many different definitions of 36 x 30 various clothing manufacturers seem to come up with these days,) or jeans that stay together and fit right,  but come with a horrendous price tag.  Oh well, as long as the weather here holds out for a while, shorts season is just around the corner… 
  • The lawnmowers at my apartment complex  They fire up promptly at 8am on Monday mornings, and pretty much ruin any chance of sleep from then on.  Granted, my schedule these days has me waking up earlier than I used to, so I’m a lot less likely to be trying to sleep through the things these days, but I suspect that yard equipment is never particularly high on people’s lists of things they enjoy waking up to.  And the grounds here are fairly well kept too, so I suppose I can’t really complain too much.

May 8, 2010

Fun With Insomnia: Because Sleep is Overrated Anyway.

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:44 am

Earlier this week, I saw some article linked on one of the Blogs (too lazy to look it up now) lamenting the deleterious effects of the iPad on people’s sleep habits (as well as other bedroom-based activities,) mostly on the basis that spending hours staring at some bright thing six inches from your face in the dark isn’t a good way to get to sleep (Note: obligatory “duh” goes here.) I am probably not doing much to disprove the theory right now. Of course, i have never been all that good at sleeping in the first place, but this thing probably isn’t helping much. It certainly doesn’t take a whole lot to keep me up half the night these days.

The annoying part of all this is that just a couple of hours ago I was practically ready to zonk out in front of the computer, but had to help out with a bug repro for one of our developers in India before I could actually go to bed (unrelated note: for some unknown reason, the iPad decided to autocomplete that to “bedlam”, and to be honest, it might have a point there.) As i have said before, i’m certainly enjoying the job, but i have found it’s definitely not the type of job that can be left in the office at the end of the day. After thinking i had the bug repro sorted out I started going through the usual pre-bedtime routine, I was just about to turn off the computer and get ready tp go to sleep when another Skype message came in asking for tests of the prior bug fix, and a couple of others, Still halfway to la-la land at is point, I muddled through the fixes and found one more bug that needed one more build to fix. I think I finally managed to get all this mostly taken care of (the new bug aside, but I can probably leave that until morning) but by then nearly an hour had passed since I had tried to go to bed.

Sure enough, now that i can actually go to bed for real this time, I’m wide awake. And, for some inexplicable reason, blogging about it. Doesn’t It always seem to work out that way? Oh well. At least now I have shiny new toys to blame it on.

May 5, 2010

More Random Thoughts: The Thick of Thin Things, Way Too Much Technology, and Selling Out to the Mouse Again

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:11 am

Historic Preservation: You're Doing it Wrong.


As of late I’ve been finding myself just a tad scatterbrained about Blogging, with about half a dozen halfbaked ideas floating around, but not much material to back any of them up.  So I’ll toss a few of ’em out here: 

  • Lately I seem to find myself spending a lot of time in the thick of thin things.  It’s called my job.  It’s definitely been keeping me busy these days , but there are definitely still times that I find myself wondering how the heck I ended up here.  I suspect there are plenty of people who would love to watch clips of late night talk shows all day and get paid for it, but to be honest, it gets kind of old after a while.  At least the app we’ve been working on to play those clips (which should be out before too long now) turned out to be pretty cool…
  • Being the lead (read: only) tester in the office means that often the various mobile devices that are being used for testing tend to accumulate at my desk.  Back when I was just getting into mobile device stuff back in the early half of the last decade, I found myself wondering out loud just how nerdy one would have to be in order to be carrying two PocketPCs around, and concluded that the answer to that question was not one that I really wanted to know.  Today while I was at work minding my own business and closing out a few of my resolved bugs, an e-mail arrived in my inbox, at which no fewer than four different devices on my desk beeped at me to let me know of this fact.  If carrying two phones is enough to indicate dangerous quantities of nerdiness, I REALLY don’t want to find out what it means to be carrying four.  I suppose one way or another I’ll be finding out soon enough…
  • In theory, I’m supposed to be limiting myself to one post per month complaining about the weather, but with the mild winter we’ve had here this year, it’s been quite a while since I’ve really needed to break one out.  The Spring we’ve had so far, on the other hand, has been a bit on the odd side as far as weather goes.  The last couple of days here have seen some pretty heavy rainstorms (and hail)  around here, as well as a fair bit of late-season mountain snow.  The meteorologists around here like to talk a lot about the so-called Puget Sound Convergence Zone (described as being roughly the area between Everett and Northgate in Seattle) that seems to be the cause of a lot of the more extreme weather we have around here.  Based on the description, the part of Redmond in which I live is supposed to be just a bit to the South of where this thing is supposed to form.  So if that’s the case, why is it that any time something happens in the Convergence Zone, we seem to get clobbered by it around here?  Oh, and did I mention that it’s freakin’ cold around here lately?  We’re barely breaking 50 most days lately, and getting lows down in the thirties.  It’s supposed to be May, for Heaven’s sake.  I’m supposed to be heading outside in Tevas and shorts, not a coat and gloves.  And while I can understand why one might appreciate the occasional thunderstorm, I prefer my thunderstorms embedded in Doors songs, not five miles away when I’m not paying attention.


  • This is an ad that I saw at Town Center the other day.  I’m pretty sure I’m not quite THAT busy, but if someone’s got any exciting new ways to be bored, I certainly wouldn’t mind giving them a try.  I’m getting just a little bored of my current methods of being bored.  Then again, not being bored sounds like a good alternative too. 
  • I suppose this isn’t news to anyone who’s actually tried to use one, but frequent flyer programs are confusing as heck.  There’s whole websites and wikis dedicated to trying to explain this stuff, but even with that I’ve hardly got a clue about any of the stuff.  A number of years ago I got signed up by my Mom for American Airlines’ program when I was flying down to Florida for a cruise, and since then I get a bunch of random e-mail that seems to suggest that if I wish to remain enrolled in a frequent flyer program I should really consider flying frequently.  In theory I have enough miles saved up that I could actually do something with them, but I need to have some sort of activity on my account before the middle of next month to prevent those miles from expiring.  While I managed to figure out something that should (in theory) prevent these miles from expiring, it does also provide a nice convenient excuse to go somewhere too.  Since I figure I can’t get away for too much more than a long weekend or so, it had to be somewhere reasonably close, so ultimately on a bit of a whim, I’ve booked three days at Disneyland coming up later this month.  You might be hard pressed to get me to actually admit it (unless you read the 7-part comprehensive Disney World trip report I wrote last year but never quite finished posting here,) but I seem to be a bit of a Disney fan, and since it’s a place I can get to without excessive amounts of flying it fits the bill.  Ideally I’d like to plan on taking a week off and going somewhere later in the year, but we’ll see what happens.  In the meantime, it sounds like they’ve got some interesting new stuff down there.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this one later.
  • Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, I don’t speak Dwarvish.   At least not without cheating…

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