The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

August 29, 2010

This Amusement Never Ends

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:01 pm


Even though officially there’s still a few weeks worth of Summer remaining at this point, unofficially the season is nearing its inevitable end as the Labor day weekend looms.  Although I can’t say that the Summer has been wasted or anything like that, I also can’t necessarily say that I’ve really done a lot of Summer-type activities this year.  With the clock running down, I’ve been trying to take the opportunity to cram some of these in before the leaves turn and the inexorable descent into Winter begins.  Already the signs are beginning to show up; Halloween stuff has been appearing on the shelves at various stores now, and earlier today I saw the first signs of Christmas stuff beginning to appear on the shelves (apparently they aren’t even bothering to wait until September begins anymore.)  Nonetheless, the weather is still nice, and at least there’s still a little bit of time to cram some stuff in.

This afternoon, I decided to follow a few friends along to Wild Waves down in federal Way for an afternoon of amusement in some form or another.  For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Wild Waves is pretty much the closest thing we get around here to a real theme park.  Originally opened in 1977 as Enchanted Village with half a dozen rides, the Wild Waves water park was added in 1984, and additional expansions to the park were made in 2002 and 2003 as Six Flags assumed ownership between 2000 and 2007.  Under the current ownership, the Enchanted Village name has been eliminated leaving the entire park with the Wild Waves name. 

As far as amusement parks go, there isn’t anything particularly notable about Wild Waves, aside from the fact that it is the largest one in the Seattle area (not too hard considering the lack of much competition, or once the beleaguered Fun Forest over at Seattle Center slips into its pending oblivion, any competition at all.)  The park boasts three roller coasters (four if you count the Kiddie coaster,) with the most notable of these being the wooden Timberhawk located on the eastern side of the park among the trees.  Don’t expect too much in the way of thrills though; the Wild Thing (shown above, no relation to the presumably much more thrilling coaster of the same name at Minnesota’s Valleyfair park) seems to have been designed to meet some obscure federal guideline on the minimum definition of a thrill ride.  From the lift hill, you go down a modest drop into the loop, then come around into a double corkscrew, and…  Well, that’s it actually.  On further research, it appears that this model was actually an improvement on an earlier version of essentially the same layout, but missing the loop (in fact, one of these which originally resided at Knott’s Berry Farm and was the first of its kind now makes its home at Silverwood Theme Park near Coeur d’Alene Idaho.)  If you start looking around the various smaller amusement parks throughout the country, you soon realize that quite a few have identical copies of standard coaster models.  This is understandable, given the sheer time and expense of designing and building a coaster from scratch.

Of course roller coasters, although for some people they may be the big draw, don’t make a park by themselves, and there’s going to be plenty of other thrills (or otherwise) on offer as well.  After the jump, a look at a few other things from Seattle’s favorite (by default) theme park.


August 26, 2010

Some of the Perks and Pitfalls of Life in Downtown Bellevue

Filed under: Bellevue — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:04 am

A few nearby places that I'm pretty sure I can't afford. Ever.

It’s been about a month now since I moved into my new Downtown Bellevue apartment.  To be perfectly honest, I still haven’t quite gotten everything where I’d like it to be (mostly this is just a matter of  getting rid of a few more boxes of stuff I don’t have any room for) but I’d say I’ve had a chance to settle in by now and get used to the new place.  As I’ve said before, this place has a lot of nice features, but it does also come with a few quirks as well.  Nothing I can’t live with of course, but there are definitely a few things that have taken a bit of getting used to.  At the risk of tossing out yet another list of random stuff here and calling it a Blog post, here are a few of the things I’ve learned in the time that I’ve lived here:

  • Although you couldn’t really tell from looking at it on a map, Downtown Bellevue is bigger than it looks when you start getting around by walking instead of driving.  For example, when you look at the map, the distance from 112th Avenue to Bellevue Way appears to be four blocks (give or take a street or two.)  When you start messing around with the distance tools on Bing Maps and measuring things, you begin to realize that the actual distance between the two streets is at least half a mile, possibly even more than that.  When you start adding cross streets and other walking around to that, it can really start to add up.  For example, yesterday I took a walk out to Meydenbauer Park by way of a slightly meandering path through Bellevue Square and Downtown Park, as well as what turned out to be an unnecessary detour that resulted from blindly following signs (the signs direct someone who follows them to the parking lot, which as I found out through unfortunate experience was not necessary when I was walking.)  When I figured out the distances to and from the park and took into account some of the alternate routes and detours along the way, it turned out that what I originally thought to be a relatively short walk was over four miles in length.  
  • Even though Downtown Bellevue seems to often be touted as being where all the “action” is, in reality there’s also a whole lot of space in between.  Sure you have the Bellevue Collection and the Bravern (and to a far lesser extent the Bellevue Galleria,) but beyond those there are a fair number of nondescript office buildings and parking garages, which just don’t provide anything that’s going to be of much interest to a wandering urban dweller.  There’s a fair number of restaurants scattered around, but most of these seem to be either high-end places that you might take a date out to for a special occasion but probably won’t bother with if you’re out and about looking for a bite to eat, or fast food places that cater mostly to the office-dwelling lunch crowd.  Most places in the latter category tend to be open only on weekdays, and may close as early as 2:30 in the afternoon, which again makes them somewhat useless when you’re trying to grab some dinner.  I know I’ve ranted a time or two on this Blog about the lack of non fast food places on the Eastside open late, but around here there seem to be a lot of places that don’t even bother staying open until 9.  It’s kind of ironic that I can think of at least half a dozen places nearby where you could go get a Chinese foot massage at 10:30 at night, but can’t think of a single place to get Chinese take-out at that same time.
  • I suppose that this means I should probably consider cooking and eating in more often than I do.  The kitchen in my new apartment is much nicer than the one in my old apartment, except for one thing:  There’s a lot less storage space in the new one (plenty of counter space though.)  As you’ve probably figured out by now, a lack of space seems to be a bit of a running theme in the new place.  To make up for the shortage of cabinet space I’ve had to put one of those 4-shelf wire racks into the front hall closet and put most of the food on that.  This mostly takes care of the food storage issue, but doesn’t leave much anywhere for the golf clubs.  I suppose the logical thing to do would be to just chalk up the whole golf thing to a painful learning experience, get rid of the clubs and move on, but right now I’ve found a semi-servicable place for them in the bedroom closet, so they’re still around on the off-chance that I ever manage to suddenly find the patience to learn how to swing a golf club without accidentally maiming innocent bystanders.  Even so, I suspect I’m a lot more likely to master cooking than I am to master golf at this point…
  • Even the frequently spectacular view from my apartment comes with a few drawbacks, as I have recently come to realize.  For one thing, even with the blinds fully closed, I find that a fair bit of light still gets into the room at night thanks to the relatively high ambient light levels outside.  This doesn’t bug me much, but for someone who likes sleeping in a really dark room this could be an issue.  A bigger issue is sound, which is something that’s a lot more noticeable on a daily basis.  With I-405 just a couple hundred feet away from the window, a lot of the road noise tends to come through even with the windows closed.  Usually this isn’t an issue, but there’s also two hospitals directly across the freeway from here, and those have a tendency to attract ambulances at all hours of the night with sirens blaring.  And the most direct route to get there from southbound I-405 takes most of these directly below the window.  I suppose this is one of those things I’ll eventually learn to deal with (after all, the alternative usually involves a lot more dead people, which typically isn’t a good thing to have around) but it does tend to be a bit of a nuisance.

All things considered, I’m quite enjoying the new place, even if it does come with a few tradeoffs.  It’s also giving me a chance to do a lot more exploring around Downtown, which should lead to some upcoming Blog posts here which I hope will be of interest.

August 24, 2010

Fun With Insomnia: In which “Fun” turns out to be somewhat subjective

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 4:23 am

Once again it’s 4am, which is a time at which even with my persistent night owl tendencies I  usually prefer to be asleep.  As tends to happen every once in a while, things don’t seem to be going quite according to plan, and in fact sleep is proving rather elusive at this point.  This, of course, means it’s time for another one of these semi-coherent Fun with Insomnia posts that seem to show up here on these occasions, barely remembered in the morning.  All things considered, I do suppose there are plenty of worse things to wake up to than a semi-coherent late night Blog post.  From what I’ve seen, chronicling the consequences of various people’s all-night drinking binges for the amusement of random strangers seems to have become something of a cottage industry on the Internet over the last couple of years (although judging from how long Maury Povich has been on the air, I’m pretty sure the whole thing is a lot older than we think.)  Besides, my late-night escapades generally tend to be limited to such things as lying awake in bed trying to sleep through some combination of a) uncomfortably warm temperatures (as people who have known me for long enough can attest, my opinions regarding ambient temperature seem to be invalid for… well, pretty much anyone except myself really);  b) worrying about things I probably don’t need to be worrying about in the first place (I seem to have no shortage of these lately); or c) a brain that just doesn’t want to cooperate with anything.  It seems to be one of those things I’ve had to learn to deal with, and something I have to fight on a daily basis. 

For as long as I can remember I’ve been told that I have well above average intelligence, which isn’t generally the type of claim one would tend to dispute.  I mean, how would you even go about disputing a claim like that?   Would you publically claim to be as dumb as at least three or four boxes of rocks?  Usually having an assertion like that made in public requires one to go into politics.  Ihe problem I seem to have with this type of thing is that whenever I try to actually focus on a particular task, frequently my brain tends to generate a lot of static.  I don’t have a problem coming up with ideas.  In fact, I’ve got more of those than I could possibly ever figure out what to do with.  It’s just trying to do anything with any of those ideas that’s the problem.  Being easily distracted probably doesn’t help much with this either.  Either way, it makes it a lot more difficult for me to get things done than I’d really like it to be.  Then again, if I have clearly defined tasks and goals to work with, this tends to be a lot less of a problem.  It’s just getting those tasks and goals together into one place that’s the tricky part.

Anyway, I don’t know what any of this has to do with anything really, but of the various actions I can take which lead to regret in the morning, this is probably one of the milder ones.  It’s also a lot easier to delete too, should the need arise (and given my Blog readership, I suspect that this will end up being read by all of seven people anyway.)  At least this one doesn’t leave any drunken hangover photos for people to stick on Failblog…

August 19, 2010

Some Newspaper That Shouldn’t Be Recycled

Filed under: History, Recycled Newspaper, Redmond — Brian Lutz @ 11:51 am

With the close proximity of my new apartment to the Bellevue Library and its extensive microfilm collection, I have been meaning to get over there more often to do some research and put up some more Recycled Newspaper posts.  Now it turns out that it may not even be necessary to walk the 2 blocks to the library.  Last week, I had a meeting with Nao Hardy of the Redmond Historical Society, where I was able to acquire a copy of her digital archives with all sorts of interesting historic photos and documents from Redmond’s history.  I still haven’t gone through all of this, but I expect that there should be a number of interesting items in this which will eventually find their way here.  Perhaps more interesting (to me at least) is this giant book, which I have been loaned:

This rather large book contains all of the 1979 issues of the Sammamish Valley News (Redmond’s former weekly newspaper) in bound form, and is one of several that were donated to the Historical Society by the King County Library System several years ago.  I haven’t had time to do a whole lot of looking through this, but given the fact that these are the original papers, there should be plenty of interesting material here.  Among the highlights from this year are a lot of coverage of the controversial Evergreen East mall proposed but never built on the site of what eventually became Microsoft campus (you can find some more info on this on this earlier Blog post,) the beginnings of what eventually became a fifteen-year fight over what eventually became Redmond Town Center, and a Mayoral election that ultimately resulted in three-term mayor Selwyn “Bud” Young being voted out of office.  In addition to this, there’s also plenty of the usual local interest stuff, the advertising and the aspect of inadvertent documentary that comes from the most mundane things. 

There is also some degree of responsibility that comes with this, as it needs to be handled carefully.  As far as I am aware, this may be the only physical copy of these papers remaining in existence (I’m not sure if the 1979 issues are in the microfilm) and although they aren’t going to crumble into dust if I look at them funny, I do need to exercise a certain amount of caution while dealing with them.  Pages need to be turned carefully to avoid ripping them (after all, even though it’s all in book form, it’s still newsprint.)  I am told that the binding of these papers is not archival, so at some point further preservation steps will need to be taken.  Ideally, the best way to deal with this would be to digitize it all, but even a single volume of this woud require a significant effort and probably more equipment than I have available.  I’m sure that someone will figure out some way to do this eventually, but for the time being, it looks like I’ll be doing my searching the old-fashioned way.  Naturally, you’ll be seeing the results of this appearing here soon.

August 15, 2010

A Battle of Wits with a Bug

Filed under: Nature, Wanderings — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 12:00 am

Image credit: Roger Smith on Flickr

I suspect that just about anyone who has lived around here for any length of time has probably had a run-in with an uninvited crane fly at some point.  Found mostly in the Summer and occasionally noted with horror as being similar in appearance to  unusually large mosquitoes, crane flies are pretty much harmless (although their larvae are considered to be a pest for their tendency to feed on grass roots, which can result in lawn damage if left unchecked.)  They don’t sting, they don’t bite, (in fact, most species don’t even feed at all upon reaching maturity) don’t spread any diseases, and for the most part they don’t really do much of anything really, except for show up at the most inopportune times and annoy the heck out of you.  They also have an annoying tendency to stick around whether you want them there or not (but when was the last time you actually wanted one of these things around?)

About 15-20 miles past Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 between Easton and Cle Elum there is a ranch/campground owned by the LDS church which is known as Ensign Ranch, and which is frequently the location for overnight activities.  I was attending one such activity last night with a group of single adults.  To be perfectly honest, although I come equipped with most of the basic camping gear when I attend these things, I’ve never been all that great camping.  The one time I got involved with an actual “roughing it” type campout back when I was in the process of flunking out of the Boy Scouts was, in a word, disastrous.  Not quite so much that they had to airlift me out or anything like that, but enough so to put me off the idea of ever doing anything like that for fun, or anything resembling it.  This means that on the rare occasions when I do go camping it’s mostly of the wimpy “car camping” variety.  In this particular case I mean this literally, as I end up sleeping in my car.  I think I may have actually done a Blog post on this a couple of years ago, but to make a long story short, I’ve figured out that when I fold down the front and back seats of my car (the front passenger seat can be folded down flat to basically get it out of the way) and put down one of those self-inflating foam pads I can create a semi-passable  sleeping space in the car.  It’s not exactly the most comfortable thing in the world, but it’s comfortable enough that I am able to actually sleep there.  Being something of a picky sleeper (definitely not by choice) and given the fact that it doesn’t take much to prevent me from being able to sleep at all, this is actually pretty good compared to some of the alternatives.  It also tends to somewhat reduce my chances of being eaten by a bear, something that is pretty much guaranteed to ruin the whole camping trip for everyone (especially the one being eaten by the bear.)

Anyway,  I was setting up this particular sleeping arrangement in my car last night when I found that one of these crane flies had flown into the car, and had decided to hang out on the dome light.  Although I am quite familiar with crane flies (for some reason, the front porch and entryway to my old apartment seemed to attract a fair number of these) and was well aware of their harmless nature, I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the prospect of spending the night with a giant insect hovering ominously overhead.  The obvious solution would be to just smash the thing, but I generally don’t care much for doing so since it makes a mess (and besides, I usually don’t bring along a copy of How To Kille Insects when I go out camping.)  So the next step is to try to shoo the thing out of the car, a task which turns out not be nearly as easy as it might sound.  For one thing, you’re dealing with a bug with a brain roughly the size of the period at the end of this sentence, which doesn’t allow for a whole lot in terms of cognitive power.  A brain of that size generally doesn’t have room for much more than some basic motor skills, a sensory organ or two, some stuff  about mating, sex and egg-laying, and if there’s room left for anything else beyond that (apparently when you’re a big dumb insect whose survival strategy is comprised mostly of making zillions of babies, self-preservation instincts are optional)  it usually gets wasted on something silly like attraction to bright shiny objects.  Such as the dome light of a car that just happens to be out in the middle of nowhere for some odd reason.  What this means to some guy with an annoyingly huge bug in his car is that the blasted thing flies erratically and really, really, REALLY doesn’t want to leave the bright shiny object it’s gotten itself attracted to.  After several failed attempts to corral the fly out the door, the thing  finally appeared to be gone, so I finished setting up for the evening, and a couple of hours later when I was preparing to go to bed, there were no visible bugs in the car, so I completed the evening routine and prepared to go to sleep.

Roughly 10 minutes after turning out the light, I suddenly hear an unmistakable  low buzzing sound near my ear.  Crane flies flap their wings more slowly than most flying insects you might be familiar with do, which creates a much lower sound than what you’d hear from a fly or a smaller insect like a gnat or a mosquito.  Usually this particular buzz is quiet enough that you  can’t hear it, even if the bug is relatively close to you.  This, of course, means that if you CAN hear the buzzing, you’ve got a crane fly much, much closer to your ear than you really want it to be.  This by itself is unnerving enough, but in the couple of milliseconds it takes your brain to process this, any touch stimulus bearing even the faintest of resemblance to that of an insect leg is probably going to be enough to set off a full-blown panic reaction.  As has been outlined above, crane flies don’t really have any way to do any sort of harm to a human, but that certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t get a human to injure themselves in painful yet hilarious fashion.  Not that they’re aware of any of this, of course.  Tiny little insect brains don’t generally allow for much evil scheming (at least that’s what they WANT us to think…)  Fortunately, in my half-awake state at this point I wasn’t exactly in a position to overthink this, and the most convenient answer to the problem at hand seemed to involve a thrown object (in this case, a pillow) in the general direction of the buzzing.  Which then promptly stopped, and remained stopped, at least until I was able to get to sleep.

Upon waking up in the morning, as I began going through the set of  contortions that are required to get dressed inside the car (it’s enough room to sleep in reasonably well, but with all of about three feet of headroom available in this arrangement, it’s kind of a pain to do much more than that) I found, once again, that the crane fly remained, hanging out on the ceiling next to the dome light.  At this point, I had other things to worry about, so I continued dressing and after breakfast, I came back to pack up the car for the trip home, hoping it would fly out one of the open doors and decide to go do something productive with its few precious hours of adult life.  I tell you, bugs these days have no ambition.  Granted, some people have alleged that my car is supposed to be a chick magnet (so far, the empirical evidence seems to suggest otherwise,) but I think that’s only supposed to work on humans, right?  Not that I’d know where one would go to find a cute little girl fly to settle down with for a few minutes and raise a family, but I’m pretty sure that my car is a pretty lousy place for that kind of thing.  Anyway, to make an excessively long story somewhat less excessively long, by the time I finished packing stuff, the crane fly once again appeared to be gone. 

As I made the 70-mile drive back to Bellevue, I forgot all about the little matter, right up until I got back home.  As I was pulling into my parking space, I once again heard the ominous buzzing sound, and saw the crane fly (which had now hitchhiked its way across the mountains) flopping around over by the door.  After getting parked, once again I made an attempt to shoo it out the door as I hauled my stuff out of the car and up to my apartment.  Once again it disappeared, and I thought I could finally put the matter to rest.  Then again, by now you probably know where this is headed…  Sure enough, a couple of hours later as I headed out to run some errands, Craney McNuisance decided to start buzzing around yet again., but this time I was driving at freeway speeds, making it a particularly bad time to be dealing with this type of thing.  Not having a whole lot of other options at this point I rolled down the window in the hopes that the 70 mile-per-hour wind would somehow manage to suck the thing out the window (yeah, by this time it was getting kind of personal, why do you ask?) and once again it disappeared, gone for good…  Or so I thought.  Sure enough, the thing managed to evade this, and at least two more attempts to shoo it out before I was finally able to get the thing to actually fly out the window in some parking lot down in Renton.  By this time, I was thoroughly sick of crane flies, and ended up rolling up all the windows and parking clear on the other side of the lot just to make sure.  And did a walk-around of the car when I returned just to make sure it wasn’t sitting on the door waiting to fly back in when I returned.  I’m pretty sure I saw the blasted thing actually fly away now, but somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if I found it waiting there tomorrow morning…

So that’s pretty much what’s been bugging me lately.  You?

August 11, 2010

Random Thoughts: The Maybe Button

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:43 am

For better or for worse, these days Facebook seems to have become a rather integral part of my social life.  It was one of those things that I tried to avoid for as long as I could, but eventually it just got to the point where practically everyone I know was using it, and eventually I had to join as pretty much the only way to keep up with everyone.  Strewn among the various status updates, photos and notifications from whatever the latest life-sucking Facebook game happens to be (needless to say, these typically get the “hide” button  rather quickly) there are a few event invitations thrown in here and there.  On occasion, there might even be an event that I actually want to attend.  I’m sure for most people it’s not a problem to just go in and say yes or no to some activity, but as you might have noticed by now, it seems I’m not exactly big on commitment (see also: the part where I’m 32 years old and still pretty much just as single as ever.)   Sure that event might look like fun, but who knows what forces of nature will conspire to prevent me from going?  I mean, most people don’t even give a passing thought to the  possibility that a herd of zebras might escape from the zoo and snarl up traffic when  they’re planning these things, thus making travel to and from the event impossible.  This may be due to the fact that the nearest zoo containing any quantity of zebras at all is on the opposite side of the lake, but you can never be too careful, right?  After all, those Zebras mean BUSINESS.

Fortunately for the chronically indecisive among us, Facebook provides a convenient cop-out:  The Maybe button.  Do you want to go to some event, but get the sneaking suspicion you might need to wash your hair that evening?  Just hit the Maybe button.  Worried that your pet goldfish might get lonely?  Maybe button.  Haven’t got a thing to wear (not even one of those barrels that people with nothing to wear seem to magically come up with in spite of the fact that barrels these days probably cost more than actual clothes?)  Just hit the maybe button, and hope nobody calls the cops when you show up naked.  If nothing else you might at least be able to get a free orange jumpsuit out of the deal, right?   You might also get ostracized by your friends and quite possibly even a restraining order or two out of the deal, but that’s just an occupational hazard really.  If making additions to your rap sheet isn’t on your agenda for the evening you can just skip out and nobody will be any wiser (or any more traumatized) for it.   There’s just one problem with all this:  t’s just too convenient.  I’m pretty sure that by now I’ve probably hit the Maybe Button on something like the last 30 events that I’ve attended.  Even the ones that I had every intention of attending.  I’m guessing someone’s probably even managed to turn the whole thing into one of those running jokes that I remain oblivious to by now.

Does this mean I should try to quit doing this type of thing and start providing actual yes or no answers on this stuff?  Well…  Let me get back to you on that one.

August 5, 2010

(This Space Left Intentionally Not Blank)

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 12:23 am

Is it just me, or does it seem like my website traffic actually goes up whenever I don’t write stuff for a while?  It seems like this would provide a great incentive to not write stuff, but since the whole Blog exercise would be kind of pointless without content, I suppose you’ll be stuck with my occasional drivel every once in a while.  Unless for some reason you happen to be visiting the site looking for blank pages, in which case I apologize for disappointing you. 

I’m a bit light on content right now since I’m still in the process of getting stuff settled into the new apartment (I’d say I’m probably about 85% of the way there now.  I finished moving out of the old place on Saturday (with help from my Mom, Dad and sister, which probably made the whole thing a lot less of an ordeal than I would have turned it into)  and most of what’s left is trying to figure out where the heck to put all the stuff I shoved into the nearest convenient corner and forgot about back at the old apartment.  Sure I’ve got a reasonably large walk-in closet that can accommodate some of the stuff, but there just aren’t a whole lot of convenient corners to shove stuff into in this place,.  I’m sure I’ll get this to work out somehow, but something tells me I should probably consider getting a bit less attached to my stuff than I currently am.  I’m quite enjoying the view here though.  My brother (who I don’t get to see nearly enough of) came up to visit with the family last weekend, and when he came to my new place, we ended up messing around with taking some long exposure photos out the window.  I’m still trying to figure out the technique to get these to look good (I probably need to load the CHDK firmware on my camera to get longer exposures to get really good ones, as the camera maxes out at 15 seconds right now) but when I was messing around with this some more last night, I happened to catch a bit of lightning in the sky, as seen in the shot above.  I think some of these shots would be more interesting with more cars on the road (Northbound I-405 was closed when I took this,) but I’m finding that having a view like this brings up all sorts of interesting possibilities.   Once again, I’ll have a bit more on this once I get finished settling into this place and get everything unpacked.

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