The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

October 31, 2010

Scary For All the Wrong Reasons: The First Ever Sledgehammer Halloween Kitsch Roundup

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 2:25 am

Some of my favorite Blog posts that I’ve done on this site have been the ones covering some of the dubious merchandise inflicted upon an unsuspecting populace in the name of the various holidays that occur throughout the course of the year.  Valentine’s Day has been by far the most abundant source of material (read: the biggest offender) but Easter and Christmas have also been rich sources of questionable kitsch as well.  Nonetheless, over the three-plus years that I have been blogging here, the one big candy holiday that has eluded this site has been Halloween.  Part of this is because I really don’t do Halloween for the most part.  Since I grew out of trick-or-treating back when people rode unconvincingly costumed dinosaurs around the neighborhood collecting candy (with about twelve razor blades in each piece, no less)  I have mostly just ignored Halloween, aside from a token annual pumpkin carving session (the results of which usually range from mediocre to disastrous) and the acquisition of a bag or two of candy which, aside from the few pieces that go to the 2 or 3 trick-or-treaters I usually get, usually ends up contributing to what I’m sure is going to be a humongous payout to a dentist someday. 

Nonetheless, anyone who’s been through the Halloween aisles at your friendly neighborhood mega-mart knows that there’s no shortage of dubious Halloween merchandise out there.  If I was so inclined, I could probably get plenty of material out of just the ridiculous costumes they’re trying to pass off these days, but I think I’m just going to skip those.  After making a brief visit to one of the various fly-by-night Halloween stores that seems to pop up around this time of year I concluded that virtually every costume in the store was slutty, and that was just the stuff for guys.  Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) there’s plenty of other Halloween stuff out there that is, as the title of this post implies, scary for all the wrong reasons.  You’ll find the first (and quite possibly last) ever Sledgehammer Halloween Kitsch Roundup after the jump.


October 28, 2010

Random Thoughts: Quitting, and the Deadly Tunnel of Elevator Music

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 12:50 am

I’m currently in the process of putting together the Halloween Kitsch Roundup post which, given the impending arrival of Halloween, should be posted by the end of the week or the whole thing is going to turn out to be a rather pointless exercise.  In the meantime, here’s a few random thoughts from the past couple of  weeks:

  • It’s a rather odd feeling to find yourself quitting a perfectly good job after you’ve only been there for a week and a half, especially since I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to voluntarily quit a job in quite a long time.  In retrospect, there was one job that I really should have quit long before I was mercifully shown the door (the tech support job from which much of my material for Sledgehammer 1.0 and much of my cynicism toward my fellow man came) and a couple which I probably would have considered quitting if not for the fact that there weren’t a lot of better alternatives available at the time, but most of the time I would either hit the mandatory 100-day break in service Microsoft imposes on contractors or I’d be informed with little to no notice that my contract was coming to an end.  You’d think after all the times I’ve had to deal with the latter situation I wouldn’t feel guilty about being the one to quit a contract (with the standard two-week notice) but to be honest it’s a situation that I’d rather avoid if possible.  Nonetheless, sometimes the choice ends up being between a good thing and a better thing, and this is one of those times.  I’ll discuss it in a bit more detail in a future post, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve received a very generous full-time offer that not only lets me finally get away from contracting, but also reduces my daily commute to an easy 2 1/2 block walk.  I have nothing against the team or the company I’ve been working for, and would gladly remain here for some time under different circumstances, but this opportunity is just too good to pass up.
  • In the meantime, I’m still on the above mentioned contract for another week and a half.  As you might have seen last week, I’ve already written a previous post talking about some of the gastric misadventures I’ve encountered in the culinary Purgatory known as the Columbia Center food court.  In spite of my better judgment I have attempted several more meals there over the past few days.  I’m not trying to say that there’s anything particularly wrong with the place, but so far every lunch I have had there has in one way or another turned out, well…  disastrous.  The Chicken Tikka Masala from the Indian place seemed reasonable enough, but led to some rather interesting (for lack of a better word) gastric consequences on the opposite end.  Even the chain restaurants in the building seem to just be somehow off.  Fortunately there’s plenty of decent alternatives in the surrounding neighborhood, which is a good thing because if there weren’t I’d probably have to live off smoothies (the one thing I’ve had here that hasn’t been messed up yet) for the next couple of weeks.

  • And it’s not just the food court that seems a little off in this building either.  What you see above is another of Columbia Center’s dubious features, a little corridor that I have dubbed the Deadly Tunnel of Elevator Music.  It’s a tunnel that runs under Fifth Avenue and connects Columbia Center to the Seattle Municipal Building and the Bank of America Fifth Avenue Tower across the street, and as the name implies, it’s full of blaringly loud elevator music.  Well, maybe not actual elevator music (can you even get real elevator music anywhere these days?) but it’s the type of unrelentingly generic jazzlike substance that would certainly feel right at home in one of Otis’ finest.  In addition to the music, the glass panels you see on the walls have lights behind them that fade on and off at pseudo-random intervals that I’m guessing are supposed to be artistic in one form or another, but mostly serve to make it look like there’s some sort of unresolved wiring issue that someone’s too lazy to bother fixing.  Given the alternatives, if I had to go across to one of the other buildings I’d take my chances with the crosswalks.  They’ve got to be less dangerous.

  • Then there’s this painting in the portion of the building’s lobby which is occupied by the bank branch.  Apparently it depicts the 43rd annual running of the world-famous Regatta of Suspiciously Identical Sailboats.  Either that, or someone’s over in Bank of America’s decorating department has been buying artwork by the square yard again.

  • Finally, as I’ve been commuting into downtown Seattle on a daily basis again, I’ve noticed a bit of an odd phenomenon as I ride on these escalators in and out of the Pioneer Square station of the bus tunnel.  Unlike most of the escalators in the bus tunnel that can accommodate people two wide, these ones are only wide enough for one person at a time.  They are also, as you can see, quite long.  This means that if you just stand there and ride up it can take quite a long time to reach the top.  It also means that if you do so, there’s a good chance that you’ll be holding up quite a few people behind you who might otherwise be walking up the steps to get to the top more quickly.  As I’ve ridden up this escalator, I’ve noticed that quite often ifr you start walking up the stairs you can get the people who are behind you to start walking up too, regardless of what their intent might have otherwise been.  By the same token, if someone starts walking up the steps in front of you, there’s a certain pressure to start walking up yourself, lest you end up being the one who’s holding everyone else (who otherwise probably wouldn’t have cared either way) up.  It’s an interesting little phenomenon, but is probably of little practical use.

  • Finally, since I had originally intended to turn this into a photo dump post as well before I got sidetracked, I’ll throw out this nice little pricetag fail that I saw a few weeks ago at Fry’s.  Everyone’s a critic, I guess.

October 27, 2010

Yes, I Still Play With Blocks.

Filed under: Games — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:38 am

As far as toys go, you can’t get much simpler than a set of blocks.  Whether it’s the classic set of wooden blocks or the now equally ubiquitous Legos, it would be almost impossible to find some person who hasn’t played with blocks at some point in their childhood.  In fact, some people never seem to grow out of it.  After all, someone has to be buying those humongous $400 Lego Imperial Star Destroyers and Death Stars, and I’m pretty sure it’s not kids saving up their allowances.  In fact, there is a significant community of adult Lego fans who, thanks to years of experience and much bigger budgets for parts acquisition, build some thoroughly ridiculous stuff.  I do keep a small container of Legos around on my desk to use for a little bit of messing around, but quite frankly, even my best efforts are thoroughly amateurish compared to what some of these people are pulling off.  Every once in a while I’ll wander through the Lego shop at Bellevue Square and see some set that looks like it would be fun to put together, but I have a tendency to get about halfway into things like that, lose some critical piece or lose interest, and leave the rest untouched for some indefinite period of time before finally getting rid of the thing.  Combined with the fact that these days I don’t exactly have a whole lot of space in my apartment for such things, I find it’s best to just skip the stuff.  Then again, who says you need actual blocks?

If you spend any significant amount of time reading the various game Blogs on the Internet, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Minecraft by now.  There’s also a pretty decent chance that if you’ve heard of Minecraft, you’ve either spent way too much time messing around with it by now, or you just can’t figure out why anyone even bothers with it in the first place.  In a nutshell, Minecraft is a game which has so far been built by one person (who, thanks to the runaway success of the project so far, is now adding more people to the project) which basically puts you down in the middle of a procedurally generated world with nothing, and through a combination of exploring, crafting, digging and building you can go from punching trees with your bare hands to harvest wood to building your own tools, finding resources underground, and eventually building pretty much whatever you can think of.  You do have to watch out for various enemies that will come out of the dark and attack you if given the opportunity to do so, and as you might be able to tell from the screenshot above it’s all pretty blocky, but the game (at least in its current form) does away with pesky things like environmental impact statements and gravity, and lets you build all sorts of cool stuff. 

The tower you see above was built within a matter of roughly an hour, including collection of materials and crafting the necessary parts.   Given the fact that everything is basically built out of big blocks of approximately a cubic meter apiece there isn’t room to get too detailed with things, but given enough blocks and enough space (which, given the fact that the theoretical maximum size for a Minecraft world is roughly four times the size of the Earth, shouldn’t be much of an issue) you can build just about anything you can think of.  A number of people from an e-mail alias I probably spent way too much time on back in my Microsoft days (it’s been less than a year since I last worked at Microsoft, but it seems like it’s been ages)  have started their own multiplayer Minecraft server, and over the course of roughly a month that the server has been up, people have built entire mountains entirely out of glass, turned old in-jokes from the alias into humongous statues, created an extensive network of roadways and pathways all hovering ominously ten stories off the ground, and basically built their own little world (and just about burned the place down in the process, but that’s another story.)  I’m a bit late to the party compared to some people, but once I managed to get an issue sorted out that was preventing me from building anything without getting booted from the server, I’ve been working on establishing my own little spot on the server.  So far, my major contribution has been this lighthouse.

My next project at this point is to get rid of the inconvenient mountain currently located underneath it and make it float  in mid-air.  Ominously, of course.  After all, has anything that big ever floated in mid-air and not been ominous in the process?  Selective interpretations of the Laws of Physics make things like that pretty easy to pull off actually.  All you need is the patience to spend about an hour or two in otherwise unproductive digging.  Of course, this is small potatoes compared to what other people have been building (in fact, just off in the distance beyond all that fog lies a rather impressive floating castle that’s about twenty times larger than my puny little lighthouse.  Then again, it’s actually pretty quick to put stuff together in Minecraft as long as you have the resources to do it.  Perhaps Minecraft’s runaway popularity can be explained by the fact that there’s a lot of people out there who, in spite of claiming otherwise, never really grew out of playing with blocks, but the demands of adulthood have prevented them from being able to do so in any self-respecting fashion.  Not to say that there’s anything wrong with playing with blocks of course.  Maybe if I’d hurry up and get married and have a kid or two I might even get the chance to do so.

Oh, and since I happen to have it handy, I might as well throw in a quick night shot  of the lighthouse too.

October 21, 2010

Scrambled Brains and a Side of Hash Browns

Filed under: Food, Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:58 am

As you might be able to tell from the picture I’ve been hanging out at Denny’s again, which usually only happens when I either completely forget why it is that I don’t go there all that often, or when I’m feeling a bit on the scatterbrained side.  Usually visiting for the latter reason is sufficient to remind me of the former, but yet somehow I still seem to end up there every once in a while, and every time I do I end up wondering why I did that.  Still, in some peculiar fashion, late at night there seems to be a certain quiet solitude to a virtually empty restaurant that makes it a surprisingly good (if not entirely healthy) place to get away from things for a bit.  Sure, I could get all the peace and quiet I could possibly want here in my apartment (road noise from 405 and the occasional ambulance notwithstanding,) but sometimes you and your brain just need to get a disinterested third party involved to sort things out.  And yes, there are just those times when you need breakfast at 10:30pm, or when you just feel like grabbing a slice of pie with that peculiar fresh-off-the-Sysco-truck flavor. 

As for why it is that I’m ending up at Denny’s, there’s a lot I have going on right now, and it’s taking a bit of effort to sort it all out mentally.  I’m going to refrain from discussing any of the details until I get things finalized, but I will say that things are definitely looking up right now.  At the same time, this does mean that I’m probably about to get a whole lot busier than I’ve been for the last little while, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  In the meantime I’ve been commuting across the lake into Seattle on a daily basis again, albeit a bit closer to the heart of downtown than I’ve been working in previously (Columbia Center, to be precise.)  Even though I’m only a few blocks from where I was over at Teleca, it feels like a completely different place.  If I had to describe it, I’d have to say that it all seems just a bit sterile in comparison to being in Pioneer Square, and I don’t mean that in the hospital sense either. 

One of the main features of Columbia Center (aside from being the tallest building in Washington, and the second tallest on the West Coast) is that it has a rather large food court covering its entire first floor and most of the second and third floors as well.  There’s just one problem with it:  There’s not a lot to eat there.  Sure you have the usual suspects (oddly enough, there’s only two Starbucks in the building, although one is one of the “Original” Starbucks stores and the other is on the 40th floor) and you have about half a zillion different places to grab a sandwich as well as quite a few different ethnic cuisines being represented here, but for some reason the whole entire place just comes across as being unrelentingly generic for some reason.  Earlier this week, one eatery in the place that shall remain nameless served up a corned beef sandwich that somehow managed to be completely, totally and utterly flavorless, which seems like a virtually impossible task.  I mean, they’re using corned freakin’ beef for heaven’s sake, even my inept mishandling of the stuff on my one ill-fated attempt at preparing it was still vaguely recognizable as such by the time I was done mangling it (yeah, it might have been stringy as heck and slathered in some nonspecific goo may have at some point been cabbage, but it definitely wasn’t flavorless.)  Seriously, I think I’ve eaten modeling compounds with more flavor than that stuff.  Needless to say, between my disappointing dining experiences and relatively convenient access to the ridiculously superior Tat’strami sandwich a few blocks away, I doubt I’ll be back anytime soon.

I’m sure if I spent enough time going through the various eateries in the building and trying things I’d eventually find something remotely edible, but I doubt I’m going to be around long enough (or motivated enough for that matter) to do so.  Once again, more details on that coming later.

October 18, 2010

Just Remember That It’s a Grand Illusion

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:40 am

(Note:  I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts folder for quite a while now, as I had originally intended to post this shortly after returning from my Disneyland trip in May.  I just haven’t been able to figure out how to finish it up until now.)

Since its  disastrous (even by Disney’s own accounts) opening day in July of 1955,  Disneyland has seen over 600 million visitors cross through its turnstiles.  Sports stars with hastily constructed endorsement deals can’t wait to get there after major victories, but Soviet leaders can’t get there at all (Nikita Kruschev was famously denied a visit to Disneyland  when he visited the US in 1959.)  With nearly 17 million visitors in 2009, Disneyland is the second most visited theme park in the world, although in a somewhat ironic twist, #1 is the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, a park which is in many ways an imitation of Disneyland (although the Magic Kingdom does have its own merits as well.)  So what draws the people to these parks? 

As anyone who has been there can attest, as a pair of amusement parks, the Disneyland Resort isn’t the type of place people go expecting thrills.  Although it could be said that California Adventure has a couple of bonafide thrill rides in California Screamin’ and the Tower of Terror (and the case could probably be made for Space Mountain and  Splash Mountain over in Disneyland as well,) even those are relatively tame compared to the more extreme coaster offerings at a place like Magic Mountain or Cedar Point.  For that matter, even Wild Waves, the Seattle metro area’s token theme park offering, seems to rival the Disneyland Resort in quantity of thrill rides (although, to be fair, “Thrill” may be a generous assessment for some of the stuff there, as noted in my previous post on the subject.)  And yet, in spite of this, the Disney parks are constantly among the most attended parks in the world (as anyone who has ever had all those attendees in front of them in the line for Space Mountain can probably attest. )

So if people aren’t coming to Disneyland for the thrills, what are they coming for?  Well, the simple (and probably official answer if I bothered trying to acquire one) to that question would likely have something to do with “Magic.”  Surely by now half of the sentient creatures on this planet have spent much of their childhoods subjected to images of Tinkerbell flittering around Sleeping Beauty Castle wielding an enchanted magic wand of sparkleizing (+2 for the D&D nerds), but in most cases it’s a lot more subtle than that.  Where Disney truly stands out from the rest of the competition is in their theming.  Within the parks, it seems that they have found ways to theme even the most mundane of objects, and the attention paid to detail is far beyond what you’re going to find in most other parks.  At the same time this can also come across as being contrived (after all, no amount of fancy theming is going to convince anyone that McDonald’s food is anything besides McDonald’s food) but still, it’s undeniable that when Disney gets a hold of a concept, they’ll go as far as they possibly can.  

This doesn’t stop when a ride has been designed, built and opened either.  The Imagineers are constantly taking advantage of whatever new technologies they can to tweak and improve rides and shows throughout the parks.  Tn fact, they’ve got guys in Imagineering these days whose job consists entirely of adding little tweaks and enhancements to existing rides and shows.  Some of these changes are significant (like the recent additions of classic Disney characters to the It’s a Small World ride or the slightly dubious retconning of Jack Sparrow into the Pirates of the Caribbean ride)  but most of these changes are more subtle things like upgraded animatronic figures and improved effects that aren’t likely to get much attention, but still add to the experience.  Because of all these changes, most people who visit Disneyland on a relatively infrequent basis can expect to find significant changes between their visits.  But when all is said and done, what is the goal of all of this tweaking and tinkering ? To not be noticed, of course.

Obviously when one considers the people who make the investment of time and money required for a trip to Disneyland, there is an expectation that they will be bringing at least some degree of willing suspension of disbelief along with them.  After all, people generally go to a place like the Disneyland resort expecting to be entertained, and for most people (especially children) there’s an added (and largely tolerated) dimension of willing belief that comes from not knowing any better (a Santa Claus/Tooth Fairy situation, if you will.)  And as is inevitably the case with other such mythical creatures, eventually the realization comes that Mickey is, in fact, someone in a costume.  An incredibly elaborate costume, but a costume nonetheless.  Sure, most of us do a pretty good job of maintaining the illusion of the whole thing for the enjoyment of the children who may be along for the ride, but try as we might, there comes a point where you just can’t deny that it’s all fake.

Of course this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it, but it does create an entirely different perspective on things.  For one thing, it tends to make flaws stand out a lot more than they would otherwise.  On my most recent Disneyland visit, I’d say the most glaringly obvious example I saw of this was on rides like the Haunted Mansion and Indiana Jones Adventure where DLP projectors are now used to show animations for things like Madame Leota’s face and the singing busts in the graveyard (these serve as replacements for older film-based projection systems for the same effects, presumably adding a lot more reliability in the long run.)  For the most part the effect works quite well, but there’s a well-known issue known in DLP systems known as the “Rainbow Effect” that, through a combination of spinning color wheels and persistence of vision, can cause an image to momentarily “split” into its red, green and blue components if the viewer’s eyes are moving quickly past it.  Most people who ride those particular rides probably wouldn’t be bothered by a little thing like that, but for someone with at least a basic understanding of the technology involved and knowledge of that specific issue in particular, it immediately turns into a major distraction and an immersion breaker.  Again, this doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it, but the tendency of the reticular activating system* in the Human brain is to focus inordinately on the flaws once it’s spotted one. 

If you happen to be an Imagineer, chances are that you’re well aware of this situation, and have probably spent plenty of time trying to work around it.  Obviously no amount of pixie dust is going to convince some people that they aren’t looking at a carefully devised illusion.  So what do you do?  In this case, the best you can hope for is to be able to create something and have people not be able to figure out how it was done.  And I do have to say that for at least the first time I rode it, this was true of the Tower of Terror.  The problem is that even if you can fool people once or twice, there’s just too many sources of information available to the general public these days, so it’s virtually impossible to maintain even that level of disbelief for long.  Even so, the ultimate measure of success or failure for a ride or a show is going to be one thing:  How much the guests enjoy it.

Then again, maybe there’s a completely different approach that would work here.  If you can’t convince people to suspend disbelief for your carefully devised fantasies, why not try giving them something they CAN believe in?  I’ll have more on this in the next post, coming (hopefully) later this week.

Update 11/12/10:  The promised followup to this post can be found here:

The Magic of Real Things

*One of the few things I can still remember from a college class on group communication that I think I mostly slept through.  And, as such, probably a case in point as well.

October 13, 2010

An Even Cleaner Desk is the Sign of an Even Sicker Mind.

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 10:51 pm

As I’ve discussed previously, the recent move from a two bedroom apartment to a smaller one bedroom apartment resulted in the need to get rid of a fair bit of stuff.  Technically my current place isn’t that much smaller than the old one (about 50 square feet less,) but the amount of storage space I have available here is quite a bit less than I had previously, hence the need to get rid of quite a few things before I moved.  This included the huge desk that I used to have.  Those of you who have been reading this Blog long enough may recall a post some time ago about my old desk, which was a huge Ikea Galant corner unit with two extensions, and provided roughly seven acres of flat surface on which to place things.  Judging from the fact that most of the time the portions of the desk not directly around the computer would frequently accumulate large quantities of random junk, this wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

At the time of the move, my plan was to get a smaller version of my old desk that was more in line with the size of the new apartment, and to use the small work table (previously used as a workbench for my RC car in the old apartment) as a temporary computer desk until I could get around to getting the new one set up.  In theory that’s how it was supposed to work, but now it seems that my “Temporary” desk is turning out to be not quite as temporary as I would like.  This isn’t because I’ve been putting off the purchase of the new desk.  In fact, I bought the new desk (a smaller version of my old one) just a couple of weeks after I moved in.  Mostly this is just a matter of not having found the proper amount of time and/or motivation required to actually get the move from one desk to the other completed, but at the same time, I’m starting to think that maybe I don’t really need such a big desk after all. 

Since I’ve been using this small table for my computer, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot less clutter to go around, if for no other reason than the fact that there’s nowhere for the clutter to go.  Sure, there’s a few papers and other things here and there, but for the most part I can actually manage to maintain some semblance of a clean desk if I don’t have much in the way of a desk to maintain.  Even on the old desk I was able to maintain a bit of a buffer zone around the computer to provide enough room for whatever non computing tasks I might be performing at the desk, but that was mostly accomplished by shoving stuff out of the way when necessary, which probably contributed greatly to the clutter of the desk.  If I tried that with this particular desk I’d end up with a big pile of stuff on the floor.  Assuming, of course, that I had space on the floor for it, which I really don’t. 

This isn’t to say that I don’t have space issues in my new place compared to my old one (I’d say I have probably around 2-3 more storage bins full of stuff than I really have a good place to put them at this point) but as counterintuitive as it sounds, it seems that in some ways having less space almost makes it easier to keep things organized.  Another example of this is laundry.  In my old apartment I had a bad habit of letting piles of clean unfolded laundry accumulate for far longer than I really should have.  I have been a lot better about keeping this under control in my new place, mostly because there’s just not anywhere to put a big pile of laundry here.  There is the slight issue of not having quite enough room in the dresser to keep everything unless I keep roughly a hamper full of laundry out of it, but all in all, I’ve found it a bit easier to keep that particular trouble spot for clutter in check as well.  I’m sure someone out there has done research on this subject and has some sort of obtuse scientific hypothesis that can be used to explain this effect, but if I had to guess, I’d say the whole thing probably boils down to the fact that try as you might, you just can’t put stuff into space that does not exist. 

Oh, and the big table that I’m supposed to be using as my desk?  It’s mostly sitting around accumulating random stuff.  Old habits die hard, I guess.

October 7, 2010

Random Thoughts: Falling Into Fall, Going for a Swim

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 12:30 am

As usually seems to be the case when I write these things, I once again offer apologies for the lack of much posting lately.  Although I’ve been dealing with a number of issues, the primary one being that I have once again found myself looking for a job, although I’m hoping to have that situation resolved again shortly.  The truth of the matter is that for the most part, I’ve just been a really really boring person lately.  I’ve got some stuff I’ve been working on (including a Halloween kitsch roundup, which I haven’t ever done here mostly because I usually just skip Halloween) and there’s the usual detritus that tends to get reserved for the photo dump posts, but in terms of coming up with vaguely interesting stuff to write about, I’ve mostly been drawing a blank lately.  Oh, and there’s also the fact that I’m probably spending too much of my free time lately messing around with Minecraft, a ridiculously addictive little indie game that puts you in a big blocky world where you can mine for materials underground and use it to build all sorts of cool structures (I’ll probably be talking about a little bit more about that in some future posts.)  In the meantime, I’ll throw up a couple of semi-coherent thoughts to try to keep the cobwebs to a minimum.


Even though I haven’t quite relegated the shorts and the sandals to the back of the closet just yet, it’s pretty clear that Fall is settling in on the land.  As I’ve discussed before in a post I did here a couple of years ago (link), You don’t just wake up one day and find that all of the leaves on the trees have turned yellow.  It’s all a rather gradual process, and so far most of the trees are just barely beginning to turn.  Sure, you get a few types of trees that seem anxious to get the whole abscission mess out of the way as quick as possible so they can get a head start on the Winter of dormancy, but most trees seem to linger on for a while, dropping off a few leaves here and there until they eventually run out.  People, on the other hand, seem to be largely indifferent to the advent of Fall on the calendar.  Both Summer and Winter have their various sets of fans, and most people tend to welcome the presence of Spring (mostly because they’re starting to get really sick of Winter by that time,) but I think you’d be hard pressed to find too many Fall enthusiasts out there.  Sure, you do have Halloween and Thanksgiving to look forward to, the electric bills usually go down for a couple of months since you usually need a lot less heating and cooling, and you do have to admit that the Fall foliage is nice to look at while it’s around, but aside from a small group of corn maze and pumpkin patch enthusiasts, I don’t think you’re going to find a whole lot of people out there who look forward to the coming of Fall.  I suspect most people tend to spend their Fall either dreading the impending return of Winter or wishing that it would just hurry up and get here already.  Either way, the combination of comparatively mild winters (although the predictions are calling for a colder than usual Winter here this year, and possibly more than our usual share of severe weather) and generally crummy November weather around here means that most of the Fall is pretty much indistinguishable from Winter anyway.  Either way, all I know is that we’ve got quite a way to go before Spring shows up.

Then again, one of the nicer perks of my current Downtown Bellevue residence is the fact that it includes an indoor pool, which allows at least one typical Summer activity to take place outside of the Summer months.  Based on my observations when I was searching for apartments in Downtown, a pool actually seems to be much more the exception than the rule around Downtown.  At more than one place I was told that the lack of a pool was considered “Green”.  While I can see the water usage and energy costs being a factor, it almost sounds like an excuse when it’s put that way (I tend to be a bit skeptical about the whole “Green” movement anyway, so take that with the appropriate grain of salt.)  Other places just don’t seem to have the space to put one anywhere, and just don’t bring the subject up.  My previous apartment complex had a pool as well, but as is the case with the vast majority of these, it was an outdoor pool, which meant that it was really only usable for three months out of the year.  And of course, anytime the weather was hot enough to warrant swimming, practically everybody else in the complex got the same idea at the same time, meaning that the pool would be full of kids.  As a single guy, this makes it especially difficult to find a decent time to go for a swim.  I’m reasonably certain that I don’t look too suspicious, but there seems to be enough paranoia about that type of thing these days that someone would probably have an issue with it.  All in all, this meant that I was rarely able to go swimming there.  In fact, I’ve probably gone swimming more times already at the pool here than I did at the old place. 

Interestingly enough, when I’ve been swimming here, I’ve noticed a bit of an interesting phenomenon.  For the most part, I rarely see other people using the pool, at least during the times that I’m there.  What I do see is that when I’m swimming, quite often a couple of  people will come into the pool area, show off the pool to someone, then walk out.  I’ll usually be hanging out at the other end of the pool while they’re doing this so I can’t necessarily hear their conversations, but the impression I seem to get is that people seem to look at a pool in a place like this as more of a curiosity than as a functioning pool.  This makes no sense to me because it is actually quite a nice pool, and although it’s a little shallower than most pools of that size (they have to allow for commercial space on the floor below) it’s still nice to be able to go swimming whenever I want.  And in at least some small way, it should hopefully make the Winter a bit more tolerable.

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