The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

January 31, 2011

Leaving Nothing to Chance

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 2:02 am

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few days now, but I’m just now getting around to it.  Although I tend to use my Blog mostly as a forum to blather in public about nothing in particular, it does also serve the purpose of acting on occasion as a personal journal in which I can write down things that I feel need to be preserved, and this is one of those instances.  My hope is that eventually the contents of this Blog will be preserved in some form that will allow any future offspring that I may someday produce (assuming I can manage at some point to stop being so freakin’ single all the time) to have some record.  I suspect that this will serve either to make them a) think that Grandpa Brian was out of his flippin’ mind or b) maybe learn a few lessons and stop making the same stupid mistakes I do on a regular basis, but at the same time, when interesting things happen, I do want to keep a record of those as well.  This is the story of an interesting incident that happened about a week ago, which I feel needs to be shared  With exactly who I don’t know, but I feel it needs to be shared nonetheless.

As I’ve discussed a number of times here, through a fortuitous series of events, about three months ago I ended up with a job that has me working approximately 2 1/2 blocks from home, which means that I can easily walk to work.  On an average day it takes me about 10-15 minutes to get to the office, give or take a couple for the timing of the crosswalk signals and the elevators.  Given the fact that I have to cross the same streets each day to get there, I find that my route to and from work can vary a bit, but still follows the same general path.  One thing that I’ve noted recently though is that the NE 8th and 110th intersection seems to attract an abnormally large number of people trying to cross it in, to put it diplomatically, interesting ways.  I’ve seen people dashing across the road as the light was turning yellow, sauntering across the road as the light was turning yellow, just plain crossing into the direction of oncoming traffic…  Add to that the fact that occasionally one of the crossing signals seems to be napping on the job and delays putting up the walk signal after the green light or ignores it completely, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if something happened here.  All in all, it doesn’t exactly seem like the safest intersection in the world, so I make sure to wait for the walk signals before crossing (as do most people, save the aforementioned random lunatics.)

It’s this unpredictability with the signals that, in a bit of an unusual roundabout way, led to an interesting set of circumstances a couple of weeks ago that was just far too coincidental for me to believe that it was random.  On Friday night I was walking home from work by the normal path that I took when I reached this intersection, and as described above, the walk signal on the southern crosswalk was delayed by about fifteen seconds after the light turned green for the eastbound traffic.  When the walk signal came on, a car that was making a right turn here from NE 8th stopped to let the pedestrian (me) go, but as the driver of this car stopped, another car couldn’t stop in time and clipped its left rear fender (it was too dark to really see it, but the damage looked minor.)  After a second or so, the car remained stopped, so I continued crossing  the street.  There was someone else at the corner who wasn’t crossing there so there was a witness, so I figured they’d have someone to take care of it.  After I crossed the other crosswalk, I looked back and thought I should at least check on them and see if they need any assistance, so I went back to the intersection, crossed again, but by the time I got back across, I couldn’t find the car that had been hit.  I’m not sure if there’s anything I could have done in the first place, but I figured I should at least check.

Anyway, this little detour to try to find the car that had been hit had diverted me from my normal route home.  The quickest route from where I was involved cutting through the Bravern, which leads out to the intersection of NE 8th and 112th, just about right next to the building and the elevator I take up to my apartment.  As soon as I reached this intersection and was waiting for this crosswalk, I happened to run across a friend of mine from my former Singles Ward at church who I hadn’t seen in quite a while.  As it turned out, the reason he was there was that about an hour earlier his car had broken down in the middle of 405 and blocked traffic for some time, and he had to have it towed to the Nissan dealer near my apartment.  When I met him, he was in the process of walking up to the Transit Center to try to get a bus back to his apartment in Kirkland.   Since I was right next to my apartment and didn’t have anywhere I needed to be at the time, I was able to offer him a ride back to his place, and hopefully make a bad situation a little bit better in the process.

As I look back on that unusual set of circumstances which, in a roundabout way, led me to a situation in which I could be of assistance, I just can’t believe that something like this would occur at random.  There’s just too much coincidence involved for this to be coincidental.  After all, if not for the fender-bender that happened at the crosswalk, I would have just taken the usual path I take to my apartment and wouldn’t have been where I needed to be.  In order for this to happen, I needed to somehow be diverted.  Usually I suspect this can be accomplished by something a bit more subtle than a fender-bender, but I have an occasional tendency to be stubborn about this type of thing.  I also needed to be somehow delayed, otherwise I wouldn’t have been in the right place at the right time.  There’s just too many things that had to happen to bring this about, and I suspect that the odds of all these things happening by pure chance alone would be quite slim and bordering on impossible. 

As some of you may know, I am a member of the LDS Church, and one of our church’s beliefs is that each of us is, as long as we remain worthy of it, entitled to the companionship of the Holy Ghost to provide help and guidance, and to provide warnings of impending dangers such that they may be avoided.  There are also numerous stories of miraculous occurrences in various forms, but those tend to be rare, and often considered too sacred to discuss publicly by those who have been their recipients.  While I believe that miracles do happen, as we’re all trying to make it through the assorted trials and tribulations of mortality in one piece, oftentimes what we need is something a bit more mundane, be it an occasional helping hand or some assistance with some task you can’t complete on your own.  Members of our church are frequently called upon to provide service to others, either formally through the various organizations of the church  (one of the major factors that distinguishes the LDS church from many others is the lack of a paid ministry, and the fact that most of the functions of the church are performed by members of the congregation called by their local leaders) or informally on an ad hoc basis depending on whatever needs may arise.  I do have to admit that sometimes I can be far from a shining example to others, and that I’ve been known to make the sane dumb mistakes over and over, but I do believe at the same time that things happen for a reason, and that this particular incident was an example of this.  Many times I’ve found that one way or another things always seem to work out (although, as I’m sure I’ve said before, over the course of the past year I’ve found that they’ve been happening in the “or another” category a lot more than I’m used to) and that even if I’m not necessarily expecting it, there are times when I may be the inadvertent solution to someone’s problems. 

I can’t say that I know for sure how things happen or why they happen, but I do know that when things like this do happen, they don’t happen at random.

January 25, 2011

I Can’t Complain, But Sometimes I Still Do

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:31 am

Unlike Joe Walsh, who sang the song Life’s Been Good from which the title of this post comes from (which still gets played roughly once every 73 minutes or so on KZOK,) I’m not exactly living the life of an overly monied rockstar or anything like that, but I find that the sentiment of the quoted song lyric still applies.  I really have very little to complain about in my life right now, and yet, every once in a while, I find it necessary to let a petty grievance or two fly.  I don’t expect that complaining about any of this stuff will actually accomplish anything (it rarely does,) but at least it provides an excuse to snark in a public forum (and at the same time probably make people wish I’d just shut up already.)  So, without further ado, some collected rantings from the past week or so.

To: Ampco System Parking, Bellevue WA
Re:  Parking Violation Number 61801084

 A few days ago, upon returning to my car parked in the garage of my apartment building after a day’s absence, I found that a violation notice had been affixed to the windshield, indicating that it had exceeded the customary three-hour limitation on parking in that location.  I will freely admit that my car was, in fact, parked in that particular location for more than three hours at the time.  If I recall correctly, it had not moved from that particular spot in over two days at the time the citation was issued.  In fact, my car had spent the better part of, oh, about the last six months or so in that particular spot, having been assigned to park there (well, not that particular spot, but that particular level of the parking garage) by apartment management when I moved into the building, and having been provided a permit to park in that location (a fact that seems to have been neglected in the issuance of the citation in question.) 

As a resident of this building, it would seem that I would have a vested interest in keeping the parking garage as free of assorted riff-raff, miscreants and malcontents as possible, and given the urban nature of this location I can see the need for judicious parking enforcement toward this end.  Although I do have to admit to a lengthy history of driving disreputable vehicles, I would like to believe that my current car is not one of these.  In fact, it has been nearly six years since I was last suspected of living in my vehicle, and with any luck, I should be able to keep that particular streak going throughout the foreseeable future.  The relative merits of my current choice of transportation aside, the fact remains that after six months of parking in the same relative location it seems just a bit arbitrary to decide to issue a parking fine. 

Nonetheless, the violation notice makes it abundantly clear that a massive wall of bureaucracy stands in front of any appeals process (if such a thing even exists,)  Given the language of the notice, I’m led to suspect that the words “Pay up sucker” were most likely redacted by some lawyer at some stage in the design process, but the sentement seems to remain.  Apartment management has, for their part, taken steps to prevent this from happening again by providing a specific assigned spot down in the lower levels of the garage behind the security gate for me to park in, but is unable to do anything about the violation.  Therefore, since banging my head repeatedly against the wall is a habit that I am currently trying to break, the forty dollar fine specified on the violation has been remitted as specified.  Not without complaint, as evidenced by the prior contents of this missive, but remitted nonetheless.

Don’t spend it all in one place.

To:  Redbox
Re:  Transaction number 958172193

As anyone who knows me can attest to, I have a notoriously short attention span, which makes it difficult for me to sit down and watch movies, no matter how interesting they may or may not be.  This fact has largely precluded me from making use of the various DVD rental kiosks you have placed throughout the area.  Even so, I have recently noted that video games have been added to a number of the local Redbox kiosks.  In theory, this seems like a great idea, a way to extend your services to an entirely new generation of couch potatoes with limited disposable income.  Unfortunately, the implementation of this particular service seems to be lacking.  On the few occasions that I have checked the local kiosks for games to rent, I have found that the available selections tend to fall into one of three categories:

  1. Games I already have in my collection;
  2. Games I don’t really want to play;
  3. Miscellaneous Wii shovelware (see item #2).

So when I found a recently released game in a Redbox kiosk recently that I actually had some vague interest in playing, it came as a bit of a shock.  So, after navigating through the rental process (and spending far more time than I should have on correcting errors generated by the wonky touchscreen keyboard,) I was able to leave with a copy of LittleBigPlanet 2 for PS3.  Putting aside the relative merits of that particular game for a minute (I’m sure that some people out there would have fun with that one, I just don’t think I’m one of them) I would like to say that the return process for the disc was painless, but quite frankly, it wasn’t.  To make a long story short, finding a Redbox kiosk to return the disc to required going to three different locations and an unnecessary 20 minutes of wading through rush-hour traffic.  The first kiosk was out-of-order, the second was full and unable to accept returns, and when I finally found a third kiosk some distance away that I could return the disc to, there was a family there that seemed to be in the process of planning their next three months worth of movie viewing, requiring roughly an eternity or two of additional waiting before I could finally return the disc. 

While I am aware that offering game rentals from Redbox kiosks is currently a pilot program, it seems that bugs in the implementation of this process still remain.  I’m sure there are carefully concocted research studies that justify filling up half the selections on the games menu with shovelware, but the whole thing might work out just a little bit better if you tried putting in stuff that people actually want to play.


To:  Old Country Buffet, Factoria Mall
Re: This Evening’s Meal

This evening, in spite of my better judgment, I paid a visit to your restaurant for dinner.  I tend to visit infrequently, and in fact, I tend to characterize my visits to Old Country Buffet as being intended primarily to remind myself of why I don’t eat there more often (the same can be said for visits to Denny’s, IHOP, Papa John’s, Burger King, and a number of other similar establishments, although Denny’s gets an occasional exception for being one of the only non fast food places on the Eastside open past 10pm, and for being a moderately decent place to go hang out when one’s brain is scrambled.)  Upon arrival, I had noticed that not only had prices been increased recently, but that patrons were now being charged separately (and, it may be said, exorbitantly) for the same drinks that had been included on my previous visits to this location.  Lacking the common sense to seek alternative dining arrangements (and perhaps justifying this as a training exercise for taking on the Horizon Court Buffet on my upcoming cruise,) I proceeded to pay the inflated costs and proceed with the meal.

While I can appreciate the need to do things like stop losing money (if I recall correctly, the last time I visited an Old Country Buffet was right around the time when the parent company was filing for chapter 11, presumably as a result of losses incurred from serving drink-guzzling miscreants,) there are certain expectations that come with spending thirteen bucks on one’s dinner, and upon arrival in an Old Country Buffet I fully expect to be disappointed in all of them.  Even so, I must note that on this particular visit, the salad bar was particularly disorganized.  When one is looking to create a salad, there is a certain flow that one expects to find, mostly dictated by the order in which ingredients are applied to said salad.  For example, one generally expects to place croutons on top of a near-finished salad, which makes their placement right next to the lettuce on the exact opposite end of the salad bar from the other “finishing” toppings particularly puzzling.  I also don’t know why exactly it was necessary to place the hard-boiled eggs in this unorthodox location, or why it was necessary to place them in two other spots within the salad bar area.  And don’t even get me started on the lack of bacon bits, real or otherwise (yes, I’m aware that calling those shockingly artificial red things “bacon bits” serves mostly to perform disservice to actual bacon, but still…)  Oh, and the labelling of the various dressing flavors could use some work too.  And what’s with the lettuce at the front end of the bar that came pre-doused in some sort of unlabeled dressinglike substance?  If I intend to eat in an adventurous fashion, I generally like to at least know what it is that I’m eating.

Anyway, I suppose I don’t have much of an actual point to this, but on my next visit in a year or so when I once again forget why it is that I don’t eat there more often, I would appreciate it if the salad bar was a little better organized.

See you Eventually,

January 21, 2011

Photo Dump: On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever

Filed under: Bellevue, Photo Dump — Brian Lutz @ 1:41 am

As I seem to do a lot more of than I really should be, once again I apologize for a lack of posts containing anything besides semi-coherent blather over the course of the last week.  Work has started to pick up recently, and it’s looking like it’s soon going to settle into a pattern where a majority of the testing that I’m working on gets concentrated into roughly a 3 or 4 day period every other week.  This is a bit of a side effect to working in a Scrum environment at work.  If you’ve been working anywhere in software development over the past few years, there’s a good chance you’ve been hearing all sorts of stuff about Agile Development and Scrum methods.  I know I’ve spent years hearing these terms being used all over the place without ever really being abler to get a clear idea what any of them mean in any sort of meaningful context.  I’ve worked in a number of places that employ the methodologies involved to some extent, but where I’m working now is really the first place I’ve been that truly uses the Scrum process as it’s supposed to be used, and it’s a bit of a change from where I’ve been previously.  It’s not been too difficult to adapt to the process, but it does mess with my schedule a bit.

I’ve actually got a couple of specific topics that I’ve been meaning to post on (in particular, I really need to do some updates on my Totem Lake Mall posts, as there’s been a lot of interest in that over the past few days, including one of the highest Blog traffic days I’ve had in quite a while as a result of a links from the Kirkland Reporter and Seattle P-I websites) but I need to find the time to get over for some photos to do that.  In the meantime, I thought I’d put together a quick photo dump.  I’m sure any of my three or four regular readers on this Blog are plenty sick of my various complaining about Winter and its vagaries, but as I spent a bit of time going through the pictures on my phone this evening, I realized that lately there’s been some rather nice views around here.  The City of Bellevue got its name from the French words for “Beautiful View,” and with some of the views I’ve been getting from outside my window and from the office on the days when the weather’s been clear lately, I have to say that William Meydenbauer certainly had a point with that one.

From out the window at my office, you can just barely make out Mount Rainier in the background with high cloud cover, and the beginnings of what could have been an interesting cloud formation at the top that never quite materialized.

On a clear day the view is, of course, much better.

When we get a clear day in Winter, there’s plenty of other snow-covered peaks to look at too.

Looking in the other direction, there’s plenty to see as well, with Downtown Park and Meydenbauer Bay filling out the foreground, Mercer Island, the I-90 floating bridges and the skyscrapers of Downtown Seattle in the distance, and a lovely sunset filling out the back.  Eventually a good chunk of this particular view will probably be obscured by the second phase of the Lincoln Square development on the site of the old Safeway, but for now there’s nothing blocking the view.

If you know where to look there’s plenty to see at ground level too.  Take, for example, this nice little courtyard and reflecting pool behind the Symetra Financial Building next to the one I work in.  It’s a nice little place that you could never even know exists if you just drive in and out of Bellevue and never walk around anywhere outside of Bellevue Square.  The weather hasn’t been nice enough to really enjoy it much (this particular picture was taken mostly to note how windy it was on a particularly blustery day earlier this week) but I’m sure it’ll get plenty of use once Spring gets here and it starts getting warmer outside.

Even at night, the combination of urban skyscrapers with smaller buildings scattered in between them can make for some interesting views, such as this full moon over the top of the Bellevue Congregational Church, with Plaza Central and the Bravern on the sides.

Finally, a slightly different view of Downtown, as seen in a mural on the wall of the Bellevue Trader Joe’s store.  I do have to admit it’s a little odd to walk into a store and see my apartment painted on the wall, but it’s also kind of cool at the same time.  This particular viewpoint seems to be just a tad improbable though, as this perspective would seem to require putting the Botanical Garden somewhere on the opposite side of Northeast 8th Street from where you usually find it.  And I’m pretty sure it’s not going anywhere for a while either.

January 17, 2011

Fun with Insomnia, and a Side of Hypochondria

Filed under: Fun With Insomnia — Brian Lutz @ 2:39 am

(Note:  Yeah, I’m up way too late and probably babbling incoherently again.  Unless you somehow enjoy this type of stuff, skip to the last paragraph or so for something that might be vaguely interesting.)

Once again it’s 2am, I’m wide awake, and that means it’s time for yet another of my soon-to-be-infamous Fun With Insomnia posts.  I should probably apologize in advance for writing so many of these things since I’m pretty sure most of the people reading this Blog are here for something besides semi-coherent late night ramblings.  But keep in mind that this IS the Internet we’re dealing with here, which means that 90% of everything is crud (in much the same way that 90% of everything in real life is crud, and yes, there is a law for that.)  I suspect there’s not a whole lot I can do about 90% of everything being crud, but with hard work (sort of) and dedication (eventually) I think I might eventually be able to get this particular Blog down to only 87% crud.  It’s posts like this one that will help make sure that turns out to be a very, very, very long process.  I’m guessing that this is a pretty lousy way to get myself to sleep, but it’s at least moderately less lousy than some of the other alternatives, and it even works occasionally.

With as long as I’ve been a night owl, being up at 2am really isn’t that unusual for me, although I’m sure if anyone else was living here I’d probably have driven them nuts with this whole routine years ago.  Then again, even though I’m up way past most sane people’s bedtimes, it seems to be one of those things where at least it’s consistent, and if I can manage to get to sleep I have no problem staying asleep.  Keeping in mind the various caveats associated with trying to self-diagnose one’s problems on the Internet, a bit of recent reading has led me to wonder if what I have isn’t just plain old insomnia, but a case of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.  In a nutshell, it’s a condition where someone’s sleep cycles seem to be perpetually off by a significant margin from what would be considered normal, but if one is allowed follow their “adjusted” cycle they can generally function normally.  The problem for most people with this condition is that they’re expected to function on what would be considered a normal cycle for most people, and have trouble doing so.  I don’t match all the symptoms, but do match enough of these that it might be something to consider.  Either way, I find that in the field I work in later schedules tend to be more the rule than the exception, and as long as I don’t need to be in too early I’m generally OK to get through the day.  Even if getting to sleep does take an occasional incoherent Blog post or two.

Anyway, if you somehow made it through all that without being put to sleep yourself (which is kind of the point of the whole exercise really,) I offer my congratulations and/or apologies.  In terms of more typical Blog content, I’ve noted recently that there seems to be a surge of interest in the subject of the Totem Lake Mall, presumably as a result of recent coverage in the Kirkland Reporter.  With the resources of a professional newsroom (as well as direct access to the stuff I can only get on blurry microfilm,)  they have been able to perform much more through historical research and come up with much better copies of the various photos than I’ve been able to find in my own research, as well as several I hadn’t seen before.  I’ll have more to say on this later, but if you haven’t seen it yet I would highly recommend a visit to the first article in what is intended to be a six-part series on the history of Totem Lake Mall.  I really need to go in and update my various Mall posts (which, in spite of my relative lack of activity on the topic recently, remain some of the most popular posts on this Blog) since there’s been quite a bit of activity (in some cases) since I originally wrote them.  Watch for these soon.  If I don’t fall asleep first, that is.

January 14, 2011

Cloudy with a Chance of Scattered Doom

Filed under: weather — Brian Lutz @ 1:59 am

It seems that a couple of evenings ago there was a little snowstorm that passed through the area.  I just thought I’d let you know about this in case you missed it for some unknown reason like the fact that you were busy napping at the time or something.  The snow arrived fairly late in the evening and lasted only a few hours before turning to rain and quickly melting away, but not before it managed to put down an inch or two and stick to the roads for a little while.  Unfortunately, the fact that it arrived so late combined with relatively low traffic volumes meant that once again I was disappointed in my search from some good traffic carnage on 405 to watch from my high and lofty perch, but there’s still 2 1/2 months of Winter left for that (Note:  the preceding statement does not imply any desire for additional Winter beyond the standard allocation, and is in fact about 2 1/2 months more Winter than I’d really care to deal with in any given year.)  All in all, if you happen to be one of those questionably sane people out there who actually likes Winter weather for some reason that modern science has yet to develop a suitable pill for, there’s a good chance you would have been just a bit let down by this storm.  Especially given the fact that the various TV weathermen have been talking this one up for at least the last five days.

For some time now, I have  been following a couple of the local weather guys on my Twitter feed.  For the most part it seems to be a pretty good way of getting whatever basic weather info I might need, and the weather guys around here also do a pretty good job of explaining how things work and why things happen.  Most of the time, this is a pretty good arrangement, but there’s just one little issue with it:  The minute anything “interesting” shows up in the weather forecast, you might as well just sit back and grab some popcorn, because you’re in for wall-to-wall coverage.  Take for instance this most recent snow.  As much as a week in advance the various forecasting models were starting to show predictions of a potential snowstorm on Tuesday of this week.  In fact, for several days they were showing potential for as much as 6-10 inches of lowland snow.  Obviously if there’s potential for some sort of disruptive snow event it’s best to make sure people have as much advance notice as possible, but even after all the various disclaimers and explanations they’ve posted about the inaccuracy of the forecast models that far out, they sure seem to spend a lot of time hyping up whatever weather system is allegedly on the way.  Even as the forecast models kept going back and forth as to what the severity of the expected storm was going to be, the play-by-play coverage of just how much next Tuesday’s commute was going to suck continued unabated. 

When it reached the point where the storm was only a day or two off the models quickly trended toward much lower snow totals than what had been previously reported, meaning that even by Seattle standards the expected snow wasn’t going to be too much of a big deal.  But by this time so many pixels had been spilled on the coverage of the impending snowstorm that they were all but forced to keep up the breathless wall-to-wall coverage.  Thus by the time the snow actually arrived, it wasn’t much more than the usual dusting of snow that we get around here every once in a while.  By the time on Tuesday evening when the earlier forecasts seem to suggest we’d all be building igloos and rounding up our sled dogs, the front page story on the KOMO website had to go all the way out to Hoquiam to find some pictures with a light dusting of snow on the ground.  The snow did eventually move inland well after the evening commute and drop an inch or two on us here (as seen above) but quickly turned to rain and never really amounted to much.  Even as the snow turned to slush and the weather reverted back to the usual Seattle January weather (rainy with a side of high winds) they had to get one last shot in.  Until someone thought better of it, the front page story on KOMO the next morning even briefly featured the term “Slushageddon” in the headline.

Oh, and another thing, while I’m on the subject:  This one isn’t necessarily the fault of the weather guys, but since when has it become fashionable to turn every single weather event into some sort of eschatological cataclysm?  Two inches of snow on the ground for a couple of hours?  It’s a Snowpocalypse.  It’s raining outside? Better declare a Floodageddon.  Before long we’re going to look out the window, see that visibility is limited outside and declare it to be a portent of Fognarök.  Oh, and as long as we’re at it, I call dibs on Pärtlyclöuderdämmerung.  Which would, incidentally, make a good name for a death metal band.  But not a particularly good one, just one of the ones that opens for the garage band playing down at the teen center on Wednesday evening.  But I digress.  Still, I think we really need to chill out on the existential panic every time weather happens, because at this rate by the time something actually happens we’re not going to have any adjectives left to describe it.  It’s gotten to the point where we’ve now got some sort of Friendly Neighborhood Snowpocalyptic creature thingy taking credit for whatever frozen precipitation happens to show up around here and generally fomenting chaos, panic and/or disorder among the populace (particularly those supporting opposing NFL teams.) 

To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what’s going on with our weather around here this year.  All I know is that one way or another we’ve got two more months of the stuff to deal with, and it looks like if it’s not the weather making a mess of things, it’s going to be people talking about the weather potentially making a mess of things that’s going to make a mess of things.  Anyone know who I could talk to about that whole hibernation bit I’ve been hearing about?

January 9, 2011

Fun with Insomnia: Tired and/or Wired

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 3:10 am

Well, once again it’s 2:30 in the morning, and as usual, I really should be asleep right now.  Unfortunately, my brain is making it quite clear that sleep isn’t on the agenda, which means that it’s time for another of my soon to be infamous Fun with Insomnia posts.  For those of you just joining us, the Fun with Insomnia is a category of posts that pops up here every once in a while when I find myself up way past my already notoriously late bedtime, often involuntarily.  Most of the time this results in various forms of incoherent drivel (even more so than usual) and stuff that I should probably just be hitting the delete button on, but somehow end up posting anyway.  So if the whole thing comes across as being a bit of a dashed-off mess, well then that’s probably the point.

I’ve actually had a blank one of these things sitting in my drafts queue for a while awaiting a day when it would become necessary.  Ultimately it would be nice if I could just get to sleep when I want to like a normal sane human being would (I’ve never really been able to do that, but at least I can sleep without too much trouble most of the time) but every so often, I just find myself so wired for one reason or another that it’s clear that I need to do something to burn off some energy if I have any intention of sleeping.  This seems to be one of those times;  If I had to make a guess I’d say it was probably the cake and ice cream from my nephew Corey’s birthday party this evening that did it.  As I’m sure I’ve noted before on here, I’ve now all but completely eliminated caffeine from my diet, as I find that I can’t drink any amount of the stuff without it keeping me up half the night.  In fact, I think it’s been nearly a year since I last had a can of Coke.  The reason that I can remember that is because when I had it, I quickly found myself in a state that could, in obscure medical terms, be most accurately described as “Bouncing off the Walls” and/or “out of my flippin’ mind” (I’d provide citations for these, but I’m pretty sure those don’t show up in the DSM IV unless you buy your copy out of the trunk of some guy’s car.)  The fact that at the time I was testing the Beavis and Butt-Head iPhone app and being subjected to a constant stream of Cornholio quotes (none of which bear repeating here) probably wasn’t helping my mental state much.  Then again, there are those people out there (including Patrick Stewart, best known as Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation) who actually consider the show to be culturally significant in some strange way, so perhaps said app will end up being my most significant contribution to human civilization.  I really hope that this doesn’t end up being the case…

Anyway, this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself unable to sleep, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last.  In fact, I’ve all but scheduled one of these for when I’m flying out for the cruise in March on an overnight redeye flight.  I’ve pretty well established the fact by now that I am all but completely incapable of sleeping on an airplane, and when this is combined with time zone changes of three hours it all but guarantees a lovely little sleepless night, resulting in what I’m sure will be an entertaining (for someone anyway, probably not me) combination of insomnia, sleep deprivation AND jet lag.  I fully expect to find myself in a state that the above mentioned diagnostic manual would probably describe as “Loopy as heck,” so that should be an interesting little post when it comes around.  In the meantime, I should probably go try to sleep again.  Maybe I’ll be 23% less wired this time around.

January 2, 2011

Some Resolutions for the Irresolute

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

I’ve never been big on the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions.  I know that we’re all supposed to make some big list of grandiose plans for the new year, spend about three or four days pretending to do something about them and then sweep the whole thing under the proverbial rug at the first convenient opportunity, but I’ve never been a big fan of the concept.  After all, being a human being, I’m sure I’ve got a gaping personality flaw or two that I really need to do something about, and I suspect that it’s going to take a bit more than the passing of some arbitrary chronological checkpoint to get me to do much about that fact.  Besides, it always ends up being the same few things:  Lose some weight, find a wife, quit being so freakin’ cynical all the time (I was fortunate enough to cross of the “quit doing contract work and get a real job” one recently though)  I’m pretty sure I don’t need a New Year’s resolution to remind me of this stuff.   It also seems that, in spite of best efforts, I apparently enjoy being fat, grumpy and single far more than I really care to admit to anyone (myself included.)  Either way, I’ve never been particularly good at accomplishing any sort of resolution.

That said, I have come up with a few goals I would like to set for myself over the course of the coming year, although these are more in the “would like to do” category than the “must do” one.   

Build a game from scratch.  For as much time as I’ve wasted on video games over the years, it seems that I should have at least an idea or two that could be applied to creating one.  And really, with all the tools that are out there these days it’s easier than it’s ever been to do this.  In particular, XNA seems like it should be well within my ability to learn and to produce something in, and I’ve already got the tools installed on my PC from previous tinkering that never really amounted to anything more than something that made a box move around the screen to controller input.  I have no illusions of ever getting rich off something like this (or, for that matter, making any money in the first place) but maybe I could at least learn something in the process which could come in handy later on. 

Build a Supergun.  No, I am not planning to create a doomsday device to try to take over the world (at least not this year, the way things are going I might have to reconsider at some point though.)  A Supergun is, in short, a device that lets you play arcade games at home, using a TV and (in some cases) a gamepad much like you would use on a more typical gaming console.  Since I got rid of my arcade cabinet when I moved out of my old apartment, I have a whole bunch of boards that I really can’t do much with right now, so I’d like to come up with a way to play those without taking up a third of my living room with an arcade cabinet.  A Supergun isn’t strictly a console though; all it really provides is a connector for an arcade PCB, some sort of video/audio output device, a power supply, and some sort of controller interface.  The boards themselves are essentially self-contained, and provide all the hardware needed for the game in standalone form.

While most of this stuff required for one of these can be found on the Internet in one form or another, the controllers are a bit tricky.  Although most people seem to build their Superguns to be compatible with NeoGeo controllers, even when those were still being made they were tough to find, making them even harder to find now.  Fortunately, the pinout is pretty simple for one of these (owing to the NeoGeo’s arcade roots, the controllers are little more than buttons and sticks wired directly to the controller port,) and building some sort of enclosure for the stick and buttons would almost be trickier than wiring everything up.  Then again, this might be a job for which the laser cutter I used to make ornaments a couple of months ago would be suited (it’s relatively easy to make boxes and other enclosures that might be required.  More on this one when (if) I get started on it.

Write something significant.  I’d like to think that I’m a reasonably decent writer (or something resembling one,) but to tell you the truth I have trouble writing anything longer than about  4,000 words or so.  I’ve been meaning to try for years to write a novel of some sort, but I just can’t ever seem to string together enough ideas for anything more than a short story.  That’s not to say I can’t write enough material for one:  Assuming an average of about 1,000 words per Blog post (give or take a few, I don’t know what the actual average is)  and 77 posts written last year, that would amount to roughly 77,000 words, which I understand would probably be enough to fill about 200 pages.    With a total of nearly 500 posts on the Blog, that tends to add up after a while too.  So the volume is there, the tricky part is figuring how to focus all of that into something cohesive, which is the part I’m not particularly good at.  And given the fact that such a project would, presumably, be something separate of this Blog, it would mean that I’d have to figure out a way to juggle both at the same time.  Oh, and did I mention that I’ve got to keep myself gainfully employed while I’m doing all this? 

If there’s one thing all these goals have in common, is that they’re all things that should be within my capability to do (well, the second one would probably take some refresher courses on electronics and soldering,) and things that could be accomplished gradually over time.  The main problem is that I just don’t quite know how to get started.  Still, I suppose we all have to start somewhere, and now seems as good a time as any to do it.  Besides, it’s either that or try to find a wife (after which all the other stuff probably goes straight out the window, perhaps even literally.)  And we all know how THAT one has worked out so far.

January 1, 2011

Statistical Overview for 2010

Filed under: Site Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:31 am

It’s official:  2010 is done for.  Actually, I guess that as of the time when I am writing this there might still be a tine zone or two that hasn’t made the switchover yet, but here the clock ticked over to Midnight about 45 minutes ago, and I think it’s pretty safe to say that there’s not going to be much chance of 2011 being delayed out in Hawaii.  With the switch to 2011 apparently completed without a hitch, it’s time once again for my semiannual statistical overview post.  For those of you who haven’t seen one of these before, I do this twice a year:  Once on New Year’s Day, and once on June 6th (the date on which this Blog was originally created back in 2007.)  To be perfectly honest I don’t really expect anybody to be interested in any of this stuff, and I make these posts primarily to refer back to later as a snapshot of the growth (or lack thereof) of the Blog.

In 2010, this blog saw a moderate decrease (of about 13.7%)  in overall traffic compared to its peak in 2009.  I suspect that most of the decrease came from the Summer months of this year, which saw average daily traffic roughly 25% lower than the average for this site.  Even so, 2010’s traffic was still slightly higher than 2008.  As has been the case for some time now, it seems that there are a relatively small number of posts on the site which account for a significant  portion of the visitors to the site.  In fact, just three posts accounted for over 20% of the site’s traffic for the year.  I also note that none of the top 10 posts (the list doesn’t include hits to the site’s homepage, which would outnumber these significantly)  It seems that the key to this is to find topics for which information is lacking on the Internet and write about them (the Whitman’s Sampler post is a good example of this.)  Beyond that, it’s mostly a matter of just writing things that are interesting and that people are likely to search for on Google. 

Even so, I suspect that there are a couple of factors to the decline in traffic:  For one thing, I’ve been posting less than I used to.  Although I have tended to shift my focus in writing on the site somewhat to trying to write longer posts,   I suspect that a higher frequency of posting would increase traffic to the site.  I also tend to think that my focus in terms of the topics I write about here has shifted somewhat as well, and has drifted from the subjects that are of greatest interest to the readers.  I am going to try to focus on some of these again in the coming year, and to try to update some of the more popular topics on this site. 

Anyway, thanks again for visiting, and I hope you’ll enjoy whatever I end up writing here in the coming year.

  • Total Posts(all time, including this one):  472
  • Total Posts (2010): 79
  • Total Comments (all time):  745
  • Total  Page Views (all time):  168, 656
  • Total Page Views in 2010:  52,228
  • Total Page Views in 2009:  60, 939
  • Total Page Views in 2008: 50, 219
  • Average Visitors Per Day (2010):  143

Top 10 Most Read Posts (2010):

Retail Wasteland – A Tour of the Totem Lake Mall   4,698
Sampling the Whitman’s Sampler: A Guide to America’s Favorite Box of Enigmatic Chocolates   3,529
Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations   2,483
The Redmond Costco Moves Forward   2,120
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of the Factoria Mall   1,944
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of The Everett Mall   1,792
A Brief Tour of the Bellevue Galleria, Bungie’s Future Home   1,521
A Tour of Crossroads Bellevue – Part 1: The Mall   1,502
My Very Nearly Award-Winning Chili Recipe, and Other Deep Dark Secrets   1,331
Off the Beaten Path: The World’s First KFC in Murray Utah 815

Top 10 Most Read Posts (All Time):

Retail Wasteland – A Tour of the Totem Lake Mall   21,312
Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations   8,272
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of the Factoria Mall   8,068
Sampling the Whitman’s Sampler: A Guide to America’s Favorite Box of Enigmatic Chocolates   5,518
A Tour of Crossroads Bellevue – Part 1: The Mall   5,419
The Redmond Costco Moves Forward   4,723
My Very Nearly Award-Winning Chili Recipe, and Other Deep Dark Secrets   4,087
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of The Everett Mall   3,606
The Beginning and the End of the Old Bellevue Safeway   2,403
New Cereal in Old Boxes 2,280

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