The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 29, 2011

Could You Live in Downtown Bellevue Without Ever Leaving Downtown? A Thought Experiement

Filed under: Bellevue — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:13 pm

Contrary to what seems to be popular belief around these parts, there actually are some parts of Bellevue that are not Downtown.  in fact, there’s quite a bit of Bellevue that isn’t downtown, and it’s rumored that if you look carefully, you can actually see some of them from here.  Well OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I suspect that there are some residents of this area (not necessarily residents of Downtown Bellevue) for whom Bellevue consists entirely of the roughly two-thirds of a square mile between I-405 and NE 100th on the east and west, and NE 12th and Main on the North and South, and anything beyond that is Here Be Dragons territory until you reach Seattle.  And speaking of Seattle, I suspect that by the same token there’s plenty of people  who think Seattle consists entirely of the stuff that happens to be between Safeco Field and the Space Needle.  In reality, there’s quite a bit more to both cities, but especially if you live in one of the surrounding areas and the only reason you ever come into Bellevue is to go to the mall, or if you only ever go into Seattle for Mariners games or the occasional visit to the Pike Place Market, it can be easy to conveniently forget that the rest of these cities even exist. 

Over the years, much has been said about the ability of major freeways to act as something of an artificial barrier that seems to limit the growth of urban areas.  As I’ve lived in Downtown Bellevue for what is now getting close to a year (and, at least for the time being, intending to remain here for as long as my circumstances warrant it,) I’ve noticed that not only does 405 seem to act as a barrier to the growth of the Downtown area, but at the same time, it seems to act as a bit of a psychological barrier as well.  During times when the weather is nice enough to allow it, I find that I have no problem walking to anywhere within the Downtown area, be it Bellevue Square, one of the two grocery stores in Downtown, even out to Old Bellevue or Meydenbauer Beach Park on the rare occasions that I find a reason to go there.  Yet at the same time, if I ever have a reason that I need to go to anywhere on the opposite side of 405, I always seem to think it’s necessary to drive, even though several of the places are even closer than the ones in Downtown.  Granted, even within the Downtown area on days when I’m feeling a bit lazy or when the weather isn’t particularly cooperative I might drive out to Bellevue Square or to the grocery store (it’s a bit less than 3/4 mile from my apartment to the QFC or the Macy’s entrance at Bellevue Square, and a bit less than a mile from here to the Safeway,) but at the same time the walking distance to the Best Buy and Home Depot stores out on the other side of 405  is just about the same (a bit less than a mile,) and yet if I was going to one of the two I’d most likely end up driving no matter what the weather was like.  Even on the (very rare) occasions I might go to the Whole Foods Market just on the opposite side of 405 from here, I’d probably be far more likely to drive than to walk, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s on the other side of 405. 

As I’ve considered just why it is that one side of the freeway seems to be car territory while the other side seems to be walking territory even with distances being roughly equal, it has brought up an interesting, if only tangentially related question in my mind:  Would it be possible for someone living in Downtown Bellevue to be able to meet all their basic needs without ever physically leaving the Downtown area?  To be perfectly honest I don’t think I’d ever want to actually try this (if for no other reason than the fact that I’m pretty sure I’d go stir crazy after two weeks of trying it) but the more I think about this, the more I start to wonder if someone could truly do this if they set out to do so.  Let’s just say that they don’t own a car (I do know some people who live here without a car,) but because of this somewhat irrational psychological barrier that I’ve been encountering, they just can’t ever cross 405, or even really go anywhere else into “car” territory.

As such, I am going to make a bit of a thought experiment out of this question, just to get some idea of the viability of doing just this.  Let’s say we have someone living in the following conditions:

  • They live in a Downtown Bellevue apartment;
  • They work in Downtown Bellevue, and thus would not need to leave the Downtown area for their job;
  • They do not own a car.  In fact, as noted above, they would rarely be venturing outside of the Downtown area for any reason (yet at the same time, for most items we’ll also consider what the effect of blurring the boundaries a bit would be, and allowing occasional trips outside of Downtown to other nearby areas);
  • When they move into Downtown, they wouldn’t be bringing a whole lot of stuff with them, so they would need to be able to get quite a few different things within the Downtown area they are limited to;
  • “Downtown” is defined as outlined at the beginning of this post; basically the roughly 36-block area between 405 and 100th Ave NE on the East and West, and NE 12th and Main on the North and South.  Some of the definitions of Downtown that I’ve seen do fudge on the boundaries by a block or two, but for most purposes, this seems to be how the Downtown area is defined.

So given these parameters, would it be possible for someone to live entirely in Downtown Bellevue without needing to leave to meet any of their basic needs?  In this post, we’ll take a look at a number of factors that would affect someone trying to live under these circumstances, and try to get an idea of just how possible this would be.  You’ll find this after the jump. (more…)

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May 23, 2011

Save the Last Dance For Someone Else

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

This past Friday, I spent a portion of my evening over at Crossroads, as I do on occasion when nothing else of any particular interest is going on.  As I’ve discussed before here, if you’re looking for a decent meal and some entertainment on any given Friday or Saturday evening, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to find both there, even if you don’t know what it is you’re looking for in either case.  On this particular evening, the band on the Crossroads stage was Filé Gumbo, a Cajun Zydeco band that performs throughout the local area.  Granted, this is a genre of music that I would probably not listen to normally, but one of the nice things about the music selections at Crossroads is that it’s easy to just listen to whatever music happens to be playing and in most cases enjoy it for what it is. 

After grabbing some dinner, I sat down to watch the last 3 or 4 songs of the evening’s performance.  It is not uncommon for a few people (mostly older couples) to use the music as an opportunity to do a little bit of dancing in the area in front of the stage, but in this case, there was one little girl (who couldn’t have been more than about 6 or 7 years old) who was watching the music with her parents nearby, and was dancing up a storm as the music played.  Although I have little context from which to judge such things, she seemed to be quite good at it too.  It didn’t appear that she was dancing in any specific fashion that I could identify, just improvising to whatever was being played (in this case, Cajun music.)   The family appeared to be of East Asian descent (which is quite common around here)  and given the significance of both religious and secular dances in many East Asian cultures, there is a good chance that she would have some sort of formal dance instruction work from, but regardless of whatever instruction this little girl had in dance, there seemed to be a lot of natural ability as well.  It strikes me as being the type of thing that I could never do, even if I was inclined to try.

To be honest, I’ve never been completely sure of just why it is that I seem to have a natural aversion to dancing.  Aside from a minor lack of coordination (something that could probably be fixed to some extent with sufficient practice) there isn’t any physical reason I couldn’t do it.  Mostly it just seems to be an aversion to the entire concept for reasons I can’t seem to explain.  I can’t explain exactly why, but to me  it just seems like a waste of perfectly good movement for no good reason.  I also think there’s an inherent sense of showing off that is part of the whole thing, and for someone who doesn’t care much for showing off, that can contribute to this.  Dancing with a partner (on the assumption that I ever end up with one of those, I’m starting to wonder about that) opens up about three or four different cans of worms on top of this, not the least of which is the so-called “touch barrier” that develops in casual relationships and basically just makes things really awkward.  Because of this, I suspect that for many people it would be a lot easier for them to dance with a complete stranger (provided that there was no obligations involved in the process, just basically picking someone at random and dancing with them once or twice) than it would be for them to dance with a friend, unless they were in an established relationship with each other and had thus eliminated the touch barrier previously.  Either way, I just haven’t ever really been inclined to do this.

I’m pretty sure that this is one of those things that falls into the “47 different ways that I’m weird compared to normal people” category.  Come to think of it, I could get a whole series of posts out of that concept of I ran with it for long enough.  And given the relative lack of good bloggable material I’ve been experiencing lately, I might just end up doing that.  If I do, consider this my preemptive apology for subjecting you to this stuff.  Now an idea like that might actually work if I was weird in amusing ways, but mostly it just seems that I manage to find slightly different ways to be boring when compared to most normal people.  Even my gaping personality flaws are all standard-issue textbook stuff anymore.  Thus if I was inclined to make something out of this idea, I would have one of two possible choices:  I could either make up some personality defects at random (better pass on that one, it’s difficult keeping up with that kind of thing and I end tend to forget which of my many neuroses I’m visiting the psychiatrist for this week) or I could just go insane. 

Then again, neither of these sounds like a particularly wise idea.  After all, I don’t look good in a straitjacket anyway.  And if I wanted to spend 50 minutes on a couch I’d just go take a nap in the living room.  I’m pretty sure that would be more therapeutic  anyway.  And just think of all the money I would save by not having to go sit around talking to a shrink every week.  I could afford all sorts of stuff, like…  I don’t know, maybe dance lessons?

Naah.

May 18, 2011

Random Thoughts: Completely Weather Complaint Free Edition

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 2:03 am

 

Man, it’s too bad I wasted my monthly weather complaint post two hours into May on a relatively decent day, because if I hadn’t, you’d be getting an earful right now about all this…  um…  that stuff in the sky I’m not allowed to talk about right now.  That makes everything wet.  Yeah, that stuff.  But since I’m not allowed to talk about the weather, here are a few random thoughts that have nothing to do with it at all (I think):

  • Last week, there was a get-together hosted at the Bellevue Art Museum by the Bellevue Downtown Association for residents of Downtown Bellevue.  Not a whole lot to report from that, but I did happen to run into a Blog reader (I apologize if I forgot your name, I’ve always been bad with that stuff.)  Not counting immediate and extended family, I think that brings the count of people reading the stuff I write here up to… oh, about six or so.  Maybe seven, but I’m starting to suspect one of them was mostly trying to find an excuse to sell stuff.  I don’t know, that stuff in they sky I’m not supposed to mention here  is messing with my brain lately.
  • At the risk of boring most of my six alleged readers away with even more cruise-related blathering, this past weekend I went on that one-day cruise on the Sapphire Princess down to Seattle from Vancouver that I planned a few months ago, along with my two sisters and brothers-in-law.  My parents drove us all up to Vancouver from Redmond and aside from a couple of detours we all arrived at Canada Place on the Vancouver Waterfront fairly early, but even with that we still ended up having to wait over an hour in various lines at the pier (mostly the line for the security screening) to board the ship. Apparently even with the long wait we got off easy on that one, as I’ve seen quite a few reports from other passengers of there were people who arrived an hour later than we did who ended up having to wait four hours in the line.  All four of the ships in port ended up having to delay their departures two hours due to the boarding fiasco, but even with that fun little snafu going on it was still a nice little trip, in spite of an abundance of that wet stuff in the sky I’m not allowed to write about.  I don’t know I’d necessarily call it a full-fledged cruise since there were some omissions due to the shortness of the trip (most notably, the casino was closed, although I most likely wouldn’t have gambled anyway even if it was open)  but if you think of it as a weekend getaway in a big floating hotel with meals and entertainment included, it works out pretty well.  Not sure I’d necessarily do it again though, at least not on the same ship, and quite likely not in September again.  I’m actually thinking that some of these mini-cruises might be a good way to see some of the other ships that sail out of Seattle without having to invest the time or money into a full-fledged cruise, (in particular, I’d like to go check out one of the Holland America ships so I can see what my options look like in the unlikely event that I ever manage to end up getting old) but at the same time, I’d probably be more than a little bit hesitant to book one of these one-day sailings out of Vancouver again, especially if there’s going to be a lot of ships in port.  It seems they’re just not equipped to handle that much traffic.  But just to show that I never seem to learn my lesson on that stuff, it’s looking likely I’ll be sailing out of Vancouver again in September, but this time it’ll be for a 5-day trip down to Los Angeles with stops in Victoria and San Francisco.  I’ll refrain from boring you with the details of that one for a couple of months, or until I run dangerously low on Blog material again (whichever comes first.

 

 

  • One of the local Target stores is remodeling currently to expand the grocery selections and add fresh produce to the mix, and as a result they’ve got a number of things you’d normally expect to find in the food department scattered around the store in various locations.  I think someone might want to double-check the placement of the beer aisle…
  • Even though I’ve pretty well settled into the job I started back in November, I do have to say that I still haven’t quite figured out what I’m supposed to do with three weeks of vacation per year.  Spending so many years working in jobs where having time off generally meant being unemployed, so it was hard to ever do much with it.  That said, the idea of having time to take off, but not really using it for anything just seems weird.  I’ve just never been good at doing nothing, it seems like I always have to have one thing or another going, especially if I’m taking time off.  I suppose I’ll figure this stuff out eventually…
  • For some reason, I just downloaded a game on my Xbox this evening that is mostly in untranslated Japanese.  Aside from the basic “shoot at things and dodge pink bullets” gameplay typical of the genre (yeah, it’s another one of those pale kid 2D shooters I’ve accumulated a decent collection of over the years) I haven’t got a clue what I’m supposed to be doing with this one.  All I know is that somehow I’ve managed to get a bunch of random achievements with no clue what any of them are actually for.

 

 

  • Is it just me, or are “limited edition” household goods starting to get just a bit out of hand lately?  Sure, there are a few products out there for which a small niche market of collectors might exist (for things like cereal boxes or soda cans, for example) but does anyone really expect to sell more glass cleaner by selling it in “limited edition” packaging that is really just the same regular packaging with a different label on it?  Have you ever met anyone who collected cleaning products and displayed them anywhere besides the back of the cabinet underneath the kitchen sink?   
  • Upon returning from the short cruise I was on this weekend, I may or may not have smuggled donuts into the USA.  It’s not that there’s a question of whether or not I brought the stuff across the border or anything like that (the mostly eaten box of Timbits on the counter should answer that question,) but the guidelines on what can and can’t be brought across the border seem just a tad vague on the subject.  I’m guessing there’s probably nothing to worry about, but if I ever find myself being chased around by Mounties, at least I’ll know why.
  • I’ve got that freakin’ Nyan Cat song that’s been circulating around the Internet for the past couple of weeks stuck in my head right now, and it’s bugging the heck out of me.  Why the heck did I watch that blasted video anyway?  Twice?
  • WordPress seems to be messing with the formatting of this post for some reason I can’t seem to figure out, so I think I better just quit messing with this and just post it.  My apologies if it looks weird.  Maybe it has something to do with the… um…  unspecified precipitation events I’m not allowed to discuss here that we’ve been having around here lately.

May 10, 2011

A Garden of Dubious Delights

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:38 am

Having spent the most of the past six years living in apartments, I’ve found opportunities to do gardening have become rather rare.   This is especially true of my current dwelling, an urban apartment with no attached balcony or porch (the balconies on the other side of the building I live in do include planters, but as far as I am aware those are managed by a landscaping service rather than by the tenants.)  Not that I’ve ever been mistaken for a green thumb of any sort, but I certainly don’t mind an occasional bit of digging in the dirt every once in a while, even if most of that time that ends up being in the form of pulling weeds.  With Mother’s Day this past weekend, I took an opportunity to do a bit of gardening on behalf of my Mom by putting flowers in a couple of the large planters my parents keep on their front porch.  I have done this a number of times for Mothers Day in the past, and my Mom seems to enjoy the results (probably just as much because that means she doesn’t have to do it as because they’re nice to look at,) but I also enjoy this little project because it provides an opportunity to take a trip up to Molbak’s in Woodinville, one of the largest garden stores in the area, and kind of a cool place to just wander around for a while. 

While in the course of picking out plants to put in the two planters, I noted that there seems to be a lot of unusual (I suppose that’s one way to put it) garden statuary being offered for sale these days.  Anyone who has spent enough time in one of these places is probably well acquainted with the usual selection of fountains, fairies and frogs, but these days there’s all sorts of new and slightly interesting ways to decorate your garden (provided you can get past the sticker shock that comes with a lot of these pieces.)  After the jump, we’ll take a look at a few of these.

(more…)

May 6, 2011

“It is not good for you to have everything you want.”

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 2:07 am

This past Sunday, I was sitting in Sacrament Meeting at church, in my customary position of finding a relatively quiet back corner of the chapel and trying to at least look like I’m paying attention to the speakers.  To be perfectly honest, I just don’t think I’ve ever been all that good at the whole church routine.  I go every week unless circumstances prevent it, I figure that on a good day I can manage to do about 90% of the things that I’m supposed to be doing, and I generally try to be a good person, but getting that last 10% right remains a lot more challenging task for me than I’d really like it to be.  The fact that not only do I remain chronically single in a church which considers family to be the one main thing we should be focusing our entire lives around certainly doesn’t help, but that I’m just about the only single adult in the ward within my age group certainly doesn’t help much either.  In spite of this, I keep trying (with decidedly mixed results) and do what I can.  Sometimes I have a hard time paying attention in meetings though, partially because it sometimes seems like the talks tend to fall into the category of “47 things that you are currently doing wrong” (and most of the time they’re right,) and partially because I have trouble paying much attention to anything for three hours straight, regardless of the subject matter.

It was in this semi-distracted state that I found myself  on this particular Sunday, and to be honest, if you asked me what the speakers were talking about on this particular day, I’d be hard pressed to give you an answer beyond a few vague details.  In this case, some of this distraction was coming from the young family which had taken up the remainder of the bench I was sitting on.  As they are inclined to do, these young children were busying themselves with the typical activities of a bored toddler, wandering around the area, playing with the hymnbooks and whatever other objects happened to be provided to keep them quiet (I know I did the same things back when I was young child in Sacrament meetings,) and generally not exactly being quite as reverent as the parents would like them to be.  I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on over on the other side of the bench, but it seems one of the young boys did somethig to warrant a mild scolding from his mother.  In another fairly typical example of bored toddler behavior, he began throwing a fit about one thing or another (again, I don’t know the details,) and somewhere in the process of trying to get they boy to quiet down in the chapel, she told him that, as the title mentions above, it was not good for him to have everything he wants.  I don’t know exactly what it was about that particular quote, but for some reason it stuck with me, far more than anything that was spoken from the pulpit during this particular Sacrament meeting.

And while it may be easy for me to say that you can see the wisdom in a statement like that, at the same time I have to wonder why it is that it made such an impact.  It’s one thing to say something like this to a toddler who is, quite frankly, too young to have developed a proper sense of right and wrong.  It’s another thing to be someone who, for all intents and purposes, has just about everything he wants, and to hear the same statement, even if it wasn’t directed at me.  Naturally, the first instinct seems to be to rationalize it away.  After all, I don’t have everything I want.  For one thing, I certainly don’t own a Porsche just yet.  And I’m still at least five floors away from the penthouse…  Well OK, so this rationalizing things away clearly isn’t convincing anyone, is it?  But still, I don’t have a wife yet, and from the sound of things I’m pretty sure I’m still supposed to want one of those. right?  But if I do want a wife, then…  Hey, wait a second here.  I’m really doing a lousy job with this metaphor, aren’t I?  Oh well…

But all joking aside, I do think there’s something to be said here.  After all, even if I don’t have someone out there unquestioningly catering to whatever foolish whim I might have (and yeah, I’m pretty sure I do have a few of those) or preventing me from doing basically whatever I want to do, it doesn’t mean that I can’t manage to end up spoiled all on my own.  In fact, it turns out that this can happen quite easily if I let it, regardless of whatever circumstances I happen to be in.

May 1, 2011

Random Thoughts: Absolutely Nothing To Do With Cruising Edition

Filed under: Random Stuff — Brian Lutz @ 1:42 am

By the time you’re seeing this April should be officially in the books, and May is on the way.  Shockingly, it’s starting to look like spring may actually happen here this year, in spite of what’s been on average a fairly chilly April (so much so in fact that Seattle has actually beaten the record for the lowest average high temperature for April,) and the past couple of Saturdays have been surprisingly tolerable in terms of weather.  Granted, pretty much every day in between has been some combination of rainy windy and cold, but as long as the Saturdays are nice enough I guess I can live with that (for a few more weeks anyway.)   So, in honor of the apparent arrival of spring at some point (maybe,) here’s a few random thoughts:

  • If whoever’s in charge of the weather happens to be listening, some of us around here do actually try to go outside during the rest of the week too.  Yeah, I know that rainy miserableness has to happen at some point, but would it be too much to ask that we get an occasional nice day during the week too?
  • Wait, did I just blow my one allotted weather complaint post less than two hours into the month?  While the weather outside is actually fairly decent?  Dang it, guess that means I have to pretend to tolerate whatever weather we get for the rest of the month.  I won’t complain if we get some nice weather two Saturdays from now though…
  • Whoever it was that figured out that you can charge four bucks for a pretzel at the mall and get people to actually buy the things is a genius.  Most likely an evil genius, but a genius nonetheless.  At most fast food places (probably even the ones you’ll find in the same food court)  you could easily get a burger and fries for the same price as you’re spending on what basically amounts to a lump of baked dough that probably costs all of a quarter (if that even) to make.  And yet those pretzel stands always seem to have a line in front of them.  Granted, that doesn’t stop me from getting one on infrequent occasions (sometimes you’re only looking for a snack,) but it occurs to me that three bucks is an awful lot to be paying for what’s basically a bit of bread.  Then again, the pretzel place in Bellevue Square has been around pretty much forever (I actually recall back when it was in a different location prior to the mall’s yuppiefication) so obviously they’re doing something right over there.
  • I hate it when I’m out and about and I get hungry, but I’m too indecisive to figure out what it is that I actually want to eat.  It happens a lot more often than I’d really like, and it leads to various awkward situations like going to the grocery store just to browse.  Well OK, I’ve been known to do that anyway, but you know how they say you’re not supposed to go shopping when you’re hungry to avoid making unwise impulse purchases?  I think my brain is wired backwards for that one. 
  • It turns out that it’s shockingly easy to renew a driver’s license online these days.  This is kind of disappointing, because I was really looking forward to complaining about having to go sit in some ridiculous line at a soul-crushing DOL office.

 

  • It looks like we’ve got another sandwich shop in the apparently near future (or, given the banner in the window, whenever they feel like it)  on the way to Downtown Bellevue, in the form of Potbelly.  I’m not familiar with this particular chain, but from what their website shows, they seem to be mostly concentrated in the Northeastern US and Texas, with a Downtown Seattle and Bellevue location coming that will be the chain’s first two stores on the West Coast.  Although having more lunch options near work is always a good thing, and Downtown Bellevue isn’t quite as oversaturated with sandwich shops the way that Pioneer Square seemed to be when I was working over there last year, it still seems to be that sandwiches seem to represent a disproportionate portion of the places catering to the Downtown Bellevue office workers.  There are definitely some good alternatives to be found in the area (in particular, Mod Pizza is a favorite of mine, although it is a bit of a walk to get to) but it would be nice if there were just a few more places here that had something besides sandwiches.  There’s a place next to my office that does some decent Indian food (and apparently Greek too, but I haven’t tried much of that side of the menu since I’ve never been big on Mediterranean food) and a fair-to-middling teriyaki place that takes so long to get your order out that you begin to wonder if they’re slaughtering chickens in the kitchen, but there’s at least half a dozen different places to get a sandwich within a couple of blocks (oh, and also four Starbucks and a Tully’s within a two-block radius, but that’s beside the point.)
  • On the other hand, if they absolutely must keep adding sandwich shops in Downtown Bellevue, would it be too much to ask to get a Tat’s Deli over on this side of the lake?  The Tatstrami is definitely one of the things I miss about working over in Pioneer Square (although if I had a cardiologist, he or she would probably disagree with me on that one.)   
  • Oh, and speaking of Mod Pizza, I just remembered that I still have a gift certificate for a free pizza that I’ve been meaning to give away here on the Blog.  I think I’m going to do some sort of caption contest for this, so once I dig through my photos and find something that’ll work for this I’ll post it up here.  This should happen sometime this week.
  • It looks like the next post I put up after this one is going to be the 500th post on this Blog.  I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do something special for a milestone like that or not, but it seems like there should be some sort of significance to that.  It doesn’t seem like I’ve written that much stuff here, but if I figure an average of about 800 words or so per post (I’d be interested to figure out the actual word count for everything, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a practical way to figure this out) that would come out to some 400,000 words (give or take a few of course.)  And not counting subfolders, there’s almost 1,600 pictures in the Photobucket folder I’m using to store Blog images.  It’s definitely one of those things that adds up after a while.

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