The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

May 22, 2012

Random Thoughts: A Headlong Flight, or a Shot in the Dark?

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:28 am


After the rather disappointing spring we had last year (which managed to extend well into early Summer, presumably just to annoy us)  it wouldn’t take much to improve on it.  Needless to say, this year’s Spring has been somewhat of an improvement.  There have actually been a fairly reasonable number of nice days over the past few weeks, and  I’ve even managed to find opportunities to go out in public wearing shorts without looking too crazy (well, not more so than usual at least.)  Even with the nice weather, Spring always seems to feel like one big long transition period.  Sure, Spring does come with its own distinct set of merits (blossoming trees would probably be my favorite of these) but when you see people talk about Spring, there always seems to be just the slightest hint of impatience in waiting for Summer to make its grand arrival.  If you think about it for a minute, in the grand scheme of things Summer doesn’t really do all that much.  If you think of the Four Seasons in musical Terms (Antonio Vivaldi could not be reached for comment,)  Spring is a gradual rise that leads to a crescendo that climaxes sometime around early June, Fall is the recapitulation and coda, and Winter is the intermission between movements.  By the time Summer arrives most of the action is on cruise control for the next three months.  Of course, most people don’t seem to be paying much attention as they’re generally busy taking advantage of the weather and the schoollessness of it all.  After all, Autumn will be back whether you’re ready for it or not, so you might as well enjoy the nice weather while it’s around.

As for myself, I seem to find myself in one of these transitory periods these days as well.  Right now, there are a number of things in my life that seem like they could just as easily go in one of two different directions, and I really can’t tell which way any of them could go.  About all I can really do at this point is just go along for the ride and see where I end up.  To be honest, I’ve been kind of boring lately, not really finding much more to do on most days than get up, go to work, go home and do various things before going to bed and starting the whole thing over again.  I’ve got a few things coming up that I’m planning on (more on that a bit further down) but the lack of vacation time at my current job tends to limit my options for planning any of the big stuff.  Needless to say, I’m not currently expecting to end up taking three cruises this year (or any more than the one I already took back in January for that matter.)  I’m sure I’ll manage to go out and do something vaguely interesting soon enough, but in the meantime here are a few random thoughts:

  • Given the fact that my workplace is located in a virtually brand-new state-of-the-art building, it’s not too surprising that it would be loaded with a fair number of the fancy new gadgets and gizmos that all the cool buildings seem to have these days.  For example, it seems that the familiar old light switches that you probably have a couple dozen of in your house have gone out of style, and the latest trend is to replace them with fancy lighting systems with all sorts of different options to control the lighting based on things like timers, motion detectors, or even to reduce the amount of lighting in the room when there’s enough ambient light coming from outside that it isn’t needed.  It all sounds great on paper, especially if you’re shooting for one of the various green building certifications out there, but for the most part it doesn’t have much effect on the building’s occupants on a day-to-day basis…  Except when it does.  For some reason, whatever system controls the lighting in our building has decided that the room that me and several other testers on my team work in doesn’t need any lighting at all, which basically means that we’ve spent the last several days working in the dark.  The status indicator on what passes for a light switch in the room (such as it is, I think it’s mostly there for decoration really) says that it’s in the on position, but for some unknown reason that doesn’t actually translate to there being any lights on in the room.  Granted, it’s not quite blundering-into-each-other dark in there or anything like that, but when you’re testing E-ink devices with screens that tend to require some sort of external source of light to be visible, it can be a bit of a pain to deal with.  And the problem seems to be limited only to our workspace, since everyone else’s lights seem to be on.  Presumably this whole situation could have been avoided if we just a switch of the plain old on and off variety in there instead of some sort of vague high-tech computer that has deemed our desks unworthy of its blessings of illumination, but as things get more and more advanced it’s inevitable that things will get overcomplicated to the point of ridiculousness somewhere along the line.  I knew we were in for some trouble back when they started putting cancel buttons on toasters.
  • Speaking of things that don’t work the way they’re supposed to, it seems that lately my phone has developed a habit of randomly turning itself off at rather inopportune times.  To be honest, I hardly ever use my phone for making calls these days and even if I did I don’t think I’d be missing much, but it seems like practically every time I want to use it these days I end up having to wait several minutes for it to reboot before I can actually use it for anything.  Naturally, this invariably happens at the most inopportune times (or more accurately, happens frequently, which means that pretty much any time I want to use the thing I have to turn it back on.  Aside from the random turning itself off the phone seems to be functioning normally.  Fortunately, this happens right around the time when my 2-year contract comes up and I’m eligible for a new phone, but at the same time that nagging little voice in my head (the one in the tinfoil hat, I think) seems to note the suspiciously convenient timing involved here…  And no, before you ask, I won’t be getting an iPhone, thank you very much.
  • Although I can’t really say that my social calendar is exactly packed these days, lately it does seem like I’ve got quite a few things coming up in the next few months.  I’m actually going to be taking a quick weekend trip down to Disneyland in a couple of weeks on the weekend of my birthday with the hopes of being able to get in on the annual passholder preview of the new Cars Land (although I’m not going to let it make or break my trip if I don’t get in on that,) followed by tentative plans for a second trip in August with friends.  In theory, having the Annual Pass is supposed to make these quick trips a lot cheaper than they would otherwise be, but by the time you’ve made all the necessary travel and lodging arrangements it still tends to add up.  And then there’s the cost of getting the Annual Pass in the first place, which is going up drastically if I intend to renew it (the jury is still out on that one, and it’s not looking too likely.)  Still, any excuse to get away for a bit is a good one, right?
  • Aside from that, I’ve also got my usual trip to PAX coming up again in late August (I’m glad I got the passes early this year, they sold out in record time),  and I also recently bought tickets to see Rush at KeyArena in November as well.  To be honest, this will actually be the first time I’ve actually gone to a big arena rock concert.  That’s not to say that I’m averse to the idea, it’s just that the vast majority of bands that I listen to on a regular basis have a tendency to have broken up sometime back in the Seventies.  Rush is one of the few bands from the Classic Rock era where most of my musical tastes lie that is not only still performing, but doing so with the same lineup it’s had since 1974.  The video of Headlong Flight, their latest single which was released a few weeks ago and will be featured on their upcoming Clockwork Angels album releasing next month, is posted above (which I guess counts as the now obligatory “currently stuck in my head” portion of my Random Thoughts posts.)  It seems these days that most classic rock bands that are still out there touring are mostly playing as nostalgia acts in various casinos these days, so it’s a bit of a surprise when one not only keeps putting out fresh material, but has it actually be as good as the newer Rush stuff is.
  • I recently got a frame for that angry Donald Duck print I bought at Emerald City ComicCon back in March, but I haven’t had a chance to put it up on the wall yet.  It happens to be sitting next to the desk I’m writing this from, glaring menacingly at me as I type.  Should I be worried?
  • (Late edit) Oh, and one more  facepalm-inducing addition to throw in here:  It looks like someone managed to fix the lights today (or they just decided to turn themselves back on, I can’t really tell either way) so we can actually see things in here again, but while making an unrelated trip to the supply room, I noticed that there were lamps and lightbulbs stocked in there.  Naturally, this might have been a rather handy thing to have figured out a couple of days ago when the lights were all out…  Actually, I’m pretty sure I’d seen the lamps in there before, but didn’t think to actually use one.  Oh well, it’s more fun to make snarky comments about being stuck in the dark anyway, right?

May 7, 2012

Sometimes You Just Gotta’ Have Breakfast

Filed under: Bellevue, Food — Brian Lutz @ 12:22 am


It’s often been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  While I’m sure that particular statement could be put up for debate, I have to admit that I’ve never been all that good at the whole breakfast thing.  Most of the time I end up not eating until I make it into the office, and given the inherent limitations, that doesn’t leave a lot of options.  My previous employer provided milk in the drink fridge and bowls were readily available in the kitchen, so cereal was usually a viable option, and if that didn’t work there happened to be a pretty decent bagel shop next door.  When I was over at Microsoft, the cafeterias actually made a pretty reasonable breakfast (which was just about the only thing the cafeterias over there did well to be honest,) but given their limited hours I usually reserved it for the days when I got into the office really early (as in around 7am or so.) 

Unfortunately, my current employment situation has limited my breakfast choices somewhat.  Basically, unless I want to deal with whatever overpriced food-like substances happen to be peddled by the various coffee shops in the neighborhood (If you count the ones inside Amazon buildings I think there’s 9 of them within a 3-block radius of my office, and shockingly only two of them are Starbucks) I pretty much have to bring my own stuff.  I’ve already tried cereal, but it requires bringing my own milk and my own bowl, and I’ve found that the milk has a tendency to disappear from the fridge.  Somewhere along the line I’ve also picked up the apparently odd habit of bringing Cup ‘O Noodles to work and eating those for breakfast, and experiments with packets of oatmeal have provided reasonably satisfactory results as well.  For the time being this seems to be the way to go, but ultimately I find that most days I’ll just skip breakfast and grab an early lunch.  This isn’t a particularly good solution to the problem either, since an early lunch break seems to make the afternoon drag on for longer than it should.  Ultimately I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion that I’m just not doing this whole breakfast thing quite right.

I’m sure someone out there could cite all sorts of  research studies that would tell me that my lack of proper breakfasting habits is going to cause all sorts of bad things to happen at some unspecified point in the future, but for the most part there just doesn’t seem to be time for it, and options for a proper breakfast (which would presumably be something like the toast, juice and milk that you see put next to the bowl of Frosted Killer Cocoa Bombs in the TV commercials to somehow turn it into a “balanced” breakfast) are few and far between.  Somehow I manage to get by on my questionable breakfast habits, but I do have to admit that every so often it just gets to the point where I just feel the need to have a proper sit-down-and-eat breakfast. 

Sure, there are the usual Denny’s and IHOP options for breakfast, but one of the best places I’ve found in Bellevue to go when you’re looking for some serious breakfast action would be the Lil’ Jon Restaurant just off I-90 in Eastgate.  This diner and its Googie era building has been a fixture in this particular spot for nearly 45 years.  Since it happens to be located next door to the Volkswagen dealership where I occasionally take my car for service, I usually find myself here while I’m waiting on an oil change or some other minor maintenance work, and it’s always worth the trip.

In stark contrast to the quiet solitude that I occasionally seek out with a late-night visit to one of the local Denny’s, on a typical Saturday morning Lil’ Jon is a beehive of activity, and you can get a front row seat to the action at the counter.  Handwritten orders come into the kitchen on one of the old-school spinny carousel thingies (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term) that have largely fallen by the wayside in favor of electronic ordering systems,  and plates piled with food come out.  I can barely read what’s written on the guest check, but somehow it all works out and the food manages to find its way to its proper place.  And as you would expect with a place like this, there’s the usual crowd of regulars, some of whom I imagine have been coming here for longer than I’ve been alive.

On this particular visit I opted for what’s known as the 1-2-3 breakfast, which consists of a pancake, 2 eggs and 3 strips of bacon.  As you can see, I couldn’t even fit the whole thing into the shot when I tried to take a picture of it.  The pancake easily fills the entire plate, and seems to be roughly the size of one of the hubcaps off a ’73 Lincoln Continental.  And they don’t mess around with their bacon here either.  Unlike some of the slices of paper-thin disappointment with a flavor like it’s been rolled around in a campfire that seems to pass for bacon at a lot of the various chain places, these are nice crisp thick slices of bacon that can actually hold their own.  Sure there’s nothing particularly fancy going on with this meal, but that’s not really the point of breakfast anyway, in spite of what the overpriced hipster bait places over in South Lake Union seem to think.  After all, If you’re walking away from this place hungry then you’re clearly doing it wrong.

Although the prices at Lil’ Jon are quite reasonable compared to some of the other breakfast places around here, it is admittedly still a bit of a splurge, especially in the calorie department.  Even so, every once in a while there just seems to be a need to quit messing around with cold cereal and sugary pastries of indeterminate origin, and just sit down to a proper full-fledged breakfast.  And you’re going to find no shortage of it here at Lil’ Jon.

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