The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

January 24, 2013

People Love it When You Lose, or 47 Reasons Why I’m a Really Horrible Sports Fan

Filed under: Sports — Brian Lutz @ 12:50 am

When it comes to watching and following sports, there seem to be a lot of different ways that somebody can do it.  Most people opt for the traditional approach where they pick a set of teams (usually the local ones) and follow those teams through thick and thin, never wavering (but forever complaining).  Other people prefer the “Fair Weather Fan” approach of jumping on whatever bandwagon happens to be convenient at the present moment, then finding another bandwagon when they get sick of the current one.  Still other people can manage to act (or at least do a pretty convincing job of pretending to act) as disinterested observers, preferring to watch the games as they happen, never bothering to take sides.  As for myself… Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t fit into any of those.  Sure, I grew up in a family where we were always fans of one baseball team or another.  Back when we lived in New Mexico it seemed to be either the Cubs or the Braves, owing mostly to the fact that those were the two teams we could actually watch on TV.  Then when we moved up here the family’s allegiances shifted pretty rapidly to the hometown Mariners.  And for a number of years I managed to follow along (and even made a couple of years worth of largely disastrous attempts at a fantasy baseball team.) but gradually I’ve found that I have just lost interest.

This isn’t to say that I don’t follow sports.  In fact, I find that I spend a fair bit of time on ESPN.com reading various articles about all the major sports and generally keeping up with things.  There’s just one problem:  Most of the time I can’t be bothered to actually watch a single game, to the point that I’d much rather follow most games through the GameCast on the site (basically a glorified scoreboard) than by turning on the TV and actually watching them.  It occurs to me that by taking this approach to sports I’m basically missing the whole entire point, but I never really managed to figure out just why I tend to do this until just this evening I had a sudden realization:  I don’t watch sports so much to support teams that I happen to like as I do to root against teams I don’t like.

And on further consideration, I came to realize that the number of teams that I dislike far exceeds the number of teams that I do like.  For example, this upcoming Super Bowl is, based on the odd personal sports standards I set for myself, totally unwatchable.  I have no particular opinion one way or the other on the Ravens (they seem to be one of those random AFC teams that I don’t bother paying any attention to until they just happen to show up in the Super Bowl for some odd reason,) but for some reason, the 49ers just bug me.  Part of it probably comes from them being rivals to the Seahawks (who I don’t particularly root for, but who I do follow to some extent) and part of it seems to come from the fact that they’re from San Francisco.  The fact that the Giants (A fixture on my personal sports pooh-pooh list for just about as long as I can remember, dating back to when they were a division rival of the Braves several realignments ago) won the World Series a few months ago probably doesn’t help much here.  Either way, I suspect I probably won’t be able to watch the game without being annoyed by something, so I figure I’m probably better off just skipping it and YouTubing whatever commercials happen to be interesting later on.

On the flip side of the coin, even though sports anti-fans such as myself mostly end up putting up with a lot of watching the teams we dislike win (after all, we probably wouldn’t have much reason to dislike them if they weren’t winning everything, usually by outspending pretty much everyone else in the league,) every once in a while we get “treated” to watching one of these teams fall, and fall hard.  In fact, the idea for this Blog post comes largely from reading an article on ESPN about the latest drama coming out of the Los Angeles Lakers clubhouse as they flail their way through what’s turned out to be a disappointing season so far, with potential to turn into a full-scale trainwreck if things get further out of hand than they already are.  During the NFL season, we got to watch the New York Jets as they stumbled their way into a 6-10 season with the vultures of the New York media documenting every minute of it.  And on the baseball side of things, we’ve spent the past five seasons watching the Boston Red Sox go from a World Series win in 2007 to missing the playoffs in 2010,  blowing a 9-game AL wild card lead in less than a month in 2011, and finally culminating in the absolute trainwreck of a 2012 season that ended with a 69-93 last-place finish in the AL east as the team melted down.  (Edit, a year later: And then in 2013 the Red Sox managed to win the World Series again, just to keep everyone guessing…)

Although the Lakers have long held a place on my pooh-pooh list (as a standard big-market team that wins by outspending opponents,) I have never really had a reason to specifically dislike either the Red Sox or the Jets.  Nonetheless, there’s something oddly amusing about watching a team that’s supposed to be going deep into the playoffs ending up as a dysfunctional mess.  When the Lakers picked up Dwight Howard during the offseason there were a number of articles written where people were practically already lining up for their Lakers-Heat NBA Finals tickets, but now halfway through the season we’re watching the Lakers sitting just barely ahead of the cellar-dwellers in the Western Conference with a 17-25 record and holding blamestorming meetings in the clubhouse before the game.  On the other hand, from the minute they hired Bobby Valentine as manager the 2012 Red Sox season was getting turned into a soap opera whether they wanted it or not.  And the Jets, although it wasn’t without its horrendously overblown drama, seems to have been mostly just a simple case of plain old incompetence on pretty much everyone’s part.

Sure, the whole thing gets to be a bit painful to watch if you’re a fan of one of these teams, but for the rest of us, there’s something that’s just oddly amusing about the whole thing.  Therefore, I propose the following:  For the amusement of the sports anti-fans among us, each year there shall be at least one team within the four major sports that will be chosen as the designated trainwreck team.  That team will come from a big market, with lots of overpaid star players, excessively high expectations and inordinately bloodthirsty local media, and subsequently that team will spend their season melting down in the most amusing fashion possible.  If circumstances permit we can probably accommodate multiple meltdown teams across multiple major sports within a single year, but I suspect that three different high-profile team meltdowns (as we’ve had in 2012) plus an entire league having a large-scale meltdown that cancelled half the season is probably an anomaly that is unlikely to be repeated on a regular basis.  Oh, and protracted long-term meltdowns that have been going on for years probably aren’t going to count here (sorry Cubs fans).

Sure it may not come with the thrills of watching an epic battle between two teams on the field or the court (unless someone gets beaned by a fastball at least,) but at least there aren’t as many confusing stats to figure out that way.

January 17, 2013

They Say You Want a Resolution…

Filed under: Random Stuff, Technology — Brian Lutz @ 11:30 pm

Resolution #1 for 2013:  Stop procrastinating.  Pretty sure I’ve already blown that one.  Especially because I just barely got around to making that one up.

Come to think of it, is there supposed to be a deadline for these kind of things?  Yeah, I know they’re supposed to be New Year’s resolutions, but who says you’re supposed to be making the things on January 1st?  Then again, according to the collective wisdom of the Internet, January 17th is supposed to be some sort of unofficial Ditch Your New Year’s Resolutions Day.  I’m guessing you’re supposed to celebrate that by doing all the bad stuff you claimed you weren’t going to do anymore or something like that.  Then again, apparently the whole thing is based on when statistically most people will have given up on their resolutions, so maybe it might actually make some sense to wait for the traffic to die down, so to speak.  Sure, it probably just means that you’ll be ditching all your resolutions on February 7th instead (statistically speaking of course,) but maybe this way you’ll actually manage to get a treadmill at the gym while you’re making your halfhearted effort at improving yourself before your semi-inevitable regression to the mean.

Then again, I’ve never been all that big on the whole New Year’s resolution thing anyway.  I think I tried making a few of them back at the beginning of 2011, promptly managed to forget about all of them about three weeks later, then didn’t even bother with any last year.  I suppose I might have passively adopted a few of the standard resolution clichés somewhere along the line (Eat less junk food, lose some weight, stop setting things on fire for entertainment purposes, etc., etc., etc…) but probably managed about as well as most people do with those ones.  Well OK, I do mostly keep the latent pyromania under control these days,  but that one’s kind of a gimme since they tend to throw you in a highly fireproof jail cell if you do too much of that stuff.  The rest of them all kind of fell by the wayside the way they all usually do.  At least having access to some decent exercise equipment at my building means that I can  pass by the exercise room on the way to the mailboxes and feel kind of guilty about never using any of it for a lot less money than I’d spend on a health club that I pass by and feel guilty about never visiting.

Of course, none of this is to say that I’m not trying to find ways to improve myself, but I think of this less in terms of things that I need to do, and more in terms of things that I would like to accomplish, preferably before the end of the year.  Of course the last time I tried this I managed to accomplish roughly zero of the things I had planned on, but none of this is particularly earth-shattering stuff anyway.  That said, here are a few of my goals for the coming year (or what’s left of it anyway):

  • Learn how to work with electronics.  As I’ve mentioned in some of the posts about the laser cutting projects I’ve done, it seems like every time I head over to Metrix Create:Space to do lasercutting, I always walk out of the place feeling just a bit inadequate because it seems like everyone else there is working on much cooler stuff than I am.  I’ve actually done some work with electronics before back when I was in college, but I’ve managed to forget most of it by now, and the one class that I took barely scratched the surface of electrical engineering, which is a subject you could get yourself a Ph.D  in if you pursue it fervently enough.  I don’t expect to ever be building giant killer robots in a secret underground lair or anything like that (the opportunities to use one’s powers for evil around here seem dreadfully limited these days) but it’s definitely something I’d like to learn more about.  If nothing else, I still need to build that JAMMA Supergun I was talking about two years ago so I have something to play my arcade boards on.
  • Build a new computer.  To be honest, my current desktop system is holding up pretty well for me right now, but it is over three years old now, and I’m thinking it’s time to start looking at a new build.  I think I’m going to end up doing this one more in increments rather than just buying everything at once and putting it all together, but eventually I do plan to replace (almost) all of the major components.  In the first round of upgrades I’ll be getting a new case (a Cooler Master HAF X which I’ve actually already bought, and intend to move my current system into when it’s convenient to do so), an SSD to replace the system drive, and a new video card (currently I’m looking at a GeForce GTX 660 Ti, but I need to do a bit more homework on things before I jump in.)  After that, I think I’ll plan to follow with a new motherboard/CPU and RAM in about 6-12 months.  For a while now I’ve been tempted to just go all-out and build a high-end monster of a system, but it never seems like the performance of a high-end system like that quite lives up to the high cost, so I usually end up somewhere around a mid-to-upper range system.
  • Cut the clutter.  Although I do still quite like my apartment here in Downtown Bellevue (at least when the appliances are working, there’s a long story to that but I’ll hold off on it for now,) it does definitely get a bit crowded in here.  In particular, there are a couple of trouble spots in the living room and in the bedroom where stuff tends to accumulate, and I’d really like to find a better way to deal with things than to toss them onto the nearest convenient flat surface.  Ultimately I think the long-term solution is going to be to move to somewhere with enough space to actually store things,  but for now I’ve got to deal with what I have, so I’ll need to find ways to try to organize things better here.  I’m pretty sure that mostly translates to getting rid of a bunch of stuff, which is mostly a matter of sorting it and actually making the effort to get rid of it in one way or another.  It seems like the best way to avoid this is to not let it accumulate in the first place, but that tends to be kind of difficult in a small place like this.  In short, there’s not much room, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

So aside from the fact that it’s already nearly eighteen days into the new year, and that none of these goals are anything particularly earth-shattering, those are some of the things I’d like to get accomplished over the course of the upcoming  year.  I’d call them resolutions, but I think we might already be past the deadline to ditch those, so I might actually have to follow up on some of these if I did.  Besides, if I really wanted to make resolutions, I could always make them later.  I could always stop procrastinating  on December 31st, right?

January 8, 2013

Random Thoughts: Back to the Old Grind, Life in a Tourist Trap, and Causing Trouble with Tribbles

Filed under: Random Stuff, Seattle — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:22 am

With the new year comes new resolve to do new things…  OK, forget that, that’s just cliché as heck,  but I’m still using this picture of the last sunrise of 2012 as seen from my apartment window, shopworn platitudes or otherwise.  On one hand, I’ve never been a big fan of having it dark so early in the evenings around this time of year, but one side effect of the later sunrises and later sunsets is that I get to actually see one every once in a while, even if I do wake up at a time that most of my siblings would consider ridiculously late (around 7:30, if you must know.)

Anyway, there really isn’t anything all that exciting going on here right now, so I thought I’d throw out a few random thoughts…

—–

Now that we’re a week past New Year’s Day, I think we can now well and truly call the Holiday season done and dusted.  All the Christmas decorations here are put away (not that I had a whole lot of them in the first place), most people are back to their usual routine, and things are generally back to normal (or in my case, since I somehow ended up starting a new job a week and a half before Christmas, things are starting to arrive at normal.)  As nice as the Holiday season is, there’s something that just feels a little bit off about the whole thing.  Perhaps it’s the fact that it seems like everything just has to be bright and cheerful with Bing Crosby crooning in the background, or maybe it’s the creeping sense of obligation in the background when you still have Christmas shopping to do (and, if you happened to be unfortunate enough to have to do your Christmas shopping at Southcenter the weekend before Christmas, perhaps the most ridiculous traffic I’ve ever seen at that place,) but it almost seems to be a relief when it’s all over.  Sure, it means that you’ve got another 2 1/2 months of Winter to slog through, and probably another four months after that until something resembling Summer happens to show up, but on the other hand it does also mean that there aren’t any major disruptions to the regular schedule of things until Memorial Day (barring the ones you add to the schedule yourself of course), and aside from the need for most people to do something at least vaguely thoughtful on Valentine’s Day and maybe do something for Easter, there aren’t a lot of holiday related obligations to deal with between now and the Fourth of July.  It doesn’t sound particularly festive, but it works in its own way.

—–

As I discussed in my last post, the job I started a few weeks ago has put me basically right in the heart of Downtown Seattle, just off the waterfront.  Of the various places that I’ve worked over the past few years, I would have to say that in terms of interesting things to see in the general vicinity, this one might be the one with the most choices.  I’ve found that Pike Place Market is an easy 10-minute walk from the office, and it’s not too hard to get over to Pioneer Square either.  The waterfront is, of course, a block away, and I suspect that as the weather gets better that should provide some nice scenery and people watching.  If I happen to be feeling ambitious enough to do it,  I can even hike up the hill (or cheat and find an escalator or two, even though that usually takes me several blocks out of my way) and get to various places in the Downtown core or make the trek over to Westlake Center and the shopping district.

Oh, and to top it all off, I’ve got one other thing at my new workplace that I haven’t had at any of the places I’ve worked in quite a while:  A decent teriyaki joint near the office.  There was one place that made passable teriyaki over near Amazon, and Downtown Bellevue one that was OK but mind-numbingly slow, but none of these places were anywhere near as some of the places I head over to Redmond for if I’m looking to get teriyaki that’s actually good.  There’s also at least three different Fish ‘n Chips places within a couple blocks of the office (including the original Ivar’s on the waterfront,) but that gets expensive in a hurry and is loaded with calories, so that’s something I probably shouldn’t  do too often.  If I’m feeling really ambitious over my lunch break I could probably even go try some of the places over at the Pike Place Market.  I hear some of them are supposed to be pretty good, but haven’t ever gotten around to trying most of them.

One of the things I’ve realized as I’ve wandered over to the Market a few times on my afternoon break is that it’s a lot less crowded than I’m used to seeing during this time of year.  Even as a local, it’s been fairly rare that I’ve had any reason to go over to the Market, and on most of the occasions when I’ve been there it’s been during some of its busier times.  Oh, and there was also that time when I got attacked by a cat, but I don’t like to talk about that one much (you’ll have to ask my girlfriend about that one.)  If you go to the Market on a Saturday when it’s really busy, the place can be wall-to-wall people, to the point that it can be tough to even get around in there.  If you go around this time of year it’s still reasonably busy, but at least you can actually get around.  You also don’t feel nearly as rushed trying to get from one place to another.  All in all, it’s a rather different experience than you might be used to if you’re the type of person who only goes when you’ve got tourists in tow, or when you’re trying to impersonate a tourist yourself for some odd reason.  If I get a chance I might do some blogging about some of the stuff I find there, as well as some of the more interesting sights in the general vicinity of my new workplace.  It’s certainly a lot more interesting neighborhood to work in than the South Lake Union neighborhood was, but then again that doesn’t exactly take much to accomplish.

—–

For some odd reason, recently one of my friends bought a pink Tribble off the Internet.  I’m not sure exactly what you’re supposed to actually do with a Tribble since it’s basically just a ball of fur that sits around, purrs every so often, and is occasionally prone to potentially disastrous quantities of reproduction, but for some reason she decided she needed one.  Normally It shares a shelf in her house with a couple of slightly deranged Furbies, but the last time I was over there, I thought it looked a bit lonely with no others of its own kind to hang around with.  After arranging a meeting with an only slightly shady looking trader, I was able to acquire a number of additional Tribbles, and one evening when she wasn’t paying attention, we brought them over to the house.

It didn’t take them long to settle in.  They seemed to like the place…

But for some reason they seemed awfully hungry…

…and pretty soon they were getting into all sorts of places where they weren’t supposed to be.  It’s probably a good thing my friend keeps the Quadrotriticale on the top shelf in the cabinet, otherwise things could have gotten out of hand.

On the other hand, these things don’t seem to have much of a sense of self-preservation.  Apparently there aren’t a lot of microwaves on Iota Gemorium IV.

Then again, it seems that the things can find their way into just about anything if you’re not careful.

By the time my friend discovered the Tribbles, things were getting just a little bit out of hand.  Eventually she was able to find most of the Tribbles and move them to a (somewhat) safer location, but not before taking this family portrait.  The infestation seems to be mostly under control now, but at the last report she is still finding Tribbles hidden throughout the house on occasion.  According to a recent estimate, at the current rate she should be able to locate all of the Tribbles in approximately 17.9 years.

Anyone know where I can find that weird-looking trader guy so I can request a refund?

January 1, 2013

Statistical Overview of 2012

Filed under: Site Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:21 am

Once again, with 2012 now officially in the books, it’s time for me to do my standard end-of-the-year statistical overview post.  I tend to do these twice a year; once on New Year’s Day, and once on June 6th, which is the anniversary of when this Blog was started.  I’ll dispense with the usual complaint about the lack of flying cars (I figure someone will get sick of waiting and get around to inventing one eventually) and just move on to the stats:  All in all, traffic on the Blog was down just slightly from last year, but has shown a reasonably significant upswing in the past couple of months, owing to a couple of specific posts that have started getting more attention.  On the plus side, a couple of weeks ago my Blog did receive its 250,000th page view, which puts me on a pace to reach a million visitors sometime around… oh, 2027 or so.  Ultimately I’d like to get traffic moving back in a forward direction again (although I suspect I’ve got a while to go to get back up to the levels I was getting in 2009 and 2010.)   Then again since I’ve long ago decided to keep this site as more of a hobby than anything, I suppose I will just try to keep producing interesting content, and see what happens from there.  I’ve been meaning to try to write more fiction here (I recall that last year I set a goal of writing a new short story here each month, I think I managed about three during the year.) but it’s become pretty clear from the stats that the posts that get the most attention here are the ones that cover something that really hasn’t been covered well anywhere else on the Internet that people might be interested in.

In particular, while looking through my Blog stats, I’ve noted an interesting pattern that has formed on my Whitman’s Sampler post:  For the past several years since I posted this, there has been a fairly decent spike in traffic on this post during the Holiday season leading up to Christmas, followed by a really big (but much shorter) one at Valentine’s Day.  This particular post has become by far the most popular post on the Blog, although I have seen a couple of other posts (that didn’t quite get enough hits to make the top ten)  that have started getting a lot more attention as of late as well.  It would be nice if some of the posts that I enjoy writing (in particular, the various holiday kitsch roundups are a favorite of mine) were the ones that got more attention, but if I can manage to get 2 or 3 of these niche posts out a year I think I can get my traffic up by a decent amount.  One shorter term step that I can take that I think would help would be to put together something of an index page of some of the more interesting posts on the site, making it easier to find some of it.  It’s been on my list for a while to do this, but maybe if I say I’m actually going to do it then I’ll actually do it.

Anyway, once again I would like to thank those of you who have been reading this Blog for years, as well as those of you who might just be dropping in.  I may occasionally have trouble coming up with content for the Blog, but I do remain committed to keeping it fresh and interesting to the extent that I am able to, and appreciate knowing that someone out there is actually reading the stuff I write every once in a while.

  • Total Posts(all time, including this one):  586
  • Total Posts (2011): 52
  • Total Comments (all time):  885
  • Total  Page Views (all time): 253,898
  • Total Page Views  in 2012: 42.260
  • Total Page Views in 2011: 42, 742
  • 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 (2012):  115

Top posts in 2012:

Sampling the Whitman’s Sampler: A Guide to America’s Favorite Box of Enigmatic Chocolates 7,103
Retail Wasteland – A Tour of the Totem Lake Mall 3,346
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of the Factoria Mall 1,365
Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations 1,280
A Tour of Crossroads Bellevue – Part 1: The Mall 1,091
The Redmond Costco Moves Forward (Updated 9/9/09) 1,010
A Brief Tour of the Bellevue Galleria, Bungie’s Future Home 962
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of The Everett Mall 790
Local Reactions to the First Moon Landing 769
A Not-So-Standard Chevron Station (Updated) 736
My Very Nearly Award-Winning Chili Recipe, and Other Deep Dark Secrets 726

Top posts (all time):

Retail Wasteland – A Tour of the Totem Lake Mall 28,268
Sampling the Whitman’s Sampler: A Guide to America’s Favorite Box of Enigmatic Chocolates 17,735
Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations 11,037
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of the Factoria Mall 10,764
A Tour of Crossroads Bellevue – Part 1: The Mall 7,528
The Redmond Costco Moves Forward (Updated 9/9/09) 7,196
My Very Nearly Award-Winning Chili Recipe, and Other Deep Dark Secrets 5,976
Malls of the Seattle Area: A Tour of The Everett Mall 5,163
A Brief Tour of the Bellevue Galleria, Bungie’s Future Home 4,401
The Beginning and the End of the Old Bellevue Safeway 3,357

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