The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

March 31, 2013

The 30-minute Seattle Vacation

Filed under: Seattle, travel, Wanderings — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:03 pm

As I’m sure you’ve heard me mention and/or complain about a few times in my recent Blog posts, work for me has been quite busy lately.  This means that even as the weather starts getting nicer and Spring starts settling in over the land, I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunity to take advantage it.  Normally I try to get out of the office for a walk each afternoon to provide myself a bit of a break and to collect my occasionally scattered thoughts, but I haven’t been as good as I might like at doing this lately.  Then again, sometimes when you’ve been going at full tilt for a while there comes a point where you just need to get away from it all, even if you can only manage to do so for a half hour.  This is what I did a couple of days ago.  The weather outside was simply too nice to ignore, and the Spring blossoms have recently begun to come out in force.  Working in the more touristy part of Seattle means that several of the popular Seattle landmarks are easily within walking distance, so if I feel like getting away from things for a bit I can always just go wander out and impersonate a tourist for a little while.  Thanks to the miracles of modern technology I’ve even got a convenient camera built into my Smartphone to take a few photos (nobody is going to notice, right?)  This combination of ingredients makes for the perfect opportunity to go out and take a little 30-minute Seattle mini-vacation.

Naturally, in the tradition of seasoned tourists everywhere, I’ve come back with all sorts of pictures and a story or two, and I can’t wait to bore people senseless with them.  Since it’s kind of hard to find a slide projector these days. I figure I might as well do it here.  After the jump, you’ll find some of the highlights of my 30-minute mini-vacation in Seattle.


March 23, 2013

A Change of Season, A Change of Scenery

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 11:47 pm

Coming soon to a biome near you.

If you’re reading this right now, there’s a good chance that you’ve just managed to survive yet another Winter.  Not that this has been all that rough a Winter in the first place, but to be honest, I’ll take “not Winter anymore” any day and twice on a Sunday in mid-January (where that’s unfortunately not an option as of the last time I checked.)  On the other hand, now that Spring is here, Winter seems to be making one last attempt to assert itself in the form of a storm front that’s bringing some heavy rain, some reasonably strong winds and even some potential for a bit of snow in the forecast.  In a way, this most recent bit of weather seems to be the meteorological equivalent of an unmotivated teenager suddenly realizing he’s basically spent the last three months on the couch in the basement playing video games, and is now making a halfhearted effort to look productive before Dad tosses him out and tells him to go get a job.

Nonetheless, even with snow (sort of) still in the forecast, the signs of an impending Spring are beginning to appear.  Although it seems like a lot of the trees have hit the snooze button on waking up this year, there’s a few of them here and there that have started to blossom.  It’s hard to put into words, but there just seems to be a general sense of Springiness in the air, even if the forecasts are still basically Winter warmed over.  Scattered between the usual 47 degree overcast and rainy days that seem to be the norm around here during this part of the year, there have been a few days here and there that have actually been fairly nice.  And although I’ve never been a big fan of the lost hour of sleep that comes with Daylight Savings Time, it’s always nice being able to leave work in the evening and actually still have a usable amount of light outside.

Of course, another thing that comes with the arrival of Spring is the now obligatory (well, sort of) Spring Cleaning.  Back when I was still living in my parents’ house, Spring Cleaning was something generally to be dreaded, mostly because it meant cleaning just about everything in sight, and cleaning it thoroughly.  With my own apartment and (currently) no oversight that would mandate such things I tend to regard Spring Cleaning as more of an optional thing, something that should be applied on an as-needed basis.  Then again, there have been a few things in my apartment that have been bugging me for a while now, mostly in terms of general clutter.  Given the fact that I have limited space here clutter is inevitable, but it still seems like I could be doing a better job of managing it.  In particular, my computer desk has been bugging me lately.  When I moved into this apartment, I set up what had been my work table in the den/office at my old apartment in the bedroom as a temporary desk until I could get something better because my old desk was much too big to fit anywhere in this apartment.  Eventually I did get another desk, but for some odd reason it ended up in the living room, where it has admittedly done nothing but accumulate various crud.  I’ve made a couple of attempts to use it as a workspace, but the placement just doesn’t agree with me for some reason.  I also don’t have enough space in the bedroom for it, so ultimately I just ended up keeping the cheap table I had in here until it started getting a bit too splintery to really be all that useful (I hear cheap Ikea stuff has a tendency to do that sometimes).

Finally, last weekend I decided it was time to do something about this problem.  Fortunately, I found out that Ikea now makes a Galant table in the same size as the Vika table I was replacing.  There’s nothing particularly fancy about the Galant series, but in my experience it holds up a lot better than some of the alternatives, and it does also come with a 10-year warranty on the off-chance that something does break.  After I took this home and put it together, it occurred to me that instead of having the desk right up against the wall, maybe I could do a bit better by turning things around a bit.  When I tried this, I found that not only did it actually look a bit better to do it that way, but it also gave me a bit more space between the desk and the bed and freed up enough space along the wall that I could probably even manage to fit an extra shelf in there, which might help out with the clutter.  It also makes it a lot easier to leave the shades open while I’m on the computer to enjoy the view out the window and get some more light in here.  When I had the desk up against the wall, I found that if I tried to open the shades the glare would be problematic (my eyes tend to be a bit more sensitive to that type of thing than the average person’s eyes would be.)

When all was said and done, this is what I ended up with.

So far, I’m quite happy with the result, and wondering why I didn’t get around to trying this out sooner.  After all, sometimes all you need to get a change of scenery is to turn around and look in a different direction.

March 14, 2013

Random Thoughts: Slouch Forward

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:27 am

Officially we are still about a week away from the Vernal Equinox that marks the official arrival of Spring, but the signs of its arrival are already beginning to appear.  Granted, the Winter we got around here ended up being pretty tame even by Pacific Northwest standards.  In fact, the weather has been so uneventful this Winter that University of Washington Meterology professor Cliff Mass proclaimed this to be “The most boring Winter in Seattle history“.  With virtually no snow at all in Seattle or Bellevue, no significant wind events, and not a lot of unusually hot or cold temperatures, there just wasn’t a whole lot going on around here this Winter.  Friday and Saturday of last week turned out to have some surprisingly nice weather though, with temperatures approaching 60 degrees (which would be considered ridiculously cold around here if they happened in August, but in March that’s practically shorts weather.)  Of course it went right back to the usual overcast-and-rainy just a couple of days later, but at least it looks like there’s a decent chance that Spring might actually happen this year.

With the change of the season also comes Daylight Savings Time, which seems to be one of those things that’s nice in theory, but it’s a bit of a pain in practice.  Given my night owl tendencies, it tends to mean that I lose an hour of sleep, and it takes me a few days to catch up with things.  The fact that I’ve been working long hours at work for much of the past week  (including 13 1/2  and 12 hour days last Thursday and Friday) probably hasn’t helped much.  Things are slowing down just a bit now (aside from some random surprises here and there) so my Blogging time has been a bit short.  Since I haven’t had a whole lot of time for this lately, I think I’ll go ahead and share a few recent odds and ends.

I’ve mostly gotten everything back the way I want it set up on my new computer now, and I’ve had plenty of time to mess with things and run some benchmarks.  This, for example, compares the old 500GB storage drive I had in my old system with the Samsung 840 Pro SSD I’m using as my system drive now.  Granted, this isn’t quite an apples-to-apples comparison (a more apt comparison would be between the SSD and the 10,000 RPM WD Raptor I was using as the system drive in the old system) but this should give you a pretty good idea of just how far we’ve come between now and then.  Of course, even the new storage drive (a Seagate 3TB drive) is nearly 6  times faster on the sequential read/write numbers than the old drive with twice the IOPS, but even that’s pretty soundly blown away by the sheer speed of the SSD.  It’s kind of nice being able to go from hitting the power button on the system to seeing the Windows login screen in 12 seconds, and not having enough time for the Loading Windows animation to even finish.  I’m still not completely convinced about the long-term reliability of SSDs in general, but you certainly can’t argue with the speed.

A couple of weekends ago was Emerald City ComiCon, and as I have for the past several years, I managed to get over there for most of the day on Saturday.  As I’ve discussed before in earlier posts, I’ve never been big on comic books, which means that a good portion of the show is largely Terra incognita for me.  On the other hand, I did get a chance to see the Wil Wheaton\Paul and Storm and the Adam West\Burt Ward panels, and even if you’re not big on comics there’s usually plenty to see while just wandering around.  Of particular note this year was the Lego display, which was headlined by an incredibly detailed 400,000 piece model of Hogwarts (more info here and lots of photos here) and a gigantic model of a Borg cube from Star Trek TNG.  As usual, PAX is more my speed these days, but ComiCon isn’t a bad way to spend a weekend either.

And as usual, I probably spent way too much money on stuff I didn’t need.  Here are (most of) my ill-advised purchases from the show.  There’s still one other shirt that ended up over at my friends’ house which I still need to pick up at some point.  The pickaxe, which probably has no discernible real-world use, has found its way to my cubicle at work, where it serves as a universal debugging tool (which it probably does a lousy job of, since everything is still just as buggy as ever.)

I’m probably not going to bother doing as full-fledged Easter kitsch roundup this year because there’s just not really all that much interesting new stuff (“interesting” or otherwise) out there this year on the Easter merchandising front to really warrant it, but there are a couple of things that stood out when I wandered around a bit.  As seems to be the case with the various other holidays, Easter candy seems to be getting bigger and bigger, which has now resulted in this 2-pound chocolate Easter Bunny.

As you can probably imagine, the nutritional info isn’t a pretty sight.  Actually the nutritional info is never a pretty sight with this kind of thing, but this one’s worse than usual.  4,800 calories, 8 times the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat, and 560 grams of sugar.  Fortunately, I doubt most people’s kids would be able to finish one of these in one sitting, and if they do, then at least they’ll have the benefit of a valuable lesson about what not to do with excessively large amounts of Easter candy.

This, on the other hand, looks surprisingly reasonable in comparison, at only 1,320 calories, 209 grams of sugar, and no fat.  I seriously doubt you’ll be seeing either of these in an “Eat This Not That” book anytime soon though (at least not unless they start adding a “Don’t even THINK about eating this, ever.  EV-ER.” section to the book) but when a giant 1-pound gummy rabbit start looking like one of the more sane options on the shelf, then things might be just a little out of hand.

Then again, I’m starting to get the sneaking suspicion that the Easter Bunny has been slipping a bit lately anyway.  If I started finding these hidden in the yard I’d probably be just a little bit suspicious…

Yes, this is a Walmart, why do you ask?  Not to reinforce any stereotypes or anything like that…

And a couple other quick thoughts to close this out

– I’m scheduled for four days of jury duty at the Redmond District Court in a couple of weeks.  Given how hectic work has been lately, that’s actually starting to sound like a nice little break from things.  Then again, I haven’t ever done jury duty before, so I really have no idea what to expect.

– May, on the other hand, is looking like it is going to be a bit on the busy side.  My brother is getting married later in the month down in Atlanta, and I still have no idea how I’m going to get down there for that.  Me and my friends are also booked for a 3-day repositioning cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver earlier in the month, which I’m looking forward to, but kind of wish I had time for a longer one.

– Currently stuck in my head:

I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been on a bit of an Ambient Techno kick for some odd reason.  The fact that my job currently has me testing music apps means that I seem to be spending a fair bit of time listening to music at work, but even with all that this one kind of came out of left field.

– OK, I’m here…  Now what?

March 5, 2013

And Who Is My Neighbor?

Filed under: Personal Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 11:34 pm

Note: This is admittedly a bit of an unusual post here, so before I proceed with it, I think I should provide a bit of an explanation.  About a week and a half ago, I was asked to give a talk in Sacrament meeting at church.  As you may know if you’ve been reading this Blog for long enough, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  In lieu of the professional clergy that is common in many churches, the church at a stake and ward level is operated by members of the congregation on a volunteer basis.  This also means that on an almost weekly basis, the talks in Sacrament meeting are provided by members of the congregation who have been asked to speak by the ward’s Bishopric.  In this case, my turn to speak in Sacrament meeting came up a couple of Sundays ago, and this was the talk I gave.  I realize that this will not be of interest to some of you (or most of you, for that matter) but one of the purposes of this Blog is to act as something of a personal archive for things I would like to preserve in the hopes that they may be useful to whatever future members of my family may follow me, and it is in this spirit that this is posted here.  Where applicable, I have posted links to the various sources I used in creating this talk.  If you aren’t interested in this, I should have another post coming later this week that should hopefully be of more interest.  If you are interested in this, the talk will be found after the jump.


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