The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

April 3, 2009

Gone to the Cats

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 8:10 pm

Once again, this afternoon found me in downtown Seattle overpaying for parking and doing a little bit of testing for a small company trying to get an interesting looking (if currently somewhat buggy) recipe website off the ground.  As I tend to do on the relatively rare occasions when I make it into downtown, I ended up spending a bit of time wandering around and checking up on things.  Many years ago (back in the days of Sledgehammer 1.0 in fact) I actually worked in downtown Seattle, and since I got off relatively early and often had some time to kill before the bus to get home would leave, I would often spend an hour or two after work just wandering around town and seeing the various sights (or, more often than not, blowing my hard-earned savings on video games, but that’s beside the point.)  Although it’s been years since that time and a fair bit has changed over the years, I’d still like to think I know my way around downtown fairly well (as long as I don’t wander too far into Belltown anyway…) 

Of course, downtown Seattle also has what some might diplomatically refer to as its colorful side, and on any given day it seems in the area around Westlake Center and the downtown core you’ll probably see at least a handful of miscellaneous protesters  out harping on one  deep abiding social grievance or another.  Today’s crowd included a bunch of various ACLU people circulating petitions for something I didn’t figure out but I’d probably oppose for no other reason than the fact it’s supported by the ACLU, some sort of vague allegation of unfair labor practices at Macy’s, with a light sprinkling of the usual fringe protesters demanding the jailing of the usual capitalist oppressors to top it all off.  Fortunately when dealing with these types of protesters the size of their current grievance is usually directly proportional to the size of their protest signs, which often makes them easy to spot and keep a safe distance.   

Another thing you’ll often see around this area are a handful of so-called guerrilla marketers advertising some sort of product on a street corner and passing out samples and coupons.  In most cases, this will be some sort of sample sized  food product that will be quickly consumed as a snack and almost immediately forgotten about.  On the other hand, sometimes the products are a little more difficult to deal with.  As I was approaching a street corner today near the Nordstrom store, I saw that a couple of people were passing out samples on the street corners here, but I couldn’t quite figure out what type of samples were being offered.  I was going to need to cross the street anyway, so I approached the corner, and by the time I got there I saw that they were passing out samples of cat food.  Almost before I could react, one of the people handed me three cans of cat food and the usual coupons.  I started to try to explain that I don’t in fact own a cat, and he quickly replied that I probably know someone who does, and turned to the next person walking down the street.  Before I could really figure out what to do the walk signal came, to cross the street, and as I walked away it seemed that I was now officially stuck with the cat food which had been foisted upon me, and not a clue what I’m actually supposed to do with the stuff.

Well I guess I do know what I’m technically supposed to do with the stuff (feed it to a cat, who is then supposed to get hooked on the stuff and make me use the included “Buy 6 Get 1 Free” coupons to get more of it,) but lacking a convenient cat to feed it to at this time, the whole thing just becomes a bit more complicated.  I suppose the simplest thing to do would have been to just throw it away at the nearest garbage can, but even if I’m never going to use the stuff that seems a bit wasteful.  I could leave the stuff somewhere besides a garbage can, but that would technically be littering, and also pretty much a bad thing.  To tell you the truth the whole thing wouldn’t even be all that big a deal if not for the fact that canned cat food isn’t exactly the easiest thing to carry around with you when you’re walking around a busy urban area (and if I wasn’t wearing a jacket at the time I wouldn’t have even had a convenient pocket to stick the stuff in.  Ultimately, having found myself unable to come up with anything better to do with the stuff, I found that it managed to follow me home.  Can I keep it?

Of course, by doing this I didn’t actually solve anything.  It just means that I still have three cans of cat food, and I still have no idea what the heck I’m supposed to actually do with the stuff.  I suppose the simplest solution to the problem would just be to get a cat and feed it the stuff, but I hear there are some unforeseen consequences to that approach, namely the fact that I would probably end up owning a cat if I did that.  I suppose this means that these cans will most likely end up in the back of some dark cabinet until I decide that I’m never going to actually use the stuff and toss it, which sounds a lot better than the alternative of sitting around and waiting for the economy to really get bad, at which point I have to actually eat the stuff, which doesn’t sound like much fun (I suspect my idea of a tasty dinner is just a bit different from that of your average house cat.)  If nothing else, I suppose I could do what the street corner guy who foisted the stuff on me said, and get a friend who owns a cat, who would then presumably be able to eat the stuff.  Any volunteers?

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December 29, 2008

Disney World Trip Report – Part 1: Getting There is Half the Fun, Right?

Filed under: travel, Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 5:08 pm

For the three or four of you who actually read this Blog on a regular basis, you might have been wondering when I was going to get around to writing out the trip report that I promised for the Disney World trip that I went on a couple of weeks ago.  I have actually been working on this, but between the fact that I managed to land just hours in advance of what was predicted to be a possible major windstorm (that fortunately didn’t turn out quite as bad as it could have been) followed by a week of relentless snow and solid ice on the roads with Christmas thrown in there somewhere along the line, I haven’t had a whole lot of time for the Blog in the last week oro so, but now with things settling down (at least until Thursday when the next possible major windstorm and potential snowstorm is set to arrive)  I have some time to start on this.  Those of you who have been reading this Blog for long enough know that I’m notoriously slow with some of this stuff (Crossroads Profile part 2?  What Crossroads Profile part 2?) but I plan to get this done fairly soon, or at least before I end up going to Disney World again, whenever that might be.

I have actually begun writing this in a thread over at DISBoards.com, although I will try to keep things free of the jargon that seems to be common in the trip reports ver there.   This particular post here will consist of the first three parts that I have written over there as follows:

  • Part 1:  The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men:  The planning (or lack thereof) of the trip
  • Part 2:  Slip Slidin’ Away (in which the vacation very nearly gets put on ice before I can even make it off the ground…)
  • Part 3:  Who Have I Gotta’ Bribe to Get Outa’ This Town? (Goin’ to Chicago, and putting way too much stuff on a hot dog in the process)

Note that some of the material here is background info for the DISboard readers, and may be redundant to some of the people here.  In fact, some of this might actually be nearly identical to a couple of the Blog posts below. 

That said, please remain seated at all times, keeping your hands, arms, feet and legs inside the vehicle, and please no flash photography.  After the jump, we’re off to Never Never Land.  Or Outer Space.  Or wherever it is you’re supposed to go (well OK, this post will barely even make it to the hotel, but I’m sure we’ll get to some of those places eventually, right?)

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December 14, 2008

Zero to Sixty in Just Twelve Hours

Filed under: Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 10:30 pm

Technically, it’s actually 31 to 67 in twelve hours, but if you manage to throw a Celsius to Fahrenheit conversion in there somewhere, you can probably get away with calling it zero to sixty.  After a moderately harrowing day of travel, I made it to Disney World at about midnight local time, and I’m posting from my (shockingly huge) room at the Hilton right now. I have to figure that when the day starts off with a harrowing drive on roads with an inch of ice on them (fortunately it was only a shuttle ride from the airport hotel in SeaTac, and we had a driver who wasn’t a maniac) you have to figure that things can only get better. They eventually did, but not before the plane sat for an extra hour at the gate waiting to be deiced, which caused me to miss my connecting flight in Chicago. Fortunately, that’s the point where things started getting better, as I got quickly booked on the next flight into an exit row (the one with the extra legroom, as long as you don’t mind having to save everyone’s life if the plane goes down in flames) and even though it took a couple extra hours to get out of Chicago (I wonder if a “donation” to Friends of Blagojevich would have helped?) I made it here, and was greeted by 66-degree weather at 11pm, a freakishly large hotel room (just don’t ask about the view) and four days of Disney to look forward to.  Assuming, of course, that I don’t completely zonk out in the middle of the Haunted Mansion or something like that after the combination of sleep deprivation and three hours of jet lag has me trying to make it to rope drop at what my body would consider to be 5AM.

There will, of course, be plenty more later, but I don’t know how much posting I’ll be doing here over the next few days (I’d like to not run the bill up on my phone’s data tethering too much…)  I’ll save the bog industrial-strength trip reports for when I get back home.

July 27, 2008

What $240 Million Gets You These Days: A Look at the Westfield Southcenter Expansion

Filed under: Malls, shopping — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:07 am

Yesterday morning, after two years of construction, Westfield Southcenter’s new $240 million expansion officially opened its doors to the public with much fanfare.  A crowd estimated to be 6,000 people showed up (some of them arriving as early as 1AM) to be among the first to shop in the mall’s new stores, and although I wasn’t able to attend myself due to work, I was able to get down there this morning to check out the place.  As I had mentioned previously, last weekend the movie theater was already open on the third level of the new atrium.  This provided a chance to take a sneak peek at the new expansion, but at the time I didn’t take any photos since there was still a fair bit of stuff that was unfinished, and most of it was roped off anyway.   

With the new expansion, Southcenter now solidifies its position as the largest shopping mall in the Pacific Northwest, and although it doesn’t add any new anchor stores (currently, the mall’s former Mervyn’s store remains vacant,) it still brings in several new major retailers, five new sit-down restaurants, a brand new food court (or “dining terrace” as they prefer to call it) and a 16-screen cinema.  After the jump, a look at some of the new features that the Southcenter expansion has to offer.

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May 26, 2008

A Tour of Crossroads Bellevue – Part 1: The Mall

Filed under: Bellevue, Malls, shopping — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:28 am

Note:  This is the third in an ongoing series of posts profiling the shopping malls found in the Seattle area.  The previous posts in this series can be found below:

For those of you out there who have been wondering when I would get around to actually finishing up my profile of Crossroads in Bellevue, rest assured that I have actually been working on this for some time now.  The main reason that I have delayed this is that I have not been able to settle on an appropriate format for this.  Crossroads is a very different place from the two malls that I have previously profiled on the site, and just taking a few photos and putting them up with some comments (as I have done previously) would not do the place justice.  Because of this, I have decided that a better approach would be to split this up into four parts, since there is a lot of material to cover here.  Tentatively, this is how I plan to do this:

  • Part 1: The Mall (this post)
  • Part 2: The Stores and the Restaurants
  • Part 3: What’s the Secret?  (What is it that has allowed Crossroads to succeed where other malls have failed?)
  • Part 4:  A History of Crossroads (I haven’t been able to find a whole lot of info on this yet; any help that could be provided would be appreciated here.)

In many ways, the story of Crossroads Mall is similar to that of the Totem Lake and Factoria Malls.  All three are relatively small malls designed for a similar mix of stores (although Crossroads is about a decade older than Totem Lake and fifteen years older than Factoria,) and all have faced similar challenges.  There is one major difference that distinguishes Crossroads though:  Where other similar malls in the area have foundered and failed, Crossroads has thrived, witha low vacancy rate and a strong base of shoppers.  This has not always been the case though.  When the current ownership took over the Crossroads Mall in 1985, it was largely vacant and considered to be a failed shopping center.  Since that time, a unique approach to retail has evolved Crossroads into something that is less of a conventional shopping mall and more of a gathering place for the community that just happens to be located in a mall, with a unique mix of tenants you won’t find anywhere else.  If you’re looking for designer label fashions, high-end housewares and four-star cuisine, Crossroads isn’t the place to look.  On the other hand if you’re looking for unique yet affordable food, stuff to do and a place to spend a Friday evening without breaking the bank, Crossroads is the place to go on the Eastside.  In this series of posts we will take a look at Crossroads, and what has made it a success where other malls have failed.  After the jump, a tour of the Crossroads Mall property. 

(Please note that this post contains a lot of pictures, and it may take some time to load if you are on a slower Internet connection.)

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