One of the things I find true enjoyment in is traveling to different places within about an hour or so from home. Less than a tank of gas will take you quite a few places in the greater Spokane area. It’s truly one of the things that I love about my home: the geography changes in just a few minutes.
This year alone, I’ve managed to see the natural beauty of the Northern Lights, historic cities like Wallace and Sandpoint (both in Idaho), and find unknown streets and neighborhoods just by taking a different route home or sacrificing some of that precious weekend time to venture outside my comfort zone. Some places I’d love to find again and others… well, let’s just say I’ll take my regular route next time. But the off-chance of finding a city or town with a great history is pretty exciting.
My camera is attached to my hip on every one of these chance ventures, and I’ve captured a great many sights. Small towns just outside Spokane are some of the most interesting places in the Pacific Northwest, even though living in one can be maddening for a younger person like myself.
Sure, living in a town of 300 people could get pretty mundane after a while – for comparison, Spokane’s metropolitan area is around 500,000. It truly does take a special type of person to turn a town of 300 to 10,000 a place where people want to visit. Wallace is a special little place because of some great history and a group of dedicated residents making the city so much bigger than themselves. Meanwhile other towns, even the ones with thousands of people, can’t muster up enough culture to even begin growing some form of excitement.
Now, I travel away from Spokane every once in a while to leave things behind. Work. Traffic. Mass amounts of people. Frustration. Stress.
That’s the world in which I live, and I bet that’s where you live, too. Otherwise, why take vacations if we enjoy things in our lives? We go elsewhere to escape our problems, hoping that a change of scenery will offer us a bit of a reprieve. What a great life, huh? We live to get away.
But sadly, getting away from things is only a weakness and a diversion from solving our real problems in life. That doesn’t mean you can’t be productive during such a diversion, though.
Many of us are stressed and tired, myself included. But a different routine or a quick detour helps change even the most frustrating situation for the better. A different perspective can shed new light in your life. A different turn at the light can bring something new your way.
Personally, I’m delighted by the change of scenery this weekend, even of it is just for an hour or so. Although, admittedly, this delicious ice cream cone I’m enjoying in Harrison, Idaho, may be distorting my objectivity somewhat.
Get out and see what lies outside of your daily routine. Break out of the rut and change something in your life if you don’t enjoy it. It’s all in your hands.
The Seahawks are projected to be one of the best teams in the NFL next season, but fans should really keep in mind what happened to their neighbors across the street in 2010.
Remember when the Mariners traded for Cliff Lee, signed Chone Figgins and dumped Carlos Silva for Milton Bradley? Ryan Rowland-Smith was expected to be a great No. 4 starter, Casey Kotchman actually had potential to be a good starting first baseman and people still believed in Jose Lopez for some reason. And let’s not forget the promise of a Rob Johnson and Adam Moore catching platoon.
That Mariners team was hyped to be one that would handily win the division based on one of the best pitching rotations in baseball and awe-inspiring defense while maintaining a somewhat mediocre offense.
Little did they know fate would have another viewpoint.
The Seahawks are floating on top of the world right now, just like the Mariners were feeling after the 2009 season, which saw them turn a 100-loss season into an 85-win year, offering hope for the future. A World Series game was in striking distance.
In football terms, that’s just like going from a 7-win season to an 11-win season like the Seahawks did in 2011 and 2012. It’s impossible to feel anything but hope when that sort of a turnaround comes with new management, a new vision and great decisions made by the front office.
Signing Antoine Winfield and Cliff Avril were excellent moves for the Seahawks this offseason, and all of the signs point to a runaway year for the team. Those tingly happy feelings are spreading throughout Seattle, and it looks like nothing could go wrong.
Unfortunately, that’s where the 2010 Mariners can step in for Seahawks fans.
While everything may seem rosy right now with an awesome quarterback, a much improved offense and a defensive line that defies nearly every other team, the Seahawks haven’t proven anything yet. The season is still a good three or four months away, and plenty can happen between now and then.
Baseball and football are two different sports, yes, but fandom can rally behind a team that’s making the right moves. Heck, just look at the Philadelphia Phillies last year. The team made all the right moves with a massive payroll of $171 million, yet barely managed to break even by the end of the year.
Sometimes karma has other plans for sports, and that usually involves flushing a team’s hopes and dreams down the toilet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be rooting for the Seahawks and watch the games when I can. But the black spot that’s plagued the team across the street for the last decade is undeniable. This season could potentially send the Seahawks into a downward spiral.
But, then again, having owners who actually care about the team’s performance gives the Seahawks a leg up on their neighbors.
Kirk, Spock, ships, Gorn and tricorders.
They’re the foundation of the new Star Trek video game (STTVG) released in the past week.
The game isn’t going to become the next Mass Effect, Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim or Halo and spawn an immense fanbase that consumes every DLC or add-on offered down the road. While it likely won’t attract a huge following, STTVG is something the franchise hasn’t had in almost a decade: a decent playable video game.
Nearly every video game in the Star Trek franchise is compared to three of the only stomachable entries to date: Elite Force (and its sequel), Bridge Commander and Armada. Those three are the stalwarts in an otherwise disappointing lineup. Compared to them, STTVG is in the middle of the pack.
There are a few obvious problems throughout the game: the AI pales in comparison to other modern games, exploration isn’t really encouraged and environments are too apparent in their effort to make this a cover-shooter game.
Big bulky panels to hide behind in the middle of a busy corridor? Yeah, not too practical on a working starship. Energy hubs to refill your weapons? They just happen to be the same style as yours, despite being a galaxy away.
The Seattle Mariners and younger players like Ackley, Montero and Soak are tough eggs to crack.
After 16 games, they’re now at a 6-10 record. That’s 10 percent of the season out of the way. Given how great this team was in spring training, there were pretty big expectations of maintaining a near-.500 record this year. For a Mariners fan, that’s equivalent of making the playoffs.
So what’s going wrong?
There isn’t one specific area needing improvement, which makes this the most frustrating part of being a fan. Many pieces need to come together in this juggling act called the Seattle Mariners, and we can’t even pick up our second item to throw in the air.
Maurer, Ibanez, Smoak, Ackley and Montero all had pretty awesome spring stats heading into April, and gave fans hope. It looked like the “Big Three” lineup kiddos were finally breaking out of their moldy 2012 season and sustaining a level of play we always believed they could.
But instead of seeing the fans’ pretty vision come true, we’re instead left with the Seattle Mariners vision of the Seattle Mariners. And the reality is that’s not nearly as pretty; it’s about as pretty as Aaron Harang in a tutu.
The Mariners have struggled mightily to maintain balance since the Great Depressing Season of 2004. The entire front office has changed, a new mindset is in place, an entirely new roster exists and yet the offense still can’t figure out how to hit. Sure, there have been a few highlights along the way; mere glimpses of what could have been. Years like 2007 and 2009 come to mind, offering just enough hope to keep most fans going through about half the season before the team tripped over its own shoelaces.
Plenty of fuss is going around regarding Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, largely over the decision to film at 48 frames per second, twice as fast as traditional movies.
I had the chance to see it this weekend, at the proper high frame rate, and must say it’s a great feat. Now, I’m not completely on the 3D trend yet, and still think it’s way overpriced – paying an extra $3 for a pair of plastic glasses is just short of a scam. In my mind, it’s still a gimmick from Hollywood to boost ticket sales.
I truth, only Avatar and The Hobbit have been truly good 3D movies. They were filmed in 3D, not post-converted.
The Hobbit uses the high frame rate to great success. Its use is very obvious from the start, with a fast-paced opening scene displaying the big difference. The action seems faster, the camera movements are more obvious and the detail of sets is exquisite. In terms of cinematography, The Hobbit is a picturesque adventure, just like The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson appeared to be right at home when we first ventured back into The Shire, featuring a welcome return to some familiar faces.
While the landscapes and visual components of the movie are rock solid, the writing tends to be a bit erratic.
Unlike the Rings trilogy, the company of dwarves doesn’t really inspire much bonding between them and the audience. Gimli, Legolas and Aragorn in the other series immediately captured our attention, and carried that all throughout the series. Even the other three hobbits, Sam, Merry and Pippin all had their special moments and were identifiable from the start. Here, unfortunately, a pack of 13 dwarves is a bit too much to follow. While many have their moments, between large meals and escaping danger, they don’t entice the audience to attach to them. Only a handful of characters really get that honor.
It’s unfortunate that the characters should spoil this first movie, because the filming is so very good in The Hobbit. It’s visually impressive, but stumbles with the character problems. Not even appearances from other Rings trilogy characters can help bond the band of dwarves.
Overall, the movie is worth seeing. There is a certain nostalgia to The Hobbit, which makes it an entertaining movie, and should help make an entertaining trilogy. While the storyline has its problems, it’s always nice to make a return visit to Middle Earth.
It’s an honor to fly with America’s finest.
Last year, I was lucky to receive an ESGR nomination to join a refueling flight from Fairchild Air Force Base – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I was certain would never come again. But, life has a few surprises every now and then, and Monday, Aug. 13 was no exception.
A flight for local media representatives helped refuel eight F-16 fighter jets, collectively known as the Thunderbirds.
Taking off in the 92nd Air Refueling Wing’s flagship KC-135 aircraft, we met up with the Thunderbirds, who were on their way from Canada to Nevada, following the performance of a show. With the weather in Spokane being in the mid-80s, and temps inside the plan before takeoff being slightly higher, getting into the regular flight was a breath of cool, fresh air. The KC-135 is an older plane, and due for replacement at some time by the KC-46A, but the Air Force maintenance group keeps them running in pristine shape. Although they’re due to phase out at some bases, the last KC-135 pilot hasn’t yet been born.
The results of the Mariners-Rangers Cliff Lee trade are actually pretty good.
Many point to the unbelievable and disappointing season of Justin Smoak as the trade’s failure, but if you look beyond that, the Mariners ended up with a great deal. It’s why I’m still a believer in Jack Zduriencik despite the team’s continuous offensive struggles.
The Mariners sent Justin Smoak down to Triple-A Tacoma earlier this week after showcasing a paltry .189 batting average through the entire season, never getting above .230 or .240. That’s not even close to “good” for a first round draft pick, especially someone on who the organization placed a large amount of hope for the future. Smoak at times has shown flashes of brilliance for a few days, only to fall into a pit for several weeks.
It isn’t good baseball.
But, Smoak wasn’t the only player the Mariners received in the trade. Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Matthew Lawson (minors) were also shipped out to Seattle. Beavan has had some success since his return from Tacoma, especially in his recent 8-inning rout of the Tampa Bay Rays. Lueke was traded for John Jaso and Lawson is now in the Cleveland Indians’ minors system.
So only Beavan and Smoak are of any real value to the M’s.
In the initial Lee trade that sent him to Seattle, the Phillies received a handful of Bill Bavasi era prospects. As noted here, the trade is considered a bust for the Phillies (not that us Mariner fans didn’t already know that these “prospects” would be).
Pitchers J.C. Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont along with outfielder Tyson Gilles were supposed to give some minor league depth in Philadelphia. Instead, that hasn’t happened.
Ramirez has an ERA in the 4.10s, and the first-rounder Aumont continues to have control struggles without displaying the power that (supposedly) made him attractive in the first place. And Gilles? Yeah, he was recently suspended for an indefinite amount of time.
At least Seattle has seen a full two years of work from Smoak and again, most recently, some promise by Beavan in terms of development. While Smoak has fared poorly in Seattle, his athletic potential is there. The fences at Safeco Field don’t need to be moved in (see my previous post), or anything like that.
In that sense, I believe the Mariners came out on the upper side of the entire trade situation. Yes, Texas went on to the World Series later in the year, but the Mariners gained talented depth and remain loaded with talent in the minor leagues. Look at the Oakland Athletics this year, and how they’re building on raw talent instead of purchasing the biggest free agent on the market. (Yes, that’s a Prince Fielder joke, ladies and gents)
Of course, Philadelphia ended up winning the trade after all, by signing the great Cliff Lee to a big contract. Trade him for prospects and then sign him anyway later on? That’s pretty stealthy.