Thursday, August 25, 2016

Along the Waterfront

MORNING STROLL: If you believe local weather forecasts, this week is Summer's last stand. Wanting to capitalize on that fact, we headed down to the western shore of Puget Sound this morning for a good long walk.

We 'put in' down by the former Amgen campus and very near the Louis Dreyfus terminal 

A bit south of there, there's a lovely rose garden. There was a surprising number of roses still (or again) in bloom today Also, we admired many enormous rose hips. 

Also, we spied dozens of big, juicy hops on a trellis in the rose garden. We've been coming to this park for years, and this is our first hops spotting, which makes me think they're new. I wonder if some beer loving soul brought a cutting down months ago and implanted it. 
The kids enjoyed playing along the shoreline.
 We got to watch some Coast Guard drills during our outing.

And, of course, there was some Pokemon GO business to attend to. I love this photo of Annabelle (below), battling to take over the 'gym' atop this art installation (yes, really, it's not just big boulders). See the woman on the bench in the background? Yeah, she came out on the short end. Go #TeamMystic.
 We also captured a Pokemon Gym at the famous sculpture, Echo. Go Team Mystic!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Splish Splash

AMUSING; Monday, we were up with the early birds and made a five-hour road trip to western Idaho, destination Silverwood Theme Park.

We'd been there once before, earlier this summer, but it was a working visit, so this go 'round was just for fun, and much fun was had!

We arrived just a couple minutes after the gates opened at 11 a.m., and Christian and CJ were riding in the front car of the Corkscrew just a few minutes later.  

Annabelle wasn't feeling the big bad rides, so we stuck to a (super drenching) raft ride, bumper boats, and air-cushioned bumper cars.

Below is Bee going in for the kill vs. CJ. Too funny.

On our way home on Tuesday, we stopped by the awesome Moses Lake Surf and Slide water park. It was our second visit there, and it was every bit as much fun as the first. 

Annabelle shares her impressions of Silverwood and Surf and Slide following. ... 
My most memorable moment from Boulder Beach (at Silvewood) would be when we were on the Ricochet Rapids slide, in a large tube. There was a drop about a quarter of the way through the slide, and it was kinda scary! We managed to survive, though. 
The most memorable thing from the theme park portion of Silverwood for me was probably the bumper cars. They went surprisingly fast, and it was my first time on those bumper cars. It was fun to bump into other cars and spin in circles.
And lastly, my most memorable moment from Surf N’ Slide in Moses Lake is probably a spectacular wipeout I had on the bodyboarding wave simulator. At first, it was just a normal wipeout where I got to calmer waters and my board stopped moving. But then I stood up in the whitewater and I was immediately knocked down! It was pretty funny.
CJ has impressions to share, as well. 
My family recently went on a trip through Washington and into Idaho to visit the Silverwood Theme Park. Silverwood is divided into 2 parts: "Silverwood," which is inspired by conventional amusement parks and is land based, and "Boulder Beach," a jumbo-sized water park with several slides and attractions.On the way back home, we visited the Surf 'N Slide Water Park in Moses Lake, WA, where there is an artificial wave. In this report, I will detail what my most memorable moment at all three locations was.
In Silverwood, the ride I remember the most was probably the "Tremors" ride. Tremors is one of two wooden rollercoasters at the theme park, with the other being the "Timber Terror" ride, which I also went on. Tremors is arguably the most popular rollercoaster at Silverwood, as the lines for it got pretty long. Before you go on the ride, there are several warnings about keeping safe on the ride, as Tremors is very fast-paced and there are several shallow caves. While I was riding on Tremors, I constantly felt like I was going to be decapitated, because my head appeared to get very close to the top of the various caves on the ride.
In Boulder Beach, the ride I remembered most was one of the slides on "Rumble Falls", an attraction which included 4 slides. Before going on one of the Rumble Falls slides, you would get a single-person or two-person tube from a pile next to the line. Once you got to the top of the ride tower, you would pick one of the 4 slides you wanted to ride on. I chose the open slide, as I often feel trapped in closed-tube slides. It was a nice experience going down one of the Rumble Falls slides, and I would do it again if we went to Boulder Beach again.
In the Surf 'N Slide Water Park, over in Moses Lake, I especially remember their cruise-ship style wave bodyboarding and surfing simulator, as I don't know any other water parks that have one. At Surf 'N Slide's bodyboarding simulator, the lifeguard will mount a bodyboard for you shortly in front of the wave. Once you get on and nudge the board enough, you get shot onto the wave simulator, which is very exciting and fun. Nine times out of ten, your ride will end by wiping out, usually with a smile on your face. Occasionally, your ride will end by you drifting to the landing area, so you can give the bodyboard to the next person in line.

Above, CJ waves from the top of a slide in Moses Lake. Below, he rethinks jumping off the high dive. 
He chose to return to the ground and rethink it once. But to his credit, he got back up there and jumped off - multiple times!
He also enjoyed the drop off slide multiple times. :)
Between Silverwood and Moses Lake, we stayed the night in Spokane at a cool motel called Ruby2. If you're OK with occasional train noise, this place is terrific. Super cool artwork, a nice room, and a good price. 
Just to the left of the frame above, they had a silent movie showing on the side of the building after dusk. Neat-o.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


CAMP OUT: Thursday, Annabelle finished her "Cool Girls in Aerospace" camp up north. The four-day camp was a great opportunity for 10 girls her age to get a firsthand look, and some hands on experience, at trades and technical job opportunities in fields in which women are typically underrepresented.
Cool Girls in Aerospace was a 4-day camp I attended in Mukilteo (WA). It was directed towards young teenage girls, to inspire them to become part  of the aeronautics field. Most of our time in camp was spent at the Washington Aeronautics Training and Research, or WATR, center. We made our very own name plates and even got to use things like rivet guns, drills, and carbon fiber! It was fun seeing how all of these techniques are used in making airplanes. The camp was also very informative, as we learned what tools the real people in the airplane industry use. It was very fun and I hope they keep doing it!
Annabelle tells me that the photo below is of her plate in a vise, hold it while she drilled holes in it. 
The photo was taken at Washington Aerospace Training & Research (WATR) Center, which is managed by Edmonds Community College through an operating agreement with the Aerospace Futures Alliance (AFA). Located at the Paine Field airport in Snohomish County, WATR opened in 2010, as an educational resource for career pathways in the aerospace and manufacturing industry.

While Annabelle was in class, CJ and I had a little time to kill. One morning, we checked out a park near Paine Field.  There, CJ was nearly beamed up to the mother ship.
The park also had a unique spinning feature. This whole feature rotated, like a merry go round.

WALK-IN MOVIE: Friday night, we decided to take our chances in heading down to the stadium district despite a nearly sold-out Mariners game going on next door. Uncharacteristically, we weren't headed to the game, but rather an outdoor courtyard, Occidental Square, for an outdoor movie.
The square was much nice than we expected it to be. There were dozens of tables and chairs, and even Foosball tables, an over-sized chess set, an enormous Jenga game and a big Connect-Four type game. There was even a popcorn stand, with boxes just a dollar apiece.
About 9 p.m. the movie started. CJ was kind enough to write a lengthy review of the movie.
With everybody and their brothers playing Pokémon GO, and Pokémon Sun & Moon on the horizon as well, Nintendo and Game Freak's iconic Pokémon franchise is more relevant than ever. If you happened to be one of the people who played Red & Blue when they first came out, alongside watching the Pokémon anime, then we can assume you have fond memories of being in the theater (or on your couch) and watching Pokémon: The First Movie. T
The First Movie (what I'll call it from this point on) is basically what happened when the executives behind the anime got dollar signs in their eyes and decided that their cash cow needed some time on the silver screen.
Here be 17-year old spoilers!
The film's prologue (which, for some reason, was cut from the English dub) opens with some archaeologists from criminal organization Team Rocket going to an ancient temple, attempting to discover the remains of Mew, who was supposedly the ancestor of all modern Pokémon. The archaeologists discover an eyelash that supposedly belonged to Mew, so they bring it back to their headquarters in an attempt to clone Mew and some other specimens (I don't get it either). Back at their lab, we can see 5 specimens of the various tanks, each creatively named: Charmandertwo, a clone of Charmander, Squirtletwo, who is a clone of Squirtle, Bulbasaurtwo, who is a clone of Bulbasaur, Ambertwo, who is not a clone of a Pokémon, but rather, a clone of the daughter of one of the scientists, and Mewtwo, who is their prioritized clone of Mew. Bulbasaurtwo, Squirtletwo, Charmandertwo, and Mewtwo are all pulled into Ambertwo's imagination world, and Ambertwo introduces the Pokémon to concepts like her hometown, the sun and moon, and the similarities between people and Pokémon (keep an eye out for this comparison). However, all of the clones except Mewtwo start losing life support, and Mewtwo is heartbroken. This is also the point where Mewtwo starts getting angsty and selfish.
An unknown amount of time later, Mewtwo's body has matured inside the capsule. Mewtwo's power has also increased, and he has become aware of the fact that he's in a capsule. Mewtwo hears the voices of the scientists talking outside the capsule, and, in his grand hissy fit, forcefully breaks the capsule open, to the surprise of the scientists. Mewtwo asks the scientists some questions ("Who am I?" "Am I a clone?"), and, upon discovering that he is a clone, proceeds to destroy the laboratory, and presumably kills most of the scientists. The rest of the movie from this point on chronicles Ash and friends' predictable journey, where they learn about the mysteries behind Mewtwo.
Here are some positive things I have to say about The First Movie: The animators, at points, evidently tried to make a good anime film. There are moments of genuine charm, humor, and, near the beginning and end, actually getting a little emotional. At least one of the songs made for the dub, "Brother My Brother", by the Blessid Union of Souls, is actually pretty nice, it's just too bad that the context the song is used in is pretty ridiculous.
Now here are some less positive things about The First Movie: I didn't say they actually made a *very good* anime film.
The animation quality fluctuates throughout the course of the movie, with some chopping, mostly in the middle. Most of the time, I could predict what the movie's next "surprise" was going to be. The missing Nurse Joy is the lady in that odd invitation Brock got. The Nurse Joy's "Pokémon Master" is actually Mewtwo. The original, somehow still-alive Mew can try and get Mewtwo redeemed. When watching The First Movie, I noticed the oddly-placed CGI, which clashed with the clearly-dated animation. For example, there's a scene where Ash and co. are entering a large base, and the frame becomes completely static so that we can see the CGI gates closing behind them*. For me, the mysteries of The First Movie were less things like "What is Mewtwo's motivation?" or "Will Ash make it?", and more things like "Why do they expect me to forgive the eugenics lord who tried to kill our heroes a few minutes ago?" and "What's that invisible object that Mewtwo's fondling?"
Near the end of the movie, Mewtwo suffers from a case of what I call "Darth Vader Redemption Syndrome". Basically put, Darth Vader Redemption Syndrome is when a character that had crossed the Moral Event Horizon (the point by which you become irredeemably evil) previously is dubiously "redeemed", usually accompanied by the character promptly leaving. In The First Movie's case, at the end, Mewtwo supposedly learns that "fighting is bad", a moral that contradicts the very premise of the franchise. Mewtwo, having supposedly learned his lesson, is suddenly forgiven by everybody, and, for the purposes of the plot, makes sure everybody forgets the events of this movie (too bad he can't do that to the audience).
In general, The First Movie is pretty mediocre, and I wouldn't recommend it unless you have some pretty thick nostalgia goggles.
*Fun fact: In the credits, I noticed some text that read "VIZ Media ©2015", which I think might mean that the CGI wasn't in the original cut of the film (it'd be interesting to do a frame-by-frame comparison of the original cut and the version we watched).
Christian and I sat toward the rear of the square for the show. CJ and Annabelle chose to go to the front row, and stayed through the final credits.  
FILL'ER UP: Friday, the temps pushed upwards of 93 degrees. Thank heavens it happened to be a 'bring your own cup' to 7-11 day for a big, icy Slurpee.
CJ and Annabelle went with the trusty ol' owl vase we have. They chose a mix of birthday cake and Coca Cola (shudder) Slurpees. They thought it was delightful.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Take a Look

Above is a stunning view of Olympic National Park with Seattle and Tacoma in the background. The image comes from astronaut Jeff Williams, one of the residents of the International Space Station right now. He took it to help commemorate the National Parks Service's 100th anniversary this year. 

You really should do yourself a favor and look at the photo in high resolution, here:

And below is a video of a lovely ISS fly over of the park and the Greater Seattle area.

LONG STEM: Annabelle's four-day aerospace/STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) class continues this week. Today, she was in a machine shop.

She emailed me these photos, explaining, that the picture below is of a water cutter. "This was used to cut my name (in metal) by shooting water and garnet shards at the metal."
And below, "A plaque made from fiberglass and carbon fiber for the mayor being 'cooked.' " 
Bet it doesn't smell like chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven.

Tomorrow is Annabelle's 'graduation' from the program. I have no doubt it has already made a lasting impression on her. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Boldly Going

TREK TO THE PARK: Sunday evening we make our annual trek to Blanche Lavizzo Park in Seattle's Central district. There, there's an amphitheater, and for a few weekends each summer, it's the site of an amazing Outdoor Trek production. 

We love it for so many reasons, one being the diversity of the cast. Though they stick faithfully to the original script from the original Star Trek episode that they're performing, the actors are very diverse. In this version, Spock and Kirk are both played by women, as was the powerful Khan. It might sound weird, but it totally works!
 I'll let CJ tell you a bit more about it. 
For over 5 years by this point, Hello Earth Productions has been performing versions of various episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series. The episodes they have performed include "Devil in the Dark", "Amok Time", and, most recently, "Space Seed".
For most of Hello Earth's performances, known as "Outdoor Trek", they have used the same crew of actors that they started out with, though not always playing the same role. For this year, Hello Earth did Space Seed, which is one of the most iconic episodes of the original series.
The event was held and Blanche Lavizzo park, an outdoor amphitheater with several seats (and a small stage). Before the performance, there was a speech by James E. Brooks, a writer who worked on some episodes of The Next Generation, a sequel series to The Original Series. Unfortunately, I couldn't understand most of what he was saying, so I can't really write about him here.
At the beginning of the performance, the crew of the Starship Enterprise discovers a floating, seemingly abandoned ship is space. Upon closer inspection, the crew discovers the ship to be the S.S. Botany Bay, which was launched roughly 200 years before the start of the Enterprise's mission. As it turns out, there are 84 cryogenically frozen humans, all having been frozen in the 1990s (and donning common clothing from that era, such as Nirvana or Almost Live T-shirts.)
The crew of the Enterprise discovers that the 72 people (12 of them died during the re-awakening process) aboard the ship are all genetically engineered, to the point where they are nearly superhuman, and likely fought in Earth's Eugenics Wars during the 1990s. The crew identifies the leader of the Botany Bay, "Khan Noonien Singh", who, upon being awakened, asks "How long?" The crew of the Enterprise tells Khan that he has been asleep for about 200 years, but he quickly fell unconscious. The crew brings the bodies of the Botany Bay crew aboard the Enterprise, to revive and research them, but they discover the less-than-savory goals of the Botany Bay crew.
If they have enough funds to do another performance, I look forward to seeing Outdoor Trek again.

Above, Khan awakens. Below, the enterprise's history officer Lt. Marla McGivers contemplates powerful warriors from centuries past.
 Khan started causing trouble shortly after arriving in sick bay.
 Fortunately, Khan decided not to kill McCoy.
 Below, Lt. Sulu navigates the Enterprise from what looks like an Office Depot Chair. :)
 At one point, Lt. McGivers broke out into song. Specifically, R.E.M.'s losing my religion. 
It might sound absurd, but it totally worked with the script.

Toward the end of the episode, Kirk had to bust out of a decompression chamber. 
 Then he and Khan battled, hand to hand. You know who won. 
Before the program, writer James E. Brooks told the crowd about his experiences writing for "Star Trek, The Next Generation." His other writing credits include an X-Files magazine.
Annabelle, with two sci-fi books to her name already, went down to get his autograph. He was pretty flattered. :)

If there's a Star Trek anything, you *know* there are going to be Klingons. Yesterday was no exception.

COOL GIRLS: This morning was the first of four days of a neat-o camp Annabelle is attending this week. Called "Cool Girls in Aerospace," it's an amazing opportunity for 10 local girls to learn about education and career tracks in the aerospace industry. The greater Seattle area is a hub for such opportunities, and over the next four days they'll be learning more about possible pathways to the future.

Here's a short video about the program. 

And here's what Annabelle has to say about her first day.
Today, my first day of Cool Girls in Aerospace was an interesting experience. It was held in Mukilteo City Hall. We started by introducing ourselves and what we wanted to learn about. Then we were talked to by a couple of experts in engineering fields, such as Shannon Deacon, who worked 12 years at Boeing; Lurelee Lorenzen, who joined Boeing via an apprenticeship program, which allows a person to try multiple jobs at Boeing before deciding on one, and it doesn’t even require a college degree!  We also heard from Chris Phillips, who was a Navy pilot. He told us mostly about himself. It was very interesting to listen to the speakers today, and I look forward to the rest of the Cool Girls in Aerospace camp!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bubble Fun

POPPIN': This afternoon, we popped over to Pacific Science Center to check out a special event, Bubblefest.

As soon as we entered the courtyard (complete with reflection ponds and concrete dinosaurs), we saw bubbles in evidence. There were stations all over, with bubble solution and wands of all shapes and sizes.
While the bubbles were the main draw today, we also took time out to enjoy some PSC classics, like the bike ride way up over the water.
And CJ and Annabelle did the human hamster wheel type attraction.
In the Ackerly Family Exhibit Gallery, there were a number of bubble-related stations. 

A number of them featured differently-shaped bubble 'wands.' As cool as this cube is/was, from it we learned that you're still not getting square bubbles Bubbles like to be spheroid.
We stopped by the cafe for a special Bubblefest rootbeer float. Love how serious the kids look while concocting it. Important stuff here.
Before 4 p.m., we made sure to make our way to the upper courtyard for a show by Seattle's famous Bubbleman.
 He has some pretty impressive bubble-making equipment!
I love the looks on the faces in the crowd.
 This netting made for good bubble making. 
Of course, there were a lot of other interesting things going on at Seattle Center this afternoon. 

We heard a little bit of a live concert on the mural stage.
 Meanwhile, at Key Arena and on the grounds around it, the DOTA-2 world championships were underway.
DOTA is Defense of the Ancients, a cooperative, team-based video game. People come from all  over the world to watch and play. The prize pool is in excess of $20 million. Yes, you read that right. The first place team will receive over $9 million

The kids enjoyed some splashing in the fountain time, and we made our way over to the shallow pool just north of Key Arena, as well.
All in all, a great August afternoon.