Kayaking and Camping at Baker Lake

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ May 27, 2008 : 9:05 pm

This is a short video taken this past weekend of Bryan and I at Baker Lake. This was my first time attempting the kayaking and camping combo, so I was quite excited about the trip. I had never been to Baker Lake, so I took my time carefully selecting my camp gear on this particular trip, as there were quite a few unknowns to deal with. Bryan and I decided early on that though there were three managed (aka comfortable) camp sites on the West shore of Baker Lake, we would try to do the “Seattle” thing and camp in whatever primitive spot we could find while sploshing around on the water.

Gathering my gear, I quickly realized our kayaks could hold perhaps half the gear I would like to bring. Many modern campers swear by the trek lite method of camping, which utilizes the bare minimum to ensure a quick in-and-out approach. I, however, prescribe to the school of everything and the kitchen sink, which in this case would mean successfully sinking my kayak to the lake bottom the minute it touched water.

On the first night, my regrets materialized when I woke up every hour tossing and turning due to the hard sand that doubled as my bed. I shouldn’t complain however, as we snagged one of the best primitive spots on the lake, a protected sandy bed next to a creek. We even had fish biting all around our secluded point that morning, but couldn’t quite snag enough luck to have grilled trout for lunch.

We had to depart early the next day due to thunderstorms that started rolling in. It was unfortunate, as we had kayaked the entire lake that morning and our arms were sore, but rather than brace a miserable night with limited rain gear short of our tent and jackets, we packed up and took off.

All in all, Baker Lake is a great destination for a summer camping trip. It is crowded however, but there are multiple managed camp sites with quite a few spots at each site. The type of people we saw were primarily family campers and younger groups of teens on motorboats, but no unsavory elements as far as we could tell.

FYI, the video is a bit choppy, as it was taken with my new and experimental Oregon Scientific Action Cam. It’s an enclosed video camera that is waterproof and the size of a monocular that fits in your hand and can record up to an hour of video (with a 2GB memory card). I’m playing around with it for a bit, but it seems pretty useful so far.

Emerald City Comic Con

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ May 12, 2008 : 5:03 pm

Emerald City Comic Con

Last Saturday was the Northwest’s biggest pop culture event, the Emerald City Comic Con. Comic and sci-fi fans alike, all gathered for a great opportunity to find some great deals on rare comics as well as meet and get autographs from their favorite artists and television stars. As I took the climb up the escalator, the large adorning banner welcomed us and flashes of my childhood came racing back.

Imperial Stormtroopers keeping the order of the crowd

Then I saw the line forming in front of the door, that made it looked more like an exclusive movie premiere. To make sure the line didn’t get out of control, the Washington State convention center hired the only people to keep these people in line: Imperial Stormtroopers of the501st Legion. For a few moments, it was a bit humorous as it seemed like we were cattle being herded on to the truck. The menacing presence of the troopers were broken up by the distinct piece of paper on their back saying, “Take your picture with the 501st at booth 126.” That was a cool story in itself, but I’ll get to that later.

Emerald City Comic Con advertised a few variant covers exclusive to this specific con, such as the X-Men #497 and Tim Sale’s limited print of the Hulk at Pike Place Market munching on a Dick’s burger. At the onset of the doors opening, everyone rushed to the table with all of the exclusives being sold. Tim Sale’s print was snatched up and sold out within a few minutes. That booth was one of the most contested moments in the con, with people almost elbowing each other just to get to the table before all the rare stuff was gone.

One of the exclusive variants available at the con.

Other artists and writers were also on hand for the con. In the large area known as the artist’s gallery, fans asked for autographs and sketches. Keynote people included artist David Finch (Ultimate X-Men, New Avengers) whose line was exceedingly long. Other media guests such as Julie Benz (Dexter) and Wil Wheaton(Star Trek) had special Q and A sessions where you can ask them anything that your heart desires. Such as “Excuse me, Wil, How does it feel to be the worst character ever in the history of Star Trek:The Next Generation?”

Hey Boba! Smile!

Needless to say, being a big fan of Star Wars (the original, not the prequels) I had to get a pic. I was expecting something really simple, like two guys standing with you and a quick snap of the camera and off you went. Oh no, it was much cooler than that. They had people dressed up as every type of stormtrooper, as well as Boba Fett and Darth Vader. You could create any type of scenario you desired. The guy working the booth, came up to me when it was my time to go and simply asked, “What’s your concept?” Being the big fan boy that I am, I wanted to take on the Dark Lord himself and one of his minions. The end result was this great pic right here.

Steve going toe to toe with Lord Vader

The highlight of the con was the appearance of Jamie Bamber (Apollo of Battlestar Galactica) signing autographs and doing photo ops with fans as well. We were one of the last people to get a photo with him and got him to do a peace sign pose with us. Peace!

Overall, I have to admit, it was pretty fun. If you’re into comics and pop culture, the Emerald City Comic Con is one of the few times a year you can geek-out and in my personal case, reconnect with some of your old childhood memories.

NWSource 30 for 30

Categories: restaurants,seattle — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ May 8, 2008 : 10:45 am

Copying the Dine Around Seattle format of 3-course meals for $30, NWSource has launched their own version called “New Urban Eats“. It features many new restaurants that haven’t been associated with Dine Around Seattle before. One of the reasons is that New Urban Eats expands beyond mainly the downtown and Belltown area to includes restaurants in the outer parts of Seattle like Queen Anne, West Seattle and even the Eastside (woot!).

Some of the restaurants include:
94 Stewart
Red Fin

… just to name a few. We’ll be making our way through quite a few of these restaurants, no doubt. Hope to see you guys there! :)

Prelude to the con

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , — Posted by: steveg @ May 7, 2008 : 10:09 am

Iron Man

It’s official, Iron Man is a big hit in the box office. Collecting over $100 million in box office sales in the first weekend, the comic fan and non-comic fan alike have taken a fancy to Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of the brilliant minded, alcoholic, womanizing, multi million weapons developer Tony Stark and his journey to try to redeem part of his soul.

This is just another clear example of how geek-culture is slowly taking over pop culture and media. Some of the top grossing movies and highly celebrated shows in recent years are based upon comics or reboots of old Science Fiction shows. Marvel based movies as well as DC characters Batman and Superman have garnered recent success among the mainstream audience raking in millions of dollars.

Emerald City Comic Con

With that being said, the big event for geekdom has arrived in the city of Seattle: The Emerald City Comic Con. Over 9,000 people are expected for the event with about 160 guests signed on from the comics, television, and movie industries. I’m a big comic fan at heart and it’s surprising that the comic book community has grown so much since my hiatus. The first Seattle comic book convention I attended took place at the Seattle Center in McCaw Hall as the Seattle Comiccard. Albeit, it was a very small and only consisted of a few guests and mostly vendors. If you weren’t in the market of buying comics it wasn’t much of a place for you. Today’s comic cons are jam packed full of anime theaters, tons of guests, costume contests and panel workshops.

I’ll be on site at the Washington State Convention Center for the Emerald City Comic-con with my trusty camera and update on the event at the end of Saturday. Tickets are $30 for the whole weekend and $20 for Saturday and $15 for Sunday.

NBA approves the move to OK City

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 18, 2008 : 1:05 pm

The NBA owners approved a petition for Bennett’s Sonics (it’s not the Seattle Sonics) to move to Oklahoma City.

With a 28-2 vote for the move, only Mark Cuban and Paul Allen fought against the approval.

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

It wasn’t a surprise that it won by a landslide vote for approval. The owners are too scared and too misinformed to vote against a move to OK City. The only thing that was surprising was the vote against the move by Paul Allen. Many people thought he would simply abstain from the vote as he is probably poised to rake in the territorial broadcast rights to the Northwest.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the history of the relocation from the last franchises to move: The Vancouver Grizzles and the Charlotte Hornets. In 2000, after a NBA player lockout, the Grizzlies reported that they had started to dwindle in attendance and money. After the team was sold to Michael Heisley, he filed for relocation and the NBA owners approved the vote to move to Memphis unanimously with a 30-0 vote.

The Charlotte Hornets dealt with a very unscrupulous owner such as the one the Sonics have right now. With attendance dropping, owner George Shinn demanded that the city build him a new arena completely funded through public money.

Sadly, the city finally succumbed to Shinn’s demand and included the construction of a new arena in Uptown as part of a larger arts-related package for the city. Initial polls showed that it was on its way to passage, but the mayor of Charlotte vetoed another ordinance that enraged the black community leaders who immediately opposed the referendum to build the arena.

With the referendum defeated, city leaders worked out a way for the arena to be built without the voters approval with the only caveat being that Shinn would have to sell the team. Shinn still filed for relocation with the owners approving the vote 29-1. The only dissenting party being Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

Why is it that these votes seem to win with overwhelming approval? Simple. It’s an Ol’ Boys Club where no owner wishes to rub another owner the wrong way in case down the road they need support for their team in some type of way. “I can’t vote against this guy as I might need him down the road for something else.? Owners look out for the owners, no one else. The rare exceptions are the owners who look after their fans, i.e. Mark Cuban and Paul Allen. They are also the same people that have rejuvenated sagging franchises that have blossomed amidst mediocrity and controversy.

The most important question I keep asking myself is this. When was the last time the NBA owners voted against a relocation?

When Sonics Owners Attack!

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 17, 2008 : 3:12 pm

Let the mud slinging begin!

It’s been a rough week for Bennett and the Professional Basketball Club LLC. After having disclosed emails that have hurt the effort of their current lawsuit with the City of Seattle, former ownership group led by Howard Schultz has filed for a breach of contract lawsuit to regain ownership of the team. Specials about the Sonics situation has sprung up on ESPN, as well as other national media outlets. Bad publicity is the only thing that PBC seems to get nowadays, but in today’s headline, they decided to strike back.

The Seattle Times and the P.I. have reported that Bennett and his ownership group are accusing the City of Seattle of working in collusion with Matt Griffin and his partners. In the new federal court filing, Bennett’s attorneys are stating that it is a clear attempt to bleed the ownership group dry to force a potential sale of the team to Griffin’s group.

The filing has specific asked for Matt Griffin to be involved in the litigation and publicly disclose documents regarding the City of Seattle that have been redacted for the sake of relevancy and privacy. In a simpler sense, PBC is trying to dismiss the case of the city of Seattle, by proving they had “unclean hands.?

Unclean hands is a affirmative defense legal doctrine that states a party who is asking for assistance from the courts cannot received if it he or she has done anything unethical in relation to the lawsuit filed. If Bennett’s group can prove that the City of Seattle has conducted itself in unethical manner such as filling a lawsuit with the intent of forcing a sale of the team to a local buyer, then the courts would dismiss this case. That decision would ultimately facilitate the move to OK City very rapidly.

This new move darkens the already murky waters of the Sonics situation and if the federal judge does approve of these filings, more dirty laundry of the City of Seattle and its government officials may come to light. Liars calling out liars seems to be the most appropriate phrase for this new development as it will be interesting to see how Bennett’s ownership group can manage both lawsuits at the same time while facilitating the potential move to Oklahoma City. The lawyer’s clock is running and the pay rate is not cheap.

PCC Baking Class

Categories: food,seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ April 16, 2008 : 2:27 pm

Baked pastries
(From left to right: Rustic berry tart, Poppy seed poundcake muffin, orange cranberry scone and snicker doodles)

“Ouch,” I mutter, as I look at my thumb after nicking it on the carrot grater. It looks a little pink, but there’s no drippage. That’s good, because I’m sure the rest of the PCC Sweets and Treats baking class isn’t going to appreciate me modifying our carrot cake recipe to include a few drops of blood. Then again, my recipe sheet is splattered silly with a murderous orange color from the carrots I’ve been grating, so perhaps no one would notice anyways.

I look closer just in case. Awesome, no blood, no foul.

I wasn’t able to snap a picture of the oh-so-delicious frosted carrot cupcakes, as my hands were covered in all sorts of flour, sugar, carrot bits and other random baking ingredients that dissuaded me from shoving my hands into my pockets. With all the bakeries left over, most everyone grabbed a to-go box of goodies to bring home, so that’s what you see in the picture above.

Baking has always been a weak point in my culinary arsenal (I can make cookies?), so I decided to attend a class at PCC Natural Markets down in Issaquah. The class was a solid 2.5 hours from 6:30 – 9pm and completely hands-on, so I figured it would be a great way to ramp up my baking skills. We were given a recipe list of about 10 various items and put into teams to create each one, so it also turned out to be a nice meet and greet of sorts with strangers with the same love for food.

One of the first things I learned with baking is that it is definitely a science, as opposed to an art. That’s not to say there’s no creativity, but there is certainly procedures, measurements and scientific principles that apply to baking quite firmly before the experimentation comes in. Unlike conventional cooking, when a baking recipe calls for two cups of an ingredient, it’s quite important to use two cups – otherwise bad things can start to happen. Especially if we’re talking about flour.

Leavening is the holy grail of baking, as the rise of the dough and mixture is the difference between a tough rock or a soft, fluffy piece of heaven in your mouth. Common leavening agents include yeast, yogurt, butter, baking powder, baking soda and the act of creaming. Using any one of these methods is almost always required in baking pastries or cakes, which likely explains some of the failed mishaps I may have had in the kitchen before. Case in point, I generally reduce the usage of butter in my dishes for a more healthy approach, but I realize now that butter actually helps the dough rise in addition to giving it that savory taste, so I have to put in a leavening substitute for the butter as well.

Another important thing I learned is that my big silver bowl and a whisk isn’t going to cut it if I want to do any serious baking. A professional mixer turned a stick of butter and cream cheese packet into an instant frosting after about a minute of beating; something that would be impossible by hand, short of 10 cans of Red Bull to the tune of Chariots of Fire. That means have to go run to Sears, Bed Bath and Beyond and some other stores later this weekend to pick one up, so hopefully it’s not too expensive.

If you ever shop at PCC and wonder about the classes, I can tell you they are definitely worth it. Our instructor, Krista, was great and the setup they have is very professional. There were two assistants that circle around helping with the class and helping with prep work. Three big LCD screens display the two cooktops and the center preparation table so you can see all the action while sitting in your seat. The best part is that the price of the class is a mere $30 (for our baking class at least), while you get the enjoy food, learn and also have fun at the same time. It’s a great deal, so I’ll certainly be going back for more classes in the future.

A season finale to remember

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Posted by: steveg @ April 14, 2008 : 4:55 pm

It’s been the worst season in Sonics Basketball. Posting a 20-win 62-loss record, the 07-08 Sonics have a secured the second worst record in the NBA, just behind the Miami Heat. As a 5-year season ticket holder, I was expecting the worst as I headed to the “Key? with my Dad. Visions of a half empty Key Arena to cap off the murder of one of my most beloved franchises in Seattle, would have been perfect for good ol’ Clay Bennett.

But the fans of the Sonics didn’t look at it this way. They came out in force to show Bennett, the NBA, and dare I say the world, that 41 years of basketball in a city would not die, at least not on this night.

As my Dad and I arrived at our seats, I looked around the arena it was a pretty packed crowd with a reported 16,272 in attendance for the game. There was a roar through the crowd in the first quarter that was hard for my Dad to discern. Confused, he leaned into me and asked, “What are they saying?? I immediately knew what they were saying and after soaking in the raucous crowd, my smirk ridden face replied. “Bennett sucks!?

After watching the 1st quarter, I went down to grab some food. Bennett and staff didn’t want to make what could be the last hurrah of the Seattle Supersonics a comfortable one. More than half of the concession stands at the Key were closed, funneling all of the fans into enormous lines for the overpriced food and beer. Little mutterings of “Bennett’s a slime ball? and “Gregoire dropped the ball,? could be heard through out the line. I myself was stuck in these lines, spending about a quarter of the game waiting for some chicken quesadillas and a cup of Dos Equis.

When my patience slowly changed to irritation I had to find some way to pass the time in line. As I looked up on the TV mounted on the wall, I saw the home team trailing by a significant amount of points. It looked liked the Sonics season would go out with a whimper instead of sonic boom.

But then it happened, a quiet rumble that rapidly grew into a roar that had all of us in line trying to figure out what had just happened. Then I saw it, or more precisely I saw him.

Gary Payton, the Glove.

Like myself, other people stopped whatever they were doing and stared at the screen. Then the camera faded in and lo and behold Payton was at the game. “GP! GP!? could be heard through out the entire arena. The drunk guy standing next to me uttered, “Holy $***, GP is at the game!”

By the time I had made it back to my seat, and the rally began. Behind the rejuvenated play of Earl Watson, the Sonics attacked the Mavericks. By end of the rally, the home team had turned a 9 point deficit into a 9 point lead.

As the teams battled back and forth for the lead, I looked around a starting soaking what might be my last time at the Key. Grasping for my camera, I took a few snaps of the GO SONICS banner and the Western Conference, Pacific, and Northwest Division banners. I even took the time to run (not walk) to Sonics Legends Drive and snap a few keepsakes of the retired jerseys and newspaper clippings of the 1979 Championship run. As the fourth quarter came around I sat down for one of the finest memories in my history as a member of the Sonics nation.

At the 2 minute mark, the entire crowd of 16,000 fans all got up for what could be the last 2 minutes of Seattle NBA basketball. With everyone on their feet, the noise was incredibly deafening. Key Arena looked just like it did during the great playoff runs during the 90’s. Sonics in a tight game against a playoff caliber team with every possession being crucial to winning or losing.

Then it happened.

With a driving play, Kevin Durant hit a 15 ft. jumper from the near the top of the key. The crowd erupted into a cheer that was louder then anything I’ve ever heard at a Sonics game. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought the Sonics just won the NBA championship. With the game in hand, nobody thought it could get any better.

It did.

While the referees deliberated, the crowed roared with three simple words: Save. Our. Sonics. In those three brief minutes, all the pride and love of the Sonics came pouring into the arena. Kevin Durant walked down the court stirring up the crowd waving his arms up. For the first time, Durant let it be known that he doesn’t want the team to leave Seattle either.

With the cheering, the appearance of Gary Payton, and the win, the finale of the home season couldn’t have ended on a higher note. Whether it’s the last game of the Sonics in Seattle or not, fans made sure that the NBA knew 41 years of basketball would not go quietly into the night. Sorry Bennett, you can take our team, but not the history, nor our love for it.

K1 Speed in Redmond (Seattle)

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ : 4:49 pm

K1 Speed in Redmond
(From front to back: Steve, Bryan and Grant)

Last Friday was, team building day (aka go-cart racing for the win). Previously known as Champs Karting, K1 Speed bought this indoor go-cart location in Redmond and revamped it with a new track design and a few extra doo-dads. Luckily, most everything else was left in-tact, meaning that it’s still the same fun electric cars that I am used to.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a regular (I go to K1 Speed just a few times a year), but I am a big fan of racing and have taken a few Skip Barber race classes back in the day. While a go-cart might not translate perfectly to the mechanics of a car in the real world, many of the fundamental concepts of how to drive fast are the same. It’s a great way to give the lead foot driver in you an outlet for escape , as opposed to being ‘That Guy’ on 520. (I’m talking to you, Blue 325i BMW driver weaving in and out of traffic on cell phone, not using signals, traveling at 90mph in the rain.)

Our first race was a nice introduction to the new track that K1 Speed laid out over Champs previous track, as it now boasted two hairpins for a more technically challenging course. Free tip though- tell your race staffer to be liberal with the passing flag if you plan on a competitive race. Bryan, Steve and I all quickly got stuck behind our friend Lenny, who was apparently taking the scenic route around the track. The K1 Staffer seemed reluctant to let us pass, as we forgot to give him the team building memo that explains rapport is best built with some friendly, obscenity laced competition.

The second race was much better, as it was just Steve, Bryan and myself, who were all ready to lay the pedal to the metal. And we did, as Bryan managed to spin out, Steve nearly lost it on turn 1 and I managed to sneak in a 17.33 second last lap, putting my time into the top 5% of times. The top score for the week was 16.22 seconds, so I think I could have shaved another half second with more studying and time on the track.

I don’t imagine going back for another few months, but if you decide to go, here’s a few pointers on how to drive fast and beat out your friends:

- Warm tires equals more traction, so build heat your first few laps
- Warm up your tires with some heavy accelerating and braking on the straight away.
- Brake into corners so you can accelerate out for top speed
- Try to drive in smooth arcs when possible
- Don’t hug the walls, it will actually slow you down
- Sliding around the hairpins is perfectly acceptable
- Too much sliding = No traction = No acceleration = Bad
- Learn to keep your car in the fine balance between control and no control

Lastly, always drive safe and keep the speed driving to the track.

Pictures from Mailbox Peak

Categories: seattle — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Posted by: Grant @ : 11:01 am

Mailbox Peak
(Sawyer takes a break on top of Mailbox Peak)

Mailbox Peak
(A shot from the summit overlooking the Cascades)

Just a few shots from my hiking trip this weekend to Mailbox Peak, a 6 mile round trip hike with an elevation gain of 3,996 feet. This may sound impressive, but these pictures were taken by my friend Richard, as I struggled most of the way up and surrendered with about an hour left before the summit. My year as a food reviewer flashed before my eyes, with the dozens of stored pork bellies, tiramisus and butter soaked entrees clamoring for a spot to put the final TKO to my legs and knees. For the uninitiated, let me tell you, Mailbox Peak is not for the faint of heart.

Bryan might have a more interesting post (or even article) on the merits of hiking prepared, due to a rather interesting series of events on the mountain. I would personally say that my lesson learned is to scout out your destination on hiking boards, print out topographical maps and consult other errata before embarking on your trip. Especially (oh do I mean this) if the difficulty scale consistently ranks as ‘most difficult’, 4/4 or 5/5 according to the experts.

The previous week, our group had gone to the ever-popular Mount Si, located right at North Bend. It’s an 8 mile hike with about a 3,500 ft elevation gain and while not ‘easy’ (at least to an out of shape food critic), it does have great views and a trail that is readily identifiable. Highly recommended if you’re just wanting a nice hike and are in decent shape. Little Si, just next door, is a better hike for those more recreational hikers or not-so-in-shape.

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