Sunday, January 26, 2014

Seeing The 2014 PDC Reveal


Saturday night we decided to check out The Reveal 2014, by Platinum Dance Studio in Monroe. This is where Evie takes her ballet classes. The Reveal is the showcase for the competition dancers, and might be something in Evie’s future. We always have a blast at Evie’s recital, so this seemed like a great way to support the dancers and the studio.


Unfortunately, they had a no cell phone camera rule in the auditorium, but I was able to take a few shots before things got started just to see how things looked through the eye of my Nokia Lumia 925. The low light capabilities of this phone still blow me away. Here were are in a pretty dark room, shooting downward and I still have an almost perfect color balance and bright image.


Here is a close up of the image above with a focus on the image printed on the program. You can clearly see that the PureView camera is remarkably clean in lower light scenarios. The contrast could be slightly better, but the image itself on the program was far from great. Overall, the camera performed amazing in the low light conditions.


Just for giggles, I flipped the camera to the front facing one and snapped a shot of us before the show started. Of course the kids wouldn’t pose with us, but the front cam did a great job of getting us before the lights went dark and the show started.

I wish I could have taken a few shots during the show with the camera, but I wanted to respect the rules and not do that. Plus, I really just wanted to enjoy the show. The dancers were amazing and, for the most part, the kids enjoyed the show. Only 5 months until The Showcase where Evie will have 2 performances this year! Can’t wait to see them!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

A Championship Sunday


Today was a special day in the Seattle area. Today the Seahawks played the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. We don’t do TV at home anymore, so the plan was to attend our normal church service on Sunday and then head back to church in the afternoon to catch the game with Pastor Ryan and some other Mars Hill Everett fans. After an amazingly solid worship this morning, a brilliant sermon from the book of James and a decision to hang out in Everett for the afternoon, we headed out.


Our first stop was Panera Bread in Everett to grab lunch. The Mac N Cheese was it’s usual yumminess and the Hazelnut coffee was just the perfect pick me up for getting me going and ready for the afternoon.


We swung into Wal-Mart next to grab a few little necessities before heading back to the church for game time. Evie found herself a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume in the aisle that she just had to put on. Yes, she was pretty much adorable in it and no, I didn’t let her bring it home.


Finally it was game time. The game started out rough as the Hawks fumbled their first possession and the 49ers kicked a field goal. After that though, the game was much more balanced with a back and forth scoring battle that ended with a 10-3 lead for the 49ers at the half.

The second half was a different story though. The Seahawks woke up and really brought the game back in a hurry. The Hawks scored a TD with a Marshon Lunch 40 yard run in the 3rd and took the lead for good when Russell Wilson hit Javon Kearse over the middle for a 35 yard touchdown pass. They ended up winning the NFC Championship 23-17.

So, February 2nd, the Seattle Seahawks will face Petyon Manning and the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. It will definitely be a great game with Manning’s high powered passing game waging war against the incredible pass defense that Seattle will bring.  We will see who takes home the trophy in a few weeks though.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Night At The Silvertips Game


Last night, we were lucky enough to have some friends that were unable to use their Everett Silvertips tickets pass them on to us. We’ve been to a few Silvertips games in the last few years, but I can honestly say, I have never been this close to hockey action in my life.


We started in Everett at the Vintage Café. The building’s architecture is just amazing and we had always wanted to try it, so we did. The food was great and the prices were more than reasonable. I have to say that the Silvertip Burger – a cheeseburger with bacon, ham, polish sausage and a few other toppings thrown in for good measure – was excellent. The fish and chips looked great too.


After dinner, we made the stroll down Hewitt to Comcast Arena to wait for the doors to open. Fortunately, we only had to wait about 5 minutes before the line started moving and we were making our way in. I still love the look of this place at night though.


Once we were inside, I snapped a quick photo of the almost empty arena. I’m pretty sure the capacity of the hockey setup is near 10,000 people. You just don’t get the magnitude of that until you see it empty though.


Once we made a loop to check out the venue, we made our way to the seats. Um, yeah, the seats… I have NEVER sat in the front row of a hockey game. It was by far the most “involved” I have ever felt at a game, but at the same time, it is a bit hard to see the action at the other end of the ice. That said, I would totally do it again if given the chance because you are in the action instead of just watching the game.


Mama and Evie had a great time all bundled up. It didn’t feel cold down there like it does in some other areas of the building, but it may have been that it was just as cold outside so inside wasn’t as shocking. Evie’s cotton candy held her over nicely through the first period before the squirms started right at the end of it.


I took Evie for a stroll around the stadium and snagged this little shot above our seats. This is up in section 205, right above us. If you look down past her, towards the ice, you will see three heads. That’s where we were sitting!


The action was downright amazing. The half of the game that was in front of us was like being on the ice. The action at the opposite end of the ice was a bit tougher to see though. At moments I almost wished we were a bit higher up, but that was erased the second someone crashed the boards right in front of us. It was just so close you could feel the game.


The game ended with the Chiefs beating the Silvertips 2 to 1. Not the ending we hoped for, but it was a good game none the less. The great part is, we’ve had two amazing sporting events so far this year that have just been complete surprises and not cost us a fortune to do. It truly has been a blessed January so far for us and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A New Year, A New Phone…

Lumia 925 b

2013 was a pretty good tech year for me. I was able to hit the EngdgtSEA show and the HTC Elevate meetup. I didn’t spend too much time in tech stores, but there really wasn’t much I was looking for. My little Acer Aspire Netbook and my Nokia Lumia 810 did the job for me for the whole year, without much need to look for something else – well maybe except a Microsoft Surface (or the Dell Venue 8 tablet.)

Yesterday though, I had a tech delivery that makes me so happy… A shiny new Nokia Lumia 925. While my 810 was a trusty soldier, it had a few glitches that might drive the average user a bit nutty. The 925 eliminates the possibilities of these by not including the external Micro SD Slot. The other feature on my 810 that seemed to have issues was the audio out. Many times, music would crackle and pop – and Nokia Mix Music didn’t even work about 90% of the time. Let’s take this 925 for a spin and see what we get.

Lumia 925 c

Overall the devices are physically about the same size. The 925 feels thinner though, mainly due to the fact that it is thinner, but also because of its curved design. The display on the 925 is larger by .2”, but it honesty seems more like a half an inch. Just the wasted space on the 810’s bezel vs. the 925’s makes the actual display seem larger. Also, the resolution is increased to 1280x768 over the 810’s 800x480 resolution.

From there the 16GB of internal memory seems to be enough for me. With Apps loaded, I have about 11GB left open. This equates out to about 5000 photos or more accurately, about 2 months of use before the ‘other’ memory takes up 2GB, the system takes up 2GB, the Apps take up 1.2GB and then 2500 photos and a few long videos of the kiddo. Overall, the 16GB should prove to be plenty for me – and more importantly, be a better option that the 8GB internal that the 810 offered.

Lumia 925 a

The camera on the 810 was fantastic. With the addition of the Nokia Camera Beta from Nokia Labs, the camera performed better than any cellular camera I had ever used. While the 925 is no 1020 (that is the 41MP monster camera/phone from Nokia,) the addition of a PureView camera and the optical image stabilization just makes the 925 shoot a bit better. Also, the f/2.,0 lens seems to shoot with much less noise in darker areas than the f/2.2 lens on the 810.

Other than the significant upgrades in the display, the internal memory and the camera, the Nokia Lumia 925 is every bit as wonderful as my Lumia 810 was. I will have to give it some time before I judge the battery life too heavily as I never let the device gain a full charge yesterday, but the 15% drain per hour when in use was a bit extreme. I’m hoping it was just a breaking in time or maybe a rogue App that was draining it. If not, I will probably have to keep a few more chargers laying around and grab an extra for the car. As of right now, the phone as settled in to a 2.53% discharge per hour and is running quite nicely. Hopefully that keeps up and I don’t have to worry too much.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Seahawks Sunday: Our Trip To The Game


All I can say is, “I can’t believe we got to go!” Yes, somehow, I was lucky enough to get chosen during a Twitter contest to win Seahawks playoff tickets. You see, John Legere, T-Mobile’s out of the box, trash-talking CEO, had a contest on Twitter to win the seats, and I was one of the chosen few that got to go.

We decided that we were going to bus it in to the stadium as parking at these things runs about $50 a car, so the $10 round trip for a bus from Bellevue seemed like quite the deal. After a very short drive to the park and ride, we caught the bus to downtown and walked over to CenturyLink Field in a torrential downpour. Fortunately, we took our raingear for just such a reason.

Now a bit of a bummer, apparently my SD card had another crap-out during this time frame and didn’t save the really awesome photos of the rain that was coming down sidewise in the 30-50 MPH winds. They would have been fun to see, but I guess the memories will just have to do.


After a bit of wandering around, we were able to figure out how cool this was going to be. Our seats were at about the 35 yard line, just under cover, which was perfect since it was pouring and windier than all get out. After we found our seats, we wandered up to the T-Mobile party with a catered lunch and drinks. After that, we checked out the area and went back to our seats.


There were times where the stadium was so loud I couldn’t hear Ara next tom me, but at other times, it was so quiet you could hear the person next to you whispering. It was eerily quiet when the Seahawks were on offense. It almost made me think that the TV pumps in some crowd noise when the Seahawks are on the field.


The game ended with the Seahawks taking the win over the Saints, 23-15. Even the final seconds of the game were crazy, with it ending with a 10 second run off due to a penalty for an illegal forward pass!


So, we owe this whole experience to T-Mobile and John Legere. So from a happy couple that got to witness an amazing game together for the first time, thank you.

A Highway 20 Road Trip

This weekend took a major turn Thursday night with a surprise contest win. Our trip to Anacortes was put off for a few more weekends while we took advantage of a great prize. This left us the very difficult task of filling an entire day with an activity that wouldn’t take us too far from home – but at the same time, got us away from home. The weather didn’t help either, it was cold and wet…


We decided to take a trip over to Clinton and take Highway 20 up the island. We hit Mukilteo to jump on the ferry, with about the best timing possible – we were the last car on the ferry. The drive started out with a drive through the small town of Clinton, then on to Langley where we found an amazing coffee shop for lunch.


The Useless Bay Coffee Co. looks innocent enough from the outside, but when you get a bit closer, it gets really interesting.


You jump inside the old building to find one of the most amazing cups of coffee and food that would put most 4 star restaurants to shame. The selection of cold salads, burgers and other hot dishes made this place easily worth the stop. Langley is a little out of the way town, but going over to visit the Useless Bay Coffee Co. is worth the 10 mile trip off Highway 20 all by itself.


As we were leaving the café, I found that there were little hearts sunk into the sidewalk all over. Given the reason for the trip, I found it interesting that they were there. Always check out the surroundings when you travel, little details like this might go unnoticed.


Next up, Fort Casey, or so we thought. We were moving down the road and really missed the sign for Fort Casey, but we went the direction we thought it said to go. We hung a left off the highway and travelled onward until we came to the Audubon Trail right along the highway.


This trail ran along the highway for a very long period of time. We finally saw a place to pull in and check it out. The trail runs along the water and is simply gorgeous. It’s one of those things we didn’t even know was there, but it was beautiful.


The area near the road was a nice grassland, but a nice 100 yard walk took us right up to the drift wood filled beach. The tide appeared to be coming in, so we only had a few minutes on the beach itself – plus the fact that it was 40 degrees and windy made us want to make a quicker than usual exit.


We still had enough time to check out the sights and sounds of the area. We saw some amazing drift wood pieces, some gorgeous rocks and even a few herons!


One of the highlights of the water was this amazing driftwood fort that someone had put together. Evie loved it, but didn’t want to climb all the way in. They even put wood on the floor. This thing was built to last.


We finally had to depart the beach and continue through Keystone to try and find Fort Casey. Evie didn’t want to go, but a few rocks later, she was extremely happy to hop back in the car.


We did happen to guess right and finally ran in to Fort Casey State Park. Fort Casey created what was known as the triangle of fire that was comprised of 3 different forts that protected the entrance to Puget Sound. Fort Flagler and Fort Worden were the other two parts of the triangle.


The fort was originally designed to prevent against sea attacks to the ports in Everett and Seattle. The defenses at Fort Casey included 10” artillery guns that disappeared behind then walls when not firing and mortar defenses for shorter range attacks.


The construction on Fort Casey began in 1897 and was quickly finished by 1901. The fort provided it’s part of the Triangle of Fire for only a few years before its artillery was dismounted and sent to Europe to fight in World War I. It’s 10” guns and mortar arrays were attached to rail cars and used as mobile weaponry. In 1935, with aircraft beginning to play such a crucial role in military activities, Fort Casey had it’s weapons removed and was placed on inactive status. Fortunately, the fort had one last call into duty as World War II approached. The fort was retrofitted with new walls and equipment and was ready for battle once again.


The history of Fort Casey is amazing, and the fact that during the 1960’s two of the original 10” “hiding” guns were able to be brought back to the fort makes it even cooler. If you look carefully while you are there, you can check out how the guns actually worked by comparing the position of the #1 and #2 guns. #1 is in firing position while #2 is in the loading position. It really was an incredible defensive structure for its time.


Fort Casey is now a nearly 500 acre camping and marine park. The Admiralty Head Lighthouse is also located there. We’re definitely putting this one on our list of places to camp at in the near future.


Next up on our trip was Coupeville. Coupeville is an adorable little waterfront town with some fun shops, though it looked to be a completely summer based destination as most of the shops were closed when we arrived on Friday evening. We did find a great gift shop at the wharf and some amazing views from the pier.


One of our last stops before leaving was the Far From Normal toy/oddity shop. If you happen to hit Coupeville this summer, make sure you stop in here and see all the fun stuff. This shop had so much fun stuff and great gifts for that person that has everything.


This was a view back from the pier towards this amazing home overlooking the water. It was breathtaking to think about waking to this every morning, right up until we thought about that poor home sliding down that hill eventually.

From there, we hopped the highway back to Burlington and headed down I-5 to get home for our adventure on Saturday. Of course, if you are an avid reader, Saturday should be posted right in front of this, so you know what happened that day. All in all, it was a great day and a gorgeous drive.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Trip To Mount Vernon

We had a late start to the day. We’re all battling colds right now, but I can’t remember the last time I slept in till 11:00… Oh well, after making some decent pancakes for breakfast, we relaxed a bit before hitting the road for what we hoped would be an eagle watching adventure on the Skagit River.


We made our first stop at a shop that Ara had been wanting to visit for quite a while. Lingering Legacy is a re-purposed store in Marysville that is closing up their doors. The store would have been awesome to see when it was full, but with this being the final weekend, it was pretty much down to barebones and leftovers. great to see it before it went.


From there we hit the freeway to head north to the Skagit River. We decided about mid-Arlington that it might be a good time to stop off at the rest area to grab a bathroom break and some additional tissue for the noses. At the rest stop there is a really awesome 100 year old tree trunk that was trucked in from north Arlington in 1971. It is amazing and a great opportunity to snag a great photo.


We stopped for burgers at the Chuckwagon Drive In in Mount Vernon. The burgers were decent enough and the service was much better than we expected. We finished up lunch and checked the time. It was getting a bit late in the day to make the drive out highway 20 to see the eagles out that direction, so I thought to try Lion’s Park on the river in town. The park looked pretty dead, so we moved on to a nice drive through downtown Mount Vernon and then took the back roads out of town.


The roads were winding and empty, so stopping for images of old barns, sunsets and trees was easy, The scenery was just amazing. We left town headed down 2nd Street and turned west on to Hazel street. From Hazel, we moved south on to Britt and then Dike. Dike Road continued to follow the Skagit River all the way to Conway.


At Conway, we hung a quick jaunt west to do the Mann Road loop and snag a few shots of the sunset.


The drive ended normally after we cut over on Fir Island Road back to I-5 for the half hour drive back to Everett before heading east on highway 2 to come home. Overall, the day was pretty fun for having such a late start and no real plan going into it.