Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Time Traveler Lounge brings virtual reality to Spokane

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 1:49 PM

NovaWake founders Lew Strachman and Anna Czoski in the Time Traveler Lounge - MAKAYLA WAMBOLDT
  • Makayla Wamboldt
  • NovaWake founders Lew Strachman and Anna Czoski in the Time Traveler Lounge

If you aren’t privy to the world of video games and emerging technology, you might not think about virtual reality very often. In fact, you might have never given it a thought. Anna Czoski and Lew Strachman of NovaWake Studios are giving Spokane, along with the rest of the world, a reason to consider the exciting new technology that is virtual reality.

“One misconception that we run into is that [virtual reality] is for gamers or only people who like video games. It’s a new medium just like TV, just like movies, or Broadway shows. You don't have to be a certain demographic to watch a movie,” says Czoski.

The founders of NovaWake Studios, a local Spokane startup, aim to transform the way we consume media through the endless possibilities of virtual reality. They have been operating with a small team out of the Turner Mansion building on East Illinois Ave. since April, developing new virtual reality experiences for the local community and a broader audience as well.

“We’re thinking local and global all at the same time,” expresses Czoski. “We’re making experiences for everybody across the globe and in Spokane. It’s exciting to be able to introduce this new medium into the city.”

Strachman adds, “There’s no question that this medium is a new way of viewing material, a new way of viewing content and it’s even difficult to understand what it is because there are ways of communicating that we’re just experimenting with right now.”

These experiences are made available to the Spokane community in what the team is calling the Time Traveler Lounge, which, according to Fandango, is the first virtual reality theater in the entire country. “They had to create a new category for us just so they could post us,” Strachman proudly exclaims. “Virtual reality doesn’t really exist yet in the sense that nobody can see it, except here at the lounge.”

Upon entering the lounge, viewers have the opportunity to purchase drinks and snacks before settling into their virtual reality experience, and can then choose their desired escape. Engage in a full body immersive experience, dodging missiles, shooting asteroids while floating in a cosmic-colored galaxy in the game Nova Asteroids. Or, sit back and explore radiant glimmers of light within a dark and mysterious cave to the sound of an original composition in Gravity Compass. Czoski and Strachman once again reiterate that these are experiences that anyone, not just gamers, can enjoy. “At Terrain 8 we showed Gravity Compass, and it was a more relaxing meditative experience, mostly passive but there are still interactive elements, and so those people maybe have never played a game before, but they loved it because it was an escape.”

A short escape from our own realities is an enticing offer of virtual reality, but this escape isn’t available without the creative talents and hard work of developers working on the other side. While Strachman has roots in the technology industry and Czoski in 3D graphics, both express a deep appreciation of art as being the heart and soul of what they do.

Continue reading »

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Pro-refugee rally to be held in Boise

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 10:49 AM

click image A group of refugee supporters gathered in September to show support for welcoming refugees into their communities. A pro-refugee rally will be held at the state capitol on Saturday. - REFUGEES WELCOME IN IDAHO FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Refugees Welcome in Idaho Facebook page
  • A group of refugee supporters gathered in September to show support for welcoming refugees into their communities. A pro-refugee rally will be held at the state capitol on Saturday.

A woman and her child just finished their shopping at WinCo. As they were leaving the grocery store in Boise, some people in a pick-up truck drove by and yelled “Go home, ragheads!” This is just one of the remarks Sean Foster recalls that refugees in the Boise area have encountered.

That is why Foster, 26, and Sophia Brasil, 22, are holding a pro-refugee rally in Idaho’s state capitol. Brasil works with the International Rescue Committee in Boise.

“We are putting on the rally to have a public display to the community and the country that there are people who won’t let acts of terrorism scare them into not doing what is right,” Foster says.

This comes after heightened tension following the Paris attacks. Foster has friends who were injured during the attacks, and friends of those friends who were killed. He was motivated and inspired that they “did not lose their resolve to welcome the people who are seeking refuge.”

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is among many governors wanting to cease the welcoming of refugees into the country, citing that the refugee resettlement program hasn't been properly explained, and that it is allowing people into our country who want to do harm to our communities and people.

"It's disappointing that our leaders are fine with singing about the land of the free and the home of the brave but when the chips are down don't act bravely and don't promote the U.S. as a land of freedom and refuge," Foster says. "Compassion and doing the right thing has always been dangerous in the world. If the right thing were easy everyone would do it."

The rally will also include a holiday drive to benefit refugees, homeless and in-need veterans. Foster is expecting about 500 people to attend, but a few hundred more have expressed interest on Facebook. The organizers suggest bringing the following:
  • Coats, clothes, shoes
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Hygiene products (toilet paper, shampoo, soap, deodorant)
  • Diapers
  • Blankets
The Rally for Solidarity with Refugees in Idaho - Sat., Nov. 21 from 11am to 2pm - Idaho State Capitol - 700 W. Jefferson St. - Additional info on the event Facebook page

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Here's what you need to know to start your day

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2015 at 9:19 AM

Our award-winning photographer, Young Kwak, traipsed around Spokane yesterday snapping pictures of the damage. Check out the slideshow here

Windstorm update: 

  • Governor Inslee declared a state of emergency, which allows for additional resources such as military units to help with recovery efforts. 
  • Avista is reporting that 108,000 customers are still without power. 
  • Spokane Public Schools are still closed. 
  • Classed resumed at Gonzaga, Whitworth and Eastern Washington University. 
Paris Attacks: 
The man who believed to be responsible for the attacks in Paris is dead as a result of Wednesday's raid, authorities confirmed. (New York Times)

Also, members of the US House of Representatives will vote on a bill introduced yesterday that would beef up the screening process for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Obama has said he'll veto the bill. (Washington Post) 

National Book Awards 

Ta-Nehisi Coates took home the nonfiction award for Between the World and Me, a book written as a letter to his son. Read an excerpt here

Adam Johnson, who won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2013, earned the fiction award for his collection of short stories, Fortune Smiles. 

Newcomer Robin Coste Lewis took home poetry honors for her collection called Voyage of the Sable and Other Poems. 

Check out the hip hop benefit show this weekend. 
Featuring Phil in the Blank, Rod Mac, Pest and Dookie Trackshoes as the Checkerboard Bar. Proceeds go toward Second Harvest Food Bank. 
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Spokane-based jewelry makers Millianna host annual holiday sale Thursday

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 4:24 PM

Millianna's founders Sharmilla Persaud, left, and Arianna Brooke, at their downtown Spokane showroom. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • Millianna's founders Sharmilla Persaud, left, and Arianna Brooke, at their downtown Spokane showroom.

In this week's Inlander, online and on stands Thursday, the arts and culture section features a profile on the up-and-coming, Spokane-based jewelry business Millianna. The women-owned company's handmade pieces are made mostly by women artisans in Spokane, including some local refugees who've resettled here with support from World Relief Spokane.

Since the story in tomorrow's issue also includes a mention of a same-day, once-a-year "friends and family sale" at the jewelry house's studio and office in downtown Spokane, we wanted to give readers a heads up so they don't miss out by the time they pick up a copy of the Inlander.

While fashionistas can purchase Millianna's high-end pieces online, the holiday sale tomorrow offers local shoppers first dibs on discontinued and sample pieces — many are one-of-a-kind — and items from the current season's collection at wholesale prices. Retail stores typically mark up Millianna's necklaces, earrings, cuffs and hairpieces by as much as 2.5 times the wholesale price, so do the math. It's also an opportunity to get a start on holiday shopping while supporting a local business, or to pick up a piece for yourself to wear throughout the season and beyond.

The holiday sale is open to the public, and happens tomorrow, Nov. 19, from 3-7 pm, at Millianna's offices on the sixth floor of the Empire State Building (yes, Spokane has its own version of the NYC tower), at 905 W. Riverside.

When our new issue's content is live online tomorrow morning, we'll update this post to include a link to the story. For now, get a peek at the edgy, feminine and statement-making jewelry on Millianna's website.

UPDATE: Here's the link to this week's profile on the Spokane-based company.

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PHOTOS: Exploded trees, crushed cars, powerless people

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 3:15 PM

Our award-winning staff photographer, Young Kwak, wandered parts of Spokane today, capturing the devastation left after last night's windstorm.

Scenes from Windstorm 2015
Scenes from Windstorm 2015 Scenes from Windstorm 2015 Scenes from Windstorm 2015 Scenes from Windstorm 2015 Scenes from Windstorm 2015 Scenes from Windstorm 2015 Scenes from Windstorm 2015 Scenes from Windstorm 2015

Scenes from Windstorm 2015

On Tuesday, winds exceed 70 miles an hour, blowing down trees, ripping off roofs and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people.

By Young Kwak

Click to View 19 slides

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What we know so far about the record-setting windstorm that tore through the PNW

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 3:04 PM

A tree that fell on a condo complex between 3rd and 4th in Browne's Addition across the street from Coeur d'Alene Park. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FELICIA DIAMOND
  • Photo Courtesy of Felicia Diamond
  • A tree that fell on a condo complex between 3rd and 4th in Browne's Addition across the street from Coeur d'Alene Park.

A windstorm causing record-setting power outages ripped across the Pacific Northwest yesterday with gusts reaching 137 mph in some places. Three people are dead and more than 300,000 people throughout the state lost power at some point since Tuesday.

Three people died:

Currently, 139,000 Avista customers throughout Washington and Idaho are without power, down from 180,000 at the height of the hurricane-force winds. That's more than 30 percent of Avista's customers in the two states. 113,000 of those customers are in Spokane County. The company stated it will be three to five days before most customers get service restarted. 

Click here for an outage map and here for a map of the downed trees in Spokane.

Powerful winds:

Gusts reached up to 137 mph at the Mission Ridge Ski area in Chelan County, according to the National Weather Service. In Spokane, winds topped out at 71 mph; 101 mph in Bonner County, 67 mpg in Kootenai County and 82 mph in Shoshone County.

Continue reading »

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As power is restored, here are the stories you may have missed

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 9:22 AM

As the wind winds down

The morning after the record windstorm in the region, two are dead, trees are everywhere, the Whitworth campus is a mess — with the library hit directly — schools are closed and 158,000 are without power. KXLY reports the roof was ripped off of SpokAnimal's facility. 
The Whitworth University Library was among many buildings hit by the storm - WHITWORTH PRESIDENT BECK TAYLOR
  • Whitworth President Beck Taylor
  • The Whitworth University Library was among many buildings hit by the storm

Terror's aftermath
Meanwhile, in Paris, gunfire rang out in a series of terrorism raids that ended with seven arrested and two dead. One of two dead blew herself up. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that the family members of the raid's apparent organizer hoped he had died in Syria.

Knows a lot about the brain though
Ben Carson doesn't know much about foreign policy say... aides of Ben Carson. 

In hindsight
Kevin Drum, of Mother Jones, asks if Obama could have prevented the rise of ISIS back in 2012.

Bully pulpit
Obama uses the debate over accepting refugees to slam the GOP for "political posturing."

The Nathan Fielder, Modern Oprah
The goofy "non-fiction" book about a bodybuilder, his gym-less workout regimen, and his friendship with Steve Jobs/Jungle Children, featured on Nathan For You, has become an Amazon bestseller.

After the Paris attacks, this video has gone viral.
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Historic storm knocks out power to region, leaves two dead

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 at 8:21 AM

A Spokane firefighter begins the work of cutting up a fallen tree at S Regal St and E 17th Ave. - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • A Spokane firefighter begins the work of cutting up a fallen tree at S Regal St and E 17th Ave.

The sun is up, and the precise damage from last night's historic windstorm is still being assessed. So far, two deaths and record-breaking power outages have been attributed to the storm.

• Schools and universities across the region — including Gonzaga, Eastern, WSU in Pullman and Whitworth — are closed today. A few have pushed back start times. KXLY has a list here.

• The city of Spokane reminds property owners to report downed trees. Call 625-7733. The city shared a list of certified arborists.

• Avista has a map of outages across the region. The utility recommends the following steps during an outage:
  • Turn off all the appliances that were on before the power went out.
  • Unplug electronic equipment, including computers.
  • Leave a light or radio on as an alert when power has been restored.
  • Help Avista crews working in a neighborhood know which homes have power by turning on the front porch light
  • If you see a downed power line, stay away. Treat all power lines as if they are carrying electrical current, and never touch or move one.
  • Do not wire an emergency generator into a home’s electrical system, unless there is a disconnect switch to separate generated power from Avista’s distribution system. Backfeed into power lines could injure or kill a lineman working to get electricity restored.
  • Use a generator only to run specific appliances and locate it outside so poisonous carbon monoxide fumes do not enter the home.
• UPDATE: Kootenai Electric says some customers could be powerless for days, even weeks. (KREM)

• UPDATE: Avista issued a message at 8 am this morning: 
We know it is frustrating, but at this time we cannot give estimated restoration times for specific locations.

With the light of day, 25 assessor crews in Spokane alone can now be able to safely visually inspect the damage caused by the storm.

This assessment should help us better understand the extent of damage and prioritize continued restoration efforts.

At the height of storm, more than 180,000 Avista customers were without power, that’s nearly half of our electric customers. Overnight progress was limited because of safety issues working in the dark as the storm continued to move through our region.

Customers are encouraged to initiate their emergency plan. If you need help, please seek it. If you need a warming shelter, please contact the Salvation Army, St. Vincent DePaul or similar agency.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Changes to community supervision in Washington state are reducing recidivism and saving money

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 2:24 PM

Washington state's community supervision program is one area of the criminal justice system where those who enforce violations were allowed a fair amount of discretion. 

Where one community supervision officer might count each and every missed check-in as a sanctionable violation, another might wait for three or four to build up before considering punishment, giving the offender the benefit of the doubt until a pattern of violations started to show itself. 

That is no longer the case. 

In 2012, a new law stripped officers of their discretion by requiring at least one to three days in jail for low-level violations such as missing a check-in appointment or failing a drug test. The new policies, known as Swift and Certain, also adjusted punishment to be more proportional to the violation. These policies, which went into effect in May 2012, had never before been implemented on a statewide level. 

Researchers at Washington State University Institute for Criminal Justice analyzed the impact the new state law had on cost, public safety and recidivism. The resulting 73-page report analyzes data from about 5,000 offenders and includes focus group interviews with 79 officers and their supervisors and 56 offenders. 

The conclusion: it's working. 

"Recidivism is going down, and the rate of violations is going down," says Dr. Zachary Hamilton, Director of the Washington State Institute for Criminal Justice. "Low-level violations decreased rapidly, the amount of serious violations and absconding rates are going down. All the signs we've identified indicate it's working." 

Here's how the new policies work:

Swift: Low-level offenses are met with one-to-three days in jail. Under the old system sanctions started at 30 days minimum and ranged up to 120 days. 

Certain: Corrections officers have to report every violation instead of exercising discretion and letting a few accumulate.

Continue reading »

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Top Chef contestant and Spokane native Chad White comes home to open a restaurant

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2015 at 11:54 AM

A screenshot of Native Post & Provision's website.
  • A screenshot of Native Post & Provision's website.

  • Chef Chad White Facebook
  • Chef Chad White

Spokane's food scene is in the midst of a renaissance, with more chef-owned eateries popping up than ever. Ripe for growth, the industry is even drawing top talent from major culinary cities who are eager to get back to their small-town roots. The latest personality to enter the Inland Northwest food scene is San Diego's Chef Chad White — also a contestant on the 13th season of Top Chef, Top Chef: California — who's coming home to Spokane to open a planned eatery called Native Post & Provisions. The Top Chef season White is competing in premieres on Bravo on Dec. 2-3, and will feature 17 chefs from across California.

Eater San Diego reports that upon his return to Spokane, Chef White is planning to open a 40-to-50-seat restaurant featuring a Northwest-centric menu, with most dishes cooked over a wood fire. The projected opening date is spring 2016. It's not yet confirmed where Native Post & Provisions is to be located.

White, an award-winning chef who trained in French and Mediterranean cuisine, has an eclectic, urban food style that's heavily Baja-influenced, but his tagline is "borderless flavor" — he doesn't box himself in to only cooking in region-specific styles.
Though he's coming back home, White said he plans to keep operating two restaurants in the San Diego-Tijuana area: La Justina in Tijuana and Craft Pizza Co. in San Diego. His Comun Taqueria in San Diego will close.

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