Friday, November 29, 2013

R.I.P. Vanetta Chesbro Wilson, Chesbro Music CEO

I imagine "Black Friday" has taken on a unexpected meaning at Chesbro Music in Idaho Falls, as I was saddened to learn today of the death of Vanetta Chesbro Wilson, the company's CEO and a very service minded person.

All I know as I write this is from a posting on Facebook and a death notice in the Post Register, that she died in Rio Verde, Ariz. My closest association with Vanetta was during the years I was active with the Idaho Falls Opera Theatre. We served on the board of directors in the mid-90s.

Vanetta and her sister, Tana Jane Stahn, took over the management of Chesbro Music after the death of their mother Joan Chesbro Thomas, in 1999. The company dates back to 1911, when it was founded in Seattle by their great-grandfather, Horace Chesbro, who moved it that same year to St. Anthony then to Idaho Falls in 1921.

It was under their mother's leadership that the company grew from a local music retailer to a distributor serving dealers in the western United States for instruments and print music. "She (was) a great role model to me and my sister and to many other women business professionals in our community," Vanetta Wilson told the Idaho Community Foundation, in an article that can be found here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Bechtel awarded contract extensions for Naval Reactors work.

Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp., one of the Bechtel group of companies, has been awarded contract extensions projected to be valued at approximately $13 billion by the U.S. Department of Energy  and the U.S. Navy to continue providing management and operations services at the Bettis and Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories.

Under the two five-year extensions, carried out concurrently, Bechtel will continue its work in support of the U.S. Naval Reactors Program through Sept. 30, 2018. Bechtel has provided management and operation services for the labs since 2009 and provided management and operation services at the Bettis Laboratory for the previous 10 years, between 1999 and 2009.

"The work being done at the Bettis and Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories is critical to our national defense," said Craig Albert, president of Bechtel's government services business unit. "The dedicated men and women of Bechtel Marine Propulsion join me in thanking the Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy for their continued confidence in our capabilities and commitment to the Naval Reactors Program."

Bechtel colleagues carry out three primary missions at the two labs. They conduct research and development in the design and operation of nuclear propulsion plants for U.S. submarines and surface ships. They provide technical support to ensure the safety and reliability of U.S. naval nuclear reactors. And they train and certify the sailors who operate those reactors for the U.S. Navy. Bechtel is also charged with the receipt and management of the U.S. Navy's spent nuclear fuel.

All of the work is carried out by approximately 7,000 employees at five primary locations in the United States: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Schenectady and West Milton, New York; Charleston, South Carolina; and, of course, Idaho Falls.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Developers plan indoor gun range near Snake River Landing

Shane and Dixie Murphy and Ryan Later have filed a site plan with the city of Idaho Falls for Guns and Gear, at Class 5 indoor gun range they are planning to build on Crane Road just south of Pancheri Drive.

Crews tore down an old warehouse earlier this month in preparation for the 15,420-square-foot project. Shane Murphy said they plan to apply for a building permit in February, with construction to follow as soon as weather allows.

He said it will feature a 15-station shooting range and 5,000 square feet of retail space. There will be a patio in the back, overlooking Snake River Landing.

The project required a variance allowing the developers to go with a 10-foot-wide landscaping strip instead of the 15-foot-wide strip in the annexation agreement. "It's a narrow parcel of land with the canal in the back, so we needed this to make parking easier," Murphy said.

When open, he said they plan to offer classes and training to the public and law enforcement agencies.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Produce marketing expert to speak Thursday to I.F. Advertising Federation

Nate Klingler director of marketing at Eagle Eye Produce in Idaho Falls will speak Thursday at the Idaho Falls Advertising Federation's monthly "Lunch and Learn."

Klingler is a graduate of Bonneville High School and attended Idaho State University, majoring in mass communications. He worked for 7 years in the sign and print industry,  moving up through the ranks at each company he worked at, holding such positions as sales manager, art director and general manager. Since moving to Eagle Eye, he has created a marketing department from the ground up and helped the company grow at a record pace.

He is also an independent marketing and design consultant, focusing on the marketing needs of dedicated clients in the healthcare industry and political marketing.

The program is at Dixie's Diner, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Follow this link to RSVP.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Brenda Haan to open Edward Jones office in Snake River Landing

Brenda Haan announced today that she will open an Edward Jones office in Idaho Falls at 970 Pier View Drive – Suite A in Snake River Landing. Brenda has been partnering with financial advisers Joe Haan, Brian Haney, and Kevin King to serve investors throughout the Idaho Falls area.

In a press release, Haan, Haney and King said, “When Brenda joined Edward Jones, she agreed to help us provide the level of service investors have come to expect from the firm while extending our services to additional investors. Brenda has proved herself more than capable of doing so. We’re going to enjoy watching her build a successful business of her own.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Thor: The Dark World" improves on original

It's been a while since I've done a complete review of a movie. Where did all the time go? Oh yeah, of course, I went to college! Anyway, this week let's take a look at Thor's return.

All in all, "Thor: The Dark World" is an entertaining addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that manages to be better than "Iron Man 3." It offers enough rousing adventure to satiate the comic book nerd's appetite until "Avengers 2" (or at least Captain America's next flick).

Picking up from where "The Avengers" left off, Loki is in Asgardian jail for his heinous crimes while Thor is striving to bring balance back to the Nine Realms. Even though he has done that, he still feels a sense of emptiness in his life. He sets off for Earth to find his lover, Jane Foster, who is back on the job and has found an anomaly that has led to a close encounter with another possibility for epic

There are many good things about this sequel, which improves on the original. There's much more action here, prevalent in the numerous rousing set pieces. And what a creative climax! The comedy here is unexpectedly more abundant. With self-aware and wry humor to go along with some of the slapstick, it helps the film feel more fun. Look out for a hilarious cameo that will certainly make your viewing experience more enjoyable if it already wasn't.

All that creates for a nice balance with the emotional side, elevated here by deeper relationships between the characters, the most notable one being Thor and Loki's love/hate bromance. It's all in due part to the great acting by the ensemble -- the bold Chris Hemsworth, gleeful scenestealer Tom Hiddleston, a fine Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba lending a strong, authoritative support, and even the sadly underused Christopher Eccleston.

Alan Taylor's direction here may seem like it's made out of compromise, but it's fresh and assured enough to keep the ball rolling. And of course, the visual effects made the whole shebang look cool, even enhancing upon the original look of Asgard.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in "Thor: The Dark World"
However, the film suffers from quite a few flaws. The storyline isn't all that enthralling, mostly because it's yet another superhero movie in where things go wrong (again) and the superhero must save the day (again). Still, who goes to a Marvel movie not expecting this? The loose, quick writing helps the film overcome that hurdle, but the sci-fi/fantasy vibe was a bit uneven for me. I felt this sequel went a little overboard on this aspect, which really threw me off because the first one had such a good balance of the two genres. The first film was also better in terms of character development, notably with the Asgardian warriors and the external subplot mortals. For a "central villian", Malekith didn't have that much substance to him, appear for only a few minutes of screen time each time onscreen. It came off as sillier and more over-the-top, now that I think about it, at times looking nearly like a parody of itself. The first film leaned towards a more theatrical tone.

It takes time for TTDW to pick up momentum, which was also the case with the first film (and "The Avengers," and "Captain America," and all the other ones, now that I think about it), but once the train is rolling everything is just fine.

Lightning has struck twice for Thor after all. The same can be said for Marvel, whose Phase Two movies are shaping up so-far, so-good. The second "Thor" improves slightly over its predecessor in being a dazzling, engaging fantasy that's only a touch darker yet much more amusing. Now I'm curious about how "Guardians of the Galaxy" will build up to the second "Avengers."

Nathan Cook is a graduate of Skyline High School now attending Boise State University.

NYT 'Room for Debate' posts nuclear power discussion

This was in the New York Times this morning, guaranteed to be of interest to a lot of people in eastern Idaho, where nuclear power has never been as stigmatized as it has been in other places.

Pay particular attention to Nathan Myhrvold, vice chairman of the board of TerraPower, the company contracting with the Idaho National Laboratory as it seeks to develop new technologies for nuclear energy. I'd be curious as to whether Myhrvold, former chief technology officer of Microsoft, was with Bill Gates last month when Gates and his retinue visited the lab's Materials Fuels Complex. I'm guessing he was.

"Ironically, people who argue against nuclear on environmental grounds may contribute to a far greater environmental catastrophe. Unfortunately the physics of climate change makes the here and now danger too easy to ignore," he says here.

Anyway, you're free to post your comment to the discussion by by following this link: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/11/14/is-nuclear-power-the-answer-to-climate-change/nuclear-power-needs-to-be-an-option.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

So long splash park, hello "Memorial Falls"

The "splash park" on the Idaho Falls Greenbelt is no more. It has been pared down to less than one-third of its proposed size, dressed up in red, white and blue, and renamed "Memorial Falls."

When it became obvious that public objections had become a serious problem for the city of Idaho Falls' proposal to build a big interactive water feature at Memorial and Riverside, Parks and Rec Director Greg Weitzel and designer Nate Durtschi of Rock Solid Landscape went back to the drawing board. Not wanting to give up on a fountain at the location, they enlisted local veterans' support for the idea of turning the feature into a memorial to soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

As for the splash part of the proposal, "the vets thought kids interacting is a great idea," Weitzel told the Idaho Falls City Council today at a morning work session. "When kid interact, kids learn," he said. Still, frolicking in the jets and the cascading water will not me the focus. "It can be played in, but that's not its purpose," he said.

Weitzel said he was very pleased by the turnout Wednesday night for the Greenbelt public meeting at the Residence Inn -- over 130 people -- and by the level of investment residents feel in the city's public spaces. "We do not have a shy public here in Idaho Falls," he said.

More than 1,000 people responded to a survey for the Connecting Our Community study, only slightly less than a similar study conducted in Salt Lake City. "We're taking the lead from the public," he said. "They're saying the Greenbelt is the number one resource we have."

The next step for Memorial Falls would be for the City Council to approve a design contract. Weitzel said he is hopeful the project might be finished in time for a dedication next July 4.

"We would be the first city in Idaho to recognize Iraq and Afghanisan vets," he said. "It's a perfect fit for Memorial Drive."

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Idaho Falls ranks second in national survey of "Best Small Cities"

Since the last national list on which Idaho Falls was ranked was of the nation's coldest cities (we were 18th), here's something a little more heartwarming.

Movato Blog ("The Lighter Side of Real Estate") has Idaho Falls coming in second behind Rowlett, Texas (suburban Dallas), on a list of "Best Small Cities to Move To."

  • The list was based on data from close to 100 cities with populations under 60,000. The six criteria were:
  • Cost of living
  • Crime
  • Median household income
  • Unemployment rate
  • Median home price
  • Homes for sale per capita

Information came from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, FBI, and real estate market data.

Buttercup Bakery & Bistro opens on First Street

Neccia Hahn, owner of Buttercup Bakery and Bistro, 335 First Street.
Such is the nature of perfection that Neccia Hahn doubts she'll ever make the perfect loaf of bread, but she gets close often enough to keep trying.

Today is the opening day of Hahn's Buttercup Bakery & Bistro, 335 First Street. She is keeping it low key, but this is the culmination of more than a year of effort -- and 15 years of obsession.

Hahn's start, nicknamed "Levainna White," dates back to the Clinton administration (levain is a leavening agent used in place of yeast to rise bread dough) and is pretty much the source of all artisan bread she has made since.

"I think you're always trying to do better," she said.

In 2012, in preparation for her own bakery, Hahn went to the San Francisco Baking Institute, where she delved into the nuances of artisan baking. She and her husband, F.J. "Tiger" Hahn, started work on the First Street property earlier this year, remodeling and adding a deck in front.

Hahn is assisted by Beth Watson. Together, they will be making daily sourdough rounds, baguettes, bagels, pain au levain and chibatta. They will periodically making rye and challa, brioches for the holidays and, of course, sticky buns and cookies.

The bakery opens at 7 a.m. daily except for Sunday.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Natural Grocers on 17th Street open for business

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors cut the ribbon Monday afternoon at the new Natural Grocers store on 17th Street.
Colorado-based Natural Grocers had a ribbon cutting Monday and is open for business today at its newest store, on Idaho Falls' 17th Street. Thus concludes a two-year saga that BizMojo Idaho has covered ever since Assistant City Planner Brad Cramer told me in 2011 that he'd received a cryptic phone call from people asking about a possible location for a 15,000-square-foot specialty grocery store.

The store will offer its first free cooking class in its dedicated demonstration kitchen and events facility on Thursday. Nationally recognized nutrition expert Cary Tamburro will show how to make "Smoothies to Jump Start Your Health."  Tamburro will demonstrate organic, gluten-free and dairy-free options.

Natural Grocers is well known for what it does not sell: any foods that contain artificial ingredients such as colors, sweeteners, flavors, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, or produce grown with synthetic pesticides, or meats with antibiotics or hormones.

Hours are Monday through Saturday from 8:56 a.m. to 8:04 p.m. On Sunday the store will be open from 9:56 a.m. to 7:06 p.m. "Come a little early, come a little late, customers are welcome inside," says the press release.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Grand Teton Chiropractic offers benefit to veterans

Dr. James Gardner
In honor of Veteran’s Day, Dr. James C. Gardner and the staff of Grand Teton Chiropractic are holding a “Thankful for Our Soldiers” benefit.

Today through Wednesday, all active duty military and veterans are eligible to receive free treatment at the Grand Teton Chiropractic office, 1220 East 17th Street. Make an appointment or call 529-1919 during office hours. Be prepared to show Military ID or DD 214 and your adjustment that day is complimentary.

"It’s our way of saying thanks for their service. But really, every day is an opportunity to say thank you," Gardner said. "So join us in our Thankful for our Soldiers Movement in showing our gratitude for those who have served, or are currently serving in our military."

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gasoline prices plummet in Idaho Falls

Vehicles lined up Thursday at the Good 2 Go Conoco Station at North Yellowstone and Hitt Road, where prices got as low a $2.66 a gallon for regular unleaded. (Melissa Bristol photo)
Gasoline prices in Idaho Falls dropped below $3 a gallon at some stations this week, with competition between two convenience stores at Hitt Road and Yellowstone going at it particularly hard.

"You're more likely to see an old-fashioned price war when prices are on the wane," said Dave Carlson, spokesman for the Idaho AAA office in Boise.

When Dad's opened its station on Hitt in early October, it was selling its Sinclair gas for 45 to 50 cents a gallon less, prompting the Good 2 Go Conoco station across the road to follow suit. "We thought it would kind of take root up and down the I-15 corridor, but it didn't," Carlson said.

Although wholesale rack prices were going down, a lot of dealers were engaging in profit taking, sometimes as much as 30 or 40 cents a gallon, Carlson said.

At lunchtime today, the price for regular unleaded at Dad's was $2.89. Across the road at Good 2 Go, the price was $2.94. The average price in town was $3.05, below the national average price on Friday for regular unleaded was $3.21 a gallon.

Prices are going down because supplies are ample and winter grade gasoline is cheaper to produce. "It should have been coming down well before now," Carlson said.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Jones Sew & Vac moving to First Street

The Jones Sew & Vac remodel is already underway, just west of the Calvary Chapel Thrift Store.
Jones Sew & Vac will be leaving its longtime location on Hitt Road to a remodeled spot on First Street, between the Rose Shop and Calvary Chapel Thrift Store. They are hoping for a Dec. 1 opening, said James Wilson, who handles ordering and receiving for both the Idaho Falls store and the one in Pocatello.

Wilson said the main consideration is space. The new location will have close to 4,000 square feet, compared to the 1,000 square feet they have at their present Idaho Falls location.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

INL scientist receives award from American Nuclear Society

Dr. Piyush Sabharwall
Piyush Sabharwall, a scientist in the Nuclear System Design and Analysis Division at Idaho National Laboratory, will receive the American Nuclear Society Young Members Excellence Award at the ANS annual meeting later this month. Each year the society gives the award to an early-career nuclear scientist who demonstrates outstanding technical abilities.

Sabharwall's research is in developing new technology for very high temperature nuclear reactors. He also works on ways to integrate nuclear power and renewable sources, like wind energy, into the power grid -- coupling a constant source with one that varies with the weather. Sabharwall's solutions could lead to a cleaner and more energy efficient future for the United States.

In addition to his own research, Sabharwall is a board director on the Idaho NASA Space Grant Consortia. Sabharwall came to INL in 2005.  He received his Ph.D. in 2009 from the University of Idaho, and completed a master's in engineering management this past spring by taking advantage of the U.S. Department of Energy's education program.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Happy's plans opening at new location Friday

The door to Happy Chinese Restaurant at its new Shoup Avenue location, with the Rogers Building reflected in the glass.
Happy Chinese Restaurant has closed on Park Avenue and plans to open Friday at its new location at 504 Shoup Avenue, where Grand Victorian Wedding Chapel was.

Jay and Lily Li came to Idaho Falls from Rexburg in 2003 to take over Happy's on Park Avenue, which originally started in the '80s. When it came time to find a new location that would give them more kitchen space, they didn't want to leave downtown and when the space at Park and B Street became available they put their moving plans in motion.

The new location has about 5,000 square feet, nearly twice what they've had on Park. The space will be about evenly split between the restaurant area (seating 135) and the kitchen, Lily Li said. "We will have better updated equipment for cooking," she said.

By the way, I think it's OK to say "Happy's" even though the name is Happy Chinese Restaurant just the same way it's OK to say "Chesbro's" even when the actual name is Chesbro Music Co.

More national fodder from the ongoing nuclear energy debate

I missed the local screening of "Pandora's Promise" last week, so I'm really on the lookout for any nuclear energy links that I think might be of interest to the local community. This has been a challenge since Dan Yurman closed shop on is Idaho Samizdat: Nuke Notes blog, but a lot of what he posted was pretty esoteric while I'm on the hunt for more general interest stuff.

This ran on the Salon.com Web site this morning: Climate experts to enviros: The time has come to embrace nuclear power.

Of course you can read the comments that follow this article, too, and read the links people post there.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Interesting nuclear power link from the New York Times

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaking Monday at the Hinckley Point B nuclear power station in southwest England. (New York Times photo)
I found this recent story from the New York Times  interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a mention of Areva, whose uranium enrichment project west of Idaho Falls has been on hold for nearly two years. It pretty much sums up the challenges nuclear power is facing at the moment. Here's the link:

Deck goes onto D Street bridge

On the way home Thursday, I thought it worth the effort to climb the dirt pile on the north end of the new D Street underpass project to get a level view of what's going on. The long-awaited project is scheduled to be finished sometime in 2014.