Thursday, December 29, 2016

WestBank Convention Center plans grand reopening New Year's Eve

The newly remodeled WestBank Lounge
After nearly two-and-a-half years in limbo, the WestBank Restaurant, Lounge & Convention Center is planning its grand opening Saturday with a New Year’s Eve bash.

The property at 525 River Parkway was padlocked in August 2014. That was when the tower next door went into foreclosure after the owner, Idaho Hotel Holdings, filed a default judgment against the management company, Om Shiv Ganesh LLC, for more than $3.4 million. Om Shiv Ganesh also had been managing the motel and convention center, but when the tower went into receivership convention center owner Dane Watkins decided he would shut it down while he looked for a new operator.

The tower was sold at auction in 2015 and is now run as a Rodeway Inn by Idaho Falls Lodge LLC, a subsidiary of Choice Hotels International, which franchises more than 6,300 hotels in more than 35 countries and territories. Since late November or early December, the remodeled lounge and restaurant, now called the WestBank Restaurant, Lounge & Convention Center, have been managed by the same company.

A few events have been held since November, when remodeling was finished and the lounge reopened. The dining room has been serving complimentary continental breakfasts to hotel guests.

For the grand opening Saturday night, doors will be opened at 7:30 and dinner will begin at 8. Tickets are $55 a couple for dinner and dancing or $120 for dinner, dancing and a hotel room.

For information, call 523-8000. The Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/westbank.idahofalls/.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

EIRMC celebrates 30 years today

Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center officially turns 30 today. The tertiary care hospital at 3100 Channing Way was officially dedicated Dec. 22, 1986. If I could find the story I wrote that ran Dec. 23, 1986, I would post it, but in the meantime here is a history written by Kathy J. Fatkin on EIRMC’s webpage: http://eirmc.com/about/history.dot.

To celebrate 30 years in operation, the hospital announced this fall that it was asking the community for 30,000 canned food items, which it has accomplished. Canned goods have been collected through physical donations at the hospital and through a virtual canned food drive at EIRMC30Years.com. Visitors to the site were able to participate once each day and each time they did EIRMC committed to purchase canned goods on their behalf.

The canned food drive will continue through the end of the year (if you want to donate online, there is a link on the right side of this page.) After Jan. 1, the final count will be calculated, EIRMC will arrange to purchase cans generated by the virtual canned food drive, and preparations will be made to distribute the cans to 11 area food banks throughout EIRMC’s service area.

The 11 area food banks are Community Dinner Table (Blackfoot Community Pantry), Community Food Basket (Idaho Falls), Cornerstone Pentecostal Food Bank, Family Crisis Center (Rexburg), Idaho Falls Soup Kitchen, Jefferson County Food Bank, North Bingham County Community Food Bank, North Fremont Food Pantry, Salvation Army (Idaho Falls), St. Vincent de Paul, and Teton Valley Food Bank. EIRMC anticipates that the cans will be distributed in mid-January.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Local Marketing Boot Camp set for Jan. 19 at EITC

For anyone who wants to learn more about Internet marketing and social media, there will be a Local Marketing Boot Camp on Jan. 19, 2017, at Eastern Idaho Technical College.

Running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., it will feature talks, panel discussions and hands-on exercises with six local experts:

Subjects to be covered include …

  • Online marketing
  • Basic to advanced search engine optimization
  • Great design converts
  • Facebook and Facebook Ads
  • Google AdWords and pay-per-click
  • Getting reviews
  • Offline marketing

Price for the event is $75, which includes snacks and lunch. Tickets may be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/local-web-marketing-bootcamp-tickets-28985490382.  Seating is limited to 40 people.

For more information, visit the event’s webpage: http://localmarketingbootcamp.com/

Monday, December 19, 2016

Review: "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (spoilers ahead)

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her ragtag band of Rebels in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"
Today we feature a review of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" written by Bill Menser. We saw it on Saturday and he had all sorts of opinions, so I asked him to write a review. He is being paid for this. 

Bill has been around long enough to know his "Star Wars." How long? Long enough to have seen "The Phantom Menace" from the balcony of the old Rio Theater. Long enough to have seen the VHS tape in which Han Solo shoots Greedo not because Greedo shoots first but because Greedo has become a bore and is obviously going to try something. Anyway, here's the write up ...

The reviews I have read of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” have been mixed, with more people saying they liked it than those who didn’t. I’m with the majority, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have problems with the film.

Before I go any further, a warning. This will contain spoilers, so if you want to avoid them stop reading right now and find another review to look at. If you are fine with spoilers and people having opinions different than yours, or possibly even the same, please keep on reading.

The first ten minutes of the film start off on four different planets, with different characters for each segment. As I was finally adjusting to each planet’s story, the movie would suddenly switch to different characters in a different system, making the process confusing.

It finally settled on a planet where the main heroine is. Jyn Erso is young at this point — about 7, I would guess —and she is on a farm with her father and mother. An Imperial shuttle appears on the horizon and the father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) goes to meet it, telling his wife and daughter to hide. Galen, it turns out, used to be an Imperial scientist. Death Star Project Manager Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) has arrived to take him back. He politely refuses. Then Mommy Dearest decides she has to help Papa by showing up with a blaster, getting herself predictably killed and leaving Jyn hidden in the family bolthole as her father is taken away. Jyn gets found by ... some guy.

This turns out to be Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whittaker), a rebel extremist. By this time, Jyn (Felicity Jones) is older and on a prison ship. She gets rescued by rebels who see her as a way to get to Saw, now in seclusion. Saw eventually dies because he doesn’t want to run from the Imperials anymore. His death feels like a reason to give Jyn more issues, when she already has enough. But now she knows where her father is. She comes to his rescue in time for him to die. (Major spoiler: Nearly everybody in this movie dies.)

The only really refreshing bit for me was K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk, of “Firefly” fame. He was a sigh of relief in what I felt was an over-budgeted fan-film. This sassy robot got a laugh with almost every line he delivered.

My enjoyment of his character was countered, however, when Darth Vader, after Force-choking Krennic and looking as smug as a man in a mask can, says, “Be careful not to CHOKE on your aspirations.” I had to roll my eyes at this. Vader has never been wisecracker.

Speaking of Vader, I know they got James Earl Jones to voice him once more, but he sounded like someone trying to impersonate James Earl Jones. If they touched his voice in post-processing just a bit and made it half an octave lower, it would have been Vader, but it sounded too much like some replacement with a head cold.

While the first half of the film didn’t hold my attention that much, the second had me invested. Of course the relationship between Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Jyn felt like a fan fiction: Jyn, the girl with a dead parent and daddy issues falling for the Rebel, angsty and seemingly uncaring. Of course they end up with each other.

For the climactic battle, a small team sneaks through a giant atmospheric shield with a captured Imperial cargo ship they somehow hijack from the Rebel base. The Imperial shield looks like something straight out of Mel Brooks’ “Space Balls.” The team lands on a pad and passes the inspection process, and they somehow manage to sneak by the soldiers on the pad.

While Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO make their way to the main tower, the Rebel team creates a distraction by blowing up as many different landing pads as they can, to make the attack seem much larger than it is. By this point Krennic has figured out they’re after the data archive. He takes some Death Troopers to investigate (these are basically Imperial Stormtroopers, except they can aim and wear black instead of white.)

Cassian and Jyn retrieve the Death Star plans (which her dad has thoughtfully named “Stardust,” his nickname for her), then Krennic and Cassian have a shootout while Jyn climbs to the radar dish on top of the tower. Cassian is hit and falls, seemingly dead. Which of course he isn’t. Jyn realigns the dish to transmit the file to a waiting rebel ship that has conveniently showed up during the attack. Krennic steps in between her and the console and at gunpoint asks who she is. Jyn reveals she is Galen Erso’s daughter, then Cassian shoots and kills Krennic.

Now able to transmit the data to the waiting ship, they do so just as the Death Star appears out of Hyperspace on the horizon. Uh-oh! Jyn and Cassian look at each other lovingly and make their way down to the beach as the Death Star fires on the planet. They die holding hands in a blinding white flash, but the Rebels have the plans. Vader shows up to butcher a few dozen Rebels, but they still manage to pass the plans on to Princess Leia, who gets off the ship.

Even though I felt like the script had been lifted from a fan-fiction website, “Rogue One” was still a “Star Wars” movie. It had all the proper elements. It was political and word-heavy, it had great fight scenes and big explosions. It had some wit, one-liners and even a villain (Krennic) you could feel something for. The supporting cast — a defecting pilot, a blind monk who is strong with the Force, and his friend, not so strong with the Force but an ace with heavy weapon — got some good lines and helped move things along. C-3PO and R2-D2 got a cameo to remind us this is a warm up to “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.” Same with Vader and Leia, but I felt like it could have left them out and still flowed perfectly into George Lucas’ original from 1977.

I don’t regret seeing “Rogue One” and would recommend it to others. On my personal “Star Wars” scale, with “The Phantom Menace” representing a 1 and “The Empire Strikes Back” rating a 9, I would give this one a 6.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Five from Idaho Falls named IBR Women of the Year

Jackie Flowers
The Idaho Business Review has announced the 50 women it plans to honor in March as Idaho Women of the Year. Eastern Idaho and the Idaho National Laboratory are showing a growing presence on the list, with five women named:

  • Jackie Flowers, general manager, Idaho Falls Power, Idaho Falls
  • Wendy Horman, representative, Idaho House of Representatives, Idaho Falls
  • Amy Lientz, director, Partnerships, Engagement and Technology Department, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls
  • Catherine Riddle, radiochemistry research scientist, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls
  • Denise L. Stephens, chief information officer and director of information management, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls

The judges – former honorees themselves, plus a representative from program sponsor Hawley Troxell – reviewed each application, rating the women 1 to 5 in five categories: professional achievements, leadership, providing mentorship to other women, community service work, and community leadership.

Amy Lientz
As instructed, they read through each submission carefully and thoughtfully. The highest and lowest scores for every applicant were tossed out, and the remaining scores were averaged. The 50 women with the highest scores are this year’s honorees, representing women across the state. This year there are honorees from the Treasure Valley (Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa), Twin Falls, Oakley, Pocatello, Glenns Ferry, Lewiston, Caldwell, and Idaho Falls.

“It was tough to score. I hope that some that didn’t score as high will apply again. Some just need a little more time to do great things!” said Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham, who along with Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper was honored this past spring.

This year’s honorees include six who will enter the Circle of Excellence; they have received the honor before. Women can be recognized with the award up to three times.

Wendy Horman
The women will be honored at a reception, dinner and awards gala 5:30 to 9 p.m. on March 9 at the Boise Centre. One woman of the 50 will be named at the end of the evening’s event and honored as the Idaho Business Review Woman of the Year. A dedicated magazine featuring all of their stories will be published with the March 10 Idaho Business Review.

Seating for the event, which will be held at the new Boise Centre East, is limited. ”Dressy” to formal attire is the norm; however, there is not a strict dress code. In the past, this event, hailed as “the Academy Awards of Boise” has been a sellout. It is recommended you reserve your table(s) and/or ticket(s) early. For tickets, visit https://www.regonline.com/registration/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1915588.