Despite the dismal economy, two Toledo business owners are starting a third business.
Nicola and Tony Licata are the owners of two Sunoco stations located at 4828 Monroe St. and 4001 Holland Sylvania Road. After 38 years in the gas business, the Licatas have decided to try something new.
On April 19, they opened Nicola’s Art & Accents, a 1,200-square-foot home and garden décor store.
“We thought we’d try to do something completely different from the gas business,” Nicola said.
The new store is located at 4820 Monroe St., next to the Sunoco stations. As gas sales declined, the Licatas started thinking about how they could use the empty space at their Monroe location to expand. This thought process combined with the task of decorating a new home is how the store came about.
“Having moved to a new home about a year and a half ago we were looking for different art work, different décor pieces and we were having a hard time finding it. It all kind of came from there,; it was recognizing there was a niche that we could fill and following it through,” Nicola said.
Inventory will include indoor and outdoor pieces including artwork, rugs, throws, pillows and root candles, which burn cleaner and longer than regular candles, according to Tony.
A patio will showcase tables, benches, planters, garden stakes and weather-safe wall decorations.
“That was very key to us, in finding vendors that don’t generally sell to business around here and working with people from across the country and getting goods in here that will be completely unique to the area,” Nicola said.
“We wanted people that appreciated nice art, to have a great selection at a reasonable price,” Tony said.
In addition to carrying unique pieces, the store will have items that coordinate with one another. Nicola said they will have matching rugs, pillows and throws to help ease the coordination processes.
Another way Nicola hopes to aid customers is through the use of a database. She plans on keeping records of each customer and their purchases. When a customer returns, “we then have a sense of their style and we can help them choose other complementary items,” she said.
If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for in the store, Nicola said she will personally work with the customer to locate items specific to the customer’s needs.
“With us being independently owned, we can go above and beyond.… We have the opportunity to work with the customers, more than just an average retail store,” Nicola said.
She said she believes the community will support the new store based on positive feedback she’s received.
“They’re genuinely excited and feel the same way that we do — this is lacking in the marketplace and it’s not mass-produced items. You’re not going to find it in three of your neighbor’s houses.”
Nicola and Tony are optimistic about the future. The Licatas don’t think the state of the economy will affect the store’s success.
“With businesses closing in this economy it’s because they lived through the times when people were ready to spend money,” Nicola said. “Now they’ve become so large that they’re having to scale back and they weren’t ready for it. We’re starting off right where we need to be and we’re ready for when the economy turns around to grow with it.”
“I think that starting in this economy is going to make us work leaner and smarter,” she said. “We’re obviously going to have various price points that are accommodating to everybody. We want nobody to feel like if they come in here they can’t shop.”
Archive for April, 2010
Despite the dismal economy, two Toledo business owners are starting a third business.
TechTol Imaging LLC, a local business, has paired with Owens Community College to offer its rotational 3-D technology in an educational setting.
Through a collaborative agreement with Owens, TechTol will create a library of images that includes bones, computer components, insects, people, molecule models and other educational subjects.
“The technology’s potential is huge,” said Michael Bankey, vice president for work force and community services at Owens.
The rotational 3-D images would allow hybrid classes, in-person and online classes because of labs, go all online, he said. Previously a student would have it check out a box of bones at the library and sit there studying them. With the imaging, students can study bone structure on their own computer. The imaging could also be used to supplement in class instruction, Bankey said.
TechTol ® Image: Raccoon Skull
Hold down left mouse button and drag across to rotate image and use upper right tool bar to zoom
The college hopes to use the technology in its health science, computer technology, business and public safety curriculums. Bankey sees huge potential for the imaging within Owens’ Center for Emergency Preparedness.
“There is quite a variety you can use with the Center for Emergency Preparedness. We’ve already taken an image of a SWAT gentlemen for how to properly wear a uniform. [Other uses] can show different types of stances or how to hold your a weapon,” he said. “We can take pictures of equipment and we can send information to a student to look over before they even come to a class or follow up after a class.”
Bankey also noted the possibility of using the technology with facial recognition software, which could play a role in terrorist identification.
The collaboration between Owens and TechTol allows the company to expand in the educational market and security market without having to set up at multiple locations or leave Toledo, said Phil Cox, CEO of TechTol.
“There are a variety of uses [for the technology] and that is one of the things that’s plagued us. We’ve been chasing down different avenues over the last couple of years; educational, museum, e-sales, safety. We made the decision to concentrate on educational things and military type applications that Owens would be doing,” he said.
The company will move an imaging unit to Owens in the next two to three weeks, Cox said.
Cox first came up with a similar idea for rotational 3-D busts in 1982, he said. Work on the current imaging units began in 2006 and TechTol was founded in 2008.
In 2008, the company received a $50,000 grant from the Regional Growth Partnership program Rocket Ventures.
TechTol imaging units utilize 16 cameras simultaneously take a photo. The photos then download and process in less than a minute, said Zachary Ward, vice president of visual applications.
The company has spoken with cell phone companies, a car manufacturer, a computer chip manufacturer and the Smithsonian about uses for the rotational 3-D imaging.
“It was just an honor [to speak to the Smithsonian]…To even be able to talk with these guys and have them be interested. Same with the Army guys and a lot of people that have come through. We’re just lucky,” Ward said.
Chris Adams, TechTol programmer, also developed a Facebook application for the 3-D images to be displayed on someone’s page. The programming didn’t originally work on the site, but Facebook rewrote its coding so the application would function, Ward said.
The applications of the imaging technology are endless, Cox said.
“It could be absolutely huge. A multi-billion dollar industry…I see with the advent of 3-D movies and television and with the move to online learning, the sky’s the limit. Who knows where it’s going to go. It’s going to go, the question is whether Toledo is going to be a part of it or not,” he said.
For more information and to check out some 3-D rotational images, visit www.techtol.com.
Motorcycles are a way of life for millions of Americans. Thousands of motorcyclists have used Toledo Motorcycle Forums’ (TMF) website which tries to educate the community on bike safety and help connect local riders.
The family-friendly group hosts weekly rides and other social events such as track day, where riders are able to drive on a private track without speed restrictions.
Website administrator, Lewis “Sonny” Blevins said the majority of the members ride sports bikes. He hopes the group is able to “get rid of some of the stigmas of the sports bike community.”
When TMF organizes a ride, the group follows the speed limit and rides safely. If someone “gets out of line” they are asked to leave, according to Blevins.
Blevins wants to connect riders with the information they are seeking. One example of this is through the rookie rider’s forum, where new riders can ask questions about bikes, gear, rides or anything else riders are curious about.
“Having forums like that has helped younger riders have a place to turn to for safety tips,” Blevins said.
In addition to the online forum, the organization is also involved in the community.
In 10 years, TMF has raised nearly $40,000 for local charities. It was the first group to organize a fundraiser for the Keith Dressel Memorial Fund, Blevins said.
Every year, TMF has a memorial ride for fallen riders. This year’s ride is May 23 at Honda East Toledo. It will be dedicated to a 9-year-old member who died from brain tumor complications.
In 2008, 5,290 motorcyclists were killed and 96,000 were injured according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“Over half of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle. Most of the time, the motorist, not the motorcyclist, is at fault,” according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
May is motorcycle safety awareness month. Blevins advice for drivers is to be extra cautious around motorcycles, not tailgate and to mind their blind spots because motorcycles can easily fall into them given their size.
He also warned against motorcycle turn signals. According to Blevins, turn signals are not self canceling, as they are in a car. As such, it is common for a cyclist to forget to manually turn off the signal after completing a turn.
He advises new motorcycle drivers to take a safety course and for all riders to follow the rules of the road.
“I have personally been run off the road on more than one occasion. I have lost friends who have been T-boned,” he said.
“I think in general, a lot of motorcyclists, when they feel infringed on their little space, they tend to take it much more personal,” Blevins said. “They don’t feel that the car realizes how vulnerable they are. If they touch me, or cut me off, or cause me to swerve, that is my life, that’s not a dent in my front fender.”
Although riders in Ohio are not required to wear a helmet, TMF supports the use of protective gear. Blevins usually wears a helmet but there are times when he doesn’t. Even though he knows helmets increase safety, he said he likes the freedom of choice.
“Some bikers [think] I’d rather avoid an accident, than be in one safely,” he said.
The first motorcycle was built in the late 1860s by Sylvester H. Roper, according to the Smithsonian Institute. Because this bike was steam powered, a lot of sources credit the motorcycle to Gottlieb Daimler. He invented the first gas powered motorcycle, a wooden bike with an engine attached, in 1885.
“Bikes come in all different shapes and sizes. There are a percentage of motorcycles that misbehave on the road and they annoy the average motorcyclist as much as they do the average car.”
Blevins said a lot of drivers have a bias toward motorcycles. He hopes drivers will treat motorcyclists the same as they would any other driver.
Harbor and ProMedica are sponsoring a medical conference, “Integrating Primary Care and Behavioral Medicine,” on May 7. The conference focuses on ways primary care physicians and behavior medicine physicians can integrate their fields.
According to the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, individuals with severe persistent mental illness (SPMI) die 25 years before others. A new 10 by 10 campaign by the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, aims to cut that number by 10 years in 10 years. The only way to lower the age of early SPMI deaths is to educate primary care doctors, said Dr. Cuneyd Tolek, medical director and vice president for medical affairs at Harbor.
“It’s not the Harbors of the world that take care of the masses, it’s the primary care doctors. Someone has to find these folks and understand what’s going on with them,” he said.
The conference features four lecturers and a panel discussion on practical ways behavioral and primary care doctors can talk to each other and work together for the benefit of the patient, Tolek said.
Kathy Reynolds, inventor of the Wagner Chronic Care model, will discuss the best ways to integrate the two forms of health care, drawing from her experience with integration in Ann Arbor. Dr. Andrew Aldridge will examine the importance of medical compliance and practical strategies to facilitate the treatment of depression. Dr. Dennis Rosen will discuss ADHD in children and adolescents and the debate of when is it OK to stimulate or not-stimulate. Tolek will examine primary care evaluation of behavioral disorders.
Tolek hopes to teach other doctors using his mistakes and experiences from his 28-year career as a primary care physician with a focus on behavioral disorders of adults and children.
Screening is an important tool for primary care doctors, Tolek said. Since 1994, Tolek has used this “stethoscope for the mind,” and it has helped him save time and look at issues that may need focus.
“Nine out of 10 doctors know how to figure out whether someone is truly depressed, schizophrenic or anxious, but it’s a very time intensive thing to do,” he said.
Screening saves doctors time and allows them to treat the right problem and help the patient more effectively, Tolek said. Symptoms of adult ADHD and bipolar disorder are very similar so a doctor should screen for both and then weed out the other symptoms to treat the right disease, he said.
Tolek hopes to teach his colleagues to screen, make the right diagnosis, know how to treat the conditions they screened and found and do the right things in terms of what drugs to prescribe, he said.
The six-hour conference is hosted at the Hilton Garden Inn, 6165 Levis Commons Blvd., with registration at 7:45 a.m. and the conference from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Doctors, nurses and social workers are encouraged to attend. Registration is $75 for physicians and $60 for allied health professionals. To register, call (419) 479-6003 or e-mail email@example.com.
ProMedica Health System designated the event as an educational activity with up to 6.25 AMA PRA category 1 credits. Additional collaboration for the consortium is provided by UTMC Department of Psychiatry, Mercy Family and Internal Medicine Residency programs and St. Luke’s medical staff.
Fifteen public safety professionals and one civilian were recipients of the seventh annual Community Service Awards by Owens Community College’s Alumni Association on April 23. The recipients were honored for their outstanding contributions to their communities in Northwest Ohio.
The awards are presented for the Outstanding Police Officer, Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, Service to the Community, and Community Spirit based upon a nomination process for people demonstrating exceptional service to their communities.
The awards are not limited to a single recipient and can be a group honor where teamwork was a key element.
“Owens’ Alumni Association is proud to honor our brave police, fire and emergency medical professionals, as well as private citizens, for their dedication to making our lives safer,” said David Seeger, president of the Alumni Association at Owens.
The recipients of the Outstanding Police Officer Award are Cherie Bryce, a Toledo Police officer, and Keith Miller, a Toledo Police Sergeant, for their response to a shooting incident on May 24.
Upon arriving at the scene, the suspect fired shots at the officers who were unable to reach a shooting victim who was bleeding profusely. Bryce used her training as a negotiator and tried to convince the suspect to put down his gun while Miller called the S.W.A.T. unit to the scene.
When the suspect refused to put down his weapon and raised it to fire at them again, Miller shot the suspect. The officers were able to get medical aid to the victim, saving his life.
The Outstanding Firefighter Award was presented to Toledo firefighters Tom Bartley, Matt Brixey, Eric Ellis, Gil Ruiz and Greg Yingling of the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department. They were nominated for their quick and competent actions that resulted in saving a man’s life in a situation where a few minutes delay could have changed the outcome.
The members of Engine 5 Company responded to an apartment fire on June 27. They found an unconscious victim in the apartment where the fire started, carried the victim to safety for treatment, extinguished the stove fire and opened a glass door for ventilation. By the time a life squad arrived, the victim was revived and conscious enough to refuse transportation to the hospital.
The Outstanding Emergency Medical Technician Award was presented to Michael Fox of Stryker, a paramedic for Williams County Emergency Medical Services. In addition to his full-time paramedic position, Fox serves as an EMS instructor and head adviser for the EMS Explorer Post 2122 for young adults and children in Williams County.
Fox was recognized as a mentor for more than eight years to EMS Explorer Benjamin Murray, who has vision issues and Asperger’s syndrome. With Fox’s support, Murray was accepted into the program, despite his disabilities.
Six members of the Northwest Ohio Violent Crimes Against Children Task Force received the Outstanding Service to the Community Award for their tireless efforts bringing human trafficking to the attention of both law enforcement and social service agencies, while making a positive impact on the lives of victims of the brutal crimes.
The task force included David Gillispie, a detective with the Lima Police Department; Jake Hardie of Perrysburg, a special agent with the FBI; Jennifer Meyers of Cleveland, an FBI victim and witness specialist; David Pauly of Tiffin, a special agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Alessandra Norden of Napoleon, a detective with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, and Pete Swartz of Toledo, a detective with the Toledo Police Department.
A second Outstanding Service to the Community Award was presented to John Helm of Bowling Green, an investigator in the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office, for exceptional service and dedication to the protection of residents.
His leadership and cooperation with local law enforcement has led to solving multiple homicide investigations and many other serious crimes in Wood County. Helms has served the people with integrity and professionalism since 1977.
Jim Woodward of Findlay, the facility barber at the Hancock Justice Center, received the Community Spirit Award for making a difference in the lives of persons incarcerated at the complex. He regularly puts his talents to work sharing positive, uplifting messages and music to get incarcerated persons to think about making changes in their behavior and lifestyles.
Owens’ student Jakob Sigler of Findlay was chosen by the alumni association to receive a $500 Detective Keith Dressel Memorial Scholarship for the 2010-11 academic year. The scholarship is awarded annually to a student who embodies the passion, conviction and perseverance demonstrated by Detective Dressel, who was killed on duty in 2007.
A senior at Findlay High School, Sigler has earned more than 30 college credits toward his associate’s degree in criminal justice technology at Owens Findlay campus with the goal of becoming a trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“Owens has provided public safety and emergency services education to communities training first responders for 40 years. They are a testament to the training required to perform their jobs. Your success is our success and we salute all of you,” said Renay Scott, interim executive vice president and provost at Owens.
CedarCreek Church is hosting “My God Made Sex,” a campaign for high school students.
“There are a lot of things that are trying to get high school students’ attention these days. Different messages about sex and each individual’s sexuality,” said Pastor Mike Knisley of the Whitehouse campus. “The Bible has some positive things to teach us, and this campaign is designed to catch teenagers attention.”
The abstinence campaign is designed to educate youth about what the Bible says about sex and sexuality.
“We care about students. There are a lot of voices to express or define sexuality which are potentially misleading and in some cases harmful,” said Ben Snyder, youth director of CedarCreek.
“Sex is bigger than you think. There’s a lot of opinions about what that means,” he said. “God is the one who made sex and he has something to say about it.”
The program is part of the church’s special youth service, Vertical. Vertical is a specifically designed service for high school students that revolves around issues they deal with daily, Snyder said.
Online materials for parent encourage at-home discussion.
“Sex is a difficult subject for any family to bring up because of baggage or fear. This program initiates discussion,” Snyder said.
My God Made Sex is hosted at all three CedarCreek locations and is open to all high school students. The program is a two session installment with its second session May 2 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.myGodmadesex.com.
Gina Thompson, a Springfield Township mother of three, just might be the ultimate soccer mom, although the sports of choice for her kids are volleyball and basketball.
The Thompson family is part of an exploding trend in the country. Instead of spending weekends driving kids from one field house to another around the Toledo area, Gina and her husband Ronald spend many of their weekends on the road because their kids participate in sports travel teams.
Gina recalled one weekend when her husband Ronald was working and she had to pull off an amazing juggling act to see her kids play. Erik,a her 17-year-old daughter, had a volleyball tournament in Columbus. Tyler, her 15-year-old son, was playing in a basketball tournament, also in Columbus and Aaron, her 12-year-old son, was playing in another basketball tournament in Cincinnati.
“Another family helped by letting Aaron ride along with them to Cincinnati, so I drove the other kids to Columbus on Friday and watched Tyler play a couple games. Then on Saturday I got up and watched Tyler play a few games, then drove to Cincinnati to watch one of Aaron’s games and then back to Columbus and stayed the night with Erika in the hotel. On Sunday, I was with her all day and watched her play volleyball,” Thompson said.
This schedule might fluster an average parent, but for families with more than one child playing on travel sports teams, this story is common.
“I think it’s going to help prepare them for future success,” Thompson said. “They love doing it and we love supporting the things they want to do,” she said. The Thompsons are so committed to supporting their kids athletic pursuits that they drive nearly 80 miles from Toledo to Lima several times a week during the travel season. Their son Aaron plays for Team Lima, coached by Warren Pughsley, which is part of the All-Ohio Basketball League.
“I have three children that could be in college at the same time,” she said. “And I’m hoping that this investment will pay off at some point. That would be my ultimate dream.”
But Thompson is also a realist. She knows that many kids playing with sports travel teams burn out before they get to high school and a very small number get picked up by college teams. Thompson sees this as an investment in her kids overall development not just a path to college scholarships.
“Clearly the growth of traveling teams has been amazing over the last 20 years,” said Bruce Svare, professor of psychology at Albany University. Svare has studied the growth of travel sports and is often critical of the emerging sports culture.
He said he believes that one of the reasons for the rise of these teams is that many parents are chasing the dream of a full ride to college for their child. He fears that even for parents with great intentions, it can become an “overwhelming pursuit” and they can easily lose perspective.
A travel team can be composed of kids from just about any level in volleyball, soccer, basketball, etc. Most teams consist of kids from ages 11 to 18, but there are some that begin to work with kids as early as 8 years old. Parents pay fees ranging from $500 to $2,000 a season, per child.
In addition to club fees, parents must provide transportation for their kids and cover the hotel expenses for their family when attending tournaments. This can add up to another $2,000 per season. Most travel teams play in offseason for their particular sport, and many kids juggle playing on their school teams and with the travel team in the off season.
It’s a pricey investment that many parents are willing to pay to help their kids develop as athletes.
Pughsley said many parents and coaches are drawn to travel teams because of the better level of coaching, particularly in the middle school grades. Pughsley said in the past it was prestigious to letter in three different sports, but now “people see more kids getting scholarship opportunities when they specialize in a sport and play it year round.”
But this specialization in one sport does have a downside. According to Svare, kids are developing more sports injuries. He says knee injuries are an epidemic in girls and boys.
“Talk to any physician and they will tell you the worst thing you can do is take a kid and have them play the same sport all year long,” Svare said.
Pughsley said he is concerned about the overall well-being of his athletes. He has a strong connection and commitment to their kids and their family. The team’s affiliation with the All-Ohio league gets them exposure in some of the biggest tournaments in the state and region, but he said it is not all about winning tournaments.
“We pray every practice, we are very spiritual,” he said. “We are trying to build the whole person and if we can do that we think they are going to be quality people a long time.”
But Svare is concerned that coaches like Pughsley are hard to find. He fears many parents and coaches think it’s all about winning and building super athletes.
“I think the single most alarming trend is how it’s infiltrated down to the youngest level of sports,” Sarve said. “I think we are traveling a dangerous road with sports these days because we are taking the professional model of sports and jamming it down the throats of kids at younger and younger ages.”
Svare is not opposed to high school kids playing on travel teams, but he thinks younger children would obtain greater developmental benefits from intramural sports where the emphasis is placed more on skill building versus singling out the best athletes.
Pughsley shares this concern and noted that he has seen travel teams made up of second and third graders.
“They are really cute, but that’s more negative than positive to me. If they travel more than twice a month before high school that’s too much,” he said.
About the girls
Dana Hooper is the owner of Glass City Volleyball and Glass City Hoopsters, a local travel club that specializes in girls’ volleyball and basketball. Hooper has seen parents get their kids involved for the wrong reason. She is careful to stress to all parents during the orientation that it’s about the girls, the friendships they will make and the life lessons that group sports can teach a child.
“Travel sports are not for everybody. As long as parents have the right expectations, they are good for kids,” she said.
Hooper believes clubs and travel teams are growing because so many public schools have cut sports in the middle school grades and because many charter schools don’t have any athletics. She has started training girls as young as 8 years old but not all the kids travel. Some just come to work on their skills development and participate in tournaments in town. But Hooper thinks that when you get to the high school level, the only way to have a shot at being seen by college recruiters is to play on travel teams.
“Anymore college coaches don’t have a budget to attend high school matches,” Hooper said. “They go to the travel matches to stretch their budgets out. The rare kid will draw college coaches to high school match.”
Michelle Hills, director and president of the Board of the Toledo Volleyball Club (TVC), the oldest female volleyball club in Toledo, said some years 70 percent of the girls get scholarships. Other years it’s closer to 10 percent and it really depends on the skill level and the kids, Hills said. But she admits that many parents come to TVC with unrealistic expectations.
“They put all this money in this and some look at it and say, well I’m going to get it back when my kid goes to college,” Hills said.
Hills has two daughters who played volleyball for TVC and her youngest is playing college-level volleyball at Baldwin-Wallace, a small Methodist College in Ohio. She said the competition is getting stiffer and the level of play in high school volleyball has increased.
“It’s getting younger and younger. When my daughters were playing, they were looking at girls their junior and senior years. Now, I see recruiters looking at the courts where the 15-year-olds are playing,” Hills said.
Investing time and money
Gone are the days when kids can just wait until high school to try and develop their skills in a sport. That’s why Thomas Susor is investing his time and money so that his two daughters can travel with Glass City Volleyball. Susors’ daughters, 12-year-old Morgan and 14-year-old Allison have played with Glass City since they were 9 years old. He said his kids have a passion for volleyball and he wants them to have an opportunity to play at the high school level, where the competition is very stiff.
“We do this as a family unit and it’s made us much stronger,” he said. “We are at practices three and four nights a week and traveling almost every weekend from February through May. At an age when most kids are pulling away from the family and hanging out with their friends, I’m spending quality time with my girls,” he said.
For Susor, the investment is worth it even if his daughters never play college volleyball.
“Parents have to step back and ask themselves a simple question,” Svare said. “Why am I doing this? If you are saying I want my son or daughter to learn about the sport and for values and character development, that’s one thing. If on the other hand you want them to win games and scholarships, you are in this for the wrong reason.”
The recent PlayStation Portable (PSP) title “Shadow of Destiny” (a.k.a. “Shadow of Memories”), originally released by Konami on the PlayStation 2 then PC and Xbox, features a time travel theme with multiple plotlines, endings, and puzzle challenges. Developers provide new voiceovers for this handheld experience, but could have improved the character interactions, navigational elements, music score, and sound effects.
Events in this one player game take place in a fictional German town and the plot centers on the lanky blond Eike, a seemingly amiable guy who has a very open mind. Players must turn back the clock on Eike’s fate and impending death. Mysterious beings and fortunetellers explain his fate and possible actions in the engaging cut scenes, which present different ideologies and perspectives on life and death. Noticeable mistakes in the Japanese translations include “then I will tell for you the next fortune.”
After receiving a special time travel device called a Digipad/Z-pad, players begin exploring a fictional town as Eike in the third person perspective. Players need energy units for this special pad and can only time travel at certain points, which directs players to explore the current settings more to trigger necessary events. The How to Play tutorial helps the process (if players choose it) and the 10 save files keeps key progress intact.
Puzzle challenges and character interactions can get tiring, especially without considerable logic and navigational skills. Inexperienced players can find the trial and error decision making especially challenging.
A clear date and time format (upper right corner) keeps players on task while providing tense countdowns when gameplay solutions require time limits. Players can easily access a map (square button) and collected items (triangle). The elapsed time counter (bottom right) distracts and the compass (upper left) helps with navigation. Display settings allow players to customize certain elements. Players can also view unlocked cut scene events and listen to music.
The basic concepts support a common sense approach. For example, players quickly learn not to make contact with themselves during the time traveling (ever see Back to the Future?). Eventually, the open-ended explorations and possible plot lines culminate in multiple endings, eight in all. The “past effects the present” logic works well in the time span (1500s to present day), but events and possible actions could use a more intuitive navigation design.
The open format and navigation creates some excitement, but developers include some especially manipulative situations, which diminishes the realism and emotional effects in the event. Players need to escape and feel lost within the game at times. For example, developers use dogs at the end of several alleyways to stop player progress in certain areas, which indicates some areas could be reduced considerably to create a more concentrated, intimate experience. Sharper graphics would also elevate eyestrain in noticeably pixilated settings.
Developers concentrate on the graphically superior cut scenes for key player interactions, mainly conversation. Eike initiates character conversations within the settings by approaching certain characters, but developers could add dialogue choices for Eike without changing the main plot and consequential endings. The supplementary characters are minimal here. A waitress named Dana notices Eike, but never develops beyond an observer status, which creates a strange sense of isolation even though you see people everywhere. Players must depend on their own skills to change Eike’s fate and discover the perpetrator(s).
Developers re-create a decent 2001 PlayStation 2 game, which some players might “outdated” for the PSP, but miss possible enhancement possibilities. Expect similar remediations due to recent price drops in PSP development tools, which might have attracted developers in this case. The base concept is solid, but improved graphics, interactivity and music/sound effects could have boosted this remediated game to a higher level (**1/2, rated T for alcohol reference, animated blood, and violence).
There is a great deal of furor in the mainstream media these days over who should be considered a credible source of information and whose voice should be heard in the marketplace of ideas. Much of the argument is little more than an attempt to dismiss Conservative voices, and anything and everything (especially bloggers) not part of their exclusive club of “professional journalists”. According to some those formally instructed in the principles of journalism, only people who graduate from certified institutions of these apparently arcane arts should be allowed to contribute. (Such is not the case at the TFP I am happy to say, though many there do have such training.)
I find it curious that those on one side of the argument should be allowed to decide it for all. I find it interesting that such stock is placed in this formal education process, since it’s a fairly recent innovation. Journalism programs were not introduced to universities until the late 1860′s and the first true journalism schools were only begun in the 1890′s. This would mean that most of the news recorded in the long history of well … history, was done by those who would be considered amateurs by such standards.
Certainly no one would argue the advantages provided by a structured education in journalism, and that formal training for an aspiring writer on how to gather the who, what, when, where, and why of a story has value. There is no guarantee that such training will produce a good journalist however, let alone a talented one. Such training can only provide tools for the proper gathering of news and the interpretation of it as opinion.
As we have seen far too often in some what fulfills this role in Toledo, the rules of professional conduct and the lines between news and opinion can be breached by those with such training just as easily as those without. Some still selectively choose the facts they report in a given story and even more selectively choose the stories they will report. In doing so, it would seem they violate the very principles they claim distinguish them as professionals in their field.
Many similar discussions come up when we are asked to chose between experienced politicians and those seeking elected office for the first time. Since there is in fact no equivalent to journalism school for politics, those running for election cannot claim special education as qualification for professional status and instead inform us that those best suited to hold political office are those who have already done so.
There does appears to be an alternate method of qualification to such direct experience in politics however. According to some, apparently being married or related to someone who has previously held office can serve in place of such experience. In what some might consider a twisted version of the “nature vs. nurture” argument often used to debate explanations for other types of behavioral predilections (usually criminal), it seems that both appear to provide the necessary alternate qualifications for elected office.
As with the concept of journalism, this is not to say that experience (whether gained first or second hand) is not an advantage. Such exposure or experience however is likewise only a tool to be used, and does not necessarily make the holder a good elected representative or a good leader. It could further be pointed out that being governed by a privileged class of “professional politicians” could be considered a form of Aristocracy, a concept that we abandoned with the founding of this country.
One can certainly understand the desire of some professional jounalists to minimize competition in their industry, threatened as they are by the diminishing job opportunities and a changing concept of media. Perhaps some of the less talented examples in the profession even require such protection in order to continue working.
It is likewise understandable that some political professionals are concerned by the influx of potentially talented, but untried competition (for the same reason). As they attempt to make us believe that experience is the equivalent of ability however, it might best be remembered that many of these experienced politicians created the very problems that those on both sides now hope will be corrected in the next election cycle.
If history should have taught us anything about these two critical responsibilities however, it is that we can no longer leave either of them to those whose only qualification for the job is that they call themselves professionals.
So, what’s so funny the end of civilization?
“What else are you gonna do but laugh? You can cry and run and hide, but it’s gonna get you anyway,” said author Robert Brockway. “You might as well laugh at it.”
That’s the attitude Brockway brings to his first book, the optimistically titled “Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead.” While the subject of the tome is the many different faces of the apocalypse, the book itself is both funny and sobering, like a bucket of cold water to the face.
The non-fiction piece is a list of all the ways the end of the world has almost happened, could happen now, or could happen later. This isn’t some crackpot alarmist book spouting about 2012 or alien invasions, either. The situations detailed here all the scarier (and funnier) because they are rooted in reality.
Take Stanislav Petrov, for example. A Soviet lieutenant colonel who on September 26, 1983, was in charge of a satellite station monitoring the skies for a nuclear attack. Suddenly, the system asserted that five American missiles were headed for Russia. Petrov’s duty was to return fire, effectively triggering worldwide annihilation. But Petrov decided that it had to be a glitch, and held back from retaliating.
And what did Petrov get for his heroic decision which spared humanity? Anonymity for 15 years, then depressingly small acknowledgement. “He’s gotten a few little medals, and a thousand dollar prize and a trophy,” Brockway said. “And that’s what you get for saving the world. You get more money out of a shopping spree.”
Stories like these help make “Everything” so fascinating. Brockway said he’s been interested in the subject for years, blaming the “cultural devaluing of all humanity” in the 1980’s, as well as the glut of post-apocalyptic cinema which came out at that time.
“I just started kinda collecting things on it,” Brockway said. “And I realized that we have come so close to extinction so many times, and are about to do so again. And I had never really heard anybody talk about it.”
The number of laughs in the book is not surprising coming from Brockway, acclaimed for his humorous articles on websites like Cracked.com and his own site, IFightRobots.com.
Brockway said compared to those pieces, the book “was much more exhaustive. I’ve only written articles and columns before this, or little one-off comedy pieces. And I did do research for those, but usually not for more than a day or so. To have to dig into death and destruction for eight months before I even wrote a word about it was pretty daunting and depressing task at times.”
Brockway pointed out that laughter was crucial to the project, both for himself and his audience.
“Humor is a great coping mechanism. If this was not a humor book, I think everyone would be too depressed to read the rest of it. I had to make the jokes; I think they’re really an integral part of the whole experience. If I didn’t make them, I wouldn’t have gotten through it.”
As a new author, Brockway’s writing experience helped prepare him for the task of constructing “Everything,” though the structure of the project was different than anything he’d ever done before.
“It’s much more real,” he said. “In this, I tried to make the facts a much more integral part of the pieces, sometimes to the exclusion of comedy. Because even I’m at a loss as to how to make jokes about the death of mankind, sometimes.”
The phrase “blissful ignorance” comes to mind while you’re reading “Everything.” Is not knowing about these kinds of issues a blessing, or a curse?
“I think that’s a curse. I think that the less you know about it, the more you’re gonna react with fear and hatred of things…But if you’re aware of it, if you’re aware of the information behind it before it ever becomes a serious issue, then you can deal with it, you can dismiss it more easily. You can say, ‘Well, I read about it in this book and laughed about it. So it’s not that big a deal.’”
Email Jeff at PopGoesJeff@gmail.com.