Find Your Destiny This Fall!

It’s been a rather uneventful summer for gamers. Batman: Arkham Knight – perhaps the most notable release to hit shelves in the last few months – was a thrilling conclusion to the caped crusader’s story that UK developer Rocksteady started six years ago, however it lacked the replayability necessary to hold gamers over until fall. Now with the annual video game summer drought coming to a close, the gaming industry’s biggest studios are gearing up to launch their latest creations upon the ravenously thirsty gaming populous. Here’re a few games you should pay attention to this month.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

With production drama abounding, I remain cautiously optimistic about the latest instalment in Konami’s flagship stealth series, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Quite honestly, the narrative of the series so far has been so incredibly convoluted and over the top, for me to summarize it would make me out to be a crazy person. Over the last three decades, series creator Hideo Kojima, has crafted a compelling world filled with bad ass cloned soldiers, cyborg ninjas, colossal city destroying walking tanks and ever more relevant commentary on the military industrial complex. Unfortunately however, MGS5 will be the last in the series with Kojima at the helm due to his parting ways with Konami over “creative differences”. Their butting of heads has been a fairly public one at that. Against Kojima’s wishes, Konami opted to sell MGS5’s prologue – Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes – as a standalone $30 game, which amounted to no more than a glorified demo. With only a few hours worth of content, those who bought it were left as frustrated as Kojima himself. Perhaps the most heretical act was the company’s executive decision to recast the voice of its main character. Portrayed by fan favourite David Hader since 1998, Solid Snake/Big Boss will now be played by Kiefer Sutherland. Their rational was that Kiefer could more accurately bring the character to life by recording the motion capture and voice acting simultaneously. To the gaming community, this has been seen as little more than a ploy to garner more income by relying on the actor’s name recognition, especially considering the that the actor who portrays Snake in Japan reprised his role without incident. Between these incidences and who knows what else that went on behind closed doors, Kojima and Konami have gone their separate ways, leading many fans to be dubious as to the game’s quality. I however, am hopeful that The Phantom Pain will retain the heart and wacky soul of a Kojima game. Look for it hitting shelves September 1st on major consoles and September 15th on PC.

Mad Max: Fury Road

The film nerd in me would be remiss if I neglected to mention that the cult classic movie Mad Max has been adapted into a video game! Hitting theatres this past May, Mad Max: Fury Road injected a much needed breath of new life into the long dormant property. Receiving universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike, Fury Road has caused hype for the post-apocalyptic road warrior to soar to an all time high, making it the perfect time to branch out into other mediums. What’s better, is the fact that series is a perfect fit for a video game adaptation. Between high octane car combat and exploring a war ravaged, mutant filled wasteland, there’s sure to never be a dull moment. Mad Max comes to PS4, Xbox One and PC on September 1st.

Destiny: The Taken King

Lastly, but most dear to my gamer heart, is the latest and largest expansion to date for the MMO-RPG inspired, sci-fi first person shooter, Destiny. Titled The Taken King, this expansion adds three new subclasses, two new multiplayer modes, and a fresh batch of guns and armour on par with that of the original release. The most important feature of the expansion however is its aim to address many of the complaints that its community had over the past year, in regards to the game’s utterly lacklustre narrative. To fix this, Bungie, the game’s developer, has been busy beefing up their writing staff and have promised a far more substantial campaign this time around. Despite having one of the weakest stories I’ve ever encountered in a game, I’ve sunk countless hours into Destiny and its subsequent two expansions. This speaks as an overwhelming testament to its gameplay and to the community of nearly 20 million players who have supported it since its launch last September. Look for Destiny: The Taken King to hit major consoles on September 15th.

Back to school? How about back to basics!

As the “back to school” hype continues to circulate, those of us who have graduated from high school/ university many moons ago are simply reminded that we are perhaps getting old (but obviously aging delightfully – like wine).
So, here’s an idea ladies (and gents!)…
Rather than drowning our sorrows in that same wine – while desperately trying to zip up our high-school grad dresses (okay, maybe that’s just me after one glass too many) – let’s all take this time to review some back-to-school business basics. These are oldies but goodies, and we all tend to forget them from time to time.
Business basics we too often forget
Always do what you say you’re going to do
Simple, right? This is seemingly a no-brainer, yet everyone has a handful of examples of a situation where they have been let down, personally and professionally, by people who have broken often simple promises. If you told someone you would have something to them by the end of the day, and you don’t have it at 4:45, they will totally understand if you get it to them tomorrow, right? WRONG. If you have promised something, it is your duty to deliver. If there is some reason that you absolutely cannot deliver your promise on time, then you must tell the person prior to the deadline with an honest and hopefully very good reason. Of course, everyone is human, but if you start to not live up to simple promises, or miss even casual deadlines, your clients, co-workers and even friends will lose faith in you, and trust will be broken… scoring you a big fat ‘F’ in reliability.
Be honest
We are, by nature, people pleasers. Everyone loves to be able to deliver the answers that clients want to hear. But what happens when you don’t actually have the answer, or you are unsure? While it might be easy to promise that the project will absolutely, 100% be completed by Friday (because your team won’t mind not sleeping on Thursday, right?), it makes you look much better and more professional in the long run if you come clean and let them know that you will have to double check, and get back to them by the end of the day (at which point, please refer to the first item above). Not positive on some of the more technical details in your proposal? Let your client know that there are people much smarter than you in your organization who specialize in these details, and it will require a simple check-in with them in order to provide the best answer possible. It will work out much better for your client (and you) to provide them with the most accurate information possible, rather than look incompetent or dishonest later for promising something impossible.
Care for yourself!
You wouldn’t drive your car to work with no gas in the tank, right? We will have many cars throughout our lifetime, but we only have one body. When we get busy and stressed out, one of the first things we cut is time for ourselves. Eating properly, drinking water, getting enough sleep and exercising are things that wellness experts have all emphasized. So why are these the first things to get ditched the very second that we have too much on our plates? If we don’t take care of ourselves, nobody else will.
Fuel that tank, honey!
So take off your grad dress, swap it for some cozy fall jammies, and maybe do the unthinkable and fill your wine glass up with some good ol’ H20. It’s a long road, and everyone has experienced some times where there just simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Make sure you have enough fuel in your tank to make it through – as the intelligent, healthy and energetic gal that you are.

Think to Speak

My colleagues have all created names for their blogs (Balaji’s Food for Thought, Dave Baker’s Shift in Thinking and Dave Lazarenko’s Working Wisdom). I am sure they came up with them very quickly. I, on the other hand, like to think on things for a while. During my morning run, I think through a problem or opportunity, or come up with an idea. On one such run, I came up with my title: Think to Speak. Why?

Continue reading Think to Speak

Our downtown awakens with events and festivals

Creating a draw for people to come downtown through events is an essential ingredient in improving our downtown. Close to a million people come downtown annually to attend fifty festivals. And there are millions of additional visits to arts, cultural, and entertainment venues. It’s clear that our downtown is Winnipeg’s premier entertainment district, where people experience thriving arts and theatre, sport, or an evening submersed in nightlife. When they come downtown for these reasons, Winnipeggers are sure to spend their money at local businesses too, enjoying a positive downtown experience that will keep them coming back – one reason why we need to see more events downtown.

While residential and retail markets change and contribute to fluctuating downtown growth efforts, events are a foolproof way to bring people downtown. And in doing so, help to position and solidify downtown as the hub for arts, culture, entertainment and hospitality for Manitobans.

The Winnipeg Fringe, ManyFest, KidsFest, Jazz Festival, Folklorama, and many other events of all sizes and themes achieve a similar goal – they bring people back to our downtown, creating important economic spinoffs. They expose people to parts of our downtown which may have gone unnoticed or unfrequented; they create positive perceptions and reinforce our view of the city and downtown as the cultural hub for Winnipeggers. They instill pride. They help to demystify the notion that downtown is not safe. And most importantly, festivals allow our young creative class to create, share their ideas, and celebrate with Winnipeggers the incredible diversity of the people in our city.

Perhaps one of my most favourite events is Movies on Memorial, held every Tuesday in August as a small thanks to those who love our downtown and enjoy outdoor movies. Young families with strollers and wagons, hipsters on bikes all carrying blankets or chairs arrive early with their friends to grab the best spot. As dusk arrives, the movie screen lights up the downtown for everyone to notice, the vibe is unmistakable. And as the movie ends, hundreds of people scatter in opposite directions to grab a bite or a drink before heading home from.

This is why the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and its partners have challenged creative event organizers to take our downtown events scene to the next level and will be provided with funding to help get their events off the ground – with a focus on evening and winter events. Our community of event organizers have responded with over 35 applications. The next two years will see at least 16 more events roll out in our downtown, of all sizes and of all types, celebrating local culture, music, art, and some will challenge Winnipeggers to get involved and think differently about the city. We are excited, not only because tens of thousands of more people will come downtown creating over millions in economic spinoffs for our business community and our city but more importantly, these events will have invited the creative class of event organizers to paint the blank canvas, expressing and sharing their ideas with Winnipeggers, becoming part of our collective downtown renewal efforts.

The table is set for Winnipeggers to have even more fun in our downtown. Stay tuned!

How to make using public transit attractive

Buses have been in the news the last few weeks. A strike was recently avoided and service is back to normal.

For many years, Winnipeg Transit complained that not enough people take the bus. Today, this trend has been reversed and the concern now is that the system is nearing capacity. According to Dave Wardrop, director of Transit, the system had 50 million riders in 2014. He predicts that the city will need 37 new buses a year to meet the demand created by new housing. He also says that growth in 2014 was only .06 per cent, so maybe continued growth needs a reboot.

Now, I haven’t been on a bus for many years – they just aren’t easily accessible where I live and I often need my car during the day. I hear from my colleagues, though, that bussing is no picnic. Older buses are still not air-conditioned in summer and, say some, “You can’t get warm on a bus in winter.”

“The seats are so hard that you break your bones when the bus hits a pot-hole,” said my husband, who has taken a bus after leaving his car at the repair shop. I hear this from others. The seats are not only hard, they are so close together that tall men are forced to sit on the side benches at the front – or stand up.

Not that standing is the safest thing to do. Often, as the bus moves forward, it does so with a momentum-forcing jerk. People fall. Sometimes the driver will stop and wait to ensure that the fallen is okay, but as often as not, the bus just keeps going.

This is a constant problem, says faithful bus rider Joan Cohen: the bus naturally jerks on braking and accelerating. “It doesn’t seem to be something that’s easy to control,” she says in defense of the drivers, “but what would help is if they would wait to move forward until you take your seat or at least get to a seat so you can hang on to something.” Buses today offer overhead straps to support standing travelers, but they don’t help when you are moving toward your seat or moving toward the exit doors. And in the Easy Access buses, the area where the wheelchairs can be accommodated offers nothing for the rider walking to his seat to hang onto. “This is even a problem for big guys like me,” says Jason Wikis. Karl Thomsen agrees and says that he has seen more than one person fall when the bus takes off.

Joan says that another issue has to do with the painted buses, the ones where advertising covers the windows. “Not only can you not see outside to learn when you are nearing your stop,” she notes, “but it reduces the amount of light that can get in, making it hard for passengers to read.” She adds that in fall and winter, when passengers are often travelling in the dark, some buses have the lights on so dimly that seeing print is an impossibility.

On certain routes at certain times of the day, buses are overcrowded. At other times, Sundays, for example, depending on where you live, bussing it is often not a feasible alternative. Buses run once an hour or often not at all. There is no question that scheduling can be a problem for managers.

Casual bus users should beware: you must have the correct change. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from throwing in extra. The single adult fare is $2.60, but apparently many users drop in a toonie and a loonie to avoid fumbling for quarters and dimes. The weekly pass costs $20.25; the monthly goes for $86.65 (which saves $13.20 annually over the weekly pass so might as well go weekly). Buying tickets will save you 45 cents a ride over cash. You can get a transfer if you have to change buses, but the transfer is good only for 75 minutes. Post secondary students and seniors get a break: it’s $60.35 a month for students and seniors can travel for as little as 43.35 a month on both Handi-Transit and the regular service.

“Tickets can be purchased almost anywhere,” says Karl Thomsen. “It’s very convenient.”

In spite of the growing ridership, fueled by immigration (both from rural Manitoba and other countries), the city will subsidize Winnipeg Transit to the tune of $47.3 million this coming year. Public transit is still a drag on the public purse.

However, there is another way to look at this.

Leaving the driving to someone else has its allure and there is probably a market for those who want to spend their commuting time working rather than driving. So here’s a new idea: luxury bussing. Since we have to increase the fleet, this would be a good time to introduce a new level of service.

New buses could be divided into first and last class, first class being equipped with cushioned seats and more legroom. Air-conditioning and good winter heating would be standard. Pull-down tables and electrical ports for cellphones, tablets and laptops would be part of the service and Wi-Fi should be available (for the whole bus – this is 2015, after all!). This part of the bus would be well lit, no window paint allowed. You could even have a fresh coffee vendor service in those handy Starbucks-type cups, to avoid spillage . . .

Of course there would be an up-charge for this service: perhaps double or triple and even more if the luxury commute could be extended to affluent bedroom communities. Who wouldn’t prefer this over ice-covered, snow-blown highways in winter?

Now before you go start ripping up the paper and saying that I am an incorrigible Tory, always supporting the elites, think again. Extra money into the system could elevate the service for everyone. We would be able to accommodate more people and therefore buy more buses. We’d be removing single passenger cars from the road – and we’d be making it possible for the real workaholics to pursue their passion: work!