Tag Archives: Wonder

Anxious Residents of Sister Tower to Fallen Florida Condo Wonder: Stay or Go?

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Philip Zyne peered over the balcony of his condo near Miami Beach around midday on Saturday and pointed to a large crack running in the parking lot below his unit.

Normally, he might not have given it a moment’s thought. But Mr. Zyne, 71, lives at Champlain Towers North, the sister condo complex to the building in Surfside, Fla., that partially collapsed into a mass of rubble on Thursday, leaving four people dead and 159 missing. Now he was on high alert: Could the building where he lives be next?

“I would’ve never noticed that if this hadn’t happened,” Mr. Zyne said.

It is a question on the minds of many South Floridians, especially those in older, beachfront buildings that are faced day in and day out with similar outside conditions as the Champlain Towers South: salty air, rising seas, aging concrete.

On Saturday, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County announced a 30-day audit of all buildings 40 years and older under the county’s jurisdiction, which does not include cities like Miami and Surfside, where the building fell.

Mayor Charles W. Burkett of Surfside said he was considering asking residents of Champlain Towers North to voluntarily evacuate as a precaution until their building, which has had no reports of serious problems, could be thoroughly inspected. Inspectors from the town and county spent several hours giving the building an initial inspection on Saturday afternoon, according to the town and the condo board.

From the outside, Champlain Towers North, at 8877 Collins Ave., seems identical to Champlain Towers South — same developer and same design, built just one year apart. Most terrifying for Mr. Zyne is that his unit is in the same part of the building as the apartments that crumbled in the South complex, those facing the pool and the Atlantic.

“It’s scary,” said Bud Thomas, 55, his neighbor upstairs, as he also looked out on Saturday. “I’m hoping that this one doesn’t have the same structural problems as the other one.”

Members of the condominium board, who are longtime Champlain Towers North residents, said in interviews on Saturday that they are confident their building is in far better shape than the South building was, as a result of prompt and continuous maintenance.

But that has not reassured some of their residents, some of whom hastily packed bags and found other places to sleep for at least a few days in the immediate aftermath of the nearby disaster.

The Zynes left their apartment to stay with their daughter but came back on Saturday. They recalled being awakened in the early hours of Thursday by an alarm signaling that the lights had gone out in their condominium. It was only later that they realized the lights had gone out at about the same time that the nearby building had collapsed.

Nora Zyne, 69, lost three friends who remained unaccounted for.

“I feel extremely saddened — I’ve known them for 30 years,” she said. “We were all so close. I felt a sense of — can you imagine being at home in the safest place, you’re sleeping and that horrific —” Her thought trailed off. “I pray that they were asleep and don’t know what happened. You lost people you shared your life with. I can’t understand how something like that could happen.”

Ruby Issaev, a former tenant of the South towers, bought an apartment with her husband in the North towers four years ago. After the collapse, she moved into her daughter’s place a few miles away. She is not sure if she will return — and already misses the community that sustained her in the building during the pandemic.

“Even if nothing happened” to her building, she said, the absence of the South towers will be tough: “I wonder if my neighborhood will be the same.”

On Saturday, a family of four left the building carrying their belongings and grocery bags en route to a nearby hotel. “We just want to move out, just for safety,” said one member of the family, who declined to be identified.

The atmosphere in the building lobby was somewhat tense as some residents who had heard about a possible evacuation tried to press condo board members for more information.

“Have people looked at the water in the basement?” Betty Clarick, 82, who lives on the fifth floor, asked Ms. Gandelman in the lobby. (Ms. Clarick also called the building’s maintenance and management “excellent.”)

“Of course I’ve been apprehensive,” said Rafik Ayoub, 76, a second-floor resident who has lived in the building for 17 years. “We just want to make sure that our building gets inspected thoroughly.” (“They building is run very well,” he added.)

Minutes from a November condo board meeting obtained by The New York Times showed that some maintenance work was underway in hallways, which have been stripped of their baseboards and in some cases remained covered in plastic. The board also discussed a concern about planters near the pool that were leaking into the parking garage below, a problem similar to one of the most serious deficiencies identified in a 2018 engineer’s report about what was causing rebar to rust and concrete to crumble in the South towers.

A third building, Champlain Towers East, which was erected in 1994 with a different design from the other condos, stands between the North towers and the remains of the South towers.

Champlain Towers North was built in 1982, a year after Champlain Towers South. Its mandatory 40-year building recertification is due next year. Naum Lusky, the president of the condo board, said the association had begun to work with inspectors ahead of that date but now would accelerate efforts in light of the South tragedy.

He emphasized that the board in that building has addressed aging building problems as they have come up in order to avoid the kind of major repairs that had been identified as necessary in the South building before half of it came down. He accompanied the town and county inspectors on a tour of the building on Saturday and said no big problems were apparent.

“This building is spick and span,” he said. “There is no comparison” to the sister condo.

In a show of his confidence, Mr. Lusky, 81, who has lived in the North towers for 22 years, stayed in the building after the neighboring collapse.

Last year, the building inspected all balconies to look for water leaks and fix them. Work on the pool deck was completed about six months ago, said Hilda Gandelman, another condo board member. That work addressed the leaky planters, according to Mr. Lusky. The building manager declined to be interviewed.

Ms. Gandelman said she knows three of the people missing in the South towers. She said her friends from that condo would come visit and note that the North complex was in better shape.

“They used to come to this building and they used to say, ‘Oh my goodness, this building is so well-kept,’” she said. “‘In our building they have to ask for so many special assessments,’” her neighbors told her, she said.

John Pistorino, a Miami structural engineer, said that the collapse of the South towers did not necessarily mean that the North towers — or any other buildings in the area — were at particular risk of collapse.

“This collapse is so unusual, I don’t think this is indicative of all the buildings we have up and down the coast,” he said. But he added that the collapse was “certainly a warning to do due diligence on all the buildings, including that particular one,” to make sure that the buildings have been well maintained.

It was difficult not to worry about a 39-year-old building so similar to a 40-year-old building that fell in such stunning fashion. Mr. Burkett, the Surfside mayor, said beachfront residents from across his small town have called him, nervous.

“Are the buildings on the ocean safe?” they asked him.

What to do took over part of a special meeting of the Town Council on Friday. After consulting with other officials, including Ms. Levine Cava, Mr. Burkett said on Saturday that a voluntary evacuation might be a good idea. He planned to approach the condo board, which has scheduled a meeting for Sunday morning.

“We would rather not make it mandatory,” he said. “If there are people in that building who are comfortable staying here, it seems to me the chances are low that we’d have the same exact problem with that building. But personally I would not want to take that chance.”

Sophie Kasakove contributed reporting and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Author: Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, Patricia Mazzei and Joseph B. Treaster
This post originally appeared on NYT > Top Stories

EU bullies: No wonder 7-year Swiss negotiations ended in failure – vicious tactics exposed

Relations between Switzerland and Brussels are governed by more than 100 bilateral treaties. EU leaders had hoped to simplify this whilst further integrating Switzerland into their economic sphere.

However, Switzerland has now abandoned negotiations with Ignazio Cassis, the country’s foreign minister, saying its conditions were “not met”.

There was particular anger in Switzerland over EU demands for freedom of movement to include the non-employed.

This would entitle them to full access to the Swiss social security system.

David Bannerman, a former Tory MEP, accused Brussels of seeking to bully the Swiss on Twitter.

He commented: “If we think the EU is treating UK aggressively & unfairly, this is what it is doing to Switzerland. Same bullying pattern.

“No wonder the 7 years of negotiations between Switzerland and the EU have now led to failure.”

Mr Bannerman shared an article by Swiss Professor Carl Baudenbacher, former president of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court, accusing Brussels of seeking to integrate Switzerland within the EU.

EFTA members, including Switzerland, participate in the European single market and accept freedom of movement.

READ MORE: Brexit fury – Ireland fuming as fishermen cut off while France & Spain keep access to UK

“Of course, the intention behind this plan was to set a “point of no return” towards EU membership.”

As a result of Switzerland’s decision, its relationship with the bloc will be downgraded to “third country” status resulting in more trade bureaucracy.

Swiss medical technology firms, which account for three percent of its GDP, will no longer be able to export duty-free to the EU.

The European Commission commented: “We regret this decision, given the progress that has been made over the last years.”

Ignazio Cassis, the Swiss foreign minister, admitted the two sides were unable to reach agreement over immigration.

He said: “For us, EU citizens moving here must have sufficient funds.

“The EU sees it differently, with the Union Citizens’ Directive it goes further than the free movement of workers.”

Switzerland held a national referendum last year on plans put forward by the nationalist Swiss People’s Party.

These would have given Swiss nationals preferential access to jobs and benefits over EU citizens.

It was defeated by 61.7 percent of the vote, with the Swiss government arguing it would damage ties with Brussels.

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: World Feed

Gmail and Google Photos users get an upgrade they'll wonder how they ever did without

Google has just announced a very nice upgrade to its Gmail and Photos services that will make much it much easier to save images when they arrive in your inbox. It seems bizarre that Google has taken so long to come up with such a simple change but it will save users of the platforms a whole lot of hassle and time. Google says that, from now on, when you get a photo attachment in a Gmail message, you can save it directly to Google Photos with a new “Save to Photos” button.
You’ll see it next to the existing “Add to Drive” button on the attachment and while previewing the image attachment. The US tech firm is rolling this upgrade out from today with all users, including those with free and Workspace accounts, expected to see the changes in the coming days and weeks.

It’s worth noting that it only works if an image is sent in a JPEG format but considering this is how many photos are transferred across the web, most people should be able to take advantage.

In a post on its blog, Google said: “This new feature frees you from having to download photo attachments from Gmail messages in order to then manually back them up to Google Photos.”

Although that’s good news about Googe Photos there is an update coming next month that users might not be quite so happy about.

Until now, Google Photos users have been able to upload endless pictures to the cloud without having to pay a penny for the privilege.

But that’s all changing. Unfortunately, from June 1, 2021 onwards, all images – no matter what quality you’re uploading – will now eat into that 15GB allowance. Once users have hit that limit, they will then have to pay to add more storage via Google’s One service.

Prices for extra space start from £1.59 per month for 100GB, £2.49 for 200GB or £7.99 for a whopping 2TB. Explaining more about the change, Google said: “From 1 June 2021, high-quality and express-quality content will count towards your Google Account storage. Once you’ve reached your storage limit, you can either subscribe to Google One (where available) for additional storage or delete content in order to continue with the free storage option in Photos.”

This post originally appeared on Daily Express :: Tech Feed

Review: Wonder Boy: Asha In Monster World – A Fine Revival, Faithful To A Fault

It’s been a beautiful time for Sega revivals as of late, with games like Streets of Rage 4 and Panzer Dragoon: Remake bringing back old classics. One of the most prolific has been Westone’s Wonder Boy/Monster World series, which has seen no less than three entries – first, a remake of the Master System game The Dragon’s Trap from 2017; a brand-new entry called Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom in 2019; and now in 2021, a remake of the Mega Drive game Monster World IV. A big difference to note is that the first two games were produced by French companies (Lizardcube and Game Atelier, respectively), while this new remake, titled Wonder Boy: Asha in Monster World, comes from original developer Ryuichi Nishizawa and the team at Artdink. While the other games also opted for pure 2D graphics, this one uses cel-shaded polygonal visuals for 2.5D gameplay.

Monster World IV was originally released on the Mega Drive back in 1994, being the direct follow-up to the game known in English as Wonder Boy in Monster World. Despite being one of the most gorgeous looking games on the system, Sega passed on an English localization, and for a long time, it was really only known to import game fans. However, in 2013 it received an official English translation as part of the Sega Vintage Collection for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii, and was also included on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Mini console in 2019.

Asha in Monster World remains largely faithful to its 16-bit forebear, taking place in an Arabian-style fantasy land. A young girl named Asha is called by a mysterious voice to save the land from an ominous evil, beginning an adventure that takes her to the capital city of Rapadagna. Along the way, she befriends a flying animal called a Pepelogoo, who aids in many of the game’s puzzle and platforming challenges. He’s a friendly little guy that will gladly take quite a bit of abuse, and not only is he invincible, he’s also utterly adorable. Asha can grab onto the Pepelogoo to float or double jump, and he can be thrown to collect out-of-reach items, used as protection from fire, or frozen in blocks of ice.

The Wonder Boy/Monster World series has long been a favourite of Sega fans worldwide, melding 2D action-platformer and light RPG elements, and brimming with charming characters. Some of the entries (like the aforementioned Dragon’s Trap) included exploratory elements that put it in the “Metroidvania” subgenre, long before that the term was ever invented. Monster World IV, however, dialled this aspect back, focusing primarily on action and platforming. There’s no central overworld map to explore, but rather just a single city that funnels you into a handful of dungeons. The structure is mostly linear, though there’s still money to find and equipment to buy. There are also plenty of blue Life Drops to collect, which will permanently expand your life meter when you’ve collected ten of them.

The biggest change from the original game is the completely revamped 3D visuals. The cutesy character designs from longtime Westone artist Maki Ohzora are faithfully reproduced as polygonal models. Lots of unique animations that gave the Mega Drive game such a strong personality are also recreated, like when Asha skids across ice or is bounced around by springs or the enemies when they take damage, complete with comically pained expressions. Special attention is paid to the excited butt wiggle by Asha whenever she opens a treasure chest – there are even a few subtle variations!

The basic themes of the environments are the same, but many of them have been overhauled. This is most notable in Rapadagna and its palace, which is enormous in size. To take advantage of the three-dimensional element, there are occasionally junction points where you can walk into the scenery to different layers. For the most part, it all looks pretty good, though there are some aspects of repetitive design as a result of the dungeons replicating the tile-based layouts found in retro 2D games. The Switch version goes for 60 FPS and hits it most of the time, though there are some noticeable instances where the framerate drops in more elaborate areas. The basic movement has been tweaked too, resulting in a slightly smoother experience.

The new musical arrangements are quite solid, too. The Mega Drive version had a main theme whose motif was featured through most of the levels. It was catchy albeit repetitive, though the new arrangements here featured a wider variety of instruments that give them new life. The original OST is unlockable by inputting a code on the title screen (Up, Down, Up, Down, Left, Left, Right, Right).

There are a handful of modifications and quality-of-life improvements, too. Previously, when you beat an area, you couldn’t revisit it. That means that any Life Drops you missed were gone permanently unless you restarted the game or reloaded a save. Now, you can revisit most of the areas so you can retrieve anything you missed, and there’s even a helpful breakdown of how many you’ve found in a given area. There were originally 150 Life Drops to find, but this has been expanded to 200 in the remake, along with some extra subquests in the city to find them. Also new is an Easy mode, which includes extra life replenishments, as well as an ability to automatically vacuum up the change dropped by enemies. You can also save anywhere now – the Sage that used to perform that function is still hanging about, talking about how things are so much more convenient these days than in the past.

But outside of these and other tweaks like sparsely voiced cutscenes, it’s still very faithful to the original Monster World IV, for all of the good and bad that that entails. Even when it was originally released, it felt stripped back compared to its predecessors, with simplified equipment and no magic to use. The only tune-up here is the Magical Hit move, which charges up when you attack enemies and then can be activated whenever you want for extra damage. Some of the dungeons are also way too long, wearing out their welcome long before you reach the end, particularly in the Ice Pyramid. The remake is nice enough to give you a map in this area, but it’s still filled with long, empty corridors. The designers definitely could’ve trimmed some of this, but at the same time, the adventure isn’t very long — it can probably be beaten in between four and six hours on the first playthrough — so cutting back these segments would just make the game even shorter without something else to take its place. The platforming challenges, puzzles, and boss battles will also feel pretty simple compared to the more recent Monster Boy. Plus, while the localization isn’t bad, there are also some very noticeable typos, even very early on in the game.

This is the major aspect where the game could’ve been redesigned, or at least revamped more thoroughly, but alternatively, messing with the formula might’ve created something substantially different (or worse), so perhaps it’s for the best that it wasn’t tinkered with all that much. Besides, Monster World IV didn’t get much of a spotlight in its previous English incarnations, but as a full retail title, it’s been given the chance to shine to a new generation of gamers. Plus, despite its occasionally retro design, it still holds up very favourably compared to Wayforward’s recent Shantae games, with which the Monster World series shares a spiritual link.

There’s still a philosophical question posed by other retro remakes like Square Enix’s 2020 remake of Trials of Mana; Asha in Monster World is replacing some of the most gorgeous pixel art of its time with mid-budget 3D, and while it’s certainly pretty nice looking, it’s missing that level of technical achievement that made the Mega Drive title so memorable. (The retail versions of Asha in Monster World include the original game, but this was not included in the review copies sent by the publisher.) From a pure playability perspective, however, this remake is a definite, if minor, improvement, and is a perfectly pleasant way to experience a forgotten classic of the 16-bit era.


Overall, there are parts of Asha in Monster World that are a little rusty, and the end product could’ve used more than just the tweaking we ended up getting. While fans of the Mega Drive game may enjoy revisiting it, they may also be disappointed that there’s not a whole lot that’s new. Still, the elements that made it such a classic in the first place — the endearing protagonist, the delightful game world — are still present, and all of that still holds up brilliantly even after nearly thirty years.

This post originally appeared on Nintendo Life | Reviews

Did Stevie Wonder Endorse Atari Video Games?

Back in 1981, the nascent home video game industry was all the rage, and the king of the pack was the Atari 2600 VCS (Video Computer System) gaming console, riding the wave of its massively popular conversion of Taito’s arcade game “Space Invaders”:

It was at that time, according to internet lore, that Atari improbably enlisted musician Stevie Wonder as a celebrity pitchman for the VCS. “Improbably,” of course, since Wonder has been blind since shortly after birth and thus would not be able to experience an essential element of a video game:

Even 40-plus years ago, when advertisements might have been less culturally attuned, an “If I could play video games, you bet it would be ATARI” campaign featuring a visually impaired endorser would have seemed over the top. Ditto for ad copy such as “My friends tell me the graphics are the best. I don’t know what that means, but …” and “Stevie likes to play alone, even if he has no idea what’s happening.”

Indeed, the Atari ad was merely a spoof using an altered version of a real print advertisement featuring Wonder endorsing the Mu-Tron III envelope filter made by Musitronics Corporation:

Author: David Mikkelson
This post originally appeared on Snopes.com

Stevie Wonder name: What is Stevie Wonder's real name? Why did he change it?

A single from this album, Fingertips Pt 2, became Stevie’s first Billboard Hot 100 Number One, making him the youngest ever artist to achieve this.

Over the next few years, Stevie lost some favour with the record label, as puberty meant his voice was changing and some felt he was losing some of his appeal.

He appeared in two films as himself, Muscle Beach Party and Bikini Beach, but these were also unsuccessful, and Berry looked close to cutting Stevie loose from the label.

However, he was saved from the chopping block by singer and producer Sylvia Moy, who said: “There was an announcement in a meeting that Stevie’s voice had changed, and they didn’t know exactly how to handle that.

“They asked for volunteers. None of the guys would volunteer. They were going to have to let him go.”