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Archives for October 14, 2015

Voters ask Colorado Springs D-11 candidates about reform at forum

So what exactly would three education-reform candidates change in Colorado Springs School District 11, if they were elected to the school board?

That seemed to be what many D-11 voters wanted to learn at a Tuesday evening candidate forum.

But some in the audience of about 125 parents, teachers, administrators and interested community members left with more questions than answers.

“I don’t think a lot was said that set the candidates apart. I wanted to see how reforming the reform candidates were, but I didn’t see that,” said D-11 parent Reed Carlson. “I’m going to have to do more research and information gathering.”

A slate of three reform-minded candidates has banded together in the sea of seven candidates vying for four seats in the region’s largest school district. That has concerned some because of a bad experience 10 years ago with a reformist board and problems other Colorado school districts have had.

“My concern is what wasn’t said or asked – what does the slate of reformers really mean by reform?” asked state Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, who attended the forum.

Whether the district needs to be reformed was one of the many questions the candidates fielded. All seven candidates said reform means change.

Charter school executive Dan Ajamian said various school boards have “demonized” reform, but he thinks D-11 needs higher standards and accountability, a focus on local control and support for school choice.

“That’s part of the elephant in the room,” said retirement community owner Karla Heard-Price, adding that under-resourcing, minority graduation rates and academic achievement could be targeted for reform.

“Do you reform for the sake of reform? Education is not a petri dish; this is an opportunity to make sure we are the best we can be,” she said.

Military veteran and landscaping contractor Jeff Kemp said he prefers the word “growth.”

“Reform has been a problematic word,” he said. “Do we need to take a hard look at our outcomes? Sure, that’s what the leadership is challenged to do. Should we throw out the baby with the bath water? Of course not. That’s stupid.”

Other contenders are military veteran Theresa Null and Colorado Springs Police officer Martin Herrera, and incumbents Nora Brown and Elaine Naleski, who have been on the board for four years.

Herrera said the district needs to look at the “whole picture” and “identify what needs to be fine-tuned.”

Brown, Naleski and Null said D-11 is constantly changing and will continue to do so. But Naleski, a former D-11 teacher and administrator added, “I was around many years ago when we had people who called themselves a reform slate, and what we got instead was chaos.”

While some wondered whether there might be fireworks between the reform slate, the two incumbents and the other two in the race, the forum progressed “smoothly” and “politely,” as Merrifield said.

“No real bombs; everyone was on their best behavior,” he said.

Two members of the reform team sit on boards of local charter schools. A question about whether candidates who are on charter boards should resign their charter positions if elected to the D-11 board drew a “no” from all seven candidates. Although it was supposed to be a “yes” or “no” question, each added a similar caveat that it would depend on whether the situation presented a conflict of interest.

A question about whether the candidates support the long-standing master agreement between the teachers’ union and the school district brought unequivocal support from Herrera, Null, Naleski and Brown. Reformists Kemp, Ajamian and Heard-Price had slightly different responses.

“What has come before is a great groundwork. As we move ahead . what are the teachers wanting, what is the community wanting so that it feels fair?” Heard-Price said.

Kemp said his primary focus is the relationship between parents, students and teachers and his “fidelity is to the teachers.”

“What’s fair? Are we still beholden to an agreement that we can’t adapt and move forward? We need to maintain fidelity to our word.”

Ajamian said, “Whatever we do, there needs to be transparency, common sense, reason and a focus on students.”

Asked whether the district should privatize some services, Brown and Naleski said attempts have failed in the past.

“We’ve been there and done that, and I really don’t want to go there again,” Naleski said.

Heard-Price said she would like to see “working directly with something like Metro Transit to get a strong relationship going to see who’s best in the community to help the district and the budget.” She also likes the idea of giving more control of money and decision-making to the schools.

Brown and Naleski touted a new literacy curriculum instituted this year to provide earlier intervention for struggling readers and said they stand behind teachers.

Null said she brings new ideas and concern about student achievement, responsibility and accountability.

Herrera said he wants to help make D-11 a “model district” and ensure safety and security.

Ajamian said as a Palmer High School graduate, he wants to make D-11 better with improved outcomes, innovation and fighting Common Core standards.

Kemp said he wants to take lessons learned at the charter school his children attend and apply them district-wide, adding that he’s “skilled at entertaining difficult conversations and not making them personal.”

Parent and Palmer High graduate Gloria Neuder said she was encouraged by the forum.

“They each have unique and different strengths – business, education, youth, vocational,” she said. “I wish I could vote for them all.”

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Students awarded for Iowa prison landscaping project

An ISU landscape architecture project has received a national award from the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

The focus of the project is the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women (ICIW) in Mitchellville, Iowa. The project first began in late 2010 when the Department of Corrections and the women’s prison contacted the Landscape Architecture Department at Iowa State.

Julie Stevens, assistant professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State, leads the project.

On Sept. 29 it was announced that the project had won the Community Service Award of Excellence from ASLA.

The award was for the work done in 2013 and 2014, titled “Landscapes of Justice: Redefining the Prison Environment.”

The focus of the 2013 group was to construct outdoor classrooms while the 2014 group focused on creating a restorative outdoor area. 

The area provided staff with a place to relax after work or during breaks.

“We, as students, met with the prison and facilitated different meetings with them,” said Austin Javellana, senior in landscape architecture. “We presented a variety of ideas and got their comments on what they wanted and then combined everything together.”

After three weeks of design, students spent the summer working side by side with inmates. Students were trained on how to interact with the inmates, from how to address them to how to be comfortable being around them.

It was intimidating for students to be so involved with the inmates, but after the first day both parties became used to it.

“They recognized us after that, and that we were somewhat relatable to them,” said Lauren Iversen, senior in landscape architecture. “We were doing the same tasks as them most of the time.”

Environmental psychology was implemented in the project.

The areas that were constructed, and continue to be constructed, aid inmates in their healing process. 

“We drew a lot of inspiration from our Iowan landscapes,” Stevens said. “People find comfort in things that feel a bit like home.”

Native plants were introduced that now draw wildlife, thanks to the care given by the inmates.

The ongoing project, according to the Department of Corrections, may become “a national model for creating humane and restorative landscapes in a restrictive environment.”

What made this project different from other projects was the students’ approach.

“It wasn’t just like, ‘Let’s go, let’s plant some trees,’ it was ‘Let’s go in with the women and with the prison; let’s figure out what’s most beneficial.’” Javellana said.

Also aiding the students was the support from Warden Patti Wachtendorf

“She’s very progessive,” Stevens said.

Future crews will continue to work with the foundations laid by previous crews in order to finish the master plan.

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Summit County seeks input on Frisco Transit Center redesign

Summit County government is seeking input from local transit riders and other interested community members on development of a master plan to redesign the Frisco Transit Center.

The six-acre property between Safeway and Whole Foods Market is a major hub for transportation services, including the county’s Summit Stage public transit system, regional bus services provided by Greyhound and CDOT’s Bustang, four shuttle service companies and a Hertz car rental location.

The county will host two coffee breaks on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at the center (1010 Meadow Drive) for center users to learn about the project and provide input.

People are invited to stop by between 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. to talk with the design team, learn about the project and share ideas. Free hot beverages will be provided.

Input received will be used to develop conceptual site plan options for redesigning the property (buildings, site access and circulation, signage, parking and bicycle amenities).

Conceptual design options will then be presented at a community open house in mid-November to gather further input before developing a final master plan by January.

Construction of phase one will likely begin in spring or summer.

County transit director Jim Andrew said the center was built in 1998, and Summit Stage has increased its fleet size and service level since then.

“With the recent addition of CDOT Bustang and continued growth in transit, shuttle and car rental operations, there is an immediate need to improve the overall circulation and to expand and improve the existing facilities,” he said.

County Commissioner Thomas Davidson said recent business development around the center also has highlighted an opportunity to better integrate the transit center with the surrounding properties.

The county secured a $593,000 grant from CDOT to begin planning and constructing the center improvements, and the county Transit and Planning Departments are working with consultant team RNL Design to develop a comprehensive master plan to guide redevelopment over the next 20 years.

Some of the key goals for the site redesign are to:

Improve circulation and enhance safety for buses, cars, bicycles and pedestrians

Improve visibility and way-finding signage

Provide a center with local and regional transit information and tourism/visitor information

The planning process began in September and will continue through January. The county and the RNL design team now are working on initial site analysis, evaluation of existing and future facility needs, and community outreach and stakeholder dialogue to collect input to guide the site design process.

For more information on the Frisco Transit Center master plan project, visit

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Some want to swap ad hoc victim tributes for lasting shrines

The decorations had been up for weeks as a memorial to Breanna Eskridge, who was gunned down outside her grandmother’s Milwaukee home. Jamel Russell came this day to mourn.

Such improvised tributes are part of the landscape in tough neighborhoods across the U.S., symbolizing a complex knot of emotions that community activists and city officials must navigate as they grapple with whether to remove them. To some, they’re eyesores, reminders of gang disputes, drug sales and sadness. To others, they’re an important acknowledgment of loss and mourning.

In Milwaukee, victims’ advocates are leading a push to make these ad hoc memorials into something more lasting. Community organizer Camille Mays has been working with local officials to establish publicly funded individual tributes to replace the makeshift shrines.

“Something that can promote life and growth and peace,” she said.

Collective tributes to victims of gun violence are fairly common. Boston has established a peace garden to memorialize its homicide victims, and Dayton, Ohio, for the past quarter-century has dedicated one day a year to honor the people lost to violence there.

But Rhonda Barner, who has worked as a survivors’ advocate for decades, said she knows of no city that does what Milwaukee is considering by honoring homicide victims with individual memorials. The closest match she has found is in Florida, where road markers recognize certain traffic deaths with an inscription bearing a victim’s name.

Mays’ plan would be particularly visible around Milwaukee’s north side, where unemployment is rampant and residents push back against gangs and drugs.

Support has been widespread, but some, including Selvie Penix, are conflicted.

“It would be all right, I guess,” Penix said, standing in front of a crucifix, stuffed dog and red rose placed on a tree where his sister, Tracey Howard, was killed weeks ago. “It would be sentimental to some people. For me, it would just bring me back to seeing her laying down.”

Alderman Russell Stamper says there is enough support among city leaders to get funding approved for Mays’ cause.

Stamper helped establish a lasting tribute to Russell “Tattoo Russ” Setum, who was killed after celebrating his 24th birthday in 2012. Setum’s mother was watching and pleading for her son’s life, and the shooter said “sorry, mama,” as he pulled the trigger.

Friends tied the typical decorations to a tree outside the Setum family home where he was killed, but his mother, Leona Setum, took it all down. Today, a modest bouquet of plastic roses, hidden inside landscaping, marks the spot at the base of the tree.

A few blocks away sits a garden with a hand-painted sign reading “Uptown Community Gardens of Peace, featuring Russell Setum’s cherry tree.”

Stamper says the city has tens of thousands of dollars set aside each year for lot enhancements and community gardens. For him, it’s an easy step to transition teddy bear shrines into these sorts of tributes.

Mays likes this concept but would be satisfied with something less elaborate: a small plant, plaque or sign, simply marking the location, even if it doesn’t include the name of the person killed.

Police Capt. Jason Smith, who runs a north side district singled out for excellence in “problem-oriented policing,” said when it comes to temporary tributes, he “used to be a jerk and take them down.” He now sees them as a worthwhile part of mourning and an opportunity for developing relationships that improve police work.

The sites are flashpoints for anger, which can lead to retaliation killings, so Smith has instructed his officers to call a group of pastors after shootings where memorials spring up. At the top of that list is a man who helped train him, Malcom Hunt, who went into ministry after retiring from the force.

Hunt says the memorials are places where he can reach out to people to keep their minds on healing and off revenge.

He gave his card, recently, to the 17-year-old who was thinking of Breanna Eskridge.

Her balloons were beginning to sag. The oversized SpongeBob doll was weathered and fading, as were the hand-written messages — including “R.I.P.,” ”I love you,” and “love always” — scrawled across it.

It wasn’t his first encounter with loss. Russell had the image of another tribute saved in his cellphone, this one affixed to a lamp post a few blocks away for his younger brother, Japhet Moore, who was 14 when he was killed two years ago.

Russell said he visits the displays all the time. If they were permanent, he said, “that would be a good thing.”

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Keyhole gardens: a drought-friendly twist on raised beds

Americans whose gardens have been toasted by prolonged drought might consider a landscaping concept from Africa. It’s called keyhole gardening, and some believe it’s the ultimate in raised-bed design — a sustainable combination of composting and planting.

Keyhole gardens are small — typically no more than 3 feet high and 6 feet in diameter — and look like keyhole assemblies in doors when viewed from above. From the side, they can resemble a tall earthen pie with a giant slice taken out.

They don’t need fertilizer, use 80 percent less water than the normal backyard patch, tolerate hot climates and are easier to tend because they’re at waist level. No bending or kneeling required.

Keyhole gardening was pioneered in Africa and became popular there again recently through initiatives by humanitarian aid groups.

A keyhole garden’s primary asset is drought tolerance, although it also works in temperate climates, said Eddie DeJong, co-founder and head of business development and design for Vita Gardens in Sarnia, Ontario. The company makes keyhole garden kits.

The gardens get their nourishment from compost and water poured down an open-ended tube in the middle of the garden bed.

“The central composting basket is the key to making this an effective gardening solution,” he said.

“After the garden has been established, it should be watered primarily through the compost basket and less and less around the bed itself,” DeJong said. “This trains the vegetables to grow deep roots down to where the moisture and the nutrients are.

“Furthermore, if the garden is layered as intended, local yard waste like grass clippings, palm fronds and other materials are converted into rich soil, making the entire bed a composting nutrient factory.”

Keyhole gardens are cheap and simple to assemble. African children often build them in schoolyards or for their families.

Structural components include native and recycled materials as straw bales or bricks. “We don’t use waste lumber because it rots down too easily,” said Rose Marie Nichols McGee, president and owner of Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon. “Tractor tires are an uncertainty because they may contain toxins.”

Some commercial kits offer a more tailored look for use on patios and decks.

DeJong said his company is working on lighter, more compact sizes for keyhole gardens, and “aluminum and composites for a modern urban look.”

Keyhole gardens have proven to be more productive for McGee than regular raised beds.

“This is particularly true of tomatoes, peppers, beets and carrots,” she said. “Some of this is probably due to the hundreds of worms the keyhole garden promotes, and an abundance of worm castings is one of the best fertilizers and soil conditioners.”



From the British humanitarian group Send a Cow about how to build keyhole gardens:

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Friday Night Lights

On the evenings of October 16 and 17, The Gardens at Lake Merritt will come alive with dozens of glowing sculptures from more than one hundred local artists for the Oakland Autumn Lights Festival. For those unfamiliar, the event takes place in the seven acres of themed, manicured gardens adjacent to Lakeside Park in Adams Point. While the gardens are typically only open during daylight hours, Autumn Lights begins at dusk and transforms the horticultural centers into enchanted landscapes that highlight some of the Bay Area’s most forward-thinking installation artists.

“Autumn Lights is a place where makers and burners meet nature,” said Victoria Rocha, the park supervisor and chief curator of the event. Rocha founded the festival four years ago as a fundraiser for the gardens’ entrance plaza re-design project, which will outfit the park entrance with an ornate, metal gate and regal landscaping once it’s completed in 2016.

Originally envisioned as a lantern festival, Autumn Lights has grown into a dizzying visual spectacle with an emphasis on large-scale works that utilize new technologies and unconventional materials. “When I met the artist community in Oakland, I was blown away with what they could accomplish,” said Rocha, referring to the festival’s expansion.

As far as must-see artworks go, attendees should look forward to the giant, inflatable fabric sculptures of Vallejo artist Stan Clark, which he refers to as Astro Botanicals. The otherworldly, abstract forms take on organic shapes that resemble alien plant life, glowing with soft, pastel hues of colored light.

Keiko Nelson, an internationally exhibited East Bay artist originally from Kyoto, Japan, will install sculptures of doves made from chopsticks in the Torii Garden’s ponds. And just back from Burning Man, Gray Davidson’s 28-foot-long metal serpent sculpture — which will breathe actual flames — is slated to be one of the most eye-catching works at the festival.

Some Autumn Lights artists have opted to use the gardens’ flora as their canvases. Designers from the collectives Imaginary Photons and Coil Lighting, for instance, will collaborate on an LED light piece that will illuminate the gardens’ trees with a multicolored glow. Rocha and her team from Oakland Public Works will use LED lighting and a sound piece to convert the gardens’ rare collection of high-altitude palms into an audiovisual installation that evokes the experience of being underwater.

In addition to transforming the gardens into a luminescent sculpture park, this year’s Autumn Lights will also feature artwork for sale, food trucks, a silent disco dance party (in which festivalgoers wear headphones instead of listening to music through a PA), fire dancers, and musical performers. Attendees are encouraged to wear creative costumes to complement the installations. The festival is an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of one of Oakland’s most beloved public spaces — and see it in a whole new light.

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Tsugawa Nursery offers monthly tips for gardening

WOODLAND – For all you garden enthusiasts who plan to keep gardening, at least a little bit, into the fall and winter months, Tsugawa Nursery in Woodland offers numerous tips and suggestions for what to do in the garden and landscape during the month of October.

By visiting, gardening lovers will find articles for each different month of the year detailing what should be done in the garden for that month. There are also other articles offering tips on annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, vegetables, fruits and more.

Here are the tips offered on their website for the month of October:


Lily-of-the-Valley: Early October is a good time to plant lily-of-the-valley. Plant them in a cool, rather shady spot, about six inches apart. These plants spread, so plan to let them have plenty of room. Camellias: Set out new plantings in well-cultivated soil with plenty of compost added. Flower seeds: Try sowing wildflowers and some annual seeds after the first heavy rains. Let the fall rains wash them into the soil. Spring flowering bulbs: Plant with about one tablespoon of bone meal in each hole, in well-drained soil.

Berries: Plant when the berries lose their leaves. Planted now, they may have some berries next spring. Garlic: Plant the cloves in rich, well-drained soil. Plant with the pointed end up, two inches deep and 12 inches apart. Trees and Shrubs: Fall is well-suited for planting; plants establish before winter and get a head start on spring growth. Be sure to dig a large hole, add bone meal in with the soil at the bottom, and water the plants well, especially if the fall has been dry.


Mulching: Don’t mulch for protection against frost until the daytime temperatures are usually below 50 degrees. The mulching blocks heat which the roots need for development. Roots on most plants keep growing until the soil temperature gets below 45 degrees. Later this month, mulch trees (keep mulch at least one foot away from the trunk), shrubs and garden areas. Lawns: Fertilize one last time before winter.

Pest Diseases

Canker: Watch stone fruits (peaches, cherries, etc.) for signs of canker. If branches on a tree have wilted or died or if lesions have developed on its bark, chances are the tree has canker. The lesion usually weeps large amounts of sap or gum. There are two things you can do. First, cut off the dead branches now. Disinfect pruning tools with bleach solution between different branches. Second, as leaves begin to drop, spray the tree with Bordeaux mixture and spray again after all the leaves have fallen. If your tree dies of canker, remove it and fumigate the ground before planting another stone fruit tree there. Holly: If you’ve had holly blight (defoliates holly in late fall and winter) spray now. Roses: Watch for mildew and spray if needed.


Chrysanthemums: Mark which mum you want more of now so you can take cuttings in the spring. Dahlias: Dig them up when the top turns yellow. Cut to within four inches of the ground. Loosen the soil with a spading fork in a one foot circle around each plant and pry up the clumps. Let them dry in the sun for a few hours, then clean them and store them in dry sand or sawdust in a cellar or other cool, dark place. Asparagus: Get your beds ready to plant next spring. See the February tips for directions on making an asparagus bed.

Tuberous Begonias: Don’t wait for frost before preparing for winter. A severe frost could kill these plants. Dig each plant with a good sized root ball. Lift them from below and store them in a box in a cool place where it will dry out slowly but not freeze. When the top growth comes away at a touch, clean the tubers carefully of loose soil and store them in a cool, dark place. Broccoli: Pick when the buds are tight. Pick off the center clusters and side shoots will develop. If the buds begin to burst and get a yellow tint, the flavor will be strong.

Evergreens: They should be watered if the fall has been particularly dry. Geraniums: Bring them in before a heavy frost. You can winter them over in a variety of ways. One is to knock the dirt off the roots and hang. them upside down where they will be cool but won’t freeze. There should be little light. In spring, prune the plants lightly (both tops and bottoms) and repot them. Another method is to leave them in their pots or repot them and bring them inside. Try to keep them growing slowly in a room that is 35-60 degrees. Many garages will do as long as the plants do not freeze. Water them about once a month. Don’t give them any fertilizer. They will do better if they have some light (if not they may get leggy). Try to keep them in a semi-dormant state (no new growth). In March you can start fertilizing them again, but remember to keep them where they will not freeze.

Tomatoes: When pulling up tomato plants, check the root system. If the roots are shallow, it could mean that there was insufficient watering or the soil is too hard. If this is true, work in some compost and your plants will be happier next year. Pick your late tomatoes when night temperatures drop consistently below 50 degrees. Bring the green ones indoors and leave uncovered, out of direct sunlight in a room that is 60-70 degrees to ripen. Filberts and Walnuts: Spread a sheet or tarp under the tree and gently shake the branches to get the nuts easily.

Garden: Get new garden or flower beds ready now before the heavy rains begin. Turn the sod under and add manure and soil amendments. They will naturally decompose by next spring. Compost: Decomposition can be speeded up by chopping things into smaller pieces. Beat up leaves with a rake so bacteria can enter and break them down more easily. Turn compost frequently and water if necessary.

Raking: Oak leaves are acidic, so use them around rhododendrons and other acid-loving plants. Apple leaves should be disposed of, especially if your tree had apple scab. The scab spores overwinter on the leaves. Storage: Don’t store apples or pears with other fruits or vegetables. They give off ethylene gas which reduces the storage life of other foods stored around them. Store root crops separately so their earthy scent doesn’t invade others.

Upcoming classes at Tsugawa

The experts at Tsugawa Nursery hold monthly classes and seminars at their location in Woodland. October’s classes included the Annual Fall Potting Party, Winter Care for Mason Bees and, coming up, Bonsai workshop will be held Sat., Oct. 17, 11 a.m., at the nursery, 410 E. Scott Ave., Woodland. This informative class is all about bonsai. All levels are invited. Register online at

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EA explains creating characters, abilities & level design in Garden Warfare 2

When it comes to online shooters, one of the most important aspects to the game is its characters, their respective class and abilities, and level design. recently spoke to Kyle Duncan, Producer on Garden Warfare 2, about these very topics. In our discussion with Duncan we learned how PopCap Games goes about creating characters, making abilities that match their character, and how the development team approached level design and the impact the Z-Mech has had on level size in Garden Warfare 2.

The Plants vs. Zombies franchise prides itself on its unique cast of characters, and Garden Warfare 2 will have some imaginative new playable characters. When asked if the development team feels obligated to create new characters in a certain way, or if they choose to be as creative as possible, Duncan tells us that it is a mix of the two.

“It goes both ways. Sometimes we want the ability to almost be a character itself,” shared Duncan. He then cited Chili Bean from Garden Warfare 1 as an example of such an ability.

“We brought something forward from the mobile game, but it was kind of funny too. With Citron, we did that as well. The EMP actually existed in Plants vs. Zombies 2 on mobile and thought it was really good against other robots and tech. We thought let’s bring that concept over and then it was the idea of ‘well it comes back from the far future and there’s the EMP,” explained Duncan.

Other abilities are about the character and how that character can be played. Duncan explained that when it comes to Rose, a newcomer for Garden Warfare 2, she is a master of Arcane Arts, so they thought of magical and fun abilities for her to perform.

“We wanted to make her so she could really disrupt and so that’s where the Time Snare comes into play. She can freeze somebody in place or even multiple characters if she gets them into a group. She can also get in and out of combat really quickly by executing her Arcane Enigma, which turns her into pure energy and she can move faster, is invulnerable to damage and she actually does damage while she’s moving away, so some may be reluctant to chase her.”

Creating new characters also has an impact on the game’s level design. In the case of Garden Warfare 2, the new Z-Mech, who is as large as a Gargantuar – also featured in the game, requires levels to be big enough to support the two of them. Massive sized characters aren’t the only concern as there is also the Imp – the game’s smallest character. The size discrepancy gave way to new ideas for level design and influenced character abilities.

“When you consider the imp and our cover mechanics, normally we always put cover in as half-cover and full-cover for this sort of game. Now we had to realize that everywhere this Imp character went would be full-cover for him, and we had to think about how that would play and what that would feel like. Was it a big advantage or disadvantage?”

Duncan continued to explained, “We created a boost rocket so he could hover above cover so he can pop-up, hover and shoot and then hover back down. There are a lot of things like that, which go into level design.”

Lastly, the levels of Puzzles vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 tell a story. “Another thing we really like to do with our levels is tell stories of our PvZ universe. This was the first time the Plants have gone on the attack and the idea was we wanted to see how the Zombies were living. The first map we showed at E3 actually showed where the mech from the mobile game is being built. We have a lot of fun telling stories like that,” concluded Duncan.

A lot of thought and creativity does into character and level design. You’ll get to experience all of this when Garden Warfare 2 releases in early 2016 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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Home and garden design shop Molly Wood launches pop-up in Laguna Beach

Molly Wood, a landscape and home and garden design service, has opened a pop-up shop in Laguna Beach.

The company also has a Molly Wood Garden Design showroom in Costa Mesa.

The Laguna Beach Molly Wood Holiday Pop-up will be located at 1290 N. Coast Highway until mid-February.

The shop offers organic holiday décor, plants and accessories. The store will have gift items as well such as rope chairs, fountains, fire pits, vintage garden ornaments and more. Arrangements start at $22.

“I love all the pieces I bring into the shop … it’s difficult to pick a favorite,” Wood said in a statement. “The thing that excites me most is creating a personal, festive environment inspired by nature for my clients and shoppers.”

Wood worked at Laguna Nursery in her 20s. In 1995 she started her own landscape design business and in 2008 opened her showroom in Costa Mesa.

Contact the writer: or Twitter: @HannahMadans

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