Archive | November 2012

The Mediocre Gazette. 28 November 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first ever post for the mediocre gazette. My name is Vincent, bringing you gaming-related news, news concerning folks in Montreal, the West Island, and various other topics of my choosing. You can leave suggestions for future works in the suggestions tab at the top of the page. Now to start things off; some of the more veteran readers of this blog will no doubt notice the disappearance of the hybrid. The reason for this is because I felt it was rather pointless to collapse the two items together – updates and off the records – as there is no need to make things more efficient. Ultimately the purpose for the section has diminished and I felt it was time to remove it from my blog and replace it with something more meaningful. The end result, the mediocre gazette was born. Now I have decided to utilize the critical thinking skills, and the realistic approach I have, to talk about various stories in the gaming industry and news concerning Montreal: both of which I find interesting and worth talking about. Coming up in today’s Gazette; a letter response by an editor of the Montreal Gazette, Facebook users are slightly uneasy with the change in the privacy policy, Czech game developers detained in Greece, fringe-extremist group goes around harassing Anglophones in Montreal, and Minecraft creators hope to attract more young people to coding.

Now onto the news you care about: there was an article I found on Sunday that talks about Anglophones in Quebec (though the article focused primarily on the Montreal community) and how they are a ‘harassed minority.’ It was written in response to an opinion piece done by a man from Detroit and the letter basically retorts the Detroit native, Brian Lipson, who stated that the fears of Anglophones in Quebec are baseless and without logic. The link to the 2 articles is in the description below:

In all honesty, the ‘harassed minority’ concept is rather accurate as I have noted in my previous pieces. This language debate is something that is a common sight in Quebec politics, and especially in Montreal where a good chunk of English-speaking Quebecers reside. Thus it is no surprise that there will be some back and forth in regards to the topic of the English language in a predominately French-speaking province. Even as far back as the Quebec Act in 1774, the issue over language was present. This is something that is likely to continue for a bit, though I am still optimistic as to say that cases of harassment are something of a rarity as the stories we hear from the media tend to be single-case events of which spark a mountain of discussion to rise up from the ocean floor. The end result is morale panic: a term used to describe the sudden uproar of opinions that occur when a shocking story surfaces. Examples include the Amanda Todd incident, the Vancouver Riots, and the list goes on. I myself admit to succumbing to morale panic as it is easy to let your emotions get in the way and not critically analyze the situation before commenting.

Onto some other news: Facebook has updated their privacy settings. Now there has been this sort of bandwagon of people posting privacy-related statements on their personal pages. I just would like to point out that if you use Facebook’s services, this statement is void as you have expressed permission to grant Facebook the use of whatever data is stated in the privacy policy and terms of use. The only way to prevent them from using the information that you have provided is to delete your account. I highly doubt you will have the time and/or money to bring Facebook to court, unless you and a few loyal members of the party band together to launch a class-action lawsuit. If that were to occur, it would be an interesting dispute as the laws governing Facebook are US laws, and in certain jurisdictions it may violate terms of use. Now when all is said and done, Facebook will not broadcast what you have set as private on your profile nor will they go about selling the data to some corporation or private enterprise. Certainly some advertisements may be catered to your taste, but this has been happening since you started using the internet. I digress; the main point to take away from all of this is that they will not force you to make your profile public. Whatever you did in the settings for your account will not be forcefully changed. They are simply stating that if you make data public, it is your responsibility to keep track of things and not them. A good analogy for this would be: ‘They are not your mother and will not clean up after you.’ You can read the full statement in the link below:

2 Czech game developers continue to remain in custody in Greece after being arrested for supposedly conducting espionage for Turkey. The Greek media has completely taken a one-sided approach, stating that the 2 persons detained had night vision equipment, which was not the case as the case file clearly states that they only possessed equipment that was attainable via conventional markets such as cameras. Bohemia Interactive, the guys behind the ARMA series, have come out with a statement which explains that the two were on vacation on the Island where they were detained and that they are in no way linked to any spy operations in Greece. Recent reports have stated that the two men have had their appeals denied by the Greek courts, and due to the abysmal conditions in the prison the situation has become dire. The links to the stories are below:

All I can say is this: it is unfortunate that the two men were arrested while on vacation, however it should be noted that they were taking detailed photos of military installations which might be hard to explain considering the time they took the photos ARMA 2 was set to release soon. Presently the game is set to be released sometime early next year, and the community Alpha is kicking off in December. This sort of research is conducted prior to the code for the game being written, and as such it might strike as odd that they are doing their research this late in the development cycle. Nevertheless thoughts go out to the families of the two men who have set up a site to help raise awareness on the issue. You can visit their site in the address below if you so desire.

Onto some other news: a Facebook group I keep track of recently posted a link to a blog which belongs to what appears to be a fringe group which supports Quebec Liberation and Marxist ideology. Now what the group has done is it has made the community aware of what this fringe group is doing: that being going around to stores, and complaining about the lack of Quebec culture in the respective stores. Reading through the discussion on the topic, I see a lot of fear and restlessness amongst those who are Federalist; Francophone and Anglophone alike. This makes sense considering how the Parti Quebecois have hinted that it will seek to toughen the Bill 101 legislation in Quebec, of which when these changes come into play, could affect both Anglophones and Francophones alike by separating them and forcing them to attend their respective institutions. What is meant by this is that if the new legislation were to pass; a Francophone student would not be able to attend an English-language post-secondary institution, even if they wanted to attend. With this example stated, it is important to note that there is a modest degree of sensationalism on this group’s posts. I will admit, these fringe groups are frightening and at times deter an Anglophone such as myself from visiting the city let alone consider it for a future place of residence. With this said however it is sensationalism, and therefore it looks more frightening than it is in reality. My guess is that these fringe groups are no bigger than thirty members and more often than not are underground, occasionally peak out from under the rock to sniff the air and proceed to retreat below ground where they can post videos and write their ideas on a blog like the above mentioned has done. You can read more on this subject and scroll through their posts at the address below:

Minecraft’s creators Mojang is set to release a version of Minecraft that is aimed at encouraging more young people to get into coding. Titled Minecraft: Pi Edition; this new software will be completely free to download and allows players to build the traditional Minecraft way, and enable them to break open the source-code to start manipulating the world in which they build. You know this is not a bad idea at all. In order to attract young people into coding, it has to be made accessible to them and using a game is a clever way of going about this. Up to this point, only a select few amongst the gaming community ever do code work, while the rest simply aim to be more of the artist behind the characters. Now while this is all fine and dandy, I must stress that coding takes a lot more work than simply pressing a few keys here and there. The bigger the game, the greater the source code, and at times it can be discouraging when your source code does not turn out the way you wanted it to look. That said it does encourage the growth of a healthy mod scene where players modify the game and extend its’ life cycle. Ultimately we will probably witness a strengthening of the PC gaming market, something that will benefit consumers greatly. You can read more on this story in the address below:

Well that about wraps it up folks for this Wednesday’s edition of the Mediocre Gazette. Check back in on Saturday when I will be posting another addition to the gazette. If you have any suggestions for future editions you can leave them in the suggestions tab at the top of the page. My name is Vincent, and I will see you next time.


Update. Nov. 24 2012

Well, this is unfortunate. The piece I wanted to post today is not proofread. I know I said that I would publish a particular piece today, but things happen and I was not able to spare the time to proofread the piece. The end result; it is not ready. I could probably publish it, but I would not be content with myself if I produced something without even proofreading it. However I will give you this update and some miscellaneous news to make this read enjoyable. Now to kick things off I will speak a little about that game I mentioned in Wednesday’s update: Planetside 2.

So I downloaded it, signed up, and started to play. Suffice it to say, it is quite entertaining. A free-to-play PC title from Sony Online Entertainment, Planetside 2 is by far the best multiplayer online shooter I have touched thus far. So the game spans three continents so far, and all the game play comprises of is a series of battles to capture and hold strategic resources. You pick one of three factions: The Terran Republic, the New Conglomerate, or the Vanu Sovereignty, and contribute to the bigger picture which is to capture the entire continent to give your faction a field bonus. These field bonuses can come in the form of extra vehicle resources, less wait time when respawning vehicles, etc. Now when a faction captures the entire continent, the other two factions are not necessarily forced out of the continent. Rather there are these staging areas called warp gates, and they are permanent fixtures on each continent. Each faction has one, and basically when an army is pushed back to their warp gate, the continent then belongs to the dominant faction. The warp gate is the only part of the continent not counted as a requisite for the army field bonus, as these areas act as sanctuaries for their respective factions. From there the factions can re-group and launch a counter-offensive to re-take lost ground. The end result: you will continuously fight over resources and strategic assets, all of which can – literally –  change hands over-night.

Up to this point, most multiplayer shooter games I have played were set in arena-style matches over large maps, rather than one continuous campaign spanning three continents where the fight never ends. I know in the past there were some ideas that were similar to this, but they did not gain as much popularity and publicity as Planetside 2. It is refreshing, and fun. The best part of it is you can play for free, and subscribe when you want to. Custom skins for vehicles, weapon skins, weapon unlocks, special uniforms, all cosmetic items and bonuses are up for purchase. However if you are just interested in the game play and could not give a toss over cosmetic items; that is fine as well. The player is also not limited to a certain cap or however many vehicles he can spawn per day, unlike some MMO titles such as Star Wars the Old Republic. I will include a link to a youtube commentator – totalbiscuit – for those of you wanting to see what all the fuss is about:

Right, onto some other news; not much happening over in Montreal with the exception of the usual student protests to make tuition free, and the corruption inquiry continues. Oh, yes I almost forgot: a Montreal transit attendant has been suspended after refusing to serve English-speaking customers. The link to the brief story is below this paragraph:

You know, if anglophones in Montreal need to be bilingual, then so too should Francophones. I understand Bill 101, or the French Language Charter guarantees the right of any Quebecer to work in French. However when it comes to customer service in Montreal, there needs to be a certain degree of bilingualism. That said, a translated piece of paper with specific sentences would work as well. Saves money in having to hire a translator to stand there all day with the employee, and customers can simply point and communicate via physical gestures. Still, I just find the whole language debate absurd. The vast majority of anglophones in Quebec reside in Montreal, and unlike other languages in Canada, French and English have been there since the early days when the Quebec Act was passed in the House of Commons in London. There was another story about a bus driver in Montreal who refused to let a lady board the bus at 1am because she spoke English, something that is not to be tolerated or let slide. The article is below this paragraph:

Well regardless, cases like this are rare, and only receive a lot of media attention because it draws an audience. I think when I head that direction, I will remain on the western side of the Saint Laurent Boulevard. For an anglophone, federalist, and monarchist such as myself, it is practically a “death sentence” *Sarcasm and exaggeration intended*. Right, onto other news.

For those of you who own the digital distribution platform for PC – Steam – right now they are having their autumn sale. It goes until the 26th of November and every day there is a new list of games that receive a deep discount. Some titles also have deep discounts and are not tied down to the clock, so you have until the 26th to decide what you want to buy. Personally, after playing Planetside 2, I don’t think any of those games look even remotely appetizing. I’m hooked, what can I say, and it costs me nothing. Anyways, thanks for reading today’s update. Check back Wednesday for another addition to the blog. I’ll see you next time.

Update. Nov. 21 2012

Greetings folks,

Thought I would do an update this Wednesday to save my other piece for the weekend as I still need more time to work on it. In the end of the day I do this recreationally, and as such am not held to the standard of publish or perish.

So I’m having some thoughts about removing the Hybrid section of my blog and instead replacing it with a series on post-secondary education. I was reading through some posts by other bloggers and I stumbled across something interesting. The idea was that if a blog has a purpose and direction, it is more likely to receive views and not wind up abandoned in cyberspace. Therefore I have thought about making a series on post-secondary education, seeing as I already write a fair bit on this subject, making it into a series could benefit by helping me with my blog.

Now onto some interesting news; apparently there has been a fair bit of people in my class who are not participating in their respective group projects. A letter I received from my instructor earlier in the week detailed some information in which suggested that a good portion of my class has not been participating in their respective groups and that their project partners have reported them on this issue. I would just like to say that if you are working in a group for a project for whatever class you may be taking, please, please participate in your group assignment. In the end it is your grade that is up for the guillotine, and whether or not you keep that grade or have it chopped in half is entirely up to you. Though I have faith in my readers that they are all group players and that ultimately they will work with their group to achieve the common goal. That of course being a decent letter grade, but you already knew that.

Right so onto some miscellaneous news. Some crazed coalition wants to eliminate bilingualism in Quebec and have the province turn into a unilingual place once more. The link to the article is here:

All I can say is this; Quebec, if you want to move forward, I suggest you stop living in the past (referencing early 1900s when English Canada decided to close French schools in Quebec). French and English are both equally important, and even more so in a city such as Montreal where the population is bilingual. Take your pathetic isolationist, discriminatory attitudes elsewhere. It will not exist here in Canada, simple as that.

Planetside 2 is out for those of you who play PC games. The Sony Online Entertainment’s latest game pitches three factions: the Terran Republic, the Vanu Sovereignty, and the New Conglomerate, in a continuous battle on a single planet. These continuous battles enable players in each faction can fight for objectives as they would in an actual conflict. With objectives continuously changing hands, teams and clans will have to develop tactics on how to fight a continuous campaign in order to succeed in the bigger conflict. Here are some links to some videos done by Totalbiscuit on planetside 2 (I’ve decided to link to the entire selection of videos on his channel):

In all honesty, I hope this game does not fall flat on its face. There has been a lot of coverage done by TB, and it would be a crying shame to see such a title go down the drains as the idea of a continuous battle would appeal to many players who are sick and tired of the standard model of arena-like matches on various military FPSs. Do not worry though; Planetside 2 is not a modern military shooter, so you can rest easy knowing that it is not some COD clone.

Right, well this concludes the update as there were no questions posted to me. Have a good rest of the week, do not forget that on Saturday I will post again so stay tuned for that. I’ll see you next time.

Off the Record. 17 Nov. 2012

Hello everybody, and welcome to an Off the Record? Now I know what many of you are thinking; “Where did this segment of the blog disappear to? We see an Opinion piece, and tons of Rhetoric, but no Off the Records. Why is that? Well for starters, I guess I really have not had much to say that would fit into this category until now. Another reason would be that Rhetoric pieces are – in a sense – easier to craft than the other types I host on my blog. Strange as it may seem, those are my reasons and or excuses depending on your point of view. Now, this Off the Record will be a sort of pressure valve designated to release some of the bent up frustrations I have about anything and everything. Extremely broad and wide-ranging, but nonetheless here we go.

Right now it is the month of November and for many students it is assignment hell month. What do I mean by that? To remove the extra details, it basically boils down to a time where everything is due for every class. Now the issue of procrastination is what comes to mind when I speak of this, and for those of you who are elite-students who get everything done in September, well good for you. Smiley-face stickers for your term paper and even a gold star for your forehead, hope you’re happy you over-inflated toddlers. Now as for the rest of us, yes the vast majority of students do procrastinate, but then so do politicians and even administrators who have a mountain’s worth of paperwork to go through and are at a point where they hate their job and wonder why did they spend four years in university and how did they end up here. Yes I am stereotyping the average mediocre manager in an office environment but you know that without this example, my little adventure down Frustration Avenue would end abruptly, so onward we go.

Right, assignment hell month; throw in some uncooperative project partners and you get; “everything went down the drain and now you are tearing out your hair and throwing your sanity out the window, month.” Yes I have had to deal with a project group that felt like wrestling with small little puppies who are overly active to the point that the couches are now chewed and torn to ribbons and the misses is angry that I chose such hyperactive dogs to begin with. It is just pathetic to see some project members make up excuses every time they miss a meeting. Oh I had a fender-bender (car accident); oh I had a soccer game. If I received compensation for every excuse you gorillas made, I would have fifty-six dollars and ninety one cents. I could actually do something with that money, but instead I have empty hands and an ear full of lies. Luckily the project went off without issue, we presented, and we passed. Now that is over, you all can go back to your banana trees and leave me to my readings. Unlike you ‘boys’, us men have other duties to attend to. We have more assignments due, more papers to write, and more projects to present.

I guess this is the real reason behind the fact that these assignments are due near the end of the semester. You are expected to have retained some of the knowledge taught, and in turn are able to produce some work to show that the information has stuck to your ribs like a good bowl of oat meal. Yet I like to think there is an alter-motive to this series of bombardments against our newly constructed ramparts; to test us and to see how we deal with a changing environment. Whether you are going to be a middle-manager, or a high-ranking office executive, schedules and timings change as life marches on. Sometimes what you have penciled in for the week may not go as planned and you are left with some rather unhappy moments and possibly some cold soup and sandwiches. The ability to adapt to changing conditions quickly is a skill that must be sharpened and tested constantly. Why do infantry soldiers rigorously drill until reactions to things like ambushes become second nature? Why do they familiarize themselves with weapons platforms to the point where it is muscle memory? They need to be familiar with their operational procedures so that they have a high chance of success and a low chance of failure and subsequently, death. Now for some in their respective fields of study, the story is quite similar. You are near the end of your program, and you have had to repeat a few courses. If you do not familiarize yourself with the material taught, you will figuratively sink into the abyss.

Yet it is what we do best as students. Sure we may procrastinate until a few weeks to a few days before the assignment is due, but I guess this is how we practice our ability to adapt to changing conditions in a stressful (for some) environment. I am certain though that they did at least a bit of research prior to the culmination of their assignment and arrival at their respective due dates. Ultimately, this is all part of the university/college experience. In the end the majority of us are in our early twenties, and we have much to learn, and much to see. So we will continue to procrastinate to an extent, some more than others, and eventually we will either perfect the art of time management or perfect the skill of adaptability. Either way, it benefits the student in the end, unless of course you decide to sell hemp walking sticks. In that case, good luck, because I cannot see a viable outcome for you ‘bud’. Now for all those elitist, structured and well organized students who think they are vastly superior to all others due to their ability to have their assignments completed by the end of the first month of the semester; I hope you enjoy living out the rest of your days in apathy and endless routine. After all, that is what you are good at, is it not?

The Opinion Section 10: A thought or two about post-secondary education

How odd; months after my publishing of what a polytechnic university should look like, all this academic work surrounding post-secondary education suddenly surfaces to grasp my attention. In all honesty, I brought this upon myself. The reason for this is because I have been focusing most of my attention on this topic for the past two years, so much so that it is no wonder all this material surrounding the topic suddenly appears before me. One article I read from the globe and mail – which I will link to below – talks about a need for a national strategy. Specifically it talks about Canada, and how our post-secondary institutions need to update themselves in order to provide the best education to students and make them more competitive and valuable. It discusses some of the limitations of this new tactical move; that being the assumed elitism of certain schools, and the fact that education is a provincial mandate.

The difficulty lies in the elitism and the mandate. I will elaborate; essentially there is a myth out there; that if a student attends a certain school that is all they will ever need in this life. Examples include Harvard, Yale, amongst a host of others. Students go about their daily routines never taking a second to think; is there actual statistical proof and research evidence to suggest that this concept is a reality? If going to one of these so called prestigious schools is a guarantee to success in life, should there be some sort of concrete evidence to prove it? Questions that the student body seldom ask, which is why we continue to live amongst these medieval institutions and listen to their words. Now do not misunderstand me, a public non-profit university is by far better than any private school where the sole objective is profit. However, there is a need for these ‘better’ schools as I like to term them, to start looking into the future and really examine how education is delivered. An example of this is Carleton University in Ottawa and Algonquin College, where a student attends both schools simultaneously. In the morning the student takes classes in theoretical knowledge and in the afternoon travels to Algonquin to take practical training courses. The end result is a student graduates with a diploma related to a technical field which is in turn related to his or her degree which provides the theory-based knowledge necessary for the student to master the techniques taught at Algonquin.

My readers do you see my point? This is the sort of – dare I say – revolutionary thinking that will shape our post-secondary education into a student-focused beast as I like to call it. If our citizens – our students – are going to lead our nation forward, they will need all the skills and training that we can provide to them. Yes I am very hopeful when it comes to this sort of new vision as for the past two years I have been complaining about a lack of practical training related to my field of study. Month after month, I have casually conversed with my professors over this issue and how – dare I say frustrated – I am in relation to this turtle-pace progression. Yet, like the discovery of the earth being round, it will take at least a few years for this idea to sink into the minds of university and college administrators. University administrators more so than college (a personal bias) because certain schools leave their mark; meaning that the administrators took the position due to the prestige it brought and the pride of being at the helm of a top-ranking university. This might be the greatest hurdle that the program needs to overcome because it is fairly rooted in society as a whole. What I mean by that is this; when I say McGill, when I say UBC, when I speak to people of the University of Western Ontario, what comes to mind? Well for starters top marks, the best schools in the country, province, or region, and that only the elite go to these schools.

There lies the difficulty, the sense of elitism that comes with a certain name. Everyone wants to be the best in life, especially in this day and age when so many of us are so mobile and capable of making ourselves better in vast, unimaginable ways. Yet our pride is our own handicap, for we fail to see the value of some of the other lesser known schools; schools like Simon Fraser, the Justice Institute, and Dawson College. Heck even Algonquin, who despite their joint program, rarely comes to mind. I must stress this once again that all these names are names of public schools; that being schools funding in part by the government, and where the tuition fees are not equivalent to your lungs, arteries, and your left leg. Yet students who go onto post-secondary, at times fail to see the value of some of these schools. The Justice Institute’s instructors are all seasoned police officers, paramedics, and firefighters. Practical experience comes to mind when we speak of the Justice Institute. Algonquin offers programs in conjunction with Carleton University which as I stated earlier, benefits a student greatly when it comes to having a complete and full grasp of the knowledge and skills taught. Yet these benefits are overshadowed by a sense that going to McGill or going to UBC will somehow, regardless if you are competent in your field or not, guarantee you a steady, high-paying career after graduation.

The message is quite simple; think before you act. Conduct your research before going out there and registering for a post-secondary institution. Ensure that you read up on what programs they offer and whether or not they suite your needs as an individual. Do they provide an excellent learning environment? Is it hands-on learning or primarily theory-based? Would you be happy studying at that particular institution? These are but a few questions any student coming out of high school or going back to school, should ask themselves when it comes to post-secondary education.

For their unshakeable resolve

For us, the storm has past, the war is over. But let us not forget those who journeyed into the howling dark, and did not return. For their sacrifice required courage beyond measure, and an unshakeable faith that their fight – our fight – was elsewhere. As we look on into an uncertain, but bright future, we will always dedicate this day to honour those who have fallen. They enabled all of us, and they shall not be forgotten.

Eternal paradise is theirs by right, and so they shall rest easy knowing that the generations after them will never forget what price they have paid. They will sleep well and they will sleep soundly, as future generations continue to take up the mantle to safeguard what they fought so hard to preserve, and what they died to defend.

Liberty, and peace.

Update. 10 November 2012

Good morning folks, just to bring you a quick update for the blog. Today I don’t really have an article to add to the blog as the one I hope to post, I will reserve for tomorrow as it is Remembrance Day and as such that post is dedicated to that purpose. However this update will not be as short as to simply say; “hey guys, nothing today other than this update. That comes tomorrow.”

So I was able to see Skyfall, the next 007 film which came out a few days ago. Yes I know for my readers in the UK, this film has been out for quite some time, lucky you. Now as for us Canadians, we had to wait a bit, however it was worth it in the end. The film had an excellent series of throwbacks reminding us of past bond films. It is after all the 50th anniversary of the bond series and what better way is there to celebrate than with a bang.

Below is a link to the opening song done by Adele titled ‘Skyfall’. I will admit, the video featured is not the opening as she probably does not have permission to use it, but it contains lyrics so you can stay on the dot and not get lost in transition. Overall she did an excellent job with the bond song, which was a surprise to me to be honest. Thankfully I was proven wrong and the song did turn out good, something refreshing in today’s vast sea of rather distasteful artists and outlandish outfits. If the link doesn’t work, just use the search terms; “skyfall soundtrack” on youtube.

What else is new, oh yeah Halo 4 is out now. The ending for that was surprising for me to say the least, though I should have seen it coming. This many years in, something has got to go (relax, I will not spoil it for you here). Still, the overall game has improved and 343 has done a stellar job with the title. The Halo franchise has landed in the hands of a competent team indeed, Bungie could not have picked a better successor (to my knowledge at least).

Maybe I should consider doing some reviews of films and games in my spare time, I could be fairly good at it. Whatever the case, thanks for reading, have a safe and relaxing rest of the weekend. I’ll see you next time.