Archive | December 2012

Unattached to Christmas Rituals: how and why this happens.

christmas_tree_2009

One thing I have noticed over the 18 years that I have been able to record memories, is how my family does not fully celebrate Christmas. There are several elements which lead to such a ‘vile and strange practice,’ (get that dark humor out of the way first); such as my parents growing up in Hong Kong, and never really been invited to partake in such rituals as Christmas tree decorating, large family dinners, and wrapping presents. In Hong Kong, much of the celebrations follow the Chinese calendar, and as such the big celebrations are Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn festival, and the Winter solstice. However with winter solstice, holidays are seldom taken; as evidence by the strange practice of Chinese – and specifically Chinese – Restaurants opening for business on Christmas day. There are some cultural differences which – to the uneducated observer – seem strange and out of place. This is the case, because when the British colonial government existed in Hong Kong, they stylishly blended Chinese practices with western practices. The end result was they made Christmas an observed holiday, rather than a statutory holiday.

These are perhaps the main points as to why I – Vincent – have little to no attachment to Christmas rituals. When I was younger, yes there was a family dinner: but it was a series of family dinners spread out over the month, rather than concentrated on a single day. When I was in my childhood, gifts were seldom wrapped, unless presented to outsiders. Even relatives simply received the item unwrapped, so they have one less hurdle to overcome when enjoying the present. All of my gifts were unwrapped; we never wrapped presents given to family members. There was no “wait until the 25th of December to open it my dear,” rather it was: “here you go, use it whenever you feel like using it.” There was no taboo of: “if you do not spend a day decorating a tree, wrapping presents, or cooking turkey; you will have violated the sacred Christmas spirit.” To oriental families – Hong Kong expats in particular – it was simply a day to rest. The exception would be of course restaurant owners, who will go out of their way to make that extra profit in order to boost their financial standing. Ultimately, it is not that Hong Kong expats dislike Christmas: for those who were able to adopt the tradition, enjoy it immensely. The reason why families like mine rarely celebrate Christmas in the conventional form, is because we are not used to it, nor were we ever told it was important or worth wile. Hong Kong expats therefore, are not attached, and devoted to such traditions as other families in developed countries. Christmas spirit never really penetrated the homes of the expat community: and that my friends, is why there is little to no ritualistic practices amongst the Hong Kong Chinese community when it comes to Christmas. My name has been Vincent, and I will see you next time.

The Mediocre Gazette. 22 December 2012

Greetings folks and welcome to yet another edition of the mediocre gazette. My name is Vincent, bringing you the latest round of news from the games industry, and from Montreal. You can leave suggestions for future editions in the comments section below, or in the suggestions tab at the top of the page. Coming up in today’s edition of the gazette; more youth are voting in Quebec, THQ files for bankruptcy as it begins life with a new owner, EA has another competitor for the iOS market, and Santa receives an escort of CF-18s.

Youth in Quebec are turning out in greater numbers to cast a ballot according to the Montreal gazette. The study cited in the gazette highlights some small increases of youth voter turnout over the past few years. They quickly establish that it is not related to the student unrest before going on to cite numbers, along with various other details related to the research conducted surrounding voter turnout. Now this is interesting news; mainly because it gives the sense of hope that the youth in the province do care when it comes to politics. Out here on the west coast: youth are very apathetic; they do not care about provincial politics, and even less when it comes to federal politics, though cases may vary. Now there is not a whole lot to say regarding the voter turnout: it is good news all around to see that the youth are engaging themselves in a public enterprise so to speak, and as such the future of our nation is almost secure. The only downside I can see out of this is if the voter population is easily persuaded by a charismatic individual who has alternate agendas up their sleeve, but can hide his or her plans through a carefully constructed smoke screen of hope and prosperity. Right now however, these thoughts are nothing more than speculation and conspiracies. You can find more on this story in the address below this paragraph:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Higher+youth+vote+part+return+norm+study+suggests/7723214/story.html

THQ has gone through some very rough days, and now it seems they are going to fall down yet another cliff as the company files for bankruptcy. Clearlake Capital Group is apparently fronting 60 million dollars to buy THQ and all four of its development studios: Relic, Vigil, Volition, and THQ Montreal. According to Gamasutra.com, THQ has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday in order to facilitate the sale to Clearlake. Now there was an update on the article citing that the deal has not gone through yet, and that they are still waiting to see if any other offers come in first: possibly better deals one might guess. Now this is depressing news indeed, as THQ is a fairly reputable company with consumer-friendly practices, and a set of very talented studios. Many of the game titles I play – like Dawn of War 1 and 2, and Red Faction Guerrilla – were of the highest quality in terms of design, and to an extent storytelling. Now in August THQ reported a loss of profits after their release of Darksiders 2; this was probably due to poor sales in the month of August in general for the games industry. The game Sleeping Dogs (from a different developer) also did poorly in August; which is odd considering in the past, August was a good month for games sales. Nothing in particular was wrong with either of the two titles, but somehow their sales figures came up short of what the respective companies involved, wanted. Some could say it is because of the economy, and that people are tired of paying 60 dollars for a console game each time. These are only guesses as I personally cannot recall any answers to this question. Whatever the case, I really do hope that whoever buys THQ will keep all four development studios. Vigil, Relic, Volition, and THQ Montreal are all talented studios, and it would be sad to see them disappear off the industry market. You can read more on this story in the address below:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/183880/THQ_files_for_bankruptcy_as_it_hands_itself_over_to_a_new_owner.php#.UNY3rHc0Fx4

Electronic Arts has now taken second place behind Supercell – the company responsible for Clash of the Clans – as it reaches the status of most monthly revenue earned on the App store. Even more impressive is Supercell earned more revenue with only two apps: Clash of the Clans, and Hay Day. In comparison, EA has 969 apps, and yet not a single one of their apps has surpassed either of the two published by Supercell. However it is worth noting that the increase in revenue is done by monetizing the existing users at an extremely high rate, rather than acquiring new users. Nevertheless it is good to see EA facing competition on multiple fronts, rather than on one platform. This level of competition will – hopefully – pressure EA to not only improve on their development techniques for games, but also adopt more consumer-friendly practices when it comes to their products. Ultimately competition breeds innovation, and diversity gives the consumer base all that much power when it comes to value for money. The link to this story is located in the address below:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/184035/Watch_out_EA_Supercell_is_now_the_topgrossing_iOS_company.php#.UNZGTnc0Fx4

Alright, so this story was a bit of a fun one to do; I figure that it would be nice to have something interesting when it came to news and well, Christmas celebrations do affect both Montreal, and the gaming industry: therefore I will write a bit on this rather odd story.

The CBC recently posted an article detailing NORAD’s mission to escort Santa across North American airspace. According to the story; Santa will receive support from NORAD Command, as well as an escort of four Canadian fighter jets as he passes over Canadian Airspace, before traveling into US airspace. Two jets will escort Santa through eastern Canada, before handing him over to another two jets based out of Northern Alberta, who will in turn escort him right up to Alaska before handing him over to the US Air Force. NORAD is also committed to monitoring the airspace so that Santa has a clear line of sight towards his intended destinations.

A fair bit of information is covered in the article, including: measurements of the Sleigh, how heavy it will be when airborne, how much propulsion is produced by his reindeer, and other things like climate, speed, emissions, and even Santa’s bodyweight. Definitely it was nice to see the military put this project together to spread a bit of holiday joy to viewers, and to families of service men and women in both countries. Certainly the main goal was to have a bit of fun, which they even went as far as to name the pilots assigned for the mission: which I am certain is meant to cheer up the children of the pilots who probably have to remain on duty throughout the holidays, and as such cannot be home for Christmas. Ultimately, this was a nice little “family-bonding” project done by both the Canadian Forces and the US Department of Defense. Sharing in the holiday spirit is but another step in helping us to get closer as a sort of international family, and that my friends, is what will keep nations alive in the end. Unity through strength ladies and gentlemen, the link to this story is located in the address below:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/12/21/pol-santa-rcaf-pilot-flight.html

Now comes some housekeeping that I need to get out of the way. Since Christmas day is coming up shortly, it is obvious that there will be a slow-down of news coming from the games industry, as well as from Montreal. Crime stories, and charity stories aside, it is going to be a very slow week. Therefore, for Wednesday, the 26th of December, there may not be an edition of the gazette published. I feel that since the flow of news is going to slow down, I would take some time off to enjoy my two week vacation before another semester spins up. However if there is a steady stream of news, then perhaps the gazette will have another edition released. Ultimately it is up to me whether or not an edition gets published this coming Wednesday; It will depend on whether or not the stories released are worth writing about, and whether or not the content available is enough to make form another edition. Until then folks, I wish you all the best this Christmas season, and thank you for keeping up with the gazette. Your support means a lot when it comes to morale, and writing for an audience that enjoys my work is why I continue to, and will continue to write in the coming months. Thanks again folks; have a safe and happy holiday season, and I will see you next time.

The Mediocre Gazette: Late night edition. 19 December 2012

Greetings folks and welcome to another edition of the gazette. My name is Vincent, bringing you the latest round of news from the games industry, and from the world you all know by now as Montreal. You can leave comments at the suggestions tab at the top of the page, as well as the comments section below with ideas for future editions. Now before I go on, I must apologize for this, rather late edition of the gazette. Final exams take time to prepare for, and since this particular course is of importance to my program, I had to focus on that over preparing the gazette for publication. I thank you guys for your patience; and now without further delay, the news you care about. In the headlines today: Westmount’s bilingual status is deemed safe for the time being, the PQ is suddenly taking an interest in the Anglophone community in Quebec, Restaurant owners in Quebec are not happy with the PQ government’s retroactive tax on alcohol, NASA is making video games, and the OLF have ordered Pharmacists to take off English-language flyers and posters from their stores.

According to the Westmount Examiner – Westmount’s main daily newspaper – the enclave’s bilingual status is safe as the PQ government has softened their approach to reviewing a municipality’s bilingual status annually. Just to recap for those of you unaware of the situation over in Quebec in general: the PQ government has tabled a new bill 14 which is essentially a toughed bill 101 which imposes new restrictions on languages other than French. In the case of Westmount and other municipalities who are bilingual, the supposed new clause would put into effect an annual review of bilingual municipalities. Should the population of Anglophones in these municipalities fall below 50 per cent, the bilingual status could be revoked. The end result would be that services provided in English could disappear, along with road signs and other government services. Now Westmount is an Anglophone Enclave within the city of Montreal. It is sitting at around 57 per cent when it comes to the Anglophone population, and that has the mayor of Westmount concerned. According to the article, the PQ government addressed this concern by stating that they would lower it to 40 per cent, and the change would not occur overnight. The review process will be done so with care, but the mayor – while glad to hear the news – is skeptical when it comes to the bilingual status of the city in the future. One can see where this concern stems from: after all, a sizeable population of Anglophones live in Westmount, and if the bilingual status is revoked, those citizens can suddenly find themselves doing tax paperwork in French only, with no other options. Now what the mayor has done was confront the PQ government on this issue; and for that he has my support. Yet I am skeptical that the PQ government is sincere and honest when it comes to this issue. The only reason in my opinion, as to why they would downplay the fears, is because they only hold a minority government, and are therefore ‘obliged’ to be reasonable. This is but another episode in the PQ government’s little struggle for a sovereign Quebec; let us hope we never have to see that day. You can find the link to this story under this paragraph:

http://www.westmountexaminer.com/News/Local/2012-12-11/article-3138183/Westmount%26rsquos-bilingual-status-safe%2C-for-now%3A-Trent/1

The Parti Quebecois is suddenly trying to befriend Anglophones, according to Montreal Gazette’s Philip Authier. In his article, Authier describes some of the steps that the PQ government has taken to sort of ‘court’ the Anglophone communities in Quebec. Yet the article also notes the skepticism amongst the Anglophone community; and how despite the PQ’s offer to dance with the community – if I may be allowed the phrase – they are not holding their breath and waiting for a positive outcome. Now Philip’s article has made some very interesting highlights in regards to the past four months of PQ actions. For starters, when the Anglophone community became outraged at the new bill 14, some PQ ministers went ahead of their party to sort of ‘warm the water’ when it came to relations with the Anglophone community. When the election was occurring, apparently Marois switched to English during her acceptance speech: a sure sign that she is attempting to ease the fears of the Anglophone community. Now I would not doubt that she has an alter motive; namely independence of Quebec from the rest of Canada. This sort of “everything is going to be okay, just stick with our ship and ignore the leaks” is typical of any political movement or party, seeking the support of the masses. Another detail to draw attention towards is the appointment of a minister in charge of the Anglophone community; something the Liberals never did. However with that said, most of the Liberal ministers were bilingual, and did not need to have a specialized position so that their party could communicate with the Anglophone community. Conspiracy theories aside: the PQ government understand – and so do the Liberals – that ALL of Quebec is needed in order to achieve any form of ‘progress’ that is to be positive. Yet I cannot help but wonder: is the PQ government playing two ball games at the same time? What I mean by this is the idea that they would put forth bill 14 to appease the language coalition in Montreal hell bent on making the city unilingual; then start to water down the heavy dose of medicine – so to speak – when the Anglophone communities got word of this, paints a rather odd picture. The PQ government may be realising that their position in the National Assembly is not as strong as they hoped it would be, and they have to start playing a different game if they hope to gain the confidence and support of all Quebecers. Yet I still would not hold my breath when it comes to such issues like bill 14. The PQ is only playing nice, because with a minority government, they have no other choice. When the power base is weak, any group or organization – even military units – will play it safe in order to survive and keep hold on whatever advantage they may have for a little longer. The link to this story is located in the address below this paragraph:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/been+going+closer+anglophones/7711308/story.html

Business is tough enough in today’s economy, and now the PQ government wants to get a piece of a pie that was eaten long ago: so to speak. According to the Montreal Gazette, restaurant owners in Quebec have from now until November 2013 to pay a 25-per-cent retroactive tax hike on all alcohol they have in inventory. Restaurant owners can expect to cough out an additional 37.5 cents per 750-ml bottle of wine, 57 cents for a 1.14-litre bottle of spirit, and 5.8 cents for a regular bottle of beer; with liquor stores expecting similar rates. Not only is this retroactive, but places can also expect this tax hike to go forth until 2015; which brings the PQ government 233 million dollars. Now some restaurants – especially those with vast stores of alcohol – are quite upset over the PQ government’s decision to demand more money. Essentially what the PQ government has said is: “Anything you have now, and will purchase in the future, will be taxed.” Now personally I am not an eatery owner, but I can sympathize with the association. This sort of: “I didn’t get a cut of the pie, so give me a slice now” is completely unreasonable, and can hurt businesses; forcing some to shut down in a worst case scenario. The end result is yet another group of staff unemployed, and a potential business owner – who pays taxes – out of the game, or looking to another province to re-establish their operations. Ultimately the PQ government want to reduce the deficit; this is a reasonable objective for a government to put forth. However cutting spending in key areas such as health care and education, and implementing a retroactive tax on small businesses can seem like a good idea in the short term, but in the long run will severely damage the province as a whole. Adding insult to injury, their allocation of 1.1 million dollars to the OLF – Quebec’s Language laws enforcement bureau – is not only misguided, but also a poorly thought-of plan of action which is more of an ideological move than a practical one. There is ample reason to question the PQ in regards to their strategic planning, and whether or not they actually thought about this plan of action thoroughly. Personally, I would have to say that they did not think this one through, and allocating 1.1 million dollars to a rather worthless department is only going to lead them to a shortened term in office and another provincial election. The link to this story is located below this paragraph:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Eateries+bars+holiday+booze/7705491/story.html

Gamasutra.com has released a story detailing an interview with one of NASA’s project managers on their own line of educational games. Titled: Space Race Blastoff, and Sector 33, both titles are part of NASA’s ongoing mission to educate the world about areas of study and of current projects the agency has undertaken. The article goes on to highlight various objectives from teaching Aeronautics, to various other spaceflight-related topics that NASA has in mind when they create such games to be made available to the world-wide audience. Now this movement of using video games to educate the general population is not a new phenomenon. Back in early 2001; there was a game called Math Blasters; I am certain some of my readers remember this one. Math Blasters was a game where you play as a creature from Mars (if I recall correctly), and you go about solving math problems. Each disk contained a new series of mathematics-related lessons and practice, all using some form of interactive game play to encourage children in elementary schools to learn math and develop a love for it. Now I recall loving Math Blasters when I was younger; it was absolutely amazing, and the most memorable sections were the 2D, going left to right, space ship combat sections. They were timed, and if you answered the question correctly, then the ship would avoid the obstacles. If the answer was incorrect, the ship crashes. That was a rather interesting mechanic to help children familiarize themselves with mathematics; by making them work under pressure. Now all praise and nostalgia aside, NASA making educational games for consumption by the greater public is a smart move, and could help in the development of future scientists and physicists. Gaming is a media outlet: similar to TV, or print media. Using it to educate young children is a sound idea, however one must exercise caution. When Math Blasters was used, it was used as practice of already existing knowledge taught in a traditional classroom setting. The video game itself, while entertaining and educational, may not help entirely with the absorption of material. It can certainly help with memorization by adding new mechanics to enable the coding of data in the mind, but ultimately what a classroom does for kids, a video game can never replicate. Now before I finish off here, I would like to say: do not mistake video games for online lessons. Distance education software is not a video game, and as such is geared towards simply learning the materials of a particular course, whereas video games implement some sort of interactive mechanic and entertaining elements to keep an audience engaged. A bit of a difference there my friends: the link to this story is located below this paragraph:

http://gamasutra.com/view/news/40282/Whats_NASA_doing_making_video_games.php#.UNAUMXc0Fx4

The Quebec OLF – the language laws enforcement bureau – have stepped up their operations and have recently told the Order of Pharmacists to remove English-language posters and flyers from their pharmacies, and citing the Quebec language charter. The anonymous Pharmacist who approached the radio news outlet: CJAD 800, told the radio station that he had always served clients in their language of choice. Now this problem – once again – comes back to the OLF being a bit too over-zealous when it comes to their duties. Medical services and products must be labelled in the language of the clients (both Francophone, and Anglophone), not just unilingual Francophones. What is important to understand is that the OLF is made up of radicals, and moderates; thus it is prone to over-zealous behaviour. While the French language is the official language of the province; there are clauses that explain the use of other languages in Quebec, such as health and safety (“A non-official language may be used on signs and posters of the administration for health or public safety reason,” Civil Administration section of Bill 101). When the OLF goes around and orders bilingual businesses to take down their English-language signs, in particular medical services, not only are they violating the very charter they are tasked to uphold, they can potentially harm the economy of that particular region: namely the West Island. What happens when a business person from New York enters Montreal and wants to buy medication for his headache? Will the OLF then come forward and ‘demand’ he learn French before tackling his headache? The OLF is nothing more than a useless government department staffed by radicals, who sap the funds out of a province in deficit, and continue to drink away the money at the expense of other more valuable sectors; like education, and medical services. I hope – assuming the article earlier in this gazette is somewhat accurate – the PQ government will come to their senses, and order the OLF to ‘stand down’, meaning to relax their zealous attitudes and revert back to their primary function. It seems to me that the OLF have nothing else to do, as the whole of the Anglophone community understand the need to be bilingual, so they begin to pick at fine details in an effort to prove to the province that the money allocated to them was a worthy investment. The link to this story is located in the address below:

http://www.cjad.com/CJADLocalNews/entry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10481841

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_of_the_French_Language

Alright folks, that wraps it up for this edition of the gazette. Tune in Saturday, December 22nd for another dose of news on our two favourite topics. My name has been Vincent, and I shall see you next time.

Update. 19 December 2012

Evening folks,

This is just a heads up on what is happening with today’s edition of the gazette. Earlier today I had my final exam yeah, and it was my second time through the course so without question, much of my efforts were focused on familiarization of the text. The end result, the gazette – while essentially complete – is not as pitch perfect as I hope it would be: therefore it will be late. I am a fan of quality so to speak, and when it comes to my written work, I only post once it has gone through a few proofreading sessions.

I apologize for the delay; there were other matters this week which took precedence over the gazette. Expect the next publication – if not later on tonight or tomorrow – to be on Saturday; now that I have my affairs in order. Thank you for your patience. My name has been Vincent, and I will see you next time.

The Mediocre Gazette. 15 December 2012

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another edition of the gazette. My name is Vincent, bringing you the latest round of news from the games industry, and this time from Quebec City, as well as from Montreal. You can leave suggestions for future editions in the comments section below, or in the suggestions tab at the top of the screen. In the headlines today: Quebec City is cited as having a fairly sizeable population of bilingual citizens, the Secret World MMO drops their subscription-based model, cynical attitudes loom over second education summit workshop, the United States and Canada decline to sign a UN telecoms treaty, and McGill University demands that their funds be restored.

The Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph posted a story on Wednesday, detailing a report which stated that 32 per cent of Francophones in Quebec City are bilingual. This was contrasted to Ottawa, where the Anglophone population that was bilingual only came in around 28 per cent. The article goes on to explain some differences in their study, as well as citing that Gatineau was the most bilingual with 65 per cent of the population, while Montreal came in at around 52 per cent. Now this is an interesting twist of events: Quebec City is usually a unilingual Francophone city as far as I am aware, however it is nice to see that there is a strong percentage living in the city that are bilingual. Now if only the population here in Vancouver – where a sizeable Francophone population lives – can learn from this example as well. A good start would be to provide provincial government paperwork in both official languages. A few friends of mine – all mentioned are from Quebec – explained how they were told by ICBC that they could not submit their paperwork in French. The end result was they had to find and pay for a translator to modify their paperwork so that they can return it in English. Now this is an issue that has been running around the provinces west of Manitoba for quite some time. When Trudeau announced official bilingualism, a good portion of the provinces signed on. One in particular even signed on and became officially bilingual; New Brunswick. The others that were west of Manitoba, along with some provinces east of Quebec were fairly reluctant to follow through with Trudeau’s orders. Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia in particular all have little to no infrastructure in place to accommodate Francophones wishing to reside within those regions. Now in regards to government services such as tax forms, it is imperative that they be provided in both English and French, so that the Francophones not only feel included, but also as a valued part of this great nation. There is no doubt in my mind that Quebecers want to remain with Canada, and this has the PQ scared beyond belief. This is why they are trying to divide the population with their new ‘ideas’ and ‘suggestions’, something that I feel is not – nor will ever be – in the best interest of Quebec. With that said however, it would be nice to see a bit more lifting on our end so to speak, and help bilingual Francophones by providing something as simple as government paperwork in French. Ultimately, they wish to contribute to their new home in whichever province they reside in, and we as a people should help them achieve that. Together as one, equals strength. Divided; we are nothing more than circles of people who are powerless and weak. The link to this story is located in the address below:

http://www.qctonline.com/node/3209

After a disappointing launch, Funcom – the developers of the MMORPG The Secret World – have dropped their subscription model in favour of a free-to-play scheme. This comes on the heels of Star Wars the Old Republic; Bioware’s MMO which also went free-to-play a month or so prior to December. While monthly subscriptions are available to players who wish to receive additional in-game bonuses, the rest of the player base can expect to be able to log in for no cost. Now this move by Funcom is not surprising, considering how badly they performed with their MMO over the summer and into the fall season. With so many free-to-play titles like Guild Wars 2 and The Old Republic all offering players unique experiences for almost no cost (aside from optional micro-transactions), it was nearly a no-brainer that Funcom would follow the trend in hopes of increasing their player base. Right now the market is quite difficult to penetrate when it comes to MMOs, with thousands of indie titles available to players. The subscription model is a dying beast, and we are beginning to see that in many online games. The exception to this would be World of Warcraft; which lost a good percentage of its subscriber base, but is still able to maintain dominance of the MMO market. Now the game itself – like many other MMOs – would operate on micro transactions in order to make up for the lost subscription revenue. These transactions done in-game can still be a viable source of revenue should the player base be sizeable and willing to spend. In this economy, it is difficult to convince players to pay for a subscription when all the other titles have gone free-to-play, or are considering going that route. This decision by Funcom was a positive step in the right direction, and I wish them all the best as the current year draws to a close and the New Year begins. You can read more on this story in the link below:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/183335/Troubled_MMO_The_Secret_World_drops_the_subscription_model.php#.UMl-Dnc0Fx4

Things are not looking well for the education sector in Quebec. The second education summit workshop began Thursday; but some participants enter the ‘playing field’ with a grim outlook on how things will go overall. The article from the Montreal Gazette details just how divided the two camps are: with one side calling for immediate funding from either the government, or another tuition hike proposal, and the other camp calling for free university. Now thus far the arguments have gone nowhere in terms of progress, as neither groups can see a compromise, further damaging the hope for a solution in the near future. Now here is the problem with what the free university camp is proposing: who will cover the cost going in the end? Nothing on this earth is technically ‘free’, as the cost will go somewhere eventually. Now the free university camp has called for the people to “invest in the future of our society” (Montreal Gazette), in which they propose taxes be allocated towards the payment of tuition so that university can become free of charge to students. Forward thinking, but where their plan starts to show cracks in the pavement is that the culture in North America has always stemmed around low taxes and high self-profits. What I mean by this is that North Americans in general dislike paying such high taxes, unlike their European counterparts: like Denmark, Norway, to list a few examples. Over there, taxes are roughly around 40 percent for most people, but the end result is many services like health care, and education, are ‘free’ of charge for their citizens. Now they believe in collectively moving forward, rather than going forward, individually. Over here in North America – and in the States particularly – citizens dislike government taxes, and begrudgingly pay them simply out of a need to keep a nation running. The idea is this: “Why should I, who keeps fit and healthy, pay for some fat bloke down the road who eats ten pizzas per day, drinks a ships’ worth of soda, and takes a mechanical chair everywhere?” It will be hard to call for more taxes when the very culture is less taxation, more personal savings. Again, very forward thinking, but for the moment – especially in hard economic times – there needs to be a compromise with a vision of how to move forward. Canada is not as self-obsessed as the States, but citizens still prefer minimal taxes, and maximum personal savings. Ultimately, an Ipod and a new car, is far more attractive than paying for someone else to have special dieting pills for their obesity. Whatever the case, I really hope the universities can come up with a solution that will keep any tuition hike minimal, while at the same time being able to operate at a reasonable pace, and lead the way in innovation and thought. The link to this article is located in the address below:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Cloud+cynicism+hangs+over+Quebec+second+education+summit/7690422/story.html

193 nations gather in Dubai to discuss revising global telecommunications rules. Now the article from CBC details just how divided the nations present at the gathering are: with countries like China, Iran, and Russia calling for more government control of the internet, whereas the western bloc have publically said no and are hoping to amend the treaty. Now the countries that were calling for government control have successfully changed the wording on the treaty to allow for a slightly stricter policy when it comes to governing the internet in domestic affairs. Now the UN itself was calling for a bit more government control, but as we saw last year or so with SOPA and PIPA in the United States, governmental control of the internet is not only dangerous, it can potentially stall progress when it comes to political, and economic freedoms. Among the list of those in support of the treaty include “China, Russia, Gulf Arab states, African nations, and others” (CBC). This is not at all surprising, as the nations mention usually are controlled by authoritarian governments that seek to limit criticism, and clamp down on organized protests. In fact the United Arab Emirates – the host country – had recently announced “stricter internet laws last month that outlaw postings such as insulting rulers or calling for protests” (CBC). That one sentence there should have users worried, as insulting a leader – even though it may be baseless – is what democracy is all about. Having the ability to outright criticise a leader and their policies is what makes a democracy healthy. Now if you were to strip that away per se, then what is left is an authoritarian government with democratic elements, rather than a proper democracy. This sort of ideological back and forth does not surprise me. There is a reason why we have nation-states, and why we have various coalitions, trade unions, and the works. There are parts of the world that are different: Plain, and simple. There is a rough, unifying factor (ie: same species); yet ultimately we are still different in the way we go about our daily lives. Thankfully the treaty is non-binding, and cannot force our hands, or the signatories, into compliance. Ultimately, the UN is only present to foster talks: it is never meant to govern sovereign nations. The link to this story is in the address below this paragraph:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/12/13/un-us-internet.html

McGill University’s board of governors are not happy with the recently announced 124 million dollar cut in their budgets, something that will severely damage the universities; according to a representative. The rest of the article goes on to describe just how the cuts would affect the university’s ability to grow and properly operate in the coming year of 2013. The very ability to work – according to a McGill representative – is at stake if no new funding options are made available. One can sympathize with the institutions on this one: the money has to come from somewhere, and if the tuition hike is out of the question, then the provincial government should have to contribute to the funding of these schools. Now the funding cuts are not just for the post-secondary sector, but the entire education system in Quebec, as well as other key sectors that are in desperate need of funds. Instead what the PQ government have opted to do was slash funding for all of the key sectors, except for their OLF (Office quebecois de la langue francaise) – also known as the Language police – who are receiving an additional 1.1 million dollars added to their budget. Right okay, so the Marois government announced they would get tough on spending, and yet they are generous enough to fund this rather useless office whose only duty –effectively – is to go about places, Montreal in particular, and check to see if French is being used in the work place. It goes beyond simple signs and services, as the OLF inspectors have reportedly gone into the back rooms, away from the front where customers are, and observed workers on break. If these workers spoke in any other language but French, they are threatened with fines if they do not ‘convert’ so to speak. How can the provincial government justify giving that office a raise in their annual budget allocation when they harm small businesses all over the region? It is absolute madness: they cannot provide funding for health care and education, yet there is ‘always’ money to give to their little Gestapo squadron? Unbelievable: yet this is the current state of things over in Quebec. Let us hope that the opposition will strike this new bill 14 down in the coming new year, as the approval of the budget was done out of a disinterest in forcing another provincial election. Interesting times we live in ladies and gentlemen, whatever the case the link to the story is located below:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/McGill+board+demands+funds+restored/7702717/story.html

Alright folks, that about wraps it up for this edition of the gazette. Tune in Wednesday, December 19th for another dose of gaming and Montreal news. Remember to leave a comment if you have any suggestions for future editions in the comments section below, or in the suggestions tab at the top of the page. My name has been Vincent, and I shall see you next time.

The Mediocre Gazette. 12 December 2012

Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome to another edition of the mediocre gazette. My name is Vincent, bringing you the latest round of news from the games industry and from the little island of Montreal. You can leave suggestions for future editions in the comments section below this post, or in the suggestions tab at the top of the page. In the headlines today: possible new sweeping powers for language minister, a think tank warns against ‘quality assurance’ creeping into universities, the conservative government supports a bilingual bill in parliament, and the UK is offering tax relief to game developers only if their game is really British.

A section of bill 14, the PQ government’s new language legislation, would grant the language minister powers to hold a public inquiry should they so desire in order to attend to issues related to the status of French. Under the new bill 14, anyone who fails to cooperate, or sufficiently answers questions, could be charged with contempt. Thus far the Liberals have spoken out against this, with Marois in reply calling the Liberals fear mongers. Now this sort of ideologically-driven legislation is not at all surprising; after all it is the radicals within the PQ, alongside language coalitions – which call for the complete removal of English from Montreal in particular – who drove the PQ government to put forth this kind of legislation. The status of French it not at all at risk, and simply having a bilingual city is a threat to French in Quebec? This sort of ridiculous language politics is what the PQ government specializes in when it comes to running provincial affairs. They are simply side-stepping other, more important issues such as health care, corruption, and education, with their constant crusade – if I may be allowed of the phrase – against other languages. While spending for all other sectors is cut, a 1.1 million dollar increase was announced for the Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise (OQLF): a reallocation of resources that is both unnecessary and counter-productive. Ultimately the PQ knows that Quebec is quite happy with their position within Canadian society, and realising that their platform is in danger of becoming irrelevant, seek to divide the population so that they can hold another referendum. Let us hope that the PQ government’s new bill 14 is struck down, as this can hurt small businesses in Quebec who up till this point; tolerated bill 101, understood, and accepted its’ purpose. You can find the link to this story in the address below this paragraph:

http://www.cjad.com/CJADLocalNews/entry.aspx?BlogEntryID=10477513

Universities are facing a new decade of unprecedented change, and that has some analysts worried. In an age where the marketability of a degree is what drives students to attend a particular school, there is a backlash against such a so-called “quality assurance”, according to Quebec’s Institut de recherché et d’informations socio-economiques, also known as the IRIS. Particularly what concerns the universities is that if they were to have their output of students kept track of as though they were a factory, then their independence will ultimately go up in flames. Essentially what this proposed trend will do is have a review board give out “quarterly statements” on how a university is performing. The end result; universities will be reviewed similar to businesses, and banks; something that McGill University fears will destroy their autonomy as they have to bend to market trends and produce a “product” that is worth the money. Now this is a very interesting concept of marketable degrees, because for the longest time many students go to university in hopes of earning a degree that will secure them a job that pays at least 50,000.00 annually. However with that said this whole concept is a myth; because when a student graduates from a 4-year institution, they have to take hold of whatever job they can get, and then start to search for something better down the road. Apart from preparing students for life in the work force, universities also engage in research; especially ones without a special purpose designation: such as the polytechnic title. How can a university conduct meaningful research when it is under pressure to perform so that they can produce a good quarterly statement? It is understandable that a university must meet the demands of an ever-changing job market, but there is also something meaningful that comes from such institutions like McGill, Simon Fraser, and UBC to name a few. This autonomy is necessary if they are to continue to do the type of work that many people would not have the patience to do, and produce results that – in the short term – may not immediately pay off. Yet in the long run – like the PC games market – there is a long term sales benefit so to speak, something that will have an even longer life cycle if it develops a strong, supportive, community. This story ties into the whole, ongoing dialog surrounding the future evolution of universities, and this will continue for quite some time. Regardless, what I say is my opinion. What the institutions do it entirely up to them. You can find the link to this story in the address below:

http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Think+tank+warns+against+quality+assurance+creeping+into/7678367/story.html

The Harper government has bent to internal pressure from the House of Commons to adopt a bill that will make bilingualism a requirement for any officer of Parliament appointed to a committee. According to the Globe and Mail, the Conservatives have placed their support behind an NDP-proposed bill that will make positions such as the auditor-general, the chief electoral officer, and various other positions of Parliament who sit to hear cases from MPs, require fluent bilingualism from the applicant or appointed persons. Now this is a step in the right direction, as persons working in Parliaments’ high offices should represent all Canadians, and as such must be bilingual. Both French and English is already a requirement for military officers, thus it is important to also have appointed positions in Parliament – alongside MPs – require a candidate to be fluently bilingual should they want to hold a position of leadership. If a Member of Parliament wants to speak in their official language of choice, they should be allowed to do so, similar to how anyone would be able to request government paperwork in either French, or English. Ultimately as a nation, our leaders and officers must be symbolic of this union, therefore they must be bilingual. Anything less is unacceptable, and could serve to divide us; something that is not beneficial to either party involved. You can read more on this story in the address below this paragraph:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/internal-pressure-forces-tories-to-support-bilingual-bill/article6188788/

The British government is offering a tax relief to game developers in the country which was cited as the most generous out of all the countries in the world. However there are conditions, such as the game depicting British cultural events, characters, and other related subjects. Many game developers who produce a product that has no clear geographical setting, or who have no characters or story, may find it hard to get this tax relief. Now at the moment, much of the details are unclear as this is only a recently unveiled plan by the UK’s finance ministry. We will have to see what they say, and what amendments go into this new tax relief before we can finalize an opinion on the situation. Games that are based on the UK, set in the UK, or meet the majority of the requirements in a way, will find it easy to apply for the tax relief. This move makes sense, as games developed in the UK that seeks government funding should ideally hold some resemblance to the nation in which it is developed as a way of thanking the government for the tax relief. Yet with that said, this could potentially harm the developers in the sense that their game may not be entirely their own creation, but rather another cultural product from another country. Games are enjoyed by a world-wide audience; games like Halo and World of Warcraft. These games must be nation-neutral – if I may be allowed the phrase – should they wish not to ignite any form of political debate. Placing restrictions on a game when it comes to tax relief, can potentially make a title politically charged, and thus reduces the sales volume of that particular title. The trickle-down effect will come in the form of lost profits, in which the company – regardless of the tax relief – will have to close their doors as they simply could not make enough money. Ultimately what the UK government is saying is: “We will finance your project, so long as it is a cultural product that we can use to teach the world about our nation.” Whether or not the developers take the tax relief is their own choice; yet it is not like they are being given more taxes to pay for making a game that is not even remotely based on anything British. If the game is any good, it will sell. If it is not, then tough luck developers. People will not spend their hard-earned money on some poorly made title with poor graphics, and a badly-written story. Anyways, you can read more about this story in the link below:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/183298/The_UK_is_offering_tax_relief_but_only_if_your_game_is_really_British.php#.UMghwnc0Fx4

Right folks, this is it for this Wednesday edition of the gazette. Check back Saturday, December 15th for another dose of games industry and Montreal news. My name has been Vincent, and I shall see you next time.

Dreams and their reality.

I awoke earlier today; out of a dream in which I was giving a lecture on the importance of training and education as opposed to research at a polytechnic university. Perhaps psychologists are correct; our dreams are made up of information we collect as we go through our days, and as we sleep the brain stores them. While in the process of storing this newly collected data, dreams are formulated and thus we are reviewing our own memory files so to speak, and forging stories out of them.

The correlation is astounding, and after this many dreams, I am starting to see the link that psychologists make when they speak of dreams and memory. Someone has definitely done their homework on this subject matter.

 

Thanks for reading this short rhetoric piece. Please share this with your friends, it helps a lot; and don’t forget to read the latest edition of the gazette located in the link below.

https://thoughtsandtopics.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/the-mediocre-gazette-8-december-2012/