November 2007 Volume 2 No 2
Violence on Campus How safe are we?
Young Entrepreneurs What Students Can Get out of the System
Game Reviews What we think is hot and whatâ€™s not up to snuff
The Console Showdown
Animals in the Urban Jungle Moralizing animal treatment and pet health
Lethal Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kick combo best used to for combat in the console wars chapter
Wii PS3 Xbox 360 ...the battle continues
Multiculturalism The More the Merrier?
The Oracle magazine has recently emerged at the Erindale campus with unprecedented success and is officially the only student magazine produced at UTM. Our growth has spurred a new mandate for the integration of all aspects of campus life, promoting a space for the interaction of faculty, administration, associations, and campus clubs with students and with each other. The magazine is currently distributed at UTM, U of T St. George and the Sheridan campus with a combined audience of 184,000 students. November 2007
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SPOTLIGHT - TECHNOLOGY Tech Ten
By Munir Yahya
By Munir Yahya
Red-Ray vs. HHD DVVDD BVD? or Déjà Vu All Over Again By Professor Michael Jones Extreme Gaming: What we’re hot about, and what turns our consoles off... By Sid Viswanathan
Console Wars: The Next Generation By Adam Peet
8 Hello Kitty - Goodbye Chili Breadbowl: Multiculturalism at Leicester University By Zainah Alsamman
Mixing Our Greens By Adam Padzik
Ethical Animal Care: Abuse and Apathy By Graeme Laird Facebook and the Privacy Issue By David Esposto
UTM Career Expo: Non-Commerce and Management Majors Doomed? By Farah Khan
Young Entrepreneurs: What Students Can Get Out of The System By Farah Khan A Search for the Cure in the 21st Century: How Bioinformatics is Advancing Cancer Research By Professor Joel Moody
Sophisticated and Savory at Splendido By Dorothy Kosinska
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November 2007 Volume 2
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From the Editor
From the Editor The video game industry has become almost as big as Hollywood. Jessica Alba, move over for Nariko, the alluring female warrior in Heavenly Sword, one of this season’s top women in one of this season’s top games. Increasingly impressive graphics and gameplay no longer only capture the attention of nerdy schoolboys with nothing to do on a Friday night. Developers like Ninja Theory, Naughty Dog, Bioware, and Epic are delivering all that can be expected from next generation platforms, most of which incorporate motion capture footage – a technology that started as a photogrametric analysis tool in biomechanics research during the 1970’s and 80’s – to make the experience of gaming that much closer to life.
VOLUME 2, NUMBER 2
PUBLISHER NORMAN VALDEZ email@example.com EDITOR-IN-CHIEF DOROTHY KOSINSKA firstname.lastname@example.org ASSISTANT EDITORS GRAEME LAIRD NATHAN ODOTEI MANAGING DIRECTOR NADIA JENCIK
Does the HD video format war have you feeling blu? MARKETING/SALES DIRECTOR
Blu-ray is now ﬁghting its own battle for leadership in the high-deﬁnition market. The format you will choose to support will determine which movies will be sitting underneath your Christmas tree this December 25th The high price of these ‘next gen’ players are sure to pull on the purse-string, but at least backward compatability prevents the need to avoid the whole VHSDVD debacle. If you are afraid to invest in HD DVD or bluray and are waiting for a victor of the war be advised that it seems only a few shots have been ﬁred so far and the Gears of War have only started to turn.
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Correspondingly, The Oracle is continuously evolving – most noticeably with the abolishment of sections and a narrowed focus on the stuff that concerns students most. Hopefully we’re doing something right…the fact is you are reading this because you love us or you’re desperately trying to ﬁnd a diversion from studying. The most important thing is that we’re here for you if there’s something you want to get off your back – so send in your praise or damnation. You’re too old to write letters to Santa – write to us instead.
NAVEEN ATWAL ROLLA BAHSOUS SEREEN HINDAWI STAFF WRITERS MUNIR YAHYA FARAH KHAN WEBSITE DAVID HAAPALEHTO
We are constantly looking for new additions to our team. Positions are currently open for photographers, graphics designers, campus representatives, and web editors. Take a gander at www.theoracelmag.ca for more info. In the spirit of multiculturalism, a matter which our writers so avidly discuss in the forthcoming pages, I want to wish everyone a happy Masa’il, Sharaf, Christmas, Eid al-Adha, Maunajiyaras, Chanukah, Tohji-taisai, Death Anniversary of Zarathustra, Kwanzaa, and a happy Festivous to all!
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@ 2007 The Oracle magazine. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher.
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A Night in Cancun
Coco Bongo is one of the most popular night clubs in Cancun, Mexico. It features various Las Vegas-like performances. This spectacle is a re-enactment of a Cirque du Soleil act..
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My mind is currently reminiscing the most enrapturing camcorder that I came across recently. Having a major electronics store in my backyard can be very cost-effective—especially for a university student. Anyway, enough of the suspense; here are the Tech Ten:
1. Mac OS X Leopard: This has been most anticipated operating system. It is elegantly user friendly. No more icon clutter – ‘cover flow’ lets you glide over files, and ‘iChat’ lets you cooperate on tasks like presentations without having to email partially completed files back and forth. With this system one user can take a direct look at what is on another user’s screen and make changes to the applications there through the ‘screen sharing’ feature. Now here’s the cherry on the icing: it will also be compatible with Microsoft Office!
2. Panasonic HDC-SD5 Camcorder: Sleek, dark, and 3CCD. It gives a stunning HD resolution of 1,920 x 1080 in AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) video format that sparkles on a HD flat-screen TV. No DVD’s are required nor hard disk drives because everything is stored in a removable SD memory card that is about twice the size of an artificial nail that ladies put on and take off like Houdini! A 4GB card provides 40 minutes of High Definition video that can easily be transferred to a computer or played on a TV.
3. Olympus Stylus 790 SW Digital Camera: If the Emperor thinks he has new clothes on, don’t tell him he’s naked. Jumping into the pool could save him - but even then you can take shots of him for Vogue with this slim 7 Mega Pixel Digital Camera. It is water-proof up to 10ft underwater, shockproof from up to a 5ft drop, and freeze proof (-10 oC/14 oF). One can always buy underwater housing for other cameras but they tend to be larger. Excellent for the pool or vacations at sunny beaches.
4. Bose Lifestyle V20/V30 Surround Sound Home Theatre System: I was fortunate to get a spot in a seminar about this new generation of home theatres. Apart from Bose quality and elegance, these two versions come with ADAPTiQ® technology that customizes the room’s acoustics to the most optimal sound quality. For example, a big hall with too much glass will produce a lot of echo while a small room with thick rugs and too much furniture will dampen the acoustics. ADAPTiQ® automatically optimizes the quality in just a few minutes.These two systems also upscale DVD movie video quality making it around six times better than what the enhancing converting DVD players are capable of. The Bose remote can also control any device connected to the system!
5. Panasonic Toughbook® Notebooks: Another option to consider if you travel a lot and want durability. It is less that 3 pounds in weight, made of a magnesium alloy, and survived a weight of 100kg on top of it during a live demonstration that I attended. The Toughbook survives shocks, vibrations, drops, and other rough treatment. Water simply drains off the keyboard. It is therefore no surprise that they are used by the military. November 2007
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6. Portable External Hard Drive: They have become very affordable and let you transfer any kind of data between computers. They also help in making file backups for stuff like photos, audio, video, and important documents, especially with the Mac OS X Leopard’s ‘Time Machine’ feature that streamlines the backup process and also restores files in the event that a file goes missing.
7. Digital Photo Frames: These make great gifts while also being able to display photographs of your rich Aunt Hilda when she comes for an inheritance with the rest of the family, sorry…’holiday’, with the rest of the family. Most of them are able to play movies, audio, and some have Wi-Fi capabilities. Slide your camera’s memory card in and store them on the internal memory of the digital photo frame or stick in a USB flash drive.The Kodak and the Westinghouse brands have the best display qualities from what I’ve seen. They are like something out of the Harry Potter universe.
8. Monster Clean Power Distribution: Bought this recently and found that besides surge protection and coming with a $50,000 protection on all connected electronics, its filters get rid of noise from AC power outlets. Worth getting when investing in an HD TV.
9. Pinnacle Studio Ultimate Version 11 Video Editing Software: Excellent video editing software for Windows users that can import and export a wide range of formats such as MPEG 4 and even edit your videos, including both high definition video (HDV) and AVCHD video formats.
10. Harmony remote: One remote to rule them all. Gets rid of that clutter of remotes besides the couch potato. November 2007
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A new game is in the making, and it aims to reduce stress and improve self-esteem. Personally I think nothing beats stress more than a relaxing evening in a steamy whirlpool. However, the judges at The Great Canadian Video Game Competition at Vidfest as well as the makers of a game called MindHabits believe that 10 minutes game-play a day will take the depressants away—for starters. MindHabits is designed for the Nintendo DS and reportedly took in a total of $ 1.5 million in prize packages and money from private financiers to commercialize the product. The game aims to have players eventually lock frustrations away by looking for a friendly face in any environment that they find themselves. The website supports a statement by Dr. Mark Baldwin of McGill University asserting that how we think of ourselves and others is a learned behavior. Therefore, our personal tomes of history shape our individual ideas of self and from that, the cocktail of emotion called self-esteem. Ah! Stressrelieving, feel-good endorphins. According to this research, said to have been done at McGill University, fear of rejection makes one ‘overlook’ positive signals and focus on the negative. This further heightens the sense of insecurity. The game is supposed to work by developing a habit of ‘looking’ for the positive and inspiring aspects of the world. Obviously, no promises are being made by the game designers and they encourage contacting qualified mental health professionals for the treatment of psychological issues. Prof. Stuart Kamenetsky’s opinion, at of the University of Toronto at Mississauga Psychology Department, is that such a very competitive game would create more stress than alleviate it. Nevertheless, MindHabits is inviting everyone to sign up at www.mindhabits.com in order to be among the first to play it when it gets released. It is a great idea, but the only way one can really be certain whether it works is by trying it as soon as it is available on the DS, whose forté, it seems, is to successfully market challenging games like Brain Age.
Red-Ray vs. HHD DVVDD OR DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN Professor Michael Jones Sheridan College The VHS vs. Betamax video recording format wars were resolved in favour of VHS – much to the chagrin of videophiles who preferred Beta’s audiovisual quality, and early adopters of Beta who were left wondering what to do with their now obsolete machines. Fast forward twenty years, and we find a similar battle between two mutually incompatible high definition video options – Toshiba’s HD DVD and Sony’s Blu-Ray. The two formats align large industry players against each other in a battle to control an emerging and potentially lucrative high-definition home video market. And once again, the resolution of this battle will create winners and losers of companies and consumers alike. Format wars are at once technical and economic in nature. There are often significant specification differences among standards that cause technophiles to divide into various, often warring camps. Consider the continued and still contentious battles between Windows, Mac OS X and Linux communities. Even as these three operating systems increasingly become interchangeable (including similar interfaces and open-source software options), strong divisions among their related development communities remain. However, the main forces behind format wars are economic. A company that manages to popularize a standard format stands to gain significantly through direct sales and/or licensing revenue from others who adopt the platform. Moreover, a company that manages to achieve near-monopoly November 2007
format domination may not only dictate the nature of a given market niche, they may leverage that dominance to enter related markets. For example, Microsoft leveraged its dominant operating system market share to displace the Netscape Web browser with Internet Explorer: a browser that at the time was (and some contend, still is) inferior to Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox. The spoils of winning a format war can be very lucrative indeed – which encourages companies to not only establish independent formats but also spend millions to market their own unique solution to what is usually a simple and technically rather easy to problem resolve. While technical experts and economic forces start format wars, the consumer has a strong and often decisive voice in determining the winner. Perhaps counterintuitively, however, early adopters appear to play a limited role in this process. This is partially due to early adopters’ intense interest in obtaining the very newest technologies – even if this quest becomes wholly irrational. This is perhaps best represented in the public service announcement “Go Go Gadget Video” from machinima series Red vs. Blue (http://rvb.roosterteeth. com/archive/episode.php?id=242).
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In the eyes of early adopters, technologies are obsolete the minute they’re commercially available (the next Blu-Ray, for example, is Red-Ray – something that must fill Sarge with pride.) For this demographic, a HD player based on the winning format in 2007 will be hopelessly out of date in four years anyway, as newer models will sport a myriad of bells and whistles integrated to engineer feelings of inadequacy and obsolescence in the early adopter market. Should early adopters mistakenly choose the losing format, this simply accelerates the cycle of obsolescence. The specialized nature of some early adopter groups creates different dynamics as well. For example, educators and creative folk were early adopters of the Macintosh platform. Beta users were much the same – but in both cases, their arguments regarding the innate superiority of their platform fell on deaf ears in the mass market. Like the VHS/Beta or PC/Mac format wars, Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD might end up decided by average users vs. the technical elite – and for similar reasons. Capacity was one of the driving factors in resolving the VHS/Betamax war. The adoption of long and super-long recording speed by VHS manufacturers allowed consumers to cram 4 or
8 hours of video on a single VHS tape – of course, compromising already poorer video quality in the process. However, let’s be honest – if all you’re using your VCR for is to timeshift this week’s episodes of ALF or Facts of Life, quality is probably not your first priority. When it comes to recording the world of TV, quantity trumps quality if only because there’s precious little quality out there – then or now. In the case of Blu-Ray and HD DVD, media size and HD video quality are identical – making this particular format war more arbitrary than others. However, the smaller track width of Blu-Ray allows for considerably more data storage in both single, dual and theoretical cases (see http:// www.engadget.com/2005/09/19/bluray-vs-hd-dvd-state-of-the-s-union-sdivision/ for specifications.) Given that the eventual HD standard will also become the standard for distributing games (Blu-Ray is already standard on PS3) and backing
PHOTO BY FLICKR [salendron]
up computer data, it’s entirely possible that gaming and computer users – not videophiles – might swing the decision in favour of Blu-Ray. HD DVD proponents, however, can take solace from Pvt. Church’s
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report from the future: we’ll be playing our MP3’s on our HHD DVVDD BVD players – except in the future, they’re MP48s. Let’s hope the players are backward-compatible.
extreme gaming What we’re hot about, and what turns our consoles off... Sid Viswanathan
Hot Stuff Halo 3 - XBOX 360
Halo 3 is the third installment of the highly successful Halo series. To be honest, after hearing all the hype surrounding this game, I was actually prepared to be sorely disappointed. However, I was pleasantly surprised! The game plays extremely well, including all the features that made the original Halo a mammoth success. It is improved with new innovations such as a host of weapons and items, each with their own capabilities. Combat has always been the backbone of the Halo series, and in this respect fans of the game will be glad to know that the game has not changed too much; it still balances the combat rather well between guns, grenades, and the occasional melee attack. Though most of the combat takes place on foot, the classic Halo vehicles such as the “Ghost” and “Warthog” are available alongside a few new additions such as the “Brute Prowler.”The campaign provides the gamer with a very polished gaming experience and a storyline that continues where Halo 2 left off, creating seamless continuity in the epic saga. The campaign gives about 10 – 15 hours of gameplay depending on the difficulty level, and includes several in-game cut scenes that add to the ambiance of the environment. The music and character voices are employed well, and the in-game dialogue fulfils it’s purpose; gradually adding to the overall storyline of the game. The campaign has fairly good replay value, including a co-op mode that allows gamers to play with up to 4 friends (2 more than previous Halo games) adding entertainment value to the game long after the campaign has been completed. Multiplayer options allow gamers to play up to 16 characters on 11 different maps. There are various types of multiplayer matches including slayer, or capture the flag, and each contains the depth that has become synonymous with the Halo name. The multiplayer section of the game should provide fans with countless hours of gratification well after they have completed the campaign, making Halo a game that truly delivers value for money!
Lair – PS3
Lair adds plenty of originality to the spectrum of games already featured on the PS3. Lair plays as an action game that takes to the skies. Gamers start off as Rohn, a dragon rider in the Asylian army, skirmishing against the evil Mokai.The storyline of the game is terrific and is narrated superbly through the cut-scenes which look spectacular. Cut-scenes in this game are particularly important because they provide the gamer with the culture and story of the major characters - this is accomplished with incredible success. However, one of the flaws is that the game designers may have been over-zealous with their use of these cut-scenes. Many of the interruptions occur frequently and within minutes of each other, infuriating the gamer to no end. Although Lair is played in a fantastical realm, aerodynamics are implemented as realistically as possible. This is another November 2007
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major success, and the finished product is absolutely stellar. Upon first gaze of Rohn and his dragon in action, one cannot help but be enthralled at the sheer lifelikeness of the animation. However, be warned, as this is where the game reaches it’s peak. Fundamental facets of the game such as moving around or destroying your targets become incredibly awkward in Lair because it employs difficult to manipulate motion-sensory controls that leave the gamer reeling at the mercy of the game. An added drawback of the demanding flight system, is that many of the levels are designed with tight turns, narrow canyons, and countless enemies, making aerial maneuvers an extremely elaborate task. Though this is a major issue, as the player gets used to the controls and the quirks of the game, this can eventually be resolved (to an extent), and when it is, the gamer can finally appreciate the total gameplay of Lair. If you are impatient, I suggest you do your best to stay away from this game, as it will do nothing more than exasperate you. But, if you are willing to invest time into it, this game provides good gameplay accompanied by a captivating storyline rendered with all the thrill of a cinematic experience.
Heavenly Sword – PS3
Ever since it was first released, Heavenly Sword has been compared to “God of War,” and with excellent reason. Both games are pioneers in the genre of “hack and slash beat ‘em up” games, however don’t let this lead you to believe that both games are the same. Heavenly Sword features outstanding production values complemented with a thorough storyline and most importantly, tremendous gameplay. The story of Heavenly Sword revolves around Nariko, a young woman believed to be the one to fulfill her people’s prophecy involving the Heavenly Sword, an immensely powerful weapon that she hands. Most of the gameplay centers around adept, where the gamer kills thouthree attack styles: ranged,
must prevent from falling into the wrong melee brawls, at which Nariko is especially sands of enemies in close combat. There are speed attacks, and power stances that combine together efficiently to obliterate enemies. Gamers will have to exploit different attack styles for different enemies and will have to learn their various weak spots ensure the most proficient kill. The controls of Heavenly Sword are straightforward and players will quickly find themselves performing insane looking combos with ease! Through using combos experience is built, and eventually new, more powerful, and impressive combos become available, ensuring that the gamer is constantly kept on their toes. The game’s design is to overwhelm the player with drones of weak, to moderately difficult enemy combatants, rather than one or two extremely challenging adversaries. Apart from Nariko, the gamer occasionally gets to play with Kai - an expert in range warfare. Heavenly Sword innovates Kai’s gameplay with the concoction of “object perspective,” where players get to control the arrow from a 3rd person perspective and lead it straight into the enemy’s weak spot (usually the head) for a very satisfying and sometimes - depending on where you fly the arrow – hilarious kill. Though the game’s combat is easy to learn, don’t let this fool you; it’s not mere button mashing. There are times of the game where thousands of adversaries are on screen at once, and despite the ease of killing an individual enemy, killing thousands of them undoubtedly requires reasonable gaming skill. Heavenly Sword is a wonderfully intense game that really draws the gamer into it’s ornate fantasy world.The attacks and movement around the gaming environment is animated magnificently. The only qualm I have with the game is that it’s just too short. The game lasts no more than 7 hours, and even with the flawless gameplay, following completion of the game gamers are likely to wonder whether they received value for money. I suggest renting the game first, and if you decide you must own it, only then proceed with the purchase. I highly recommend this game to those that like explosive and intense gaming. Just don’t expect the game to quench your blood lust for too long.
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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption - Wii
The final chapter of the epic Metroid Prime trilogy, this game has been highly awaited by fans the world over. The game certainly doesn’t fall short of the high standards it set with it’s predecessors Metroid Prime’s 1 and 2, and it provides the gamer with a high quality finish to the series. Not surprisingly, the game plays well on the Wii, and utilizes the amazingly intuitive controls that made the Wii famous. To fans of the series, the ability to control bounty hunter Samus Aran is likely a dream come true. The game plays as a relatively straightforward first person shooter, allowing new gamers as well as older, more experienced gamers, to engage in the action. Five years have elapsed since the original Metroid was released, an eternity in gaming development, and along with this are advantages and disadvantages. The advantages include a higher level of integration between the gamer and the game through the ability to physically control the bounty hunter Samus Aran, rather than navigating him by merely pressing buttons. Disadvantages include the faults that the storyline has become somewhat predictable and the gameplay has become stagnantly familiar. Gamers may also be interested to know that while the original Metroid Prime played as more of an adventure, this latest installment is probably better classified as a first person shooter. However, the game bridges this transition superbly and is without a doubt a highly entertaining and successful “shoot ‘em up.” Awesome graphics as well as sound (especially at the battle sequences) deliver an audio-visual experience that is out of this world. Fans will be glad to note that the campaign lasts about 20 hours, and features all the weapons and a few new enhancements that make the game highly addictive with great replay value. It also showcases expansive environments, highly challenging boss battles, and intense combat. Though Metroid Prime 3 doesn’t stray far from the original Metroid Prime games, chances are that gamers who have played and loved the original games will want to get their hands on this one to finally get a sense of closure to the game. I highly recommend this game to anyone who played the original 2 and would like the completion of the trilogy under their belt. I also recommend it to those interested in first person shooters, looking for a novel gaming experience.
FIFA Soccer ‘08 – XBOX 360
No game review would be complete without at least one review of a sports game. And what would be more fitting than to review a game of the most widely played sport in the world: Soccer.Though many people are familiar with the work of the FIFA game series, they may mistakenly believe that the games are not changing all that much from one year to the next. To all those that hold this view: FIFA Soccer ’08 may reaffirm your faith in sports games. The game designers at EA sports clearly were given a license to take creative liberties with this game and the end result is a substantially different and much more realistic portrayal of the glorious sport. The distinction between this game and other FIFA games is in the increased difficulty level of the game, requiring the gamer to November 2007
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constantly strategize new moves to blow past the opposition. This newfound difficulty stems primarily from the slowed pace of the game, making for a far more accurate soccer game. In the past, FIFA games have exploited a far more explosive and exaggeratedly fast style of gameplay targeted at people who like to receive their entertainment value quickly, making for an intense but highly inaccurate game. In contrast, FIFA Soccer ’08 requires the gamer to have patience and perseverance. However, when the goal (pun intended) is finally achieved, the gamer is filled with a sense of triumph and achievement, making for a far truer representation of the sport in real life. FIFA soccer ’08 meets and exceeds the standards that EA sports has set for their games, with superb presentation and excellent attention to detail. FIFA Soccer ’08 also experiments with a new “over-the-shoulder” perspective, allowing you to actually place yourself in the position of your favorite soccer star. This perspective also allows the gamer to exploit the trick system, where s/he can perform a variety of moves to confuse the opposition. Unlike it’s predecessors, moves such as crossovers, flicks, and step-overs have the power to actually rage past the opposition when executed properly, as opposed to past games where these moves merely looked good, but didn’t serve a practical purpose. FIFA Soccer ’08 offers several game modes, which should provide entertainment long after the initial novelty of the game has worn off. One impressive aspect of the game is the sheer intelligence of the AI. For example, when playing with a star such as Ronaldinho, players will experience a noticeable difference in control of the ball and shooting capabilities, making for an unmatched and extremely unique gaming experience. I highly recommend this game to anyone who has been searching for that one soccer game to last them a long time before their next game purchase. I also strongly recommend this game to any soccer fan that wants to feel the true soccer experience and not just the fast-paced arcade style gameplay simulated by other games.
Not worth it
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – Wii
Video games that follow movies (or in this case a comic book) usually have their work cut out for them. To be perfectly blunt, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is an absolutely pathetic attempt at gaining a gamer fan-base for a successful comic book/movie. If the designers keep it up, not only will they fail to attract new fans, but they may also damage the credibility of the movie/comic book enough to ward off existing fans. One would expect that a video game following a movie would hold the same (or at least fairly similar) storyline, but apparently this was too much to expect. In place of the cinematic storyline, the game devises a narrative so dreadful that it makes Paris Hilton’s autobiography look like the next Harry Potter. As if the actual story wasn’t bad enough, the way in which it is narrated is particularly terrible.There are cut-scenes prior to each level, and during the level itself, the plot is released through choppy text boxes accompanied with talking heads that take animation back 10 years and make it extremely difficult for the gamer to understand what is going on.The game affords gamers the opportunity to play as all four characters in a variety of different locations. However, this is sullied by the fact that the mission objectives get tedious and more repetitive than a song by Justin Timberlake on the radio. The monotony of the levels would be comical if people weren’t being charged money to own this piffle. The game makes little use of the characters superpowers (the “thing’s” superhuman strength is of little use, and invisible woman is completely useless HOW?. Also, the game’s design is such that it is entirely possible to beat the entire game using nothing more than the basic punch attack. With the exception of boss battles, players can literally set the controller down, leave the room, and allow the remaining 3 CPU controlled characters to do all the work while they spend their time more productively researching the next game purchase more carefully. If ever you want to get revenge on someone and your brain is at a loss for ideas, get them to play co-op mode with you. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is an utter failure on all counts, which is a shame considering the game had such potential.
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam – PS3
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam is a blend of two games: Koei’s dynasty warriors “beat-em-up” series and Gundam, a longrunning anime action series. Though these games individually were well received among audiences in Japan and China, they slowly lost their appeal but, somehow still managed to garner enough positive feedback to inflict themselves on North America. Now that Dynasty Warriors: Gundam has hit North America, it presents the chance for a whole new audience to experience it’s wilted storyline (and “action” gameplay) and in the process, find itself bored to tears. Though the game designers would like to believe that the game involves aspects of Dynasty Warriors and Gundam equally, the truth is that it tilts far towards the hardcore Gundam fan. The game expects players to already be accustomed with the characters of Gundam and be well versed in the storylines of the anime leading up to the game. The game requires mere button mashing against hordes of ineffective adversaries with, perhaps, the rare special attack thrown in. The misNovember 2007
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sion objectives are about as helpful as a calculator on an English test, rarely extending beyond the span of commanding to annihilate everything in the immediate area. Whilst the combat is a bit flashy, this is overshadowed by the fact that the game environment and the characters themselves are poorly detailed and animated. The game has little replay value and can be a daunting prospect for new players not familiar with the in-depth plot of the Gundam series. On a personal note to the game designers: “Dynasty Warriors: Gundam” - really? That’s the best title you could come up with for your game? I mean I realize you’re programmers, but this is the most unimaginative title for a video game since “Kill Zone.”
Hour of Victory – XBOX 360
Hour of Victory is actually an apt name for this game, because after an hour of playing it, you just want to self-inflict a very timely amnesia upon yourself and thus feel victorious for never having wasted your time or hard-earned money on this game. With the success of games such as “Call of Duty” and “Medal of Honor”, it seems that the demand for World War II games knows no bounds. However, even die-hard fans of these games admit that “Hour of Victory” is about as fun as a baked potato. The game plays like a severely scratched DVD, with frame rates so low, you would think it was a piece of stop-go animation. Furthermore, the game introduces a reality where tanks have the ability to burrow through the ground, vanish into thin air, and then re-appear just as quickly. As if this wasn’t enough, even on-foot the game suffers from a lack of realism - clubbing someone in the back is often more lethal than, say, shooting them in the face with a rifle (something Dick Cheney is all too familiar with). The game’s philosophy seems to be, “Why waste clips of virtual bullets when you can just melee attack enemies?” Moreover, there are also times when the game has decided it’s had enough of it’s own mediocrity and just stops working, leaving the gamer staring anxiously at the TV until the video game chooses to be less temperamental. I would love to comment on the storyline of the game, but unfortunately I have yet to find one. Campaigns (if you can call them that) skip from one part of the war to the next and though the game’s advertising revolves around the ability to fight the famous battles of World War II, finding even a single memorable or historically accurate battle is harder than trying to kill an enemy by shooting them. The game tries to include something entertaining for everyone by allowing players the ability to choose among three different troops: a sniper, a stealthy spy, and a commando. Though each character has a few unique special abilities, such as being able to hide in the shadows or make use of grappling hooks, these abilities are rarely brought into play and suffer at the hands of the game’s many glitches. Though I have already really flayed this game, I must say that the most disappointing aspect is the AI that just makes the game feel empty and barren. On countless occasions, enemies will completely ignore your presence, or at most fire a shot or two in your direction and then just stand completely still waiting for you to kill them. Because of this, the game becomes ridiculously easy and can be finished in a few unsatisfying hours. The most important thing that the game fails to deliver is fun - the game is simply not entertaining. The very fact that this game made it into production is remarkable, and makes me seriously question the state of mind of the game developers at the time.
NBA ’07 – PS3
Released for both the PS3 and PS2, this game surprisingly plays better on the latter. Fans of the NBA game series will be disappointed to hear that the PS3 version of NBA ’07 lacks some of the features contained in the PS2 version, but still has all the flaws of it’s PS2 counterpart as well as some new ones. NBA ’07 for the PS2 successfully experimented with a story mode that followed the life of a rookie NBA player, making an otherwise unexceptional game rather enjoyable. Unfortunately for fans, the brains that designed this game didn’t deem the “life story mode” worth including into the PS3 version, and the game obviously suffers because of it. The game’s season mode is more shallow than Pam Anderson, encompassing only the 2006-07 NBA season, with no possible multiyear franchise option. NBA ’07 does have a few minigames that are enjoyable for a short while, testing your dribbling, shooting, and passing skills.The one glaring oversight was November 2007
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the failure to include a test of dunking ability. In an NBA game this is a pretty big facet to overlook, the equivalent would be if FIFA failed to include the free kick into their games (which thankfully they don’t). The game features a replay mode that invites gamers to pass challenges under time constraints, such as scoring 8 points with Kobe Bryant in 3 minutes - the caveat being that none of these points should come from 3 pointers. In small doses, the replay mode is enjoyable, but a lack of variety and boring objectives quickly transform the replay mode from an entertaining experience to more of a nuisance. The game has several bugs that make the game look far less impressive that it could. Players often dunk right through the backboard, they can routinely step out of bounds without being called on it, and are often whistled for fouls they never committed. The most frequent bug is the ability of the ball to go right through solid objects such as other players, when it is passed, and just magically appear in the hands of the receiver. The player models are about as realistic as Michael Jackson’s nose, amounting for an aesthetically mediocre sight. During the replay, players faces contain plenty of detail, however in actual gameplay the players look like clones. The omission of commentary is unforgivable, and makes the game feel stale and barren at times. In fact, the only voice heard is a PA announcer who calls out baskets, assists, and steals. The subdued crowd doesn’t really help much either, and it seems as though they are as bored watching the game as you are playing it. In summation, NBA ’07 is a stripped down version of a Playstation 2 game that wasn’t spectacular to begin with. The game is likely to leave NBA fans feeling bored and frustrated at the game’s lack of detail. Perhaps it might be in their best interests to simply avoid this game altogether.
CSI: Hard Evidence – XBOX 360
Unfortunately, CSI: Hard Evidence plays more like a cheesy murder mystery than a realistic crime game. The game manages to keep egging players on, pushing them toward their next goal. Its designers obviously feel that the vast majority of consumers/gamers are absolute morons. The game doesn’t set itself up like the high suspense investigations we are accustomed to seeing on CSI. Instead, it proposes a mundane series of objectives and events that eventually lead to thoroughly unsatisfying, and in some cases predictable, conclusions. With no threat of failure, and barely any challenges, the gamer is free to do what they want until finally they accomplish the objectives and solve the case. The game offers five equally easy cases, leaving the gamer to merely push buttons to gradually advance the storyline and progress in the game. CSI: Hard Evidence is the fourth game in the CSI series, and it doesn’t stray one bit from any of it’s predecessors. Gamers can sometimes even figure out the culprit long before the end of each challenge and spend the rest of the time mindlessly gathering evidence which proves their predictions to be right. If only real police work were that easy! The game features several voice actors, many of whom appear in the CSI TV show. Unfortunately, for reasons I can’t understand, these actors fail to successfully play the roles they assume on TV. I’m not sure why they found it so difficult to convincingly sound like their characters. While the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, the graphics are an even bigger source of strife. All the characters appear slightly deformed and the facial animation is quite poor. The lip-syncing during cut scenes is the most appalling I’ve seen since Ashlee Simpson’s Saturday Night Live fiasco - it doesn’t even come close to matching the dialogue. One last additional qualm I have with the game is it’s constant product placement. Basic ads are one thing, but when you can’t go two seconds in the game without an ad being shoved down your throat, it really reflects badly on the game. At one point, the writers actually insert a VISA ad into the dialogue! Games should not be a medium for extensive product placement - it just interferes with the gameplay. This is supposed to be a game for the XBOX 360, but once you play it, it feels like an extended advertisement masquerading as a video game. CSI: Hard Evidence doesn’t really offer anything new in terms of gameplay when compared with it’s predecessors. All it offers are five brand new cases which you can solve in the same way you did in the previous games. The game seems to be relying on the loyalty of their TV based fans to make this one a success, but it doesn’t seem to be working; apparently gamers are more discerning than game developers would like, which is a good thing because it will hopefully keep developers from underestimating their opponents: disappointed gamers. November 2007
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GRAPHIC BY FeLICIA MInGS
Console Wars: The Next Generation
Christmas 2007 is swiftly approaching, and the 30 billion dollar a year video game industry is in the midst of their latest console war. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have all released their 5th generation console within the last 2 years. Now that the big three are carving out a piece of the market, it is interesting to see which company will come out on top. I’m sure that if you’re interested in buying Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Sony’s Playstation 3, or Nintendo’s Wii you are aware of what the specs are. Mind you, a comparative review wouldn’t be a review without including them, so look out for them at the end of the article. Where to begin? I’m really not sure, but I guess as all things go in today’s age we’ll start with how much each costs. With all the systems over $250, I have to admit that no matter the budget, these consoles are more than just fun investments. Let’s start with Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Considering that this system was released a year prior to its competition, it has had a year to position itself as the schoolyard bully. Microsoft’s sale of Xbox 360 as of June 2007, tipped 11.6 million units since its release. Partnered with consumer admiration of the console the Xbox 360 has enjoyed being at the top of the market. At $399.99 for a standard Xbox 360 premium or 499.99 for the new Xbox 360 elite, the console is competitively priced with earlier console releases. I’ve been lucky enough to gain possession of my buddy’s 360 in a temporary trade for an amplifier I had laying around. What a deal! The day it came to my place was a jubilant one. I turned it on and placed the latest NHL by Electronic Arts in the disc tray. The Xbox 360 comes standard with component hook ups in order to enjoy any game in the glory of high definition. Let me tell you, this console is a far cry from the good old Sega Genesis days.The frame rate is incredible, graphics are simply stunning, and its options are many. The dashboard feature of this system is easy to use and makes accessing Xbox Live a breeze. If you purchase a 360 premium you get unlimited access to Xbox Live Silver. Mind you, if you want all the features you’ll have to pay a premium. I’d never leave my house if my buddy owned Xbox 360 Elite. With its increased compatibility with home networks, anyone can use this version of the 360 as a media centre; plays any movie and audio file that may be sitting on your computer hard drive. This would create a time-wasting monster, and I’m sure my girlfriend is appreciative that it isn’t a 360 Elite sitting in front of me. This brings us to Nintendo’s brainchild, the Wii. When I first saw the earliest demos for the Wii, I knew I had to have one. Getting one would prove to be a problem though. It was released in November of 2006, with tremendous fanfare. I unfortunately was unable to get one until March of this year. Five months of staring at the Wii through the windows of EB games drove me crazy. But my wait was not in vain. With a price tag of $289.99, the Nintendo Wii comes in as the cheapest of the new consoles, and just because it’s the cheapest doesn’t mean it’s lacking. Since its release Nintendo has been steadily creeping up on Microsoft’s hold over the largest amount of units sold to date. The Nintendo Wii has sold 11.2 million units as of June 2007, and reportedly has now taken the lead away from the Xbox 360. Unlike the 360 or the Playstation 3, the Wii doesn’t rely on raw processing power in order to wow potential buyers. What Nintendo has done, is introduce a new way of playing video games. No longer is it just the thumbs that get a workout. If you pick up a Wii remote, your whole arm is in for a workout. It’s the game-play that draws people to the Wii, and possibly the fact that one of the most popular Wii games comes with the console. Wii Sports, is an abbreviated version of five popular sports. Tennis, Baseball, Bowling, Golf, and Boxing, and will provide the gamer with endless fun. The Wii isn’t just about games. With built in WiFi, the Wii can access the internet wherever wireless internet is available. This connection will enable Wii users to use the gamit of optional channels which are free to download directly from Nintendo. Furthermore, for a small price, Wii users are able to download hundreds of older titles from Nintendo’s game archive. These downloadable games range from NES all the way to N64, and in the process stir up nostalgic feelings, and moments of screaming at the TV when go through your last life in Mega Man 6. Last but certainly not least, is Playstation 3. This behemoth clad in black, cranks out what some say are the best graphics and frame rates in the business. I have to say though, this pinnacle comes at a cost. Since it took me a week to find a PS3 to rent, I guess one would say it is very popular. Its popularity though, is not a reflection of its overall sales. The PS3 has had difficulty reaching the sales attained by both the 360 and the Wii. This can be attributed to its release price. When first released, the PS3 was listed at $699.99. In the early stages of its life, this price drove many prospective console buyers to join
the quest to buy a Nintendo Wii. However, with sales not improving in the following months, Sony took it upon themselves to drop the price of the console to its current level at $449.99. At this price PS3 is an absolute steal. I feel for those of you that forked over the money for the original price tag. Not unlike the 360 and Wii, the PS3 entered onto the market with a limited amount of game titles for consumers to choose from. But just as the other two consoles, PS3 titles have been steadily released over the past year. Heavenly Sword and Ninja Gaiden Sigma are currently heading the charge of titles that Sony Hopes will bring the PS3 to the top of the heap. Not only does the PS3 offer some of the smoothest graphics on the market, but for those of you who are dying to buy a Blu-Ray disc player, look no further than the PS3. A chunk of the cost for the PS3 is wrapped up in the included Blu-Ray player. Playstation Network makes its début on the back of the PS3, as Sony makes another attempt to compete with Xbox Live. Not only is online gaming available, but like the Wii, Sony is offering downloadable games from their network.
Here are some specs for all you techies out there: Feature
Xbox 360 Core
Xbox 360 Wii Premium
3.2GHz PPC “Xenon” (3 Core)
Playstation 3 Basic
Playstation 3 Premium
3.2GHz PPC Cell (7 Active, 1 Redundant)
512MB (XDR & GDDR3)
25.6GB/s (XDR), 22.4GB/s (GDDR3)
6x Read (No Video DVD*)
HD-DVD Optional (Q4)
2x Blu-ray Disc
Xbox 360 DL DVD
GameCube Disc, Wii Optical Disc
Playstation 3 BD, Playstation 2 DVD, Playstation CD
20GB HDD Optional
Memory Card - 64MB
SD, USB Storage, GameCube Memory Card
Memory Stick, Compact Flash, & SD/MMC
Optional via USB Adapter
Wired Controller Ports
4x via USB
4x via USB mini-B
Wireless Controller 4x Support
Controller Motion Sensing
3-Axis Rotation, 3-Axis Position (Full Motion)
3-Axis Rotation, 3-Axis Acceleration
Composite, S-Video, Component, VGA
Composite, S-Video, Component, SCART, VGA
Maximum Video Resolution
Dolby Digital, DTS
Dolby Pro Logic II
Dolby Digital, DTS
17 The Oracle magazine
All Basic Outputs + HDMI
Hello Kitty - Goodbye Chili Breadbowl: Multiculturalism at Leicester University
Divya and I held our glasses of wine in Fraser Noble Hall at the University of Leicester’s postgraduate opening reception and joined the Vice Chancellor as he toasted us, wishing all the postgraduate students in the room a successful upcoming year. As we all raised our glasses, the Vice Chancellor quoted good ol’ Marshall McLuhan: “this very room is truly…a global village.” I raised my glass and adhered to the rest of the script-I smiled and nodded to prove to the world that I picked up on his intertextuality and CCT101 reference, and then joined the rest of the audience in a round of applause and a clink of the glass. I don’t mean to be the skeptical one of the group, but I found the Vice Chancellor’s McLuhan reference unsettling
PHOTO BY FLICKR [pyramis] The Queen’s Building, De Montfort University, Leicester
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(and no, it wasn’t the lasagna I ate for dinner). It was obvious what he was referring to when he called the room a global village. The University of Leicester prides itself on being an “international centre of learning with a worldwide reputation…where citizens of over eighty countries are represented on campus and more than 1500 students from outside the United Kingdom are studying the full range of subjects and degree courses available.” The very hall I stood in was filled with Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Jamaicans, Indians, Germans, and French; a beautifully diverse and “global” room. As the Vice Chancellor walked off stage and invited the room to mingle and have some wine I glanced around the “globalized room” and realized that although it was indeed global, the village part wasn’t so clear. A village is a self-contained community.There was nothing communal about this event. Divya and I were so excited about this reception to finally meet some postgraduate international students with whom we could share experiences, learn from, and possibly form friendships with. Armed with our witty and extroverted personalities, Divya and I ran out into the global battlefield, hoping to leave with some drinking buddies at the very least. The Chinese students huddled in a [very large] circle, making sure not another soul infiltrated their un-permeable border made of bodies that laughed and chatted away in Mandarin. The Nigerian alliance to our right quickly closed off their base after the toast and continued their discussion in what I assumed to be Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba (thanks Wikipedia). The Pakistani and Bengali Muslims, standing as far away from the bar as possible, quickly congregated and rushed off to break their fasts as the sun dipped below the horizon, while Divya and I stood, alone,
in the centre of the global village. Diversity is a neat little thing isn’t it? Institutions pride themselves on having “equal opportunity employment” and “promote diversity in the workplace.” Is diversity really what we all want? Or is it more of a means to an end of familiarity? Diversity does not actually promote acceptance and tolerance, but rather, is a way to access the familiarity we long for when uprooted. Promoting diversity in universities soon leads to a wave of students from Hong Kong taking over the communal kitchen, floods of students from Dubai renting out 6 flats in a row to accommodate for their high school community from Sharjah and all the “Singhs” getting together on Thursdays to cook channa masala.The city of Leicester prides itself on being the most culturally diverse community in the United Kingdom, but that’s not entirely true. The most culturally divided… perhaps. The word ‘diversity’ is glorified and has come to symbolize an ide-
19 The Oracle magazine
alized notion. I could easily use the words ideal and unattainable interchangeably. Cultural diversity often results in the formation of alliances and co-dependence on those that are like you, thus, a lack of variety and more similarity. In this global village we live in, diversity, although it seems like our friend, is really one of our enemies. The global village simply causes the Divyas and Zainahs to be social outcasts because they fail to speak Japanese, Hindi or Polish and don’t know what the difference between Cantonese and Mandarin is (unless it’s through Russell Peters). It’s appalling! It’s upsetting! It just makes my blood boil and the tiny veins in my forehead protrude! After the social outing from hell, Divya and I stormed out of the “global” hall and stomped our way home. We called our friends Dan (from Toronto) and Karim (from Ottawa) and got together for drinks with Tina (from Mississauga) and ranted about how much we hated cultural groups that always stuck together and never let foreigners into their world. Divya, Karim, Dan, Tina and I sat around and talked about Tim Horton’s, the time when Divya’s car was buried under 20 feet of snow, and the Great Canadian Bagel. For the first time, none of us were interrupted with questions like “Could you explain what a chili bowl is?” “Why do you say EH after every question?” and the icing on the cake: “Are you from America?” One of our Brit friends called just then. I declined the call.
Mixing Our Greens
The continual struggles of forming and maintaining a multi-ethnic society
Our wonderful mixed salad! So fresh, wonderfully diverse, and most importantly, so much better than that other ethnoculinary experiment down south - the melting pot. Some would gloat that we have truly engineered a marvel of a republic with no problems relating to cultural differences; exemplary to other countries in how people from various races, religions, and cultures can co-exist peacefully harmoniously. However, while Canada is surely a leader on the world stage with regards to progressing peace and tolerance amongst diverse peoples, seven years into the 21st century we are still trying to get a handle on many aspects of a multi-ethnic society. Matters relating to the issues described above find their way to the forefront of our social consciousness on a regular basis in Canada. Ontario and Québec residents know this all too well as they have recently been bombarded by stories and opinions that arose when government officials asked the public to formally discuss matters of religion, ethnicity, and race. In Ontario, October tenth’s provincial election marked the end of a month long campaign in which the Progressive Conservative Party’s proposal to extend public funding to religious schools outside the public and Catholic systems became a central polarizing issue. Ontario’s neighbours, the Québécois, have recently followed the exploits of a government-sponsored commission on “reasonable accommodation” (formally the “Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences”). The commission is making its way through the province, stopping in seventeen towns and cities to ask the people their opinion on how the province should approach matters of integration and diversity. In both cases, the debates have brought about opinions and vocal arguments on various sides of the issues, and have again underlined the fact that our ideas of a multi-cultural society are as diverse as we are. There are many examples of struggles with various aspects of our mixed-salad society such as stories which pop up now and then, spurred on by the media which loves contentious issues because they help sell newspapers and assemble audiences for the five o’clock news. Examples include issues of veiled Muslim women and voting along with any other culture clash du jour. Finally, who can forget reoccurring issues such as those which surface every year around the ‘holiday season’? The question begging to be asked is – will we ever come to an agreement with our fellow Canadians and see eye to eye on these touchy issues? It is my belief that we may be able to do just that, but it will take a lot of maturation, government involvement, and common sense. First: the maturation process. This step must occur not only amongst Canadians, who must accept new cultures and peoples into their mix, but also amongst immigrants and within ethnic communities. Both sides must come to terms with the fact that they are living in this country together, and only through cooperation and solidarity can they hope to raise the quality of life for everyone. Canadians must mature to the fact that immigration is a driving force of the Canadian economy, particularly in places like Québec where the birth rate is currently insufficient to replace the present working population. Immigrants on the other hand, must mature to the fact that they have chosen to come and live here and as much as the country allows them to remain their vegetable of choice within this salad, they cannot remain ignorant and hostile to other Canadians and Canadian culture as this will only impact negatively on the cohesiveness and quality of the whole dish. But people cannot be left to prepare the salad alone; the chief cook aka ‘The Man’ must be involved as well. Mind you, the government has been involved in creating and maintaining our multicultural society since its inception. But, as the general theme of my exploration points out, there is much more to be done, and so the government must look for new and improved ways of dealing with said issues. Common sense should guide all decisions implemented by the powers that be – one has to wonder whether certain inevitable consequences of creating a commission to ask the public November 2007
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PHOTO BY FLICKR [sevstian]
what they think about a hot button issue such as cultural accommodation were considered. No one should be surprised when bigots take the stage and inform of us of what they think the government should do about those pesky immigrants with their queer ways! The government should follow the principles of human rights and overall fairness in creating laws which will help our society thrive and allow foreigners to integrate properly. At the same time, it should ensure that the other extreme is not adopted where accommodation is pursued at any cost, or for the sake of political correctness alone. For example, during the recent debate over whether or not veiled women should be required to remove their headgear when voting in order to be identified, many Muslim groups pointed out that they never asked for any special treatment regarding the matter to begin with. It boils down to common sense. I recently sat down with Amine Jubaili, a Muslim-Canadian friend of mine who was born and raised on the island of Montréal amongst the culture and traditions of his family’s original homeland of Lebanon, but at the same time as a Canadian in Canadian society. Amine told me he is baffled at times by the debates that rage on in Québec and other provinces. “It’s strange, but it seems a majority of the immigrant population is very surprised when these issues are raised. They are wondering what’s going on because they aren’t asking for these things.” Echoing the sentiments of many religious groups, he expressed that the push for accommodation and what some may see as ‘fairness,’ in a lot of cases may be coming from a few vocal individuals or possibly from overzealous politicians who want to be seen as righteous. Amine also told me he does not understand why Canadian society is so ready to eradicate or dilute its own traditions for the sake of other cultures. “I think it’s disgraceful,” he says “that people are afraid to say the word ‘Christmas’ for example. I think it makes immigrants look intolerant, as if it is them who want to see things like that abolished because they don’t participate in it.” As we continued chatting, we again pondered over the extent to which the debates on these matters were spurred on by fringe elements. It seemed to us, the resulting polemic often lead to unnecessary polarization between people who would otherwise coexist peacefully. often lead to unnecessary polarization between people who would otherwise coexist peacefully. While speaking with my friend was by no means a scientific poll, the conversation interestingly resembled the outlook of many people from ethnic communities that I have met, especially those who are first generation Canadians. It is easy to analyze the situation and ponder the forces behind it, but a nobler challenge is to figure out what to do about it. Hence, as we go forward and shape the world of tomorrow, we must ask ourselves how these matters will play out and what path is best to follow. A good place to start, it seems, is a rational check of the current situation; the recognition that Canada is very advanced in the area of human rights and multiculturalism despite the issues which remain. Those who may question this, need only to Google the latest news from Burma or Iraq to put things in perspective. Subsequently, it would be beneficial to reiterate all that makes Canada and Canadian culture special, and to find ways to celebrate these characteristics while keeping in mind that it is relatively young country and many culturallydefining attributes take time to develop. Finally it is important to keep in mind that most of us, regardless of nationality or creed, likely regard stability and a high standard of living as high priorities in our lives. As such, cooperation is in everyone’s interest. Having said that, it appears we all have to smarten up and do our part if this salad of ours is to remain fresh, vibrant, and most important of all – functional.
21 The Oracle magazine
Ethical Animal Care: Abuse and Apathy Graeme Laird Animals were domesticated by 4000 BCE, yet the thinking applied to the issue of ethical animal care has scarcely left the dark-ages. What I am not speaking of is the ethical treatment of economically oriented work animals, a separate subject entirely. So let me be precise about the scope of animal care I am referencing. I am speaking about domesticated pets, and the abusive, neglectful, or otherwise ignorant treatment of those creatures. Pet abuse is without
lying heartlessness. We have all heard of Michael Vick, the NFL quarterback who was busted this past summer for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. Whether propagating, or merely participating in the abusive practice, such behavior towards animals by public figures, never mind the common person, is sickening. As atrocious and unconscionable as Vick’s behavior undoubtedly is, the comments of Deion Sanders in Vicks defense are worse. They illustrate the kind
PHOTO BY FLICKR [FANGARS]
a doubt the most needless of happenings. Any serious look into the subject immediately reveals the overall apathy of the public, and thus inevitably the government, hindering the public discourse from speaking frankly regarding the subject of ethical animal care in order to facilitate change. Both premeditated abuse, and abuse resulting from ignorance, which is just as bad, must be examined. At the heart of both, lies the deeper issue - pet abuse’s underNovember 2007
22 The Oracle magazine
of the apathy that allows these atrocities to take place at all. In late July, Deion Sanders, the famed ex-baseball/football star, gave his remarkably uninformed opinion in a southwest Florida news release. After having the audacity to defend Vick’s “passion”, Deion spoke of knowing many athletes who thoroughly enjoy the intensity of dog fighting. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, Deion unwittingly blew
the whistle on an unaccounted number of athletes’ bloodthirsty disregard for life. By attempting to deflect the public outcry, and rather bemused at having to do so, Deion Sanders amazingly tried to excuse this inexcusable behavior. In dismissing Vicks and other athletes’ abuse of dogs as a “passion”, he underscores the underlying heartlessness of pet abuse. Deion, and I daresay the NFL executives who apparently smile every time Vick plays, were completely oblivious to the public outrage that stemmed from the fact that beyond the shamefulness of it, under the law, the average citizen would have been prosecuted.The NFL and its players do not seem to be held under the same standard, but it is no surprise huge moneymaking industries are exempt from the law.The high profile example of Vicks abuse is not restricted to athletes. Pet abuse is prevalent in many different forms. Note the Menu Foods example this past summer. The uproar of tainted food present in several lines of pet food carried by the company Menu Foods shines the light on the underlying problem in the pet abuse debate, namely public apathy towards common sense in caring for animals. At the end of the day, tainted or not, the level of quality ascribed to those food products was questionable to say the least. What was clear during the outcry from affected customers was whether knowingly or not, they were feeding their animals garbage. But as in the case of the NFL, to expect Menu Foods, a company with a financial bottom line to care about domestic animals, seems to mean an abdication of corporate responsibility in accordance with common humane sense. We need look no further than the recent Pit Bull legislation, adopted in the face of increased Pit Bull attacks.The Public Safety Related to Dogs Statute Law Amendment Act, 2004 banned: Pit Bulls, ownership, breeding, importing and even a laudable ban on training pit bulls to fight. Nevertheless, the public conversation that took place regarding the legislation failed to address the true culprits of aggressive dogs: the owners. At the core of this example, is the governmental unwillingness to take a stand on the issue out of fear of voter alienation. Again, public apathy towards ethical animal care allows the government to turn a blind eye, failing to adopt measures that punish owners who abuse animals. Bad dogs are a result of bad owners, but government legislation and enforcement will only happen when the public mobilizes it to do so. The fact is, until the owners of abused animals are penalized, and the law is enforced properly, until the public can stop turning a deaf ear to the cries of animal injustice, and until society at large is willing to vocalize - in a forceful but lawful way - its intolerance towards animal abuse, such atrocities will continue to occur.
23 The Oracle magazine
Facebook and the Privacy Issue IMAGE BY FLICKR [kaioshin]
24 The Oracle magazine
hand in a market where they severely fall behind Google. But now that Facebook has given in to the lure of big deals and money, are they placing member’s privacy at risk with this level of advertising? While Microsoft will use the social networking platform as a means to collect data about technologically savvy kids, maintaining their grasp on the booming industry, too much of a good thing may turn out bad for business, which means that now that Microsoft is aboard the Facebook craze, it could act in changing the meaning of what social networking truly means. With 30.6 million visitors in September alone, the partnership between the two will certainly benefit each other, but by making the content of individuals available to Microsoft, I feel that Facebook has sold out. This is a far cry from the comments Mark Hughes, co-founder of Facebook made previously, before its rise in popularity. Hughes dubbed Facebook as “the safest social network on the web,” which he backed up by saying; “Unlike other sites like MySpace where the info is available to over 20 million people, on Facebook, a user’s profile is available at most to a few thousand people who already share in that person’s ‘real-world’ community”. But now with an estimated revenue of $100 million dollars in 2006, and the hefty price tag Microsoft agreed to pay for the three and a half year company, it shows how money and popularity can surely change the way people think, even if it means putting people’s privacy on the line. While privacy settings allow you the ability to amend who can and cannot see your profile, the admission of these companies into a place which was distinctly known as a college ‘hangout’ on the web, surely jeopardizes the credibility of a website which got its kick start in a Harvard dorm room. Post that on your wall!
UTM Career Expo
Non-Commerce and Management Majors Doomed? Farah Khan I entered the RAWC with excitement and anticipation. The highly recommended career expo at UTM was held on October 31st, from 10:30am â€“ 1:30pm. Apparently, this was a great opportunity to speak to the employers, and find out the career paths available to the student. In order to gather information about organizations, the career centre gave good tips, as well on questions one should ask. Overall, the expo proved to be good. Yet with over thirty participants, what disappointed me as a CCIT and Professional Writing major was the lack of possible career paths for Arts students. The expo appeared to have been held mainly for commerce or management majors. A huge majority of the organizations present at the expo, from Scotiabank to CMA Ontario, and from RBC Financial to Sun Life Financial, catered mainly to the needs of students going into finance and accounting. The only exception was the position of Assistant Web Editor at World Vision, a position about which the representative was in the dark. This proved to be a huge personal discouragement. It certainly gives students of other majors a blow in the head. With a lack of representation, are the students to assume that they are going down the wrong path? PHOTO BY JeReMY FeRnIe UTM should have invited other organizations that reflect the students from other disciplines as well. Nevertheless, representatives from the organizations were quite helpful. Also, a lot of them accepted resumes and took informal interviews right on the spot. Hopefully, it will turn out well for those who could find employers. Some of the jobs, such as a personal trainer at GoodLife Fitness Club, or police constable, do not require a university degree. The expo seemed to undervalue a university of Toronto degree, something that could disappoint a few. UTM students spend over six grand an year to get one bachelor degree. The university sponsored and recommended a career expo that featured jobs not necessarily requiring a B.A to hold. Not that there is anything wrong with the positions advertised, but as a student continuously pulling all-nighters for four years, one would expect to see options where this hard work would truly be valued. Whatâ€™s next? The summer job fair held on January 16th, 2008. And going by the experience of this career expo, it would most probably be very beneficial for Management and Commerce students to attend it. Arts and science students, give it a shot still! Let us hope next time UTM does not forget the Art students.
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Young Entrepreneurs What Students Can Get Out of The System
Farah Khan PHOTOS BY JeReMY FeRnIe
The Canadian education system attempts to provide a good start for students who wish to become entrepreneurs, by providing business-related courses in high-school. Is it enough though? Banks and other financial organizations are hesitant to lend money to students to start a business due to their lack of experience, and knowledge. For a student entrepreneur, gaining access to capital can be a long, frustrating, and tiresome endeavor. Hence, financial institutions provide secured loans and grants to qualifying candidates. This may also include a training component to make up for the lack of experience and business skills that are the key concern. Focusing specifically on Ontario, the Ministry of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (SME) exists to promote entrepreneurial skills in Ontario youth. It serves to market the field of entrepreneurship as a viable career options, and assist young entrepreneurs as well as Ontario growth firms with information and policy- making. Under the ministry, organizations in Ontario that help Ontario students develop entrepreneurial skills, can receive loans of up to $100,000 per year and assist them with opportunities and programs. In brief, there are numerous organizations out there, funded by the provincial government. An example is the Youth Entrepreneurs Program, which provides students with up to $3000 worth of loans for summer businesses. Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program is a part-time coop initiative for students. Persons interested in making use of these services can contact the Ministry of Education and Training hotline at 1-800-387-5656. Alberta mainly has the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF), which provides up to $15,000 worth of loans to qualifying candidates. To be qualified, one has to have a feasible business plan and be able to work with a business mentor. Comparatively speaking, Alberta would be a good choice to start, due to low requirements and substantial loan amounts. Manitoba’s Business Start Program (BSB), Skill Development of Young Entrepreneurs, and the Young Entrepreneurs Program provide training and counseling to help develop business plans and ideas. As well, loans and grants range from $500 to $4000. To qualify for the loan however, the young entrepreneur must attend their Business-Start training program paid for by the entrepreneur, as well as November 2007
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the young entrepreneurs ability to work full-time with the business. Québec is excellent when it comes to providing loans. Giving out loans from $5,000 to $150,000 for people 1835, the Youth Strategy Program (CED-CFDC) helps in start-up, modernization, and expansion of new businesses. The Mayor’s Foundation for Youth Entrepreneurship Program is designed specifically for low-income youngsters in Montreal, and provides huge amounts of loan to those who meet the criteria of living in Montreal and possessing at least $25,000 in assets. The criteria of having $25,000, however, as well as the language barrier for outsiders, may prove to be a great difficulty for entrepreneurship in Québec. New Brunswick’s BNB-Entrepreneur Program and the SEED/Student Entrepreneurship provide a maximum of
$10,000 in loans to those currently unemployed, eligible to work and not full-time students. SEED program in particular provides financial services for a business start-up in summer to current students. Some initial start-up cash is also a requirement. The drawback is that one must be 19 years of age to qualify.
Atlantic Canadaâ€™s Young Entrepreneurs, ConneXion, and Seed Capital Program helps start, expand, and modernize by giving out up to $20,000 in loans to applicants as an unsecured loan repayable with flexible interest and payment terms. Aboriginal Business Canada and Aboriginal Veterans Scholarship Trust provides scholarship, financial assistance, resources, and referrals to Aboriginal post-secondary students as well as other individuals between 18 and 25 years of age. They focus specifically on areas such as technology, studies, business, law, and education for economic development within the region. Generally speaking, any prior experience with a relatively new and small firm would prove to be a great asset. Students should keep this in mind while looking for jobs during their period of study, GlobalEdge is a recommendation for Ontario students.The company hires students aged 19-29, and provides jobs with various international firms where students take on challenging entrepreneurial roles. Another suggestion is Impact, a student run non-profit organization that works to promote leadership and entrepreneurial skills through various seminars and workshops across the province. There are Small Business Management and Technological Entrepreneurship courses available at the postsecondary level. And the career centre on campusâ€™s are a great resource for finding information and receiving proper counseling. To conclude, there is sufficient help out there for young aspiring Canadians who wish to start up their own businesses. All one needs is a great idea, patience, ability to work long hours, and some capital on hand to make the big-break. Good luck!
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A Search for the Cure in the 21st Century: How Bioinformatics is Advancing Cancer Research Professor Joel Moody University of Toronto Mississauga The American Cancer Society estimates that 25,580 women will be diagnosed with epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) in the United States this year; approximately 16,090 will die from it. Roughly 80% of all cases are not detected until they have reached the late clinical stages, leaving the victims with only a 20% chance of survival. In stark contrast, the remaining 20% of patients who are diagnosed before the disease has spread outside the ovary enjoy a 5-year survival rate of approximately 90-95%. Even those women diagnosed in Stage II of the disease maintain a 5-year survival rate of nearly 70%. As these statistics might suggest, early detection of EOC drastically improves the chances that the disease will be treated successfully. However, as these figures also indicate, early cancer of the ovaries rarely causes distinctively noticeable symptoms and is consequently often times mistaken for side effects common to menopause or intestinal ailments. Accordingly, EOC is notoriously known as the most deadly of all cancers of the female reproductive system. The leading cause of death from gynecological cancer in North American women is EOC. It is also the fifth most diagnosed cancer in Canadian women. Unfortunately, EOC doesn’t show symptoms in its early stages, meaning that patients often present EOC in later stages when treatment is no longer as effective. In response to these disease statistics, I am developing an integrated systems biology approach to better understand the molecular mechanisms associated with early ovarian cancer. My research focuses on the combination of modern methods in molecular biology, pathology, and epidemiology to assess new markers of ovarian cancer etiology. Currently I am investigating genetic variants in growth factors and steroid hormone metabolism and ovarian cancer risk in high-risk groups. By combining proteomics—a branch of science that studies the location, molecular interactions, structure and function of proteins—with bioinformatics, my research represents a crucial, step in developing a better understanding of ovarian cancer. In the last few decades, advances in molecular biology and the equipment available for research in this field have allowed the increasingly rapid sequencing of large portions of the genomes of several species. In fact, to date, several November 2007
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PHOTO BY MARK SHANNON
bacterial genomes, as well as those of some simple eukaryotes (e.g., Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or baker’s yeast) have been sequenced in full. The Human Genome Project, designed to sequence all 24 of the human chromosomes, is also finishing. Popular sequence databases, such as GenBank and EMBL, have been growing at exponential rates. This deluge of information has necessitated the careful storage, organization and indexing of sequence information. Information science has been applied to biology to produce the field called Bioinformatics. The simplest tasks used in bioinformatics concern the creation and maintenance of databases of biological information. Nucleic acid sequences (and the protein sequences derived from them) comprise the majority of such databases. While the storage and organization of millions of nucleotides is far from trivial, designing a database and developing an interface whereby researchers can both access existing information and submit new entries is only the beginning. The most pressing tasks in bioinformatics involve the analysis of sequence information. Computational Biology is the name given to this process, and it involves the following: • Finding the genes in the DNA sequences of various organisms • Developing methods to predict the structure and/or function of newly discovered proteins and structural RNA sequences.
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IMAGE BY FLICKR [ynse]
â€˘ Clustering protein sequences into families of related sequences and the development of protein models. â€˘ Aligning similar proteins and generating phylogenetic trees to examine evolutionary relationships. The process of evolution has produced DNA sequences that encode proteins with very specific functions. It is possible to predict the three-dimensional structure of a protein using algorithms that have been derived from our knowledge of physics, chemistry and most importantly, from the analysis of other proteins with similar amino acid sequences. The diagram below summarizes the process by which DNA sequences are used to model protein structure. The processes involved in this transformation are detailed in the pages that follow. An important part of my research is my collaboration with a multi-disciplinary team called the Toronto Ovarian Cancer Research Network. The team is made up of clinical scientists and experts in bioinformatics, cancer biochemistry, epidemiology, molecular biology and pathology. Working with these people allows us to validate our findings faster so that our work can be applied in a clinical and population health setting sooner rather than later.
Sophistica Savory at Dorothy Kosinska
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SPLENDIDO RESTAURANT
Splendido ranks amongst the top fine dining establishments in Toronto, and deservingly so. Some of the most succulent food is served in this small dining room from behind a mysterious glass that walls the Chef de Cuisine David Lee’s kitchen. It is this way, I presume, because the chefs at Splendido have nothing to hide. The tint on the glass gives the impression of watching an avant-garde film and conjoins what is the ar t of cooking with the ar t within the dining room. The pieces that adorn the walls are especially made for Splendido by a local artist whose art has inspired restaurant’s menu design - the feel is modern and chic, looking to one like a bird, and to another having the resemblance of a ship. Versatility runs deep into the food at as well, allowing guests to arrange their meal, or make it simple by requesting a set that includes a sumptuous combination of the first, second, and main courses from the Tasting Menu. These delicious portions of paradise are priced at November 2007
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about $135 per person, excluding proper ty tax. One taste that is sure to inspire the senses is the wild Nunavut caribou loin. A splendidly tender tidbit at Splendido – and truly an occasion. However, the elegant butter poached Nova Scotia lobster is excellent with a glass of Viura from the wineries of nor theastern Spain. A glass of bubbly is served to star t. Syrup is available to sweeten the champagne. Otherwise an array of delicious wines from around the world is available to choose from. Splendido also boasts a mar tini selection containing imaginative one-of-a-kind potions courtesy of the bar tender. The restaurant offers an impressive cheese tray that is sure to satisfy any moldy dairy connoisseur. Of the hard and soft cheeses I recommend the Juliet Bleu – not only does it communicate all the romantic sorrow of Juliet Capulet, but also offers a delicate flavor. Splendido’s desser ts present a fine ending to this love story. The warmed Grand Marnier scented crepes with
isticated and ry at Splendido passion fruit orange sauce and grapefruit sorbet embody the bittersweet reality of combinations. The fine dining experience at Splendido is completed only by the cordial staff who know how to pamper their guests. One must not do anything but sit back and be waited on. Splendido offers valet parking to its guests – after that, jackets are hung, chairs pulled up, drinks are poured, and doing work like moving your glass for the attendant is forbidden. The lavatory is not on par with the rest of the restaurant but, where luxury is lost, it is made up in the replacement of silverware and napkins, and the provision of a plate cover to keep your food warm while you’re gone. It is the first time ever that my purse had a small stool to sit on beside me. This warm atmosphere is enhanced by deep yellow and burgundy shades in the décor. Low lighting provided, in par t, by decorous ceramic candle lanterns on each table, and a heavy wrought iron chandelier in the center of the room, create intimate and charming ambience. Victorian-inspired elements artistically meld together with wrought iron accents to the beat of trendy lounge tracks. Caramel-colored leather seating, and the warmth of wooden paneling and floors complete Splendido; it was when I looked down that I received confirmation that I really was in heaven – for there were stars beneath my feet.
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SHOWCASE: YOUR WORK
Submit your work (articles, artwork, poetry, photography etc) to be publish in futures issue of The Oracle Visit our website at www.theoraclemag.ca for more info November 2007
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