So I’ve Finished Owlboy, Her Story, The Room, and Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

I’ve been less than diligent in continuing this series on games I’ve played and my thinking thoughts I have about them. So here’s a short grab-bag of some recent and not-so-recent completions.

Owlboy

It was a while ago I played this, but what I remember about this shooter-platformer was its charm, its easy climb up the difficulty curve, how pretty it was, and how smoothly it ran. It was exactly as long as I wanted it to be, the characters were fun and empathetic, and I only had to repeat the final boss four times. (I am not the best at video games)

I vaguely remember that there was a completionist percentage mechanism for collecting coins or something that I didn’t enjoy (I went through an area several times and couldn’t find the three coins I was missing), but that didn’t detract from the experience.

Her Story

Mystery video games are often like point-and-click adventures. Try everything everywhere until you progress, then repeat. Through the necessity of giving you what you need to tell the video game you’ve solved it, you can accidentally spoil the mystery for yourself. And if you’ve solved the mystery, but don’t have the one piece you need to prove it to the game, it’s frustrating. Mark Brown covers it in this excellent episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit:

Her Story gives you a database full of interview clips chopped into pieces and indexed by the words the interviewee speaks. Type “murder” and you get all the clips where the word “murder” is mentioned. Through listening for key words and repeated phrases you can dig through the database and watch these clips to piece together a complex story of who murdered whom and why.

It’s ingenious, but imperfect. How do you then prove to the game that you’ve solved it? How, other than by not ending, can the game explain to you that you missed something?

There’s a mechanism in the game I didn’t experience where, after watching enough of the clips, a chat window pops up and gives you the last piece of the story before it ends. I didn’t experience it because I already thought I had it all worked out.  And then I checked a wiki and found out I was right… but the game didn’t know I had it. And I couldn’t prove my knowledge to it.

An interesting piece of art, this game. I look forward to seeing what refinements the follow-up “Telling Lies” will have when it arrives (if it arrives).

The Room

A point-and-click puzzle box game. Far shorter than I thought it’d be, and far less interesting. I’d recommend Windosill over The Room: it has a much more approachable and appropriate-to-the-mechanics tone… and most crucially its toy puzzles are far more rewarding to tease apart (it reminds me a lot of The Manhole, of all things).

So, uh, yeah. Play Windosill and The Manhole.

Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

A worthy successor to the first game, this is a charming JRPG romp with a fiendishly-diverting kingdom-building mechanic. I do love to watch those numbers go up.

It is comfortably easy on Normal, the hardest thing about it is the grind in the postgame. I don’t mind it, though, as the atmosphere is aided by it.

On the negative side is the sadly-mandatory squad-based strategy portions. Uneven difficulty and underwhelmingly-undeveloped mechanisms made for a shallow experience. There was also the Tactic Tweaker for weighting how much money vs loot you get from battles or whether you’re stronger against fire or ice enemies… but it was introduced and then abandoned, so I mostly just forgot it was there.

All in all a lovely way to spend some dozens of hours, with visuals that maintain a Studio Ghibli style without just slapping a cell shader on the GPU and calling it a day.

Next:

I’ll probably pick up the demo to Octopath Traveller as it’s right in my wheelhouse… though its similarity to I Am Setsuna might make it a game my wife plays instead. (and its price might make it something we wait to buy in any case).

I tried to start Tacoma, but my computer refuses to play past the intro without seizing up. Come to think of it my computer had problems with The Room, too, but mostly in the performance angle, not stability. Maybe something’s up on my PC.

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Ontario’s 42nd Parliament, 1st Session: Midnight Sessions

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Logo used for education and illustrative purposes. This is not an official publication and I am not an agent of the OLA.

Well that’s weird. Remember when I said that the House stood adjourned until Wednesday, September 19?

Remember when Mr. Stephen Lecce, the Deputy Government House Leader said it?

Remember when Acting Speaker Ms Jennifer K. French said it?

Well, apparently we were all wrong? Because the House had an afternoon session on Saturday September 15, and had a midnight session this morning, Monday, September 17 which will continue through the day today.

The Saturday session was a so-called “emergency session” inasmuch as it was called abruptly and against the stated calendar. There were a couple of points of order raised by the Opposition House Leader (on Standing Order 23 that maybe the House shouldn’t debate something currently before the courts, and on Standing Order 52 that a second Bill shouldn’t be proposed in the same Session if it is concerning the same subject matter as a previous Bill in that Session), and the Speaker said they’d take a look at it and make a decision later.

The house then adjourned until 1030 on Monday the 17th.

And at 12:01am the 17th, the House met again. Stop messing with my schedule, dagnabbit!

( The Speaker ruled that neither Standing Order 23 nor 52 apply in this case so debate about Bill 31 can proceed while Bill 5 is appealed in the courts (SO 23g), and Bill 31 isn’t out of order because it is sufficiently different from Bill 5 (SO 52). )

I’m getting a little frustrated. It is hard to be engaged in the process when they keep playing with the schedule.

Ontario’s 42nd Parliament, 1st Session: Better Local Government Act, the Superior Court of Ontario, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Notwithstanding Clause, and Bill 31, Efficient Local Government Act

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Logo used for education and illustrative purposes. This is not an official publication and I am not an agent of the OLA.

Hoo, that’s a title. Let’s start with a timeline, shall we?

You’ll remember from my first post in this series a rather peculiar Bill that reached the floor of the Legislative Assembly on July 30: Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018. It, amongst other things, cut the number of municipal wards in Toronto from 47 to 25 a little over two months before its municipal election.

It sustained heavy debate in August and, on the final day before recess, was carried through both its second and third readings (with division). There were immediate court challenges and Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba was asked to examine the legality of the Bill.

In Ontario, as in the rest of Canada and in the United States, we have multiple branches of government designed to keep each other in check. The legislative branch is allowed to change the laws, yes, but only if the change is constitutional according to the judicial branch.

In this case Justice Belobaba ruled that it was not constitutional. By changing the terms of the election while it was ongoing, it interfered with the candidates’ Right to Free Expression. By increasing the number of residents per councillor it impinged on residents’ effective representation in municipal politics (which the Justice argued was a form of Expression so infringed).

The Government announced its intent to file an appeal, as is expected. If you don’t appeal, you’ve given up, and no politician I know of would dare give the impression of giving up. But as the Toronto election was a mere month and a half thence, it was unlikely that a legal argument would occur early enough to matter for the election currently under way.

What wasn’t expected (by me at least) was that the Premier announced his intention to reconvene the Legislative Assembly two weeks early from its recess and use the “Notwithstanding Clause” of the Charter to assert the Province’s right to govern itself despite the provision of the Charter.

If you’re familiar with the politics of the United States, think of it like this: If a State Government wanted to ignore certain provisions of the Bill of Rights all it had to do was vote for itself to be allowed to do so. Certain rights (term limits, voter eligibility) would be inalienable, but certain other ones (fundamental freedoms of religion, expression, press, peaceful assembly…) could be voted away five years at a time. One of its intended uses was to operate in case the judicial branch overstepped its bounds, but to my knowledge that has never actually happened. (Well, the Government party alleges it has now, of course, but only history will tell if this argument has merit.)

It’s been 18 years since the last time a Province attempted to vote on a Bill that invokes the Notwithstanding clause (Alberta tried and failed to use it to prevent the recognition of same-sex marriage. Wrong side of history, folks.). And now Ontario has one on the books:

Bill 31, Efficient Local Government Act, 2018

This is identical to Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018 except for a few twiddles. There’s some adjustment of related acts because there were things that were supposed to happen in August that now need to be redone with the new ward territories… but the big one is the inclusion of lines like “The amendments to this Act made by Schedule 1 to the Efficient Local Government Act, 2018 apply despite the Human Rights Code.”

You know it’s a good bill when you have to specify that it needs to happen despite Human Rights.

Clarification:

This is not suspending the Charter, this is using the hard-negotiated rights of the Provinces to enact a segment of the Charter to suspend parts of itself in the course of provincial business. It is legal.

But as we have seen and continue to see with people arguing that “It’s a free country, so I’m allowed to say <terrible thing to say>”, if your only argument is that it’s legal, you already know it isn’t right.

Chaos in the House:

In Ontario we have an adversarial Legislative Assembly. The Opposition is there to debate motions on their merits (or lack thereof), and generally try and cajole the Government to explain itself and maybe change its approach.

When the Premier called the Assembly back in on September 12… well, things became a little bit more than adversarial. The Premier and several MPPs (notably in the Hansard the member for Essex) broke decorum, the gallery began demonstrating and had to be cleared… and all that within the first fifteen minutes of Question Period:

After lunch, the MPPs themselves interrupted parliamentary proceeding and some  “warning and naming” happened. If the Speaker determines that a member cannot maintain decorum, that member is named by their name (not by their riding, ministerial title, or title (like “Premier” or “Leader of the Opposition”)) by the Speaker and must leave. Or be escorted out.

The first to be escorted out was the MPP for my riding of Waterloo, Ms. Catherine Fife. The second was the Leader of the Opposition, Ms. Horwath. Over a dozen MPPs were escorted from the house, and then the first reading of Bill 31 carried (on division).

The next day, September 13, after a duration of further debate on Bill 4, Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, question period started back in with the NDP MPPs back in the house:

This is a level of acrimony I didn’t expect to see, and the Speaker seems pretty tired of it all. It’s getting so bad that even the MPPs aren’t willing to put up with talking past each other anymore, the member for Mushkegowuk-James Bay filed a notice of dissatisfaction under Standing Order 38(a) about the Government’s answer to their previous question about school infrastructure.

And this is all without even debating further Bill 31 and its Notwithstanding business. This is since the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Green Party are working on a Reasoned Amendment to the Bill (sometimes used as a delaying tactic, mostly intended as a way for the non-Government members to suggest alternative Bill implementations), so debate on that to-be-written Amendment must happen first.

So what’s next? Well, the Legislative Assembly stands adjourned until next Wednesday the 19th. Why? Because of, and I kid you not, the International Plowing Match in Chatham-Kent.

So we won’t hear more about the Amendment until then, and we can’t hear more about Bill 31 and its use of the Notwithstanding clause until at least then…

…which means Toronto limps on in a quantum superposition. It had 45 wards, it was growing to 47, it was ordered to have 25, and the order was struck down.

I imagine voter turnout is going to be weak-to-middling when October 22 comes around, and there may even be grounds for a legal challenge of its validity given the confusion all this nonsense is causing…

But we’ll see.

 

Ontario’s 42nd Parliament, 1st Session: August 2018

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Logo used for education and illustrative purposes. This is not an official publication and I am not an agent of the OLA.

I’ve been lax in preparing this update as I had to travel for work in August and I wasn’t expecting anything of substance to happen until the Legislative Assembly reconvened around September 24.

I was wrong about that, but that’ll be a subject for a subsequent update. For now let’s focus on what the Ontario Legislative Assembly did in the two weeks (7 meeting days) it pursued its business in August.

We left off with the Government in a snit about who may have said what and the Opposition trying gamely to carry on but I found no one bothering to bring it up again on August 1st so I guess the matter must have been settled out of the chamber. So let’s talk about Bills.

Bills 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, and 13 have all stalled at First Reading. The Government didn’t move forward on the post of Poet Laureate, regulating gas prices, publishing large health care salaries, making firefighter training safer, closing an employment standards loophole for the auto sector, and imposing minimum standards of daily care for Long-Term Care Homes.

Bill 9 and 11 were referred to committee, so PTSD Awareness Day and regulations requiring that movable soccer goals be firmly attached to the ground should go ahead in a timely fashion, once committees have a chance to meet.

Also of marginal note are Bills 14 through 23, 25 through 27, and 29. All of these bills are about counting the invasive Zebra Mussel populations in Ontario waterways, handfuls of waterways in each bill.

As for bills debated and completed in August:

Bill 4, “Cap and Trade Cancellation Act, 2018”

The Second Reading hasn’t completed and the debate is ongoing. The terms of the debate seem to be:

Opposition: “Climate Change is real. Cap and Trade sucks, but it’s better than the nothing the Government aims to replace it with.”

Government: “We agree that Climate Change is real. Cap and Trade is worse than nothing since it grants large polluters free passes and harms people who drive.”

Despite the Speaker asking for the debate to adjourn after 6 and a half hours (!!) across all the days of debate, the PC Minister for Education Thompson asks that the debate continue.

Which is peculiar to me. If cap-and-trade is so bad, why aren’t they just ramming it through legislature without debate? They have a majority, they can just do it. I mean, look at the omnibus Bill 2 which was proposed and passed in a little over a week.

Bill 5, Better Local Government Act, 2018

On the final day before recess, and a scant two months and one week before election day in Toronto, Bill 3 carried on division and received Royal Assent. This reduced the number of Toronto City Wards down from 47 to 25.

There was an immediate court challenge that attacked the bill on a couple of fronts. The first was that the previous law said no amendments or changes were to be made without public consultation (which in this case was not done). The NDP was quick to point out that the Government was quick to bring up lack of sufficient consultation in terms of the sex-ed curriculum (we’ll get there) to which the Government rejoined that the NDP was only whining because they stood to lose some councillors in the election.  The second was that it infringed the Charter of Rights and Freedoms both for the Right to Free Expression of the candidates currently trying to be elected and for the Right to Representation of the electorate, whose individual votes suddenly decreased in weight.

Didn’t realize Toronto City Councillors had party affiliation. Interesting.

I’ll devote a whole post to the snafu that came out of this, but for now it’ll suffice to note the Government position that this will save money and make Toronto city governance more efficient, and NDP position was that it was a vindictive personal attack by the Premier and would have neither of those effects.

Bill 24, Ministry of Community and Social Services Amendment Act (Social Assistance Research Commission), 2018

Establish a research commission to advise the government annually about how to adjust the rates of provincial financial assistance from the Ontario Works Act and ODSP based on the cost of living in different geographical regions of Ontario.

I like that, of members in the the commission, at least one must be or must have been receiving “basic financial assistnace” under OWA, and another must be or must have been receiving ODSP. I’d have gone for two of each, making “people who know what it’s like” a smooth four out of the nine spots… but I guess we want more space for economists in there, too. Seems like standard governmental business, so long as the geographical regions end up being broad enough that this can’t be used to funnel money away from or towards specific ridings.

First reading carried on August 9. I don’t expect too much motion on this too quickly, going by the speed of other Bills.

Bill 28, Alternate Land Use and Services Program for Agricultural Land Act, 2018

Allow owners of agricultural land to set aside parts of their land to lie fallow and return to a natural state, or to act as a windbreak or other natural feature.

Not sure why we need legislation to allow farmers to not farm their land. Maybe this way it doesn’t exempt them from some sort of tax benefit proportional to the number of acres of agricultural land they farm?

First reading carried on August 13. I don’t expect too much motion on this too quickly, going by the speed of other Bills.

Bill 30, Fighting Back Against Handguns Act (Handgun Ammunition Sales), 2018

Allows municipalities to prohibit sale or delivery of handgun ammunition within municipal limits.

Not sure whether this is a good idea. Prohibition can lead to bootlegging, if the supply is easy enough to come by. If this is supposed to reduce overall ammunition purchasing I’d have thought a better mechanism would be taxing the sale as a vice (like tobacco).

First reading carried on August 14.

Sex-ed Curriculum

Without needing a bill the Government through the Ministry of Education required the teaching of the 1998 Health Curriculum (partially revised in 2010) in all public and catholic elementary and middle schools starting this September.

I’ve read some of the reissued curriculum. It isn’t bad, but it doesn’t contain the word “consent”, and the mentions of the word “Internet” are mostly using it as an informational resource (like CDs and DVDs) with one mention of the dangers of being predated upon and one mention of privacy and security concerns. The solution to the dangers of the Internet in the curriculum is to always tell an adult “when you’re on the Internet”.

Because in the early 2000s it was possible to not be on the Internet all the time.

These aspects concern me, as does the invitation from the Government for parents to snitch on teachers found to be teaching the 2015 curriculum instead. I was going to talk to my daughter’s teacher about how he was going to handle the situation but I couldn’t ask him to expose himself to the risk of other parents tattling on him to the Government.

I should remember to tell him that I would bring up any concerns I have with material with him first and with the principal second, to hopefully put his mind at ease about us… and I’ll see if I can get him to promise to teach the kids the meaning of consent. Y’know, in English class. Words have meanings.

Other Stuff

There’s a lot of other motions and business. Mr. Piccini wants more people to elect to be organ donors, Mr. Kramp wants a monument for the CAF’s sacrifices in the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Walker wants Ontario to use the Modified International Symbol of Access for new accessible parking spaces, Miss Taylor wants the Ontario basic income pilots to be uncancelled, …

It’s really surprising how many words get output by the Assembly each day it is in session, but how little actually gets done. Committees haven’t had a chance to more than determine their organization, let alone scribe proper copies of the bills referred to them.

All the time seems spent talking past each other in a large wood-panelled room, and the Government doing what they want at the speed they want it done. Which makes me question why I’m bothering to look into this. Why am I writing these thousands of words and spending time reading and watching and becoming ever more frustrated over matters over which my last influence was exerted in June?

I should look into what step comes after “Get informed”.

The End of Firefox Windows XP Support

Firefox 62 has been released. Go give it a try!

At the same time, on the Extended Support Release channel, we released Firefox ESR 60.2 and stopped supporting Firefox ESR 52: the final version of Firefox with Windows XP support.

Now, we don’t publish all-channel user proportions grouped by operating system, but as part of the Firefox Public Data Report we do have data from the release channel back before we switched our XP users to the ESR channel. At the end of February 2016, XP users made up 12% of release Firefox. By the end of February 2017, XP users made up 8% of release Firefox.

If this trend continued without much change after we switched XP users to ESR, XP Firefox users would presently amount to about 2% of release users.

That’s millions of users we kept safe on the Internet despite running a nearly-17-year-old operating system whose last patch was over 4 years ago. That’s a year and a half of extra support for users who probably don’t feel they have much ability to protect themselves online.

It required effort, and it required devoting resources to supporting XP well after Microsoft stopped doing so. It meant we couldn’t do other things, since we were busy with XP.

I think we did a good thing for these users. I think we did the right thing for these users. And now we’re wishing these users the very best of luck.

…and that they please oh please upgrade so we can go on protecting them into the future.

:chutten