WordCamp Vancouver 2018

I missed the opening and keynote and also skipped the after party at a bar because I was just too tired and forgot to bring my driver’s license. Overall, the event was great! Foodies-wise, I had some fruits and 1 cupcake for breakfast, 2 sandwiches for lunch, 1 sprite and 3 cups of coffee throughout the day. Lots of cool swags! I don’t even know how this event was only $25. Some of these talks definitely value more than $25. A lot of thanks all those who made this happened!!

Anyways, here are some of my notes from the session that I’ve attended:

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Video Games and Violence


The Dawson College shooting incident drew a devastating attention to both Canadian and the world. According to a report on CBC news (“Shooting in Montreal”, 2006), the event happened on the afternoon of September 13, 2006. Kimveer Gill carried three guns and shot people at random in Dawson College, Montreal, resulting one innocent death, 19 wounded, and he later committed suicide. The public was quick to put the hate on violent media such as video games. An article published by Buffalo News (“Columbine game called”, 2006) noted that “Super Columbine Massacre” was Gill’s favourite game, where the players role play as Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold to kill teachers and classmates. However, video game designers are not the ones to blame; it is more of a government and the individual’s issue.

Responsibility of a game designer
Games are by all means an entertainment. It provides us a fantasized dimension that the events are “normally” not possible to happened in the real life. One of the most critical job for game developers is to create this virtual world for the users to easily forget all the misfortunes in real life, focus only at the fantasy, and have a great time in the game. After all, everything, the factual or imaginary events, are all possible in a game. For instance, slicing zombies’ head by swiping the fingers frantically, stabbing a character’s body by clicking the right mouse button intensively, or shooting a gun till a soldier’s head explode by pressing ‘x’ key freakishly are the actions that we can easily take in the 2D or 3D environments. It gives us the pleasure of killing without being sentenced. We are free to do anything in a gaming world, and the game developers are just trying their best to implement this freedom.

Even when a crime happens and the perpetrator was inspired by video games, I don’t think the game designer should hold any responsibility for it. First of all, it was the player’s decision on buying or downloading the game at the first place. Nobody forces them into joining the game. Secondly, Danny Ledonne, the creator of “Super Columbine Massacre”, estimated that the game has more than 100,000 downloads (“Columbine game called”, 2006). With so many other players playing his game, they don’t go around and massacre people like Gill did. A mentally unhealthy person will, either with or without the help of violent media network, do whatever they are going to do. The video games cannot manipulate a human being into hurting the others if this person doesn’t already have the mind for destruction.

Although it is not necessary, the video game designer could do better on preventing the players from simulating the game’s world to the real life. They could make up some imaginary weapons that are not accessible to the general market. For example, the image of the weapon could be a lightsaber from Star War that functions as a normal blade. So it can maybe slash people valiantly and ruthlessly in the video game, but can be imitated nothing more than a flashlight in the real world.

The designers could remind the content of the video game more constantly to its audience. For most purchased games, they already labelled ratings to indicate the intended audience on the cover. Many website holding online games has content warning screen before given access to it. What the developers could improve on is to display a short message to remind the users that this is a work of complete fiction at every startup of the game. For example, instead of showing “loading…” every time the game is starting up, they could add more warning strings for the violence contents.

Just as we are told to distinguish the accurate and fraud information on the internet, it is the government and the individual’s responsibility on how to interpreting the game. The resource providers only want their readers to know what they wish for the readers to know. That’s why I believe it’s the never the video game developers’ responsibility on creating misleading images, but the failure on government’s education and individuals’ misjudgement.

Responsibility of the government
There is a saying that government is the parent of a nation. While the video game makers have only the strength to restrict their audience by a small sign of content warning, the government could take more powerful actions on supervising its citizens and deciding the right target audience.

The first thing that the government should take care is their education system. By giving a Mature Rating to a game, it means that the player has to be age eighteen or older both mentally and physically. To make an individual mature mentally, children under eighteen in Canada are stuck in the mandatory school for approximately 7 hours a day, 5 days per week since they reached the age of six. School is an important place where we gain the basic knowledge, learn to make decisions, and learn to be responsible. But many of the high-schoolers skip classes because it was super easy and the school doesn’t seem to care. And then, the teachers in British Columbia went on strike a couple times in just these past five years, so I guess there’s that. Education is the most effective process to teach the civilians on distinguish the right and wrong information and I think the Canadian government can do better on this.

Another thing that the government could do is to limit the access to violence genre of games in protection of its people. While the developer’s goal is trying to entertain as many people as possible, it is the government’s duty as a guardian to figure out if the content of the product is suitable for its society. In Gill’s shooting incident, he was allowed to mimic the killing in the video game because he could obtain the weapons conveniently. The government can either set a rule to limit the use of guns or filter the contents of improper use of weapons away from the media.

Lastly, the government should give out strict punishment for those who done wrong. How the Canadian government handles Maple Batalia’s case recently is one of the examples that a serious case taken too lightly. According to the news article by Jennifer Saltman, the murder that was responsible for the SFU gunshot case was granted bail on January 11, 2013. Giving such light sentence will make the people feel like it’s okay to do whatever they would like to do right now, even if it means to commit crimes, and worry about the consequence later because it can always be lightened up. Canada is a country that values the individual rights very much, but sometimes, it feels like they are over-protecting the perpetrator which can encourage more crimes. It is the government’s duty to act as a guardian of its people.

Responsibility of the players
The active players should carefully consider the question: is this a game for me? That is, am I really mature enough to get involved in the world of violence? Will I be able to control my actions later? What effects will I bring to the society? As long as the player does not bring negative impact to the society, it is quite alright. The players should have a clear conscious of knowing what they are doing at this instant. They should probably set up a set of rules to make sure that they do not go overboard as mixing the reality and games.

The users should pay attention to their surroundings while playing the game. They might not want to play it with underage children around. They probably shouldn’t share the screen with their friends without notifying what the content is the game composed of.

If a player lost their mind and committed a crime by the influence of the game, they should be ready to take the full responsibility. Consider the case when a teacher distributed a math quiz to the class. One of the students forgot to set the mode from degree to radian and calculated all the answers wrong. As a result, he received a zero on the test. The student argued that it was because his calculator (the source) was wrong that he got the incorrect answers, it does not change the fact that his solutions were extremely inaccurate. So the student can only blame on his own carelessness and accept the result.

Similar idea to the murder’s case where the crime committer as the student, government as the teacher, and the calculator as the games. The murder can blame their actions on the games, but it does not change the fact that they had done something that is not socially acceptable.

To prevent more Dawson College incidents from happening again in the future, the video game designers should remind the user as constant as possible that the game was a work of fiction. The governments should also take their role as the guardian more seriously to supervising its people. Finally, the individual users should have a clear mind on the interactions that they performed on the screen are not applicable to the real life.


Columbine game called risky lure. (2006, September 15). Buffalo News, p. A4. Retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com

Jennifer Saltman. (2013, January 11). ‘Disgusting’: Co-accused in Maple Batalia murder case granted bail. The Province. Retrieved from http://www.theprovince.com

Shootings in a Montreal college. (2006, September 15). CBC News. Retrieved from www.cbc.ca


Persuasive: Genetically Engineered Food


Genetically engineered (GE) food is often being referred to “Frankenfood”, but who is Frankenstein? According the original novel by Mary Shelley (1998), Victor Frankenstein was the creator of the creature which was never given a name in the story. The creature had a really pure heart and was willing to help the others in needs. Villagers, in the story, despised it nonetheless due to its distinct appearance. It ended up hiding itself in the far North, away from the human society.

The creature is an advance science designed to help the humans, but it was being rejected by the society for only one reason: its ugliness. Thus, by the end of this paper, I hope you will have a better understanding of what genetically engineered food is, how it can benefits our society, and why you should rely on it.

Plant Breeding Methods vs. Genetic Engineering

Genetic modifications have been practiced by farmers over thousands of years. However, the traditional methods (e.g. hybrid) are more “acceptable” by the society. One of the reasons is because the conventional methods still follows Darwin’s theory of natural selection. The techniques of genetic engineering, on the other hand, involve direct human intervention with an organism which is then no longer natural, but artificial. One advantage of GE is that there is no more limitation with the compatibility issues between different species which provides more variety in food. The next section will discuss more about genetic engineering.

What is Genetic Engineering?

The goal of genetic engineering (often referred as recombinant DNA technology) is to “introduce, enhance, or delete particular characteristics of an organism.” (Nottingham, 1998, p.11). Deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) consist genetic information that is structured to be a double helix (Figure 1). Genetic code is the instruction that made up of the sequence of bases, which defines a particular function, on a DNA strand. Gene transfer between species is possible because genetic code follow the same a set of rules shared by all living organisms. If we can decipher the genetic code, we can insert desirable components or remove unwanted elements; thus producing more nutritious products.

Benefits of GE Food

The development of GE technology on food not only lowered the price of our daily products, but it also increases the quality of our food. Producing medical crops is another advantage of this food.

Increase Plant Protection

According to World Heath Organization (WHO) (2011), genetically engineered food is developed to protect crops and enhance its growing efficiency. Insect resistance is achieved by inserting small amount of toxin such as Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) that serve as a conventional insecticide, but safe for human consumption. Further noted by WHO, GE crops also have higher virus resistance, which increase crop yields, and herbicide tolerance that resulted the decreased quantity of herbicide used. Since the production costs of GE food are reduced by lower the amount of chemical and mechanical inputs, we as consumers are benefited from the pricing as well.

Enhance Quality

Other than producing food in a more cost efficient way, GE techniques also improve the quality in food. A well-known example is the “Golden Rice” that contains beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a source of vitamin A and iron which prevent and treat maternal anemia and blindness. Golden Rice, therefore, reduces the rates in of such problems in the developing world by providing enough nutrition in high production (Schneider K. & Schneider R., 2009)

Another example is the soybean with a modified oil composition made by DupPont. This type of soybeans increases the desirable monounsaturated oleic acid to over 80% of the oil from about 24%. Several companies and public institutions are developing soy, canola, and other vegetable oils with reduced saturated fat content and other enhancements. (McHughen, 2002).

Genetically engineered food not only provides more nutritious contents to the developing world, it also enhances our daily food products.


Medicines and vaccines are very costly to produce for the most times. Researchers are working to develop vaccine in foods. For example, bananas are considered as potential vaccination against hepatitis B. With the development of genetic engineering, we will not need to get vaccination from shots, but simply from eating fruits (McGill Hill, 2000).


Some of the major concerns regarding GE food include the potential risks to human health, labeling issues, and the potential hazards to environment.

Human Health Risk

There have been no negative cases of people dying from consuming GE products. Although an article published in Lancet (Pusztai, 1999) examined the effects of GE potatoes on the digestive tract in rats and showed appreciable difference in the intestines of rats those were fed with GE potatoes and those were fed with ordinary potatoes, the critics contend that the data does not back up with enough scientific proofs (Enserink, 1999). Furthermore, they believe that the experience is flawed because the genes inserted into the potatoes were a snow flower lectin, a substance known to be toxic to mammals, and these potatoes was never intended for human or animal consumption. Overall, scientists believe that genetic engineered food do not present a risk to human health. We will examine more about the safety assessments in Canada after this concern section.


Labeling the contents of GE products is another concern for many people. However, it is not necessary. According to the book, “A Consumer’s Guide to GM Food” (McHughen, 2000), the two major purposes of labeling are: to provide us nutritional information or serving as advertising purposes. No food production companies would mention “poison” as an ingredient to their products. Instead, the labels are carefully manipulated with the art of language while speaking the truth. It can therefore be very misleading. Some labels can be factually informative, but appear useless for the consumers. The information might be too broad (e.g. the only labeled ingredient for vegetable oil is “vegetable oil” without specifying what kind) or too technical (e.g. mentioning chemical substance like sodium benzoate that normal consumers would not understand the consequence from eating it). Since the main purpose, which is providing useful information to the consumers, is not served, there is no point having it.

Furthermore, because no food is truly 100% pure, it is just impossible to list all of them down in a cost effective way. Even if it is possible, the lower end of the market will be deeply affected financially by labeling and regulating GE products because of their uncertain provenance. Some countries, such as United States, do not require labeling in GE products (Dechenne, Jafri, Ruesch, & Shiva, 2004). Moreover, the researchers at the University of Minnesota found that only one percent of the human population reads the entire label (Mauro, 2011). Since nearly no one is reading it, it is not necessary to go through a complicated process and waste more the resources just to label the contents of GE food.

Environmental Hazards

Many people are concerned about the environmental issues as well, but it is preventable. One of the major concerns is genetic engineering products may cause harm to the other organisms. According to the laboratory report published in Nature (Losey, Rayor, & Carter, 1999), pollen from Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) corn caused high mortality rate in monarch butterfly caterpillars. Because the caterpillars consume milkweed plants instead of corns, the study conclude that the pollen from BT corn might be carried by the wind to the milkweeds in neighbouring fields. However, a further study by the USDA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other non-government research groups suggests that the original study may be flawed (Niller, 1999).

Several solutions proposed include:

□   Create GM plants that are male sterile which therefore will not produce pollens and so no cross-pollination will occur. (Gressel, 1999).

□   Modify the pollen of GM plant so that it does not contain the modified gene. (Gressel, 1999)

□   Create buffer zones. It is estimated that the necessary width of buffer zones range from 6 meters to 30 meters or more (Daniell, 1999).

Since solutions are being proposed, problems will take into notice and be resolved. There is no need to worry about polluting the environment from eating GE products.

GE food in Canada

A long complicated process required to be done in Canada before a GE food can be publicized. It usually takes seven to ten years to research and assess the safety of a new genetically modified food (Heath Canada, 2011). Manufacturers and importers, who wish to sell or advertise a GM food in Canada, must submit data to Health Canada following the steps below:

  1. Pre-submission consultation
  2. Pre-market notification
  3. Scientific Assessment
  4. Requests for addition information
  5. Summary report of findings
  6. Preparation of food rulings proposal
  7. Letter of no objection
  8. Decision document on Health Canada Website


Further noted by Health Canada, the safety assessment looks at the following items:


  • development of the modified organism
  • composition of and nutritional information about the GE food compared to a non-modified counterpart food
  • the potential for production of new toxins in the food
  • the potential for causing allergic reactions
  • microbiological and chemical safety of the food
  • the potential for any unintended or secondary effects
  • key nutrients and toxicants
  • major and minor constituents


Since our government carefully examines the food for us, we should give our trust them. After all, they are consuming the same products as we do.



Advance science and technology are to better our human society. The method of genetic engineering is being used in agriculture and food production to provide more, better, and safer products. Not only the quality and quantity of food has been enhanced using GE, medicines are also easier and cheaper to produce. Although concerns such as the potential risks to human health and environmental damages are being proposed, there is no scientific proof on these aspects and solutions are also discovered ready to be solved the issues. We might not know what we are really eating without the labels, but the government has done the long process to assess and ensure the safety of the food products we buy from supermarkets. Genetic engineered food is the food for our future.