I’ve got the munchies!

School has just started, and already, your pile of work has grown exponentially. Books have to be read, crisp sheets of paper are filled with scribbles, and numbers have to be crunched. But wait! What is that in your hand slowly edging its way to your mouth? A candy bar? Crisps? Gasp! Much like Mr. Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the words “The horror! The horror!” echo in my mind.

Some of you may be like me. I simply must eat when I am studying or doing any sort of schoolwork. There’s just something about studying that makes me peckish. Perhaps it’s my brain’s way of telling me it needs more energy for the task ahead. Whatever the reason, if you have not packed something to eat, finding delicious and healthy food on campus is easy thanks to a nifty new tool.

U of T’s Food Services at the St. George campus have come up with an interactive map that lets you find places on campus that serve whatever food you fancy. The map is available on their website at foodmap.utoronto.ca. There are 44 eateries around campus, and this new map allows you to narrow down your options. There are search options like Eat Smart locations, Flex Dollars accepted, full meal, halal, kosher, L.L.B.O., LFP certified, light fare, and vegan and vegetarian friendly. The map also conveniently shows places with microwaves and wireless. A list of food options on campus can also be found in the UTSU handbook under “Directories.”
For those who are interested in locally grown food, Food and Beverage Services also have a Sustainable Food Map and directory showing “eateries and grocery stores that offer organic, local, LFP-certified and fair trade foods.”

There’s also a Farmer’s Market that I like to visit every Thursday from 2–5 p.m. at Willcocks Common (Willcocks and St. George beside Sidney Smith Hall). Why not skip the food truck and pay a visit to the Farmer’s Market? Here, not only can you find fresh fruits and vegetables, but also cheese, honey, maple syrup, baked goods, jams, waffles, meals, and snacks. Going to the Farmer’s Market is great because, for a change, you get to chat and meet the people who grow and make the food and learn about sustainable practices.

University of Toronto has many great eateries to suit everyone’s tastes, whether it be a plain old sandwich or a warm and hearty vegan soup. So try and check out new places to eat, and don’t get bored by having the same old thing.

Forget the paperback?

The first e-readers, Rocketbook and Softbook, were developed and released in 1998, but it is only in recent years that e-readers and e-books have gained popularity. Since then, products like the Sony eReader, Nook Reader, and Kobo have followed suit — albeit not garnering as much success as the Kindle. The e-reader has even affected book sales, as Amazon announced that its e-book sales outnumbered paperback sales in the last three months of 2010.

This is impressive and all, but can e-books ever replace the tangible experience of reading an actual paper book? Thanks to advanced ink technology, e-readers can be easy on the eyes — a rather important factor for those long bookworm nights. A special type of electronic paper, called ‘e-ink,’ rearranges charged particles through an applied electric field, forming visual images. Titanium dioxide particles are dispersed within hydrocarbon oil, along with a dark-coloured dye and charging agents to give them an electronic charge. This mixture is placed between two parallel conductive plates, and when a voltage is applied between the two plates, the particles migrate to the side with an opposite charge. Ergonomic functionality is taken into account, since electronic ink is designed to eliminate the eye strain usually produced by a back-lit screen, like the one on your computer. Additionally, the carefully-sized screens function perfectly in direct sunlight and do a nice job of mimicking paper.

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Aside from an e-reader’s unique specifications, the portable books certainly have advantages over physical books. The compact nature of the device is great for student living — which is often confined to notoriously small spaces. As an ardent booklover living in a tiny apartment, having three bookcases and 100 DVDs can really crowd the space. A 10-ounce, 6-inch e-reader however, can sort all that out.

The general vibe from readers is uncertain. They feel on the fence choosing between e-readers and paperbacks. The Kindle is for portable reading, while paper books are for the bookcase at home. It’s not uncommon to hear people say that nothing can replace the tactile feel of real paper. This might change, however, as e-readers like the Kindle take on cutting-edge technology and improve their user interface. Wired magazine reports that consumers can expect a new Amazon tablet this fall — bigger and better than previous e-reader tablets. The new product runs on Android and is expected to rival Apple’s tablet design, which shares a similar user-interface. When it does come out, expect to see comments in the thousands on Amazon that analyze and compare the Kindle’s features along with other e-readers.
Along with a sweet new look, prospective e-reader consumers should also take into account the convenience, storage ease, and environmental benefits that come with a compact device. Countless sheets of paper can be saved by being digitized and even companies could reap the environmental benefits of having a greener office supply. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to crack open an old beautiful book and enjoy the sweet smell of learning.

Elephants — er, plants — never forget

As it turns out, plants have a memory of their own — sort of. Researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England have recently found supportive evidence for epigenetic memory in plants. The finding came about upon setting out to trace the mechanism by which plants distinctly use memory of recent winter lengths to determine when to flower.

The answer was found in the behaviour of histones, a type of protein that encloses and orders DNA. Without histones, DNA would be unravelled and considerably longer in length. When the histones, located near the gene responsible for flowering time, were examined, it was found that histones would change according to exposure to cold weather and coax the FLC gene in neighbouring cells into an “on or off” position. The longer the plant was kept in the cold during the first testing, the longer it would take to flower during the second round. What was revealed was an adaptive and quantitatively predictable method of plant ‘memory.’ Since epigenetics revolves around heritable changes in gene function that happen without a change in the DNA sequence, it seems as though plants have somehow formed an entirely different method of “learning” and adaptation.

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This type of memory has obvious survival benefits. Premature flowering, in most cases, would lead to the death of the plant, whereas perfect timing leads to optimal pollen and seed dispersal. Such memory works similarly to humans’ in that we must first learn dangers in order to prevent them and survive. There are many dangers that human offspring do not automatically know how to avoid, forcing them to cycle through the same learning processes for themselves. This is where a very interesting component of epigenetics steps in — transgenerational epigenetics.

Previous theories supporting the idea that one can pass on to offspring the traits accumulated during the parent’s life have been dismissed as implausible and written off as “Lamarckian,” an abandoned idea both pioneered and named after a Russian scientist before the discovery of the genome. According to a paper by Eva Jablonka and Gal Raz published in the Quarterly Review of Biology, there have now been numerous studies that support evidence of transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.

One example involves the study in the European Journal of Human Genetics of random samples of males born during three different time periods in Överkalix, Sweden. They aimed to investigate the magnitude of influence the childhood circumstances of the proband, the individual serving as the starting point for the genetic study of a family, had on the various collected data. Notably, the study found that ancestors’ nutrition was the biggest influence on the longevity of transgenerational successors.
However, not all effects are generations away. One study by Robert A. Waterland and Randy L. Jirtle explored the effects of early nutrition in viable yellow ‘agouti’ mice; the mice are called agouti since they have a transposable element in the agouti gene. The researchers found that inserting chemicals into the transposable element insertion sites allowed dietary supplements to alter the offspring’s nutrition. This suggests that dietary supplements are more than just beneficial and can actually affect epigenetic gene regulation in humans.
Until recently, we had no basis in biology to explain the mechanisms behind the phenomenon — the idea of a non-sentient organism, such as a plant, retaining “memory” was too far-fetched. Yet, when we examine these structures at the molecular level, we see all the components are in place to make it possible. Considering what the theory of evolution has taught us, it’s not a stretch to determine that the likelihood of evolving with such beneficial mechanisms is right within line. The next step for science is to create a road-map for more of these predictable epigenetic responses.

Hayley’s hurdles

Hayley Warren has almost mastered the art of the comeback.

The Varsity Blues hurdler has spent most of her career overcoming obstacles — and they haven’t been limited to the track.

A nationally ranked gymnast as a pre-teen, Warren began to look for another outlet for her athleticism after repeated injuries.

The minute Warren set foot on the track, her mother Wendy said she knew her daughter would one day achieve big things. “Her first race out she won,” Wendy remembered. “She just won [from] there.”

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Warren set a slew of hurdling records across the province before entering high school. In the ninth grade, however, she began to falter. The track program at Warren’s local high school was less-than-stellar, the club she had spent her career with underwent a coaching turnover, and she was dealing with nagging back pain.

By the end of the grade ten, she was losing interest in hurdles.

When Warren’s family moved from Beaverton to Orillia that summer, it made her question her priorities. “It really made me realize you’re the only person who’s going to be there for you. Sports are something that you can control. You might be best friends with someone one day and then they’re gone the next,” Warren said. “I matured a lot more. I realized what I wanted to do and who I wanted to [be].”

Warren began to work with trainer Mike Torkoff soon after and with his help she began to turn things around.

“When she [would] say ‘I can’t do this’ I’d say ‘Yes, you can’ and I’d help her through it,” Torkoff said.

A partial track scholarship to McGill University in 2009 proved to Warren that she’d finally gotten her head in the game.

“I think the hardest thing for an athlete isn’t what goes on with other people around you, but what goes on in your head,” Warren says. “If you’re not in it mentally, what’s the point? You’re never going to get to where you want to be.”

At McGill, Warren trained harder than she ever had before. Her improvement was so drastic that she placed third in the national 100-m outdoor hurdles, ending the school’s near decade-long medal drought in women’s track.

Despite her success, however, Warren said she felt the track program wasn’t as serious as she thought it would be.

“She was an unhappy girl because she loved McGill, but she knew it wasn’t the right choice for her athletic career,” Wendy said.

The summer after her first year, Warren decided to transfer to the University of Toronto, a school known for its thriving track program.

“I wanted somewhere I could nurture my skills,” Warren said. “I wanted to be surrounded [by] elite athletes that wanted more than just to go to CIS. They want to go to the Olympics.

“That’s the kind of athletes I needed to train with. They have the same kind of goals I do.”

It seemed Warren finally had all her ducks in a row. She had found the track program she’d been looking for since day one, and her training and results improved dramatically.

This year was supposed to belong to Warren. In January, at one of her first meets as a Varsity Blue, she qualified for the nationals right out of the gate.

But less than a month later, Warren received some devastating news. Injury had been dogging her for a while and after coming off a hurdle awkwardly at a meet in Ottawa, the two-to-three-year-old tear in her meniscus got bigger. After going to the doctor, Warren found out that her problem wasn’t going to be solved easily.

Tests showed Warren had a rare meniscus deformity, and she was going to need surgery.

“The scary part was before the surgery, my surgeon said ‘I’m going to be 100 per cent honest with you, you may never run the same after the surgery or you may run better,” Warren said. “He didn’t know what it would be like until he got in there and did the scope.”

Warren’s season came to an abrupt halt, and at the beginning of April, she went under the knife.

“I couldn’t believe it happened when it did,” Wendy said. “I just wanted it to hurry get better faster.”

Fortunately, barely six months later, Warren is back out on the track doing full workouts.

“It’s going take a while to get back in. After [the surgery] I was like ‘I’m never going to be able to walk again! This is horrible!’ I was so dramatic,” Warren laughed. “It just takes time. That’s all it takes.”

And with a strong support team backing her, Warren knows that she’s going to make her grand comeback.

“I think being an athlete, once you’ve overcome something once, you know you can overcome other negatives,” Torkoff said.

Warren said she’s focusing on her track career more than ever before.

“I know what I want to do, I know who I want to be as an athlete,” Warren said. “I’m putting the effort, the hours, and the work into being that person that I imagine myself being.”

Concussions in Hockey

SADI MUKTADIR explores a conference on the relationship between hockey and concussions

Outcomes Following Concussions in Hockey (OuCH) held a conference on September 17 that explored the possible options in preventing concussions in hockey. A concussion is best defined as the immediate and usually temporary change of mental functioning due to serious trauma. Usually, the process involves the tearing of nerve fibres that affect the white matter in the brain, leading to subtle effects, such as dizziness.

Symptoms often include fogginess, headaches, and sluggishness. The subject of concussions has never been more charged than now. Beginning with injuries to players like Marc Savard, who suffered an elbow to the head, and culminating in the concussion of superstar Sidney Crosby, the league faces pressure to focus more attention on the problem of concussions. While stricter punishments, in the form of fines and suspensions, have been handed down, the sentiment at the conference seemed much different.

According to data collected by Dr. Michael Cusimano, approximately 15,000 – 20,000 children will suffer concussions in the upcoming hockey season, and it was posited by the doctor that this was a conservative estimate. The main goal of the conference seemed to be the promotion of a different approach. Mainly, a change in attitude to violent hockey culture coupled with the education of players, coaches, and parents.

Dr. Shree Bhalerao was an interesting addition to the conference. As a psychiatric doctor, he highlighted many previously underemphasized outcomes following a concussion. These included depression, sleep disorders and irrational fears, among other things. Players may become withdrawn and more susceptible to overmedication and substance abuse. The psychiatric effects of concussions and other brain injuries through hockey are receiving a lot of attention today, following the sad summer hockey experienced through the losses of well-loved players such as Wade Belack, Rick Rypien, and Derek Boogaard, all of whom did not shy away from a healthy tilt or two.

Rob Zamuner, a former NHL player and NHLPA representative, however, seemed to suggest that the role of the enforcer in hockey could help to prevent and limit concussions, much like a police officer on duty, making sure that no illegal or nasty hits are doled out. Adam Proteau, a renowned writer from the Hockey News, countered this argument by highlighting the detrimental effects an enforcer may also have, namely, policing through brutal tactics and proactive violence. Matt Cooke, anyone?

The doctors were mostly in favour changing hockey culture that encourages malicious and violent play and educating players’ support structures on the styles of play and hits that need modification. This was most recently reflected in the new requirement that every NHL team be shown a video and discuss dangerous headshots prior the start of the regular season. The new Rule 48 in the NHL, outlining new illegal headshots, and its enforcement around the league, has also set an example and upheld player safety. Case in point: the strict 10 game suspension just handed out to enforcer Jody Shelley for an illegal hit on our own Blue and White Darryl Boyce.

The desired change in hockey culture was discussed at length, and interviews and testimonies from minor level hockey players and children’s hockey leagues around Ontario showed that kids from a young age are being encouraged to play a violent style of hockey. The medical panel asserted a needed change to this encouragement of violent and reckless play, starting with authority figures who can discourage malicious and retaliatory violence and headshots.
Educating players, coaches, and parents about concussions has come a long way. The devastating effect it can have on a player’s career is undeniable. Eric Lindros, Keith Primeau, and many others can attest to that. With a greater focus on concussions as a brain injury, all involved at the NHL level and below are being forced to question the role of reckless retaliatory violence, the importance of the enforcer, and the vicious effects of the headshot. How to best prevent concussions is still a work in progress. Sidney Crosby awaits a consensus.

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BRIAN O’NEILL’s perspective on hockey culture

The National Hockey League enters this season under a dark cloud. This summer the NHL saw three of its own tragically pass away: New York Ranger, Derek Boogaard; Winnipeg Jet, Rick Rypien; and former Leaf and Nashville Predator, Wade Belak. While there is no proven connection between these deaths and concussions, the three players were in a position that required them to check opponents aggressively, and it is not far-fetched that concussions or some sort of brain trauma played some part in their death.

But we enter this season with optimism. Progress has been made toward better education and awareness of the issue. A concussion is an “unseen injury”; it is not easily identified like an arm or leg injury. Players need to speak out about their symptoms in order to be properly diagnosed, and it appears that a growing number of players are doing so. However, it is still common for a player to play through an injury for the “best of the team.” Fortunately, the old adage of “shaking it off” is being replaced by precaution.

A prime example of this is Sidney Crosby. The fact that an elite player of Crosby’s level is not returning — or being pushed into returning by management — until he is 100 per cent healthy is a positive sign.

Crosby is one of the league’s most marketed players, and the NHL and its fans want him back as soon as possible. Yet, what are some consequences of Crosby returning too soon? The answer may be something hockey fans don’t want to consider. But no player, however elite, should be immune to scrutiny.

As fans, we tend to gravitate towards sports as a form of escapism. For those few hours, we can put aside all else and invest ourselves in a game, a team, a common love. That is the beauty of sports. The game’s big stories should not involve life or death.

Concussions threaten to damage the game. We love hockey for its physicality, but we also love it for its strength, skill, and the finesse of its players. It is impossible to fully eliminate the threat of concussions from the game, but as long as the league continues to act on recommendations based on research, players and fans can only benefit.

We may go into the year with one of the league’s most dynamic players on the sidelines, but we do so willingly. Hopefully, awareness about concussions will influence the treatment of players, and love of the game, both on and off the ice.

Blues feast on M&Ms

The Varsity Blues women’s field hockey team maintained its unbeaten record with wins over the Western Mustangs and the McGill Martlets Saturday.

Both opponents were shut out, as the Blues recorded a 2–0 victory over the Mustangs and a 6–0 win against the Martlets. The wins left the Blues with a 5–0 start to their season.
The first game, against Western, ended with a close 2–0 win for the Blues, whose strong and aggressive defence secured the shut-out. The first goal came in the 21st minute of the game from second-year forward Alex Thicke, who put the Blues ahead before half time. Fourth-year defender Kelley Lusk doubled the Blues’ lead with an insurance goal in the 62nd minute off a corner.

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The Blues showed huge defensive strength against the Mustangs. Each time Western took a corner, the Blues walled up. Their aggressive play allowed them to steal and intercept the ball consistently, giving the Mustangs very few chances to shoot. What few shots the Mustangs did manage were blocked easily by U of T’s goalie, Kathryn Williams.

Though defensively sound — the Blues have conceded just one goal so far, a CIS-best — women’s field hockey head coach, John DeSouza, admitted “the goal scoring was awful.” He strongly believes that the Blues should be outscoring their opponents by even greater margins. The Blues do, however, lead CIS in goals scored, with 28.

Against McMaster, the Blues attack came on strong, outscoring their opponents 6–0. Alexandra Evanyshyn, a second-year forward, led the team to victory with three goals. “It obviously feels really good to help our team win,” said Evanyshyn. “I think we really needed to win this afternoon because we didn’t have our best game this morning,” she mused. “It was nice [for me] to put some [goals] on the board in the second game.”

Defender Kaelan Watson scored to put the Blues ahead in the third minute of the game. Evanyshyn followed Watson’s lead, scoring in the 17th minute and then again in the 27th minute.

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The second half of the Martlets game began with a goal from Katherine McNeill in the 41st minute. Lauren Mansfield added the fifth five minutes later, and Evanyshyn completed her hat-trick in the 56th minute.

The Blues’ defense and aggressive play remained strong, with the ball rarely making it to the shooting circle around their net.

The Blues’ women have added some new players this season to the stellar squad that won the CIS championship last season. The two Canadian first-year students on the squad, Rachel Fackoury and Amanda Woodcroft, have played field hockey on the Ontario provincial team, so their success does not come as a huge shock. Colleen Garrity, a first-year from Hanover, New Hampshire, was MVP for her high school team last year and a member of the all-state team.

Hannah Tighe, a veteran player for the team, was the Blues’ female athlete of the week for her performances on the September 17 weekend. She scored four goals and had two assists in the team’s opening series. Along with teammate Watson, Tighe has been a CIS all-Canadians since 2009.

“It’s great to be recognized amongst such great athletes in our community, and it’s good going into the home weekend like that … it’s encourag[ing],” Tighe said of her latest award.

Last season, the Blues fell to the Guelph Gryphons in the OUA finals but beat them in the CIS championship. The two teams have been rivals for some time, and on Sunday they met again.

“[We’ll stick] with the same game plan. You know, staying in the process and not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Tighe. “We know Guelph’s always been such a big rival and we know we just need to keep going with what we’ve been practicing all along.”

The strategy clearly works — the Blues beat Guelph 3–0 to remain unbeaten atop the OUA standings.

Sports in brief

Gee-Gees avenge last season’s surprise defeat to Blues

The Varsity Blues football team fell 41–0 to the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Saturday, September 24 in Ottawa.

With the loss, the Blues dropped to 2–2 and are now tied with the Queen’s Gaels for fifth place in the OUA standings.

Ottawa improved to 3–1 this season and now holds a 21–17 head-to-head record against the Blues for the past 106 years; Toronto snapped a 37-year losing streak in last season’s upset win over the Gee-Gees.

Toronto hit the road after a breakout 21–12 victory over the Guelph Gryphons in last Saturday’s home opener. The offense scored its first three touchdowns of the season against the Gryphons, and U of T’s number one ranked defense continued to hold the opposition out of the end zone.

In Ottawa, the Blues came out strong with senior quarterback Andrew Gillis hitting three different receivers as the team drove the ball down to the Ottawa 18-yard line. However, on the next play, Ottawa linebacker Nick Lecour returned a Gillis interception to the Ottawa 40-yard line, putting an end to both the drive and the Blues’ momentum.

The Blues’ offense was unable to establish a rhythm against the Gee-Gees after that and finished the game with 12 punts, 4 interceptions, and 4 lost fumbles. Gillis, who was 17-of-33 for 190 yards and four interceptions, was replaced at the beginning of the fourth quarter by Richard Quittenton, who went 3-for-5 for 41 yards but was also sacked 4 times.

Mohamed Abdallah led the Blues with 4 receptions for 62 yards in his hometown, while veteran receiver Sebastian Magalas reeled in 4 passes for 58 yards, including a team-leading 33 yard catch.

Wilkerson DeSouza, last week’s CIS and OUA defensive player of the week, led the team with 8 solo tackles, while Zack Lukings and Owynn Lahnalampi each recorded a sack.

Ottawa clearly controlled the momentum of the game as the team scored five touchdowns, including one off a 32-yard pass from Colbon and two field goals of 40 and 43 yards.

The Varsity Blues return to Varsity Stadium this Friday to host the Queen’s Gaels. — Zoe Bedard

Science in brief

Donate blood… to yourself?

According to study results published in Blood, the journal of the American Society of Hematology, researchers have successfully injected cultured red blood cells (cRBCs) created from human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) into the same human donors. The Paris-based research team successfully generated billions of cRBCs in a petri dish with the aid of specific growth factors that regulate the proliferation and maturation of HSCs into red blood cells. The researchers then injected the cells into four mouse models and confirmed that the cells were able to progress through the full maturation process. Using human donors, the researchers repeated the process of creating another set of cRBCs and injected the cells back into the donor’s own body to assess their survival. After 26 days, the survival rate of cRBCs in the donor’s bloodstream was between 41–63 per cent comparable to the average 28-day half-life of normal native red blood cells. These results demonstrate that the lifespan and survival rate of cultured cells are similar to conventional red blood cells. They provide hope that one day, patients in need of a blood transfusion might become their own donors.

*— Maleeha Majid

Source: Science Daily*