The joys of intramurals

With summer fading away, exercise plans and the urge to stay in shape is likely to fade with it. Intramurals can help to fill that ‘fitness’ space on your schedule, but there’s much more to be had from competing than simply getting exercise.

University of Toronto’s Intramural Sports Program organizes over 700 regular-season games and over 100 playoff games annually. It has more than 10,000 participants and is associated with 26 different colleges or faculties at U of T, from the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses to St. George campus colleges and professional faculties such as Pharmacy, Dentistry, Medicine, and Law.

The Intramural Program offers a variety of sports for students to participate in, with six co-ed leagues, nine men’s leagues, and eight women’s leagues. The program also includes nine tournaments for sports such as broomball, European handball and squash. There are also two summer leagues and Tri-Campus leagues, where the three U of T campuses compete against each other in a variety of sports.

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The program has a long and rich history with leagues having begun as early as the 1890s. A number of prestigious trophies — some over 100-years-old — are contested within the program each year.

The Mulock Cup is one of many such trophies steeped in history. Awarded to the championship-winning men’s rugby team, the trophy is the oldest in Canada to be competed for without interruption. It was donated to the University by the Athletic Directorate in honour of Sir William Mulock, the Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1894.

“To be honest, I never knew the Mulock Cup has the history it’s got,” admitted Kenny Wong, the third-year captain of the St. Michael’s College rugby team. “Looking back on it, it’s a lot of history, a lot of tradition, and certainly something a lot of the colleges take a lot of pride in.”
University students have been competing against each other in numerous other sports for decades, and many of the participants are proud to be involved in intramurals and to continue the tradition of representing their college or faculty in friendly athletic competition.

“I’m so proud to be a part of this amazing program,” said Taryn Grieder, a PhD student in medical science, who has been involved in seven different intramural leagues throughout her 12 years as a student. “I’m honoured to be captain of a variety of SGS teams and relish the leadership role … Sometimes I think that intramural sports is my part-time job since I play so many!”

At a school with such a large and diverse student body intramurals provide an opportunity for students to build friendships outside of the classroom. “[Intramurals] have definitely allowed me to get to know people who I probably wouldn’t hang out with otherwise,” said Wong. “Graduate students, alumni, younger guys … it’s a great place to meet people outside of your normal social circle.”

The Intramural Program appeals to students who live on campus as well as those who commute. “The schedule is not bad, especially for rugby … It’s easy to drive down [for games],” said Kavinda Senanayake, a fourth-year commuter student in his second year as a part of the SMC rugby team. “It’s a chance to meet new people. It’s something different. I never used to play rugby.”

The program also helps students who feel that their program of study limits their opportunities to meet new people. One such case is Tina Sing, a third-year graduate student in the Department of Biochemistry. “Graduate school, it’s a little bit unique,” she said. “I’m in my lab all the time; I don’t really have classes so it’s a good way to meet people outside of your faculty.”

The staff of the Intramural program at U of T are always looking for input from students. Assistant Manager of the Intramural Program, Mohsin Bukhari, invites students to “come to our office [at the Varsity Pavilion Centre] and bring … your ideas.”

“[Intramurals are] free, which I think is really cool and that’s not always the case at other universities,” noted Sing. “It provides [students] with an opportunity to go outside, be active, and meet other students which I think is really important while you’re in university.
“I think it’s good to sign up for things like intramurals, get some exercise, and meet a bunch of people you probably wouldn’t interact with otherwise.”.

The Intramural Sports Program at U of T has something for everyone. For over 100 years, it has enriched the experiences of thousands of students and it continues to grow every year.
“I don’t think I could love the Intramural Program at U of T any more. We are very fortunate as students to be able to partake in it, as some schools don’t have such an awesome variety of activities,” said Grieder. “I’ve met some of my best friends and also developed stronger friendships with people from my lab through intramurals.”

For more information on the different U of T intramural leagues and their history, as well as photos, scores, and schedules, visit
www.uoftintramurals.ca

How intramurals work…

Involvement in intramurals at U of T is based on your college or faculty. To get involved with a team, get in touch with the intramural representative for your college or faculty, who will then put you in touch with the captain of the team in question.
For some sports, leagues have up to three divisions: Division I, Division II, and Open Division. The Open Division is open for entrants to form a team of their own and sign up; generally this division only exists in sports with larger leagues.
Depending on the number of teams, leagues have one or more game per team per week with regular-season games determining who advances to the playoffs. The playoffs are single-elimination tournaments.

Well, that was embarrassing

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Erin Rodgers, a standup, sketch and improv comic from Toronto. At one point during the interview, the conversation veered to Rodgers’ undergraduate experience at U of T, and she began to tell me a rather amusing anecdote about the crowd of morose punk rockers that she was friendly with during university.

If I had actually thought it through, I probably would have realized that the most tactful approach to my next question would have been to simply ask Rodgers when she had graduated from university. At the moment, however, I was too preoccupied with trying to date the revival of the punk movement to realize this, and instead blurted out:

“So, you went to U of T in the ‘90s?”

Rodgers shook her head.

“Oh, the ‘80s then,” I said, without pausing to consider that my calculations would make Rodgers a suspiciously youthful forty-something.

Rodgers hesitated for a moment and then replied, “Actually, it was the 2000s.”

As I realized that I had just unintentionally implied that Rodgers looked old enough to be my mother, I was overcome by the sudden desire to crawl under my chair and hide there for a few hours. Fortunately, Rodgers seemed entirely unfazed by the conversation, which, in retrospect, is not entirely surprising. As she made clear during the interview, Rodgers has an appreciation for the cringe worthy moments that crop up during social interactions, an appreciation that she hopes to spread through her latest project, AWKWARD: A Show of Epic Fails.

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AWKWARD, which Rodgers hosts and produces, takes place once a month at the Comedy Bar on Bloor St West. Each installment of the show features a different group of comedians who each share one of their most embarrassing stories with the audience. It’s a relatively simple premise, but Rodgers believes that AWKWARD is able to tap into the universal, psychological need to affirm that everybody, no matter how cool, occasionally acts like an idiot.
“Everyone feels like their embarrassing story is the most humiliating thing that has ever happened in the entire world,” she said. “And then you hear all these other [embarrassing] things … and you realize ‘Oh my god, it’s not just me.’”

Rodgers also mentioned that comedians and non-comedians alike have expressed an interest in participating in the show.

“I’ve found that people kind of want to get [their embarrassing stories] off their chest,” she said. “Everyone knows that those stories are funny, and when it’s an atmosphere [where] … there’s a bunch of people who are going to do the same thing, I think you feel much more comfortable.”

However, as the October performance of AWKWARD proved, recounting an incident of personal humiliation in front of a live audience can be a risky business. Several of the comedians who were featured in the show definitely fell flat with their stories, which weren’t awkward enough to be inherently funny or injected with enough humour to make them entertaining.

“I’m feeling kind of awkward right now, to be honest,” one comedian said, when the end of his story was met with silence and a single cough from somewhere in the back of the room.
“You and me both,” I thought.

The comedians who came equipped with more carefully constructed anecdotes, on the other hand, probably found the type of gratification that they were looking for when they agreed to relive their most embarrassing experience on stage. Luke Gordon Field was hilarious while describing how he was thrown off a mule during a vacation to Greece, and Jocelyn Geddie told an amusing story about how she came to compliment one of the cool girls in middle school on her “horny” dress, severely misinformed as to what the word actually meant. There was also a thoroughly typical, but nonetheless entertaining, “being-awkward-while trying-to-impress-a-girl” anecdote from John Baird, and a story from Jerry Schaffer, an alum of Second City, who once told the soon-to-be-famous musician Jesse Cook that he needed to improve his keyboard skills.

Rodgers has plans to open AWKWARD up to non-professional performers who want to share their embarrassing stories, and during our interview, she invited me to participate in the next show. I’m not sure, however, that I have an awkward anecdote that is worthy for the stage. Perhaps I’ll try to guess the weight of my next interviewee and see how that goes.

Sports in brief

Men’s rugby team wins
The Varsity Blues men’s rugby team won their first game this season after the Guelph Gryphons forfeited this week’s fixture.

On October 3, Guelph’s Department of Athletics announced that the Gryphons’ men’s rugby team had been suspended for two regular season games. The decision followed an off-campus incident during an orientation event organized by members of the rugby team, which breached the student athletic code of conduct.

“We have a duty to provide our students with an environment that is safe for everyone and upholds the highest standards of Gryphon athletics,” Tom Kendall, Guelph’s Director of Athletics, said on the Gryphons’ website. “Our code of conduct related to both on- and off-field activities is very clear, and our expectations of our athletes are very high. The students are well-informed of the code and subsequent consequences.”

Guelph’s forfeiture is good news for the Blues who have lost all five of their games so far, although the default victory is unlikely to impact the standings. The team, however, would have preferred to play the Gryphons. “No team likes to win on a forfeiture,” said Blues’ head coach Paul DiCarmine. “We are building a team, and it’s all about experiencing. We need experience. We need to play.”

—Marie-Violette Bernard
With files from gryphons.ca

Western Mustangs ride roughshod over Blues

The Varsity Blues fell 21–9 to the Western Mustangs on a dark, rainy afternoon at Varsity Stadium. Saturday’s defeat left Toronto 3–4 this season.

The Blues came into the game looking to put a stop to their three-game losing streak. They were also hoping to rebound from a 50–14 collapse in Hamilton in week six, a game in which they conceded three late-game touchdowns.

The Mustangs travelled to Toronto for the first of two road games, following a tight 33–29 victory over the Guelph Gryphons the week before. Western moved into first place in the CIS standings with their win over Guelph, after Laval suffered their first loss of the year.

In keeping with October tradition, several players, including the Blues’ Kevin Asare and Aaron Milton, sported pink accessories in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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The Blues got off to a slow start; they were unable to successfully convert a first-down until their third possession, almost ten minutes into the game.

Western, on the other hand, raced to an early lead following a two-yard run by Tyler Varga which raised his total to 15 touchdowns for the year. Varga, who left the game with what appeared to be a facial injury in the second quarter, is in his first year out of Kitchener and has now scored a touchdown in each game this season.

The Blues responded to the Mustangs’ early score with 9 unanswered points of their own — all by the foot of Andrew Lomasney — to close out the half. The final three points came on the Blues’ final possession of the half. Helped by a Mustangs pass-interference penalty that advanced the ball across mid-field and a 43-yard completion to Paul de Pass, Toronto marched down the field from their own 39-yard line. The drive ended with a Lomasney 20-yarder which gave the Blues the lead for the first and only time. Toronto native Lomasney also came good on attempts of 27 and 10 yards.

The Mustangs arrived in Toronto as the number-one ranked offense in Ontario, averaging close to 550 yards a game. The Blues’ defense — second in the league, allowing just 340 yards a game — were a suitable match, and held Western to only a single touchdown in the first half.
The Blues defense hunted the ball with great efficiency throughout the game. Before the half, Toronto was able to secure two takeaways: an Ian Noble fumble recovered by the Blues’ Christopher Johnson and a Nathan Riva loose ball that was pounced on by Jaiden McBride of the Blues in front of the Western team bench. Unfortunately, the offense was unable to capitalize on their teammates’ exceptional ball awareness, and both possessions ended in punts.

The Blues defense continued their first-half efforts after the break as Willie Sharpe intercepted a Mustang pass deep in Blues’ territory early in the third quarter.

With that interception, one Blues player made history.

Fifth-year quarterback Andrew Gillis entered the game only 173 yards from surpassing 4000 total career passing yards. Toronto-native Gillis achieved the milestone on a 7-yard completion to senior receiver Michael Prempeh, making him the sixth Toronto quarterback to beat that mark. Gillis finished the afternoon 16 for 36 for 260 yards, including a 43-yard long throw to Ajax-born Paul de Pass. It wasn’t all smooth-sailing though; the quarterback was also picked off by both Horrace Finnikin and Mike Spence.

Western’s offense, led by both dressed quarterbacks Ben Rossong and Ian Noble, quickly ended the home crowd’s celebration. The Mustangs came back with a one-yard Nathan Riva touchdown. It was to be the first of two second-half Western majors, the second coming when Thibaudeau caught a Rossong pass for 20 yards and the touchdown.

Toronto’s special teams were impressive on the day, going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and totaling 139 yards on punt and kickoff returns. But trailing in the second half and facing a third down, the Blues elected to take their chances on a punt fake. Western anticipated the play and Western player-of-the-game Ricky Osei-Kusi broke into the backfield to tackle Willie Sharpe. The Toronto defense once again adhered to the ageless “bend but don’t break” philosophy and managed to force the Mustangs to attempt a field goal which drifted wide, resulting in a safety.

Toronto’s offensive woes sealed the team’s fate; they were unable to put up any points in the second half or score a single touchdown. Appropriately, the final Blues possession of the game ended when a Gillis pass was intercepted near mid-field. The Mustangs’ offense, held to only 371 yards, returned to the field to take a knee and end the afternoon’s play in Toronto.

The Blues play their final home game of the regular season next Saturday against the University of Waterloo with kick-off scheduled for 1 pm.

This year’s Nobel Prize winners

Each year, Nobel Prizes are awarded to industry leaders who have made some sort of cultural or scientific advancement. The prizes are given in honor of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. The prizes have been awarded almost every year since 1901, as requested in Nobel’s will. As of 2011, 853 individuals have received the award for innovations. Each Laureate receives a gold medal, a diploma, and a sum of money that is determined by the Nobel Foundation’s yearly income. Nobel Prizes awarded to scientific advancement are divided into the following categories: Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology or Medicine.

A handful of U of T alumni have achieved Nobel Laureate status. Some people might be aware that a couple of campus buildings are named after U of T Nobel Prize winners Sir Frederick Banting and J. J. R. Macleod for their work with Charles Best in the discovery of insulin as a diabetic treatment. Similarly, 1986 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, John C. Polanyi, has a Toronto District School Board high school named after him. Unfortunately, no U of T alumni received the prize this year.

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Nevertheless, the type of brilliance behind past achievements, such as the development of density-functional theory and the development of laser spectroscopy was unsurprisingly perpetuated in 2011.

In Physics, the prize was divided amongst three individuals. Saul Perlmutter received half of the award, with the other half divided between Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess for their discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae. This discovery is an important milestone in cosmology, allowing cosmologist to make exact cosmological parameters. In the 1920s, it was discovered that the Universe was expanding but it was uncertain at what rate. The rate at which something is expanding depends on how much energy there is. It was once thought that our universe, containing only matter, should eventually surrender to the forces of gravity, but the Physics Laureates find that we are actually accelerating. Their research found that there is an unknown energy source, called black energy in our universe that is driving this rapid expansion. Their findings may have opened up a whole new way of thinking about our universe.

In keeping with the theme of defying nature, Dan Shechtman received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of quasicrystals (crystals with 10 atoms grouped together). Shechtman studied the order of the atoms inside crystals and found non-repetitive regular patterns of atoms. Before Shechtman’s work, the assumption that atom patterns did not repeat themselves had been thought to be a key factor in crystal formation. Since his discovery, a few natural occurrences of quasicrystals have been discovered. Surprisingly some of the most durable forms of steel have been found to contain quasicrystals, along with a list of other metals. Shechtman’s finding proves that our understanding of natural processes is always changing and that not all assumptions should be taken as fact.

Like in Physics, the 2011 Prize in Physiology or Medicine was divided amongst three Laureates. Half of the prize was awarded to Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffman for their discovery of the activation of innate immunity. The second half was awarded to Ralph Steinman for his discovery of the dendritic cell and its role in adaptive immunity. Collectively, the Laureates’ works show us how our body works when it comes to pathogens. Adaptive immunity is the bodies’ ability to remember certain pathogens and strengthen the body’s fight against them the next time they are encountered. Dendritic cells, discovered by Steinman, are important in immunity because they play an important role in the control of tolerance and immunity. Sadly, Steinman passed away before the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet knew of his death. It was finally decided, however, that Steinman would be awarded the prize in good faith.

Not everyone has wanted to accept the Nobel Prize. On many occasions, people have rejected receiving the prize, feeling that they did not deserve the award. Conversely, a few Laureates have won multiple prizes. Marie Curie won the award twice for her discovery of radioactivity and in chemistry for the isolation of pure radium.

We still know so little about our world, and the success of these Nobel Laureates serves as motivation for furthering research. As was the case with Shechtman, many of the discoveries made were a complete violation of what was once thought to be the laws of nature. It just goes to show that anything might be possible; you just need to discover it.

Toronto occupied

Toronto’s financial district came under siege this weekend when thousands of Torontonians taking part in “Occupy Toronto” filled the streets in protest. Toronto was one of over 981 cities in 85 countries that responded to New York’s “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which began last September 17.

In the weeks before September 17, a group called Occupy Wall Street that touted the slogan “We are the 99%”, put out calls for New Yorkers to congregate in New York City’s financial district and oppose bank bailouts, corporate tax loopholes, and the growing gap between the American rich and poor. Four weeks later, a group that included students, nurses, journalists, medics, and web developers began occupying Toronto.

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During the lead-up to Saturday’s protests and the occupation startdate, Occupy Toronto held numerous General Assemblies where they voted on and discussed decisions including from press organizations to talk to, what food to bring, how to contact legal aid and how the protesters would maintain a steady supply of water and medical supplies. During these assemblies, organizers kept the location of the occupation secret to keep police guessing.

After hundreds had gathered outside the TD Bank building at King and Bay on October 15, it was announced that the occupation would take place at St. James’ Park. The protesters marched towards the park peacefully, chanting slogans such as, “They say cut back, we say fight back!” and “The people, united, can never be defeated!” — both of which were both used in other Occupy protests around the world. One person held a sign that read, “I can’t afford a lobbyist. I am the 99%,” while another held one that said, “This revolution will not be privatized.”

In the US, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been fueled for a month by concerns ranging from a growing homeless population to high unemployment rates and exposés about the Koch brothers, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, the largest privately-owned company in the US.

Toronto, however, may be wary of another large-scale protest with G20 events fresh in Torontonians’ minds.

Dr. Wendy Dobson, Co-Director of the Rotman Institute for International Business, doubted Toronto’s protests would be as popular or successful as its American counterparts.

“Canada’s problems are nowhere near what has sent young Americans to those demonstrations,” said Dobson, who pointed out that Canada has a much better unemployment support system and that the country’s banks are highly capitalized.

Although Dr. Dobson mentioned Canada’s lower unemployment rates are keeping people away from civil disobedience, she also said that Canada’s youth unemployment rates are high and the country should be doing more to eliminate that like creating a jobs corps and helping young people stay in or go back to school.

In a general assembly held this weekend, the protesters came to an agreement that there will be a march and two assemblies each day. But with Canada doing much better economically than other countries, it remains to be seen whether the energy and desperation that led protests in New York will continue to stretch north of the border.

Science in brief

Dead lady comes back to life and is not looking for brains

It seems like something out of a horror movie, but it is all too real. In a morgue in Brazil, Rosa Celestrino de Assiss, a patient at the Estadual Adao Pereira Nunes hospital in Rio de Janeiro, spent two hours in a body bag after being pronounced dead. The patient, in her 60s, was admitted to the hospital for complications with pneumonia and the doctor on call believed she had died. Rosa came to life during a visit from her daughter, Rosangela, who came to the morgue to say goodbye. Rosangela felt her mother breathing as she gave her mother one last hug and realized that she was still alive. Upon verification that she had indeed been alive the entire time, Rosa was taken back to the intensive care unit less than three hours after she had been declared dead. There is no explanation for this botched announcement; however, the doctor that pronounced her dead has now resigned. The misdiagnoses of death have greatly improved as of the 21st century, but it has been suggested that such mistakes still occur 10–15 per cent of the time.
— Tanya Debi
Sources: Huffington Post; Stylist; Wired


BBM outage leaves many furious in a RIM PR nightmare

According to Research in Motion (RIM), the creators of Blackberry mobile phones, the initial reason for the three-day worldwide Blackberry Messenger (BBM) outage was a “core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure.” RIM created a back-up switch to deal with data backlog, but unfortunately, the switch did not function as planned. RIM finally managed to clear the backlog and continue global service by Thursday of last week. To make matters worse, a hoax chain message circulated throughout BBM phones around the same time. It is estimated that RIM services around 70 million BlackBerry users around the world, although it is not known exactly how many were affected. Many BBM users went to Twitter as a last resort for communication, filling up Twitter feeds with complaints from affected users under the trending topic “#Blackberrymageddon.”
— Bianca Lemus Lavarreda
Sources: PC magazine; Wired; RIM

UTM student lectures against Holland Marsh energy plan

Luka Medved, a third-year environmental management major, is hosting a lecture series called “Project Trident” to raise awareness about the environmental consequences of building a natural gas plant at the legislatively protected Holland Marsh.

Held at UTM, “Project Trident” takes issue on Veresen Inc.’s York Energy Centre (YEC), which will be built on Holland Marsh, a fertile 2,900 hectare land that yields approximately $50 million in harvest and crops per year.

It will be directly on top of a flood plain and near a local canal that drains in to Cook’s Bay, a branch of Lake Simcoe.

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The YEC, a $365 million plant, is also known as the “York Peaker” as it will generate power at peak demand times.

“There have been a lot of corners that have been cut by the Ontario government to allow this project to come about. I’m essentially questioning the project with the help of professors and this is because they’re more qualified to question and answer certain things than me,” Medved said. “There are a lot of conflicting reports. Information from the government is being kept from the public and it’s very secretive.”

Medved hopes to convene a panel of experts through his lectures before moving on to the “student stage.” If the previous two stages are successful, he will present his final version of the lectures to members of the public.

“Hopefully [we can] curb the project’s current location and move it elsewhere,” he said.
Critics of the plant agree, saying that they acknowledge a need for additional power in the area but, the location raises more questions than answers.

According to a Toronto Star report published last year, documents obtained from Ontario Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller cited that the Liberals ignored standard environmental protocols, such as the Planning Act, which would have evaluated other alternatives to “a wider environmental context.”

The documents also outline that the construction of the YEC will violate Premier Dalton McGuinty’s own Greenbelt Act legislation, which serves to protect ecologically sensitive areas from urban development.

Medved has requested a copy of the commissioner’s report but has not received it yet. He has also requested that the Premier attends one of his lectures, but has been rebuffed.
Though Medved’s efforts have been ignored by the Premier, some officials have shown their support.

“The audacity of a government that ignores the concerns of local citizens and of local elected officials — concerns echoed by the Environment Commissioner of Ontario — and in addition dodges their own legislation, is shocking,” wrote Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner on his website.

Veresen Inc.’s company website stated that the new “quick-response” YEC would provide a continuous energy supply that “meets all Ontario Ministry of Environment standards on emission limits.”

The website also noted that the plant is located beyond the flood plains and the only structure located in the plains is the driveway, making up three per cent of the entire structure.
However, Medved said that with the risk of flooding in the area, the plant is very likely to act as a direct point source of pollution and contaminants may enter the local water supply, which will be problematic as the Holland Marsh yields approximately 50 per cent of Ontario’s produce.

Despite his efforts and Mike Schreiner’s campaigning, the YEC is, according to the residents, still being built on top of a flood plain.

“It sounds like this is just a case of the province pushing a poor location for this plant. They should instead find municipalities that want such a plant built, not force one where the local residents and politicians are in opposition,” said UTM geography professor, Nathan Basiliko, who plans to attend Medved’s first lecture.

Basiliko said that he is delighted that a student has gone beyond the classroom to raise an environmental issue.

Veresen Inc. and its representatives were unavailable for comment.