arts’ arts

Ode to a frittata, or the love of my life

by Jenn Kucharz

You are always gone much too fast.
The tangled vines of your aroma
are much more than the sum of your parts -
I can’t inhale enough.
Why is there such pleasure in having you alone
when I can softly smile at the image of you for only I?
And you’ll share with me your sweetest tastes
your inner beauty
your collisions and harmonies
your parallel universe.

You’re done now
must wait for another day
maybe even two
(is that torture?!)

Never scheduled
forever sweet
surprise of spontaneity.

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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

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.

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.

A peek into the mind’s eye

What might other people’s mental experiences look like? As it turns out, the answer to this question may not lie too far into the future. Scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, published a paper in the September issue of Current Biology that explains how visual experiences of movie trailer clips can be reconstructed with seconds of YouTube video.

The researchers wanted to study how the brain, specifically the early visual system, encodes incoming visual information. The early visual system is the first visual area to receive incoming visual information; it picks up simple features in the environment, such as oriented edges, patches of texture, and motion.

The three participants, who were also co-authors of the study, went inside a functional resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and watched about three hours of Hollywood movie trailers over the course of a few weeks. Data from this single task was taken and used to create a model that would describe how simple features presented in the movies were related to activity at different points in the brain. In total, the researchers measured about 4000 different points of brain activity. To decode the movie trailers seen inside the fMRI machine, they used 18 million seconds of randomly downloaded YouTube videos. YouTube was chosen because it was the quickest way to make a library that was independent of the movies shown in the fMRI machine.

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The idea was that the model would reconstruct the movie trailer the participants saw by using unseen YouTube clips. In response to concerns about overlap, the researchers noted that all the movie trailer clips have common cinematic themes and features present in each of them that complement the YouTube clips. The YouTube clips were expected to provide variety and reinforce the basic reconstruction of the trailer clips.

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The feat of reconstructing visual images with a model derived through brain activity and not neural activity was quite successful. Functional MRI can measure changes in blood flow and blood oxygen changes subsequent to neural activity and has a very low image resolution, making it excellent equipment for the experiment. Brain blood flow was measured using blood oxygen level-dependent signals, or BOLD signals, in the participants’ occipitotemporal visual cortex. The BOLD signals were ideal since they are indicators of underlying neural activity.

A longstanding problem with BOLD signals is that they are very slow, making it hard for researchers to map brain responses to dynamic stimuli. But with a new motion-energy encoding model, the researchers were able to track BOLD signals as well as use them to decode participants’ visual experiences.

It is important to emphasize that the researchers only decoded the early stages of the visual system and did not take into account the remaining visual areas. A decoding mechanism that combines both the lower and higher hierarchies of the visual system will provide a much clearer and more accurate image. In the visual system hierarchy, the primary visual cortex is concerned with basic features, like the location of edges, where characters are moving in a scene, and basic texture patterns. This part of the visual system does not register any ‘meaning’ behind the perceived objects. Higher level parts of the visual system, on the other hand, deal with the semantic elements of the scene (putting a name on whatever it is you are seeing).

The limitations of this study include accuracy of reconstruction — some people might wonder why the images are blurry. However, the researchers did not intend on fine-tuning the decoded brain activity; the resulting images are not very detailed. The authors point out that using quantifiable methods like fMRI makes it easier for researchers to interpret the results of decoding. It should be noted that the videos posted on the lab website have been reconstructed with approximately 10 minutes of data, although the entire study far exceeded that count.

High-tech improvements of this study will not only give science fantasy novel writers something more to add to their plots but can also potentially lead to a reliable reconstruction of typical dynamic visual experiences. However, it seems that involuntary subjective mental states like dreaming, hallucinations, and memories may be harder to verify as accurate representations due to their nature.

Since the visual system makes up about a third of the human brain, studies like these open doors to understanding the various unique aspects of the visual system and boost the technology available to hospitalized non-communicative patients. The brain, it seems, is the antenna to visual reality.

Hart House interim Warden appointed

On October 1, the University Affairs Board of the Governing Council appointed U of T, professor Bruce Kidd, as the Interim Warden of Hart House.

He is replacing Dr. Louise Cowin, who will be joining the University of British Columbia as Vice President, Students and his appointment has been received positively by staff and students.
Dan DiCenzo, Vice President University Affairs and Academics for UTMSU and Undergraduate Student Representative on the University Affairs Board, commented that “the new appointed Warden [possesses] the required experience … to ensure Hart House continues to be a success.” He also mentioned that the decision to appoint Professor Kidd was unanimous.

Professor Kidd’s involvement and experience with Hart House and the University of Toronto began in the early 1960s.

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“I’ve been involved at U of T most of my life. I first came here as a high school student to see a play in the theatre, and the next year, I came to train with the U of T track team,” Kidd said. “I turned down offers to go to any other university … [because] through Hart House, I had discovered the energy of U of T, the intellectual stimulation, and the mix of sport, arts, and literature.”

In 1970, Kidd was offered a lecturer’s position in political science and then proceeded to teach public policy during a ten-year stead at the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, where he later became the Dean.

“And I’m still here,” Kidd said proudly.

His involvement at U of T extends beyond his work as a professor. During his university years, Kidd was a staff member at The Varsity, a successful track athlete, and was inducted into U of T’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1988. His many achievements include being twice inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame and receiving the Order of Canada in 2004.

“I’ve had a very rich life, largely because I’ve been involved at U of T,” said Kidd.

When asked about his goals as Warden of the House, Kidd revealed that he is committed to promoting accessibility and inclusivity in Hart House. He remembered a time when the House only catered to Anglo-Saxon, upper class males, and women had to fight for the right to participate. He recalled the struggles of his female teammates who were denied the right to use the facilities in the 1960s.

In particular, he discussed having to open fire doors to help his female teammates sneak into the building just so they could access the facilities. The women had to wear hoodies in order to pass as men. Once, he remembers Canadian track star and U of T alumna Abby Hoffman attempting to use the track “as an open woman” and being denied the right to participate.
“…And this was a woman who represented Canada in four Olympic games,” said Kidd, outraged.

Acknowledging Hart House as a site for equity struggles but also a symbol of democracy and evolution, Kidd is dedicated to “making [the] building, its programs, and activities welcoming to every U of T student regardless of their background.” He maintains a positive vision for the future of the House.

“One of the great strengths of Hart House is that students [can be] engaged in just about every aspect,” said Kidd. “It’s a tremendous place for students to learn about the richness of Canadian culture … It’s ‘a living laboratory’. I call it the co-curricular college — it’s all about learning in a synergistic and exciting way.”

Kidd promised to devote himself to his responsibilities as Warden and work in conjunction with the other members of the House in a collective effort to achieve success.

“I want to provide support of continuity to the directions that were launched by the previous Warden and turn the House over to a new Warden in the spring with all the momentum that one would hope,” he said. “[I want to make] the informal co-curricular agenda in the house an even more effective place for learning and infuse that spirit in every aspect of the House.”

“We’re excited to see Professor Kidd return to the University in the role of Warden at Hart House,” said Danielle Sandhu, President of UTSU. “We value his work on challenging discrimination, increasing accessibility to sport, and improving fitness. We look forward to working with him to ensure that Hart House continues to provide an inclusive space for our members to develop culturally, artistically and recreationally, and that these goals are supported by all members of the University community.”