Rocking the Boat

On Saturday night at The Boat The Varsity hosted its first Off The Record party which showcased some of Toronto’s best musical talent and raised $750.00 for Journalists For Human Rights. The evening—which saw the Kensington hotspot packed to capacity—kicked off with a powerful performance by one-man loop-orchestra Now Yr Taken, who was followed by the shimmering melodies of MTV-approved rockers The Coast. Next up, Uncut unleashed a killer set of spine-shattering hits including amazing renditions of “Taken in Sleep,” “Chain Fight,” and even managed to recover from a blown fuse (with the help of Boat booker Keith Hamilton) to cap off their set with “Understanding The New Violence.” Bassist Derek Tokar rocked so hard he cracked the head of his alpinewhite Thunderbird IV in their set-concluding melee. The final band of the night, Germans, impressed the crowd by constantly rotating between instruments, covering a Cap’n Jazz tune, and delivering energetic performances of “Nature’s Mouth” and “I Am the Teacher” off their album Cape Fear. Taking care of DJ duties for the night was Shit La Merde (bottom left) who managed to keep the dance floor hopping well into daylight savings. Thanks to everyone who came out to support local talent and Journalists For Human Rights. Watch out for another Off The Record party in the spring!

Blues get the ball rolling

For the third straight year, the Varsity Blues faced the Ryerson Rams on opening night–and the results stayed true to form. As the immortal Yankee Yogi Berra once put it, it’s déjà vu all over again..Toronto has won all its season openers against the Rams, 73-55 and 79-39 in 2005 and 2006 respectively. Over three seasons, the Blues have dominated Ryerson 6-0 in regular season play. With Ryerson set to arrive at the AC for a rematch this week, Toronto will look for a repeat of their opening night success.

Christine Cho, a fifth year co-captain with the Blues, knows exactly what her team can expect from these opponents. “Ryerson is a very scrappy team that will keep fighting regardless of what the score is. They’re small compared to most other teams, but they really hustle after loose balls and rebounds. They also have some decent shooters so it’s important for us to limit their shots.”

Following their game plan, the Blues forced their opponents into a poor shooting night on Friday. Ryerson shot an abysmal 32.7 per cent from the field, while U of T capitalized on most of its opportunities, with field goals scored at 45.2 per cent. The Blues also outscored the Rams in hustle stats, out-rebounding 31-24 over the weekend, and had 17 steals to Ryerson’s 10. Allaine Hutton led the way for Toronto with 19 points, while Cho also had a good game, finishing with 15 points, seven rebounds, and three steals. Toronto would cruise to a 73-46 victory, although a closeopening quarter left some cause for concern. “We didn’t have a good start to the game at all,” said Cho. We need to find a way to get ourselves going right from the tip off. As far as what we did well, we came back from halftime to pull ahead in the third quarter through our defensive pressure and good shooting.”

The beginning of any season is often filled with hope and optimism, and a few early victories, even against an inferior opponent, allow the team to build momentum heading into more difficult match-ups. With the roster from last season still intact, the Blues know what kind of team they have “We’re a team that works hard every night at practices and games,” Cho said. “If we do that, we are capable of beating any team on any given night.”

After a disappointing end to their 2006 season, which finished 12-10, it was good to get the first win out of the way. Cho said that the experience on their roster gives the Blues the advantage most nights. She is joined on the team by her co-captains, guard Kyla Burwash and forward Amanda Van Leeuwan, on a battle tested Toronto squad. If the team hopes to meet many of the goals they’ve set this year: winning the OUA and competing for a national title, they will need these three players to lead the way.

Leafs flashing the green

Hold on a second, Leaf Nation. Put those champagne corks back in and stop planning the Stanley Cup route down Bay Street, because the Leafs don’t have John Tavares yet. And they never will. Rumour says that John Ferguson Jr. has offered the 17-year-old Oshawa Generals star John Tavares a contract to play with the Leafs’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. While nothing has been set in stone, this is not something for Leaf fans to cheer about.

Last season with Oshawa, Tavares passed Wayne Gretzkey’s single season goal record at 76. With stats and comparisons to Gretzkey, Tavares has been touted as the next great player and a potential first overall draft pick in 2009. As the projected number one overall, the Leafs stand little chance at picking up Tavares in the draft unless they tank next season completely, and that still would not guarantee anything.

Instead, John Ferguson has offered Tavares a one-year contract in the AHL, after which he can enter the draft and get signed by whoever gets the first pick, if he so chooses. The only problem with this scenario is that AHL rules specify that players must be 18 as of September 15. Since Tavares turns 18 on September 20, the rules must be changed in order for him to don a Marlies jersey. This seems unlikely, as exceptions weren’t made for,players like former number-one pick Alexander Ovechkin.

That’s where this contract comes into play. If Tavares is allowed to play in the AHL, he must bypass the draft in 2009 and play for the Marlies until he is 21 in order to play with the Leafs. Tavares would be an unrestricted free agent, and Leafs fans can keep hoping he loves his city more than a fat paycheck.

But let’s be realistic. Tavares will never turn down big bucks at 19 to play for the Leafs at 21. It would be crazy. What if he got hurt? His payday will be cut down substantially, and his NHL career could potentially be over before it even began. Nowadays, players want and expect the big bucks if they are a high draft pick. Money, sadly, is the determining factor when a young player moves to professional sports. So if Tavares is allowed to play for the Marlies, it will be a one-year deal, nothing more.

In offering Tavares the contract, Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment is also getting a quick money grab from the oh-so-faithful citizens of Toronto. Putting a name like John Tavares on the Marlies will cause John Doe, who doesn’t really watch or follow hockey, to buy tickets because he has heard Tavares’ name mentioned in the same breath as Wayne Gretzkey and Sidney Crosby. This potential contract is an attempt at raising attendance at Marlies games—which is abysmal as best. They average 3,224 people per game, third worst in the AHL. Putting a recognized name in the AHL will boost Marlies sales and bring more money to MLSE.

So the attempted signing of John Tavares is not MLSE’s way of trying to grow our farm system. That hasn’t been their priority in years. All they care about is the almighty dollar. MLSE saw a loophole, a chance to offer the next big thing a minor league contract so they can boost the sales of the Marlies and grab a few bucks in the meantime. John Tavares is not the first step in rebuilding a team that has not seen the Stanley Cup for 40 years. He is just another example of the disaster that is the Maple Leaf franchise

‘Yes’ choice expected in levy vote

Voting results on the Student Commons levy are expected early Monday, wrapping up a two-week-long campaign.

The referendum was conducted by the University of Toronto Student’s Union from Oct. 31, to Nov. 2, with polling stations across campus. According to a news release on UTSU’s website, over 3,100 ballots were cast in the referendum, representing around 11 per cent of full-time undergraduate students. The referendum needed a voter turnout of at least five per cent to be valid.

Though the votes have been counted, at press time verification was still ongoing to make sure that all ballots were cast by eligible voters.

The referendum and the proposal to build a student-funded, 24-hour centre, called the Student Commons, has been a long time coming. St. George is the only campus at the university not to have a dedicated student centre, and studentcommons.ca says that “of the thousands of students who voted, a clear majority supported funding the construction of this building.”

The proposed centre is based on the same concept as the student centres at UTM and UTSC, which serve as activity hubs. UTSU plans to house itself in the Student Commons and has announced a laundry list of intentions for the building. The student union plans to sell TTC metropasses all month long, run their food bank every day in an accessible location, and operate their used book exchange year-round, up from just three weeks in the fall.

Various groups have expressed interest in getting space at the centre, including the Centre for Women and Trans People, Students for Barrier Free Access, the cycle repair group Bikechain, and student publication the Newspaper, as well the Sexual Education Centre, which will lose its current space on St. George Street to make way for an expansion of the Rotman School of Management.

The Student Commons is also projected to contain a student-run eatery, and lounge, club, student group, general meeting, and prayer space. Notably, neither the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students nor campus radio station CUIT has sought space in the centre, though both were mentioned by UTSU as victims of a supposed prioritization of corporate space over student space.

Controversies arose over the plan of funding the centre through a student levy for full-time undergrads. The referendum proposed charging full-time students $5 per semester until the building opens (in 2009 according to current estimates). At that point, students would also start paying $6.50 to cover operating costs and $14.50 a semester for no more than 25 years to pay off mortgages arising from building expenditures. The operating cost is subject to a maximum 10 per cent increase per semester to cover inflation. The official report estimates annual operating costs of around $645,000.

“I certainly do not agree with paying for something I will likely not be able to use during my time as an undergradu- ate,” said Grant Gonzales, a first-year student at St. Michael’s College and a representative on the Arts and Science Council.

Campaigning was rife with controversy, with the election’s chief returning officer, Gail Alivio, receiving complaints that the “yes” campaign used “aggressive” campaigning and broke UTSU rules laid out in its Charter on Referenda.

Alivio gave five demerit points to the “yes” campaign for hanging a banner within sight of the Sidney Smith hall polling station.

“A ‘no’ vote means that this will never happen,” said Michal Hay, VP university affairs of UTSU. “The campaign was therefore very tense.”

Some students complained about being mislead by the emphasis on the initial $5 per semester levy, rather than the higher costs that would come later.

“I felt that the ‘yes’ campaign was entirely run by the student union. This overwhelmed the ‘no’ campaign,” said Mykelle Pacquing, a third-year at University College. “I had voted ‘yes’ and have discovered to my horror that this was only to lead up to its construction and could go as high as $14 [instead of $5]. I feel duped and taken advantaged of in this referendum and now I feel responsible if the ‘yes’ vote wins.”

Some disagreed. “The current UTSU executive should be applauded for exercising democratic principles […] I am disappointed at the negative and inaccurate campaign launched by APUS,” said UTM Student Union president Walied Khogali, who endorsed the “yes” campaign.

Hay said that she believed students would have accepted the proposed terms of the levy even if the sum of the per-semester costs had been more emphasized. in campaign materials.

Event listings for week of November 5

ON CAMPUS

NEW COLLEGE FOOSBALL TOURNAMENT

  • Presented by the new College Commuters Council
  • Monday, nov. 5, 6-8 p.m. Free! new College Commuters’ Lounge, Wilson Hall
  • ncsc.sa.utoronto.ca

CAFE 108: THE PERFECT VEG CAFE

  • Fresh, affordable meals every Tuesday!
  • Tuesday, nov. 6, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. affordable!
  • baldwin room, ISC (33 St. George St.)
  • bhakti.yoga@yahoo.ca

PEACE WEEK AT U OF T

  • Making an impact in darfur with STand and amnesty International
  • Wednesday, nov. 7. Hart House
  • standuoft@standcanada.org

SWING DANCING NIGHT

  • beginner lesson presented by the UCoC and UT-Swing
  • Wednesday, nov. 7, 6:45-9:30 p.m. $2.
  • Junior Common room, University College
  • swing.sa.utoronto.ca

THE OVERLOOKED VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST

  • Lecturer from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for 27th annual Holocaust education Week
  • Wednesay, nov. 7, 5 p.m. Free! Multi-faith Centre, Koffl er Institute (569 Spadina ave.)
  • audrey.fong@utoronto.ca

HART HOUSE ORCHESTRA FALL CONCERT

  • brahms’ academic Festival overture and
  • beethoven’s 9th Symphony
  • Thursday nov. 8, 8-10 p.m. Free!
  • Hart House Grand Hall.
  • harthouseorchestra.ca

GRAFFITI PARTY PRESENTED BY SMCSU AND PFAC

  • Cover gets you a t-shirt and marker. all proceeds to PlayPumps
  • Thursday, nov. 8, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. $5 for U of T students
  • afterlife nightclub (250 adelaide St. W.).
  • double.blue@smcsu.com and
  • playpumps.org

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY BRAMPTON BUILD

  • no experience necessary!
  • Sunday, nov. 11, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • elliot Heritage House, brampton (meet at U of T)
  • habitat@utoronto.ca

GETTING INTO MEDICAL SCHOOL

  • Learn about admission requirements and application procedures
  • Tuesday, nov. 13, 1-3 p.m. Free! UTM South building, room 3094
  • utm.utoronto.ca/careers

OFF CAMPUS

ROYAL AGRICULTURAL WINTER FAIR

  • relieve elementary school with horse shows and farming
  • nov. 5 through nov. 11. $18, or 2-for-1 after 5 p.m.
  • direct energy Centre, exhibition Place
  • royalfair.org

FLAT FIX AND TUNE-UP

  • Learn to fix your bike with real mechanics
  • Wednesday, nov. 7, 7-9 p.m. $30
  • Community bicycle network (761 Queen St. W.)
  • 416-504-2918.

TORONTO JAPANESE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL

  • Five programs over fi ve nights for the fifth anniversary
  • nov. 8-11. Tickets $7-10, or $27-35 for full festival.
  • Innis Town Hall Theatre (2 Sussex ave.)
  • tjsff.ca

Watered-down science spills into court

The water has boiled over between the Canadian Federation of Students and a major scientific research council, who late last week went to court over the fallout of a controversial U of T study. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Federation of Students are awaiting a federal court ruling over a complex case involving charges of research misconduct and plagiarism.

“We really want to use this case as an example of the way in which university oversight can break down and how university researchers, to please their sponsors, can pervert the research process if we don’t have strict oversight,” said Ian Boyko, the campaigns coordinator for CFS.

During the summer of 2000, Liza Ballantyne and Robert C. Andrews, both of U of T’s Department of Civil Engineering, conducted a joint study with Indiana University, partially supported by ERCO Worldwide, a Toronto- based chlorine dioxide supplier. They ran their study in the small town of Wiarton, Ontario, whose residents were unaware of the experiment until some began noticing something “funny” with their water and brought the issue to the town council. A survey found that over 40 per cent of Wiarton residents had noticed a “considerable change” in their drinking water.

Though the Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, National Post, and other publications reported these claims, Andrews deemed the project a success.

The study resulted in a paper entitled “Implementation of chlorine dioxide disinfection: Effects of the treatment change on drinking water quality in a full-scale distribution system,” which was later retracted. It stated that monitoring complaints about water quality was crucial. “No customer taste and odor complaints were reported during the study period,” the paper reported

The case was blown open when Chris Radziminski, a former graduate student at U of T, came forward to CFS complaining that the university had plagiarized sections of his master’s thesis on chlorine dioxide for purifying water and that his conclusions had been manipulated by U of T and ERCO Worldwide.

Without his permission or knowledge, he was listed as the primary author of an article published in 2002.

NSERC, whose policy is to oversee research integrity, gave the prestigious Synergy Award for Innovation to U of T and ERCO. Andrews also received funding from NSERC, leading some to believe that NSERC simply looked the other way when things started going in the wrong direction. Andrews did not return repeated phone calls and emails.

Ruta Pocius, U of T’s director of issues management and media relations, noted that the university considers its part in the case closed, and that the ongoing legal battle is an issue between CFS and NSERC. The university conducted three reviews of the alleged research misconduct, each of which found no policies had been violated.

Talking heads: Facebook more popular than porn?

A recent study shows that Facebook is more popular than porn among college students.

Clockwise from top-left

Darian Low, Fourth-year psychology: I wouldn’t be surprised. It can only be used for porn for so long, physically speaking.

Marcelina Ju, Third-year Political Science: I don’t like Facebook, and I don’t watch porn. Really, there’s other things the internet is useful for!

Mary Gaudet, York University grad student: I certainly use it for Facebook more than porn…

Elijah Mahepath, Fourth-year Political Science and Criminology: I think it’s split between men and women. Women probably use Facebook more, but men, well…

What do you say?

Facebook could save the world

In John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, the character of Ouisa Kittredge finds the eponymous six degrees both a comfort and torture—the latter because “you have to find the right six people to make the connection.” At Social Networking Week, a conference hosted at U of T by Bell University Laboratories in conjunction with U of T’s Department of Sociology that ran from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, researchers met to discuss the new vistas of angst—and insights—opened by the rise of the Internet and its information technologies. One of the greatest research tools is the ability to visually represent social networks. In large part, it’s the same technology at work on your Facebook page, though researchers are able to put it to some surprising uses.

One example is U of T mechanical engineering professor Mark Chignell, who, with a team of grad students, is visualizing social networks in the public health sector as a means to evaluate the processes currently being used. Social network diagrams are often called “egocentric” because they are organized around one individual. One project Chignell’s team is working on is a “patient-centric” model, mapping the process a patient moves through at Toronto General Hospital—a complex one encompassing discussions between doctors, nurses specialists, and outside caregivers who look after a patient once discharged.

For Chignell, visualizing these relations means pinpointing where errors happen. Chignell cited a recent study by the Institute for Medicine estimating that anywhere between 44,000 and 98,000 people die in U.S. hospitals each year due to medical error. Chignell’s study of TGH found several points where such errors could be introduced, from communication to diagnostics, treatment to preventative care.

“It’s not surprising that errors are made, because there are so many points of contact for an error-prone process to express itself,” Chignell said. “One of the problems is that doctors and nurses tend to speak different languages.” In some cases, Chignell suggested the solution could be as simple as offering better technology for conferencing.

Social network diagrams are nothing new. Sociograms, introduced into psychiatry in the 1930s by psychiatrist and professor Jacob L. Moreno, depicted interpersonal connections through lines and dots, largely the same way as the social network diagram widget available on Facebook today. But whereas on Facebook you can upload your friends list to create a diagram very easily, a sociogram in Moreno’s day took much longer, representing hours being interviewed by a therapist.

But even as the Internet has made the basic network diagram easier to produce, it has also created new communities to challenge researchers. Presenting at the conference was Caroline Haythornthwaite, professor of library and information science and the University of Illinois.

Together with PhD student Anatoliy Gruzd, Haythornthwaite uses Natural Language Processing techniques to mine for social relations amongst the bountiful data on online bulletin boards such as Usenet. It’s easy to map a chain of posts—not so to visualize how posters relate to one another.

“We don’t want to know just how many people answer the questions,” Haythornthwaite said. “We want to be able to see the network structures: who is doing the answering, when, under what circumstances, for what kinds of relations.”

The human brain easily recognizes that “Frederick” may become “Fred” over a chain of posts. But watching programming try to mimic the same process, it becomes clear just how complex that thought process actually is. How do you “teach” a program to recognize Fred responding to Dan’s question about something Mary said, but to not recognize “Shrek” as a community member?

How do you recognize names that aren’t capitalized? NLP is designed to read documents such as newspaper text—proofread sentences with proper grammar—not computer-mediated text with all its different spellings, its typos, its half-finished sentences. Having come up with the right iterations to solve these issues, Gruzd can save Haythornthwaite the hours she would have spent manually mapping out an online social network. Solving each of these issues is slow-going.

There’s no question though that visualizations of personal information hold a strong fascination. “People want to look at these pictures,” said Fernanda Viegas. She is part of IBM’s Visual Communications Lab, a small team that develops visualization tools for researchers.

The traditional node-link network diagram used by Facebook is intuitive, Viegas said, because we seem to naturally understand a node to be an identity, though the multi-variant pivot graphs developed by her lab are actually better for representing large-scale networks. That people like to look at the pictures is an important aspect for Viegas. “What are people doing with these visualizations? We tend to think that these are really cool for data analysis. They are. They are valid tools. But they only go so far,” she told the audience at the conference.

“One of the things that people hardly think about, in terms of visualization, is that they are really good conversation catalysts and that they actually function as social artifacts. People love to look at themselves. They love to look at their social network, and they love to tell stories about it.”

The lab’s latest project is a public website, many-eyes.com, which allows a user to upload data into one of various ingenious visualizations. All visualizations and data uploaded to the site are made public. The point is to foster discussion. The lab was initially surprised that members of the general public are uploading data—everything from “Co-occurances of Names in the New Testament” (guess who’s number one) to “John’s Freezer Contents (only the meat).”

Visual Complexity, a blog that showcases complex networks, has celebrated some Many-Eyes productions, as well as those of other sites, such as Vizster and Social Action. The same narcissistic fascination with ourselves, which drives sociology, could also explain the popularity of sociologists’ work.