Blues make a splash

The Varsity Blues women’s water polo team made it look easy against the Queen’s Golden Gaels. On Nov. 9, the Blues played two gruelling games to end the regular season. The Blues, playing at home in the Athletic Centre, wrapped up their last match of the season with fl air and steady confidence. Their 14-13 win over the OUA championship contending Carleton Ravens earlier that day gave the team momentum. In the following game against the Gaels, they maintained a seven-goal lead throughout the second half.

The Blues managed to hit most of their dry passes with dangerous efficiency, with an offence that had no problem penetrating the Gaels goal zone. They displayed physical dominance over Queen’s up front and in the mid-zone in the first half. Toronto scored from the middle when pressed back, expertly coordinating their passing game. The Blues’ defence was sharp, limiting any possible Queen’s counter-attack or offensive turn. Toronto kept ahead by at least five goals in the first half, giving the opposition no time to recover from their attack. The second half of the game saw a consistent and unshaken Toronto continue to play the same solid defence. Yet the Gaels managed to bolster their defence in stemming a fl urry of goals by stepping up their physical game and player marking.

Toronto scored a decisive 14-6 victory over the Golden Gaels with Casey Pottier and Nicole Brown leading the Blues’ scoring board with three goals each. The victory marked the end of the Blues’ successful 2008 season where they finished with seven wins and only one loss in their first game of the season against Carleton. The team will now prepare for the 2008 OUA Water Polo Championship at Carleton University on Nov. 22 and 23.

It’s time for Canada to invest in sports engineering programs

Developing sports technology programs in Canada will help to engineer a healthier and more prosperous future.

Sports equipment researchers and designers from Canadian universities say increased and prolonged financial support for such programs will aid not just elite athletes, but weekend warriors and industries as well.

Currently, there are no sports engineering programs for students at any level at Canadian universities.

The closest Canada has to any type of institution for sport equipment innovation is the Own the Podium (OTP) program, launched in January 2005.

After Canada failed to win gold at both the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the OTP program and its estimated $125 million budget pledged to help Canada win not just gold, but the most medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Martin Brouillette, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Sherbrooke, has researched and designed equipment for several large sports equipment manufacturers and Canada’s national speed skating team.

Brouillette explains that though the OTP program invests more in Canadian athletes than in the past and brings together Canada’s 13 winter sport federations along with several other national committees and organizations, it is likely temporary.

“The general feeling is that after the Olympics, all of this is going to die down,” Brouillette said. “My feeling is [the OTP] is a one time thing. There doesn’t appear to be a long term vision.”

For a permanent sports forum or organization to bring together trainers, nutritionists, coaches, and psychologists, Canada should follow the Australian Institute of Sports’ model.

“They actually integrate the entire sports community, including the scientists, into whatever they’re doing,” Brouillette said. “All the scientific aspects of sports are being investigated, including the technology.”

New training techniques are being developed for high performance athletes. The new technologies and products that arise from these interactions could be very lucrative.

“If we win more medals, people are happier and do more sports so they’re in better shape and we sell a bunch of gadgets and make a bunch of money,” Brouillette said. “But [Canada has not] evolved to the point where technology is important at the high performance level to the extent that other countries are doing.”

While on sabbatical in 2001, David Pearsall, lead researcher at McGill University’s Ice Hockey Research Group (IHRG), traveled to Cologne, Germany, where he saw the effect of combining researchers from different aspects of sports.

“[They have researchers] from traditional phys-ed to marketing to broadcast sports to sport medicine and equipment design,” Pearsall said. “So you have 10,000 students employed just in sport-related functions. It’s very viable.”

Pearsall has seen how this works in Canada. The IHRG’s collaboration with Bauer Hockey has led to several of its researchers being hired either by Bauer or another hockey equipment manufacturer.

“So that’s an example where by training people here actually helps draw in industry to stay in Canada,” Pearsall said. “Kind of like if you build [the sports programs, sports industry] may come in terms of huddling around the centres.”

Though there’s no shortage of students showing interest in sports technology programs, an institution’s fate depends on the demand for sports technology graduates from Canada, says Darren Stefanyshyn, a mechanical engineer and associate professor from the University of Calgary.

Working for large multi-billion dollar companies like Adidas and TaylorMade, Stefanyshyn noticed the lack of engineers on staff.

“Because the one thing I would hate is […] to set to up a program, train and educate the students in [sports engineering] and then have no place for them to go or no positions that are available,” Stefanyshyn said.

Graduates from any reputable engineering program would still find work; it just might not be in sports engineering. The disciplines underlying sports engineering are the same as mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.

“It’s not the field in itself. It’s an application domain. You could be designing a golf club or hockey stick or could be designing landing gear,” Brouillette said. “The science, the technology, and the skills in doing that are all the same.”

Professor Roy Jones, head of Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Research Group in England, agrees with Brouillette.

“If you look around at, for example, how many graduates doing history degrees that we produce; well Jesus, how many historians do we need?” Jones said. “Our graduates— because they’ve gone to a decent university and they’ve undergone a good training program with their mind—they go everywhere.”

Pearsall feels that by combining Canadian and U.S. markets, there will be an opportunity to employ students wishing to work in the sports engineering field.

A top-down initiative would be the most feasible way to establish sports technology programs in Canada. However, developing these types of programs isn’t exactly at the top of any governments’ list.

“It’s not really up there. If you look at things like stem cell research and subatomic particles, they’re putting wads of money to make those things happen,” Pearsall said.

Even more difficult is achieving professional status from schools across Canada and the United States for sporting agencies like the IHRG.

Professional status would give sporting agencies more clout to make change happen, but anything to do with health promotion takes time.

“You’re looking at a generational change; something you need like 20 years to make happen,” Pearsall said.

Private ‘university’ doesn’t deserve its name, says prof

World Trade University sounds like a pretty impressive name—too bad it’s a university in name only. And if B.C.’s public university professors get their way, WTU won’t even keep its name.

After British Columbia passed special legislation to grant WTU status, the school’s founder was caught in a series of lies.

Last Monday, the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C. called on provincial officials to rescind legislation establishing the WTU.

The so-called school is a sham, says CUFABC, and tarnishes the image of the B.C. government.

Headquartered on a military base in Chilliwack, B.C., the private school was established by Sujit Chowdhury in November 2005, when the World Trade University Canada Establishment Act granted it degree status.

But so far, all it’s granted is a lot of suspicion.

“In three years, this institution hasn’t been able to design a viable degree program. It’s time for government to pull the plug on this failed experiment,” said Robert Clift, executive director of CUFABC, in a news release.

According to WTU’s web site, the school aims to “play a lead role in delivering high quality advanced world trade education programs to students from around the world.” But so far, business classes that were supposed to begin in 2007 have yet to open. False insinuations of international campuses and affiliation with the World Bank and the WTO have been exposed, after WTU went to considerable lengths in trying to tie itself to global institutions, including its online statement that it was founded as a “UN mechanism.”

“At various times, it was suggested that Mr. Chowdhury held a doctorate, which is not the case,” said Clift, who also pointed to WTU’s other false claims.

The National Post reported that WTU consists of only the “furnished, one-storey building in Chilliwack that it moved into three years ago.” The City of Chilliwack paid $1 million to renovate the building and leased it to WTU for $1 a year.

WTU withdrew its application to offer a Master’s degree in February 2008. The academic community speculates Chowdhury did so because the proposal would have been rejected by the Degree Quality Assessment Board, the body that authorizes degrees in B.C.

Though WTU has no students and cannot operate as a university, but it can still call itself one. In response to the professor’s call to revoke that privilege, B.C. minister of education Murray Coell said it was an “interesting idea.”
Sujit Chowdhury, the founder and president of WTU, has not spoken.

Blood-suckers demystified

Sanguivores—animals and insects that feed on blood—are often regarded with low esteem. Mention leeches or vampire bats and the average person is less than impressed, believing these species are on the hunt for human blood.

However, much of what has become common knowledge about blood-suckers is a myth. Dispelling these misconceptions is the focus of Bill Schutt’s new book Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-feeding Creatures, in which he presents a comprehensive look at a variety of sanguivores.

The book is divided into three sections, the first of which takes readers through a tropical forest on the hunt for vampire bats. Schutt’s expert knowledge of these flying mammals makes for an engaging read. He illustrates the differences between the three types of vampire bat, while clarifying how they became associated with Dracula-related horror stories.

Leeches are the next species investigated. Schutt describes their storied history, from George Washington’s deathbed to their use in hospitals today. He also gives an in-depth look at how medicinal leech production has become a profitable industry, spawning companies like Leeches USA.

Finally, Schutt delves into the mysterious world of blood-sucking insects. From bed bugs to ticks, mites, and chiggers, he makes a good case for why you should leave that free couch on the curb. In a chapter aptly titled “Sleeping with the Enemy,” he explains why bed bugs—Cimex lectularis in particular—are able to thrive in human beds. “Generally, bed bugs respond negatively to light and actively seek out rough, dry surfaces that are at least partially darkened,” he writes.

In addition to his scientifically accurate accounts, Schutt provides the reader with historical information and the origins of terms, names, and ideas. Scientific concepts are presented in ways interesting for the expert yet easy to understand for those with no previous knowledge. Personal anecdotes and additional quotes from the likes of Charles Darwin round out this well-paced book.

Though Schutt’s descriptions are vivid and clear, Patricia J. Wynne’s striking illustrations are helpful visual aids. Throughout the book, they diagram species and ideas that are difficult to visualize, or that readers may not be familiar with. Schutt’s footnotes are another welcome inclusion, providing the reader with extra information and humourous asides.

Dark Banquet provides a wide-ranging guide to the world of sanguivory. While it won’t turn chiroptophobes into bat-lovers, readers will gain a new perspective on the curious lives of blood-feeding creatures.

Chem prof’s in her element

“I didn’t expect it at all,” she told the Toronto Star. “I hope I will be able to encourage more girls to get into this field.”

Professor Kumacheva’s work covers wide ground, especially the study of polymers.

A polymer is a chemical produced when small molecules join together to form larger ones.

Kumacheva has broken new ground by discovering how these particles link, leading to insights on how they can be made. The wide range of uses includes passport encryption, drugs that only target bad cells, and improving night-vision technology.

The professor, who holds six patents, has taught in Israel, France, and Oxford. But her students know her for her friendliness and determination.

“Professor Kumacheva is a very easy-going person. In meetings she’s very determined to get things done and make progress,” said Dan Voicu, an undergrad studying pharmaceutical chemistry and toxicology who worked with Kumacheva on polymer properties. “She always lets you know that you are a very important person in her lab, and she gives you a lot of freedom in what you do.”

Ethan Tumarkin, a chemistry grad student conducting lab work under Kumacheva’s supervision, agreed.

“Working with Eugenia is a very fast-paced, interesting, and exciting environment. Sitting and discussing the next step of a project with her usually leads to many new and fascinating ideas.”

Kumacheva first taught in the Soviet Union after earning her PhD in Chemistry. She arrived in Toronto in 1995 to study the morphology of multi-component polymer systems.

Since the Women in Science Awards program launched in 1998, it has annually awarded $100,000 to five laureates, one for each continental area, with the exception of 1999.


As controversies around meat production grow, so does the practice of vegetarianism. It is common in many cultures around the world, often due to religious restrictions placed on consumption of meat or animal-based products. Amongst some of the most famous vegetarians are Charles Darwin, Mark Twain, and Socrates.

Vegetarianism is broader than the simple exclusion of meats. There are lactovegetarians, who consume milk and cheese but not eggs or meat; ovovegetarians, who exclude dairy and meats but consume eggs; and vegans, who eat only plant-based foods and exclude all meat, eggs and dairy products from their diet.

Canada’s Food Guide compartmentalizes a healthy diet into four main food groups, including meat, eggs, and dairy. How do vegetarians maintain their health with what seems like a gaping hole in their diet options?

There is a separate vegetarian food guide that acknowledges these exceptions and comprises modified food groups. It includes grains, legumes and other protein-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods. For a typical vegetarian, satisfying the daily nutrient intake requirements is not as big a challenge as one might presume. Though meats are an important source of protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and zinc, they can also be high in saturated fat. Many diseases can also be spread through the consumption of improperly cooked or stored meat. Tofu, soy-based products, beans, and legumes are an excellent alternative source of protein, and contain a multitude of essential nutrients.

In more restrictive diet practices, such as veganism, it becomes challenging to maintain a healthy diet. Nutrients such as zinc, calcium, iron, vitamins B2 and B12 as well as vitamin D are especially difficult to accommodate into a diet that excludes all dairy and egg products. While vitamin supplements and fortified foods are commonly incorporated into vegan diets, there are certain food sources that provide some important nutrients.

Zinc can be found in beans, nuts, seeds, and whole-grains. Calcium and iron can be obtained from almonds and leafy green vegetables. Vitamins B12 and B2 are in soy products, nuts, seeds, and meat analogues. The primary source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. Milk and non-dairy soymilk is often fortified with vitamin D for this reason.

Although it may sound like extra work to stay healthy as a vegetarian or vegan, many actually make the switch to vegetarianism because of the proposed health benefits. Vegetarian diets are often lower in fat and carcinogens, include higher antioxidant consumption, and contain more fibre. This translates to lower risk of obesity, lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart disease, some cancers and kidney disease, as well as better gastrointestinal health.

Tariq Ali talks tough

“Dear Friends, it’s good to be here again, in a world which is still in a bad state but where people are now hoping that some things will change,” began Tariq Ali, the Pakistani-British author, playwright, and activist, to a full crowd at OISE on Friday. Ali spoke on a wide range of topics, from power structures in his home country of Pakistan to the war in Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He began with the recent election of Barack Obama. Thought it’s a historic accomplishment for African-Americans, said Ali, Obama is not nearly as progressive as some have painted him. “It’s a development in American politics which is of historic importance regardless of what he does,” he said. “I keep saying this because he has not promised to do anything too radical, or anything radical.”

A high-profile activist and political commentator for decades, known for his opposition to the Vietnam War, an oft-repeated anecdote credits Ali as inspiration for John Lennon’s “Power to the People.” Ali reminisced on his experiences from this era, including his meeting with Malcolm X at Oxford, but devoted the majority of the speech to current events, especially in Afghanistan.

Throughout, Ali demonstrated his absolute opposition to the war and the possibility of conflict spilling over into other countries with recent U.S. incursions in Pakistan and Syria.

“The West doesn’t totally appreciate one simple factor: that the Afghan people do not like being occupied by foreign powers,” he said. “Most people don’t like being occupied by foreign powers.” Ali argued that Hamid Karzai’s legitimacy is complicated due to Karzai’s construction on prime Kabul property. He added that a New York Times report links his brother to drug smuggling (Karzai has denied the charges).

Though the speech was mostly devoted to international issues, Ali had plenty to say about Canadian politics and foreign policy. “The Afghan War, in which Canadians are being killed and killing, wasn’t an election issue at all when a majority of Canadians are opposed to the war,” he said. Ali denounced the Ontario school board allowing military recruiters access to students under 18, saying “It’s appalling that this is going on and that the schools and education authorities have accepted this […] It’s a way to militarize a society, and for what?”

In an e-mail interview with The Varsity, Ali shared his thoughts on Islamophobia, political poems, and student activism.

The Varsity: Why do you think, despite diversity and progress in the Islamic world, Islamophobia and the idea of a monolithic Islamic culture persist in the West?

Tariq Ali: Because the West needs an enemy and so stereotypical views of Islam prevail. It’s becoming wearisome and dangerous. Most intelligent analysts in the United States know that the dominant view of Islamic culture is simplistic and wrong, but the media networks (a crucial pillar of the new order in the West) carry on regardless. Renegades out to earn a quick buck (Irshad Manji [author of The Trouble with Islam Today] a prime example) pander shamelessly to prejudice and become overnight celebrities. It won’t last, but while it does it threatens many people of Muslim origin.

The language being used is similar to that deployed against Jews in the last century. It always puzzles me that despite the near-obsession with the Holocaust in Western culture today (though, alas, not at the time Jews were being killed), the lessons being learnt are so narrow in scope that people learn nothing.

TV: In your most recent book (The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power), you quote political and social commentary in the form of poetry. Could you explain this tradition of political and social commentary by poets in the Islamic world and/or Pakistan?

TA: It is not only in the Islamic world that poets and writers become the conscience of the country. South America is replete with similar instances. In my books (including The Duel) I try and contextualize a country’s political culture. Sometimes politics and culture mix well (Chile, Venezuela). At other times culture dominates because politics is petrified (Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan etc.)

TV:Despite Huntington’s theory of the “clash of civilizations” now being discredited, why do you think it still claims credibility among academics?

TA: I really don’t know. Most academics live in a bubble world, writing in a private language remote from reality. So we shouldn’t be too surprised that Huntington’s instrumentalist fictions (as well as those of Bernard Lewis and others) are still taken seriously by some.

TV:Can the West (particularly the United States) aid in the stability of Pakistan? And, given its history of backing military dictatorship, should it?

TA: It hasn’t been able to do so over the last sixty years and its unlikely that it will now. What is really needed is a government in Pakistan that puts the people first, but that isn’t on the horizon either. Pakistan is trapped between military dictatorship and political corruption.

TV: What similarities and/or differences do you see between student movements today and when you yourself were a student activist?

TA: Comparisons can be odious. Each generation is different from its predecessor and we shouldn’t bemoan the absence of Sixties radicalism too much. Political awareness or apathy is created by the environment in which we live.

In the United States the young generation has been energized by the Obama campaign in a way that could not have been predicted. This is tremendous and one can hope that this energy is used to permanently pressure Obama from below. He’ll need to implement the change many of his supporters (if not advisers) believe in.

Welcome to the AGO

As the crowds stream into the Art Gallery of Ontario for the first time in three years, all eyes are focused upwards. A curvaceous blonde wood staircase floats above Walker Court, the historic centre of the AGO, inviting patrons to travel further into the newly redesigned gallery. From the staircase, necks crane to admire the brand new sightline through Grange Park, all the way down John Street to the waterfront. But when it comes time to meet the man responsible for this ethereal remodeling, the press is shaken from its position on high.

Frank Gehry, the world-famous architect renowned for his work on the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, is dressed casually for the occasion. On the stage, he stands a good head shorter than Matthew Teitelbaum, director and CEO of the AGO. While Teitelbaum notes the majesty of the gallery’s $300 million makeover, Gehry is humble about his accomplishment. “I think it’s a real Frank Gehry building! I feel like it is […] but really, for me, it’s just coming home.”

Surprisingly, the AGO marks the first time the 79-year old Torontonian has designed a building in his native city. Despite his ample hometown pride, Gehry aimed to prevent his redesign from being too “pushy,” turning the previously blank and unassuming Dundas Street facade into a welcoming “porch for the city.” Just as the AGO structure succeeds in not overwhelming the neighbourhood, it doesn’t detract from the artistic treasures within.

“The redesign is not about a building,” remarked Teitelbaum, “it’s about the experience of art.” The AGO’s collection has come a long way since 1918, when the former Art Gallery of Toronto contained just 30 pieces. The new AGO includes more than 4,300 works, organized thematically as opposed to chronologically throughout 110 galleries. In the European gallery, Italian baroque works are now displayed mere feet away from the surrealists. Rembrandt and Gris have become neighbours despite the 250-year gap between their births. Movement between galleries is designed to flow, with natural progressions from intimate chambers to sweeping rotundas. The new AGO is for wandering, for getting lost in artifacts that span four centuries and dozens of countries.

The AGO collection features its share of big names, from Bernini to Rodin to Henry Moore. But the true highlight is the new Thomson Gallery.

“Me and Ken Thomson, we really out-shied each other,” laughed Gehry. “It was very ‘aw shucks.’” Like Gehry, the late Thomson had a quiet curiosity that shines through his collection of over 2,000 items donated to the museum. A glass case in front of the Thomson Gallery houses a jumbled array of knickknacks: ivory triptychs, tiny model ships, and intricately decorated Chinese snuff bottles. The items preview each of Thomson’s 30 galleries, revealing his eclectic and sophisticated taste. Thomson himself contributed $100 million to the AGO’s transformation, cementing his reputation as one of Canada’s foremost patrons of the arts. Though he passed away in 2006, his financial and artistic donations ensure that the new AGO will suit a wide variety of tastes.

Creating an open and inclusive AGO was a top priority for the gallery’s administration, with “accessibility” the prime buzzword. Though adult entrance fees have gone up to $18 (described by Gehry himself as “highway robbery”), university students can visit for $10 with valid ID, while high schoolers get in free from Tuesday to Friday after school. Admission is still free for everyone on Wednesday nights from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Many exhibits now feature interactive components for children (and nostalgic undergrads), as well as designer chairs and benches that are just as attractive as the paintings beside them.

Another exciting addition is the new Young Gallery, a contemporary exhibit requiring no admission fee. Located next to Grange Park, the spacious, light-soaked room is home to works by up-and-coming Canadian artists, beginning with David Altmeyd of Montréal. His mixed media sculpture The Index combines broken mirrors with woodland symbols to form a thought-provoking landscape. Some great contributions can be expected from OCAD, whose building is visible outside the gallery’s vast windows.

As the highly-anticipated opening weekend gave the public its first taste of the transformation, line-ups snaked down McCaul, through Grange Park, all the way to Beverley Street. The line afforded visitors a prime view of the back of the AGO, which now features a blue titanium tower housing much of the gallery’s contemporary collection. One of the more controversial aspects of Gehry’s plan, the futuristic paneling, is oddly juxtaposed with the original Grange Mansion gallery sitting quietly below. But nobody in line is looking at the Grange—all eyes are focused upwards, towards Gehry’s forward-thinking vision. The new AGO has proven its relevance in the cultural life of our city, The future of art and architecture in Toronto is in good hands.