Does turkey actually make you sleepy?

When it comes to the holidays, many of us look forward to a good old-fashioned turkey dinner with stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. When the pumpkin pie makes its appearance though, we find ourselves yawning, cursing the turkey for our after-dinner lethargy. But is the poultry really the culprit behind this urge to doze off?

Turkey contains an essential amino acid called L-tryptophan, which has been recognized for its sleep-inducing effects. Tryptophan can be metabolized into serotonin and melatonin, neurotransmitters that exert a calming effect and regulate sleep. However, you’d probably still feel tired after a big holiday meal even if you eliminated the bird. In order to make you drowsy, L-tryptophan needs to be taken on an empty stomach, without any other amino acids or proteins. Therefore, the tryptophan in turkey probably won’t cause the body to produce more serotonin, as it isn’t the only food being consumed at a big holiday feast.

So if it isn’t the turkey, what’s making you drowsy? Most likely, it’s the entire meal. They’re often quite heavy—the average Thanksgiving or Christmas meal contains 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat—and loaded with carbohydrates. To digest all that food, the body reroutes blood to the stomach. This causes sleepiness, as less blood, and therefore less oxygen, is being delivered to the brain.

That said, a midnight snack of turkey could be helpful to insomniacs. Nutritionists say that taken on an empty stomach, a serving contains enough tryptophan to induce the body to generate sleep-inducing amounts of serotonin.

Calgary bans anti-abortion posters

The University of Calgary has threatened legal action against an anti-abortion group who refused to move graphic posters that compare abortion to genocide. Since 2005, the University of Calgary Campus Pro-Life has shown posters of aborted fetuses around campus for their annual event, Genocide Awareness Project.

The labelling of abortion as genocide and the explicit images have sparked vocal counter-protests. One image compares an aborted fetus to victims of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide.

After U of C received complaints, admin told the pro-lifers to hold their signs so people aren’t forced to view them involuntarily. Campus Pro-Life rejected the order.

U of C said it will take legal action against Campus Pro-Life if they display the posters. Though the university is a public institution, the campus is considered private property and the group’s protests can be considered trespassing.

The National Post reported that when pro-life protestors set up their displays this week, U of C security guards served them notice that they could face arrest, a fine of $2,000, or civil action. The guards also held up signs that read, “Caution. Campus Pro-Life has been served with a notice to vacate university property. The university is now taking appropriate legal action.”

As of Thursday, Calgary Police have not served any trespassing notices.

Don’t let the flu call the shots

Walk around campus and you will hear a symphony of coughs, sniffles, and sneezes. Yes, it’s flu season. According to Health Canada, about 10 to 25 per cent of Canadians will be affected by the influenza virus every year, costing the healthcare system millions. If you assume influenza causes nothing more than a few days of discomfort, think again. The World Health Organization notes that each year a quarter million people worldwide die from influenza.

Influenza exists in two main strains: Influenza A, which makes you seriously ill and Influenza B, the milder version that affects most of us every year. The influenza virus is highly unstable and prone to mutation. The virus you are potentially exposed to one year will be different from what you may come into contact with in the future.

There are many ways to prevent falling ill this flu season. One of the best preventative measures is the flu shot. The flu shot is a vaccine containing three strains of the virus that scientists believe will be prevalent in the coming flu season. They are used to stimulate the immune system to develop antibodies against the flu. These viruses are inactivated, meaning that you can’t get the flu from the flu shot. Keep in mind that if you’re allergic to chicken eggs, you will want to avoid taking it, as the vaccine is developed using eggs. About one in a million people vaccinated with the flu shot develop a nervous disease known as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). However, most patients recover and there have been fewer deaths reported due to GBS, compared to the influenza virus.

In addition to the flu shot, the flu vaccine can also be administered through a nasal spray known as the Live Attenuated Influenza Virus (LAIV). This nasal spray is similar to the shot with only one exception. Instead of using inactivated or dead virus strains, the nasal spray contains weakened live strains. Similar to the flu shot, the LAIV assists the immune system in developing anti-bodies to combat influenza. As the LAIV is a live virus, it is only recommended for healthy individuals between the ages of five to 49. The LAIV and the flu shot do not significantly differ in terms of their effectiveness.

If you’re considering staying sniffle-free this season, you should think about getting vaccinated. It’s free and could prevent you from falling seriously and inconveniently ill, especially during exams.

Studies in sadomasochism

Performance studies at U of T are getting a whole lot kinkier. Sexual Performance: Case Studies in Sadmasochism returns this year, offered as a drama grad course and to undergrads in sexual diversity studies.

The course examines links between drama and S/M practices, which frequently rely on theatrical elements, to “test theoretical assumptions against the background of concrete experience,” according to the course description.

Professor Leslie Katz hopes to dispel notions of S/M as merely theatrical fantasy or eroticized violence. While it includes theatrical elements, S/M also deals with the control and submission of personal power, she said.

“If there is one thing that I would like my students to leave the class with, it is the conviction that theatre is not only about simulation and make-believe; the stakes of performance are real,” said Katz. No acting experience is required.

Calgary stamps out Montréal

In football, careers are often defined by the big game. On last Sunday night’s 96th edition of the CFL’s Grey Cup, both signal callers had something to prove. Both Calgary Stampeders’ Henry Burris and Montréal Alouettes’ Anthony Calvillo have been instrumental in their respective team’s success, but dubbed with a footnote, they “cannot win the big one.”

Coming into the game, the Alouettes were flying high with league MVP Calvillo and five all-stars, looking to cap off their storybook season with a win on home turf. But in the end, it was the other MVP candidate who won the rights to sip from Lord Grey’s mug. Burris, who completed 28 for 37 passes for 328 yards, and ran 9 times for 79, broke the hearts of 66,308 screaming fans in Olympic Stadium with a 22-14 win over the Montréal Alouettes, finally earning the respect he and his team so desperately craved.

“To finally be a champion, wow,” said a teary-eyed Burris, named the MVP of the game, to TSN. “I need to wake up, but the great thing about it is, it’s reality now!”

“We’ve been dragged through the dirt for a few years, and we did it to ourselves in many ways”, said Burris. “But that’s what allowed us to enjoy this occasion much more than if it came easy. We came to Montréal to win what we could control, because as good as this team was this season, it would have been an awful waste not to leave here with a championship.”

The Stampeders didn’t look like a championship team early on. Montréal pivot Calvillo picked apart Calgary’s defence, engineering an impressive opening drive before kicker Damon Duval booted a 14-yard field goal.

After Calgary’s DeAngelis replied with a 44-yarder, the momentum started to swing in the Alouettes’ favour in the second quarter. After linebacker Reggie Hunt picked off the lone poor pass of the game from Burris, Calvillo methodically moved the team down field and running back Avon Cobourne scored a 16-yard touchdown.

The Alouettes fired on all cylinders. After their defence held the Stampeders’ drive to a two-and-out, the special team stepped up as Larry Taylor returned the third down punt for 44 yards to the Calgary 43-yard line. Four plays later, Duval made his second field goal from 19 yards out, putting the Alouettes up 10-3 late in first half.

Burris showed us why he was the best player in the CFL West. On the final possession of the half, he began with a determined scramble for a first down that foreshadowed what was to come. Nik Lewis and Joffrey Reynolds caught consecutive bullets from Burris, who finished off with a 20-yard pass to Brett Ralph with 44 seconds left in the game.

“All along we wanted to get the running game involved and Henry Burris in the QB position was a big part of the running game,” said Calgary head coach John Hufnagel.

The key was Calgary’s defence readjustment. After giving up 10 points in the first half, Calgary defensive co-ordinator Chris Jones mixed in some zone coverage, with Calgary’s patented man-to-man, confusing Montréal.

The league’s most prolific offence squeezed out all but one point from a punt single in the second half. Calvillo, who went from the MVP to the MHP, “Most Helpless Player,” was sacked twice and threw two interceptions, swinging the game to Calgary’s favour.

“When you look at the big picture, those two plays really cost us the game.” said Calvillo, whose Grey Cup record fell to 1-5. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [to win at home] and we just let it slip through our hands.”

He gave credit to the Calgary defence, especially defensive end, Toronto native Mike Labinjo, who knocked down four passes from Calvillo and recorded a sack.

“The old Calgary Stampeders team, if things didn’t go our way, we’d fold up like a cheap tent,” exclaimed Labinjo. “We learned from those punches to the gut. We’ve had a good nucleus for four years that’s been through a lot of B.S., so it’s an amazing feeling.”

But Labinjo wasn’t the only Canadian who had a great night. Niagara Falls native Sandro DeAngelis finished a perfect five for five, including a clutch 50-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that completed the scoring. He was named the most valuable Canadian of the game.

The two teams will now head to the off-season. The vindicated Stampeders will look to defend their title next season on home turf, as the devastated Alouettes face questions and doubts, wondering what could have been.

Prior to this year, the last time two MVP candidates played in the same Grey Cup was 1966 in Vancouver. Russ Jackson won the MVP, the late Ron Lancaster won the championship.

We are the world

The room is full of sounds. One shopper slowly strums a cigar box while another swings a bow against an ocean harp. Musician Ivy Mari plunks away at a Medieval European violin known as the hurdy-gurdy. I’ve been roped into trying out the quijada de burro—also known as the “donkey jaw rattle”—an instrument used in Peruvian folk dancing. I feel like I’m back in the third grade playing the triangle.

Located at 401 Richmond Street West—an artistic warehouse that houses over 140 cultural enterprises—instrument emporium Musideum is a veritable musician’s paradise. The store specializes in unusual instruments from around the world, ranging from the recognizable (various tambourines) to items like the nykleharpa, a Swedish national instrument transported to the store straight from the set of The Lord of the Rings (it makes a special appearance in the film’s “gnome theme”), or the shofar, a Yemenite trumpet made from antelope horn.

Owner Donald Quan dreamed up the idea of Musideum over 20 years ago while travelling as a musician around the globe. Quan would see or hear an exotic instrument and track it down, amassing various pieces for his own collection. “Any odd time someone else saw an instrument [of mine] his or her jaw would drop,” he remembers. “It started out as a private pleasure, but then I wanted to share it with people.”

After returning to Canada, Quan waited patiently for eight years until space at 401 Richmond became available. When he was let in two years ago, he set to work building his store with a little help from his friends. Quan wanted to make Musideum a place where the general public had exposure to exotic instruments, even allowing customers to rent them on the cheap. Quan continues to travel, playing shows worldwide and gathering new instruments. He shows me the most expensive item in the store, a rare glass armonica, retailing at $6,000. The instrument is beautiful, but students needn’t worry: the store is filled with lower-price items, such as $18 Vietnamese jaw harps or $1.99 nose flutes. The majority of instruments in the store are priced under $100. A half hour spent browsing will take care of all your Christmas shopping (your five-year-old cousin will love the tiny wooden cricket rattle, whittled in the shape of the insect).

Quan and his staff encourage customers to try every instrument. “Everyone’s allowed to play everything,” says staff member and musician Mairi, who first heard about the store while playing shows around the city. While we’re chatting, she busts out Musideum’s hottest selling item: the sansula, a thumb piano that’s a German version of the African kalimba (a favourite of Jens Lekman and Toronto buzz-kid Laura Barrett, who often plays at the store). Mairi demonstrates how the sansula allows the player to not only pluck the keys, but control the echoes that emerge from the bottom of the instrument, letting deep sound waves permeate the room. “People don’t come in for it,” Quan says, “but when they hear it, they have to have it.”

Mairi loves helping customers. “One of the nicest things is when customers come in and teach us [how to play],” she says. “They may have grown up with the instrument, so they know more about how it is played traditionally.”

Mairi was so captivated by Musideum’s instruments that she has started using them in her own recordings. While some offerings may seem unusual to first-timers, they are quickly gaining notoriety; the aforementioned hurdy-gurdy plays a prominent role in the music of The Arcade Fire.

The staff offers a warm welcome to novices, as Quan encourages even the tone-deaf to try everything. “Come on in and play an instrument,” he says. “All this stuff’s affordable for the general public.” With that in mind, we return to the strumming and shaking, the rattle and hum.

Musideum is located at 401 Richmond Street West, Suite 133. Store hours are Tuesday to Saturday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Give them a call at 416-599-7323, or visit them online at

Hockey violence is not the answer

There was once a time when Larry, Curly, and Moe dazzled the big screen by hitting each other repeatedly over the head. It was crass, funny, and downright entertaining. Lately, it seems that the NHL is mimicking the Stooges, making headlines for shots to the head and horrific hits from behind. But unlike the Stooges, this is neither funny, nor fake. It is a serious and real problem.

When Gary Bettman sent out a memo to NHL players explaining that this play will not be tolerated, he must have failed to receive this same memo himself. His disciplinarian Colin Campbell continues to give minor suspensions of three games for these illegal hits.

Recently, the league has seen an influx in these illegal blows. Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn is out for 4-6 weeks after being hit from behind by Montreal forward Tom Kostopoulos, who received a measly three-game suspension. Poor Patrice Bergeron, taken out of the arena in an ambulance and was out for 71 games, got no retribution as Randy Jones of the Flyers received a ridiculous two-game suspension.

When these hits aren’t making headlines, everyone’s inner Don Cherry comes out as fans see hitting as part of the game. It’s when it becomes news that everyone becomes passive. Tearful apologies and cries from the media to tighten up on suspensions become all the rage. But it’s all a big charade. It seems that any publicity is good publicity for the NHL, as Americans would rather watch cars drive in circles and people play cards.

The NHL needs to set standards and put their foot down. Regardless of the severity of the hit, there should be a minimal fifteen-game suspension and a team bench penalty where the aggressor’s team will have to play two players short for the next five games.

If a benchmark suspension is made, it will help to install sternness in a league that has been quasi-compassionate at best. Implementing a stricter rule will make players think about their actions, as it will penalize them for a good portion of the season, and penalize their team.

A two-minute penalty for a head shot or hit from behind is not good enough. It makes these illegal blows seem like they’re a common part of the game.

Why talk about removing the instigator rule so that players can “police” themselves? If this rule is removed, each team will allow its goons to pummel other players at the end of games, furthering the belief that hockey is a game played by brutes and barbarians.

Hockey players have been taught to finish their checks cleanly from a young age. Players are intentionally reckless because hockey culture promotes violence. While other sports have shown zero tolerance for excessively violent actions, the NHL continues to let this behaviour remain in the game.

Canadians attempt to distinguish themselves from Americans by taking on the role of pacifists. Ironically, on the ice Canadians are aggressive and violent. This inclination towards hockey violence may be why Don Cherry was voted the seventh greatest Canadian of all time.

On Coach’s Corner every Saturday night, Cherry preaches to people to play hockey the “Canadian Way”. The “Canadian Way” means fighting face-to-face, playing hard-nosed physical hockey that will separate Canadians from the “wimpy Europeans” who refuse to take hits. It means being tough and fighting for our game because it defines us as a nation.

The only fighting necessary for hockey is to fight for stricter discipline, so elite players can be protected and play the game.

Hitting will always have a place in the NHL. But if the league continues to neglect the safety of its players, the only place the NHL’s superstars will be showcased is in the hospital. This reality is laughable, but not in the Three Stooges sense.

The NHL needs to toughen up on discipline to curtail

TAs move in for the strike

U of T teaching assistants will vote on a strike mandate from Dec. 3 to Dec. 9. If they pass the mandate, their unit of the Canadian Union of Public Employees 3902 will have the option of striking should contract negotiations with the administration break down.

CUPE 3902 has been bargaining with U of T since July. Improved maternity leave, smaller tutorials and labs, wages tied to inflation, improved health and dental benefits, and a two-year contract are currently on the table.

The union hopes to gain momentum from a yes vote, but the prospect of an actual strike will have to wait at least until February, after either the admin or the union has sought conciliation from the Ministry of Labour. If the parties still don’t reach an agreement, the union can then strike.

“The university continues to bargain with CUPE 3902 and we are hopeful that we will be able to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties without a strike,” said Angela Hildyard, VP of human resources at U of T. Several meetings are scheduled between the union and admin, starting today.

CUPE bargaining team spokesperson Rebecca Sanders said that they had reached agreements on several smaller issues, but not major monetary concerns.

“Before the strike vote they said no to our maternity and parental leave program,” said Sanders. Since the strike vote was announced on Nov. 4, she said, the proposal has been revisited.

Not all teaching assistants are supporting a possible strike. Mathieu Roy, a TA at U of T, wrote in opposition to TA strikes in the National Post, “I’ve had a taste of the exceptional conditions and wages, and believe me, you will never find better for a part-time job: $36 per hour, health and dental benefits for the entire family, flexible schedules, guaranteed re-hiring until graduation.”

“I can tell you from personal experience that TAs usually work considerably greater hours than what is in their contracts,” said Sanders. She argued that at those rates TAs earn $15,000 a year, which is below the poverty line. Sanders added that to complete their degrees, grad students complete hours of research outside of TA duties, for which they are paid little or nothing.

The University of Toronto Students’ Union and the Graduate Students’ Union have both pledged support for CUPE 3902. A strike would only occur in the event of a serious breakdown in negotiations. In September, the Steelworkers union passed a strike mandate but reached an agreement with admin before they were due to strike.

“None of our members want to go on strike, but it is one of the few tools left to us if our demands are denied,” said Sanders.

TAs at York University went on strike on Nov. 6, shutting down classes. No resolution is in sight. The York Federation of Students has been criticized for announcing public support for the strike, even though 50,000 York students could lose a semester.