Scientists just beginning to study smog particulate

For decades, the term “chemical soup” has been used to describe urban smog. But scientists have only recently begun to seriously delve into the particulate piece of the pollution puzzle, reported the Toronto Star July 17. “In terms of a chemical soup, we understand the (broth) quite well,” says atmospheric scientist Geoff Harris of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, referring to the gaseous elements of smog. “But we know very little about the lumpy bits.” Harris, the first holder of York’s Guy Warwick Rogers Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, estimates research into smog’s particulates may be lagging 30 or more years behind the studies of its gaseous side. Several factors have contributed to this discrepancy, he said, including early clean air regulations of the 1960s, centred mainly on smog-bound Los Angeles that concentrated almost entirely on gaseous ozone and ignored the particle matter. “We still don’t have the technologies to understand the particulates,” Harris said. “We’re getting better and better at it but it’s still a problem to understand just what’s there, let alone where it comes from.” And until the past decade or so, researchers were ambivalent, from both a health and academic perspective, about the importance of the particles. “The particles were sort of there and obvious and visible,” he said. “But people didn’t know enough about them to worry about whether there was much chemistry to them or whether it was just basically smoke.”

Toronto’s Muslims must respond together, says grad

Toronto’s diverse Muslim community – made up of a wide spectrum of ethnic backgrounds, as well as religious denominations – must come together to respond decisively to events like the London attacks, York grad Abbasali Kermalli says, reported the Toronto Star July 16. The talkative and articulate Kermalli, 30, earned a bachelor of business administration in 1998 and an LLB in 2001 from York before realizing that his gift of gab could be helpful to the growing Shiite community. The corporate lawyer belongs to an umbrella organization of local Shiite groups and he used to sit on the executive committee at his mosque.

“In Toronto, we have a pretty healthy relationship – we respect each other’s values and beliefs, and let each other practise freely,” he said of the Sunni and Shia sects. “We need to show that understanding to the larger community by getting out there and doing the outreach that needs to be done.” Kermalli said he is encouraged to see an increasing number of young Muslims entering professional fields, but believes stronger representation in the media and politics is needed. “We need to get involved in every field out there,” he said. “If we’re one of the largest ethnic communities in Canada, there should be no reason politicians shouldn’t be slobbering all over us – but we need to get out there and vote. We need to do more volunteer work and donate to the needy. We need to show that we’re experts in our fields regardless of religion, but also that we’re proud of being Muslims and want to share that with the rest of society.”

Bus lanes pave way for subway to relieve gridlock

In a July 18 Globe and Mail column, Dr. Gridlock reported how Toronto’s senior transportation planning officials responded to a suggestion from a frustrated commuter to create turning lanes at the chronically congested Finch and Dufferin intersection. Rod McPhail, the city’s director of transportation planning, says for years, dating back to the days of the old Metro government, Dufferin at Finch has been a hot-button issue, and remains “probably one of the most controversial stretches of street right now in the city.” Metro looked at widening this stretch to six lanes from four, but the idea was killed as something that would only promote car use. Dufferin will be wider within a year, but not for cars. Dufferin will get a bus-only lane to house the TTC’s bus rapid-transit link to York University, as an interim step while the city waits for the anticipated northward extension of the subway. The bus lane should be open within a year, McPhail said. And the hope is that by making the bus ride to York more reliable, more drivers will be coaxed out of their cars, allowing Toronto to squeeze more people into its limited road space.

A Chinese ruin on Cape Breton?

Experts are skeptical, but a Toronto architect claims he has found 15th-century Chinese ruins in Cape Breton, reported The Globe and Mail July 16. One skeptic is Bernard Luk, a history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and an expert on Chinese history. Hearing about the claim, Luk said in an e-mail: “It does not sound at all plausible to me. In any case, it was the wrong ocean!”

Not all corporate leaders crooked

We have corporate crooks like Edmonton-born WorldCom entrepreneur Bernie Ebbers, a Calgary Sun editorial July 17 stated, then we have the likes of York University benefactor Seymour Schulich, who donated $25 million to the University of Calgary’s engineering faculty, and Dick Haskayne, who gave the school of business $16 million. Schulich, whose donation is the largest the U of C has ever seen, said his company, BlackRock Ventures, had “taken a lot of money out of Alberta. It is now time to give some back.” And that’s actually after years of Schulich “giving some back.” Fortunately, with individuals such as Schulich and Haskayne, the positive profile business has in our province and country is well-deserved and contrasts sharply with the likes of Ebbers and Enron’s Kenneth Lay.

Student overcomes obesity

If the one in four Canadians declared obese in the latest Statistics Canada report wonder if there’s hope of getting healthy, Clayton Gonsalves is here to reassure them, reported the Richmond Hill Liberal July 17. “I was 240 pounds at 18,” said the York University kinesiology student. “I dropped to 150 and then added mass to 190.” According to StatsCan’s weight of the nation report released last week, obesity rates among children have more than doubled from three to eight per cent with the biggest increases among those 12 to 17. So how did Gonsalves do it? He went on a concerted regime of exercise, diet and information that took him from bloated to buff in 30 months. “My motivation was friends who started to work out. I learned how to use the equipment properly. I read and learned more about technique and diet,” he said. But he believes for many, there are barriers to starting a fitness regime. “They think getting fit is too hard,” he said. “A gym can be an intimidating place. They see the equipment and fit guys and girls. With a bit of knowledge, a bit of work and help, they can be on their way to their fitness and health goals.”

Grand rural church designed by famed Irish architect

Rural churches and chapels of all denominations are common in the Ontario landscape. Like St. Patrick’s in Kinkora, they are often placed at or near a crossroad in a village but, unlike St. Patrick’s, they are usually small and rarely boast great architectural ambition, wrote Malcolm Thurlby, art history professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, in the Stratford Beacon-Herald July 16 on the completion of the church’s restoration project. St. Patrick’s is a large church, the sort of building normally found in a town or city. It even incorporates details from the great medieval Gothic cathedrals of Europe. Why? Because it was designed by Toronto-based architect Joseph Connolly, one of the most celebrated architects in 19th-century Ireland before he moved to Canada.

Starting a business? Better read this first

Everything I Needed To Know About Business … I Learned In Canada by York law grads Leonard Brody and David J. Raffa lives up to its title, suggested a Winnipeg Free Press reviewer July 17. The insights within it are provided by 16 Canadian business superstars who have made their mark internationally. Both Brody and Raffa are BC-based entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who earned LLBs from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School – Brody in 1997 and Raffa in 1985. Both have also succeeded in the international business arena. In this new book, they feature a diverse array of interviewees, including world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie, Canadian-born and internationally acclaimed magazine editor Bonnie Fuller, and Canadian-born co-executive producer of TV’s “The Simpsons” Joel Cohen.

Making everyday shapes into art

Toronto artist and York grad Lyn Carter challenges people to take a closer look at what seems to be common everyday objects in her latest art exhibit, reported Metroland newspapers July 17. “What I wanted to do is make the ordinary, extraordinary,” the York University graduate explained of her exhibit, appropriately titled Incognito, on display in the Koffler Gallery at 4588 Bathurst St. Mounted on the white walls of the North York gallery, the art pieces made with patterned fabric take the shape of such recognizable domestic items as shovels, faucets and bottle stoppers. The veteran sculptor, who is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design and received a masters of fine arts degree from York in 1994, has shown her work across Canada, the United States and Britain.

Early version of gold rush play performed at York

For the next three weeks the heady days of the Klondike’s golden era will come to life again at Beaconsfield through the stories and songs of Flash In The Pan, a one-man show created by Charlottetown Festival veteran Hank Stinson, reported The Guardian in Charlottetown July 16. He began performing versions of this show as early as 1972, including The Great Canadian Gold Rush, staged at York University in 1975.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, a business professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed how the Ontario government enticed Toyota to build an assembly plant in Woodstock, in a “CBC News: Express” item aired on CCAN-TV (Country Canada) July 15.