Mother’s kidney problem foremost for York Lions’ defensive end

Sean Simms was once one of this city’s brightest football prospects but he was also willing to put aside dreams of a pro career to offer his sick mother one of his kidneys, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 31. A starting defensive end in his third year with the York University Lions, the 23-year-old Simms’ football dreams are getting back on track even though he is concerned about his mother’s health. It’s on his mind when he leaves their west Toronto apartment and takes public transit to practice and classes. One thing is certain: Monica Simms refuses to consider accepting a kidney transplanted from her son. Instead, she pleads with him to focus on his goals and do well in school, where he is studying sociology in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies.

“I know that I’m not well but I don’t want to stop my son’s career,” said Monica, who is 57. “I know he wants to teach but he’s also got a dream of playing pro football. I’ve told him that when he reaches his career, I will have achieved my goal.” An only child, the Toronto-born Simms hopes to become an elementary school teacher if football doesn’t work out. Coming off an impressive training camp after last year’s so-so season, he’s ready for York’s OUA season home opener on Labour Day against the Waterloo Warriors.

At 6-foot-5 and trimmed down to 275 pounds, his hustle, talent and chutzpah helped Simms secure a scholarship to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti in 2002 after graduating from Toronto’s Michael Power/St. Joseph’s high school. Simms, a Toronto Star high-school all-star, made the move but he didn’t last. Feeling like he was caught between a rock and a hard place, he packed up after a few weeks in Michigan and headed home to care for his mother. “I’m worried about her and have to help,” he said. “To see her like this is very hard. She can’t work because of her health and age and that leaves me with no alternative but to help pay the rent, cook and keep our apartment clean. She’s instilled these things in me, taught me respect. She’s all I have, so what kind of a son can ignore all that?”

Military testing of women for weakness called ‘appalling’

Military scientists want to study the physical strength limitations of women in uniform. The $43,000 study will examine “potential body strength challenges (especially upper body strength) experienced by Canadian Forces female personnel,” according to documents released Tuesday by the military’s research arm, reported the Halifax Daily Chronicle Aug. 31. The five-month project will also look at ways military women between the ages of 18 and 60 can overcome strength limitations. News of the research prompted criticism from some quarters. In 1989, a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision ordered the Canadian Forces to integrate women into all occupations within a 10-year period. The strength study is also coming at a time when the military is moving away from “relatively low-risk peacekeeping operations,'” said Martin Shadwick, a defence analyst with the York Centre for International & Security Studies. “Those in uniform are expected to do everything from fighting terrorists to conducting strenuous disaster relief operations,” Shadwick said. “The Forces people, male and female, are being asked to respond in ways that really put even more of a premium on being physically fit and able to do the job,” Shadwick said.

Tiny satellite’s mini-spectrometer built at York

One of the miniature instruments aboard a tiny new satellite that can spot pollution from space was built at York, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 31. Only slightly bigger than a milk carton, the satellite will carry a mini-detector built by Brendan Quine, a professor in York’s Department of Physics & Astronomy, Faculty of Science & Engineering. The instrument is able to pinpoint greenhouse gas emissions from individual smokestacks, a hundred times sharper than anything now in orbit. The Lilliputian satellite, named CanX-2, is being formally unveiled at the University of Toronto. The nanosatellite must hitch a ride on a rocket launching a larger spacecraft so the exact timing and its orbit are yet to be determined, but it is scheduled to embark next year.

Miniaturization breakthroughs and cunning design mean a locker-full of control and communication technologies, plus four scientific experiments, have been crammed into the tiny craft. One of the experiments will involve Quine’s greenhouse gas spectrometer that has been shrunk from its normal laser-printer size to not much bigger than a box of paper clips. Some enthusiasts see formations of small satellites as the next generation of spacecraft, taking over communications and research tasks now done by orbiting behemoths the size of school buses and weighing several tonnes. “In space, small is beautiful,” says Quine. “If you can build smaller instruments then people will be more willing to put them on their spacecraft.” Quine hopes a version of the spectrometer will eventually be carried aboard a Mars lander and measure the atmosphere on the Red Planet. For now, he’s got one device ready for CanX-2 and two more waiting to hitch a free ride into orbit. “We’ll be able to detect pollution under the Kyoto Protocol down to the level of an individual car plant and track plumes back to the offending smokestack,” the researcher explained.

Beaverton-Thorah-Eldon Historical Society presenting Letters from Karelia

Beaverton resident Varpu Lindström, a professor of women’s studies at York, was the researcher for the National Film Board of Canada documentary Letters from Karelia, which chronicles the untold story of Ontario born Aate Pitkanen, reported The Packet & Times (Orillia) Aug. 27. Pitkanen was one of about 2,800 Finnish Canadians who accepted Soviet Russia’s invitation to work in Soviet Karelia during the Depression. (See story in the Nov. 18, 2004 issue of YFile.) The director of the film, Kelly Saxberg of Thunder Bay, spent many an hour in Beaverton rummaging through the archives, photographs and microfilms amassed by Lindström. The film has been shown in dozens of film festivals in North America and Europe. It had its world premiere in Sudbury in Sept. 2004 and will have its Finnish premiere at the Finnish parliament in Helsinki on Sept. 1, 2005. On Sept. 10, Lindström will introduce the 76-minute long documentary Letters from Karelia in the Beaverton Town Hall and will take questions after the screening.

Former speaker studied at Osgoode

James Jerome (LLB ’58) was a popular Speaker of the House of Commons who seemingly could do no wrong until he became a federal judge, according to a contributor to The Globe and Mail in its Aug. 31 edition. Jerome, who died Aug. 21 at the age of 72, was the first Speaker chosen from an opposition party. He introduced television coverage of the Commons and he wielded a fair but firm hand during Question Period. Then, in an unusual spasm of election-day patronage, he was made associate chief justice of the Federal Court of Canada, where he came under unfamiliar attack. He stepped down in March of 1998 after his slow handling of war-crimes cases. James Jerome spent his early years in Kingston, Ont., where his father was a construction engineer. Later, the family moved to Toronto, where James went to high school, the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School.

Yorks student and Degrassi cast member helps set fashion trends

“Jeans are a big deal,” reported The Globe and Mail in an Aug. 27 story that featured comments from first-year York student Stacey Farber, a cast member of TV’s Degrassi: Next Generation. The 18-year-old actor was one of several cast members asked to show how they dress off-screen. For 25 years, the show has been transporting Canadian school style to viewers in 60 countries. Farber said her big fashion move of late was a raid on her grandmother’s closet that yielded two awesome pairs of pumps. Farber loves to layer her stuff, and was so attached to the vest she had just purchased from Urban Outfitters that she wore it for the photo shoot. The beads were a recent vintage acquisition. “Jeans are a big deal,” says Farber, who likes Seven brand. “The fit has to be perfect.”