No legislation eyed for York strike

The Ontario government does not plan to bring in back-to-work legislation to end the five-week-long York University strike, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 12. The legislature rose for its holiday break yesterday and will not be back before mid-February.

Labour Minister Peter Fonseca told reporters it is time for the parties involved to double their efforts to negotiate an end to the strike, which began on Nov. 6. "We want to see the students in the classroom. We continue to ask (the parties) to come back to the table, resolve differences and get a collective agreement in place."

About 40 York nursing students will be returning to class Monday. "These students are in a unique position," explained spokesperson Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations. "They must be prepared to write the Canadian registered nurses exam on Feb. 4." Bilyk said this group of students is independently funded by the Ministry of Health & Long Term Care and the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, with the understanding that they would complete their degree-licensing requirements by the beginning of 2009.

Fine Arts grad is Stratford Festival’s new senior artistic associate

Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s "commitment to strengthen and expand its international connections" is reflected in the appointment of Elizabeth Bradley (BFA ’76) as senior artistic associate of the renowned Canadian company, wrote Playbill’s online edition Dec. 10.

Bradley, a well-known Canadian arts administrator, "will focus on international creative development from her base in New York, where she has recently assumed the chair of drama of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University," the company announced Dec. 8. "She will assist the festival in establishing relationships that will enable it to export productions, provide details of opportunities for collaborations, and suggest new markets of interest. She will also recommend international and emerging creative talent to artistic director Des McAnuff."

Bradley will fulfill this role for one year on an honorary volunteer basis.

Bradley held a wide variety of positions in Canada prior to moving to Pittsburgh in 2001 to head the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University, a post she held until her current appointment in New York, wrote Playbill. A graduate in theatre from York University, she served as programming director and later CEO of the Hummingbird Centre; director of communications and special projects at the Stratford Festival; and president of her own production and talent management company.

She is the past chair of the International Society for the Performing Arts. Currently she is chair of the American Board of the National Theatre of Scotland.

"It is vitally important that the festival advance its efforts to reach out internationally," stated Antoni Cimolino, the Stratford festival’s general director. "To that end, Elizabeth Bradley will be an ideal ambassador for the festival with an eye toward talent recruitment and partnering opportunities."

Muskoka’s lakes face new environmental threat: report

An emerging threat to Muskoka’s lakes and forests is part of a new report published in the international journal Science, wrote the Bracebridge Examiner Dec. 10.

The effect of declining levels of calcium on aquatic creatures in soft water boreal lakes was reported for the first time in the Science article this November. “This is not a small issue,” said Norman Yan, a professor and limnologist (lake scientist) in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, who lives in Bracebridge. Yan was one of the authors of the report.

“The entire volume of Lake Muskoka is passed through the stomachs of these water fleas twice a month,” said Yan. “So these guys are really working hard on our behalf to keep the water clean.” Typically there are 50 Daphnia in every litre of lake water, he said.

Yan has been studying lakes in Haliburton and Muskoka for about 38 years. He noticed calcium levels starting to fall and, along with the other authors of the report, wanted to study the life forms affected by the decline.

“We are kind of likening these water fleas to canaries in the coal mine,” Yan explained. “So if one calcium-rich animal is in trouble, then we darn well better find out about all the other calcium-rich animals, like crayfish and snails…. What takes the minerals away is six decades of acid rain and then logging, followed by forest regrowth,” said Yan.

“Tragically the acid rain story is not yet over…but it is much better than it was,” said Yan.

A real fembot? Groovy, baby!

"To be honest with you, sex sells," said York grad Trung Le (BSc ‘04), 33, after cradling the five-foot tall, 27-kilogram life-like doll on his lap for photographs in his parents’ Brampton, Ont., home where he lives, wrote The Edmonton Sun Dec. 12 in a story about Le’s android project named Aiko, which means "love child" in Japanese. "It sells, but it’s not like (she’s) one of those $99 (dolls), right? It would be very expensive (to use that way). It would be cheaper just to spend money on my own, real girlfriend."

Le doesn’t have a girlfriend right now, though, because he’s been much too busy over the past year and a half developing the uber feminine robot. Costing him $25,000 so far in parts – including a sex doll from Japan for a body, sensors on her head, arms, face and breasts, oodles of bone-structure mechanics, a camera in her neck and computer processors – the project has moved from hobby to full-fledged passion.

His hopes for the humanoid’s use are wide, varied and all in the name of helping humanity. Le sees possible applications within homes for the elderly, inside hospitals or the military, working reception or providing airport security.

Le, a former software engineer, graduated with a chemistry degree from York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.

Silverlane shares stage in multi-act show

When Orangeville indie-band Silverlane takes the stage at Broadway Tabernacle tonight at 7 p.m., fans should brace themselves for a high- intensity rock concert, reported the Orangeville Banner Dec. 11. "We like to bring our energy from the basement to the stage – we have lots of it," said York student David Kalinauskas, who is Silverlane’s frontman. "We play a heavy driving rock."

Along with their busy performance schedule the band has also been churning out a number of new songs – and that’s just the way they like it. "We’ve always got projects in the works," says 20-year-old David. "I’m still in school, and come home to practice," says David, who’s studying International Development at York University.

GO train ridership has nearly doubled in first year

Just days short of the anniversary of GO trains returning to Barrie after a 14-year absence, local passenger numbers are more than holding the line. In fact, they’ve almost doubled since service was reinstated last year, wrote the Barrie Examiner Dec. 12. The numbers have grown from about 350 people hopping on the trains at the Barrie South station last December to 675 passengers daily now.

Barrie resident Kris Velss wishes the fares were cheaper but other than that he’s happy with the service. "It’s a lot easier than driving," said Velss, who takes the train to York University’s Keele campus. "Today was a bit (lousy), but it’s usually pretty reliable."

Mayor defends spending spree in the name of jobs

It’s about the jobs, dummy. That was the message from Mayor David Miller Wednesday, when Toronto council voted to approve the city’s 2009 capital budget – a $1.6-billion spending plan for next year to kick off $11 billion over the next five. The budget plan will see the city improve roads and bridges, build police stations and community centres, buy buses, subway cars and light rail vehicles among other things, wrote Dec. 11 in a story which included mention of the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit way from Downsview Station to York University’s Keele campus.

Verdict in

Contrary to the claims of the P3 expert from the Schulich School of Business at York University, the jury is not out on P3 savings, wrote John Morrall, president of the Canadian Highways Institute Ltd., in a letter to The Calgary Herald Dec. 12 replying to comments by James McKellar, director of York’s Real Property Development Program. The jury has returned the verdict that large P3 highway projects have a track record of being on time and on budget, wrote Morrall.

The P3 expert from York University claims that "to get the savings you anticipate, you have to build up a huge in-house team." P3 projects in Alberta, BC, Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been managed by small, highly skilled groups such as PartnershipsBC, said Morrall.