By Cathy Gulli - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
Book by Anne Enright
Of all the books that pregnant women have by their bed, surely none are as engaging, terrifying or reassuring as Making Babies. Irish author Enright recounts her experiences having two children with humour and candour. Upon first seeing her unborn daughter on the ultrasound, Enright says, “It looks a bit disgusting.”
She is stunned by how terrible she feels, and how others consider this a commendable sacrifice rather than unfortunate circumstance. During prenatal class, Enright realizes there is “a fundamental problem here, of design. The hole just wasn’t big enough. And there was no escape now.” She likens the physical trauma of childbirth to “being run over by a small car—from the inside.” And yet, as soon as her baby emerges, Enright is elated. She and her husband conceive again soon, only to realize “no one gives a toss about your second pregnancy.”
Enright is full of advice. She suggests that wives who demand their husbands raise their cleaning standards actually lower theirs. She encourages women to happily consume alcohol once the baby sleeps for 12 hours straight: “Drink your head off for the first three of them, and when morning comes, you might feel poisoned but you will not be poisonous.” She recommends against looking in the mirror while holding the baby; that emphasizes the imperfections that come with age. And she advises tossing baby clothes after the first wear to avoid drowning in dirty laundry.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 10:01 AM - 0 Comments
ClevrU is creating a class of international students by providing courses on smartphones
To hear Dean Pacey describe online learning is a lesson in how the Internet—despite its vastness—can actually be a very personal place. In fact, taking courses over a computer, he believes, has the potential to make education more intimate and effective than any typical class-teacher setting, which is often full of distractions. “When I go to university and I sign up for psych 100, I’m sitting with 1,500 other students with one talking head who I can’t hear and who may or may not speak English well at the front of the room,” he says. “How is that a rich experience?”
By comparison, Pacey imagines a world in which students in any country can pick and choose the courses they’d like to take over the Internet from the best international schools, many of which are in Canada. These courses would feature video lectures, online chats and news feeds related to the content, and would be delivered in whatever language the student preferred. Even more surprising: while the course content could be viewed on a computer screen or tablet, it would be designed, first and foremost, for smartphones—making the “classroom” entirely mobile and available anytime, anywhere.
Pacey is chief operating ofﬁcer at ClevrU, a Waterloo, Ont.-based tech firm, which is set to offer this innovative virtual education as soon as this summer. And the target audience is just as compelling: developing countries, where there are millions of individuals who want an education but can’t afford it or access it locally—and where smartphones are common. “Most people don’t have a desktop computer. Many don’t have a notebook. They may not have a house. But the one thing they will have is a feature phone that connects to the Internet,” says co-founder and CEO Dana Fox. “If you need an education, and you have a mobile device, you can now have what we have in Canada.”
By Cathy Gulli - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 10:49 AM - 0 Comments
The battle to “win with mom” boils down to three things at Loblaws: Diapers, formulas and wipes.
When Michael Lovsin, senior vice-president of health and wellness at Loblaw Companies Ltd., thinks back to the days when his children were just infants, one memory stands out: the cost. “Diapers are very expensive. Formula is expensive. Wipes not so much but you use a lot—like crazy. I have two daughters and I used a lot of wipes in my lifetime.”
That awareness has fuelled a new corporate strategy, the Baby & You program, which launched this year at Loblaw’s conventional and discount stores across the country, including Zehrs, Fortinos and Real Canadian Superstore. Every week, in its ﬂiers and through social media, the company promotes its “price match guarantee” on three key products: diapers, formula and wipes. “Those are,” says Lovsin, “the things that really drive the cost in early years.”
Loblaw promises to charge the same amount as its competitors’ lowest advertised price on any brands—and if the stores don’t have the same size of product, they will match the cost on a per-unit basis. “We get down to price per millilitre, price per diaper, price per wipe,” Lovsin says. It is “a unifying strategy to win with mom. We do all that work.” And if the discount helps lure in shoppers and drive other purchases in the grocery store, then all the better.
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 4:53 PM - 0 Comments
But nation caretaking, travelling and meeting people came at the expense of her kids
When Queen Elizabeth II was just a young princess, her tutor would address her in an unlikely way: “Gentlemen,” the eccentric Henry Marten would say to her while outlining some concept of constitutional law or history. It may have been by force of habit—Marten had for years been teaching boys at the elite Eton College. Or it might have been a hint of what was to come.
The Queen is a woman, but it’s easy to overlook that fact. Easy to forget that, besides being leader of the Commonwealth, head of state of 16 nations, head of the armed forces and head of the Church of England, she has been or continues to be a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. These other roles have always, at least publicly and perhaps rightly so, seemed less important than being the monarch. It’s more natural to think of her meeting with political leaders, taking ofﬁcial tours and sifting daily through government documents than exercising her maternal or feminine instincts.
“If you look at all the actions that the Queen has done, you could easily say she’s been doing a man’s job,” says Robert Finch, dominion chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada. That is no sexist crack: before Elizabeth’s reign, there was a string of four kings—and since the Norman conquest of 1066, only ﬁve other females have held the top spot. “In fact, I consider her to be one of the world’s greatest statesmen,” continues Finch. One who just happens to be a woman.
By Cathy Gulli - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 1:27 PM - 0 Comments
Some kids may simply be less mature than their peers, and under pressure to perform to unfair norms
“Mommy knows best” is a popular expression but it’s not a universally accepted truth. Several months ago, Jacqueline Howard refused to believe that her eight-year-old son Oliver had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Oliver’s teachers, however, “just wanted him medicated and to be very compliant and quiet in class. And the psychologists [wanted] to engage my son in huge amounts of counselling and programs,” recalls Howard.
But she had her own explanation for Oliver’s supposed bad behaviour in school. Born in mid-December, he was the youngest student in a split class of third and fourth graders, making some of his peers up to three years older than him. “So of course he’s noticeably immature. Of course he’s noticeably unfocused,” says Howard. “My gut instinct was that there’s not much wrong with my son. He’s just stressed out and people are setting really high expectations for him at a really young age, which he can’t fulfill.”
Howard’s view—as seemingly logical as it was maternal—was nonetheless largely dismissed, even after groundbreaking research published in the March issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that, yes, in fact, the youngest children in a class are much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. “It seemed that a lack of maturity was, in some cases, being misinterpreted,” explains Richard Morrow, lead author of the study and health research analyst for the PharmacoEpidemiology Group at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The findings “are definitely of concern,” he says. “We want to avoid medicalizing a normal range of childhood behaviour. Children mature naturally at different rates.”
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, May 17, 2012 at 7:20 PM - 0 Comments
Book by Anna Quindlen
In her memoir, the American journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner contemplates her life through a variety of lenses including motherhood, marriage and friendship. But the book is in no way a lament for days gone by. Rather, Quindlen crafts a witty and poignant homage to lessons learned and experiences gained—and even better, she offers a toast to the future.
Quindlen, who for years wrote a popular New York Times column about being a working mom, is a master of clever word twists that contain the wisdom that comes only with age. Petty marital disagreements, she says, are like hothouse tomatoes: “They get way bigger than they ought to, and they bear little resemblance to the real thing.” Of the pressure to maintain a youthful appearance, Quindlen writes that “women were once permitted a mourning period for their faces; it was called middle-age. Now . . . we have the science of embalming disguised as grooming.”
These notes are as much personal truisms as they are social commentaries. Quindlen takes on a number of loaded topics. The secret to an enduring marriage, for example, lies in realizing that it is bigger than both spouses. “It’s also families, friends, traditions, landmarks, knowledge, history. It’s children.” For all the merits of the feminist revolution, she admits that many women got more than they bargained for—80-hour work weeks, plus time spent in the kitchen, the car, at the athletic field and overseeing homework or housework. Young women today who want a different life aren’t ungrateful; they’re sane.
By Cathy Gulli - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
We’ve outsourced our lives. Now we can’t do a thing for ourselves.
There is no limit to what some people will pay for someone else’s time and sweat. Sheri Bruneau first learned that lesson four years ago when she quit teaching elementary students to start her own business, Get It Together, in Calgary. As a “personal concierge,” Bruneau takes on almost any task that needs doing for individuals who can’t or won’t do it themselves.
Last summer, for instance, “this gentleman phoned me and said, ‘What’s it going to cost to get you to go stand in line?’ ” Prince William and his new bride Kate were coming to town for the Stampede, and the man’s wife was desperate to see the royal couple. Getting tickets would require camping out on the street near the box office. “They were $30, I think. They were not extravagant,” she recalls. But the service fee was a different matter seeing as she arrived at 4 p.m. the day before the sale began and the line started moving 18 hours later. “I charged him another $200 because it was an overnighter.”
For Bruneau, it was all in a day’s work. And compared to other calls she’s taken, it was hardly any work at all. She’s packed, moved and unpacked entire houses for people. She’s delivered drug prescriptions, chauffeured women to weekly hair appointments, dropped off and picked up dry cleaning, organized cupboards and closets, and even renamed and re-filed computer documents for clients whose desktops had become cluttered.
By Cathy Gulli - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 11:11 AM - 0 Comments
On why we have breasts, what we don’t know about implants, and the future of breastfeeding
After reading a report about the presence of environmental toxins in breast milk in 2004, American journalist Florence Williams, who’d just had a child at the time, decided to have her own milk tested. She mailed samples to a lab. The results were astounding and unsettling: her toxin levels were exceptionally high. That propelled Williams to embark on an intense search that went well beyond her initial inquiries into the sociological, sexual and medical complexities of this organ. In Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, she provides a fascinating cultural and scientific tour of breasts through time—and what they might face in the future.
Q: You start the book by asking why humans have breasts. What did you ﬁnd out from anthropologists, and how did their theories differ depending on their own sex?
A: It really surprised me that this topic is still so contentious. A lot of male anthropologists love to study the breast and they seem to be easily persuaded that the breast evolved as a sexual signal. But the more feminist [and more often female] anthropologists said it may be that breasts evolved not for men, but for the fitness of women and offspring.
By Cathy Gulli, Patricia Treble, and Richard Warnica - Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 9:10 PM - 0 Comments
Jessica Simpson gets overly candid, Ricky Martin grabs the spotlight, and Rob Anderson wants a parking spot
For Brian Miller, redemption will require a lot more than a stint on TV. The former contestant on Redemption Inc., a CBC reality series in which ex-convicts compete in business-related challenges, has been charged after a series of break-ins and an attempted car theft in Stittsville, Ont. His arrest followed a one-night crime spree in the Ottawa suburb, culminating in the theft of a vehicle belonging to DJ Race, a personality on a top-40 radio station in Ottawa. Race gave chase in her husband’s car, forcing the thief to stop and take off on foot, by which time police were on the scene. Miller, 27, had been first runner-up on Redemption Inc.’s inaugural season, and was described by host Kevin O’Leary as “one of the best salesmen I’ve seen.”
Too much information?
Jessica Simpson, who is expected to give birth to a girl this spring, told Jimmy Kimmel on his late-night show she is carrying so much amniotic fluid that when her water breaks it will be like “a ﬁre hydrant.” Never short on colourful descriptions, Simpson also said she feels like a bowling ball is resting on her “hoo-ha.” Not everyone has found Simpson’s ebullient candour charming or refreshing. An Arizona grocery store has propped a piece of cardboard against the latest cover of Elle, which features Simpson in a tight red dress.
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 1:10 AM - 0 Comments
Levels of the hormone AMH correspond to to the number of eggs a woman has left in her ovarian reserve
A woman’s biological clock is actually more like an hourglass that’s turned over when she’s born. Each grain of sand is one egg, and eventually they all run out. Rina Clarke had run through most of her eggs by last summer, when she was just 32. Sitting inside her fertility specialist’s ofﬁce, Clarke learned that a new test indicated she had a “low ovarian reserve” for her age. For a while, Clarke couldn’t comprehend the doctor’s message. But it was simple: fewer eggs equals fewer chances for babies. “I felt cheated—like, how is this possible? I’m a [young] woman, what do you mean I have this reserve issue?” she recalls. “You wind up in a position where you are disappointed and [asking], ‘Why didn’t anybody tell me this sooner?’ ”
That test, which measures how much “anti-müllerian hormone” a woman produces in her ovarian follicles, is fast becoming the pre-eminent tool for fertility specialists in North America and Europe to determine the chances of their patients getting pregnant. “I [am] screamingly in favour of this test,” says Dr. Tom Hannam of the Hannam Fertility Centre in Toronto, who has offered AMH testing for two years. “It’s changed women’s lives. It has absolutely changed my practice.”
By Cathy Gulli - Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 8:50 AM - 0 Comments
One-third of women now earn more than their husbands, and not everyone is happy.
There’s nothing wrong with a wife earning more money than her husband, until it happens. So learned Suzanne Doyle-Morris, a professional development coach based in the U.K., when she met separately with three female breadwinners in one day. The first woman had been offered a better position abroad, which she was planning to refuse because she felt bad about uprooting the family for her career. The second woman was excited about a big bonus she’d just received, but noted that she’d have to downplay the extra income when telling her husband. The third woman was complaining about how tired she’d been; Doyle-Morris assumed she was having problems at work. “She said, ‘Oh no, the project is going great, we’re on budget and on time. What’s killing me is the ‘second shift’ when I get home,’ ” recalls Doyle-Morris.
For days, she couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d heard and what it might mean, not only for those wives, but for others just like them. “None of these women said to me, ‘I’m the female breadwinner’ and ‘it’s terrible’ or ‘it’s great.’ But it did affect the way they talked about their experiences,” says Doyle-Morris, whose book Female Breadwinners: How They Make Relationships Work and Why They are the Future of the Modern Workplace was published last fall. “They had a new set of responsibilities and different perceptions about the choices they would make. They were in a new role for women.”
A new role, but one that is becoming increasingly common. Over the last 35 years, there has been an astounding surge in the proportion of wives who out-earn their husbands—from 11 per cent in 1976, to 19 per cent throughout the 1980s, to a staggering 31 per cent in 2009 in dual-income families, according to Statistics Canada. The trend is happening elsewhere too, with roughly one-third of American and British wives out-earning their husands in recent years, up from about four per cent just four decades ago.
By Chris Sorensen, Cathy Gulli, and Richard Warnica - Friday, January 27, 2012 at 7:20 AM - 0 Comments
Strategic blunders, reckless pride and bad luck unravelled it all
When Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, the former co-CEOs of BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion Ltd., cut their salaries to $1 last December, and asked investors for patience and confidence, most took that to mean the long-time partners were simply stepping up their efforts to halt RIM’s painful slide, and intended to stick around for some time. “We’re more committed than ever,” Balsillie said.
In reality, RIM was already a company in the midst of the biggest shakeup in its relatively brief but spectacular history. While they tried to reassure investors, the board of directors—including co-chairs Balsillie and Lazaridis—were already coming to some painful conclusions about what had been going wrong and were already considering a change of leadership at the very top.
“Mike and Jim” may have helped pioneer a global industry that’s expected to be worth US$150 billion by 2014, but in an age of iPhones and increasingly ubiquitous devices running Google’s Android software, investors had run out of patience, and pressure was mounting on the board.
By Cathy Gulli - Monday, January 16, 2012 at 10:40 AM - 0 Comments
Meet the beauty queen, musician, pilot and human rights campaigner who just made the defence minister—and Ottawa—a lot more exciting
The day began with a romantic walk on the beach. Nazanin Afshin-Jam and Peter MacKay ambled along white sand as waves crashed against dark rocks and pelicans dove around them. Eventually, they parted—it was, after all, their wedding day, Jan. 4, and in keeping with some level of tradition, they would get ready separately. The few dozen relatives and friends who had arrived in the last few days were now gathered inside the white chapel at the One & Only Palmilla resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. Afshin-Jam, an Iranian-Canadian human rights activist, model and singer, wrapped her arm around her father’s and they proceeded up the stone steps and down the aisle, where MacKay, Canada’s defence minister and, until that point, the country’s most eligible bachelor, awaited his bride. “I’ll never forget that moment,” Afshin-Jam, 32, recalls. “Peter looked so handsome. I saw a [glint] in his eyes.”
There were plenty of sentimental touches: on the altar, amid candles, were photos of their grandparents, all of whom have died, including Afshin-Jam’s maternal grandmother, who passed away recently; shoes she’d bought to wear to the wedding were tucked inside a pew. Their young nieces wore feathery angel wings. MacKay’s long-time pastor Glen Matheson from Nova Scotia performed the ceremony. “It was magical. There’s no other way to describe it,” says Matheson. “I’ve conducted more than 1,000 marriages in my career, but nothing compares.” The couple rode in a gold carriage, enjoyed an intimate oceanside reception under moonlight, and shared a first dance so personal they won’t reveal the song.
So secret were the details of this wedding, in fact, that the media and public only learned of it afterwards, when MacKay announced he had married “the most important person” in his life—never mind that his proposal to Afshin-Jam was not widely known. And what about that photo of the beaming newlyweds emerging from the chapel with white flower petals falling around them? It too was carefully released by MacKay days after the wedding, perhaps in an effort to quiet the frantic attempts online to piece together some information about—to make some sense of—this surprising turn of events.
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 12:50 PM - 0 Comments
Science and industrial design join together to try to make elevators more efficient
Professor Myron Hlynka’s ofﬁce is on the ninth ﬂoor of a 10-storey building at the University of Windsor. Many nights, just as he’s in the elevator to go home, Hlynka realizes he’s forgotten something on his desk. Rushing back for the item is never quick: the elevators take what feels like an eternity to arrive, or they stop at nearly every ﬂoor along the way. So Hlynka has devised a system to compensate for the elevators’ sluggishness: “What I do is I push the ninth ﬂoor and the 10th ﬂoor buttons, and when I get off the elevator I push the down button. Then I run to my ofﬁce,” he says. “Of course, after the elevator stops with me, it goes up even if nobody’s there, it opens the door, it shuts the door, it comes down a ﬂoor, it opens the door, and hopefully, by that time I’m there with whatever I’ve forgotten.” Hlynka’s system sounds complicated, but its aim is simple: “I try to cheat!” He suspects he’s not alone. “Everybody tries to cheat in some way.”
Elevators are a universal frustration, at least the slow, cramped and rickety ones, which are all too common. “Wait times and reliability are among the two topics that generate the most complaints” about elevators, says Andrew Wells, an engineer and general manager of KJA Consultants, which helps buildings across Canada implement “vertical transportation systems.” So while the other occupants of Hlynka’s building might not know about his strategy, they will surely empathize with his impatience, and perhaps envy his gumption. He is, after all, a probability researcher with a focus on “queue theory,” or the science of waiting. Most people, Hlynka says, “are always running a little behind. It’s like, if we could just get a bit of extra time—if that elevator would just come faster,” then daily life would be a lot easier, if not better.
Now it appears that the wait for elevators that don’t make us wait may ﬁnally be over: a growing number of companies are offering a design innovation that is as simple as it is genius. The ﬂoor buttons, typically housed inside the elevator, are increasingly being placed on the outside of the elevator instead of the usual up and down buttons. Known as “destination-oriented dispatching,” this system “gives the elevator all the information that it could possibly [need] in describing who’s moving where,” explains Wells. That one tweak equals major efﬁciency, with the elevator computer now capable of assigning each person to a certain elevator depending on their desired ﬁnal stop. Individuals who are going to the same ﬂoor are grouped together in one elevator rather than clogging up several elevators, each making duplicate stops. “It’s fascinating,” says Hlynka. “It’s almost like preprocessing.”
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
The latest evidence makes a case for choosing a job over staying home, fuelling the mommy-wars debate
The Clash’s hit Should I Stay or Should I Go? was written in 1981, but it could serve as the anthem of mothers through the ages grappling with the eternal question of whether they and their children are better off with them returning to work or remaining at home. It ranks among the most polarizing and personal of choices—and everyone thinks their decision is best. And often, they have studies to prove it.
Witness the latest evidence for re-entering the labour force post-baby: researchers at the department of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro compared non-employed mothers to those working full- and part-time, and the effects on maternal health, couple intimacy, work-family conflicts, housework and child care. The article, in the latest Journal of Family Psychology, found that in most cases, employed moms are at an advantage.
“Work offers mothers some pretty important opportunities and resources that may promote parenting and a sense of well-being,” says co-author Cheryl Buehler. “It minimizes social isolation, and helps develop and refine skills like problem-solving, dealing with diverse sets of people and working as a team.” Those abilities lend themselves to motherhood, explains Buehler, because they “provide children with the kinds of environments and experiences that they need to do well in the world.”
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 10:50 AM - 0 Comments
A generous man who liked to cook for friends and family, he had a dream of bicycling down Maui’s Haleakala mountain
Allyn Robert Parker was born on March 11, 1946, in Vancouver. His father George was a plasterer nicknamed “Shorty” for never growing taller than five feet after getting rheumatic fever at 11. His mother Hazel was a homemaker who also bore three older children, Don, Davina and Georgina, and enjoyed reading: she chose her youngest son’s name from a romance novel about a Welsh forester.
Allyn was never bookish. He preferred adventure: commandeering his bicycle 45 km from home to Fort Langley, B.C., or target shooting. His travels provided fodder for his budding obsession with photography. He had his own darkroom, worked on the high school yearbook and played the bongos. The one subject he excelled at was technical drawing.
That skill landed him a job with the Vancouver park board, despite not having graduated from high school because he was short an English credit. For two years, Allyn helped survey and plot parts of Stanley Park, which he referred to as “his.” Around then he met Sandra, an aunt’s foster child, and they married in 1967. Eventually the couple moved to Port Alberni, B.C., where Allyn worked as a municipal draftsman. He and Sandy were married 12 years and had three children, Vikki, Dawn and Allyn Dean, before splitting up.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 5:33 PM - 0 Comments
Sport Concussion Library features information for parents and coaches–and testimonials from those who’ve suffered the injury
After all the attention paid to Sidney Crosby and his concussion this year, countless questions remain about the injury, and countless more athletes will succumb to it yet. For these reasons, Dr. Paul Echlin, a sports physician and concussion researcher in London, Ont., has just launched a website devoted to sharing information about the injury.
The Sport Concussion Library, launched today, features a collection of scientific studies, documentaries, as well as federal and provincial legislation pertaining to brain injuries. General information is tailored to parents, coaches, players, teachers and first responders, while education modules allow users to gauge and improve their knowledge of concussions. Even the SCAT2, the diagnostic test used by medical professionals to diagnose concussions, is explained, and first responders and health workers can register to use it online.
Perhaps most interesting of all on the website are the various lengthy and candid testimonials from individuals who have experienced concussion firsthand, including hockey and football players, cyclists, and a wrestler, plus parents of injured athletes.
“I know how easy it is to tell yourself you don’t have a concussion when you really do; I told myself that a few times,” says one former hockey player in his testimonial. “Doing serious damage to your brain is not worth playing that extra game or those few extra shifts. Concussions can lead to so many other serious problems that I personally experienced and would not wish upon anybody. A concussion is a very serious injury and should be treated that way.”
This is one more step towards making that happen.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
From Shania Twain and Frédéric Thiébaud to the Huffington Post and AOL–this year’s best love stories
It’s the stuff of classic country songs: a two-timing man cheats on his wife with her best friend. The wife finds out, confronts them both, and finds comfort in the arms of the equally heartbroken best friend’s husband. That’s how Shania Twain and Frédéric Thiébaud fell in love and came to be married on a beach in Puerto Rico last New Year’s Day. Now that’s a new beginning.
Lincoln Alexander and Marni Beal
Yes, he’s nearly 90, and she’s in her 60s. But Lincoln Alexander, the first black lieutenant-governor of Ontario, and Marni Beal, a sales rep at the Hamilton Spectator, are as in love as two high-school kids. Still, Alexander was nervous to propose: “An old codger like me marrying a girl 30 years his junior?” He asked her anyway, and she accepted. “I became his driver, caregiver, administrator … bodyguard with first aid/CPR training and life partner,” says Beal. “And he became mine.”
By Cathy Gulli - Monday, November 28, 2011 at 9:40 AM - 3 Comments
The high cost of aging infrastructure inspires researchers seeking the longevity of the parthenon
Deep beneath the streets of Montreal’s entertainment district, running alongside the usual water, sewage and gas pipes that lie underground in every community across the country, something entirely unique is buried: 1.5 km of carbon steel tubes that will eventually funnel the neighbourhood’s garbage, recycling and organic waste into a massive subterranean container with a capacity of up to 10 tonnes. The trash will be sucked through the pipes and into the container by four fans with a combined power of 440 kilowatts, and later trucked to a landfill or another destination.
Once up and running in 2014, the Envac system will be Canada’s first municipal automated vacuum waste collection program—a stark contrast to the weekly curbside pickup most people are used to, which is labour-intensive and inefficient. “Today we are collecting waste like we did hundreds of years ago,” says Sean Monclús of Envac, who has been working with the city of Montreal to set up the system, which is costing $8.2 million. That makes no sense, he says: “If we have waste water underground, why not the waste?”
Perhaps most surprising about the implementation of this innovative program is the fact that it’s being done in Quebec, which has become the poster child for aging infrastructure, and the perils of failing to manage municipal services in a progressive way. In Laval in 2006, five people were killed, including a pregnant woman, when the neglected Concorde overpass crashed onto cars below. Parts of the Champlain Bridge corridor, which crosses the St. Lawrence, have been deemed “mediocre to deficient,” according to an annual inspection obtained by the Montreal Gazette. And in July, a 25-tonne concrete beam collapsed from Montreal’s Ville Marie tunnel onto an expressway travelled by 100,000 vehicles every weekday (no one was hurt). “But it’s not just a Montreal problem,” said Mayor Gérald Tremblay then. “When I talk to my colleagues in other big Canadian cities it’s the same issue.”
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, September 28, 2011 at 12:10 PM - 0 Comments
Two Calgary trauma doctors who oppose the MMA ban want better data to know the true dangers
Horseback riding and mixed martial arts have little in common, except to Dr. Chad Ball. A few years ago, he conducted a study revealing how injured Canadian riders are different from those described by researchers in places such as New Zealand and Australia, where the typical patient is a young, inexperienced female practising English-style riding. In Canada, it is a man in his 40s with decades of western-style experience and a veteran horse. “Cowboys,” says Ball, a Calgary trauma surgeon. “They’re all over.”
So too are mixed martial arts fighters: Alberta has several promoters and leagues devoted to the full-contact combat sport, which combines boxing, wrestling and martial arts. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which promotes MMA internationally, drew more than 55,000 fans to Toronto in April for a series of bloody matches. Knowing the sport’s popularity, and recalling how his equestrian study presented a different reality than previous research, Ball was skeptical when the Canadian Medical Association proposed banning MMA last year. Is this sport “savage and brutal,” like the CMA claims, or is it just perceived that way because the matches are gory? Is it really more dangerous than other sports, wondered Ball?
With this in mind, he and fellow surgeon Dr. Elijah Dixon wrote a response to the CMA published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery in February. They argue the proposal is based on “emotion, not evidence,” and note the dearth of long-term studies. The best data shows fighters get concussions in three per cent of matches, and a quarter of matches are stopped for head shots. At Foothills Medical Centre, where Ball and Dixon work, none of the eight trauma surgeons have admitted an MMA fighter—despite seeing 1,100 severely injured patients a year.
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 9:10 AM - 2 Comments
9/11 families are divided over the final resting place of 9,006 unidentified human fragments
In a parking lot near the office of the chief medical examiner of New York City, 9,006 unidentified human remains recovered from the ruins of the World Trade Center are stored inside temperature-controlled containers. Many are too small or too damaged for DNA analysis—the force of the towers’ collapse on Sept. 11, 2001, created a mishmash of genetic information “like a ball of knotted strings that cannot be unwound,” as anthropologist and 9/11 expert Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh wrote in the June issue of Anthropology Today.
Since the holding station, known as Memorial Park, was set up under a white tent in 2002, many relatives of the 2,753 people killed at Ground Zero have grieved in a makeshift chapel beside the storage units. Many of them have never received the bodies, or even body parts, of their loved ones. For these families, the anonymous bone and tissue fragments are the closest they can get to those they have lost. “I pray to God that he’s with them. I want him there,” says Monica Iken, whose husband, Michael, 37, died in the south tower where he worked as a bond trader. “That is so important to me. Whether he’s identified or not, he’s still in a sacred place.”
With the remains eliciting such personal and emotional attachment, where to put them permanently has ignited a dramatic debate between factions of 9/11 families, bureaucrats, anthropologists, architects and curators. The plan has long been to return them to Ground Zero and place them in a repository where the medical examiner can continue DNA analysis and relatives can visit privately. But the location of that repository—above ground or below—and how the remains should be incorporated into the National September 11 Memorial and Museum is where the consensus disintegrates. (Requests to speak with the memorial and museum president Joe Daniels and director Alice Greenwald were declined.)
By Cathy Gulli - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at 4:22 PM - 6 Comments
The Penguins superstar says the league isn’t doing enough to take head shots out of the game
After months of intense speculation about whether or not Sidney Crosby will return to play when the NHL season resumes on Oct. 6, the Pittsburgh Penguins captain broke his silence on Wedensday—but failed to quell the questions about how much longer this concussion will haunt him.
In a meeting space that smelled like a hockey locker room inside the Consol Energy Center, Crosby, his two concussion specialists, and Penguins GM Ray Shero faced more than 60 reporters and a dozen cameras to emphasize yet again that there is no fixed date for when the superstar will get back in the game. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry, Cathy Gulli, and Martin Patriquin - Monday, August 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 132 Comments
His confidants and caucus colleagues recount the difficult days before and after his shocking announcement
Jack Layton died after a months-long battle with cancer in the early morning hours of August 22, 2011. He was 61. Below is Maclean’s cover story on the charismatic NDP leader, originally published on August 4, 2011. To read Maclean’s definitive profile of Jack Layton’s life in politics, click here.
He had started complaining of pain and stiffness in late June. He was perspiring a lot, and found it hard to stand for long periods of time. His chief of staff, Anne McGrath, who first worked with Jack Layton when he ran for the NDP leadership nine years ago, thought maybe he’d over-compensated for his surgically repaired left hip and injured the right one. She wanted him to take the summer off anyway. It would have been a deserved respite after a remarkable 18 months that began with a diagnosis of prostate cancer and climaxed with him hobbling to an unprecedented election result.
Tests were scheduled. But then he also started losing weight. McGrath prepared herself to find out what was happening on July 25, when a significant test was to take place, but that test was moved up five days. With those results came a diagnosis and on the evening of Wednesday, July 20, two days after his 61st birthday, Layton called McGrath to tell her it was cancer. “He’s so upbeat,” she says. “He really is. It’s so funny. I don’t get it sometimes myself.”
He told her to tell him that she was going to keep working. “ ‘We started this journey together…and look at how far we’ve come and look what we’ve done,’ ” she recalls him saying. “And he starts going through the things that we’ve been through and everything. He says, ‘And we’ve got more to do.’ He was talking to me about fundraising, about increasing the party’s membership. This is on Wednesday night, you know?”
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 9:20 AM - 1 Comment
Once associated with ’80s excess, silk sheets are being repitched as a pricey but practical choice
“Not on the silk sheets!” screams one father to another while changing a diaper in the 1987 comedy Three Men and a Baby. That the best pop culture reference for this bedding goes back so far is telling: in the minds of many, silk sheets are a dated, laughable indulgence not fit for real life.
But to hear Toronto entrepreneur Samantha Maker describe Cilque, her new line of silk sheets, is to enter a universe in which the luxury linens are actually practical. “Silk is a really durable fabric. It’s long-lasting. It can be machine washed. It’s drier-friendly,” she says. “It’s hypoallergenic—unlike cotton, which is an absorbing fabric. It’s also room-temperature adjustable: cool in the summer and warm in the winter.”
Maker, who imports her silk from southeastern China, launched the company after learning that many celebrities sleep on the fabric because of its “nourishing” properties: silk is “less abrasive on skin and hair” than other materials, says Maker, who points to high-end salons that sell silk pillowcases because they’re a “beauty secret.”
By Cathy Gulli - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Mounting research shows concussion rates are a lot higher in female than male athletes—even in ‘safer’ sports
If all you ever heard about concussions was what turned up in the sports news or highlight reels, you’d be justified in thinking that they mostly only happen to elite male athletes, especially NHL players. A couple of weeks ago, Nathan Horton of the Boston Bruins was rocked by a hit so hard it knocked him out of the Stanley Cup finals. In May, Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers, who’d been battling concussion symptoms since before Christmas, accidentally overdosed on alcohol and painkillers. In March, scientists announced that the late Bob Probert, a famous brawler, had brain degeneration. Days later, Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens had a head-on collision with a thick metal stanchion. And, of course, superstar Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is still recovering from back-to-back blows he received in January.
Despite such evidence to suggest that men are the main victims of concussion, an unsettling body of scientific research reveals that the rates of concussion among female athletes are significantly higher than for male athletes. “What we know right now is that females are about two to three times more likely to have a concussion than males,” says Dave Ellemberg, a professor at the Université de Montréal, who has a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to study the effect of gender on concussion outcomes. There are also early indications that females might take longer to recover, and that their symptoms might be different from, or worse than, those experienced by males.
The problem is widespread: high rates of concussion in females are occurring at both the youth and adult levels, and across the sports spectrum. Recent studies have found that in gender-comparable sports such as soccer and basketball, which have the same rules and equipment for both sexes, females are far more likely to receive a concussion per number of “athlete exposures” (one player participating in one game or practice). Dawn Comstock, a principle investigator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, runs the national sports surveillance study, which collects detailed injury data from 200 high schools across the U.S. on a weekly basis. Between 2005-2010, female high school soccer players received on average three concussions per 10,000 exposures compared to 1.98 among boys. In basketball, girls sustained 2.01 concussions versus just one among boys per 10,000 exposures.