Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS October 28 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS October 28 1996

Opening Notes

Edited by BARBARA WICKENS

Chips off the old Centre Block

After two years clad by scaffolding for repairs, the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill is back in public view. And while it remains topped by its trademark old green copper, the rest of the Centre Block roof is being replaced by gleaming new copper. But what to do with the 7,000 kg of the metal that had been on the roof for 75 years? Visitors to Ottawa can now take a piece of history home with them and support a good cause at the same time. The parliamentary gift shop is selling tiny pieces of copper from the old roof on lapel pins, made at Ottawa-area workshops by people with developmental disabilities. The federal government sold the metal to two nonprofit organizations at well below the market price. With each gram of copper making 14 pins, there is enough for 98 million of them, and

Commander

Wong

Perseverance does pay. Just ask Calgary Crown prosecutor Gordon Wong. In 1977, he was a 16-year-old high-school student looking for a summer job when he joined the Naval Reserve as an ordinary seaman. He then spent the next 20 summers learning to be a sailor. This week in Halifax, Wong, who now holds the rank of commander, takes over the $60-million

The evil that is Halloween

Halloween, which began as an ancient Celtic ritual, these days is mainly an excuse for costumed children to demand candy. But Marilyn Keirstead sparked a devil of a debate when she banned any observance of the pagan festival at the three day care centres she operates in Fredericton. Halloween, she explained in an Oct. 4 letter to parents of the 234 preschoolers under her supervision, is “one of the four black sabbaths, when witches meet to worship the

with each pin selling for $4.95, that represents potential revenues of $488 million. “This is a godsend,” states John Lonergan, an instructor at ARC Industries, which employs 103 disabled people. The pins went on sale Oct. 7, and are moving so briskly that key chains, plaques, and paperweights will be launched this week.

HMCS Edmonton, the fourth of 12 new ships being delivered to the navy as part of Canada’s $750-million Maritime Coastal Defence Vessel program—the entire crew will be naval reserves. The Edmonton will sail from Halifax to its home port of Victoria via the Panama Canal in February. “It’s ironic that a guy from Calgary will be the first commander of the Edmonton,” says Wong, 36, who has taken a two-year leave of absence from the prosecutor’s office. “I’ve taken a lot of good-natured ribbing in both places.”

Service with a sweat

Hotel room service usually consists of food and drink. But an establishment in Moncton, N.B., has taken the concept several—aerobic—steps further. Staff at the 310-room Canadian Pacific Hotel Beauséjour will deliver fitness equipment 24 hours a day. Begun as a pilot project in July, the hotel now fields an average of 20 requests a day for stationary bikes, free weights and aerobic steps to be delivered to guests’ rooms. “If they would rather have free weights brought to their room than dinner,” says hotel general manager Alex Kassatly, “we are going to accommodate them.” Hold the beef, bring on the iron.

devil.” Children, she added, “are too precious to expose them to anything that is based on evil.” As a result, while at least six families are planning to move their children to different day cares, others are considering enrolling theirs in Keirstead’s facilities. Many callers to a local radio show supported the ban, claiming Halloween fuels interest in the occult and satanism. But Alison Belyea, a religion and culture professor at the city’s St. Thomas University, says that Keirstead has confused neopaganism with satanism. “People with narrow understandings,” adds Belyea, “find it easy to equate non-Christian images to anti-Christian ones.”

A maverick takes over at The Citizen

Talk about getting scooped. When the CBC’s Saint John, N.B., radio station announced last week that Neil Reynolds, editor and publisher of The Telegraph Journal and The Saint John Times Globe, was leaving to become editor of The Citizen in Ottawa, it beat all other news outlets—including Reynolds’s own papers—to the story. In the wake of Citizen editor Jim Travers’s Oct. 7 resignation, Conrad Black, who took control of Southam News Corp.’s stable of papers two months ago, turned to a 56-year-old maverick with a knack for transforming newspapers. Under Reynolds’s editorship, The Kingston WhigStandard won a wall-full of awards for journalistic excellence. In Saint John, he turned two of the country’s worst dailies around in three years: this year, the papers won the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s inaugural Excellence in Journalism Award. Dealing with hard-nosed tycoons like Black is nothing new for Reynolds—the New Brunswick papers are owned by the Irving family of Saint John. Two years ago, after Reynolds was fired as editor in a dispute with the publisher, he was rehired two months later as both editor and publisher. Now Reynolds, who starts at The Citizen on Nov. 4, is saying little about his plans. “My intent is just to forget about everything else and just do the job.” As for Black, rounding out last week’s appointments, he plucked Nick Hirst, 47, from the editorship of TV Guide to become editor-in-chief of The Winnipeg Free Press, replacing Duncan McMonagle, fired as executive editor in May.

TOV Cftrs with smarts '

Alan Mackworth’s toy cars are not cheap.

He has four of them, 15-cm model “Porsches” that cost the University of British Columbia about $25,000 a year to maintain. But then, they are not just any toy cars. They are prototypes of “intelligent” robots that may one day zip around the house vac-

of other leading researchers. A tournament in Nagoya, Japan, next year will pit the UBC Porsches against model cars from several other labs. And Mackworth has found that his experiment holds strong appeal for the unscientific as well. “Whenever we have an open-house,” he laughs, “the kids love it.”

uuming the floor while dodging the dog and paying extra attention to the really big dust bunnies. For now, however, the models, radio-controlled by computers, have another purpose: playing soccer. Facing off two-on-two on a sheet of plywood in Mackworth’s t^C lab, the little cars strive to outsmart their opponents in driving a Ping-Pong ball into a goal. The project’s scientific intent is to develop software capable of grasping such abstract concepts as strategy and planning. “They’re thinking all the time,” Mackworth says of his cars. “Can I get to the ball before the other guy? Should I back off and play more defensively?” As a platform for experiments inartificial intelligence, however, the smart cars have taken the fancy

Beasts of imagination

They are the creatures of fear and superstition. But in the lavishly illustrated Mythical Beasts—an anthology of verse and prose from London’s Lorenz Books, which has already published Dragons, Fairies and Angels, among others—unicorns, griffins and the like are also given their place in art.