Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies,D’Arcy Jenish June 7 1999
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies,D’Arcy Jenish June 7 1999

Opening Notes

Tanya Davies

The newest talk of the walk

It may not be as well known as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but Canadas modest equivalent just got a little larger and a little glitzier. Last week, another 10 luminaries were inducted into Canadas Walk of Fame in downtown Toronto, joining last year’s initial 14, who included actor Jim Carrey, ballerina Karen Kain and race car driver Jacques Villeneuve. The newest granite-and-marble stars, which resemble stylized maple leaves, bear the names of singer Juliette Cavazzi, filmmaker David Cronenberg, actor Hume Cronyn, the late actor Mary Pickford, hockey legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard, comedians Frank Shuster and the late Johnny Wayne, and members of the rock group Rush—Alex Lifeson, Geddy Lee and Neil Peart. Lifeson was honoured—and amused: “Now, people can step all over us.”

Leafs’ lousy ice

The National Hockey League has come to accept bad ice from its American Sun Belt franchises. Late-spring heat combined with high humidity inside the buildings quickly turns hard ice into slush, most notably in the Dallas

Stars Reunion Arena. But lousy ice at the brand new $265-million Air Canada Centre in Toronto? The arena, which in February replaced Maple Leaf Gardens, is loaded with luxuries, but midway through each period during last week’s Leaf games against the Buffalo Sabres, the ice “snowed up” and players had problems stickhandling and

passing. “The ice is terrible,” says a senior NHL executive. “They have got to get it fixed.” Team officials claim their ice makers will find the right waterand-chemicals recipe for a better playing surface by next season. They had better: the Leafs are scheduled to host the league’s gala 50th anniversary allstar game in February.

Opening Notes

Caring Canucks

Last week, a number of Canadian celebrities lent their name, fame and some of their large salaries to good causes. Maple Leafs goalie Curtis Joseph invited a number of seriously ill children to his $100,000 private skybox at the Air Canada Centre to catch the playoff action, bringing the total this year to 400 kids who have watched the Leafs courtesy of Cujo. Party of Five star Neve Campbell attended the Tourette’s Syndrome Foundation of Canadas annual event to help

raise money for the neurological disorder that afflicts her half-brother, Damian McDonald. Meanwhile, billionaire businessman Jimmy Pattison provided the largest single donation ever given to a Canadian medical institution: $20 million to Vancouver General Hospital for a prostate cancer research and treatment centre. And Kingston, Ont., native Dan Aykroyd launched the Our Millennium project with his father, Peter, to promote community-minded actions such as building playgrounds and setting up senior support clubs.

High-tech teens

Don’t be fooled by their ages. Last week, Albert Lai, 20, Michael Hayman, 18, and Michael Furdyk, 16, became high-tech heroes when they sold their Canadian online publishing company, MyDesktop.com, to U.S. Web-site operator Internet.com LLC for a price in the “seven figures” according to Lai. “Most people say it is remarkable that we are this young,” says Hayman.

Adds Furdyk: “It is pretty insane.” Next for the trio is their new Web site, BuyBuddy.com. “It is an e-commerce site,” explains Hayman, “that we hope to make into a market player now that we have more experience and contacts.” And money. The profits from the sale will be reinvested into the company. “And,” adds Furdyk, “I’m going to buy a car.” Spoken like a true 16-year-old.

Opening Notes

Explorer

Riding the next wave of bicycles

Chainless bicycles, powered by a shaft; that ran from the pedals to the rear wheel, were immensely popular at the turn of the century. Women particularly liked them because they could ride without worrying about getting their skirts caught in the chain or sprocket. But with their heavy steel frames and single-gear construction, the chainless models disappeared, except for a few that managed to land in museums or private collections. Now, they’re back. Taiwan-based manufacturer Sussex Enterprises Co., produces and markets chainless bikes with one, three, five and seven gears. And this spring, a Toronto company began distributing the seven-gear bikes, which retail for $749. But for that price, some experts say, buyers get a bike that is lighter and requires less maintenance than conventional models.

Big Blue gets into the game

In the ever-changing home video game industry, companies have to keep improving their products or risk being so 10 minutes ago. Project Dolphin is the code name for Nintendo’s next generation home video game system, scheduled to be launched in the fall of2000. But wary of tipping off the competition, the Kyoto, Japan-based con-

sumer electronics giant is keeping the lid on details about the product. Pikachu the pocket

A couple of facts monster:popular Nintendo did make public: the company and IBM will spend $1.5 billion to develop an improved game console using IBM’s pioneering copper chip technology, which is cheaper, faster and requires less power than its predecessors; and the new system will run on video discs rather than cartridges, resulting in more complex games. Nintendo has also promised better-than-arcade-quality 3-D graphics. Though the company is not disclosing tides or prices of the games, industry observers say it is safe to assume Nintendo’s extremely popular Pokémon, or pocket monsters, will be back.

Nosy NASA

What started as a 15-month expedition to commemorate the Arctic journey of Norwegian explorer Otto Sverdrup, who charted Ellesmere and several adjacent islands between 1898 and 1902, has warmed NASA’s scientific heart. Researchers with the U.S. space agency plan to learn from Markdale, Ont., physician Graeme Magor, 43, his wife Lynda, 35, and five fellow adventurers next winter. The Magors, along with their two-year-old daughter Keziah, and two other couples will live aboard a 53-foot steel-hulled sailboat moored off the southwest coast of Ellesmere Island. Besides frigid temperatures and desolate surroundings, team members will have to

Opening Notes

endure three months of total darkness.

The expedition caught the attention of Gloria Leon, a University of Minnesota psychologist and consultant to NASA, who saw it as a useful way to study the impact of interplanetary space travel. Through weekly e-mail questionnaires, Leon will monitor the effects of living the isolated life and will advise NASA on how to select people for a planned Mars mission. One obvious prerequisite: patience.

All of the fun— none of the mess

There’s a new dog on the block, name of Scout II, and he can walk, run and jump. But don’t go looking for him at the local pet store or kennel. Scout II is a robot created by graduate mechanical

and electrical engineering students at McGill University’s Centre for Intelligent Machines. Scout II will be introduced to the public for the first time on June 7 at a virtual reality conference in Toronto. Engineering professor Martin Buehler, who oversaw the project, says the students have demonstrated that smooth leg motion, similar to that

of a real animal, can be achieved in a robot. Scout II is the second robotic dog the McGill students have built. Typically, such devices have three to four motors in each leg, which makes their movements stiff and jerky. The new version has one motor per limb and springy legs resembling pogo sticks, which allow it to walk more smoothly than its predecessor.

Buehler and his team have great plans for Scout II, which is the size of a stout golden retriever. Next year, they will begin work on a camera-based navigational system that will allow the robot to see its surroundings and plot a course through them. Eventually, Buehler speculates, Scout II may be capable of working in the real world, as an amusement park character that interacts with guests, a police surveillance device, or as a mobile platform for firefighting and hazardous waste cleanup. But for now, Scout II rarely gets out for a walk.

D’Arcy Jenish

Susan Oh