Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS July 1 1996
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS July 1 1996

Opening Notes

BARBARA WICKENS

Helping a Canadian legend to take flight

It was a tall order. The producers of The Arrow, a CBC mini-series now being shot in Winnipeg, had a great Canadian story and an established Canadian star, Dan Aykroyd. But in preparing the drama about the development of the Avro Arrow jet fighter, the producers still had to cast the central role—the plane itself. After Ottawa’s controversial cancellation of the Arrow in 1959, the last of the jets were chopped up and sold for scrap. Deciding that they would have to build a

full-scale mockup of the plane, the film-makers discovered a man who was one step ahead of them. Last fall, through an Arrow Web site on the Internet, they contacted Alan Jackson, 57, an Alberta hobbyist who had spent five years building a mock Arrow in his two-car garage.

A sales estimator for a steelgrating plant in Wetaskiwin, 70 km south of Edmonton, Jackson

says he devoted about 3,000 hours of his spare time to building the life-size model, out of steel, wood and fibre glass. It was 80 per cent complete when he agreed to rent it to the film-makers, who would finish the job in Winnipeg. It took three tractor trailers to trans-

port the components of the plane, which is 80 feet long and has a 50-foot wingspan. It is not flyable, but can taxi under its own power. “I guess I had a dream,” says Jackson, whose teenage aspirations to be an aerospace engineer were dashed with the cancellation of the Arrow program. Now, 37 years later, his dream has taken flight—not in the sky, but in the raising of a Canadian legend.

Computer crime-solver

Partway through 1990’s Silence of the Lambs, the FBI investigator played by Jodie Foster remarks that no pattern exists to her quarry’s killings—if there were, she says, “the computer would have picked it up.” When the movie was shot, Foster’s character was jumping the gun: no program or computer existed that could determine patterns in geographic data about crimes. That has now changed, thanks to Det. Insp. Kim Rossmo, a 16-year veteran of the Vancouver police department who also has a PhD in criminology. Building on work undertaken for his degree at Simon Fraser University in nearby Burnaby, B.C., Rossmo has developed software that sifts through thousands of de-

tails, such as where a killer is known to have met his victims, committed the murders and dumped the bodies. It then predicts locales familiar to the killer, near where he works or, more often, near his residence. Tested retroactively, for instance, on the crimes of serial killer Clifford Olson, the program accurately pinpointed an area around Olson’s home in Coquitlam, B.C. Now, Rossmo is preparing to unleash his digital Holmes in an off-the-shelf version. Backed by Sun Microsystems Federal Inc. of Mountainview, Calif., Rossmo and several B.C. partners have developed a prototype workstation—currently being tested by Vancouver police—and begun talking to potential customers. One sales prospect: the real-life FBI unit in which Foster’s rather prescient character was employed in Silence of the Lambs.

The way the ball bounces

When Canadian tennis player Greg Rusedski opted last year to play under a British passport (his mother is British), he annoyed many Canadian fans who had hoped that the six-foot, three-inch left-hander could be a top 20 player for Canada. Still, the Montreal native had his reasons: he stepped in as Britain’s top player, which meant there was potential for hefty endorsement money. The world’s 47th-ranked player in May, 1995, when he made the swap in time for Wimbledon, he rose gradually to a career high of 33 in January. But since then, Rusedski has tailed off, so that as Wimbledon opens this week, he is the number 2 British player, behind Davis Cup teammate Tim Henman. His rankings since trading in the Maple Leaf for the Union Jack:

The perks of power

The Laurier Club has been around for years, quietly collecting money from the Liberal elite and corporate honchos who want to stay on good terms with the natural governing party. For $1,000 a year, club members enjoy such benefits as briefings from cabinet ministers—and a chance to rub shoulders with Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in “social” situations. But in recent weeks, the club has kicked into high gear. On June 13, Onex Corp. chairman and staunch Liberal Gerry Schwartz and his wife, Heather Reisman, welcomed Chrétien and his wife, Aline—and about 300 club members—to their Toronto home. Then, last week in Ottawa, the Chrétiens personally greeted about 1,000 guests at their official 24 Sussex Drive residence. More such events are planned soon for Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg. Not that they will be publicized. The Prime Minister’s Office, which usually issues an itinerary whenever the Prime Minister attends events, made no mention, for instance, of last week’s bash. But what is the purpose behind the Laurier Club’s sudden flurry of activity? Suggests one Ottawa insider: “The Liberals are building a war chest for an early election.”

Diving in to teach islanders to swim

Despite the warm water and alluring lagoons, 75 per cent of the 150,000 residents of St. Lucia in the eastern Caribbean cannot swim a stroke. Because of that ironic situation, 12 Abbotsford, B.C., teenagers are going to St. Lucia this week for two weeks to teach safety and lifesaving skills to island youth. The Canadian teens belong to the Stingrays Youth Life Saving Club, a member of the Royal Life Saving Society, a Commonwealth association. When Stingrays coach Kendall De Menech wrote a letter to a new lifesaving club on the island welcoming them to the association, the St. Lucians responded with a request for assistance in launching their huge swimming program. The Stingrays raised the travel money themselves by holding bake sales and selling chocolate bars. Says De Menech: “It does not matter where the help comes from—as long as it is good.”