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Monday, December 20, 1999

  • Aroma posters are scent out
  • Take it easy on the figgy pudding
  • Toy tinkerers offer smart choice


Senate won't meet

The December meeting of the UW senate, which would have been held this evening, has been cancelled for lack of urgent agenda items.

What will happen this evening, though, is the annual "Informal Christmas Reception and Dinner", hosted by St. Jerome's University for invited guests from the other church colleges and the university. This year's menu: "A Canadian Theme Dinner" with "gastronomical delicacies from the Maritimes, the Prairies and Elmira".

As things taper down before the Christmas holidays, the Computer Help and Information Place in the Math and Computer building will be open for reduced hours this week, Monday through Thursday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Aroma posters are scent out -- by Barbara Elve

"Scentsitizing" the campus to the health hazards of perfume, scented hairspray, after shave, cologne and other odoriferous products is the goal of a poster campaign being launched by the safety office.

Two versions of the poster, dubbed We Share the Air, are available on request from the safety office, which produced the posters after examining similar initiatives launched by Dalhousie University and the Region of Waterloo.

Up until now, said safety director Kevin Stewart, concerns about scented products were usually handled within a department. Although the frequency of complaints has not increased, the joint health and safety committee felt the time had come to develop the university's own guidelines on the matter to assist those with asthma, allergies or other medical conditions.

In addition to the posters, which convey the message with cartoon characters representing the offending products, the safety office has posted guidelines on wearing scented products on its Web site as part of the Health and Safety Program Manual.

The guidelines explain the impact scented products can have on health, and offer suggestions on how to handle complaints.

"It is okay to feel surprised and taken aback" when someone complains about your scent, the guidelines say. If the concern is expressed in a positive manner with an explanation of how the aroma affects health, "cooperation and understanding will be the solution and the problem will be resolved."

Take it easy on the figgy pudding -- from last week's Gazette

[Linda Barton] You're feeling lethargic . . . you're getting very sleepy. While the holidays can be exhausting, that dozy feeling may not be from too much activity, says dietician Linda Barton (left). It could be from the food you eat.

In her seminar last week -- "Hot Tips for Holiday Eating" -- Barton compared the human body to a car, and discussed ways of finding the right fuel mix to provide the energy we need. That worn-out feeling could mean too many carbohydrates in the mix. "The easiest way to store body fat is to eat a lot of carbs," she warned. What's more, "the more carbs you eat, the more you want to eat . . . leading to wild cravings where we lose control." Think potato chips, for example.

Another imbalance Barton sometimes sees is not enough fats. "You need some fat every day -- about 50 grams. Fats are essential nutrients and are required by your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.S

The solution, she suggests, is to eat a balanced energy package every three or four hours. Elements should include:

Vegetable or fruit for a carbohydrate energy boost lasting about an hour, along with fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and phytochemicals;

Grain products such as whole grain bread or high fibre cereals for longer-lasting carbohydrate energy -- about two hours -- as well as fuel low in fat and rich in vitamins and minerals;

Milk products, meats, legumes and nuts for energy lasting for some three hours, along with relief from carbo cravings.

Eating for maximum fuel efficiency doesn't require long hours in the kitchen, either, says Barton. "When you need fast food, choose whole food, not processed items." Examples include pre-packaged salads widely available in supermarkets, along with take-out roast chicken and a baguette. "Then use the express lane," she quipped.

To cut preparation time at home, use frozen vegetables that come in handy mixes for a variety of pasta, soup or stir-fry dishes. Contrary to popular belief, frozen veggies are "not second-rate nutritionally".

Choosing healthy foods and timing meals and snacks at regular intervals is only part of the equation, however. Experience working with her clients has taught Barton that stress also plays a major role in good nutrition. "Overeating often happens when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Try not to turn to comfort foods for relief," advises Barton. "Food doesn't make the stress go away."

Opt instead for a workout at the gym, a hot soak in the tub or whirlpool, or a visit to the sauna. Raising body temperature increases the level of serotonin -- the feel-good chemical in the brain. Even when the holidays get hectic, she says, "take 20 minutes a day to be with yourself" -- whether it's reading, running, meditation, or a long walk. "And remember, Christmas is about more than food."

Toy tinkerers offer smart choice

There's big news from one of UW's least-known spinoff companies, says Egfrth Spleng, vice-elf for research at WatClaus, who this week revealed the company's hottest new product for the gift-giving season.

"Here at WatClaus we develop some of Santa's most popular new toys,"; says Spleng, who took a degree in recreation and leisure studies at UW before going to work for WatClaus some ten years ago. [Portrait of elf] "And they're going to be more popular than ever this year, because we made sure none of our previous toys were Year 2000 compliant. Stroke of marketing genius, wasn't it?"

Originally the little firm occupied a single igloo on UW's north campus. Now there are more than a dozen snow-houses occupying part of an industrial mall on Phillip Street, and the WatClaus staff has grown from four to 57. It employs only elves and co-op students -- two of the world's most misunderstood life forms.

"Some people think we're little and merry," Spleng comments. "If we were so merry, do you think we'd have managed to carve out such a high-tech niche for ourselves this fast?"

The firm's specialty is toys with a Waterloo flavour. "We've really got a winner this year," says Spleng, proudly demonstrating the new David Johnston "smart community" doll with wireless Internet connectivity. Accessories -- including a hockey stick, five daughters, and a yellow Volkswagen -- are sold separately.

"That's a terrific example of how our products are based on ideas developed at the university," Spleng beams. "That kind of cross-fertilization makes Waterloo the best place in the world for small-scale high-tech companies to develop. We just thrive in the university environment."

A less successful product was a scale model of the Davis Centre that glowed with the energy of more than 1,500 tiny computer terminals. "Santa loved it, but it never took off with the kids," Spleng said sadly. "The terminals only lit up between midnight and 4 a.m., and most kids are in bed then."

Coming soon, Spleng promises, is a virtual reality system involving a glove, goggles, a touchpad and a computer chip that lets you turn your laptop into a convincing replica of a faculty of engineering. You can move walls, robotic equipment and teaching assistants with equal ease, and can simulate enrolment increases (extra batteries may be required, no government funding available).


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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