Orientation, Virtual Monday and Wacky Wednesday

If you look at the calendar, you’ll see that we’re approaching back-to-school. The 09-10 Course List is out, there are lineups at the Bookstore, heck, even the September Metropasses are on sale.  But that’s not what’s special about this week’s post. No, this week’s post is special because my contract is nearing an end, and you guessed it: this is my last post…

For the summer, anyways. I am splendiforusly delighted to be able to tell you that I get to join the ranks of Lucy, Fariya, Liesl, and Mary as The Original Five ver 2.0. YES THIS MEANS I AM BLOGGING FOR THE SCHOOL YEAR TOO, YOU’RE NOT RID OF ME JUST YET, DEAR READERS, MUAHAHAHAHA! If you’re wondering – Heather graduated. All the best, Heather!

So for this week’s post, I wanted to talk about orientations at U of T and answer the question, “What is Wacky Wednesday and/or Virtual Monday?”

1) Orientation

You don’t need me to tell you that U of T is huge. If you’re just starting first-year, U of T is downright scary. The first time I set foot on Bloor and St. George, I put my hand to my eyes, squinted, and went: “But where does the campus end?” It doesn’t, and you’re going to need a friend to help you. Wait, but you don’t have any yet! Oh, snap. It’s okay. I had friends == 0 when I first started too. But the tally will go up when you participate in Orientation.

Seriously. If askastudents say that it is “two of the most decisive weeks of your social life”, then you better listen. I know, it’s hyperbolic, but there’s truth in that statement.

Orientation is great for making your first friends, food and free stuff. Oh, you didn’t hear about the latter two? Apart from being helpful and fun, there’s always food at Orientation, and free pens, laundry detergent, booklets, condoms and lube, paper pads, water bottles, etc. etc. It’s nice. It’s like U of T is saying, “Thanks for your money! Here, have shiney!” I kid you not, you should buy the shirts at the bookstore that says: “My money goes to U of T”. It’s so true.

Anyhow. You’ll find as you start school that U of T gives you a lot of choices to do whatever you want. It’s no surprise that there are loads of different orientations you can choose from. You’re more than welcome to go to more than one!

So I know you can read, so I’m going to send you over to the Orientation page. HOWEVER, I’ve done the work for you, and put all the dates on a calendar. Print, and have fun! Oh, if you’re looking to get involved on campus, BE SURE to check out UTSU’s clubs day. It’s fabul- just make sure you go, okay?

Go to Orientation week, dear readers. Sign-up if you haven’t already. I’ll wait for you. Go, now.

2) Wacky Wednesday and Virtual Monday

Just by its name you know it’s wacked. So the rationale is “to ensure there are equal number of teaching days in each session regardless of the day the course is taught“. I know, bwuh? What they mean is that they want to make sure the hours you are in each course is equal throughout, so that you’re equally prepared for all your courses. Because the way holidays are structured, you may get courses that have a class less than your other ones and as a result, you’re pushed to learn in a shorter amount of time. It’s actually considerate on the university’s part.

So how this works. On the week of November 9th, the way you should think of your days as follows: Monday, Tuesday, Monday, Thursday, Friday.

Yes, you’re going to your Monday class twice, once on Monday and once on Wednesday, and your Wednesday class is cancelled. Hence the names, Virtual Monday on a Wacky Wednesday. If you’re still confused, check out which of your classes is “virtual” and which of your classes is “wacky“. Don’t go to your wacky class on Wednesday, and go to your Virtual class.

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Exercises, exercises, you can do your exercises!

Exercise. We all know it’s good for us. It’s an important part of a healthy lifestyle and an integral part to losing the Freshman 15. But you may have stepped into a gym, seen the following and just backed out.

Gyms are intimidating. They’re big and there are all sorts of machines which look more like contraptions. If you’re self-conscious like me, it’s even scarier – it’s enough just to have to look flushed and sweaty and icky in front of strangers, but then you also have to fumble with the machinery that you’re not familiar with. In short, going to the gym is scary.

But what to do? Exercise is important, and there’s no better way to work out when you can take advantage of your free* membership to the gyms on campus. (*technically. You’ve already paid for it in your fees.) Here’s where personal trainers come in. If you’re on the Athletic Centre‘s or Hart House‘s website, you’ll notice that there is information for personal trainers. I know some of you may be thinking, “but I don’t even exercise! How can a personal trainer help me?” Well, maybe not you you, but I certainly was interested, and sought to find out more by contacting Susan Lee from the AC. Susan was extremely helpful and set me up with an appointment right away.

Last Thursday, I headed over to meet with Sapna, one of the AC’s personal trainers and she took me around the gym for a mock 1-on-1 session. She was a lot younger than I expected (around my age), wore a bright teal nail polish and had a brilliant, comforting smile. Right away she asked me if I was right-handed or if I hold my hand bag with my right hand. I did! Apprently, my posture is tilted a little to the side to compensate the extra weight. Huh! Did not know that.

First we had a short consultation in a small room to the side of the gym. We talked aboout my needs and what I wanted from the session, the level of exercise that I’ve been doing, my expectations, etc. Depending on what you want, Sapna will custom tailor the personal sessions to suit your goals.

But your personal trainers are not there just to force you to exercise; Sapna took the time to explain to me the ABC’s of personal training, and gave me all sorts of tips for working out. Little things that you wouldn’t know if you’re just starting.

The ABC’s of Personal Training

A – Action: doing the actual exercise!

B – Breathing: you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to forget breathing once you’re exercising, but breathing is important! But when to breathe is also important. You exhale when you’re using more effort, and inhale when you’re using less. Don’t worry, you’ll get to see how this works in a second.

C – Coaching: exercising properly with the correct posture, tempo, and sets and reps.

There are three steps in setting your posture correctly: 1) shoulders; 2) pelvis; 3) core; try this with me, and you’ll find your posture’s much better after.

1) Shoulders: roll your shoulders up, back, and let it drop.

2) Pelvis: align your pelvis with your shoulders, and keep your legs comfortably hip-wide apart.

3) Core: imagine you’re bringing your belly button and pinning it to your spine.

4) Observe! A much more relaxed and correct posture for exercising, and everyday sitting and walking!

In terms of tempo, Sapna suggested 4:2:4 for a beginner like me. What this means is taking 4 seconds during the concentric, or shortening of the muscle part of the exercise, holding my position for 2 seconds, and another 4 seconds for the eccentric, or lengthening of the muscle part of the exercise. Like the breathing thing, I’ll show you in a bit.

Your personal trainer will adjust repititions and sets as per your need, but for me, Sapna used 8-12 reps and 1-2 sets per exercise. What this means is that I repeat a particular exercise 8-12 times (this is 1st set), stop, and possibly do another 8-12 times of the same thing (the 2nd set).

So now, I’m going to take you through my session! Thank you to the beautiful Sapna who agreed to be photographed. I don’t know how she does it, but she manages to look fab while demonstrating for me at the same time! Also, I wanted to mention that many of the machines in the AC gym are wheel-chair accessible. Whoohoo!

1) Warm-up

Sapna showed me how to adjust the bike seat and speed and I went on for 5 minutes to warm up. I know some of you are going, wait, you haven’t stretched! Sapna explained that stretching will be done at the end, when the muscle’s warmed up. It’s really easy to injure yourself if you’re not properly warmed up, so don’t skip this step!

2) Squats

Oh man, when I got on the squat machine, I felt like I was going in a cushier version of the Iron Maiden, because your head is supported from all sides. Anyhow, this exercise is a great one for your entire body. All right, the breathing and tempo thing: going down is easier than going up, yes? So inhale going down, and exhale when you’re going up on the squat. The process of moving down should take 4 seconds, hold the position for 2, and move up using another 4 seconds. I also did squats with an exercise ball after:

3) Chest Press!

After the chest press, I ached in areas I didn’t knew could ache, namely the place where my shoulders joined my torso.

4) Lunges on the Bosu!

The half-exercise ball thing is called a bosu, and I lunged on it. Looks easy, but that thing is WOBBLY. It tests your balance as well. I was flailing, madly. After doing more of a full body exercise, we moved to target specific areas. Next up: nice arms!

5) Bicep curls with free-weights

6) Tricep press with rope handle

Nice arms are great for sleeveless shirts. I know, I know, vanity. But really, another great motivator to working out is how great you’re going to look. Who doesn’t want nice arms?

7) Glutes isolator

And a nice bum, for that matter. Or glutes, if you want to get more scientific. Nice glutes.

8) Bent-over Row

This is great for your posture, and Sapna/I used a bar bell to do the row. We also did some 9) Hamstring Curl after this, but I didn’t get a picture, sorry!

10) Cardio~!

Note my enthusiasm~! Gah. It’s only 2 minutes but da-yum, that was painful. I did 30 seconds each of bench jumps, mountain climbs, bosu jumps and jumping jacks. And no, you’re not getting any pictures because there is no flattering way of taking pictures of either four. And please, I was flushed red and panting and out of balance by the end, so I couldn’t even hold Mr. Spock steady.

11) Core Exercises

And after the cardio, I still wasn’t done! I was almost dying on the mat by this point, but I stuck through crunches on the exercise ball (1st picture), lower ab raises with the exercise ball, medicine ball twists (2nd picture) and the plank. One resounding conclusion? I am a champ! Nah. I just have a weak core.

12) Stretching

Oh, this part was nice. Sapna helped me stretched out my muscles. I was walking funny by this point, but I got one heck of a full body workout! Sapna also told me to make sure I don’t exercise the same muscle group with resistance two days in a row. Cardio every day is okay though!

Bonus) Aftermath

Ahaha (and I’m tempted to say lolerskates), I ached. Oooooh yes I ached. The day of and the day after. It subsided by the afternoon of the third day, but walking up the flight of stairs to work the next day was the single most difficult thing I had to do. A good ache though, and a justifying one when I reached for that cinnabon at the train station I’ve been afraid to buy till now.

I have to say a huge, huge thank you to Sapna, who not only put up with my unfamiliarity (again, I’m tempted to say “n00bness”) around the gym, and for not only showing me how to do everything, how to use all the machines, and not letting me stop after my first jumping jack, but also maintaining an extremely friendly, cheerful and comforting presence the entire time. And yes, also for agreeing to be photographed. I was way too self-conscious for that to happen, and you would’ve ended up with no pictures otherwise!

I know the cost of a personal trainer is a tad steep on first glance, but if you’ve ever been too unmotivated to exercise, or afraid of the gym, or want to know what exercises are right for you, or even if you’re an experienced exerciser and athlete who hit a plateau or if you’re in active rehab, a personal trainer is great to help you meet your training needs. Plus, U of T students get a 10% discount!

- Cynthia

How to defer fees online (aka, what happened to ROSI?)

Have you ever wondered what happened to ROSI? No, not the actual repository, but the cute little mascot-thing with the CN Tower on its head. If you check out Wayback Machine, you can see that the mascot was on the site since 1999. If you go to the utoronto.ca page, you can still see what ROSI looked like. But it’s not on the actual ROSI site anymore. So what happened? Was there an abduction?

Before I tell you the story of ROSI, let me show you how to defer your fees online. If you are waiting for OSAP/other government loans, and can’t pay tuition yet, you have to defer your fees before August 19th. I know, it’s really soon and earlier than last year, but there’s a wonderful thing called Online Deferral that makes deferring as easy as 1-2-3 (4-5-6), literally. It’s the simplest and quickest thing ever, once you’re on the site.

How to Defer Your Fees Online (now with 100% more screencaps!)

1) Go to rosi.utoronto.ca

2) Log on to SWS (student web service)

3) Click “Financial Accounts” – I know, this is actually harder than it sounds. I was faced with “An error has occured!” message for hours before I finally got in. But be patient, you’ll get in eventually.

4) Once you’re finally in, scroll down. Make sure you’re eligible for fee deferral and click the “OSAP/Govt Deferral” button.

5) Click the check-box after you’ve read (and understood) the declaration. ROSI won’t actually let you continue unless you check. Now click the “Process deferral…” button.

6) Ta-da! You’ve deferred your fees! It couldn’t be easier! Literally, a maximum of six steps!

Bonus: Double check that you are now enrolled by going to your timetable. If it now says “REG” instead of “INV”, you were successful! If it hasn’t changed, give it some time before calling your registrar for further assistance.

Okay, so now that your fees are deferred, let’s get back to the juicy story of ROSI.

The Student Web Service (SWS) was created back in 1998 as a reponse to the Y2K scare. A contest was held to name SWS, and the name ROSI, which stands for Repository of Student Information and named after the participant’s sister, won. The mascot was created not long after in 1999, and in 2004, the people who made Gumby and Pokey made a model of ROSI. It’s limited edition of course, but I had the honour of traipsing to the office of Jennifer Leigh from Student Information Systems, to meet one of the few ROSIs still known to exist.

Isn’t it beautiful? Albeit, without the CN Tower head, but still, beautiful.

Anyhow, you may have noticed that the mascot is no more. So what happened? Was ROSI abducted? Kidnapped? Hacked?

Well, Jennifer told me: “We just decided it was time for ROSI to retire. That’s all.”

I know. Really, that’s all. The juicy story wasn’t that juicy after all. Nonetheless, it was cool meeting the little thing – Jennifer even gave me ROSI coasters!

I’m going to leave you this week with two plaques I found in the office.

A little ominous and more than a little creepy, really, but the dancing ROSI border is admittedly adorable.

- Cynthia

An architecture tour @ UofT

With styles dating from 1856 to the present, the St. George campus at U of T is like a museum of architecture. When I first started taking pictures for my quiet spaces posts a couple of weeks ago, I discovered some of the most beautiful places that I didn’t even know existed! When I found out through UTPress‘s Twitter* that Professor Larry Richards recently published The Campus Guide: University of Toronto, I jumped at the chance to interview him.

In the book, Professor Richards organized his architectural tour of U of T (including all three campuses) as nine different walks. Yesterday, Professor Richards took me on a tenth walk – an exclusive tour of a few of the buildings on St. George campus just for you, UpbeaT readers!

1) Courtyard @ Bahen Centre for Information Technology

We started at the courtyard of the Bahen Centre, with its wonderful cascading pool of water. Courtyards are a rarity in downtown Toronto, and it’s nice to be in a serene space where the trickle of the water blocks out the cacophony of traffic outside.

The three concrete silos you see here are used for collecting rain water. There was originally going to be five, but budget cuts means that you get to see the three here, and the two platforms that were made in preparation for the other two silos.

2) Bahen Centre for Information Technology

Inside Bahen Centre, you get both a glimpse of the past and the present. The building on the left is actually the exterior of the Koffler Student Centre, carefully incorporated to the atrium when Bahen was built in 2002.

I know a lot of people (me included) wonder why buildings are so expensive to build. Professor Richards explained to me that at U of T, a lot of the cost goes into using the best quality of material possible. For example, the steps you see here outside the centre? Completely granite. The high quality of construction means that the building will be very easy to maintain, avoiding heavy restoration and renovation costs down the road.

The builders are also really deliberate in order to protect their creations on campus. For examply, you see these blades? What I thought were hand arm/book/drink rest is actually a construct specifically to deter skateboarders from damaging the bench.

3) Cumberland House

The Cumberland House is also known as the International Student Centre, where Hot Yam serves up $4 lunches on Thursdays during the summer! Did you know that you’re actually looking at the back of the building? This house was originally built by Frederick Cumberland, the architect for University College, where it faced east. Cumberland called his house “Pendarves” which means “meeting place” in Cornish and is so fitting for its current use.

The Cumberland House is also protected by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, which means that nobody is allowed to rip out the beautiful molding in the rooms!

4) Mechanical Engineering Building

The original plan for the thermodynamics building was far more ambitious, with more labs, office space, and classroom space. But because of money issues, only the lab, which is now the complex, was built. The Mechanical Engineering Building was added after World War II, when funding was available. Professor Richards calls this building “one of the most important examples of early modern architecture from the 1930′s and 1940′s”, with influences from both the German Bauhaus school as well as the Dutch de Stijl movement. I may not know what that means, exactly, but I can tell you that I really like the clock.

5) Medical Sciences Building

The Med Sci building! Ironically enough, Robert Downing, the artist who designed what Professor Richards called the “shaggy dog” precast concrete cladding on the Med Sci building was notorious for his LSD use. Was he tripping when he made these? We’ll never know.

6) Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research (CCBR)

The Terrence Donnelly Centre is the loft-like space with the bamboo garden in front. Even though I prefer high ceilings to low ones, I love different coloured skylights here, which to me, opens up the space.

The facility was the brainchild of Dr. James Friesen and Dr. Cecil Yip. Their contributions are recognized by a plaque outside one of the ovoid seminar rooms on the main level. Guess who we bumped into right here during the tour? Dr. Friesen! That was incredibly cool meeting the man just after learning about his work.

This figurative sculpture is titled Spirit of Discovery, by Veronica and Edwin Dam de Nogales. I never noticed it until Professor Richards pointed it out – do you notice the resemblance of what I thought were ribbons and rods to that of a single DNA strand? I KNOW, right? Why didn’t I notice this till now?

7) Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building

If I didn’t tell you this was a pharmacy building, you probably would have guessed that it was either corporate or banking. Ontario needed more pharmicists back in the early 2000s, and as a result, the Faculty of Pharmacy set out to attract more students. U of T was able to get Lord Foster (who built the HSBC building in Hong Kong) as the architect for this building, and he and his team built this beautiful, yet highly practical building.  The site, although very prominent, is not very big. As a result, two large lecture halls are built underground while the glass cube houses the offices and labs.

If you look carefully at the Tanz Neuroscience Building on the right and imagine stretching a horizontal line from the top, you’ll notice that the cube of the Pharmacy building starts where the Tanz parapet ends. It’s like the cubed structure of the Neuroscience Building is flipped and reflected by the cube glass of the Pharmacy Building. Cool, huh.

What’s even cooler are these two pods inside the atrium. You’ve probably seen them at night, when they are lit up automatically by theatrical lighting. If you’ve ever wondered what they are, they’re actually seminar halls with lounges carved on top. I’m totally jealous and almost considered switching to Pharmacy just to have a class there.

8) Health Sciences Building

I’ve always wondered what these murals are doing in a health sciences building. Apparently, this building was originally the Education Centre for the Toronto Board of Education. They were planning an arts program for the building, and when the U of T bought it during 2003, the university preserved the work.

9) 263 McCaul Street

Professor Richards considers this building one of U of T’s hidden architectural gems. I’ve never really stopped and looked at it either, even though I must pass by it every day to get to work. It is imposing, with its two columns. The huge attic space is currently being considered for new purposes, because it’s only used for storage right now.

Five other projects (the first three on St. George) that Professor Richards says to look out for are:

  1. the new sports/athletic facility by the Faculty of Physical Education
  2. Rotman’s expansion southwards
  3. the Law School’s expansions
  4. UTSC’s new academic building on Military Trail
  5. UTM’s new Health Science complex

And that’s the tour, dear readers! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you want a copy of Professor Richards’ book, look for it in your favourite book stores! I saw it in Indigo, and the U of T Bookstore has it as well. It’s even on Amazon!

- Cynthia

*Funnily enough, the book is not published by UTPress, but rather, Princeton Architectural Press as a part of its Campus Guide series.