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Rideau Canal to open this month 

OTTAWA—THE RIDEAU CANAL is expected to be open for skating by mid-January for its 42nd season, according to National Capital Commission spokesperson Jasmine Leduc.

Good skating ice depends on cold weather with no snow, and Leduc is hoping the past week’s mild weather will have little impact on the ice.

“We’re hoping that the cold weather will return shortly and that we’ll be able to resume our flooding operations,” said Leduc to the Ottawa Citizen.

Because the ice remains thin and the water levels underneath vary, Leduc is asking Ottawans to be patient and stay off the ice for the time being.

—Spencer Van Dyk

Former Ottawa resident and swordfighter dies 

OTTAWA—89-YEAR-OLD FORMER OTTAWA resident Bob Anderson died in a British hospital on Jan. 1.  Anderson’s resumé included working as a technical director with the Canadian Fencing Association, a film fight director, and a choreographer.

He worked on films such as The Princess Bride, The Lord of the Rings, and The Hobbit, which is set to be released later this year. Anderson also acted as Darth Vader’s stunt double in the Star Wars series.

“Bob Anderson was the man who actually did Vader’s fighting … was always supposed to be a secret,” said Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, in a 1983 interview. “Bob worked so bloody hard that he deserves more recognition.”

“He inspired people who weren’t fencers to become fencers and he inspired fencers who were fencers to become better. He was a true gentleman of the sport,” said Tim Stang, program administrator at the Canadian Fencing Federation, to the Ottawa Citizen.

—Spencer Van Dyk

McGill researchers develop game to help genetic research

MONTREAL (CUP)—TWO MCGILL UNIVERSITY academics are tapping into our appreciation for video game fans to further research into illnesses like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.

Jérôme Waldispuhl and Mathieu Blanchette launched their game, Phylo, in November 2010, and 17,000 registered users have played it since. Collectively, those users have produced information, released December 2011, that researchers can use to improve knowledge about genetic disorders.

Phylo is a Tetris-like game where players line up orange, purple, blue, and green blocks on either their computer, mobile, or tablet device. Each block is considered human DNA, and all the genetic information is sourced from the University of California, Santa Cruz Genome Browser.

“The goal of Phylo is to produce the data to make the comparisons of DNA easier,” explained Waldispuhl. “We’re still trying to make it more fun. Fun and creative.”

 —Sarah Deshaies, CUP Quebec Bureau Chief


Nova Scotia bails out NSCAD University

FREDERICTON (CUP)—THE NOVA SCOTIA government announced last week it would keep Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) University afloat for the next year, covering the university’s $2.4-million deficit in response to a 13-page report authored by consultant Howard Windsor.

The province will provide money on the basis of recommendations outlined in the report. The university will submit a financial sustainability plan by March 31, 2012.

“NSCAD today is operating at a loss equal to more than 10 per cent of its annual budget,” wrote Windsor, a former deputy minister.

Evaluating the university’s three campuses was among Windsor’s recommendations. Windsor also encouraged the university to consider merging with another institution.

The province will appoint a facilitator to ensure the review process is undertaken and to provide monthly updates to Judith Ferguson, deputy minister of advanced education.

—Colin McPhail, CUP Atlantic Bureau Chief