Edmonton Journal from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on June 26, 2005 · 52
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Edmonton Journal from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada · 52

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Sunday, June 26, 2005
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52
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SUNDAYREADER Profile E4 SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2005 EDMONTON JOURNAL he has energy and fire' PRESIDENT Continued from E3 She was constantly fascinated with seeing her research translate into practical applications, such as solving the problem of hairline fractures forming in steel moulded into refrigerators, vehicle crankshafts or other products. "She was thedarlingof everybody becauseofher personality," says Martha Salcudean, a mechanical engineer retired from UBC and a friend of Samarasekera since 1980. "She's one of the top persons in engineering in Canada She needs to make a difference and Alberta is the place you can do that. It's very forward looking, committed to education and excellence and a good work ethic.' "She's very ready and very capable," says Vancouver friend Jean Mickelson. She's a woman who values intellect and vigorous research but embraces life's mysteries as an Anglican with a daily discipline of prayer. "She doesn't forget you, even when she's busy," says friend Penny Jackson, adding that when her husband died three years ago, Samarasekera was always there. Together with some of those close female friends many whom she met when her children were in elementary school Samarasekera became part of the tongue-in-cheek "Meno-posse" and "Kitchen Cabinet," stealing away for weekend retreats to Victoria or going for walks through the woods. Patricia Clements, former dean of arts at the U of A who sat on the selection committee for a new president, immediately picked up on that warmth and spirit "She has energy and fire," Clements says. "She's confident, but there's not a drop of pretentiousness in the whole package. She thinks ambition is very key, an important quality of people who want to get things done, an energy that drives achievement." Clements says announcing Samarasekera as the next president was one of the most joyful moments in her academic career. "Crusty old people like me are very excited," she says. "She is an outstanding scientist and knows the importance of excellent work. ... She understands the whole university as a human community." Nurtured a passion for arts and humanities Key for Clements is Samarasekera's central vision to reinvigorate the arts and humanities on campus. That, coming from a woman whose own university education completely lacked courses in history or philosophy, sociology or literature. Samarasekera has filled that gap by becoming a voracious reader. On a bookshelf in her Edmon-tonhouse, Alice Munro joins Timothy FindleyNel-son Mandela, John Steinbeck and a Canadian Who's Who. She loves opera, the symphony, creativity in research and, during one of her job interviews, said that if she were ever to go back to university, she would get a PhD in English. "In order to be an outstanding researcher, one has to look at novel combinations," she says. "What the arts allow us to do is think outside our current set of boundaries, our current reality and look into possibilities that one can create in one's imagination." She says she will lobby the provincial government to create an endowment fund specifically for the arts to offset ones like the Alberta Ingenuity Fund in the science arena. She wants more interdisciplinary conferences on campus and presidential lectures. Some people suspect there maybe a growth of double degrees under Samarasekera because she values a well-rounded liberal arts education. Samarasekera says shell head to the federal government to ask for more investment in their Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council grants. In 2004-05, that council will invest $211 million for research in the arts and the so-called softer sciences, while its scientific counterpart, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, has $850 million to give out. That imbalance remains, V t . r I ml ' ' V Vl ' j ! V ' r) r ( ' I X BRUCE EDWARDS, THE JOURNAL. FILE Indira Samarasekera hopes to transfuse the University of Alberta with her vigour and enthusiasm. despite the fact that 58 per cent of Canadian students are studying arts and humanities. Samarasekera's vision won't easily be made into reality. Skepticism remains, since funding structures favour the sciences, and university presidents often tout the humanities mantra while funnelling energy into getting science dollars, since they are more likely to be translated into sexy, con crete discoveries. Back in 2001, Rod Fraser, who will be leaving his position as university president on June 30 after 10 years, said hard sciences and humanities have equally critical roles to play at the U of A. But disparity remains evident on Edmonton's campus, where construction workers are building the National Institute for Nanotechnology, Centennial Centre of Interdisciplinary Science, Natural Resources Engineering Facility and medical health buildings. While there is much ballyhoo about the new centre for Chinese studies, with more focus on languages, arts and cultures, if s unclear if there will be an actual new building to hold it Clements has every confidence in Samarasekera. "There will be a renaissance in arts and social sciences," Clements says, echoing the incoming president. "She has a strong spiritual side. She has a very strong wish to do good and she sees education is the means to do good." "My job as a leader is to stretch peoples vision and to enlarge it and inspire greater possibilities. Indira Samarasekera, incoming president of the V of A Already, Samarasekera has been meeting one-on-one with every campus dean, board member and vice-president. Her focus in her first presidential year will be to get to know the people on campus. "My job is to stay connected as president so that I don't become distant from them, to have an ongoing opportunity for dialogue," she says. "My job as a leader is to stretch people's vision and to enlarge it and in spire greater possibilities. That attitude could help defuse an undercurrent of dissatisfaction among those who think Fraser spent too much time off campus building relationships in China, Ukraine and Mexico. Jordan Blatz, former student union president who sat on the presidential selection committee, says there is something "extraordinary and phenomenal" about Samarasekera's ability to engage people and really listen. "In every situation I've seen her in, she spends just as much time with students and government officiakoracademicstaff and non-academic staff," Blatz said. "Everyone feels Indira is their president I get an inclusivity from her." Before he even had a chance to ask his key question in the interview process for president, Samarasekera answered it by declaring her goal is to improve the undergraduate student experience. "Students are central to what university is all about," she says. The University of Alberta has tr nndtinn itcplf n mp nf thp otpm universities tVio u;nrlH " 1 Jim Edwards, chairmanofthe university's boar4 of governors, says the jobofU of A president is on of the most important in the province, and Samaj rasekera won an elite competition against fewer than six other people from around the world, j He says she had some qualms about putting hef name forward as a candidate, including concern? about precarious government funding based on peaks and valleys in Alberta's economy, and about being unfamiliar with the province's sotio-politi cal culture. "I wanted her to be in the race," Edwards says "Part of it was the memory of what she had said to me: 'I don't know if I'll get in the race, but if I doj Fm going to win.' I liked that attitude." f Edwards says Samarasekera will continue on thf path Fraser has been on, travelling to raise fundi and create partnerships in the global economy, and trying to make the university indisputably recogt nized. Under Fraser's leadership, student enroll ment has risen to more than 35,000 from 29,000 About 1,200 new professors have been hired ana research funding has soared to more than $400 million annually from $94 million. But critics say there is room for improvement: In 2002-03, the Alberta government gave colleges and universities $10,296 for each fuU-time student compared with $13,099 one decade before, reported the Canadian Association of University Teachers. I "We're in remarkably good shape because of (this year's) budget, because of the throne speech, but you don't take that for granted," Edwards says. "We know we're in the top three in many, many areas of the country. The country doesn't know that. At the end of her 10 years I hope she stays for 10 years that national recognition will be' there and the international recognition will be! there." 1 High on U of As potential for greatness Samarasekera already has plans to promote Al-berta and Eklmonton,adtythathaswonher heart "I think Edmonton, quite frankly, is one of the most beautiful cities in Canada," she says, having spent a weekend decorating the outside of her house with flowers from Hole's Greenhouses in St Albert. She has a painting of Vancouver's Lion's Gate Bridge in her dining room, but prairie landscapes dominate her living room. "When you look at the top universities in this country, the one that has advanced the most, and I believe has the greatest potential in the next 10 years, is the University of Alberta," she says. "Alberta has some unique opportunities and advantages and the Alberta spirit" a spirit she saw in the blue eyes of Lois Hole. Hole's two sons recognized the importance of that meeting in hospital at a time when Hole took few visitors. Within two weeks of Samarasekera's spring move to Edmonton in preparation for her newjob, Bill and Jim Hole and their wives invited Samarasekera for lunch. They gathered in Lois Hole's kitchen the first time since her death that the Hole family had been back to their mother's house for the traditional family lunch. "Mom and Indira had really hit it off and con: nected well. They were both on the same page to a large degree," Jim Hole says, indicating he wanted Samarasekera to feel the essence of his mother embodied in her house. "Indira is just a great, warm person. She can talk to anybody and relate to anybody and is also very committed. She wants to make a difference. She intends to take a lot of mom's spirit to pass it on. "Education is such a critical thing," he says. "It's intellectual capital and Indira understands that, ... We're in great hands with Indira. I think it's going to be extremely exciting." Samarasekera says, "I feel very empowered by what she told me and enormously inspired to be those things that she said one needed to be in terms of being a champion and being an advocate for post-secondary education in this province." jsinnema9thejournal.canwest.com , WOC KA-WO C KA-WO C K A Pac-Man, enjoying a rebirth as a cellphone game, just keeps chomping along ; Chasing Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde for 25 years rrj fS. JOSE ANTONIO VARGAS The Washington Post Oh, the absolute thrill of being 25! The dots before you, waiting to be connected. Or gobbled. Oh, to be Pac-Man! This month, the bright yellow bloke forever wary of ghosts Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde, forever stuck in that maze is a quarter-century old. No, the P-Man is not going through a quarter-life crisis, thank you very much; in fact, he's enjoying a rebirth as one of your favourite cellphone games. Sometime this year, hell be included in Guinness World Records as the No. 1 arcade game of all time; he's featured in a travelling exhibit called Game On at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago until September. Later this summer, Namco, which originally brought us Pac-Man, will release Pac-Mania, the 3-D sequel. "The thing about Pac-Man is he's everywhere, although you don't realize he's everywhere," brags Scott Rubin, general manager of Namco America. Indeed, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are bona fide draws. They transcend narrow demographic niches. This is everyone's game boys and girls, men and women, ages 5 to 95. Here's the condensed story on the P-Man: He was born in June 1980 in Japan, then introduced to North America. Tom IwatanL creator of the classic arcade game Galaxian, thought of it while staring at a pizza with one missing slice. Puck Man, derived from the Japanese phrase "paku-paku," (meaning to open and close one's mouth), was the game's original title, but, of course, Puck was changed to Pac to avoid unfortunate alterations. He became an instant hit, bigger than Space Invaders, bigger than Asteroids, bigger than Galaga. He spawned Ms. Pac-Man, among others, and Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man are still married, at least as far as we know. There's no shame here, so fess up: How many quarters, in all these years, have you spent playing Pac-Man? Did you own a Pac-Man lunchbox? Play with Pac-Man trading cards? Eat Pac-Man breakfast cereals? Did you sing along to Buckner & Garcia's Pac-Man Fever Tve got Pac-Man Fever, Pac-Man Fever I'm going out of my mind, going out of my mind" as you flipped through the bestselling books Mastering Pac-Man and How to Win at Pac-Man with that wocka-wocka-wocka sound drurnrnirig in your head? Brandon McAuliffe, it's safe to say, is a Pac-Man addict He'd go straight to a pizza parlour in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to play Pac-Man after school, and now, as the manager of the Wonderland Bar SUPPLIED NUVCO and Grill he spends quite a bit of time, and quite a few quarters, sitting on a stool playing Ms. Pac-Man. This game is all about waiting, waiting, waiting you eat the dots as fast as you can, McAuliffe instructs, but you look out for the ghosts and wait until they go in another direction. Along the way, McAuliffe says, you try to eat the bonus fruits: 100 points for the cherry, 200 points for the strawberry, 500 points for the orange, and so on. You start, you eat, you sit, you wait Then again. You start, you eat, you sit, you wait. Such is life. By the end of Level 1, he has scored 14,600 points, "the maximum points you can get in that level," McAuliffe says, quickly adding that 252,000 not a bad score but nowhere near the record is his personal best He looks a little embarrassed, his face reddening. "What can I tell you? I'm in my late 20s, I have a degree in philosophy and I know too much about Pac-Man." For nearly 25 years, Walter Day, editor of the 984-page tome Twin Galaxies' Official Video Game & Pinball Book of World Records, has been the chief scorekeeper of the video-game industry most of all the record-setting scores on Pac-Man. The only person in the world who is known to have played a perfect game of Pac-Man (or, at least, the only person in the world who has publicized that he played a perfect game of Pac-Man) is one Billy Mitchell, a 39-year-old hot sauce manufacturer from Hollywood, Fla. In Jury 1999, playing for more than six hours at the Funspot Family Fun Center in Weirs Beach N.H., Mitchell cleared all 256 levels, eating every single bonus prize and every possible ghost, and racked up 3,333,360 points. "Not an easy feat," says Day, who is in Washing-; ton poring over papers at the Library of Congress,, finishing up his research on the second instalment a 1,500-page, two-volume set of his world, records due out later this year. When Day says, "I personally view Pac-Man as the Abraham Lincoln of the video-game age," he doesn't mean it lightly. "Lincoln is the ultimate model of an individual lifting himself up from the most modest of beginnings tc the highest level of success," Day, 56, explains. "Pac-Man was expected to be just another video game, you see, but surely he's not just another game." To turn 25 in the real world of student loans and internships is, in the eyes of many, to still be a kid. Totum25 in the virtual worid of what's hot, what's new, what's next welL that's another story-

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