• Settling Into Second Semester


    Winter break has come to an end and school is ready to welcome you back, but are you ready to go back? To help you get ready, here are some things to keep in mind:

    First things first, get everything you need together. Supplies are quite crucial. Double check to make sure that you have all the stationary you need such as blank/lined paper, pens, pencils, erasers and a calculator. Also make sure that you have a reliable way of backing up all your work. The last thing you want to happen is to loose everything! Common ways to do that include: external hard drives, USBs and cloud back up. If you have a Gmail account you already have a Google Drive account which provides you with 15 GB of storage. If you need more storage, Dropbox and One Drive are also a reliable services. However if what you want to back up something is more personal, give SpiderOak a try. They pride themselves in providing a secure way of keeping your data away from internal or external hackers.

    Re-establishing your old school routines or starting new ones
    Again, depending on how you did the previous semester you may want to either re-establish your old routine or change it up a bit. First thing to focus on would be the efficiency of your work routine. An easy way to find out if you need to alter it is to look back and count the number of all-nighters you had to do last semester. If it seems like too many, maybe you’re not optimizing how you work. A common way to increase your efficiency would be to work on assignment/study during breaks between classes. It may seem insignificant, but if you add up the minutes/hours you spent at the library or computer lab you’ll see it adds up. Another important tip is to prioritize your time well. When it comes to studying, sometimes it’ll be better to study independently than with a group and vice versa. If you see you can’t focus so well at home, try going to the library. In the end, try and work as effectively as you can. “They say time is money but really it’s not, if we ever go broke then time is all we’ve got” (As said by J.Cole in ‘Mr. Nice Watch’)

    After school plans and extracurriculars
    Try and keep somewhat of a flexible schedule so that you can afford to go talk to a professor or a TA after school or go see a movie with some friends once in a while. Balance is key and focusing too much on studying can just mean you burn out faster. Also try joining a club if you haven’t already. It might seem counterintuitive to add more work to your plate, but finding a club you like can be rewarding and help keep you from burning out. It may even save you time in the long run.

    This is the big one on the list and is most likely the most difficult to make stick. No matter how you did last semester (unless you somehow got perfect in all your classes) you have some room to improve. As cheesy as it sounds, and as often as you heard it from countless lame quotes, self-betterment first and foremost starts with you. Other people telling you the right advice won’t mean anything if you don’t internalize it. You have to find some inner motivation to accomplish your goal. What personally helped me was treating school like a job. This meant that just like in a professional setting, I couldn’t be late for classes and I had to try my best at whatever I was assigned. This helped me to reach the goals I set for myself, in terms of GPA. Find what motivates you and make the most of it.

    Ultimately, this article aims to help you analyze yourself as objectively as possible and to try and help you better enjoy the coming semester. It’s hard to keep a balance between somewhat good grades, a social life, some sleep and other things but try and look at where you stand and see if anything needs fine-tuning.

  • The Interview: Why Did You (or Did You Not) Drop out of Engineering Science?

    engsci interview (2)

    No, there’s no Seth Rogen here, but what we will be doing is giving you an EngSci’s perspective in the matters of transferring out (or more colloquially, “dropping out”).

    Below is a transcript of an interview of three different students. By the request of the interviewees, their names will be kept anonymous and only initials given. Two of the interviewees are still in the Engineering Science program (A.S. and S.R. – 1T7 and 1T8 respectively) and one who has transferred out to MSE (M.M. – 1T7)


    For those that are staying…

    Q. Why did you come to Engineering Science? What were your dreams and aspirations at the time?

    A.S.: Because EngSci had the highest requirement (GPA-wise). It sounded like a really “legit” program. I wanted the challenge and I wanted to be among the top students.

    S.R.: I chose Engineering Science because of the biomed option. My dream was to be a drug designer and to find out the mechanism of herbal medicine and apply the holistic herbal remedy to the existing, western way of drug designing.


    Q. How did you feel during your first few days of Engineering Science? What were your hopes and fears?

    A.S.: My first class was CIV102. I was thinking about how great my professor was and how great my peers were. Everybody was really nice. I hoped to not get kicked out. My fear was being kicked out.

    S.R.: I felt really overwhelmed because there were a lot of rumours about grades. My hope was not to fail out, and my fear was failing out.


    Q. What were favourite and least favourite subjects in Engineering Science?

    A.S.: My favourite subject was MAT 194 because I felt like it was one of the easier courses and I was happy about my mark. I also really liked the professor teaching it.  I liked most of the courses but I didn’t like ESC103. I didn’t think it was very interesting and I didn’t like MATLAB.

    S.R.: My favourite subjects were ESC103 and MAT194, and my least favourites were CSC180 and PHY180


    Q. Do you think you did your best? That you worked to your full potential?

    A.S.: I did my best at that time. But I can’t say I worked to my full potential because I didn’t know what my full potential was. I still don’t. Plus I didn’t get enough sleep that year and I played video games during exam season. So yeah, no.

    S.R.: No. I couldn’t pull out my full potential this semester. Hope I can do better next semester.


    Q. Describe a model Engineering Science student and how you were different from the model.

    A.S.: Someone who knows how to manage his or her time. Who can party a lot but at the same time get a decent mark. Oh yeah, and he or she has to be nice to others. Not super arrogant like some people. I was different from the model because I am not very good at managing my time and my marks were low. And I’m not nice to everyone.

    S.R.: An ideal EngSci student would be someone who can balance their social life with their academics. I couldn’t manage to do that this semester.


    Q. Do you think Engineering Science might break you someday? Do you think it’s making you stronger or weaker?

    A.S.: When I first came to EngSci, my goal wasn’t to be the best, I wanted to pass. I don’t think EngSci can break me if I do this. I definitely think EngSci has made me stronger. After my first semester, I felt stronger and smarter. Definitely not as stupid as I thought. After my second semester I felt like if I did well in Praxis 2 then I’ll be fine. But I didn’t feel as smart as I did after the first. After my first semester of second year, I got way too much pressure. I definitely felt a bit weaker. But I still have my friends and peers so I’m good.

    A.S.: I think EngSci will make me stronger because it’s the program which pushes students to their limits and encourages them to learn faster and faster.


    Q. What’s your overall feeling about Engineering Science? Any advice for future Engineering Science students?

    A.S.: EngSci is great. I made good friends and I am really happy. I don’t regret it even though it’s a lot of pressure. My advice for future EngScis is to make friends, manage your time, party hard, and try to pass everything.

    S.R.: Overall, I admit that it is a very challenging and overwhelming program. After my first semester, however, I do not regret my decision to come to EngSci because I met a lot of great people here. As for the advice for future EngScis, I want to say that EngSci is more about finding who you are, so it’s good to try to do different things and enjoy university life when you have time instead of being a grade-grubbing student without any life.


    For Those Leaving

    Q. Why did you start with Engineering Science? What were your dreams and aspirations?

    M.M.: I wanted to do biomedical so I went to the most direct option. Also, if I changed my mind, I could transfer easily. The streams appealed to me more than the Core 8 ones and I had more time to choose my major.


    Q. How did you feel when you first walked in?

    M.M.: My biggest fear was that I would go from the top to the bottom. And it happened too quickly. I hoped that I would be able to overcome all the rumours about EngSci like the sleepless nights and the extreme loss of self-confidence. I really hoped to be the best of the best.


    Q. How about when you walked out?

    M.M.: One of my fears was that maybe I wouldn’t like the new program. Or that I would regret transferring. I hoped to be able to start anew, to be able to make my mark at U of T. I also wanted to raise my GPA.


    Q. Do you think you did your best? Do you think you would have stayed if you worked harder or if the outcome was different?

    M.M.: Definitely. If I did better in my courses than I did, then I would have stayed. But I’m glad I didn’t. I felt like I wouldn’t have liked EngSci anyway. And about whether I did my best, well, I did my best at the time. My best now has changed by quite a bit since then. The subjects I struggled with the most were the ones I neglected the most, and doing badly just made me neglect them more. I definitely feel like I shouldn’t have done that.


    Q. Would you say that Engineering Science made you weaker or stronger?

    M.M.: It made me stronger because it humbled me. It made me go from thinking that I was better than average to thinking that I wasn’t really all that. I realized that there was more that I needed to learn, more work to do and more maturity to be developed within me.


    Q. Did you benefit from Engineering Science? Do you feel like you would’ve saved time if you never came at all?

    M.M.: I’m glad I came because I realized that I have weaknesses, and I learned to accept those weaknesses in EngSci.


    Q. What did you love the most and hate the most about Engineering Science?

    M.M.: I didn’t like that Engineering Science was research-based and extremely theoretical. I don’t like proofs and I don’t like symbols; I like numbers.  What I love about EngSci is how tough it really is. It’s a big reward to get through it. The tougher the challenge, the more it builds character.


    Q. Any advice for future Engineering Science students?

    M.M.: When you’re in it, always ask yourself frequently why you’re in it. Are you in it because you want to be considered “elite” or are you doing it because you love it? Make sure you love it.

    Vyshnavi Kommu


  • Skule “News”

    2014-10-24 Sword in stone Western

    Western Car
    On the day of our DisOrientation event during F!rosh week, we were surprised to find a car wrapped around our beautiful sword in the stone. Within half an hour the car was dismantled and our beloved sword was free to breathe once again. Disorientation occured without any other incidents. The car was a pranking gift to us from the University of Western Ontario. They wanted us to pass it onto another engineering university. They had acquired it from McMaster Engineering (probably through some stealthy means). The car was identical to McMaster’s car that participates in their parade I believe?
    In any case, before we were able to reassemble and pass the car onto another university, our Faculty decided to cut it up into pieces to be thrown out. We are now one car short to pass onto another university.
    Western Sword in the Stone
    Due to their interest in our Sword, Da Brute Force Committee decided it would be appropriate to leave Western Engineering their very own monument. As such, the Ministers of the committee worked for two weeks and created a replica of the Sword in the Stone. On the 24th Day of October in the year 2014, a group of Skuligans proceeded to plant the cast Sword in the Stone at Western University in front of their University Community Centre in a paved area known popularly to Western students as the “Concrete Beach”. Mario Baker then visited the Western Engineering Society’s office to deliver a letter to their students. We think this might be the beginning to a very healthy pranking war between Western University and us.
    The Triple D Cup
    Having missed three different occasions to claim the Cup for their own, Skule was ousted from the competition and replaced by Conestoga College. On November 28th 2014 McMaster Engineering finally invited Skule again due to negligence during the previous semester by Conestoga. 2 cars of Skuligans were quickly roused together and went to McMaster University, barely missing the traffic caused by the landslide that occurred on the 403 in the afternoon. McMaster and Skuligans alike paraded around Hamilton on McMaster’s annual Pub Golf event drinking their way through various bars. Waterloo was on their way to the event but were delayed by the landslide and therefore Skule won the Cup by default. Skuligans then proceeded to quickly race back to Toronto with the trophy bringing the cup home to the Blue and Gold Committee’s DUSTED event which was incidentally on the same night. All Skuligans were permitted to drink out of the Cup that night at the DUSTED. The Cup is finally home.

  • What to Look Forward to in 2nd Semester


    So you’ve made it past first semester in engineering – congrats! Now you can flash-forward and have a look at some of the major events that are planned for second semester.

    Godiva Week
    known as the second frosh week of the year, takes place mainly at the pit during the first week of the winter semester. There are several events that happen during this week, including the F!rosh hardhat decoration contest, the Eat contest, and Skule’s got talent. The F!rosh hardhat decoration contest is one of the highly recommended events in which people decorate their hardhats and bring them along to the next year’s F!rosh week! It is also the place to show off your creativity and Skule spirit. If you have a big stomach, why not join the Eat Contest? The rule of the Eat contest is pretty simple: whoever eats the most during the limited time wins a prize! If you feel talented enough, then join the Skule’s got talent event! It is the biggest talent show of the year where people get on the stage and show off their talent to everyone.

    Occuring on the last day of Godiva Week and on the first Saturday of the year, is the biggest semi-formal dinner dance event of the year where you can meet people from all the engineering disciplines and have fun. This year, the event, also called by its event name “Gotham City Light”, will take place at the Sheraton Center Toronto Hotel on the 10th of January.
    Reading Week
    It is a one week break in February when you can take a break and relax. There are several events happening during this week with your discipline. Last year, the Engineering Science Division organized a visit to a concrete factory in Mississauga where students get to know more about the process of producing concrete.

    EngSoc Elections
    Votes for next year’s Student Government will also take place during the later parts of second semester. While it is too early in the process for candidates to be known, what is important to note (if you are planning on voting) is that unlike the traditional one ballot one vote system commonly used, the elections at the University of Toronto are of the single transferable vote system. This system allows voters to rank their candidates in the order of preference rather than allowing them to choose one specific candidate (more information is available on the skule.ca website).
    Not limited to the events described above, many other interesting events do happen throughout the year. While focusing on studies, it is also important to enjoy other aspects of university life and get out to these events every so often.

    Mingyang Shao


  • 2014 World News – A Year in Review


    In 2014, we witnessed both dramatic and subtle changes in relations between international entities. The Ukrainian crisis has been in the spotlight since the beginning of 2014; evoked by the suspension of Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement preparation by President Viktor Yanukovych, numerous Euromaidan opponents pushed the nation into predicament. In February, President Yanukovych was ousted, with an ensuing pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine. The turmoil soon developed into a political crisis in the Ukrainian autonomous region of Crimea and led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March. Subsequently, a civil war began between the post-revolutionary Ukrainian government and pro-Russian insurgents.

    Aside from Europe, tensions were present across different continents. In 2014, the Islamic State became furthered entrenched, strengthening in both weapons and numbers in eastern Syria and northern Iraq, massacring prisoners and civilians who refused to change their pagan beliefs in the occupied territories. These acts have forced about half a million people to flee their homes. In August 14th, the United Nations increased the urgency of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq to the highest state and started the largest humanitarian relief operations in 50 years. The United States re-intervened in the Middle East, introducing “comprehensive” strategy and conducting air strikes. The rapid deterioration of the situation in Iraq has imposed momentous changes on the international political field.

    Subtle changes in international relations also came with a drop in oil prices over the past 6 months. Russia, the largest producer, has been struggling to stabilize the ruble due to the twin impact of falling oil price and sanctions from European Union; states in Opec, the largest exporters in the world, showed hesitation in cutting supply and amassed considerable foreign currency reserves, although possible further economical predicament ensues. The United States reached its highest oil production level in nearly 30 years and had essentially severed the linkage between geopolitical turmoil in the Middle East, and oil price and equities.
    Also memorable was the Ebola virus became viral in June, resulting in more than 8,000 deaths across Africa. It was declared as an “international public health emergency” by United Nations health agency in August, adding that a coordinated response was essential to halt the spread of the virus. Although efforts to tackle Ebola have been hindered by fierce resistance from local communities with a history of suspicion towards outside intervention, international rescue work continues, as the disease is now entering a new phase, with a marked slowdown in the some of the affected areas in the most affected countries.
    In 2014, we also heeded appeals for equity and collaboration for global development. The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson sparked a vigorous debate about law enforcement involving African-Americans and the doctrine regarding the police’s use of force in Missouri and nationwide. Protest, along with vandalism and looting, continued for more than a week, resulting in night curfews in the city of Ferguson. The militarized response from police agencies was criticized by media and politicians for being insensitive and overly tactical. Federal investigation of the Missouri city’s police force and further law enforcements was then launched months after the shooting, finally quelling the masses.

    Sensibly, the globe is advancing in the direction of closer cooperation. The APEC CEO Summit, focusing on Asia-Pacific economic issues and aiming for promoting regional communions, was held in Beijing on November 11th. Fruitful discussions were conducted among leaders of various economies, involving topics such as promoting regional economic integration, pushing innovative economic development, promoting reform and growth, and strengthening all-round construction of infrastructure and connectivity. Affinity and optimism of APEC nations further accelerated the quantitative development of the world, helping alleviate the needs of developing countries and contributing to peace and stability in the world. With hope for more international cooperation, the 6th BRICS summit was held in Brazil in July. Generated from the summit were a number of initiatives. The New Development Bank was officially inaugurated, railway projects connecting the Atlantic and Pacific were planned to augment productivity, and the China Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Forum was established to endorse multilateral dialogue. Increasingly close international associations strengthen the bonds between nations and enhance our capacity to combat rising global challenges.
    2014 was a year of twist and turns, with violent clashes alongside synergism and development. What will happen in 2015? We can only expect more.

    Shenglin Yang


  • eSports – Year in review


    The year has passed by quickly and it is mandatory to a newspaper that wants to keep up with the likes of BuzzFeed and 9Gag to do a year in review. And what more appropriate of a topic for a school newspaper than the world of online gaming and eSports? For those of you that are well‑versed in the topic, eSports, also known as electronic sports, are professionally organized video game competitions that come in multiple variants, such as real‑time strategy (StarCraft), first‑person shooters (Call of Duty) and the most popular, multiplayer online battle arena (League of Legends, DotA). The competitions have become more popular over the years, attracting worldwide talent, more lucrative prizes, and a following rivaling other professional sporting events.

    June 2014 – In an attempt to attract raw talent and to push themselves into the forefront of a growing sport, Robert Morris University became the first university in North America to offer gaming scholarships as well as adding eSports to their athletic programs and varsity lineup. The scholarships will cover up to 50% of a student’s tuition and residence fees. As of September 2014, the university has recruited students to compete in the Collegiate Star League, an intercollegiate league for North American colleges and universities with memberships including University of California Berkeley and University of Waterloo.

    July 2014 – The International DotA 2 Championships are a yearly eSports tournament where teams compete against each other similar to the NBA playoffs. This year, the tournament was in its fourth iteration and was held in the Seattle Centre in Seattle, Washington. What made this year of The International famous was a prize pool of magnitude that has never been seen in eSports. The total value was just shy of $11 million, dwarfing previous eSports tournaments and even prize pools in other sports tournaments, such as the World Series of Poker. What makes the size of the prize pool amazing is that although the tournament was sponsored by Valve, the company that owns DotA 2, the prize pool was generated by the eSports fan base through crowdfunding.

    July 2014 – With the fan base raising an $11 million dollar prize pool and sold out arenas for The International tournament, it was only natural that ESPN saw the business case and the dollars to stream the final rounds. With larger and larger groups of people enjoying eSports, more companies will follow suit and eSports will be brought into the mainstream.

    August 2014 – With the recent overvaluations of the tech industry and stocks in general, the recent purchase of Twitch Interactive by Amazon for just a bit shy of $1 billion comes as no shock (okay…maybe just a bit). Twitch is a live streaming video platform where gamers can go to stream or view their favorite multiplayer or single player games. Despite the large value that Amazon put forward, the purchase has been considered a steal with the future of eSports growing.

    October 2014 – eSports has finally entered the realm of the mainstream with the New York Times running a series of articles (including ones on the front‑page) about the eSports industry, including the games and the stars who make it up.

    November 2014 – Many of us dream of retiring in our 50s with a mortgage‑free home, cottage and maybe a boat if things have been going well. Time to make light of your dreams. A Legends of Legends player by the name of CaoMei has retired from the game and moved into stream, where he plays the game live while commenting over top of it similar to PewDiePie of YouTube. He has landed a contract where he makes $800,000 a year to do this. In a reunion stream that he did with his old teammates, he pulled in a viewership of 6 million, more than many TV shows where time and money are put into its preparation.

    December 2014 – Adult website enthusiasts: you’ll be surprised to know that YouPorn will be the official sponsor of a Spain‑based eSports team known as YP (Team YouPorn), formerly known as Play2Win. As eSports continue to grow with an enthusiastic fan base that even sold out the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the 2013 League of Legends finals, it is only natural that companies sponsor teams similar to NASCAR and the NBA. However, unlike other teams, YP will need to be subtle in advertising their sponsor to comply with competition rules that bar sponsorship agreements with companies in the pornographic industry.

    Kirshan Kandiah


  • The Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport


    Standing on the new home court for varsity basketball at U of T in the recently unveiled Goldring Center for High Performance Sport, makes you feel a bit of what people felt when they first laid eyes on the Titanic, or the CN tower, or any other feat of structural engineering, a mixture of awe and pride. The court is sunken several stories into the ground, its polished floor shines under the fluorescent lights above, and the usually towering basketball players who are shooting the ball around seem dwarfed by their surroundings. The sight makes you feel a little bit struck at the quality of the school’s new gym. It’s a feeling that stays with you throughout a tour of the new center in fact. The caliber of this facility is exuded in every detail of its design. It can be seen from the street outside in the aquamarine tint of the windows which overlook Devonshire place. It’s made clear at the entrance by the enormous University of Toronto logo overlooking the turnstiles. Even the layout of the workout facility, which spreads the equipment over three levels, each set up at different elevations, to mimic the feeling of being in the stands at varsity stadium makes its elite nature hard to ignore.

    This is a facility that was designed so that an Olympic athlete could train there and find nothing lacking. It’s hard to imagine, given the presence of warm-up and cool-down wading pools, on site physiotherapy, and any kind of workout equipment you can think of, that anyone could want anything more from a training venue.

    None of this is supposed to make the center seem elitist or exclusive in any way. The fitness facility is T card accessible from 7 in the morning to 11 at night, seven days a week and it has been retrofit to accommodate athletes of all abilities (it is completely wheelchair accessible) and identities (non-gender specific change-rooms allow students of any gender identification to work out in comfort). This marriage between elite fitness and community accessibility was one of the founding principles behind the center. As Judy Goldring, a member of the Goldring family whose generous donation to the school allowed the venue to be built and COO at AGF management explained “[The idea for the centre] came from my father (C.Warren Goldring). He thought that a bright mind, healthy body, and an active regime were the key to a balanced lifestyle.” From this principle came the belief that U of T needed a sports facility that would be available and useful to all the students of U of T regardless of their athletic ability was.

    It’s another aspect of the center that really excites Judy however. When asked how she hopes the community will view the Goldring center, she speaks about the wholistic value of the facility. “For me, it’s the combination of athletic facility and research facility that really excites me,” and it’s hard not to feel the same. The upper floors of the building are packed with expensive and sophisticated equipment, which looms out of offices that you can pass by. In one lab it’s a reinforced concrete floor surrounded by sensors and monitors, which is used in biomechanics research, sometimes it’s a contraption that resembles a UFO which is an instrument used to measure the Body Mass Index of athletes. All of these is meant to make the Goldring center an international leader in sports medicine research, just one more aspect of the exciting contribution that the building will make to U of T.

    The Goldring center represents an incredible development for all students of the University of Toronto, the opportunity to work on their own fitness and healthy lifestyle alongside the athletes that will represent this country at the Olympics, the researchers that will pioneer new techniques in sports medicine, and the students and coaches that will bring this school national titles. As for Judy Goldring, her vision for the center is simple and powerful:

    “I just want this center to be used to the level for which it has designed,” she says, and it’s hard to imagine, given the quality of this center, any other fate befalling it.

    Sean Pitre


  • The Big 4 Era in Tennis May Be Over


    Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have reigned supreme over the game of tennis for the past decade. They hold an astonishing combined career singles record of 2787-658 (80.9%) with 225 career titles and a prize money of over $250 million. They have won 36 of the past 39 Grand Slams, from the 2005 French Open to the 2014 U.S. Open. Two of these losses came in 2014, at the Australian Open and the U.S. Open, where Stanislas Wawrinka and Marin Cilic captured their maiden Grand Slams respectively. The 2014 U.S. Open final was also the first final since 2005 that didn’t feature any of the Big Four. Their decline in performance in 2014 as well as the rise of new stars that are ready to establish themselves may serve as a big reason that the Big Four era is on its way out.

    Roger Federer’s decline has been evident from 2013, which marked the first year that he did not reach a grand slam final since 2002. Federer won only one title (the Gerry Weber Open) and saw his ranking go down from 2nd to 6th. The start to the 2014 season looked promising for him as he reached the semi-final at the Australian Open and the final at Wimbledon. However, the loss to Novak Djokovic at the All England Tennis Club magnified his downfall and made tennis critics and fans wonder if he’ll ever win another Grand Slam again. At age 33, he has played in over 1,200 single matches and it is clear that he simply does not have the power and agility he once had to compete with younger legs.

    Rafael Nadal continued his dominance in clay court, winning the 2014 French Open for a record ninth time. However, it was his string of injuries that raised headlines in 2014, which prevented the Spaniard from playing in several tournaments. A back injury cost him the 2014 Australian Open final and a wrist injury prevented him from playing in the 2014 U.S. Open. Near the end of the season, he suffered from appendicitis and required surgery, prematurely ending his season. It is clear to see that Nadal is banged up and the biggest concern is how long he can stay healthy and continue to play high quality tennis.

    Andy Murray was a surprising disappointment in the 2014 season. He fell from the top 4 ranking (for the first time since 2008) as he struggled to rebound from his back surgery in 2013. His best finish at a Grand Slam in 2014 was a semi-final appearance at Roland Garros and his form only improved later in the season where he won his only three titles of the year. His inconsistencies and his mere 2 Grand Slam titles are the major factors why critics sometimes refer to this group as “The Big Three.”

    Novak Djokovic was the most consistent player out of The Big Four and ended the season with the No.1 ranking, while capturing the 2014 Wimbledon title and the ATP World Tour Finals for a third consecutive year. The year started poorly, however, as the Serb was ousted in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, ending his 3 year reign as champion of the tournament. There were other disappointments too, including falling short to Nadal at Roland Garros and losing to Kei Nishikori at the U.S Open semi-finals. 2014 also marked the year in which Djokovic got married and welcomed his first child. These are both major lifestyle adjustments and it may be only a matter of time before fatherhood fatigue catches up with the world No.1. Historically, only ten players since 1980 have managed to win a Grand Slam after becoming a parent, with only two of Federer’s 17 Grand Slams coming after his first set of twins were born (yes, he has another set of twins). Greats such as Pete Sampras, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl failed to lift another Grand Slam trophy after welcoming their new bundle of joy. Djokovic’s lack of experience as a young father can make this adjustment difficult, but he still finished the 2014 season strongly, and his consistency is a valid reason why he will still be a threat in 2015.

    It is evident that the Big Four’s dominance in tennis may slowly be winding down, which gives hope for other players who have played under the shadow of the Big Four for most of their careers, such as Wawrinka and Cilic, to break through. The rise of other young stars is also prominent, with players like Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov all proving they can compete with the Big Four and can continue to produce at a high level. With concerns over Nadal’s fitness, Murray’s form, Federer’s age and Djokovic’s fatherhood, will 2015 hold the same fate?

    As always, time will tell.

    Braginan Vakeesan


  • Applying the Principle of Legitimacy to Mass Surveillance


    Over the past two years, the public has become aware of mass surveillance—warrant-less governmental surveillance of computer activity, phone, email, and other communications of millions of citizens and non-citizens. People accept and understand the need to intercept the communications of terrorists, but most (53% of Americans) feel that authorities have overreached and have been spying on too many innocent civilians or allies (for example the US has been spying on leaders of at least 35 countries including Israel, Brazil, and Germany) [1, 2]. Leaks to media explain exactly how agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) have also monitored millions of individuals [3]. Consequently, mainstream companies such as Apple have begun providing ways—such as encrypted phones—to evade this surveillance [4]. Mass surveillance however, is more effective and easier to do if the public accepts it, cooperates with it, and if corporations do not help people evade surveillance [5].

    In policing and crime theory, there is a “Principle of Legitimacy” that consists of three ideas: voice, procedural fairness, and trust [6, 7]. Voice refers to the idea that “the authority listens to me and uses this information to make the best possible decision”. In this case, it is rectification based on whistle blower information and whistle-blower protection. Fairness refers to a fair process in policing, and in the legal system. Trust refers to the idea that if a person is doing nothing wrong, the authority will “act fairly and benevolently in the future” [6]. Research and pilot projects have shown that legitimacy-based policing has reduced violent crime by 40-50% in more than 75 cities across the US [6, 8]. A common rebuttal is that legitimacy is unnecessary; only the perception is needed. President Obama knows otherwise, saying “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig” [9].

    The analogue to “voice” in mass surveillance programs is “whistle-blowing”. Whistle-blowing is when employees witness breaches of procedure or privacy, speak up, and try to resolve the breach. Whistle-blower support in mass surveillance programs should include protection from reprisal, independent ombudsmen who investigate misconduct reported by whistle-blowers, and an opportunity for rectification, similar to whistle-blower support in other government agencies.

    A recent example of whistle-blowing involves J. McGill, an employee at the Defence Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). The DCAA was contracted to audit a non-profit organization that had received $500 million from the federal government. The initial audit discovered this organization used taxpayer funds to pay for “extravagant Christmas parties, luxury foreign travel, and alcohol”—things that are expressly forbidden by law—but the DCAA “whitewashed” the final report, ignoring the initial audit [10]. McGill—as a whistle-blower— secretly reported the findings to members of Congress, and they have begun a formal Congressional investigation. McGill is protected from retaliation, and now he rests happy, knowing that this problem is being rectified. The government agency, by investigating this matter, is showing that they embody the principle of legitimacy.

    Procedural fairness, in mass surveillance, means due process in investigations, and in starting and stopping surveillance. The NSA has been criticized for “sweeping up phone records of millions of people who are under no suspicion at all,” and for going on “fishing expeditions” [11]. In other words, there is not enough procedural fairness in mass surveillance.

    In policing, fairness means due process, avoiding discrimination, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. This leads to more cooperation with police, and more compliance with laws [7]. Policing reports describe how reducing the number of “fishing expeditions” increases fairness, and ensures more cooperation from the public [12]. Studies show high levels of procedural fairness leads to 35% more cooperation with authorities than low levels of fairness [7]. Increasing fairness in mass surveillance will likely lead to similar results.

    Fairness and trust go hand in hand. Studies show that high fairness and trust leads to 56% more cooperation than low fairness and low trust [7]. The policing perspective of trust is showing that authorities care—about crime, about the people committing crimes, about the person’s family, and about the community. When police show that they can be benevolent and can be trusted, cooperation with police increases. Rather than being seen as a malicious force that at some point or another locks up 70% of black male high-school drop-outs born in the late seventies, police can be shown to help highly disadvantaged families with generations on the wrong side of the law by buying Thanksgiving turkeys for example). In a robbery intervention program for a New York city neighbourhood of 100,000 people, this kind of trust and legitimacy-based program reduced the robbery rate in that neighbourhood by 77% over five years, with steady decreases every single year [13].

    Some people think it is wrong to “go soft” on terrorists, and terrorism experts agree that while this kind of approach may not work for hardened terrorists, “there is quite a lot of evidence […] that this type of gang-intervention program can work, if you apply it to terrorists in the early stages of the radicalization process.” [14]. In mass surveillance, developing trust can involve statements from political and community leaders, supported by action from law-enforcement  and surveillance agencies.

    In conclusion, applying the principle of legitimacy— voice, fairness, trust—leads to less crime, and more cooperation with authorities in policing. In mass surveillance, it can similarly result in more cooperation with authorities, fewer terrorists, and make it easier to do more effective surveillance.

    Jannis Mei



    [1]D. Boyer, “NSA spying sours relations with Germany, Brazil,” Washington Post, 24 October 2014.
    [2]S. Page, “Poll: Most Americans now oppose the NSA program,” USA Today, 20 January 2014.
    [3]E. M. a. G. Dance, “NSA Files: Decoded,” The Guardian, 1 November 2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/nov/01/snowden-nsa-files-surveillance-revelations-decoded#section/1. [Accessed 29 November 2014].
    [4]J. Taylor, “Apple, Google encryption ‘not helping’ criminal investigation: AFP,” ZDNet, 27 November 2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.zdnet.com/au/apple-google-encryption-not-helping-criminal-investigation-afp-7000036174/. [Accessed 27 November 2014].
    [5]J. Bruce, “The Consequences of Permissive Neglect,” 28 June 2008. [Online]. Available: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol47no1/article04.html. [Accessed 29 November 2014].
    [6]T. Meares, “The Legitimacy of Police Among Young African-American Men,” Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository, vol. 92, no. 4, 2009.
    [7]D. D. C. Tom Tyler, “The Effects of Trust in Authority and Procedural Fairness on Cooperation,” Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 92, no. 3, pp. 639-649, May 2007.
    [8]D. Kennedy, “Drugs, Race and Common Ground: Reflections on the High Point Intervention,” National Institute of Justice Journal, no. 262, March 2009.
    [9]B. Smith, “Obama: ‘Lipstick on a pig’,” 9 September 2008. [Online]. Available: http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/0908/Obama_Lipstick_on_a_pig.html. [Accessed 29 November 2014].
    [10]K. Kindy, “Sens. Paul, Grassley challenge climate group’s spending on lobbying, alcohol and parties,” Washington Post, 18 September 2014.
    [11]“Secret FISA court tosses privacy overboard,” Chicago Sun Times, 8 July 2013.
    [12]Open Society Justice Initiative, “Addressing Ethnic Profiling by Police,” Open Society Institute, New York, 2009.
    [13]M. Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014.
    [14]J. Seabrook, “Don’t Shoot: A radical approach to the proglem of gang violence,” New Yorker, 22 June 2009.


  • Who Deserves to win the 2014 Ballon d’Or?


    2014 was a truly remarkable year for football that was highlighted by the dominant Germans winning the exhilarating World Cup in Brazil.  The group stage provided surprises such as Spain’s elimination as well as Costa Rica’s qualification in the last 16, at the expense of the European powerhouses, England and Italy. The biggest disappointment was Brazil’s capitulation in their 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi finals that sent shockwaves around the football world. In the club scene, Real Madrid finally won their 10th Champions League title through the dynamic trio of Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema and Atletico Madrid finally overcame Spanish Giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid, to win their first La Liga title in 18 years.

    There have been amazing individual accomplishments as well. FIFA has nominated Manuel Neuer, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon D’Or prize to recognize their outstanding performances in 2014. Who do you think deserves it the most? Lets evaluate each of the candidates and see who is a worthy winner of the prestigious prize.

    Manuel Neuersave3

    Manuel Neuer led Germany to World Cup victory and perfectly symbolized the German team: strong, decisive and commanding in the box. It’s very rare for a goalkeeper to make the shortlist, which is a testament to his form for Bayern Munich and Germany in 2014. He has made a number of key saves for Germany and has entertained audiences with his sweeper role and distribution of the ball to begin attacks. In a recent champions league tie with AS Roma, Manuel Neuer produced a string of impressive saves highlighted by a reflex save to deny Roma winger Gervinho from close range.

    His performance in goal helped Bayern Munich to a domestic double in 2013. Even though he disappointed in Bayern Munich’s biggest game against Real Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League, he still consistently showed throughout the year that he was top goalkeeper for the calendar year. This is further demonstrated by his form in the new campaign where he has conceded only 4 goals in 17 games. His excellent shot stopping skills that he produces on a regular basis has guided Bayern Munich and Germany to success.

    Lionel Messi


    The ‘Messiah’ started the calendar year nursing a hamstring injury which kept him out for 2 months. Since his recovery, he hasn’t looked back and continues to break individual records and is now the all-time leading scorer in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League. Despite not winning any silverware in 2014, Messi still managed to score 58 goals and 21 assists in 66 appearances for club and country while guiding Argentina to the World Cup final. Injuries have not helped his cause but his importance to Argentina and Barcelona was quite noticeable during his absence. He still produced vital goals and maintained an impressive goal scoring record when fit.  His goal against Iran in the 90-minute sealed Argentina’s qualification from the group stages and underlined his importance to the team.


    Messi, who is typically known for his individual skills and creativity, produced a moment of sheer brilliance in January by driving past Getafe’s backline and rounded the keeper to seal Barcelona’s victory.

    By his high standards, he has failed to replicate this form on a consistent basis. He is known for scoring 91 goals in 2012, the highest in a single year. The lack of silverware and not meeting his exceedingly high expectations may ultimately count against him for the prize.

    Cristiano Ronaldo

    FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

    2014 has been a superb year for the Madrid man where he has managed to score 61 goals and 22 assists. This is particularly impressive considering he isn’t a typical centre forward. He has also surpassed the 200 goals mark in La Liga with the fewest games possible and is slowly cementing his place in La Liga history. His instincts in the opposition box helped guide Real Madrid to their 10th Champions League title where he set a scoring record of 17 goals in the tournament. Ronaldo has also proven he can be deadly from long distance from his two stunning goals against Osasuna on which he has repeated on multiple occasions especially from free-kicks.

    Despite his remarkable statistics in club football, Ronaldo’s performances for Portugal in the 2014 World Cup, which ended in an early exit and a single goal to his name, may prove to be the deciding factor against him winning the Ballon d’Or prize. Much of it was due to humongous expectations placed on Ronaldo to lead the nation to success. To further complicated things, he had fitness problems upon entering the tournament. However, as always, it is always worth to see Ronaldo in the flesh as shown by the skills during the game against the USA.

    The Winner

    Of the 3 candidates, Manuel Neuer is the least likely to come away with the prize as contributions from goalkeepers are appreciated less. This is a shame as Neuer’s performances have been nothing short of perfect. The Ronaldo-Messi debate continues for the 7th consecutive year and it is fair to say Messi hasn’t reached the heights of 2012,even though he led Argentina to the World Cup final. Ronaldo remains the favorite for the coveted prize, and if last year’s Ballon d’Or win was controversial, this years prize will surely be deserved through his exploits in club football. This will be his 3rd title and one short of his biggest rival, Lionel Messi.

    Hussein Warfa


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