Everyone’s iNsane over iPods

There’s a woman in Montreal who treats her iPod like the baby she could never have. It’s a girl and it wears outfits knitted with the love and care usually reserved for human babies, reported the Calgary Herald June 4. There’s a fellow in Toronto who lost his iPod and, like dominoes going down, it set off the collapse of his entire life – leaving him fired from his job and dumped by his girlfriend. These are among the stories discovered by Markus Giesler, professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business, who has earned the moniker iPod professor in Canada for his research titled, iPod, therefore I am. The stories demonstrate Giesler’s contention that the lines are blurring between our technologies and us, so much so that he says they are altering the very social fabrics of our lives and our identities. “This all makes it clear how intimately we are connected to these technologies. It is hard to figure out where the person ends and the technology begins,” said Giesler. “I call this whole thing techno transcendence. It describes the way we transcend our existence as consumers by connecting with technologies like the iPod.”

No sympathy for graduands penalized for not paying parking fines

“Your article angered me as a York alumnus, not because I had any sympathy for the three graduates mentioned but rather that they were portrayed as victims of injustice,” wrote Chris Pakkidis (BA ’03) in a letter to the Toronto Star June 6 regarding a story that appeared in the June 3 issue. “The real victims are the thousands of staff, students and faculty who rightfully pay parking permits and take public transit every year and who thus subsidize these individuals so they can park freely and illegally. To add insult to injury, Councillor Howard Moscoe urges students ‘to take their own legal action.’ I think I speak for many alumni, staff, students and faculty when I say that Moscoe should stay out of York’s business. Congratulations to York for ensuring that those who try and beat the system at the expense of others will inevitably pay the piper.”

Drugs treated ‘as commodities, laundry detergent

In a June 6 Toronto Star story about Dr. Paul Walfish’s battle to supply his thyroid patients with a drug necessary for treatment which the American-based manufacturer has refused to ship to Canada, Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor at York’s School of Health Policy & Management, said the problem is that “drugs are being treated as commodities, like laundry detergent.” He believes that Health Canada takes a passive role because Ottawa fears the big drug companies and retaliation by the US government. Besides, he notes, imposing restrictions on manufacturers at this stage may not even be legal under the terms of recent trade deals, including the North American Free Trade Agreement. Still, Lexchin argues that being passive is the “wrong way to go.” (The drug is made in Canada under a subcontract.) It may not be easy, says Lexchin, but Ottawa could conceivably impose requirements that if a company is going to build its plant in Canada (with ensuing tax and labour benefits), then it must assure Canadian supply of the product. “I think you could make a strong argument for having special provisions for securing access to drugs,” Lexchin said. “Whether the government is willing to do it is another matter. Basically their attitude has been, ‘tough luck’.”

Getting back to a better way for York

In a June 4 story about how the Toronto Transit Commission could use the extra $200 million in federal gas tax earmarked for transit, the Toronto Star mentioned two busways already in the works, including one from Downsview station to York University through a hydro corridor. The newspaper also quoted Gord Perks of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, who said, “We could build the York University subway and complete the Sheppard subway out to Scarborough Town Centre, for a cost of about $3 billion. Or we could build a 200-kilometre network of light rail throughout the city for about $3 billion. So you could have three or four more subway stops, or a network of surface transit.”

Small claims, big headaches

When the no-nonsense Judge Judy hands down her judgment after hearing the plaintiff and defendant argue their case, television viewers see the swift hand of justice in action, reported the Scarborough Mirror June 5 in a story on the small claims court system. “The judgment is half the job,” said Glenn Stuart, clinic director of the Community & Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP) at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Case preparation is part of the process which can be just as frustrating as the matter of the civil dispute itself. “It’s not as readily understandable as it’s supposed to be,” Stuart said. “Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t understand.”

CLASP is one of the few legal clinics in Toronto that still represents cases in small claims court because of the difficulty that clients encounter before appearing in front of the judge. “The number of forms are huge. It can be very demanding,” said Stuart, adding that some of the terminology used can be confusing for the average person.

Politics may hinder move to single securities regulator

Ontario is pushing ahead with its quest for a national securities regulator, unveiling Friday a panel led by former Imasco chief Purdy Crawford to develop a new model by the fall, reported the Toronto Star June 4. Canada is the only developed country without a national regulator. The federal government’s Wise Persons Committee in 2003 recommended a single regulator, but regional differences led to a stalemate. “Politics, is one issue,” law professor Poonam Puri said of why consensus has not been reached. Puri, a faculty member at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, was an independent researcher on the Wise Persons Committee. “Going from multiple to a single regulator will mean a loss of jobs. No province wants to do that. And there’s a perception that there are major differences in regional capital markets.” There are also concerns that a single regulator won’t be sensitive to smaller issuers and businesses in different sectors, said Puri. Ontario has been a proponent of a single regulating body, but has often faced resistance from other provinces because of a perception it would dominate a national regulator because it has a high share of the country’s capital market.

Making builders part of the planning process

Can’t afford a single-family home in Vancouver? Move to the suburbs. That philosophy, according to a prominent Canadian business professor, is old school, wrote Peter Simpson, chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association, in the Vancouver Sun June 4. James McKellar, associate dean at York’s Schulich School of Business, has written a report, Pull, Don’t Push, addressing growth in the Greater Toronto Area that should be required reading for municipal planners and politicians, wrote Simpson.

McKellar said the next 50 years will not be like the last 50 because the old model no longer works. “It was predicated on three things: Inexpensive land [grow out before you grow up] use of the automobile to get to less expensive land [drive until you qualify], and cashing in on growth [municipalities collecting the cash and deferring the costs]. What is happening now is the cost [time and money] of moving people and goods by traditional means is accelerating, land is much more expensive and municipalities are now stuck with the costs and have no cash [worst of both worlds],” he said.

McKellar believes the issues of greenfield growth and intensification are interconnected, as well as the issues of intensification and transit investment. He endorses the promotion of communities that are built at density levels and with designs that are transit-supportive. But he says builders must know beforehand where expansions to transit systems will be located. And it must be obvious to home buyers as to where and when transit will be built, and in what forms. “Future residents must be convinced that public transit is a viable alternative to the automobile when they move into their new transit-oriented forms of housing. The promise of transit service must be met with the reality of transit service,” said McKellar.

Man behind Homolka hearing is a meticulous risk-taker

A June 4 Toronto Star profile of Michael Bryant, attorney general of Ontario and the victor in the battle to rein convicted killer Karla Homolka in when she’s released from prison next month, mentioned that he is a 1992 silver medalist from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, a Fulbright Fellow at Harvard, former clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and law lecturer at the University of London in Britain.

Academic publishers teach mainstream ones a lesson

John Fraser, master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, waxed ecstatic about this year’s huge Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences – formerly and somewhat snottily known as the “Learned Societies”, he observed – at the University of Western Ontario, in The Globe and Mail June 4. The former editor of Saturday Night particularly enjoyed a panel of academic editors: “Academic writing, of course, is its own special species, and poking fun at dense scholarly prose is always fun. But good academic writing and good academic editors constitute a kind of bulwark in the whole literary firmament, especially as trade and mainstream publishing in Canada becomes harder to penetrate. The four editors on the panel were full of useful tips and warnings, and it was instructive to see how many seasoned academics were taking copious notes like terrified freshmen.” Next year, “when the congress moves to York University in Toronto for May 2006, you’ll find me in the book room – still browsing, and probably transported.”

Few intervene who watch bullying: study

In a June 5 story about a pioneering program using infants to teach elementary school students not to bully, the Vancouver Courier cited a Canadian study by York University and Queen’s University. The study demonstrates that, although we tend to think of bullying as an underground activity conducted by a few bad kids, other kids are watching bullying incidents 85 to 88 per cent of the time. What’s worse is that the kids watching only intervened on behalf of the victims 11 per cent of the time, and 20 per cent of those watching helped the bully.

On air

  • Carmen Sanchez, political science lecturer and researcher with the York Centre for International & Security Studies, discussed whether there is a connection between movies such as Gladiator, Troy and Alexander and the direction that US foreign policy is taking, on CHQR-FM’s “The World Tonight” in Calgary June 2.
  • Jennifer Eramo, who is about to graduate with a BA in kinesiology and health science from York, was featured in a news piece about testing the physical fitness of National Hockey League picks, on City-tv’s “CityPulse Tonight” June 3.