Renting may be better than buying for young people, says Milevsky

Moshe Milevsky, professor of finance at York’s Schulich School of Business, says renting is the better way to go for twenty- and thirty-somethings, reported the Calgary Herald Sept. 24 in a story about the hot Calgary real estate market. He likes to compare buying a house to investing in stocks and says a home is a poorly diversified investment. “Sure, if I could buy a bathroom in Calgary and a bedroom in Vancouver and maybe a kitchen in Halifax, I’d be diversified but I can’t do that,” said Milevsky. He dismisses the idea that you have to get in now before the price goes up. “(If you) look at someone who buys a house with zero per cent down and pays off the mortgage after 20 years, they’ve paid for three times the value of the house,” said Milevsky. If you’re planning to sell in a couple of years, commissions on buying and selling a house aren’t small and all of these things don’t make sense for a 25 or 30 year old, he said. “Unless you’re absolutely convinced that you want to live on that street for the next 15 years of your life in that house, you’re taking a risk,” Milevsky added.

Canada not ready for disasters

While Canadian cities may not face the same hurricane and flood dangers, there is no shortage of catastrophic threats here, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 24. And Canada isn’t ready. “I don’t think we’re really prepared for the big one. And in many ways our society is becoming more vulnerable over time, not less vulnerable,” said David Etkin, who, as coordinator of the emergency management program at York University, has spent lots of time thinking about how things can go terribly wrong in nice, safe Canadian cities. Etkin says relatively little has been done to harden infrastructure and most defences that are in place – dikes, floodways, zoning restrictions and building code standards – are inadequate to guard against extreme events. “It’s just a question of when, not if,” Etkin said. “We don’t have the particular vulnerability that New Orleans had, but I don’t think we’re better prepared. If we got hit by one of our worst-case scenarios, we’d be totally overwhelmed.”

Say cheese, car thief

An act of late-night automotive sabotage sparked a team of York University student engineers to create the paranoid car owner’s best friend, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 24. Their alarm system, as yet unnamed, e-mails you a picture of the criminal who scratches or steals your car. It was designed by Mina Gendi, Tristan Carvelho, Eugene Oulman and Quingyang Kong as a class project after Gendi’s car was vandalized in a York University parking lot. The team’s alarm uses a pair of tiny cameras that are triggered by sensors that detect motion around a vehicle. Images from the cameras are stored on a hard drive inside the car and sent to the owner’s cellphone. The prototype was built using scrounged parts, including an impact sensor the team found on a toy inside a cereal box. Kong says there are no plans to patent or market the system, because of financial limitations imposed by their student status and the fact that today’s cars lack the onboard computer system required to make the alarm function. “We think that in the future, all cars will have computers,” he said. “But the future isn’t here yet.”

Rolling Stones put their mouth where the money is

The designer of the Rolling Stones’ lips-and-tongue logo should be proud, says Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, in The Globe and Mail Sept. 26. “It just caught. One of the key things in those early days of the Stones was one, they’re the rebels. And two, Mick Jagger’s lips. So it exaggerated one of the key aspects of the starring performer, and then it just got repeated over the years.”

Polar bear hunt could lead to extinction

In a Sept. 24 letter to the National Post, York third-year geography student Nanci Malika, wrote: “Information collected in 1997 indicates that more than 80 per cent of polar bears in the world reside in Canada. Out of the 19 discrete polar bear populations, 14 occur exclusively in Canada. There have been indications that a large population in Baffin Bay is declining dramatically in size. Because females can only breed (on average) every 3.6 years, the reproductive rate for polar bears is very low. This means that populations cannot recover quickly when their numbers decrease. The doubling time for a typical population is 24 years – so a shrunken population would require decades to recover. With a raised quota of 28 per cent in Nunavut, allowing hunters to shoot 115 more bear, we should not be shocked if polar bears go extinct soon.”

“To make Canada a safer place, it actually requires cultural change,” said Etkin. “It requires a change in the way people think about these hazards. We need to work towards making disaster resilience a way of thinking that people have when people think about how they live and where they live.” He says Canada has been lucky to avoid a mega-disaster so far. “We shouldn’t feel smug. If you feel smug you are dooming yourself.”.

Alumni launch tabloid in Toronto

Documenting a hunt for albino squirrels in Trinity Bellwoods one Sunday this summer was the Toronto Special, a free, bi-monthly Toronto tabloid, reported the National Post Sept. 24. The Toronto Special was born at York’s Glendon College, where J.J. O’Rourke and classmate Robert Shaw were editors on Pro Tem, the school’s student newspaper. Having spent months studying the archives of mid-20th-century Toronto tabloids such as Hush, Midnight and TAB, O’Rourke (BA ’03 in philosophy) and Shaw (BA ’02 in creative writing) decided to try and transpose the esthetic and philosophy of faded yellow journalism into the 21st century. “One of the things we’re really trying to bring back to the Toronto community is that sense of ownership between the reader and the story,” said O’Rourke, the lanky, tattooed, 28-year-old executive editor.

Call from York provokes questions about living together

“I’ve always personally believed a marriage would be healthier if the couple lived together first,” wrote Kingston Whig-Standard columnist Sarah Crosbie Sept. 24. “But then I got a phone call from York University wanting to know if I’d be interested in doing a story on a sociologist who’s published a new report on marriage. Professor Anne-Marie Ambert found that I may already be heading for the big D even though I’m not married yet. People still think it’s good for a marriage to cohabit first, but in fact, cohabitation isn’t a trial marriage. It’s entirely false that cohabitation is good for marriage,’ she says in her release about her report. In fact, Ambert goes on to say that living together before marriage could increase the risk of divorce.”

‘Elvis Priestley’ to bring his message to town

It’s time to put on your blue-suede shoes and get all shook up as Elvis Priestley, also known as ordained clergyman Dorian Baxter, will visit St. Mark’s Anglican Church on Sept. 30, reported the Midland Penetang Mirror Sept. 23. With signature sideburns, he sings Elvis his way, adding a Christian twist to attracting people to worship. Baxter was born in Kenya and came to Canada in 1968, attending teacher’s college, York University (BA ’78 in humanities) and the University of Toronto. Baxter became an ordained clergyman in 1983 and currently heads Christ the King, Graceland, Independent Anglican Church of Canada in Newmarket. Baxter has been seen on NBC, CNN, CTV, CBC and ABC. Closer to home, Elvis Priestley has proved popular at the Collingwood Elvis Festival where he took home awards two years in a row.

On air

  • Graham Orpwood, professor in York’s Faculty of Education, participated in a panel discussion about Ontario’s high-school dropout rate and what should be done to the curriculum to keep people in school longer, on TVO’s “More To Life” Sept. 23.
  • History Prof. Thabit Abdullah Sam, of York’s Faculty of Arts, took part in a panel discussion on women in the Muslim world, the international concern for the Iranian nuclear program, and Afghanistan’s election, on TVO’s “Diplomatic Immunity” Sept. 23.