‘We’re in a golden age of geospacial mapping’

Both Google Earth and rival Microsoft Virtual Earth are moving into 3D imaging for consumer and business applications, wrote The Edmonton Journal Nov. 17. Virtual Earth 3D, launched only last week, adds an oblique, or side angle, to the current aerial look of a cityscape or building, and will soon be adding street-level photographs, said Virtual Earth director Vincent Tao, Canada Research Chair in Geomatics in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. “We’re working hard to improve the data, and you’ll be able to integrate it into your own applications.”

Despite the attention Google Earth is getting, Microsoft has been deeply into mapping since Encarta was launched in 1995, said Tao, whose three-year-old 3D mapping company GeoTango was bought by the software giant last year. “Virtual Earth is way more than online mapping. It extends into the real world of immersive local search, navigation, entertainment and social networking,” he said.

Tao believes Microsoft’s strong support and the best rich content available will give Virtual Earth an edge with business users. And with online advertising predicted to grow dramatically in the next five years, there is some money to be made, he said. “We are definitely in the golden age of geospacial mapping.”

Justice minister is asking for trouble, says Monahan

If Justice Minister Vic Toews was looking for a fight over the best way to choose the country’s 1,000 federally appointed judges, he’s got one, reported Canadian Press Nov. 16. Toews is taking a pounding from the legal community over a plan – announced with little consultation and virtually no public warning – to give police a say in vetting applicants for the bench. At best, the critics see the Toews plan as flawed. At worst, they fear it’s the start of a campaign by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to pack the courts with right-wing jurists.

Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, won’t go that far. But he believes that letting police play a role in vetting judges could put the government on a slippery slope. Monahan predicts it wouldn’t be long before other groups – victims of crime, prisoners’ rights advocates, feminists, aboriginals – all demanded to play a part in the process. “It’s the first step toward politicization,” says Monahan. “Then the exercise becomes one of trying to balance all these different perspectives…I think the minister is asking for more trouble than he wants.'”

Lights! Camera! Sex!

On Tuesday, the Sun tagged along with a group of first-year film students from York University for a public Ontario Film Review Board screening of a major Hollywood release, wrote The Ottawa Sun & The Toronto Sun Nov. 17. We can’t identify the film, but we can tell you what we learned about the process: That it’s subjective but democratic, often clinical, and that nothing takes the steam out of a celluloid love scene like taking notes while trying to differentiate between implied and simulated sexual activity.

Three minutes into our film, there is a scene with full frontal nudity. The York students are quiet as the OFRB reviewers snap to action, scribbling notes at small desks equipped with dim table lamps. They observe that the nudity is non-sexual and shot at a distance, which means this film, for the time being, is still eligible for a G (general) rating.

York researcher works for Taiwan missionary’s recognition in Canada

Rev. George Leslie Mackay is a hero in Taiwan, and some Canadian academics would like this former Oxford County resident to gain a higher profile in his home country, reported the Woodstock Sentinel-Review Nov. 17. “He’s very big in Taiwan,” said Michael Stainton, research associate at York University’s Centre for Asian Research and secretary of the Canadian Mackay Committee. “We’re trying to get him recognized in Canada.”

Born in Zorra Township in 1844, Mackay became a medical doctor and missionary who founded the first Western hospital in Northern Taiwan. Stainton said that Mackay didn’t get the recognition he deserved in the history books. “In Canada…missionaries have been whitewashed out of the picture,” he said. “He’s recognized in Taiwan as a hero.” In 1997, Stainton hosted a three-day academic conference designed to educate and enlighten his peers about the virtues and accomplishments of Mackay.

Graduate student writes about Natives’ trip to an Australian rodeo

Back in 1939, eight Canadian natives and a Mountie travelled to Australia to take part in a rodeo competition at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, reported the Peterborough Examiner Nov. 17. That little-known nugget of Canadian history is at the heart of a new book by York graduate student Lynda Mannik, who’ll read from her work Monday in Lakefield, Ont. Entitled Canadian Indian Cowboys in Australia, the book grew out of Mannik’s master’s thesis at Trent University in Canadian and Native studies. She came across the story when she found a Canadian government document in the Trent archives dealing with the Australian trip.

Newspaper and radio reports of the day help explain why: the cowboys did a number of one-on-one newspaper interviews and used that platform to speak about their pride in representing Canada and their native cultures. “They tried to dispel those stereotypes through those interviews, and that comes through in the press reports,” says Mannik, who’s now working on her PhD at York.

Macdonald letter was tongue-in-cheek, says graduate student

A letter penned by former prime minister Sir John A. Macdonald after one of his greatest political triumphs is being placed on the auction block and could soon find itself overseas, reported the National Post Nov. 17. Macdonald wrote the letter to Henry Sumner Maine, an English legal theorist, shortly after the passage of the British North America Act in 1867. “I sail in four days for Canada with the act uniting all British North America in my pocket,” Macdonald wrote on April 9, 1867. “A brilliant future would certainly await us were it not for those wretched Yankees who hunger & thirst for Naboth’s field.”

York graduate student Jon Sufrin said “Naboth’s field” is a biblical allusion about “the stealing of one’s birthright.” “He’s saying the Americans want to take something that isn’t theirs – that they want to steal colonies that don’t belong to them,” said Sufrin, a history lecturer with expertise in post-Confederation Canada and Macdonald’s political legacy. While Macdonald’s concern over American designs on Canadian soil were genuine, Sufrin said Canada’s first leader wrote the letter in a “tongue-and-cheek” fashion and displayed his legendary wit.

Distracted professors skim rather than digging deep

The majority of university professors report they skim sources for useful bits of information and don’t read as deeply and reflectively as they once did, reported CanWest News Nov. 17. The survey of faculty from across the country, conducted by Carleton University’s Heather Menzies and Janice Newson of York University, suggests about the same number – two-thirds – also aren’t reading as thoughtfully as they would like.

The survey indicates most professors (58 per cent) said their ability to stay focused on their work had decreased, with many noting they’re distracted by the increased amount of information and communication coming at them. The sociologists argue this drift toward superficiality, a byproduct of the online infrastructure permeating campus culture, is a disastrous development.

“There is an urgency for academics to take up these issues because of what they portend for the future of the university as a site of creative and critical reflection,” Menzies and Newson write in the forthcoming edition of Academic Matters: The Journal of Higher Education.

Retailer liable to purchaser for defective product

Wednesday’s story on the problems associated with consumer warranties was welcome, wrote Iain Ramsay, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a letter to the Toronto Star Nov. 17. It did not, however, accurately describe consumers’ legal rights in Ontario concerning defective products and consequently understated the potential consumer detriment arising from the sale of these warranties.

Under the Ontario Sale of Goods Act, a retailer is legally liable to a purchaser for a defective product, Ramsay wrote. The legal standard is that goods must be merchantable and reasonably fit for their purpose. Under section 9 (3) of the Consumer Protection Act 2002 these obligations of the retailer may not be excluded or waived when selling to a consumer. Any attempt to do so is of no legal effect. Retailers therefore have primary legal responsibility to purchasers. It is well-known that the sale of extended warranties by retailers is highly profitable. Warranties are usually sold aggressively and consumers often lack the necessary information to make an optimal decision.

Alumni film attracts US studio interest in remake

Here’s a success story, wrote The Globe and Mail Nov. 17. Writer-producer Michael Sparaga (BFA ‘96), former film student in York’s Department of Film & Video, Faculty of Fine Arts, maxed out his line of credit to pay the $35,000 needed to make a remarkably self-assured feature film based in Toronto, directed by film-school roommate Blake Van De Graaf (BFA ‘95). It helps that the script for Sidekick had a concept so ingenious that US interests are already seeking to remake it. It also helps that every element of the film – acting, direction, photography and particularly Matt Judge’s musical score – sustains a mood of giddy apprehension; no remake needed.

The Central Tech connection

Former York Lions assistant coach Mike Benevides was featured in a story about the Grey Cup in The Toronto Sun Nov. 17. There aren’t a lot of Canadian coaches in the CFL; aren’t a lot of opportunities for them. “I feel like I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world,” said Benevides, who played junior college football in California, came home to help coach at Central Tech High School, was an assistant at York University, a guest coach at the BC Lions’ camp and was an unpaid volunteer for a year. “Sometimes, you have to invest in your future,” said Wally Buono, the Lions’ head coach. “Mike was a successful businessman. He just felt football was his calling. “I was so impressed with him, as a person, and secondly as an organizer, and as a coach, that I hired him.”