Golden advice from a mining magnate

Philanthropist Seymour Schulich has a business school named after him at York University, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 22. But when it comes to giving career advice, the former stock analyst who struck it rich with his gold company in Nevada is anything but academic.

In Get Smarter, written with The Globe and Mail‘s business columnist, Derek DeCloet, he ladles out homespun wisdom in two-to-four-page crisply written, anecdote-laden chapters aimed at 30- to 40-year-olds, but golden at any age.

Picking a field to invest in is simple, says Schulich. Go for a business with high profit margins since the jobs usually pay more, have fewer layoffs and bankruptcies, and are less stressful. He spent a good chunk of his life in oil and mining, where the great advantage is that you can double or triple the value of a company with one drill hole. "No other industry can create wealth as rapidly," he observes.

But stay away from foreign oil plays, where you can run into expropriation. Closer to home, given the poor margins, he warns against airlines, auto parts, retailing, biotechnology, grocery stores, chemicals, wholesaling, machinery manufacturing, paper and forest products, auto manufacturing, restaurants, appliance manufacturing, trucking, any manufacturing competing with China, and telecom service.

  • Seymour Schulich, a 67-year-old Canadian billionaire, is keen to give lessons on life and business, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 22, in its review of his new book. Get Smarter is hot off the presses and selling like gangbusters, wrote the Star. Yesterday, it was number one at the Web site and number three at – trailing only the latest Harry Potter saga and a novel about Afghanistani women, A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Schulich is now a philanthropist, having given $25 million to several educational institutions – including York University’s Schulich School of Business. The book, too, is a form of philanthropy, since he hopes to be a mentor to 100,000 young people (and he’s donating the profits to the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation).

All-Canadian Mars mission planned for 2009

A network of Canadian universities plans to launch an all-Canadian mission to Mars in 2009, using corporate funding to build a robot that will search for water and life on the Red Planet, wrote CanWest News Service Aug. 22.

Northern Light plans to use the same launch method that satellites use: A commercial rocket, likely a very reliable type called Rockot, made from converted Soviet ballistic missiles. But the spacecraft that flies on to Mars, and likely the mission control for the period after it lands on Mars, would be all Canadian, with headquarters at York University in Toronto. The price: an estimated $20 million, or possibly less if another country shares the rocket. NASA’s Mars Phoenix mission, now underway, costs US$420 million.

Project leader Ben Quine, director of space engineering in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, said the Canadians can do a smaller and far cheaper mission than NASA by manufacturing their own machinery "in-house" at universities, testing them there as well, and designing a smaller robot.

York is also the lead university for a Canadian package of instruments on board NASA’s current Mars Phoenix spacecraft, wrote CanWest. York also has one big advantage: its own testing facility to "qualify" hardware for space. Next month, the York team will publicly test the entry, descent and landing system (EDLS), dropping a prototype lander from a helicopter to simulate landing on Mars.

Space shuttle Endeavour brings home York experiment

Space shuttle Endeavour, which prepared to come home Tuesday, carries a York University experiment that aims to solve the hand-eye coordination problems experienced by astronauts in space, wrote the North York Mirror Aug. 21. Barry Fowler, a neuroscientist in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, is researching the causes of this reduction in hand-eye coordination, with an experiment called Perceptual Motor Deficits in Space (PMDIS).

"While in microgravity, astronauts have a harder time reaching and pointing to objects than when they are on Earth. This could be critical in emergency situations," he says. Fowler says space shuttle pilots and payload operators need quick and accurate hand-eye co-ordination to manoeuvre objects in space.

Canada must demand justice for journalists

The assassination of prominent journalists Ali Iman Sharmarke, a Somali Canadian, and his colleague, Mahad Ahmed Elmi, in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Aug. 11 is a deliberate attempt by those behind the killings to stifle freedom of speech in Somalia and intimidate progressive journalists known for their neutrality, wrote Farid Omar, a research associate at the Centre for International & Security Studies at York University, in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star Aug. 22.

This cowardly attack will not prevent efforts by Somali Canadians and the entire global Somali community to bring peace to their beleaguered nation, wrote Omar. It will not silence the independent voices of dedicated journalists who work in difficult and often dangerous conditions to expose ongoing war crimes in Somalia by informing the Somali public, Canada and the world of the atrocities directed at the civilian population.

York student gives back to community

With the start of a new school year just around the corner, Tamara Gordon wanted to give back to the community that had seen the York student through her darkest hours, wrote the North York Mirror Aug. 21. The 21-year-old was left paralyzed from the waist down after a 2002 high school ski trip accident, which also left her unable to use her dominant left hand and an onset of diabetes left her vision impaired. Gordon spent two months in the hospital before transferring to Toronto Rehab’s Lyndhurst Centre in the Bayview and Eglinton avenues area for spinal cord rehabilitation from April to August 2002.

Starting her fifth year in administrative studies next month at York, she plans to study family law after graduation, she said. But before Gordon, who also works as a customer relations coordinator for TD Canada Trust, gets settled into classroom mode, she will host a back-to-school event Saturday, complete with a barbecue and free school supplies donated by local businesses for students in her apartment building heading back to school. Gordon, who organized a similar event last year, said she wanted to give back to her community.

In addition to helping students ease back to class, Gordon, a recipient of more than 40 awards and scholarships, also started a volunteer program in her building for high school students looking to earn volunteer hours for graduation.

York student is the first from her town to be crowned as CNE ambassador

York student Brittany Graul is the first Milverton Fair Ambassador to be crowned ambassador at the Canadian National Exhibition, wrote the Stratford Beacon-Herald Aug. 21. Graul, 19, won the CNE’s ambassador competition Sunday. About 75 men and women between 18 and 25 who had won at their local fairs took part in the three-day competition. "I was very surprised. I’m very excited. It’s been really awesome so far," Graul said by cellphone between engagements at the annual fair. Graul attends York University where she is studying political science and law & society.

On air

  • Kathy Young, a geography professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about a new project on climate change and the Arctic, on CBC Radio (Iqaluit, NWT), Aug. 21.