Your professional rep may be Unvarnished

In the new online world, everyone will have a smudge, wrote the Toronto Star April 16 in a story about Unvarnished, a new social Web site that allows unflattering comments about its members to stand as written. Reviewers’ identities are kept anonymous so they can speak without fear of retribution.

Professor Steve Bailey, director of the York-Ryerson Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture, says the genre’s anonymity can lead to hostility and bad humour.

But should Unvarnished be unsuccessful, other “reputational commentary” platforms will just take its place, Bailey says. “I don’t think this is a trend that’s going away,” Bailey says. “I think that one of the things that’s interesting…the legal system isn’t really equipped to deal with this sort of phenomenon, it’s playing catch-up with the technological changes.”

Biologist sleuths out what scientists describe as ‘extra-pair mating’

According to a York University biologist, monogamy isn’t big in the bird world, wrote the Toronto Star April 16. Instead, North American songbirds are as likely to cheat and leave their spouses as humans are, says biologist Bridget Stutchbury, a Distinguished Research Professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.

“Most of our migratory songbirds engage in what scientists call impassively ‘extra-pair mating’,” says the author of The Bird Detective, now in bookstores. “The human world uses words like ‘cheating’ and ‘cuckoldry’ and ‘infidelity’.”

Scientists discovered the extramarital canoodling in the early ’90s, via DNA paternity testing, but the evidence was always gathered after the fact.

In the Pennsylvania woods, Stutchbury saw it first-hand. Her team attached radio transmitters to the birds and trailed them in the dense brush, watching where the females and males went when they left the nest. “In the case of the hooded warbler, we’ve shown that females who have a male who doesn’t sing very much (are) the ones going off-territory,” said Stutchbury. “The male who actually sires the young (is) the neighbour who’s singing all the time.”

Is election period too long for Durham politicians?

Some say the time between when nominations open and the holding of a municipal election is too long, that it negatively impacts the dynamics of municipal councils, with debates and decisions driven more by good politics than good policy, wrote the Durham Business Times April 15.

“I think the campaign is too long and does interfere with the functioning of councils,” said Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies who has called for wide-ranging municipal election reforms, including the need to ban corporate, developer and union contributions.

Given candidates can – though not all do – collect donations from developers and others with a vested interest in the process, “raising money mode can be a period of influence for donors,” contends MacDermid.

Early in 2010, the province announced a number of municipal election reforms, including shortening the campaign period by a few weeks, from early November to late October. But that’s not much of a reform, MacDermid said.

Mossavat named coach of York women’s soccer

York University has a new women’s soccer coach and Peyvand Mossavat didn’t have to move very far, wrote the Toronto Star April 16. At Ryerson, the former Ontario University Athletics coach of the year was the Rams’ all-time leader in coaching wins.

Juno on his mind

York grad Sean Woolven (BA Hons. ’05) is confident that, win or lose, his parents will continue to be his No. 1 fans after Sunday’s Juno Awards show is over, wrote the Belleville Intelligencer April 16.

The Belleville native and his band, The Most Serene Republic, have opted to drive to St. John’s, Nfld., for Canada’s premier award show this weekend. The ride back might be more enjoyable if the indie-rock band wins the coveted Video of the Year Award for its latest single Heavens to Purgatory, from their third studio album, …And The Ever Expanding Universe.

“This is as big as it gets for us,” Woolven said. “That’s like our Grammys.”

Grad student’s work reveals possible survey error

Regarding the statistics on educational attainment in downtown neighbourhoods: my daughter, a PhD candidate who has interviewed many people in the course of her research work at York University, wonders if immigrant degrees are taken into account, wrote Karin Treff in a letter to The Hamilton Spectator April 16 in response to a story on a local research study.

During her research, she discovered that many of the people she talked to did have university degrees that are not recognized in Canada.

Tough but fair judge remembered

As a little girl waiting in the Lindsay courthouse hallways, Lauren Corindia remembers hearing people talk about how tough, but fair, her mother “Justice Johnston” was, wrote The Peterborough Examiner April 16.

Madam Justice Karen Johnston (LLB ’78) died at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay on Wednesday. She was 61. She was admitted to hospital on April 1 after a stroke. Madam Justice Johnston was born in Toronto and attended Osgoode Hall Law School.

Mother, daughter create unique works of art

Corrine Donnelly, 61, prefers the blues and purples of watercolours to complement her nature and fairy fantasies, while daughter Christine Donnelly (BDes Spec. Hons. ’04), 34, elects elongated female forms against dramatic reds in oils and acrylics to convey the attitudes her works capture, wrote the Bradford West Gwillimbury Topic April 15 in a story about the mother-daughter art team.

“I prefer watercolour, but I love to play with Photoshop,” Corrine said, adding she uses the program to experiment with digitally altering and enhancing what she creates with a brush and paint. “But I’m just touching the surface. If I get stuck, I just call Christine,” Corrine said.

Lucky for her, Christine is a graphic designer and graduate of the York-Sheridan Joint Program in Design. “I do lots of digital works. It’s kind of mixing work and play,” Christine said.

Decorate your house and help beat cancer

A local student and a local decorating business are joining forces for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, wrote the Richmond Hill Liberal April 15. Jordan Lupo, studying kinesiology at York University, will celebrate his 21st birthday April 22. His proud family – especially mother Marisa Lupo – is using his birthday to help him kick off his fundraising campaign in support of a 200-kilometre ride he is doing in June in support of Princess Margaret Hospital.

Cyclists like Lupo, participating in The Ride to Conquer Cancer, will pedal from Toronto to Niagara Falls and each person must achieve a fundraising goal of $2,500.

On air

  • Joel Lexchin, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, spoke about the government of Ontario’s plan to cut generic drug costs on BNN-TV April 14.