Librarians protest Canada cutbacks

A move by the Canadian government to shrink the number of its departmental research libraries is drawing fire from some academics. . . . Government scientists, university researchers, and librarians say the manner of the downsizing, which they charge was conducted with little consultation, contradicts government reassurances that taxpayer-funded reports and research documents would be preserved and digitized for online access. “We have no real assurances, other than them telling us so, that things have not been lost,” said John Dupuis, head of York University’s Steacie Science and Technology Library, in the New York Times Jan. 26. “It does not look like they are doing as much as they could have to make sure things were not lost.” Read full story.

Ottawa’s $14B infrastructure promise: Too little, too late?
While the next federal budget is expected to be unveiled in February, there is yet to be any movement of money on a much-touted $14-billion infrastructure program for Canadian urban centres announced in the previous budget. . . . There are some concerns that the Canada Building Fund being spread over a 10-year period, represents “a paltry sum of money that really doesn’t address the bigger problems of infrastructure in our urban areas,” said James McKellar, head of infrastructure studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business, in the Financial Post Jan. 26. “They’re looking at the low-lying fruit – build a new building at a university, that sort of thing. But it really doesn’t address the bigger problems of infrastructure in our urban areas. That is what is really affecting our economy and affecting productivity. . . . To really tackle infrastructure, I think you need a lot more money.” Read full story.

Kinetic Café to help Schulich students launch startups
Students at York University’s Schulich School of Business who want to launch a startup will now be able to do so with the help of innovation consulting firm Kinetic Café, reported the Financial Post Jan. 25. The Toronto-based firm’s co-founders and senior executives – made up of digital industry veterans – will be working with interested undergraduate, MBA and executive MBA students conceptualize and launch businesses. Read full story.

Amazon puts (shopping) cart before the horse
The Seattle-based e-commerce giant is quietly proposing a system that would send packages on their way to customers before they actually order them. . . . “They are already doing it to an extent,” said Murat Kristal, a supply chain and operations management expert at York University’s Schulich School of Business, in the Toronto Star Jan. 25. Kristal says the same computer and statistical models the company uses to recommend items that a customer “may” want can be taken a step further and allow Amazon to assume that he or she “will” desire them – and that an order is imminent. Read full story.

Postal workers rally in Ottawa against cuts to jobs and services
In December, Canada Post announced door-to-door mail service would be phased out over the next five years, instead changing to delivery to community mail boxes. Those changes mean up to 8,000 Canada Post employees are expected to lose their jobs, reported CTV Montreal Jan. 26. . . . Workers’ unions for across the country are standing in support of the postal workers; a fact political scientist Bruce Hicks said won’t necessarily work in their favour. “Being tough on unions, being tough on over-privileged government employees, is actually a good thing for a Conservative government to be seen to be doing. The only thing that would stop this now is if the public itself got upset,” said Hicks, a visiting Fellow at the Glendon School of Public & International Affairs. Read full story.

A new era of extinction is here
“Thinking Extinction”, a first-of-its-kind symposium held last November at Sudbury’s Laurentian University, brought together leading researchers, biologists, and philosophers from Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand to address a range of approaches to this burgeoning extinction crisis. Over three days of presentations, the philosophical and scientific challenges inherent in conservation were debated, reported the Tyee Jan. 25. Bridget Stutchbury, a biology professor at Toronto’s York University, discussed how the imminent “death” of many species combined with limited conservation capacity has led some conservationists to use medical metaphors like “triage” as a framework for making decisions. Developed in mass casualty situations, triage is the process used to determine the priority of a patient’s treatment based on the severity of their condition. Read full story.

Make sure Walmart obeys its return policy: Roseman
Don Thompson gave his daughter a $260 Nintendo Wii U game console as a pre-Christmas gift. She took it back to the store on St. Clair Avenue West in Toronto, but was told to contact the manufacturer. “Nintendo gave her a fix that didn’t work. She called back and was given a second fix, which also didn’t work. A third call brought the suggestion that she return it to the store for an exchange,” said Thompson, a business professor at York University, in the Toronto Star Jan. 24. His daughter went back to the store, only to be told she was too late. The item had to be returned within 14 days of purchase, a time period that had expired by Dec. 24. Thinking the answer was “absurd,” Thompson wrote to Walmart’s help line and learned the store had made a mistake: The 14-day return period started Dec. 26, but he was still out of luck because he’d waited until mid-January. . . . Thompson worked as a consultant for the chain many years ago. He didn’t think founder Sam Walton would be happy to hear that his concerns were dismissed. Read full story.

Selling your tech company
“This is a fairly good time to sell,” wrote Osgoode Hall Law School Professor George Takach in Lexpert Jan. 24. “Many of the bigger tech companies have balance sheets with lots of cash on them. That doesn’t mean they’ll be imprudent, but it does mean they’ll have an appetite and an ability to pay a fair price – and sometimes even more – for your business.” Read full story.

Who made that tricycle?
In March 1877, James Starley, a sewing-machine maker in Coventry, England, unveiled a strange offshoot of the tricycle. It had one large wheel on the left and two much smaller ones on the right. The rider sat between the wheels, driving with a pair of levers and steering on a crank. . . .  A watchmaker, Stephan Farfler, built a three-wheeled, hand-powered vehicle in the 17th century, and lever-driven, three-wheeled “pilentums” or “accelerators” were around by 1820. “There were half a dozen kinds of tricycles in Germany and France and England,” said Glen Norcliffe, a geographer and tricycle historian at York University, in the New York Times Jan. 24. “but they never really took off. They were prototypes.” Read full story.