Week of 10/14/13
The real costs of a major storm
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 13, 2013)
Every year, we worry. Even when they only glance at Hampton Roads, hurricanes create all kinds of havoc here. What happens if a big one hit us directly? Researchers from Old Dominion University - which is building a reputation in the science of climate change and sea level rise - set to find out.
Professors at the school's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center built a computer model to see what would happen if Superstorm Sandy hit us instead of the Northeast. They unleashed a 13-foot storm surge and swamped a huge portion of the region. Electronically, of course.
Then they combined those findings with a survey of what people planned to do in a big storm. No surprise: Many of the 7,000 folks surveyed would stick around, either because they couldn't leave, because they're not willing to chance it on our crowded roads, or because they're unconvinced that the storm would be as bad as all that.
The scientists' work shows that if a 13-foot surge hit the region, and people didn't leave, the result would be a devastated Hampton Roads, akin to the impact Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans in 2005.
"We use the word 'catastrophe' so often," said ODU's Joshua Behr. "But when you look at these data, and lean back in your chair, you realize that this is really catastrophic."
Damage depends on the path of the hurricane. But the map from the ODU scientists shows the storm - which they dubbed "Sandtrina" - would leave an archipelago where the five cities of South Hampton Roads now are. The Oceanfront would be completely under water. The same for Norfolk. Water would flow a long way inland. Past experience argues that power would be out everywhere. Roads would be swamped.
We know this. ODU's researchers were interested in the social cost of that kind of chaos. "What is missing in the understanding is what are the vulnerabilities - what are the ways in which the people recover," said ODU's Rafael Diaz. (More)
Distressed sales drag down housing prices
(The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 15, 2013)
A surge in distressed sales in September helped drag South Hampton Roads home prices below the level of a year ago. It was the first year-over-year decline in local prices in 19 months.
But an economist who closely follows the market said that other September indicators were positive and that the local housing recovery shouldn't yet be declared in jeopardy.
"This is not as alarming as you might think," said Vinod Agarwal, economics professor at Old Dominion University. "One month is not a trend."
Agarwal pointed out that the number of local homes sold in September was up strongly from the year before. For South Hampton Roads, sales of existing homes increased by more than 13 percent from September 2012, according to Real Estate Information Network, the region's multiple-listing service. That was the second-biggest year-over-year increase in 2013, behind only July.
The multiple-listing service also reported a small year-over-year uptick in home listings in September, and Agarwal said that bodes well for the market. Some homeowners "who've been sitting on the side" have decided the market is recovering enough to test it again, he said.
Sale prices went in the other direction, however, in September. The listing service said the median price of existing homes sold across South Hampton Roads during the month fell to $191,000, down 6.7 percent from a median of $204,625 in September 2012. (More)
A rival for the queen of purple? We'll see about this.
(The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 12, 2013)
It doesn't take long to figure out that I love the color purple. I sport it just about every day in some fashion, even if it can't readily be seen. Further, my home decor is graced in its various shades. Awnings are plum. Purple flowers and foliage weave their way through my landscape. My gardening tools are purple.
A close friend, who loves the color red, rolls her eyes when peering into my closet. It's a sea of purple, the color of royalty.
It's fitting, then, that willing subjects in the domain of Queen Boss Diva of All Things Purple must put up with sleeping on purple bedding, preparing meals in purple cookware, eating with purple dinnerware, combing their hair with purple styling tools, walking on purple carpet and sitting on purple furniture.
If they don't like it, they are free to pitch a tent in the backyard. Preferably, the tent should be plum if it's going to be on my property.
Anyhoo, passions for purple can be amusingly far-reaching. I haven't gone so far as to declare that the hue be worn on a particular day. But Sonia Yaco, special collections librarian and archivist at Old Dominion University, did so about a year ago.
I'm intrigued by the audacity of her Purple Shirt Thursday declaration. Any shrewd dictator knows there is always someone out there whose passion and prowess may outsize hers. I had to learn more about the extent of Yaco's obsession and whether it posed a threat to my title.
"I wouldn't call it an obsession," Yaco said. "I'd say it's a fondness."
We'd see just how deep the "fondness" went, based on the outcome of my evaluation.
The first thing to find out was why she fell in love with purple.
"When I had a little baby, he would stick his posterior in the air, and he looked like a little eggplant," Yaco said. That triggered a quirk for eggplant figurines. It doesn't matter whether they are wooden, fabric, stone or concrete, she just loves the color of an eggplant with its subtle green undertones. She has about 100, many acquired during the time her mother lived in Africa. (More)
The Recession Generation: College graduates move back in with mom
(The Daily Press, Oct. 12, 2013)
When Janelle Asher graduated from college she started a job making $18,500 a year -- $1,000 more than her mother, Gail, made at her first job as a young graduate.
Gail graduated in 1984. Her daughter Janelle graduated from college in 2012.
According to the rates of inflation listed by the Department of Labor, Gail had more than twice the buying power with her $8-an-hour job. She was also considered to be "doing well" among her friends.
Asher stuck with her first job - working with social services in Covington in western Virginia - for about nine months. The job fit her degree in social services, but she couldn't afford her own place to live. She was living with her parents and commuting four hours to work every week - a strategy that still cost less than rent.
After nine months, Asher decided to find a job closer to her parents' home in York County. She is still working in social services, but said she can't find anything more than part-time. ...
Asher is representative of the larger picture, says Dr. Gary Wagner, an Old Dominion University economist who is part of the region's Economic Forecasting Project.
"This recession was worse than in past years," he said. "This was the worst recession since World War II. We still haven't made up the jobs we lost during the recession, much less had the job growth to accommodate those who are coming into the workforce now."
Because of the slothful state of recovery, employers are still able to cherry-pick job seekers based on experience. New college graduates, who haven't proven themselves in the workforce, are less attractive.
"There is recent research that suggests that entering the workforce during an economic downturn will have lasting effects," Wagner says. "(It) has a permanent effect on your lifetime earnings. The research suggests that you never make that gap up." (More)
Colder air should aid warbler watching
(The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 13, 2013)
I'M GOING TO fly out on a limb and say, good warbler watching today!
After a slow fall season for migrating warblers and other birds, this past rainy, windy week that brought a cold front should get the birds moving down from the north.
Traditionally birds fly south along the Eastern Seaboard, pushed along by nor'easters bringing cold fronts. They gather at Kiptopeke on the Eastern Shore, where they wait for favorable winds to help them make the long Chesapeake Bay crossing. ...
In addition, she usually sees a lot of migrating birds in her backyard that backs up to woodlands. But like Kathy Spencer in Chic's Beach, who reported a couple of redstarts and a black and white warbler in last week's Close Encounters, Glenn also has seen only a few of the same birds in her yard.
Andrew Arnold, a graduate student at Old Dominion University, is leading a ground study on the use of radar to detect habitat use during bird migration. He is out in the field every day and wonders if the warm, summer-like weather with no cold fronts to get the birds moving en masse has led to a scattering of migrants, rather than huge flocks.
"Even with this occurring," Arnold said. "I do still believe the birds are moving at a fairly normal rate. (More)
Ynot Pizza moves into Ted Constant Convocation Center
(The Daily Press, Oct. 10, 2013)
Hampton Roads franchise Ynot Pizza and Italian Cuisine will serve pizza slices in a 20-foot concession stand at the Ted Constant Convocation Center events at Old Dominion University.
Ynot will also have a portable cart, according to a news release.
"We have had an incredible year," Ynot Pizza owner Tony DiSylvestro said in a news release. "We're so excited to be able to take our brand to new heights by partnering with Global Spectrum at the Ted Constant Center."
Global Spectrum manages the center. Ynot has five restaurants in Hampton Roads and will hold the official naming rights to the ticketing system at Ted Constant Center, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts and Old Dominion Athletics. (More)
'Newsrooms beware: UGC is a double-edged sword'
(Journalism.co.uk, Oct. 9, 2013)
When they knew the exact route of Margaret Thatcher's funeral, the people at the BBC's user-generated content (UGC) hub, with the support of a third-party location-based monitoring platform called Geofeedia, could set up and pre-populate social media monitoring feeds along the itinerary.
As explained in a case study published by Geofeedia, "the team established a workflow through which they could monitor social media platforms in real-time to identify unique and interesting content, engage with specific social media posters to gain permission to republish their user-generated content and then re-post the approved content into a map view for presentation to their broader audience." ...
While UGC sometimes makes it possible to document what is happening in places that otherwise would be out of reach for journalists (such as Syria), sifting through social networks in order to gather valuable information is a time-consuming task and requires skills that are not always to be found in newsrooms. That is why some big players have begun to rely on third-party services to help them to gather and verify the content. ...
Last but not least, there is the issue of preservation. As projects like the Guardian's Reading the Riots have shown (the London Riots, together with Occupy Wall Street are one of the case studies I analyse in the paper), data shared by users online offer an immense treasure trove for in depth-analysis not only in real-time but also long after an event has taken place. However, for this to be possible, the data must be stored, preserved and made available to the newsrooms (or other subjects, activists or researchers).
Otherwise, due to copyright reasons, closing of websites or other cause, they could become quickly unavailable. In the study "Losing my revolution: How Many Resources Shared on Social Media Have Been Lost?" published in September 2012, Hany SalahEldeen and Michael Nelson, two researchers from the University of Old Dominion (Norfolk, Virginia) analysed six different event-centric datasets of resources shared in social media from June 2009 to March 2012. They found that after the first year of publishing, nearly 11 per cent of shared resources would be lost and after that the trend would continue at 0.02 per cent per day.
This is something that should worry news organisation, as more and more coverage of breaking events is done through liveblogs, filled with user-generated content that could easily disappear, leaving a "not found" message in place of the suggested video or image. (More)
3 artists showing works at Petersburg Area Art League
(The Progress-Index (Petersburg), Oct. 10, 2013)
Opening tomorrow for Friday for the Arts!, the Petersburg Area Art League will feature two separate shows.
The Main Gallery will feature the Sisterhood of the Traveling Art show and in the WestStar Members' Gallery, art work by local artist Patty Munford will be displayed.
Maryreed Gerloff and Carolyn Jolly have been friends for 55 years and are exhibiting their second show together. With more than 30 new pieces of art, including Jolly's batiks and Gerloff's acrylic impressionist landscapes, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Art showcases a wide variety of pieces.
Both women were art majors in college. Gerloff is now an instructor at MOCA in Virginia Beach and Jolly is a retired graphics artist from Fort Lee.
In the WestStar Members' Gallery, local artist Patty Munford will be displaying nine large-scale drawings. She explains that upon retiring, she enrolled in a pastel drawing class.
"I thought I was going to pursue macro photography," Munford said. "I hadn't made the leap from SLR celluloid to digital and didn't know what kind of camera I wanted. Digital classes required digital equipment so while I was working out that conundrum, I decided to try this pastel studio class. After the first class, I was in love with drawing with pastels."
Munford uses photographs to obtain a rough draft of composition and color areas and then finishes the drawing with buttery soft Schmincke pastels.
"I like working in themes, or 'series,'" she said.
Her exhibit at PAAL is her Retirement Series, which refers to drawings created during the first year of her retirement.
Munford graduated from Old Dominion University with a BFA in painting and worked in various illustrator capacities for Norfolk Newspapers, Colonial Williamsburg and the Department of Defense. (More)
Grandmother Knows Best
(Audio, HearSay, Oct. 7-10, 2013)
Though their role here in America is sometimes less pronounced that in other international cultures, grandparents play an important role in defining the values and moral structure of a family and their communities. For powerful evidence of the power of the elder generation, we turn our attention to the grave socioeconomic issues facing the nation of South Africa. An unyielding population of grandmothers are uniting and standing firm against the tide of poverty and HIV/Aids that is decimating their families and country. On today's HearSay we'll explore the deeply personal story of these unstoppable women and the organization, Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS (GAPA), that is working to educate and empower them further.
Jo-Anne Smetherham - South African Journalist, Co-Author: "Nevergiveups" thenevergiveups.wordpress.com
Jennifer Fish - Chair, Department of Women's Studies at Old Dominion University odu.edu/womens_studies
Thelma Nkone - South African Grandmother
Vivienne Budaza - Executive Director, GAPA gapa.org.za (More)
Hurdles Facing Supporters of North Colorado as 51st State Are Daunting
(Prison Planet, Oct. 8, 2013)
The national media are beginning to pay attention to movements threatening to secede from existing states and form their own new ones. There's even a competition between efforts in western Maryland, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, northern California's Siskiyou County, and parts of southern Oregon to be the first to become the country's 51st state.
None are as far along, however, as those efforts pushing to win the honor for the state of North Colorado. Entitled"The 51st State Initiative," the effort to create a new state in Colorado were driven by decisions by the Democratic majorities in the state house, senate, and governor's mansion to impose the first gun controls on private citizens in 10 years, mandates to double the energy derived from environmentally "green" projects, and a general feeling of disregard for rural Colorado, as the populations in Colorado's major cities have expanded. Spokesman for the Colorado initiative, Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, said:
I'm a third generation Coloradoan. But I will tell you, the state I grew up in, the state that I've come to love, is slowly and surely slipping away to something I don't recognize. I think that is what's fueling this movement. ...
A political science professor at Old Dominion University in Virginia, Kimberly Karnes, put the matter succinctly:
Issues such as energy policy, gun control, taxes, and social issues often break on a rural-urban divide.
So if the state legislature produces a policy that a majority of residents in the urban ... areas prefer, it leaves rural residents feeling like they are [being] ignored. (More)
On display at ODU - Photos show S. African women as AIDS workers
(New Journal & Guide, Oct. 3, 2013)
South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. That rate is spurred on by poverty which has overwhelmed the country's health care system, deterring it from providing adequate measures to prevent the spread of the deadly virus to millions of children, men and women.
Eric Miller, using his camera, has recorded images of the painful impact of HIV/AIDS in that country, focusing on the work and contributions of members of GAPA, Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS. GAPA is comprised of 300 plus women wo have banded together to educate, provide nutrition, medical care and other assistance to children and others, many of whom are their children and grandchildren.
Researchers estimate hundreds of thousands of elderly South African women share similar challenges in the country where 5.6 million people suffer from HIV/AIDS -more than anywhere else in the world. About 10 percent of the general population, and 29 percent of pregnant women attending government-run prenatal clinics, are HIV-positive.
The infection rate is so high in South Africa that HIV/AIDS is called the "grandmother's disease."
Many of the GAPA are devoting their lives, love and the resources they are collecting at home and overseas, to the care of their grandchildren and orphans whose parents have succumbed to AIDS.
Featured in an exhibit called the "Nevergiveups" during ODU's annual literary festival, Miller's photos of GAPA members will be on display Oct. 7-11 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Goode Theatre lobby. Students and staff will provide guided tours of the collection. Miller, three members of GAPA, and two of his fellow journalists will be in Norfolk during the opening days of the exhibit to participate in various programs associated with this exhibit.
Miller is also known for capturing never seen before photographs of anti-apartheid leader and former South African President Nelson Mandela. They will be on display Oct. 3-11 at Borjo Coffee House on Monarch Way, ODU Village area. Copies of the Mandela images will be for sale and proceeds will be donated to GAPA. (More)
There's no I in "Congress"
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 8, 2013)
The shuttering of the federal government, now in its second week, has proven fertile ground for analogists: The government should be run like a business, like a family, like a team.
Hardening political views make for fluid identities within each simile, so they work only if everyone is of the same political persuasion, which this nation most certainly is not.
There are, however, a few things on which all Americans could find accord in these days of dysfunction:
-- If a business were run like the federal government, it would be bankrupt. People would be fired.
-- If a family were run like the federal government, it would end in divorce and financial collapse, with the kids refusing to speak to either parent.
-- If a team were run like the federal government, it would never win, and games would regularly be interrupted by fights on the bench, at midfield and in the stands.
Over another weekend, members of the congressional leadership and the White House spent untold hours complaining to us about each other. Another few days ticked by, tens of thousands of Hampton Roads residents out of work, another few fractions off a regional domestic product already tipped toward stagnation by sequestration. ...
While we're waiting, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that each week of the current shutdown trims economic growth by about 0.1 percent. In Hampton Roads, where nearly half of the economy depends on Defense Department spending, you can be sure that number is several times as high.
That's ominous because sequestration's furloughs and spending cuts have already trimmed growth in the regional domestic product to a mere 0.94 percent for the year, according to Old Dominion University economist James Koch.
These are high stakes for a regional economy already reeling from cuts in military spending, already struggling with how to help our neighbors and friends idled by partisans in Congress. (More)
D.C. threatens housing market
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 8, 2013)
The "State of the Region" report, released last week by Old Dominion University economist James Koch, indicated Hampton Roads' housing market is rebounding.
The eagerly awaited news - home prices and sales increased for the first time since 2007, and foreclosures and underwater mortgages have declined - is a good sign that we're finally recovering from the Great Recession.
Prices fell 24 percent here after the housing bubble burst in 2008. The ODU report says the region is "on track for a 5.5 percent increase in 2013."
Sales of distressed homes peaked in March 2011, though they still make up more than 22 percent of all home sales in Hampton Roads. New homes are selling, "a welcome sign that builders and developers now sense a changing economic climate," the report said.
But the positive numbers do not take into account the federal government shutdown, which sent 800,000 workers home last Tuesday and forced tens of thousands of others to work without a pay check. That has hit our region harder than most because the federal government fuels nearly half our economy.
When work isn't getting done by defense contractors, that interruption affects so many others. When furloughed employees aren't secure in their jobs, they stop eating out, taking vacations, looking for a new house. (More)
Grant to boost data transfer speed more than 10 times for Virginia public research universities
(Virginia Tech News, Oct. 8, 2013)
An award from the National Science Foundation will make it possible for Virginia's research universities to achieve a vast acceleration in the flow of big data, to keep pace with the increasing demands of computational research and transformation in higher education.
The funded proposal was spearheaded by Virginia Tech with support from the Mid-Atlantic Research Infrastructure Alliance (MARIA), which brings together Virginia's major research universities to facilitate access to shared cyberinfrastructure.
Mark Gardner, network research manager for Information Technology at Virginia Tech, is the principal investigator for the project.
Specifically, the funding will be used to eliminate a bottleneck at the National Capital Region Aggregation Facility, which is operated by Virginia Tech for use by all MARIA universities. The facility, which provides cost effective and efficient access to national and international research networks including Internet2, National Lambda Rail, the Energy Sciences Network, and others, is a point of network congestion due to shared connections that top out at 10 gigabits-per-second (Gbps). ...
"Advanced cyberinfrastructure is critical to research at Virginia institutions," noted Rusty Waterfield, MARIA board chairman and chief information officer at Old Dominion University. "We can only develop this type of shared network service through the collaboration of our members. I commend the researchers from several universities within MARIA who contributed the science use cases to demonstrate the strength of the research and broad collaboration taking place at our institutions."
In addition to Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University, the alliance includes the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Virginia. (More)
To Do | Charles C. Mann, Charming Liars
(The Virginian-Pilot, Oct. 8, 2013)
Looking for something to do today? We have a few suggestions:
ODU President's Lecture Series: Charles C. Mann 7:30 p.m. at Ted Constant Convocation Center, 4320 Hampton Blvd., Norfolk. www.odu.edu/univevents. (More)
Eat Less and Exercise More: Is this the Wrong Advice for Losing Weight?
(Search Articles.net, Oct. 7, 2013)
I'm about to share with you the most important weight loss strategy that will literally make or break your success. This is the #1 one fat loss tip I could ever give you.
If you don't get this right, you can kiss your fat loss results goodbye. This is the one absolute requirement for weight loss, and it's something you've probably heard of before. However, there's one critical distinction about this familiar advice that you might not have considered - and this one thing makes all the difference in the world...
Let me quote Melvin Williams, PhD, professor emeritus of exercise science at Old Dominion University and author of the textbook Nutrition for Health, Fitness and Sport (McGraw Hill):
"Human energy systems are governed by the same laws of physics that rule all energy transformations. No substantial evidence is available to disprove the caloric theory. It is still the physical basis for bodyweight control."
There are a variety of diet programs and weight loss "gurus" who claim that calories don't count. They insist that if you eat certain foods or avoid certain foods, that's all you have to do to lose weight. Dozens, maybe hundreds of such diets exist, with certain "magic foods" put up on a pedestal or certain "evil fat-storing foods" banished into the forbidden foods zone.
Other weight loss "experts" invoke the insulin/carbohydrate hypothesis which claims that carbs drive insulin which drives body fat. That's akin to saying "Carbs are the reason for the obesity crisis today, not excess calories."
They are all mistaken.
Of course, there IS more to nutrition than calories in vs calories out. Food quality and nutrition content matters for good health. In addition, your food choices can affect your energy intake. We could even point the finger at an excess of refined starches and grains, sugar and soft drinks (carbs!) as major contributing factors to the surplus calories that lead to obesity.
However, that brings us back to excess calories as the pivotal point in the chain of causation, not carbs. A caloric deficit is a required condition for weight loss - even if you opt for the low carb approach - and that's where your focus should go - on the deficit. (More)
Hurricane Sandtrina makes waves, would ruin Hampton Roads
(The Daily Press, Oct. 7, 2013)
Cross hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, and we're all in deep water. A pair of researchers at ODU's Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center have created a computer model that envisions what would happen if a super hurricane hit Hampton Roads directly.
The results of this fictional "Sandtrina" aren't pretty. Large swaths of Hampton Roads would be underwater, and would pretty much end up like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The researchers note the similarities between Hampton Roads and the Big Easy in terms of demographics, topography and economics. (More)