Week of 3/25/13
20 Seconds for Love at First Sight
(The Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2013)
First impressions seem to matter most when it comes to dating, job interviews...and real-estate listings.
Researchers tracking the eye movements of subjects who looked at online home listings found that more than 95% of users viewed the first photo-the one that shows the exterior of the home-for a total of 20 seconds. After that, their eyes tended to flit all over the screen, according to Michael Seiler, founder and director of the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University at Norfolk, Va.
"Without an eye-catching photo, the battle is lost before it begins," Prof. Seiler says. "You have to grab people's attention within two seconds. Do it the way a billboard does."
Seiler found that 76% of participants viewed the property description-things like the size and number of bedrooms/bathrooms-second. Real-estate agents' remarks, which can be a turnoff if they contain all-capital text, hyped-up adjectives and brand names, were the most overlooked-41.5% of home buyers didn't view them at all.
Understanding how people view a listing online can help agents refine their approach. "For a lot of people, the first point of contact with a house is through the Internet," Prof. Seiler says. ...
His study, "Toward an Understanding of Real Estate Home Buyer Internet Search Behavior: An Application of Ocular Tracking Technology," has been accepted by the Journal of Real Estate Research. (More)
Guns Present Polling Conundrum
(The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2013)
My print column examines why the number of gun owners in the U.S., and the number of households with guns, are so hard to pin down. Different polls point to very different totals.
This uncertainty isn't new. Press clippings over the last 25 years show reported counts of gun owners fluctuating from 44 million up to 192 million, with dozens of different figures cited, some in the same year, and some - such as the 192 million figure - the result of confusing estimates of guns in American households with counts of gun owners, some of whom own more than one gun. ...
Nobody's really explained why they come up with such dramatic differences," Aaron Karp, senior consultant to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey and senior lecturer in political science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., said of pollsters.
Questions about gun ownership don't fit neatly into typical polling categories, pollsters say. On the one hand, the question of whether the respondent owns a gun, or whether there is a gun in the respondent's home, should be "really cut-and-dry," Dimock said. But some guns may have been inherited and may hardly be used. "It's there but not present in people's mind or their lives," he said. (More)
ODU now offers certificate in procurement
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 25, 2013)
Old Dominion University has begun offering a graduate certificate program in procurement, or the purchase of goods or services.
Courses will include public-private partnership and public-sector procurement law and ethics. The program was launched in the fall, ODU spokesman Brendan O'Hallarn said in an email. Students who enroll this fall will be able to complete the required classes within a year.
"Most people don't realize that procurement is a strategic function," the head of the program, Stephen Gordon, said in a statement. "It can impact whether an organization succeeds or fails."
Gordon is a former president and research fellow of the National Institute of Governmental Purchasing and director of procurement for the city of Alexandria. (More)
Authority to vote Tuesday on who will run port
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 25, 2013)
Tuesday morning could bring a different sort of "March Madness" to Hampton Roads.
The hottest seat in town, at least in maritime circles, will be the boardroom of the Virginia Port Authority at the World Trade Center in Norfolk.
The first big item on the Port Authority's agenda is the one everybody has been anticipating for months: a critical vote on how the port will be run for the next several decades, marking the end of a process that began nearly a year ago.
The board is scheduled to review the value of unsolicited proposals from two private entities - APM Terminals Inc. and a group headed by JPMorgan Chase & Co. - offering the state billions of dollars over decades in exchange for the right to operate the authority's terminals. ...
Last week, John Crowley, an APM senior vice president, wrote an opinion piece for The Pilot citing figures in Old Dominion University's 2013 Economic Forecast, which he said "confirms that the Port of Hampton Roads lost $70.3 million in operating income just in the past four years." (More)
Entrepreneurs compete in Start Norfolk 3
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 25, 2013)
Paul Chin Jr. came to Start Norfolk 3 with barely an idea.
He left the weekendlong business symposium Sunday, where groups pitted their startup idea against others, with a road map for the future.
"Before Friday, I had nothing prepared," Chin said. "Now I think we can have it up and running in a month."
Start Norfolk 3 was designed to bring together entrepreneurs, engineers, developers, designers and businesspeople in a competition to produce a new startup business in a weekend. The winners, announced late Sunday at Innovation Research Park at Old Dominion University, received a cash prize and other support, said Zack Miller, founder of Start Norfolk.
The makers of Hiqualia, a technology that monitors copyright infringement, won first place in the competition. Coming in second was 7 Cups of Tea, a website that connects people to other people willing to listen to them. Sound Sense was third, with a technology that would better allow the deaf to communicate by installing a wall outlet that would convert sounds via a transmitter. (More)
Jobless rate in Hampton Roads climbs in January
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 23, 2013)
The unemployment rate in Hampton Roads increased to 6.8 percent in January from 6 percent in December, the Virginia Employment Commission reported Friday.
The rate, which is not seasonally adjusted, was down slightly from 6.9 percent in January 2012.
The increase in the jobless rate from December to January might be attributed to a few factors, said Old Dominion University economist James Koch: the deceleration of defense spending, a return of workers to the job market and an ebb in seasonal employment as holiday work dried up.
"If we have two or three more months of this, I'd say this is bad news, but I'm not quite prepared to say that," he said.
The defense industry started taking a hit from across-the-board automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, before they even came to fruition on March 1 because the military began to anticipate steep spending cuts in December and January, Koch said. (More)
City names Mark Piland new fire chief
(Star Local News (Tex.), March 25, 2013)
The city of Frisco has announced its new fire chief following a three-month search, naming Mark Piland to the position.
Piland, 53, comes to the city from the Volusia County Fire Services in Florida, where he is currently chief. He will begin serving as chief of the Frisco Fire Department on April 15.
"I am excited for the opportunity to serve the citizens of Frisco, as well as the men and women of the Frisco Fire Department," Piland said in a statement released by the city. "I look forward to continuing the great tradition of excellence that Frisco is known for." ...
Piland earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Old Dominion University and has a master of public health degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School. Additionally, Piland received the designation of executive fire officer from the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Md. Piland and his wife, Wanda, have a 7-year-old daughter. (More)
Pi Day Pictures: Nature's Near-Perfect Circles
(National Geographic, March 15, 2013)
The Rings of Saturn
Image courtesy SSI/NASA
The celebration of Pi Day raises the age-old question of whether perfect circles exist in the universe.
A look at nature's stunning circular creations, like the remarkable rings of Saturn seen here, seems to make a compelling argument that Greek philosopher Plato was mistaken when he first observed that no one has ever seen a perfect circle-only imperfect approximations.
But John Adam, a mathematics professor at Old Dominion University and the author of Mathematics in Nature: Modeling Patterns in the Natural World, said that no perfect circle can occur in nature "since a perfect circle is a geometrical idealization."
Though Saturn's rings appear to be circular thanks to the shepherd moons orbiting the planet, parts of the rings are bent by the pull of gravity from its other moons. (More)
Chinese scientist to fight charges of lying to agents
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 22, 2013)
A Chinese scientist who worked at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton will plead not guilty to lying to federal investigators and wants a jury trial, his attorney said Thursday.
Bo Jiang worked for a Hampton-based NASA contractor until January. He was questioned at Dulles International Airport outside Washington as he prepared to board a China-bound plane and was later charged with lying to federal agents about the computer hardware he was carrying.
Speaking to reporters after a brief proceeding at the Newport News federal courthouse Thursday, Jiang's attorney, Fernando Groene, called the case a "witch hunt." ...
Jiang, 31, has a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from Old Dominion University. He had worked two years at the National Institute of Aerospace, a nonprofit research center near NASA Langley that contracts with the federal space agency.
Jiang's departure from the institute was not related to his job performance, Groene said. He said his visa was due to expire soon.
Jiang has been in the custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest. Dressed in an oversize red jumpsuit, he listened to a translation of Thursday's court proceedings through headphones. (More)
Norfolk students with disabilities get the chance to go rock climbing
(WTKR.com, March 19, 2013)
Students with disabilities from Norfolk Public Schools got a chance to do something pretty extraordinary; they had the chance to go rock climbing Wednesday at Old Dominion University!
This is thanks to a partnership between the school division and university to offer Adaptive Physical Education clinics.
Students from several Norfolk Public Schools take part in the program which pairs them with ODU adaptive PE teachers-in-training.
On Wednesday, students from Crossroads School got their chance to take part and they were the first group in the 25-year history of the program to get to use the rock climbing wall at ODU's Recreation Center.
"The thought was let's get outside of doing just throwing skills, kicking skills and let`s do something else and get these kids excited," explained Patrick Doyle who leads the Adaptive Physical Education Department for Norfolk Public Schools.
Brian Van Der Linden is the graduate assistant for ODU's climbing wall and says the students from Crossroads far exceeded his expectations on the wall.
"Absolutely amazing. Just seeing them, hearing them, they were just so excited," Van Der Linden explained. (More)
ODU students work with local kids
(WAVY-TV, March 20, 2013)
Future physical education teachers at Old Dominion University have the opportunity to work hand in hand with special needs children from Crossroads Elementary School.
The opportunity is part of a 10-week program to help future teachers work one-on-one with special needs students, by doing activities like rock climbing.
"People think that they have a disability and they can't do stuff, well this just shows, they can do it," ODU's Brian Vanderlinden said.
Patrick Doyle with Norfolk Public Schools is hoping the program will spread past the participants' actions.
"[The goal is] to take this over back to the classroom just to talk to their peers and tell them what they did today will encourage more people to get out and do activities like this," Doyle said.
In April, ODU will host "Little Feet Meet" in which nearly 300 special needs kids will hang out with the school's football team at Foreman Field. (More)
Young students reach new heights at ODU
(Photos, The Virginian-Pilot, March 20, 2013)
ODU and Norfolk Public Schools have partnered to give physical education students an opportunity to work with elementary school students with disabilities. (More)
Congress having a 'breakdown,' ex-Sen. Webb laments
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 21, 2013)
Less than three months after leaving the U.S. Senate, Jim Webb is accusing Congress of abdicating its role of overseeing the nation's use of military power and its agreements with foreign leaders.
The legislative branch has increasingly allowed the past two presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, to take unilateral actions that should have required consultation with Congress, said Webb, who left Capitol Hill in January after deciding not to run for a second term.
In the years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, more power has shifted to the White House with little objection from Congress, Webb wrote, calling it "a breakdown of our constitutional process." ...
Former Congressman G. William Whitehurst, who served nine terms in the House and now teaches at Old Dominion University, said Webb's criticism is on target.
Legislative leaders are at fault, he said, for the waning influence of Congress and lack of floor debates on foreign affairs and military policy.
"Power flows into a vacuum. That's always the case, and that's the case here," said Whitehurst, a Republican who represented Virginia's 2nd Congressional District from 1969 to 1987.
"The giants are missing that were there in the old days. People like Sen. John Warner," Whitehurst said. "When you haven't got that kind of leadership, then the president is going to do damn well what he pleases." (More)
In Norfolk, Swedish CEO recalls navigating meltdown
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 21, 2013)
Financial leaders and politicians from around the world seemed to be pale-faced and peering over the edge of a cliff when they gathered in Washington in 2008 for a meeting of the International Monetary Fund, said Peter Yngwe, CEO of Swedish Export Credit Corp.
Yngwe, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Old Dominion University, attended that IMF meeting and those in subsequent years, he said Wednesday in a lecture to about 100 members of the Economics Club of Hampton Roads at Marriott Norfolk Waterside.
"Where is everything headed?" Yngwe said he recalls the leaders wondering. "It looked really, really bad."
But through the global economic downturn, Yngwe managed to maintain a healthy lending corporation in Sweden, which hasn't faced nearly the degree of strife other European countries have, he said.
Swedish Export Credit's niche is long-term financing for exporters, which are a major contributor to the Swedish economy. Yngwe said his company, which is owned by the Kingdom of Sweden, has thrived because its leaders opted not to take risks.
"We looked around, and everyone was dropping," Yngwe said. "International banks disappeared. We were the only one left." (More)
18 research projects receive innovation funding
(Virginia Business, March 19, 2013)
Eco-friendly cosmetics and a vaccine to treat Lyme disease are among 18 Virginia university research projects selected to receive grants from the Virginia Innovation Partnership.
Created last fall by the U.S. Department of Commerce's i6 Challenge, the partnership announced $861,086 in awards in its first round of funding. The 18 projects were chosen from 84 submitted by 10 institutions. The program is designed to advance early-stage research and connect academic researchers with mentors, corporations and investors to accelerate commercialization of new projects.
The partnership includes all of Virginia's research universities, the state's community colleges, 10 commercialization incubators, and many corporate and government agency partners. It is being supported by $1 million in federal funding over two years with matching funds from corporate participants, university partners and other entities.
A list of the funded projects follows: ...
Old Dominion University
"Synergistic traffic counting: A cost-effective solution to traffic count collection," led by ManWo Ng, was awarded $40,000. (More)
Don't privatize the port
(Editorial, The Roanoke Times, March 17, 2013)
Two years ago, Gov. Bob McDonnell shook up the governing board of the Virginia Port Authority, replacing 10 of its 12 commissioners with members of his own choosing. Those men and women have a political fealty to the executive who appointed them. But once they took their seats on the board, their larger obligation was and is to the people of Virginia. They have a fiduciary responsibility to place the long-term interests of the commonwealth ahead of a governor whose tenure ends in 10 months.
The reason for the house-cleaning is in dispute. McDonnell said he was dissatisfied with the port's performance, while ousted members say they refused to contribute revenue to a road project. Regardless, a larger issue now confronts board members and their chairman, Roanoke businessman William Fralin.
The group is scheduled to vote March 26 on whether to accept one of two proposals from private companies seeking to take over operations for nearly five decades.
With the state's most valuable economic assets and billions of dollars on the table, board members must take the decision seriously. For several reasons, wisdom demands that they reject bids and retain control of the port. ...
The Virginia Maritime Association notes that the facility would become the only major port in the United States controlled by a single private entity. While many major U.S. ports have signed management contracts with private firms, operational responsibilities are divided among multiple companies to avoid abuses that can crop up with a monopoly.
Finally, the timing is terrible for a deal. The two pending bids have a present value of $3.1 billion and $3.9 billion. Old Dominion University economist James Koch has estimated the port is now valued at $6 billion. Its value will increase when an expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2015, opening the East Coast to super-sized ships that can easily navigate Virginia 50-foot channels and giving the state an advantage over competing ports in New York and Savannah, Ga. (More)
The psychology of buying a house
(The Vancouver Sun, March 15, 2013)
You'd buy a sweater on impulse, but when it comes to buying a home it's all about calm deliberation, right? You might be surprised.
Price, square footage, location: "All that can be trumped by the visceral reaction of seeing a home," says June Cotte, who teaches marketing at Western University's Ivey Business School.
"Smells, colours, sounds you can hear inside or from the outside - you might not be aware of them, but they can have an influence."
The layout may even subliminally remind you of the home of a former boyfriend, says Cotte. That can have a positive or negative emotional impact on how you perceive a house that's for sale. ...
As well, we fall victim to confirmation bias, the pervasive tendency to cherry pick or interpret information that confirms our preconceptions. We fall in love with a house and so we dismiss the mouldy smell, saying the place just needs a little airing out.
We also readily become invested psychologically in a property before we've reached a rational decision, according to professor Michael J. Seiler, who specializes in behavioural real estate at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, V a.
"You're looking at a house and suddenly start thinking of the community and the neighbours and how they'll be your friends. Expectations, fears, desire for status - a lot of stuff influences you," he says. "So be cautious, try to be rational." (More)
Chinese NASA scientist charged with lying to the feds
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 19, 2013)
A Chinese scientist who worked as a contract employee at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton was pulled off a China-bound plane over the weekend and charged Monday with lying to federal agents about computer hardware he was carrying.
The scientist, Bo Jiang, had been targeted by a Northern Virginia congressman who says Jiang had inappropriate access to technology at Langley that could have national security implications.
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said at a news conference Monday that Jiang was employed by the National Institute of Aerospace, a Hampton-based NASA contractor. On its website, the institute calls itself a nonprofit research center formed by a consortium of universities including Old Dominion University, the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia.
Wolf reiterated an allegation he made two weeks ago: that Jiang was put on the contractor's payroll at the direction of NASA officials in an apparent attempt to circumvent restrictions that Congress has placed on the hiring of certain foreign nationals by the federal space agency. Wolf said he has been told that NASA spent more than $200,000 for Jiang's work over the past two years. (More)