Week of 2/11/13
Duo in the app game for the long haul
(The Virginian-Pilot, February 11, 2013)
When Kristin Fitch turned to Old Dominion University student Kris Wright to transform her company's game idea into an app, his response: No dice. Literally. Still, RoJo Word was created.
Fitch runs ZiggityZoom, which specializes in children's games and educational activities. She met Wright, a doctoral student in modeling and simulation at Old Dominion University, at Start Norfolk 2.0, a weekend event for entrepreneurs last year.
She talked about the game; he talked about algorithms. They decided to team up.
The object of RoJo Word is to form two- to 10-letter words within a minute from a collection of seven letters. Letters may be used multiple times in any word. One vowel has a red background, giving the game its title. (Rojo is "red" in Spanish.) If a word contains the red vowel, it doubles in value. Users can play solo or against up to four competitors.
And the dice? Fitch envisioned each player rolling them to get letters. That wouldn't work well or fast on the app, Wright thought. So the letters appear on the phone automatically.
RoJo Word costs 99 cents for iPhones. Fitch said a Droid version will be out soon.
The app came out in November and has been downloaded more than 20,000 times, she said. The vast majority, Fitch said, occurred during a weekend when it was offered for free. (More)
The immense cost of Washington's budget gridlock
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, February 10, 2012)
The Department of Defense euphemistically calls 2013 "a year of budgetary uncertainty."
That bureaucratese sugarcoats the number-crunching at the Pentagon, which is slashing training, maintenance, technology and temporary employees - and last week delayed deployment of the Truman carrier strike group -as it waits to see whether Congress can find a deal to reduce the deficit.
It doesn't begin to capture the panic in families across the region, staring into their own budgets for 2013 and seeing much worse than uncertainty. Or the worries of their friends and neighbors, their employers and the merchants who depend on their business.
It understates the apprehension of city leaders bracing for municipal layoffs, hiring freezes, furloughs and canceled construction projects.
Absent remarkable progress on budget negotiations in Washington, D.C., in the next two weeks, the Pentagon will cancel maintenance on its ships and planes, lay off tens of thousands of workers from shipyards and bases, furlough 800,000 civilian employees, delay the four-year overhaul of the carrier Lincoln and defer construction of another carrier. Every line item in the military's budget, except active-duty personnel, will be reduced by about 9 percent.
In a region defined and supported by the military, the job losses - Old Dominion University economists predict between 28,700 and 42,300 jobs directly and indirectly lost in Hampton Roads - will translate to a regional recession or worse: a glut of houses on the market, falling property values, high unemployment and people moving away. ...
Leaders in Virginia Beach, where defense contractors have $2.4 billion in contracts, spent part of last week discussing ways to lessen the reliance on defense spending - a topic that has come up regularly for a generation. "It's time for us to stop talking about it... and get it done for our region," Mayor Will Sessoms said.
That means improving the transportation system, he said. It means luring alternative energy development and technology research to complement NASA's and ODU's modeling and simulation work. It means expanding medical centers to include research and rehabilitation facilities. It means making the city and the region inviting for entrepreneurs. (More)
A bipartisan fight against illegal guns
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, February 8, 2013)
Virginia Beach Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, along with Republican and Democratic colleagues, has crafted a piece of gun-control legislation with bipartisan appeal.
Just like that, Rigell and representatives Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Carolyn Maloney (D- N.Y.) and Patrick Meehan (R- Pa.) showed what's possible when lawmakers identify a problem and work together to solve it.
"Most Americans already think gun trafficking is a federal crime," the representatives wrote in a statement released last week, "but it's not. They have no idea that there is no federal law targeting firearms traffickers who commonly use 'straw purchasers' to buy guns for convicted felons and other dangerous criminals who cannot legally buy guns on their own."
Their proposed legislation creates a federal law aimed at gun trafficking, along with penalties of up to 20 years in prison for convicted straw purchasers. A similar proposal has been introduced in the Senate, also with bipartisan support.
Rigell called the bill "common sense and common ground." His home state ranks near the top of those with weak gun laws - last year Virginia abolished its nearly 20-year-old one-gun-a-month law - that import weapons to states with tighter controls. And Cummings' family has been victim to gun violence. His 20-year-old nephew was shot to death in 2011 in his rental house near Old Dominion University. They said law enforcement needs the legislation to crack down on the flow of illegal guns and those who buy weapons to turn them over to criminals. (More)
Manufacturer hopes his idea will float
(Inside Business, February 8, 2012)
James Ramsey is in the business of buoyancy.
With financial backing from his brother, he opened Float First, a flotation spa with two flotation tanks, off Eden Way in Chesapeake in July 2011.
Float First's fiberglass tanks, also known as i-sopods, are filled with about 10 inches of highly concentrated salt water - 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt to 300 gallons of water. Heated to body temperature, the solution makes the body buoyant, allowing the customer to float freely on the surface.
"The water is more dense than the Dead Sea," Ramsey said. "Within a few minutes of floating, you no longer feel the water. It tricks the body into feeling weightlessness."
In addition to relaxation, flotation is said to relieve stress, muscle and joint pain, and arthritis; detox the body and strengthen the immune system; treat PTSD, insomnia and chemical addictions; and enhance creativity, as well as cognitive learning abilities. Hour-long sessions are recommended.
With the help of the Manufacturing Extension Program through the Old Dominion University Business Gateway, Ramsey is looking to capitalize on the pod's popularity and perceived health benefits. He is in the process of opening a manufacturing facility in Norfolk to fabricate his owns i-sopods. The Norfolk Development Department found him 5,500 square feet of industrial space at 2409 Bowdens Ferry Road near ODU.
"When James came here, he didn't know anything about manufacturing or how to set up a facility," said Jerry Robertson, executive director of the Business Gateway. "We are contracting with him to get his plant set up." (More)
Legacy awards recognize local leaders' impact
(The Virginian-Pilot, February 10, 2013)
Norfolk State University's president Tony Atwater, NSU professor and Virginia Beach Councilwoman Amelia Ross-Hammond and Old Dominion University administrator Cecelia T. Tucker were among the honorees at the "Legacies" Silver Star Awards presented Feb. 1 at Tidewater Community College's Roper Theatre.
The Urban League of Hampton Roads Young Professionals awarded seven Silver Stars to area business and community leaders who have made a significant impact on the community in the areas of diversity, education, health, jobs and entrepreneurship.
For a decade, Legacies has brought together young professionals to honor influential leaders, said Delores Polite, director of social and cultural programs of the Urban League of Hampton Roads Young Professionals.
Atwater, who attended the event on the heels of his mother's passing in December, said receiving the Silver Star Award for Education was especially meaningful.
"The night I received the award, I indicated that I was receiving it in honor of the Norfolk State students and my late mother," he said. "My mother has always been an inspiration to me in terms of helping others and setting high goals, so I am highly honored to receive this recognition for my contributions and achievements in education."
The NSU president, who was accompanied to the event by his wife, Beverly Roberts-Atwater, a physician with EVMS, has spent nearly 25 years in the field of higher education. (More)
Judge to rule in Central Radio sign case
(Inside Business, February 8, 2013)
Last Tuesday, attorneys for both Central Radio and the city of Norfolk had filed motions in U.S. District Court asking for a summary judgment in place of a trial in the civil action lawsuit over freedom of speech.
The legal action stems from a city citation Central Radio owners Robert Wilson and Kelly Dickinson received while protesting the condemnation of their property under eminent domain by the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
The authority wants the property, located 1083 W. 39th St. near Old Dominion University, to be transferred to the ODU Real Estate Foundation to be redeveloped as part of ODU's University Village, a mix of restaurants, shops, offices and student housing.
On March 23, Wilson hung a 375-square-foot banner on the side of his building facing Hampton Boulevard, that read, "50 years on this street," "78 years in Norfolk," "100 workers," and "threatened by eminent domain!" It was accompanied by a graphic showing a red circle with a line through it around the words "Eminent Domain Abuse."
Wilson wanted his message, according to court records, "to be a shout, not a whisper."
On April 5, city zoning inspectors issued Central Radio two citations - one for lack of a sign certificate and another stating the sign had to be reduced to 60 square feet.
On May 5, city zoning inspectors returned and asked Wilson to take the sign down or face penalties of $1,000 a day. (More)
Chesapeake woman uses stage to conquer depression
(The Virginian-Pilot, February 8, 2013)
The Old Dominion University Theatre was electric this week as nearly two dozen actresses rehearsed lines for the upcoming sketch comedy show "Panties in a Twist 2."
For most of the cast - the 20- and 30-somethings with their fishnet stockings and wedge boots - Saturday's performance at The NorVa could offer the kind of big break that changes lives forever.
But cast member Rona Hyman, 46, dressed in faded denim and a backward ball cap, has made her own break: one that helped her escape depression and confusion and realize a lifelong passion.
Produced by The Pushers, a local comedy and improv troupe, "Panties" was promoted last year as Hampton Roads' first all-female sketch comedy show. Two members of the group, Alba Woolard and Tiffany Chilcott, serve as directors. Women are in charge, from promotion to curtain.
Hyman's role in this show last year cemented her status as an up-and-coming actress. Since then, she has performed in Regent University films and played supporting roles on shows on the Investigation Discovery network. The work doesn't pay enough to support her, but it's enough to validate the tough decision she made nearly eight years ago, when her life seemed in complete turmoil. (More)
American tourism industry looks to new breed of tourist
(China Daily, February 7, 2012)
Just mentioning China at last month's New York Times travel show sparked a flurry of activity in which names and phone numbers were traded like baseball cards.
The "new Chinese tourist" appears to be causing a stir in the US travel industry.
With trend forecasters such as the Boston Consulting Group declaring that China will become the world's second-largest travel and tourism market by the end of 2013 and with the US at the top of China's "long-haul" travel destinations list, it's no wonder more and more US hoteliers and tourism boards are expressing their "Huanying" ("Welcome"). ...
According to Attract China's research, the typical Chinese tourist spends the least amount of time in his or her hotel room and instead cares more about exploring and experiencing the area, whether it is Boston or Yellowstone Park.
"I feel totally comfortable staying in a cheap motel such as Super 8 and Day's Inn," said Cheng Luo, a Chinese student studying at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. "A clean room and good Internet connection are all I really need - I don't plan to spend much time in a hotel room, anyway." (More)
Why Dick Morris is out at Fox, but Karl Rove survives
(The Christian Science Monitor, February 6, 2013)
Dick Morris is out at Fox News, but Karl Rove is in.
The future of the republic does not hinge on this development, but the divergence in the conservative commentators' fates is nevertheless telling. Both, after all, had issued spectacularly wrong predictions on who would win last November's presidential race. (Mitt Romney in a landslide!) Both were adamant, night after night, that their data were rock solid.
On election night, Mr. Rove went so far as to challenge Fox News' decision to call Ohio for President Obama, which effectively called the election. In the most entertaining bit of TV all night, Fox's cameras followed while anchor Megyn Kelly led Rove back into the bowels of the network's political operations to talk to the number-crunchers about their decision.
But while being entertaining (and therefore profitable) certainly matters at Fox - as with all the cable news channels - it doesn't explain why Fox gave Rove a new, multiyear contract and dropped Mr. Morris, as reported Tuesday night by Politico. The reason is more about relevance and how the network is positioning itself, say analysts of political media.
"Karl Rove is still a major player in Republican Party politics," says Jeffrey Jones, a professor of media and politics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. "He still runs his 'super PAC,' and he has shown himself to be important and influential. Dick Morris doesn't get you anything. He's not really a player." (More)
20 Questions: How low will attendance go?
(ESPN.com, February 1, 2013)
The New York Mets have finished in fourth place in each of their first four seasons at Citi Field, failing to produce a winning record in any of those campaigns.
They went 70-92 in the inaugural season at Citi Field in 2009, then 79-83, 77-85 and 74-88.
Attendance has steadily declined during that span as well. After drawing 4,042,045 in their final season at larger-capacity Shea Stadium in 2008, the attendance figures since:
That's declines of 21.6 percent, 19.2 percent, 8.1 percent and 4.7 percent. ...
How low will it go in 2013 if the losing persists?
"My thoughts are that Citi Field is still in the honeymoon period of a new facility that can last anywhere from three to eight years," says Old Dominion University assistant professor of sports management Stephen Shapiro, who soon will release a study of the Mets' dynamic ticket pricing in 2012. "Attendance has not dropped below 2.2 million since the ballpark opened, despite slight drops in winning percentage over the past three seasons. This is probably due to strong fan support in a large market. (More)
Fred W. Culpepper
(Obituary, The Virginian-Pilot, February 7, 2012)
Fred W. Culpepper, Jr., a Professor Emeritus at Old Dominion University, passed away December 18, 2012. He was the first Chairman of the Industrial Arts (now Technology Education) Department and held that position for almost thirty years while still actively teaching in the classroom. Some forty years of his life were dedicated to teaching young men and women about general technology and specifically, electronics technology. Sadly, while he has no living relatives with which to share what follows, our community is filled with individuals like me who remember him because he helped shape both our careers and our personal lives.
When I graduated from high school, I was expected to attend college. That was the dream of many WWII parents for their children because most of them had never had that opportunity themselves. And while they had definite thoughts about what their son should study, I was not certain about what I wanted to do in life. But because my math and science scores from high school looked promising, I elected to study engineering without too much idea about what engineers actually did. And my high school transcript and SAT scores were good enough to get me enrolled in VPI Extension's Engineering Program at the Norfolk College of William and Mary (now ODU).
However, my bubble was burst during sophomore year. I just was not making good enough grades to continue and Dean William Whitehurst suggested I take a semester off and figure out what I really wanted to do before returning to school. It was right as I was preparing to head home for that summer I happened, purely by chance, to meet Fred Culpepper. (More)
Give the planet a fresh-food hug for Valentine's Day
(The Virginian-Pilot, February 6, 2013)
Valentine's Day is on the horizon, and what better way to show your love than to serve your family a delicious homegrown meat-and-veggie dinner topped off with homemade sweets? ...
Learn how to be a good eco-citizen all around. You'll find workshops and exhibits not only about fresh, local food, but also on energy-saving ideas and more at the Sustainable Living Fair. Sponsored by the Five Points Community Farm Market on Church Street in Norfolk, the fair takes place Feb. 16 and 17 at Old Dominion University's Webb Center. Learn more at the Five Points market or by visiting Slfhr.com/home. (More)
NASA Awards Research Contract To University Consortium
(Aeromorning Aerospace News, February 5, 2012)
NASA has selected the National Institute of Aerospace Associates (NIAA) in Hampton, Va., to provide research and other services to NASA's Langley Research Center, also in Hampton.
The contract is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity performance-based contract with a maximum value of $48 million over five years, starting April 1 and ending March 31, 2018.
The contractor will provide leading-edge research in emerging fields, education in science and engineering, and dissemination of the research results and technology developed by the NIAA under this contract.
NIAA is a non-profit research and graduate education institute formed by a consortium of leading research universities that serve as the core of NIAA's academic research program.
The full university members of the consortium are: Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Maryland; North Carolina A&T; North Carolina State University; University of Virginia; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Hampton University. Other affiliated members are Old Dominion University, and the College of William and Mary. (More)
Caviar Dreams: Mote Marine Aquarium
(Business Observer, February 6, 2013)
The plan was largely on target until a sweltering summer night almost derailed it.
That night was July 20, when the nonprofit Mote Marine Aquarium, was struck by what could be any organization's worst nightmare: a fire.
In Mote's case, the fire, for which the cause was never determined, destroyed one building at its Mote Aquaculture Park off Fruitville Road, seven miles east of I-75. That lone 25,000-square-foot building, though, represented eight years and more than $3 million in work toward Mote's caviar goal. The building housed 16 separate 19,000-gallon fiberglass tanks, plus filtration and feeding systems. It also housed about one-third of Mote's total caviar-producing sturgeon stock. ...
Mote launched its caviar and aquaculture program in 1998. It chose sturgeon, one of the oldest and rarest freshwater fish in the world, because that species goes through cycles of overfishing. Mote executives believed their aquaculture park could alleviate some of that pressure.
Michaels, with a master's degree in oceanography from Old Dominion University, in Virginia, was hired in 2002. He previously worked for commercial-fish operations in California, and in the 1980s, he was part of a group of pioneering scientists who worked on growing tilapia. (More)
Hailed as a hero in a Haley spy tale
(The Virginian-Pilot, February 5, 2013)
In "The Treason of Mary Louvestre," the act of treachery occurs in Norfolk during the Civil War. The instruments of Louvestre's crime: pencil and tracing paper.
"Her fingers sketched furiously. At every sound she stopped, her nerves quivering like plucked guitar strings. But she continued, forcing herself to stay focused on the task at hand. She had to get this. Had to!"
Louvestre's emotions and modus operandi are spun from a novelist's imaginings. The framework, though, has historical truth: Louvestre, a black woman living in Norfolk, got hold of the Confederacy's plans to upgrade the ironclad CSS Virginia, moored at the precursor to the Norfolk Naval Yard in Portsmouth.
She then delivered the plans to the U.S. secretary of the Navy in Washington in the winter of 1862 - walking most of the way, by the novel's account.
In an interview last week, the author compared her strategy with that of Alex Haley in the best-selling slavery saga "Roots." ...
And how did Louvestre's revelation alter the course of the war?
The Union already was outfitting its own ironclad, the Monitor, which later fought the Virginia, better known today as the Merrimack, to a draw in 1862 in the Battle of Hampton Roads.
"I think it made it clear to the Navy that they had to complete the Monitor at all costs," said Timothy Orr, an assistant professor of history at Old Dominion University. (More)
Help colleges help suicidal students
(Letter, The Virginian-Pilot, February 5, 2012)
IN 2012, STATE SEN. J. Chapman Petersen of Northern Virginia introduced SB624, which would have required that representatives of public colleges inform the parents of any student who is suicidal.
The bill was continued until this year's General Assembly session.
Currently, each Virginia college and university monitors students who are having suicidal thoughts only through their counseling centers and only if the students choose to take part in counseling services.
Old Dominion University, for example, simply suggests that students make an appointment for counseling services and advises students that their records will remain private and won't be disclosed to anyone, including parents.
These rules for notification and documentation must change. Academic institutions have the responsibility to educate and house their students safely. They should provide more education to educators, staff and students on the signs of suicide so that students could get treatment earlier and so that students who pose a danger to themselves and to others could be removed from campus if needed.
Angela M. Bowman, Virginia Beach (More)
ID theft leads to idea for shredding kiosks
(The Seattle Times, February 3, 2013)
Stephen Hershman was serving on the USS Kentucky submarine in 2003 when his identity was stolen, compromising his top-secret security clearance.
Forced out of his communications job, he spent several months straightening out his credit rating. That's when Hershman thought of starting a service that provides customers access to an industrial-strength shredder that destroys documents on the spot. Hershman started a do-it-yourself shredding company, The Shred Stop.
"I was so fed up with it that I decided I had to find a better way of doing it," Hershman said. "But I couldn't find a way that I liked. I didn't like the idea of dropping off my paper at a place with drop-off services like UPS. I really wanted to see it destroyed."
Hershman was a systems-engineering major at the U.S. Naval Academy, so he was confident he could design a shredder's hardware, but he needed someone to handle the software behind the machine. He proposed his idea to his friend Keith Rettig, who studied software design at Old Dominion University. Rettig was in.
In 2007, they launched The Shred Stop, which now has 17 kiosks in Safeway, Fred Meyer, Top Food & Drug and Haggen stores across the Northwest. (More)
Cummings to push bipartisan gun control bill
(The Baltimore Sun, February 4, 2013)
Responding to gun control loopholes that have proved vexing for police in Maryland and elsewhere, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings will introduce bipartisan legislation Tuesday to impose tougher penalties for people who traffic guns across state borders or buy them for someone else.
The legislation, which has support from at least two Republican lawmakers, would make firearms trafficking a federal crime and would stiffen penalties for so-called straw purchases, in which people buy weapons - sometimes in large volume - for another person who would not clear a federal background check. ...
Cummings said it is coincidence that the two Republican sponsors on the legislation come from those neighboring states - Rep. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, a former federal prosecutor, and Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia.
"This common-sense legislation has bipartisan support," Rigell said in statement, "and when we find common ground, we must embrace it, celebrate it, and act on it."
Cummings has personally been affected by gun violence. His 20-year-old nephew, a student at Old Dominion University, was shot and killed in 2011. Cummings has repeatedly appealed for anyone with information in the killing to come forward, but the case remains unsolved.
"When I think about my career, if I were able to accomplish this, I would consider it a major, major accomplishment in my over 30 years of time in public service," Cummings said. (More)