Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Whole lot of shaking

“Seneca guns” was the answer St. James resident Matt Pugliese got when he called the newspaper office Thursday, inquiring about strange rumblings he had heard earlier that day. There were other calls to the newspaper last week, and the week before, and the answer was always the same:

“Seneca guns.”

That was the explanation we’d always heard, and we were just passing it along.

Mr. Pugliese was grateful — more for the quick response than for the admittedly vague answer — but remained puzzled by the phenomenon that seems to have come upon us more frequently this fall than anytime in memory.
So, we searched for “Seneca guns” — a term locals have heard forever but is quite new to newcomers — and chose to rely most heavily on the website of the U.S. Geological Survey. A logical start, it seemed.

First, the term “Seneca guns.”

The term, according to the website, is “just a name, not an explanation. It does not tell us anything about what causes these noises and shakings.”

The name originated in a short story that James Fennimore Cooper wrote during the 1800s. The name refers to booms that have been heard on the shores of Lake Seneca in New York State. The name has been applied to similar noises along the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Similar booms are called “Barisol guns” in coastal India.

What’s the cause?

“The thing that comes closest to matching all of the observations is sonic booms from military aircraft,” the writer noted. One article reported on one loud boom that was heard in Myrtle Beach, the sound so loud that it shook a window and the sofa that the person was sitting on, and she felt the shock from the sound.

“Thus, a loud enough boom can be felt,” the USGS report concluded.

In that case, the U.S. Air Force claimed responsibility and said it had been conducting training exercises at the time. In a Virginia case in the 1970s, the Navy admitted that one of its planes had caused a sonic boom. The problem with sonic booms is that they cannot explain “Seneca guns” that occurred before supersonic jets.

Naval ships firing their guns offshore might have produced some of the booms, the USGS report continued. Under certain atmospheric conditions, sounds can travel farther than usual so that they might be heard onshore as loud booms. Naval firing might explain some of the “Seneca guns” that occurred before jet planes were invented. Naval gunfire might have caused some of the booms that were heard during the 1800s and early 1900s, when it might have been more common for ships to fire within a few miles of shore. However, naval gunfire cannot explain the “Seneca guns” around Seneca Lake.

Earthquakes are also a possible cause. In southeastern North Carolina, earthquake lists show only seven events between 1871 and 1968. The problem with the earthquake explanation is that something that is felt or heard as strongly as “Seneca guns” should have been recorded on nearby seismographs.

What’s not the cause?

A list of non-answers provided by the U.S. Geological Service includes:

Landslides off the Continental Shelf — These have happened in the geologic past, but there are no reports that they happened during recorded history.

Industrial disasters, like the Chernobyl explosion — Anything that large would be reported. There would be no way to hide the news because too many people nearby would have seen, heard and felt the blast.

Global warming — The articles that suggest this don’t offer any explanation of how a gradual warming of the atmosphere would produce something as sudden as a loud boom. Also, global warming would affect the whole globe, whereas “Seneca guns” have only been reported from a few areas.

A hole in the ozone layer — Holes in the ozone layer form over the north and south poles, not over the U.S. or India.
Shifts of tectonic plates — There are no tectonic plate boundaries near the East Coast. The nearest plate boundaries are in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Caribbean Sea.

Methane released from the ocean floor and exploding when it rises to the surface and contacts the air — There is methane buried under the ocean floor. Sometimes the methane can seep upward; however, it does not come up suddenly enough or in large enough amounts to cause explosions.

Cold air meeting warm Gulf Stream air — Two results might be thunder and lightning, but “Seneca guns” have been reported in clear weather — like we had Thursday — as well as stormy.

Meteor exploding in the atmosphere — Any meteorite large enough to cause something as strong as a “Seneca gun” would be much rarer than the phenomenon itself .

Top secret military activity — The problem with this explanation is that it’s too easy. There’s no way to disprove the idea as a cause of “Seneca guns” because if it’s top secret we won’t know about it. The military has lots of secrets, but something big enough to cause “Seneca guns” in so many regions, including India, would be really hard to keep secret.

And so...

There is no agreement on what causes the “Seneca guns” phenomenon. They have been occurring around the eastern U.S. — and in India — for centuries at least. They have worried people, but they have never caused damage or injury.

So when Mr. Pugliese reads this, he can tell the next neighbor who asks that the rumbling they heard and felt was “Seneca guns,” and have the satisfaction of knowing his answer is as good as anybody’s.

Original Article
Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me http://www.kenkeegan.com/

Monday, November 22, 2010

St. James expects Town Hall to open in December, community center by January

After several delays, St. James expects its new Town Hall will be open by December and the adjoining community center on N.C. 211 to be hosting events by January.
Town officials are holding off on proclaiming official opening dates for both buildings, at least for the time being. 

Certificates of occupancy issued by Brunswick County are needed to open both buildings to the public, Town Administrator Josann Campanello said.

Robin Schuster, community center manager, said officials hope to open the 8,200 square-foot town hall by December. Activities are already scheduled for January at the 13,650 square-foot community center.

“I'd say it's 95 percent complete. It's close,” Schuster said.

St. James residents are looking forward to the opening of the versatile community center, Schuster said Monday.

“They're excited. They've been anticipating the opening of it all this fall,” she said.

Councilman Jim Donnelly, who oversees town finances, said the project's total cost should be about $5.1 million once audio/visual and information technology equipment is installed, architect and inspection fees are paid and other incidental expenses are covered.

“Right now we're on budget,” Donnelly said.

The town had money saved and took out a $1.5 million construction loan through First Federal Bank to get work under way on the town hall and community center. When the buildings are finished, St. James will receive a 30-year, $5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Loan.

After years of contentious debate in town about whether the community center was needed, work on the town hall and community center began in October 2009.
Town officials had projected both buildings would be complete by September or October.

Project manager Walt Madsen told the Town Council in September the project was about six weeks behind schedule because the installation of exterior panels on both buildings is taking more time than anticipated

“Many things are uncontrollable, such as delivery of materials, sub-contractors not showing up as well as bankruptcies,” Madsen also told the council, according to meeting minutes.

The town bought the 13-acre tract of land from Brunswick County in 2007. The single-story buildings will be joined by a pavilion designed for outdoor events.

The community center includes a large ballroom that can be used by different groups and be available for events like wedding receptions, business gatherings and birthday parties, Schuster said.

“It's a multi-purpose, multi-use building,” she said.

The Town Hall will include council chambers with a seating capacity of 70 people, along with town offices and office space that will be leased to the St. James Property Owners' Association.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me http://www.kenkeegan.com/

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Local Realtors Raise Funds for Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity

Real estate professionals with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty hosted a rummage sale fundraiser for Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity on Saturday, October 30, 2010. The sale raised $1,052 that will go toward Sea Coast Realty’s sponsorship of a Habitat home in Wilmington, NC.

The rummage sale was held at the Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty office located at 8821 E. Oak Island Drive in Oak Island, NC. Realtors from Sea Coast Realty’s offices in Oak Island and Southport, NC donated items for the sale. Their friends and family pitched in by donating more items for the sale. “We also had several local businesses donate different items that we sold raffle tickets for,” said Chloe Grant, Broker in Charge of Sea Coast Realty’s Southport office.

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty would like to thank everyone who attended or made donations to the sale for their support. The sale was originally scheduled to take from 7:00 AM to 11:00 AM, but Realtors had so many items that they stayed until 4:00 PM to sell the wealth of items.

By sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity home, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty is committed to providing $60,000 in financial support and volunteer labor each week of the home build. This marks the fourth Habitat for Humanity home that Sea Coast Realty has been involved with. “It is an experience our agents and staff really enjoy,” said Sea Coast Realty president Tim Milam. “It involves great fellowship and really builds camaraderie, while helping a homeowner to get a leg up.”

Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity is one of 76 Habitat for Humanity affiliates in North Carolina and is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. To date, it has completed 116 homes in our area. For more information about Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity, please visit capefearhabitat.org.

For more than a decade, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty has been southeastern North Carolina’s largest and best-selling real estate company. It operates ten offices with more than 325 sales associates and staff in New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender, & Onslow counties. For more information, please visit SeaCoastRealty.com.
Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me http://www.kenkeegan.com/

Friday, November 12, 2010

Gravely docked at State Port; tours sold out

Sailors have worked overtime for weeks to prepare the Navy's newest destroyer for its trip to Wilmington and its commissioning ceremony. Fun is on the horizon, though, because the PCU Gravely left Jacksonville, Fla. Monday and began sailing up theCape Fear River Friday morning at about 10 a.m. It docked at the State Port shortly before noon.

According to Cmdr. Douglas Kunzman, the 508.5-foot-long guided missile destroyer Gravely will sail up the river aided by a river pilot and tug, just to be safe. It will turn around and then dock.

While in port, the sailors and officers will visit with their families and participate in several community events. The invitation-only commissioning is scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 20.

Public tours of the Gravely, which officially becomes the USS Gravely once its commissioned, are sold out.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me http://www.kenkeegan.com/

Flapjack Fundraiser to Benefit Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity

Saturday, December 4, 2010, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty is holding a Flapjack Fundraiser at the Applebee's Neighborhood Bar & Grill on 1113 New Pointe Blvd. in Leland, NC. From 7:30am to 10:00am, Applebee's will be serving up short stacks of pancakes for a TALL cause.

All proceeds from this event will go to build a Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity home sponsored by Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty. The home is already well underway in Wilmington, NC, but we still need your support!

Tickets are just $7 each, so round up your friends and family and fill your bellies with flapjacks for a good cause.

To purchase tickets or for more information, call Sea Coast Realty's Leland, NC office at (910) 371-1181 or toll free 1-866-508-1181.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me www.KenKeegan.com

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wilmington's 2010 Turkey Trot

Join Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity for the 2010 Turkey Trot.

Thanksgiving Morning
November 25, 2010
The Loop at Wrightsville Beach Park

You can take part in the Turkey Trot around the Loop (2.4 miles) or Gobbler Family Fun Walk (1 mile).

Registration/Check-in begins 7:30 am and the Run/Walk begins 8:30 am.

The entry fee for Walkers is $15. Runners can register in advace for $20 or register on-site the day of the Turkey Trot for $25. Children 10 & under walk/run free.

Proceeds from this event benefit Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity. Visit the event website at WilmingtonTurkeyTrot.com.

Need more information? Call 910-762-4744 ext. 100 or email info@capefearhabitat.org.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me www.KenKeegan.com

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Home Ownership Matters: Home Ownership and Parenting

The impact of home ownership on children has been documented in numerous academic studies, many of which have found that home ownership has a wide range of positive effects. The positive outcomes include: better health; fewer behavioral problems; greater achievement in math and reading; lower high school dropout rates; fewer teen births; more years of schooling by age 25; and higher high school graduation rates1. Although it is has been debated whether home ownership itself, or the residential stability and positive neighborhood characteristics that accompany it are the main underlying factors contributing to better outcomes; some research has shown that home ownership has a significant effect on children’s success2. Those studies argue that it is the positive behavioral characteristics required of home owners that get passed onto their children which contribute to their success. Since a home purchase is one of the largest financial commitments most households will undertake, home owners are invested in minimizing bad behavior by their children and those of their neighbors that might negatively impact the value of homes in their neighborhood. Second, homeowners are required to take on a greater responsibility, including the duties associated with home maintenance and acquiring the necessary financial skills to handle mortgage payments. The life management skills they acquire through these responsibilities may get transferred to their children and may contribute to their success.

Others though argue that home ownership brings residential stability3, and it is the stability that impacts children positively. And, some suggest that it is neighborhood quality which enhances the positive outcomes. They show that access to economic and educational opportunities are more prevalent in neighborhoods with high rates of home ownership and community involvement4.

But in the last several years, with availability of better data and methods, researchers have begun questioning the existence of a home ownership effect. In other words, when they compared home owners and renters who had similar characteristics—income, education, length of time in the same residence, assets—they didn’t find a significant difference in the effects on children5. These researchers concluded that home ownership did not have an independent effect on improved life of children, but rather that the impact is made through other factors such as home environment and neighborhood quality6. The difficulty in analyzing this question is derived from the fact that home ownership is accompanied by a collection of characteristics, in addition to neighborhood characteristics and residential stability, that are difficult to disentangle. Additional characteristics that impact children are related to the home itself, including housing quality, crowding, the presence of subsidized assistance, and equity. It also includes characteristics of parents and/or caregivers, such as saving behavior, nurturing abilities, propensity to invest, and goal attainment7. Yet, these personality traits of home owner characteristics are most often not captured in the available data. As a result, it may be that the positive impact on children is not directly related to home ownership, but is influenced by parents who are more involved with their children and are also more inclined to purchase a home8.

A recent study by a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Michigan approached this question from a different perspective. Instead of trying to account for unobserved characteristics of homeowners, they examined whether there is a relationship between home ownership and engaged parenting behaviors in the home, school, and wider community for low to moderate income households. The authors used survey data on families who purchased homes through the Community Advantage Program (CAP). CAP is a secondary mortgage market program developed though a partnership between the Ford Foundation, Fannie Mae, and Self-Help, a community development financial institution in North Carolina. The goal of this program was to underwrite 30-year fixed-rate mortgages for families who would have otherwise received a sub-prime mortgage or been unable to purchase a home at all.

Researchers focused on four variables: parental school involvement, frequency of reading to child, child's participation in organized activities, and child's screen time (television viewing and playing videogames). Altogether, these measures reveal parenting behaviors broadly believed to be associated with positive child outcomes. The authors propose that home ownership provides for engaged parenting practices in two ways: economic and psycho-social. The economic impact of home ownership refers to the positive impact of nurturing neighborhoods. While both home owners and renters may aspire to be engaged parents, home owners likely live in neighborhoods with more opportunities for school involvement or participation in neighborhood activities. The psycho-social component refers to the idea that being a home owner may limit the severity of economic hardships and the degree to which financial hardships result in psycho-social stress and disengaged parenting. This idea works through two channels. First, low- to moderate-income households that are able to buy a home have already found ways to manage their limited finances in order to become eligible for a mortgage. If such effective strategies are sustained, it could help reduce economic pressure. Second, they have greater access to formal credit to sustain the household during times of economic hardship, putting less strain on familial relationships and parenting. Home owners in this study have higher adjusted net worth and liquid assets than renters. The authors, therefore, assume that home ownership promotes parental engagement by giving parents more options for managing financial hardships and reducing the severity of financial hardships when they do occur, thereby reducing stress and disengagement from children. It is important to emphasize, especially considering the housing crisis, that all of the homeowners studied received prime fixed-rate 30-year mortgages with a 38% debt-to-income criteria. Therefore, these home owners have not experienced the financial shocks of interest rate adjustments or the stress of excessively high interest rates associated with many sub-prime mortgages.

The results of the study suggest that children of selected home owners are more likely to participate in organized activities and have less screen time when compared with renters. However, home owners were found less likely to read to their children than renters. There was no effect of home ownership on parental school involvement. On the whole, their findings suggest that home ownership and financial stability may create opportunities for parents to engage in some positive parenting behavior. As noted, the group of home owners surveyed in this study was less likely than renters to report financial hardships. The authors suspected that these financial stressors may reduce the ability of renters to afford organized activities for their child. Screen time, on the other hand, is relatively inexpensive for most families.

The findings of this research present more support for the idea that there are intangible benefits fostered through home ownership. And while these findings strengthen the policy case for encouraging sustainable and responsible home ownership, ultimately the question is how to arrive at sustainable and responsible home ownership. As the study reviewed here suggested, homeowners performed better financially because they were able to manage their limited resources. It appears that educating would-be homeowners in ways to effectively manage their resources may also help provide a positive environment for their children.

Original Article

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me www.KenKeegan.com

Monday, November 8, 2010

Arts by the Shore

Arts by the Shore, the 16th annual judged art show co-sponsored by Oak Island Parks and Recreation and the Oak Island Art Guild, will be held Nov. 19 and 20. Artist Justine Ferreri will judge the show.

Participants ages 19 and up are eligible. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional works will be accepted. Work must have been created within the past two years and must be original.

Entry forms may be obtained from Oak Island Recreation Center, 3003 E. Oak Island Drive, Oak Island. For more information or to obtain an application form call 278-5518. Pre-registration is recommended.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me www.KenKeegan.com

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sea Coast President Hits Auction Block for Girls, Inc.

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty president Tim Milam will be just one of the local celebrities auctioned off at Hot Dress, Hot Date!, a holiday fashion show and auction to benefit Girls, Inc.

The event will be held Thursday, November 4, 2010, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Coastline Conference & Expo Center in Wilmington, NC. Tickets are still available for the event. Tickets are $30 for an individual ticket or $250 for a group of 10 tickets. Ticket prices include food and drink tickets. Tickets are not available at the door. To pre-register for your tickets, call 910-343-8600 ext. 201 or click here.

The fashion show portion of the event will feature eight female local celebrities, including Livian Jones, Mary Margaret Latham, Catherine Lea, Saundrea Lee, Ashley Miller, Margaret Robison, Heather Setzler, and Barbara Weetman.

The auction portion of the event will give attendees the chance to bid on lunch on the town with three married male local celebrities and five of Wilmington’s hottest bachelors. Milam is among the three married men up for auction. His wife can rest easy though. WILMA Nights, the organizer of the event, is quick to note that the highest bidders aren’t entitled to anything more than lively conversation over lunch. Other married men up for auction include Shann Coleman and Bo Dean. Bachelors on the auction block include Adam Freeman, Dutch Hawk, Craig Melville, Bryan Metzger, and Chris Wilkerson.

Girls, Inc. offers programs designed to help New Hanover County girls reach their full potential by becoming educated, responsible, community-minded leaders.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me www.KenKeegan.com

Appliance Buying Guide: Dishwashers

Article From HouseLogic.com

By: Douglas Trattner

Published: September 01, 2009

When you buy a dishwasher, hone in on the model that's right for you by considering your needs: size, fit, features, and performance.

"Almost every dishwasher on the market will wash dishes better, do so more quietly, and use a fraction of the water and energy than the one being replaced," says Don Cochran of Babin Building Solutions in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Because 80% of a dishwasher's energy consumption goes to heating the water, any reduction in the amount of water used saves money. Replace a pre-1994 dishwasher with an Energy Star model and you'll save $40 per year on your utility bills, says Energy Star.

Cost range: $250-$1,000 and up

Likely additional costs: Delivery, installation, and haul away

Average life span: 10-13 years

Size and fit: Because there are so many dishwashers on the market, pare down choices according to specific criteria. Size and fit is a great place to start. Common dishwasher widths include 18" and 24", so measure your current appliance to see what size to shop for. Also, dishwasher heights can range from 32 to 34.5 inches, so make sure the new one doesn't exceed the height of the cabinet opening. Kitchen floors that have been updated with tile, laminate wood, and even vinyl can affect the fit of the new machine.

Most dishwashers are mounted to the underside of countertops, making those models a poor choice for solid surfaces like granite, quartz, and concrete. In those cases, choose an appliance that gets anchored to side cabinets.

Noise: New dishwashers are considerably less noisy than those made just five years ago, thanks to improved insulation. But for the quietest appliances on the market, expect to pay a premium of $500 and up. A far less expensive alternative is the delay wash setting, which can start the machine after your family has gone to bed. This feature is on all but the most inexpensive models.

Appearance: Will you be matching existing appliances or making a change to something new? It's easy enough to match "appliance white," a standard color, but few stainless steel finishes are identical, says Cochran. To do so may require sticking with a particular brand. You can expect to pay a premium of $150 for a stainless dishwasher.

You'll also pay about $150 more for a stainless tub, the interior liner of the machine. The upgrade is a purely cosmetic one, notes Cochran, as a plastic tub may discolor over time but it will rarely fail.

Completely hidden controls are another popular aesthetic upgrade. The control panels sit on a portion of the door that's invisible when closed. Expect to pay at least $600 for models with this design.


Energy efficiency: Energy Star-qualified models use 31% less energy and 33% less water than conventional machines. Energy Star-qualified dishwashers today are required to use 5.8 gallons of water per cycle or fewer, down from the 6 to 10 gallons per cycle in 2000. The good news is that most dishwashers on the market now bear the Energy Star stamp of approval, and you need not pay a premium to purchase one.

Racks: Although unnecessary, adjustable racks, tines, and silverware storage can be useful when washing oversize or unusually shaped items. Adjustable racks are on all but the most basic models, but for truly customizable interiors, you'll have to spring for pricier machines.

Cycles: Even the most basic dishwashers come with multiple wash cycles. Shorter cycles can save water and energy when washing average loads, while longer settings can be reserved for more heavily soiled ones. Beyond that, there seems to be no end to available cycle options. Sanitary wash cycles raise the heat, killing more than 99% of bacteria. Glass cycles can speedily clean a rack of dirty glasses. Some models even have a variable-speed motor that increases pressure for pots and pans and decreases it for delicate china. Consider your need; these additional features raise the price and are rarely used.

Sensors: Soil, or "turbidity," sensors are becoming more common on midrange dishwashers. They measure the clarity of the water and then shorten or lengthen all cycles accordingly. Models boasting this technology are available for as little as $350 to $400 (though the folks at Consumer Reports (http://www.consumerreports.org) say you'll need to go higher to get units that also offer better noise reduction and other features.)

Drying: Almost every dishwasher comes with a heated dry option, which speeds along the dish-drying process. If you're energy conscious, look for machines that allow you to disable (or simply not activate) that feature. Doing so can reduce the machine's electricity consumption by 15% to 50%, according to the California Energy Commission (http://www.energy.ca.gov/).

Expected maintenance: In some models, filters need to be cleaned periodically. A hose may leak and door hinges can loosen or fail, all of which require tightening or replacement. A broken door latch will cause the machine to stop working. The part may need to be replaced.
Where and when to shop: Babin Building Solution's Cochran says to only shop at a retail appliance store where the staff understands the product. A conscientious salesperson will guide you to a model that doesn't exceed your needs and thus saves money. Also opt for a store that offers delivery, installation, and haul away-you may be able to negotiate transport and install into the cost of the appliance.

Because appliances don't adhere to a model year like automobiles, there's no "best time" to buy them. Always keep a look out for sales, specials, and tax rebates (especially for energy-efficient models). And use sites like BizRate, PriceGrabber, Shopping.com, and Shopzilla to compare prices.

Finally, some appraisers say new appliances are money well spent. In his market, Mike Neimeier, a residential appraiser in Cleveland, Ohio, says a homeowner is likely to recoup between 75%-90% of the cost of new appliances when reselling the home within a couple of years.

Douglas Trattner has covered household appliances and home improvement for HGTV.com, DIYNetworks, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. During the 10-year stewardship of his 1925 Colonial, he's upgraded almost every household appliance. After lengthy deliberation, he recently replaced an aging top-load washing machine with an energy-efficient front-load unit.

Reprinted from HouseLogic (houselogic.com) with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS (R).Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

Ken Keegan Real Estate Broker (910) 523-0903 mobile Email Me www.KenKeegan.com