Local News

Charlottesville: Not a Typo

by Benjamin D. Herson

Prior to our (“Great Typo Hunt”) event in Charlottesville, I decided to send out a little tweet.  (Yes, I have recently become yet another twit.)  Unfortunately, I’d botched something.  The red squiggles indicated I’d misspelled the word Charlottesville.  I stared at it for a moment.  Before I could even start adding or deleting letters–the way you do when you get those squiggles and figure you must have just gotten this or that little thing wrong so you change it to see if the squiggles go away–I realized that I didn’t even know what to change.  So I asked the human spell-checker, also known as Jeff Deck, the founder of TEAL, to spell the city we were currently in.  He spelled it and it checked out.  TweetDeck simply didn’t recognize it, hadn’t listed it in their lexicon of proper nouns.  It bothered me that I’d actually stared at it wondering what I’d gotten wrong, that the fact that I couldn’t even guess what to change hadn’t made me shout back at the screen, “I defy you, villain!  I know better!”

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Changing Precipitation in Virginia?

RUMORS ABOUND: Much ado has been made about the prospect of changing levels of precipitation in Virginia. On one hand, recent moisture shortages (the most recent having been last summer) have elicited speculation that our precipitation might be decreasing, spurring Virginia Drought Task Force activity as well as claims that global climate change will be taking its toll on the state in the form of a drier climate.

Local News

Stalking: Elisha Strom Charged

Elisha R. Strom, 35, of Bedford County, was arrested in Charlottesville in 2010 for allegedly stalking a federal agent. The arrest warrant was issued in Greene County, where the agent resides, according to the Greene County Sheriff’s Department. Strom was released on her own recognizance, though her laptop computer and camera are being held as evidence.

Elisha Strom has been arrested twice before for following, photographing, and publishing personal information about members of the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement (JADE) Task Force. Strom’s high level of interest in the Task Force apparently stemmed from a rift between her and JADE officer Brian O’Donnell, who, in his dual role as an FBI agent, worked closely with her during the trial of Strom’s husband, Kevin Alfred Strom, in 2007.

Local News

UVA “Teddy Bear Clinic”

Diana Cummins writes at the UVA Web site that children love teddy bears. That’s not news, but the way teddy bears are being used by University of Virginia nursing students is news. Cummins writes”

“Assistant professor Carol Lynn Maxwell-Thompson conducted a Teddy Bear Clinic at Clark Elementary School in Charlottesville. The purpose of the clinic was to familiarize 3- and 4-year-old children in the preschool program with nurses and medical instruments. Karen Grove, an alumna of U.Va.’s School of Nursing and current librarian at Clark Elementary, came up with the idea for the clinic to encourage preschoolers to be more enthusiastic about getting regular checkups. Faculty, staff and students at the Nursing School made personal contributions to buy 56 identical teddy bears through U.Va. Bookstore buyer Jan Taylor, who provided a discounted price.”

Each child was given a bear (each with a special name) at the beginning of the process, and it was explained to the three- and four-year-olds that their bears were sick and needed the help of a nurse and doctor. It’s hoped that the exercise will be repeated at other venues and that the community’s children will learn to lose their fear of doctors, nurses, and hospitals.

Cummins again: “Nursing students showed the children what the medical instruments did and the children began checking out their bears; they looked down the bears’ throats with flashlights and tongue depressors, checked heart rate and listened to lungs with a stethoscope, learned how to check blood pressure and temperature, and weighed their bears.”

It’s not known to what extent that children from different social groups fear medical practitioners and procedures.

Check out the full Teddy Bear Clinic article

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Islamic Finance Course at CFA

ACCORDING TO Arab News, the Charlottesville, Virginia-based CFA Institute will soon be offering a curriculum that includes “Islamic Finance.” The Institute has offices around the globe and promotes transparency, fairness, and ethical standards in the financial industry.

For religious reasons, Islamic societies traditionally forbid practices that are common in Western economies: the taking of interest on loans or the creation of money as interest-bearing debt, as practiced daily by commercial banks and central banks like the Bank of England in the UK or the Federal Reserve here in the United States.

Local News

Snow Removal Enforcement Hypocritical?

The Charlottesville Police Department, after a “grace period” to account for the two big snowstorms we’ve had recently, say that they have now “gotten tough” on businesses and homeowners who have not “removed snow from public sidewalks” under their domain —  and have even issued summons for noncompliance.

It’s technically illegal to fail to remove snow on the sidewalks in front of your home once twelve hours have passed since the snow stopped falling — even though those sidewalks don’t belong to you.

Charlottesville’s Lieutenant Gary Pleasants states that most people complied once “warned.”

Police Chief Tim Longo said in January that ordinance wasn’t enforceable because the city of Charlottesville itself hadn’t cleared its walkways. At the time, even Chief Longo hadn’t shoveled his challenging sidewalk — though he now has.

Some citizens have voiced complaints about inconsistency and hypocrisy, though: “How about places where city plows decided to put 6 ft of snow on someone’s sidewalk? And what’s an elderly homeowner to do with 12 hours notice who now has over 1,000 cubic ft of snow to remove or face penalty?” said one. And another commented: “Perhaps the city should first take another look at their own sidewalks! I noticed yesterday that the sidewalks on 5th Street S.W. have not been done yet. In particular, the sidewalks behind the Prospect Avenue complex. People have to walk out in the roadway. The city also won’t clear the roadways. Melbourne Road has a left turn lane onto Rio Road that’s open. The right turn lane onto Park Street has a pile of snow about 200 feet tall. On Park Street turning onto Melbourne Road, the left turn lane is open. The straight through lane onto Rio Road is so narrow I am surprised many cars haven’t been sideswiped. Or maybe they have, I don’t know.”

Local News

Mount Chipotle A Dream for Gamblers?

A group of students at the University of Virginia have set up a betting pool — and possibly a quite profitable one — taking wagers on the huge over-50-foot mountain of snow that plows have created at Charlottesville’s popular Barracks Road Shopping Center.

It’s called Mount Chipotle.

UVA Environmental Sciences student Luke Cole told a local TV station WVIR “We have had aerial fly-overs actually with a small plane. We are trying to map the height and the perimeter of it. It certainly looks like a big north east snow pile that’s made its way down to the mid Atlantic.”

Cole’s department started a betting pool, challenging participants to predict when the mountain will melt — and a source at a local housing rental company says the pool has spread to many downtown businesses: “It’s just a matter of naming the day and putting in ten dollars or more. My money is on early May, but who knows? The thing is just huge. It even has a flag on top of it.”

“Some basic computer models may have been done to try and predict that date. But mostly it’s an educated guess,” according to Cole, who adds that proceeds from the pool will benefit his department.

You can find out more about the mountain, the pool, and even computer models of when the mass will become liquid at

Is the pool legal? Probably not, but law enforcement generally winks at the laws unless someone unpopular breaks them. If controversial recycling magnate Van der Linde was running the pool to pay his legal fees, their response might be different.