Housing Market Looking Up

If all goes well, it looks like I’ll be closing on my first house (actually condo) on Friday, joining thousands and thousands of other Americans eager to pick up a good deal in what everybody is calling a buyer’s market — and, of course, to get that 10% (up to $8,000) tax credit — though in my case, I guess I’ll be spending most of my tax credit money on repairs rather than that dream vacation to Europe!

Anyway, the economy is at last beginning to get a boost from the real estate market.  MSNBC reports new home sales rose 11% in June, the largest number in 8 years.  And a few days before, existing home sales were reported to have gained for the third straight month.

Could it be that the economy is finally beginning to turn around, led by real estate of all things, that crazy beast with its sub-primes and alt-As which just about took our financial system down just a few short months ago?  Who knows?  But lots of folks think this is one of the best times in many years to invest in a home.

If you think maybe you’d like to jump into the real estate market, Greensboro Public Library has lots of books on home buying.  Try some of these:  Mortgages for Dummies by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown; Home Rich:  Increasing the Value of the Biggest Investment of Your Life by Gerri Willis; The Wall Street Journal Complete Home Owner’s Guidebook:  Make the Most of Your Biggest Asset in Any Market by David Crook; Nolo’s Essential Guide to Buying Your First Homeby Ilona Bray, Alayna Schroeder, and Marcia Stewart; Buying a Homeby the Better Business Bureau, with Alice LaPlante (on order); All Real Estate is Local:  Why Understanding the Housing Trends in Your Area is Essential to Building Wealthby David Lereah; Clark Smart Real Estate:  The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling Real Estate by Clark Howard & Mark Meltzer; The Single Woman’s Guide to Real Estate:  All You Need To:  Buy Your First Home, Buy a Vacation Home, Keep a Home After a Divorce, Invest in Property by Donna Raskin and Susan Hawthorne; Buyers are Liars & Sellers are Too!:  The Truth About Buying or Selling Your Home by Richard Courtney; The New Complete Book of Home Buyingby Michael Sumichrast and Ronald G. Shafer, with Martin A. Sumichrast; Buy It, Fix It, Sell It:  Profit!:  A Comprehensive Guide to No-sweat Money-making Home Rehab by Kevin C. Myers; and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Buying and Selling a Home by Shelley O’Hara and Nancy D. Lewis.

By the way, I’d say that last one is the one I should of read before I began this little adventure!

Towards a Better Hamburger?

While I’m here at work blogging away on the Library’s Current Events Blog, I just happen to be thawing out some burger at home and wondering what to do with it when I get back for supper. 

So, naturally an MSNBC article and slide show about hamburgers (here and here) really caught my eye today.  As the article points out, times are tough, burger is cheap, and this old standby is now all the rage, even at “fancy” restaurants.  I must say, I never dreamed there could be so many ways to make a hamburger.   

If you’re interested in reading up on hamburger, trying to get some ideas for new hamburger recipes, or just have a general interest in fast food, try some of these titles from Greensboro Public Library:  Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries, & Shakes by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas & Sally Jackson; The Burger Meisters:  America’s Best Chefs Give Their Recipes for America’s Best Burgers Plus the Fixin’sby Marcel Desaulniers; The Great Big Burger Book:  100 New and Classic Recipes for Mouthwatering Burgers Every Day Every Way by Jane Murphy and Liz Yeh Singh; The Hamburger:  A History by Josh Ozersky; Dying for a Hamburger: Modern Meat Processing and the Epidemic of Alzheimer’s Disease by Murray Waldman & Marjorie Lamb; Modern Meat (DVD); Food, Inc.:  How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer — and What You Can Do About It, edited by Karl Weber; Guide to Healthy Fast-food Eating by Hope S. Warshaw; Chew on This:  Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson; The Fast Food Diet:  Lose Weight and Feel Great Even If You’re Too Busy to Eat Right by Stephen Sinatra and James Punkre; Don’t Eat This Book:  Fast Food and the Supersizing of America by Morgan Spurlock; Fast Food My Way (DVD); and Fast Food Nation:  The Dark Side of the all-American Meal by Eric Schlosser.

It’s Cicada Season

I really enjoyed this story from the News and Record on our insect friends, the cicadas.  Their singing is one of the great pleasures of my summer evenings.

Most of the time, the cicadas we happen upon around Greensboro, on our walks and hikes, are what are known as “annual cicadas.”  That means, of course, that we see them each year — usually during the dog days of July and August, as the News and Record article points out. 

But there are also “periodical cicadas,” whose broods emerge only every 13 or 17 years.  Most cicada species take a number of years to grow and mature underground before emerging as adults.  The thing about the periodical cicadas is that their development is synchronized so that all members of a given population emerge as adults at once.  Thus, during an outbreak, the confines of a comparatively small neighborhood can be literally inundated with thousands of these strange creatures. 

Periodical cicadas look just like annual cicadas (at least, to my untrained eye), except their wings, body parts, and antenna are trimmed in orange or yellow (instead of the annuals’ green) and their eyes are bright red.  To me, they have an otherworldly appearance (especially owing to the color of their eyes) and make me think of Martians from some sort of 1950s style, sci-fi flick.

I’ll never forget my first encounter with the periodical cicadas.  I was fifteen years old (1974), then living in Lenoir, North Carolina, and a friend of mine invited me to take a bike trip about ten miles or so out-of-town to an area of Caldwell County known as Mulberry. 

I suppose we were about halfway to our destination (quite rural, after we left the fringes of town) when we began to hear a very strange noise.  Continuing my 1950s sci-fi flick Martians metaphor, I think I’d compare it to the noise from a giant hovering spaceship.  And the further we went on towards Mulberry, the louder it became (according to this Wikipedia page on cicadas, the name cicada is actually Latin for “buzzer”). 

Then, along the sides of a dirt road, I began to notice large, black flying insects and quickly realized they were literally all over the place — on bushes, weeds, blades of grass, tree trunks, in the air.  At last, my friend Jon and I realized what accounted for the noise.

Being an avid insect collector, I naturally had some specimen jars in my backpack for our “expedition” to Mulberry.  As I look back upon it now, I have to admire Jon’s patience as I collected dozens and dozens of these roadside cicadas to take home.

I’ve never forgotten that bike trip, always remembering it as one of the highlights of my youth.  Above all, I’ve always remembered the cicadas, and when I’ve since then heard about outbreaks of periodical cicadas, I’ve tried to make time to seek them out — and thus revisit a cherished little part of my past.

Last year (2008), for example, I learned of an outbreak in the vicinity of Moravian Falls in Wilkes County and photographed as well as collected quite a number of specimens along a roadside just off of Highway 421.  And, in 1996, back when I was just wrapping up my classwork toward my MLIS, I heard about an appearance of cicadas in Rockingham County.  I think I’ve still got some of those preserved in a jar of alcohol.

Entomologists actually use the term “brood” to describe what I’ve called outbreaks or populations of cicadas.  The ones I saw in 1974 and 2008 both turn out to be part of Brood XIV, a seventeen-year brood, so some of the cicadas I saw in 2008 may well have been the grandchildren of those from 1974.  The cicadas which appeared in Rockingham County in 1996, however, were of Brood II (also a seventeen-year brood), and I’m looking forward to their return in 2013.               

If you’d like to learn more about cicadas, here’s a great cicada webpage.  And here’s another associated with the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, from which I obtained the map above.

Alas, I only found one juvenile work on cicadas in Greensboro Public Library’s collection:  Cicadas and Aphids:  What They Have in Common by Sara Swan Miller.  However, we have plenty of general works on insects which would have information on cicadas. 

You can also read more about cicadas in Science Online, and you should be able to find some articles on them in the NCLive network of databases.

UPDATE:  Here’s a link to some photographs — taken by Greensboro Public Library’s very own Tommy Joseph — of this year’s emergence of 13 year cicadas here in Greensboro.

Guilford Unemployment Rises to 11.7% in June

The North Carolina Employment Security Commission’s June county numbers were released Friday, and Guilford County’s rate was 11.7%, up .4% from May and the highest since the recession began.  Check out this News and Record story.

In the Greensboro-High Point metro area, the jobless rate crossed the 12% barrier.  Among neighboring counties, Rockingham’s is the highest at 13.8%, followed by Alamance (12.4%), Randolph (12.3%), and Forsyth (10.1%).

Statewide, 40 of our 100 counties had rates over 12%.  Western Piedmont counties which historically were dependent upon textile and furniture manufacturing continue to have some of the highest rates:  Burke (14.9%), Caldwell (15.6%), Catawba (15.5%), Alexander (15.4%), Rutherford (15.4%), Gaston (15.0), Cleveland (15.4%), and McDowell (16.1%).  This region, which is in a near depression, is in desperate need of a targeted economic development plan. 

Once again, if you’re out of work, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s JobSkills offerings.

Jupiter’s Great Black Spot

This is just a brief notice of Jupiter’s Great Black Spot, newly discovered this past Sunday by an Australian amateur astronomer named Anthony Wesley. 

Nobody knows what caused it yet, though some speculate a comet crashed into the planet, as happened in 1994 with the Shoemaker-Levy event.  

The image above was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

If you want to learn more about Jupiter, Greensboro Public Library has a few titles, mainly juveniles, such as:  Mission Jupiter by Daniel Fischer; Jupiter by Ron Miller (juvenile); and Jupiter:  The Fifth Planet by Michael D. Cole (juvenile). 

You can also check this previous post for some of our more recent general works on the solar system, and you’ll find lots of information about Jupiter in Science Online.

Another Cemetery Story

Though I don’t mean to overdo it on cemetery stories (see my previous post from last week), I couldn’t resist this one from The Daily Tar Heel about the African American section of the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, located on the edge of the University of North Carolina’s campus.

The graves of many of the African Americans buried there are unmarked, and investigators plan on using ground-penetrating radar and an electrical sensitivity test to see what’s underground and identify graves.  The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, which is leading the project, believes the cemetery may hold the remains of “up to 100 black people who worked at the University in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

I know this graveyard well.  Though I didn’t go to school at Chapel Hill, I have enjoyed many visits to Wilson Library over the years, often parking in the old visitor lot on Raleigh Road.  The walk from the lot to the library always took me past the cemetery, where you can find the graves of prominent figures associated with the University, such as the late Charles Kuralt and Frank Porter Graham.

Remembering Forgotten Cemeteries

Check out this neat story from Raleigh’s News and Observer about an old cemetery where residents of the Wake County Home for the Aged and Infirm (or poorhouse) were buried up until 1976.

The cemetery and those buried there were mostly forgotten until a News and Observer story ran last December.  Since then, local historians have been trying to piece together the lives of the cemetery’s occupants from old records such as death certificates and family memorabilia, and it appears likely the County will soon erect a memorial nearby.

The Wake County story reminded me of another which appeared in the News and Record about two years ago on the Proximity Mill Cemetery, here in Greensboro.  Located along Phillips Avenue, this cemetery provided free burial space to Cone Mills employees going as far back as 1901, but it’s now in a sad state of repair.

Of course, it’s often living descendants of the dead who take the initiative to rescue lost burial grounds, and in a follow-up to the Proximity Cemetery story, we learned of Gary Maness, who has 23 family members buried there and is working to establish a nonprofit association to protect the cemetery.  

Please remember, if you’re looking for the grave of a lost ancestor, Greensboro Public Library may be able to help. 

From our website, for example, you can search a database for City of Greensboro cemeteries — Forest Lawn, Greenhill and Maplewood — and you can also search for gravestone inscriptions in our Guilford County Marriage and Death Records 1771-1899 database. 

We also have books in our genealogy collection at Central Library which may be useful, such as Guilford County Cemeteries, a two-volume set edited by Mary Browning, which includes listings for many of the cemeteries in the county.