Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

The residents of Louisiana and Mississippi are having a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad day, for obvious reasons. New Orleans, although spared the worst of the storm, was flooded beyond belief, destroying whole neighborhoods and promising continued chaos as sewers flood, coffins float through alleys, and debris piles up. When New Orleans was settled hundreds of years ago, people knew they were building a city on top of a swamp, destroying the wetlands that act as a barrier between the ocean and the land during periods of high water. Now they're realizing just how much of a mistake that was. Read this article in the New York Times (which is similar to articles being written on this topic all over the country.)

I'm not saying that anyone deserved this, I'm just saying that you get what you pay for. In the battle between humans and nature, nature will always win. I hope this was a wake-up call for people to realize that you can't fight a storm, you can only be as prepared as possible for the aftermath. Huh, that seems to apply to many world events, not just to this hurricane.

Monday, August 29, 2005

It can happen to you, too

This weekend, I had the opportunity to learn what to do when one's wallet is stolen. I would have preferred read about it instead of learning through personal experience, but now I can pass the information on to you so that you can learn by reading.
1. Lower the limits for how much can be charged to your credit cards or withdrawn from your bank account on any given day. That way, when anyone (including you) tries to charge or withdraw more than the limit, you will be called to confirm the purchase or withdrawal. Yeah, it's a pain if you're trying to buy something or are going on a trip and need a bunch of cash, but it prevents other people from running up thousands of dollars on your credit card.
2. Don't keep lots of money in your checking account, so any huge charges on your debit card will be declined due to insufficient funds (sometimes it really pays to be broke). Also, don't keep more than one or two credit cards, and be sure to close all accounts that you don't use anymore.
3. Don't keep your Social Security number in your wallet or purse (thankfully I didn't either).
4. Keep the account service phone numbers for all credit and debit cards in a safe place at home. Thankfully, my credit card company contacted me as soon as someone attempted to charge a large amount to my card, and they were able to give me the numbers for my other credit card and my bank. Thank you MBNA for saving me some time and grief.
5. File a police report immediately (duh). Many places require a police report number to verify that it was theft and not just you being a dumbass.
6. Even if your SS card wasn't in your wallet, you could be vulnerable to credit fraud. Call any one of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax) to put a fraud alert on your credit report. No need to call all three--when you place a report with one agency, they will automatically share the information with the other agencies. This will require any credit company to contact you directly to authorize new credit applications so that no one can open new credit under your identity.
7. Create only good Karma so that it doesn't come back to bite you in the ass later on. Even if you don't believe in Karma, avoiding gossip and keeping a positive attitude never hurt anyone.

I got lucky: I only had about $10 in cash, my credit card companies followed up right away so that no one was able to charge to my cards or gain access to my bank account, and there wasn't enough personal information in my wallet for anyone to do anything (I hope!). Be careful and protect yourself so that if God-forbid anything like this happens to you, the damages will be minimal and you'll be prepared to take care of it quickly.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Them Downstate people just ain't right

Hippiemama called me this morning from San Diego to tell me about her visit with Hippieuncle and his Hippiefriends, and despite all her complaints about Chicago and all her yens to be on a beach in SoCal year-round, she actually said, "I actually like Chicago better." Apparently San Diego is one big suburb without the diversity of restaurants or cultural attractions that Chicago has. Take that, Tan Diego! Anyway, the Chicago Tribune ran some articles this morning that grabbed my attention. Have a look-see, and share with your friends.

1. HOAX!
That's right, I said it. Downstate people are just wrong. Kidding. But Southern Illinois University should know better. As a journalist (well, I was for a while...in college...) I am appalled. And yet, it's rather funny.

2. Bold School
Kanye West is a native of Chicago, and he more than makes up for the embarrassment of a Chicago musician known as R. Kelly. I may be a relative newcomer to the world of quality hip hop, but I look forward to the new wave of music emerging from Kanye, Common, Mos Def, and other musicians who have been around forever and are finally really getting noticed. Bye bye, bling bling.

3. Chicago not for elephants, scientist tells alderman
Keeping elephants out of the Chicago zoos is not a bad thing, though some people may be dismayed. Zoos are great places for teaching people about animals who need less living space or who are more adaptive to their surroundings, but elephants need to roam. Put them on reserves in Tennessee or the Great Plains, where they can live in protected areas that are more like their natural habitats in Asia and Africa. Props to Chicago scientists for standing up for better treatment of elephants.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Seven Wonders of Chicago

This summer, I fell in love with Chicago. The weather, although balls-hot, allowed for outdoor concertgoing, volleyballing, beaching, biking, running, exploring, barbecuing, and anything else you think you can do outside. But it's not just the weather, because I love Chicago even when I'm swearing at the CTA in the 10-degree February weather and sweating in the 95-degree sauna of July. And now, the Chicago Tribune is working to establish the Seven Wonders of Chicago. They're announcing one of the 14 nominees every day until September 9th, when readers get to whittle the list down to the seven winners. So far, the Lakefront, Watertower, and the L train have been nominated. This is going to be hard.

Follow the process at www.chicagotribune.com. On Sept. 16th, when they announce the winners, I'll post the list with an ode to each winner. Til then, feel free to post a comment on your favorite things about Chicago. Then consider moving here, 'cause it's really an awesome city. And the winters really aren't THAT bad. Riiiiiiiiight....

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Another loss in the media world

From the Chicago Tribune on August 16th, 2005:
"In a funeral befitting a fallen head of state, visiting dignitaries and average Chicagoans on Monday remembered businessman John H. Johnson, crediting the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines with changing how blacks are seen in the United States."

Read the rest of the article here

I wasn't familiar with Johnson's work before he died (well, I had looked through Ebony and Jet in the past, but didn't know anything about Johnson.) but I think it's important to celebrate black culture. Although Johnson wasn't as visible as Peter Jennings, his work was just as important and should be honored and respected by everyone. If you have any doubts, pick up one of Johnson's magazines, and then go read "The Known World" and think about how far we've come in even just 30 years.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Affirmations of Life and Death

In death...
A fond farewell to Peter Jennings, who passed away Sunday, four months after announcing to the public that he was battling lung cancer. Any death is sad, a premature death from a horrible disease is worse, and the fact that he was such a public figure doesn't make it any better. Mr. Jennings, I hope you're not suffering any more. You taught us so much in life, but the biggest lesson to the public was taught in death. I hope that a new generation of newscasters and reporters will succeed as you have.

In life...
The space shuttle Discovery touched down safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California this morning. As the wheels skidded along the runway and the chutes popped open to slow the shuttle, I got a little teary-eyed. NASA is facing a lot of challenges as it struggles to keep up with modern technology, but we should never give up hope that new minds and talented scientists will create new technology that will bring new explorations of the universe beyond our atmosphere, as well as the seas beneath our feet.

In ink...
TLC's show "Miami Ink" is not just about a bunch of hooligans getting tattoos of skulls and roses, it's an interesting look at a fascinating art form that used to be only for sailors and motorcycle gangs but now transcends all cultural boundaries. One of the tattoo artists mused that perhaps 50 percent of all tattoos are designed and given in memorial of a friend or fanily member who died. Other people get tattoos to honor a change-of-life experience, such as breaking an addiction or having a child. The guys on the show are talented artists, specializing in Japanese art, creating one design from four different pieces, copying photographs into skin art, and more. It's fascinating to think that in 50 years, retirement homes will be croweded with displays of tattoos from drunken nights and long-lost memories, stretched earlobes and piercing scars on noses, navels, lips, and other body parts, as well as implants, surgery scars, gastric bypass rings, and other signs of body alterations. What a sight.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Obligatory Pet Hommage

Yes, this is my baby. Isn't he cute? He loves that hat. I got Sammy shortly after September 11th. I had been planning on getting a guinea pig all summer long (the apartment company didn't allow pets at all, but I figured a caged rodent couldn't do much damage), but since I didn't get my act together til mid-September, that's when he arrived at Smurf Village. I like to think he helped me cope with the changing world, the terrorism disaster, the new threats to our health and security, but honestly I don't think I was really upset by the current events. Except for my dreams of seeing glowing bombs through my bedroom window. In any case, last winter I learned just how much I would do for him as I racked up vet bills on my credit cards and nursed my baby back to health. He'll be four years old on August 12th, and he better live another four years, that's all I got to say. In the meantime, I'll put up with his 5 am pleas for breakfast if it means another day of snuggles, unbelievable cuteness, and fits of pouting in his castle. People don't give guinea pigs enough credit. They're smart and cuddly and they know when it's dinner time--traits that dogs and cats exhibit as well. Yes, they're rodents, but Sammy had been known to kick some mousey ass. So there. Cats barf and shed on your stuff and dogs need to be walked no matter if it's raining or snowing or 50-below-zero or hot as an oven. Don't get me wrong, I love cats and dogs too. For now, I'll keep my piggie, thank you. Yes, I know people in South America eat guinea pigs like we eat chicken. But this is Chicago, and when in Chicago, do as Chicagoans do. Hmmm, could I walk him on the Lake Shore Path like a dog? ......