Sunday, December 24, 2006

Headline from the future: "Whirrled peas not just for babies and hippies anymore"

Here are the first and last paragraphs from the account of what one writer imagines what life could be like between now and 2026:

"The other day, I borrowed some kids to go gawk with me at the one thing that we can always count on in an ever-more unstable world: age-of-dinosaur dioramas in science museums. This one had the usual dramatic clash between a tyrannosaurus and a triceratops; pterodactyls soaring through the air, one with a small reptile in its toothy maw; and some oblivious grazing by what, when I was young in another millennium, we would have called a brontosaurus. Easy to overlook in all that drama was the shrew-like mammal perched on a reed or thick blade of grass, too small to serve even as an enticing pterodactyl snack. The next thing coming down the line always looks like that mammal at the beginning -- that's what I told the kids -- inconsequential, beside the point; the official point usually being the clash of the titans."

"The future, of course, is not something you predict and wait for. It is something you invent daily through your actions. As Mas Kodani, a Buddhist in Los Angeles, said in the early twenty-first century: "One does not stand still looking for a path. One walks; and as one walks, a path comes into being." We make it up as we go, and we make it up by going, or as the Zapatistas more elegantly put it, "Walking we ask questions." What else can you do?

Perhaps respect the power of the small and the mystery of the future to which we all belong."

It's rather true, and rather encouraging. More and more people are getting fed up with the incompetency of those we rely on to do our bidding, so we're starting to take action on our own to affect change. (Perhaps it also signals an end to our general laziness that has created the obesity and ADD epidemics of late). Read the whole article here: Looking back at history from 2026

Amusing? Idealistic? Naive? Maybe, but ultimately it's one version of what needs to happen if there's any hope for a positive future. There's still time to ask Santa for world peace (or whirrled peas, if you prefer).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

El Capitol

Raleigh is a real town. Kind of. The downtown is bigger than Durham and has a fair amount going on, considering it's a state capital. There are tall office buildings (both existing and being constructed) and government office buildings and local restaurants and stores, and a surprisingly large number of architecture firms. It's a growing Southern city, and it's pretty exciting to see this region expand. Chicago is cool, but there are few new challenges there. Population density is still low here, and there's lots of open space awaiting construction. And that construction is often green--I have seen lots of ads in the independent paper about green homes and apartments. The campus buses run on biodiesel. The energy companies are very visible, and people are working had to preserve the open spaces in the region. The city planning department holds charrettes to give residents a chance to participate in neighborhood development.

Maybe these things happen in other places too, they're just more visible here because there's less of everything. The history museum in Raleigh was closed, so there is probably a lot of interesting here. But for a region that once thrived on the tobacco industry, then crashed when smoking became a bad word, there's a lot of potential yet.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The things you learn on a play day

Today I rented a car and ran some errands, mostly as a celebration for finishing my first semester of grad school. First, I found out from the Enterprise guy that they used to get hybrid cars to rent out (and sell--Enterprise sells their cars too) but since the hybrids have been such a hot commodity, the car companies took away the hybrids to put directly on the market. Then, I was listening to talk radio (not the wacky conservative kind, just some guys talking on the radio) and they did a story about a lawmaker in Texas who is trying to bring equality to the sport (?!) of hunting. Apparently, in Texas (and probably other places too--I've heard this before) it is illegal to use laser spotters while hunting. But this lawmaker is trying to pass a law allowing legally blind people to use spotters, as long as a fully sighted person is supervising. As the talk show guy pointed out, why don't they go all the way and allow legally blind people to drive cars too, as long as a fully sighted person is supervising.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Electric (car) Slide

Maybe the backlash following the death of the electric car has had a bigger impact than previously thought. GM has announced that they are beginning redevelopment of a new electric version of the Saturn Vue, though they can't say right now when it will be ready. Check out this article for more info, and note that includes a mention that all Hummers will soon be converted to run on E85 fuel (which is only kind of better than gasoline) Perhaps we should all write a thank-you letter to GM for their renewed commitment to fuel efficiency and environmental responsibility .

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"When 98 percent of scientists agree, who is Shell to say, 'Let's debate the science'?"

That quote is from John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Co. He agrees that we need to do something to deal with increasing levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and in this article it looks like that will soon be happening. It's amazing how much has changed in only the few weeks since the Democrats gained control of the House and Senate. Maybe things will actually get done now.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Travelling green (or not)

To be... now offers the option of purchasing TerraPass for all flights booked through the site, ranging from $5.99 each for a short flight to $29.99 for international flights. This is the cost Expedia pays, so all of the money goes directly to TerraPass to offset the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere during the flight. Check out the TerraPass option on Expedia here or learn more about TerraPass here.

Or not to be...
Just saw "Who Killed the Electric Car?" It made me want to never own a car again, because the car companies are all the same. Maybe Toyota and some of the others have gotten better, but GM is still evil. There are two interesting parts in the movie that have nothing to do with the topic: first of all, Mel Gibson is one of the featured celebrities, and really, the guy gets more nuts by the day; second, two women protesting the transfer of a number of electric cars to the demolition site park their car peacefully in front of the truck. When the cops pull them out of the car and arrest them (the women are peaceful the whole time and don't resist arrest), the cops put the plastic handcuffs (plastic baggie ties, really) on the white woman and real handcuffs on the African-American woman. Maybe it's just coincidence, but I just thought that was interesting.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Weather or not...

I have lived in North Carolina for three months now, and I have two questions:

1. Why would anyone want to live in North Carolina during the summer, when it is completely hot and humid and there is no major body of water in sight? Chicago in the summer is just perfect, and I've had the most fun ever during the two summers I lived in the city of Chicago.

2. Why would anyone want to live in Chicago during the winter, when the cold wind takes your breath away and the sun doesn't come out for weeks? The past month in Durham has felt more like September in Chicago, and locals aren't terribly surprised that it's going to be 78 degrees and sunny tomorrow. It's kind of weird to not feel cold and depressed in November, because that's about all I've ever known. Not that I miss it.

On a completely baffling side note, I just learned today that Time Warner Cable has a monopoly down here (not the baffling part), and that they have decided not to carry the Bravo and LOGO (a network with gay- and lesbian-themed programming) channels because "Time Warner carries only family-friendly programming" and apparently Bravo and LOGO aren't "family-friendly." Also, North Carolina's policy for teaching health in school includes abstinence-only sex education, and rape prevention education in schools suffers because it means people would have to admit that kids actually have sex. So I guess it's too much to ask to have good weather *and* open-minded community members. Not that I'm surprised.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

C'mon, ride the train

This weekend, I rode the Amtrak to Charlotte. Loved it! Why don't people take the train more often? Okay, it does take longer than flying if you're travelling long distances, but here's why the train rocks if you have the time to take it:
1. WAY cheaper than flying or renting a car. I paid $60 for a round-trip ticket, and it would have cost more than that just to rent a car, plus gas is expensive.
2. You get to see the scenery as a passive observer. North Carolina is gorgeous, and the trees are just starting to change. Today I saw a goat hanging out on someone's lawn (it was a farm, to be fair). Until now, I don't think I've ever seen a goat anywhere besides the zoo. I also saw cotton growing in a field. That was a first, as well.
3. Train seats are much more comfortable than plane seats, the gentle rumble and rock of the train is soothing, and you don't get that weird "I'm suspended in an air-tight vehicle coasting 30,000 feet in the air and defying the laws of gravity, and yet I can't tell I'm moving" feeling. It also feels much safer when there's no laminated card in the seat pocket telling you how to use your seat bottom as a floatation device.
4. Trains are just cool. They remind you of how quickly (and how slowly) the world is moving around you. Taking the El in Chicago always makes me tingle. The excitement of people coming and going, the rumble of the clacking trains on the tracks, the whoosh of the train passing you by. It's like the videos of city life happening in double-time.
5. Trains are more environmentally conscious than driving or flying. Yes, there is still the issue of the impact the train has on the surrounding rail corridor, not to mention that they use a huge amount of electricity (hmmm...masters project topic floating in my head...) Actually, I'm going to do some research on this, and I'll get back to you...

My SLC friend doesn't know it yet, but I'm now contemplating a cross-country train ride to visit him over spring break. The American West by train. Awesome. In the meantime, I'm going to continue advocating rail travel. Maybe it'll make a comeback.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Girl Power!

Yet another reason I love Joel Achenbach: his latest Washington Post blog post is about Arianna Huffington's latest book, On Becoming Fearless.

I read this post after reading a friend's blog post about his latest ego stroke from a new female friend. And now, all I can think about is the song Female of the Species by Space. But really, I think the key to being a truly powerful woman is to know how to get what you want without being intimidating or sickeningly sweet. Guys don't want to date a bitch, and they don't respect a sap. And it's no fun sitting at the top of the heap, looking at what you stepped on to get there. Even powerful women want to have friends.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Community-owned sports

Maybe I'm the last to know this, but hey, I don't keep up with sports that much. Anyway, I just learned last week that the Green Bay Packers are the only team in the NFL that is owned not by some guy with a big bank account but by community stockholders. The team was incorporated in 1923 as a private, non-profit, tax-exempt organization. According to the New Rules Project, "Article I of their bylaws states, "this association shall be a community project, intended to promote community welfare...its purposes shall be exclusively charitable." The team can move only through dissolution, in which case the shareholders get only the $25 a share they put in. A board of directors, elected by the stockholders, manages the team." No wonder cheeseheads are such crazy fans. What a cool idea. That's the way sports should be, really.

The Bears will still kick some Packer tail. I'm just sayin'...

By the way, I just came across the New Rules Project ("Designing rules as if community mattered") when I googled for information about the Packers. Encouraging community support is kind of a resurging movement, as outlined in a presentation by Michael Shuman at the Nasher Museum here in Durham last week. His latest book is The Small-Mart Revolution. (I know, the link is to, but only because they have the best synopsis, reader reviews, and links to other similar books. Please buy the book from your local bookstore). He mentioned the tidbit about the Packers, as well as a ton of other reasons why we should support our locally owned businesses and community groups when possible. Shopping at locally owned businesses saves money and energy on transportation and manufacturing costs, puts a higher percentage of money spent back into the local economy, and prevents big companies from pulling out and cutting jobs. There are myriad other reasons. Just read Shuman's book or check out more information online. People complain about rising energy costs, but it means that we'll all start to do more of our business closer to home, and that translates into a healthier and happier community.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fashion forward (and socially conscious, too!)

I love tee shirts. I've decided that if I'm going to wear tee shirts on a regular basis (and I can, because I'm in grad school), I may as well be original, fashionable, and socially conscious. So I just bought two new tee shirts from Threadless.

Here's the deal: Joe Schmo creates an original tee shirt design and submits it to Threadless (based in Chicago--they have a van that is completely covered in Threadless stickers). If Joe Schmo's original design gets chosen, he gets paid by Threadless with $1,500, a membership to the 12-month club, and a $300 Threadless gift certificate, and Threadless will add tee shirts with Joe Schmo's design to their stock for the public to buy. The designs are printed on tee shirts from American Apparel, which is American-made and sweatshop-free. And the shirts are cheap: $15-25 each.

So yeah, buy Threadless. Support a local Chicago business, independent artists, and socially conscious apparel.

Monday, September 18, 2006

An environmentally responsible alternative to AAA

The cuz posted this information on her blog, and even though there's a link to her blog on this blog, I thought I would mention it because everyone should know about it: the Better World Club. It's a roadside assistance, travel, and insurance club, just like AAA, but it's environmentally conscious. I could list all the benefits, but to quote Levar Burton (remember Reading Rainbow?), don't take my word for it. Go to the Better World Club website and check it out for yourself.
Thanks, K-Dawg, for helping others be better world citizens. I'm still loving my Co-op America membership and I recommend it to people all the time!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And the Big Box debate rages on

Mayor Daley vetoed the Big Box ordinance passed in Chicago that would require stores like Target and Walmart to pay workers a living wage, and today City Council members failed to garner enough votes to override the veto. Alderman Joe Moore (49th) assured the City Council that the issue would not go away and promised to produce a broader ordinance that would apply to workers of companies with at least 1,000 employees. Not sure what this means, but if it leads to fairer wages for all Chicago employees, then let's hope for the best. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Paul Salopek will be freed on Saturday from Sudan, where he was being held on charges of espionage. Salopek acknowledges that he entered the country without a visa, which is a civil offense in Sudan. Bill Richards, Governor of New Mexico, helped secure his release in a meeting with Sudan's president Al-Bashir. Richardson had worked with al-Bashir in 1996 on the release of three Red Cross workers detained by Marxist rebels in Sudan, and Salopek is a resident of New Mexico. But there's another element to this story:
From the Chicago Tribune: During the meeting, according to Humphrey, al-Bashir said, "When I announce this, the Sudanese people will say, 'What about our people in Guantanamo Bay?'"

Ah yes, what about the people in Guantanamo Bay? Perhaps we should ship them to one of the secret prisons that Bush recently admitted that the U.S. runs after all? Pres. Bush said he would send the message immediately to release the detainees, so we'll see what happens. Isn't this, in effect, similar to negotiating with terrorists? The Sudanese government isn't terrorist per se, but it looks like they agreed to let people go in exchange for the U.S. release of some Sudanese prisoners. Hmmm...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Journalism versus Activism

In high school, I was trying to decide between conservation biology and journalism as a future college major. I chose journalism, with the hopes that I could write about conservation. Then my frustration with my journalistic skills and my burgeoning passion for environmental advocacy collided, and I decided this journalism thing was just a phase. Obviously I have moved on. These journalists have found a way to do what I couldn't figure out: how to balance environmentalism and journalism. Props to them. Keep on fighting the good fight.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What price, conservation?

In a tragic and ironic turn of events, Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, died today. He was filming a documentary segment called "Ocean's Deadliest" when he was stabbed in the heart by the deadly barb of a stingray. It's almost poetic. Saving the world is an expensive proposition, and Steve Irwin paid for it with his life, leaving behind a wife and two young children. (Is his dog Suey still around?)

And a jab at the national media: when the anchor on Good Morning America previewed the story about Steve Irwin (which I missed, but I read that another great, Jack Hanna, came on the program to talk about it), she announced the tragedy and paired it with a story about whether stingrays are a threat to everyone else. Steve must be rolling in his not-yet-dug grave. Fear is not the answer. Let's not start a crusade to rid our oceans of stingrays, let's educate the public about stingray behavior and about why we should be working to preserve the natural habitats of these animals. Steve was trying to do just that.

Rest In Peace, Steve Irwin. Thank you for being crazy enough to show us just how wonderful, important, and dangerous the animal kingdom is.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Anticlimactic rainstorm, anyone?

Last night's tropical storm here in Durham was the same as any old rainstorm in Chicago: Steady (and heavy at times) rain, with lots of wind. No local flooding, and it was 65 degrees and windy and drizzly today. Ho hum. It was worse south and east of here, but mostly just some power outages and high wind, with some local flooding. If they hadn't hyped it up as a tropical storm, I would have thought it was just a front moving through.

That's the problem with the media (I wrote a J200 paper on this my sophomore year of college). Weather is weather. It's great to be prepared for HUGE weather events, but it need not be the entire day's news. This morning we had all local news instead of Good Morning America/Today Show. And all they talked about was that it rained. They do the same thing everywhere--any sort of bigger weather event warrants over-coverage, which ends up either freaking people out over nothing or repeating the same news instead of giving people useful information. Whatever happened to the days when a little box would sit in the corner of the screen with color codings for watches and warnings, and if specific areas were in immediate danger, a warning would come over the air telling people to seek shelter immediately. When the storm blew through, the warnings and boxes would go away and we would go about our lives, usually none the worse for wear.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Batten down the hatches

Tropical Storm Ernesto is heading this way, and I mean RIGHT this way. We're supposed to get eight to 12 inches of rain tonight. My first tropical storm. Hells yeah. The only thing that worries me is that I live at the bottom of a hill. There's some land that's lower, but it looks like the water could back up a bit. There are also storm drains nearby, and if they back up, we'll be a-swimmin'. So no toilet flushing allowed.

Last night a different storm came through the area, and the rumbling thunder was so long and loud it sounded like a tank coming down the street. The lightning was silent but bright, like someone flipping on and off a light right outside the window. I love thunderstorms, and it's interesting that thunderstorms in less congested cities with higher humidity are much different than the thunderstorms that blow through the tall buildings of Chicago. Here, and in Missouri, the storms are long and low, with flashes of lightning and thunder that sounds like it's quietly complaining about something. In Chicago, the claps of thunder will jar you wide awake in the middle of the night, and even if you've never been afraid of storms before, you'll begin to fear that the sky will soon fall through the roof.

Speaking of storms, yesterday after a downpour, a woman walked into the building and apologized for being late because she had gotten stuck in a gulley-washer. I love the South.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Paul Salopek is not a spy.

Chicago Tribune correspondent and National Geographic freelance writer Paul Salopek was detained in Sudan, charged with espionage and two other criminal counts on Saturday. He was on assignment in sub-Saharan Africa, and as people sometimes do, he entered the country without a journalist visa. National Geographic's editor in chief, Chris Johns, stated, "He had no agenda other than to fairly and accurately report on the region," Johns said. "He is a world-recognized journalist of the highest standing, with a deep knowledge and respect for the continent of Africa and its people."

Read the Chicago Tribune's statement here and National Geographic's statement here.And hope for a speedy resolution of this problem so that Paul can be released soon and get back to (legally, according to Sudan laws) doing what he does best: reporting about the problems plaguing the peoples in Africa, with the hope of affecting positive change in the region.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I don't care what those astronomers say...

Pluto IS a planet. Just take it from 2 Skinnee J's, whose song "Pluto" has been flying through my head lately because of astronomers' recent decision to downgrade Pluto. Don't worry, littlest planet, we still love you!

"Pluto" by 2 Skinnee J's, off the Supermercado album
With depravity,
I break lots of gravity
Blast past the atmosphere
to the last frontier
I go boldly through space and time
The sky's the limit,
but they're limiting the sky
I break orbit by habit,
I ignite satellites and leave rings round the planets
A flying ace like that beagle,
nevertheless this alien remains illegal
Cause their discovery dont cover me
the immigrants been left in the cold
to grow old
and disintegrate
against the distant and disclaimers,
Cause small minds can't see past Uranus
When I shun their race
cause that's just a phase
and my odyssey runs in 2001 ways
And I can see clearly now like Hubbell
shoved off the shuttle,
here's my rebuttal
It's a planet.

Who do you represent?
I represent the smallest planet
A tourney in this journey
versus those who tried to ban it.
If you don't agree
go see interplanet Janet Cause
the sun is star like
is planet.
So lend me all ears
and let me state my case,
about all the types of satellites we must embrace
Cause like parents'
this planet was an immigrant,
to deport its an offense.
It's an upstanding member of the solar system
Abide the laws of Earth and make it a victim.
Of Proposition
When Pluto spawns a moon it will apply to the heavens.
A dandy like Judas of a chariot
If you demote this boat
remote to a goat
It's like taking ETs custody from Elliot,
support yours
clearly put cause,
simply put

Pluto is a planet. Pluto!
Pluto is a planet. Pluto!
Pluto is a planet. Pluto!
Pluto is a plane

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Shame on Horizon Organics, which has lately been pushing the limits of what can be considered organic. They're owned by mega-farm Dean Foods, and the new management has trouble keeping the cows out in the pasture, which is the key element of organic dairy. The cows often remain in the barns, and they're fed food that, while healthy, is meant to increase milk production. It's not like Horizon is some small farm struggling to survive, so the company's behavior is puzzling.

Check out the article here, which does include explanations from Horizon.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


McDonald's is pairing up with Hummer to offer kids a special toy rootin'-tootin'pollutin' machine with their Happy Meals. Well, only if they're boys--girls get Polly Pocket fashion dolls instead. Let's count how many things are wrong with this:
1. Feeding McDonalds to kids. Keep doing that, and someday the only cars big enough to fit their fat behinds will be Hummers.
2. Advertising products to children that they won't even be able to use for a good 10 years. That's like Joe Camel advertising to kids. I guess at least a Hummer won't outright kill them, just slowly pollute their world and drain their wallets. Oh, Hummers really are like cigarettes.
3. Reinforcing gender roles by giving cars only to the boys. Picture a little girl accidentally getting a happy meal made for a boy. "Do you want a Hummer?" she asks a boy in her class, offering him the toy from her meal. And we thought that stuff only happened in the White House.
4. Hummers and fast food are the kinds of things that are essentially totally wrong with this world in general. Nuff said.

Speaking of Hummer, those tv commercials are really lame. One appeals to the soccer mom in all of us when someone else's kid cuts in front of ours in line at the playground, so we must buy a Hummer to feel superior. Yes! Get our girl on! the ad states. Another ad appeals to the neanderthal in all of us when some guy with meat and beer gets in the checkout line behind a guy with vegetables and tofu, so we must buy a Hummer to even the score or something. For the record, I would guess that any guy who eats tofu and vegetables (which does NOT make him less of a man, by the way) certainly would not stoop to buying a Hummer to boost his ego. Maybe Hummer has issues because real men don't need a big gas guzzler to feel better about themselves. That's what trophy wives and fancy technology are for.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dust in the wind

Not to be morbid, but I thought I'd put this out in cyberspace, in case I meet an untimely demise. Let it be noted, I am not the least bit afraid of death, as long as it comes when I'm at least 100 years old and asleep in bed. I think I have too much to accomplish before then. In any case, eco-burials are becoming a trend. Hmmm.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Some Durham discoveries

After riding the bus a few more times, I've decided it's not so bad after all. I think the bus drivers are starting to recognize me. Anyway, riding the bus has given me the chance to see parts of the city I wouldn't normally ever see. And the rumors are true: the rest of Durham is VERY separate and different from the university. It's almost a little saddening because many of the areas seem kind of run-down, and they are definitely segregated (by situation, not by law). Maybe things just look different in the South. There's very little snow or cold weather, so houses don't need to be built to withstand the weight of packed snow or 40 mph icy winds. A lot of them are wood, so I guess that means they need more maintenance. They'd be charming with a fresh coat of paint and some landscaping. All those movies set in the South seemed like just that--sets. But that's really how it looks down here, and it's quite charming. There's a part of me that really feels at home here. If only there were a city that combined Southern charm with the awesomeness of Chicago. Maybe Atlanta? Austin, Tx?

Today I also went to the farmers market. Now THAT is home. It's a quick hop on the #6 bus and I'm there. Today, Bull City The Band played under a little white tent. Just some local guys adding some musical accompaniment to the shoppers sorting through purple peppers, fresh flowers, and baked goods. Every week at 9 am they have free yoga (although today it rained so they canceled it) and a downtown tour at 10 am. Today's tour featured the tobacco district, which I would have liked to see if I hadn't been meeting up with someone at 11 am (the tour lasted til 11:30). Each week is something different, new music and a different tour. And the kids and dogs and friends all meeting up makes it such a fun place to hang out on a Saturday morning.

One more thing about Durham: clotheslines are a big thing here. In Chicago, people steal anything not locked down with chains. People probably steal here too, but they probably don't waste their time on bedsheets and children's toys and things that are at least kind of locked up. I hope.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The girls aren't the wild ones

Not that I'm surprised by any of this, but it looks like Joe Francis, the man behind the Girls Gone Wild empire, is not the charming, innocent, just-for-fun kind of guy the media portray him as. Read this article from the L.A. Times about him. Read toward the end of the story and you'll realize that this guy is really rather nutso, and definitely has some demons he's trying to deal with by exploiting hot women who maybe wouldn't have anything to do with him if he weren't standing behind a camera. I think this is my favorite line from the article: "I won't sit back and be called a rapist. Rape is a very serious crime that I personally find disgusting. As a son, and as the brother to three sisters I love very much, I would NEVER have sex with a woman without her consent." But he would film her doing naughty things (sometimes coerced) while under the influence. Would he approve of one of his three sisters doing such things?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Public transportation, an official review

Perhaps you may be wondering how I could possibly give a thorough review of the Durham area public transit system after riding it for only one day. Well, one day was enough, trust me. First of all, the bus riding experience was just fine. The bus doesn't announce every stop, so if you don't know the area at all, you have to pay attention. Otherwise, it's just like riding the bus in Chicago. Sometimes the AC doesn't work, and sometimes the windows are a little gross, but it's still just a bus. They don't come very often, so you really can't be in a hurry (or you have to plan your trip in advance so you know when to get to the stop). The biggest difference between public transit in a big city and public transit here is that in Durham, pretty much anyone who can afford to own a car drives everwhere. So the people who take the bus are working class (or are a little off, if you catch my drift), and unfortunately segregation is a problem here, so 95 percent of the people on the buses yesterday were black or hispanic. That doesn't matter to me at all--I took the bus and the train on the South Side of Chicago, and anyway, we're all just people trying to get somewhere. I felt a little out of place, but otherwise it was fine. And after all, I can't afford to own a car right now, so just like everyone else on the bus, I gotta take it to get anywhere I can't walk to.

Yes, the bus riding experience is fine. It's the bus waiting-for experience (as well as the walking-down-the-street experience) that requires some strength. Maybe once students get here, it'll be different, but right now, I get really funny looks for walking a mile and a half to the CVS or standing on the sidewalk waiting for the bus. Apparently people aren't used to seeing a white girl who doesn't have a car. Funny looks I can handle; my good friend reminded me that I just have to be my own person. It's the creepy guys who drive past me slowly, honk at me, call out to me, openly gawk at me, as if I were a prostitute. Hardly. Yesterday I was sweating my balls off in a plain t-shirt from Old Navy and denim capris from the Gap and Teva flip flops. Sexy, I was definitely not. I don't know what makes these guys think they can act so disrespectfully to me--they didn't do it to any of the other women standing at the bus stop, and a couple of those women definitely looked more put-together than I did. I feel like it has something to do with me being one of the few white people among the other racial minorities, so I stand out, but how does that warrant such behavior? The other day I was riding my bike down the sidewalk, wearing a white t-shirt, soccer shorts, and my bike helmet, and I got honked at then too, although I think that was some dumbass macho white guy. Why?

Maybe that's what they call Southern hospitality. That, or there really is such a split between whites and racial minorities that a middle-class white girl from Chicago can't blend in at all.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I love beer

Not in a drunkard, keg-stand, frat party kind of way, but just in the way some people really appreciate a fine wine. I enjoy wine but it makes me sleepy, and I'm not the biggest fan of hard liquor. But give me a tall glass of a fine craft beer or local brew and I'm a happy girl. I became a big fan of Goose Island's 312 (which I realized is named after the Chicago area code, not the number three-hundred-twelve). It's good to support local breweries, just like it's good to support local growers by shopping at farmers' markets. Which is why I'm saddened to learn that Goose Island beer, a Chicago institution, will soon be distributed by Anheuser Busch. I read this in business section of the News & Observer yesterday (Aug 4) but can't find it online, but here's a link to another site regarding this story. Actually, this is the same story, it was just released over the wires July 24th and printed in yesterday's paper. Way to sell out, Goose Island. It's okay, I still love New Belguim Brewing Company best. The ironic thing is that since New Belgium doesn't use huge distributors, I can't find it anywhere west of the Mississippi, save for a 20 oz Fat Tire. Huh. Go figure.

This just feels wrong

Something I've heard a little bit about here and there, but since someone from the career center emailed this out to us, it feels real now. Basically, it's an article about how potential employers check out online social networking profiles and Google results to learn more about candidates for positions at their companies/organizations. I agree that it's foolish to post photos of yourself doing something sketchy or illegal on a public profile, but the fact of the matter is that people use these profiles as creative outlets and connections with friends, and how does anything on a profile relate to a person's professional capabilities? This is a little too much invasion of privacy, if you ask me. What if I were to post a musing or a link to my blog on my MySpace or Facebook or Friendster profile, and a potential employer read something that they personally disagree with but has nothing at all to do with the job I applied for? Can they not hire me because they don't like my poetic turn of phrase or because I'm holding a cup of beer in a posed and perfectly proper photo of me and a friend from a street fair? What if they read this posting and decide that because I feel this sort of thing is invasion of privacy, they don't want to hire me? That's the kind of discrimination that's the hardest to prove and it's so unfair. Thoughts?

Friday, August 04, 2006

I've been tagged

My dear friend tagged me on her blog , and since I've been in the midst of a move, I haven't had a chance to play. Until now.

Five items in my freezer
1. frozen fish
2. peas
3. green beans
4. edamame
5. veggie burgers

Five items in the closet
1. shoes
2. sheets
3. purple trunk filled with the fall/winter attire that I will probably get little use of in the NC
4. Book shelf that will probably get replaced since it has finally bitten the dust
5. plastic bin equivalent of a real tool box (just in case I ever think I need to fix something)

Five items in the car (I don't have a car, but when I did, here's what was in it)
1. face tissues
2. car rack for bike
3. old firewood I never got rid of
4. towel, jacket, old running shoes
5. sand and dog hair

Five items in my backpack (well, not using the backpack yet, so I'll look in my traveling bag)
1. face tissue
2. National Geographic magazine
3. little bag that holds pens, female stuff, padlock, chapstick, mints, and lip gloss
4. hand lotion
5. Palm PDA

Five people I tag
1. Sarah
2. Vince
3. Kaara
4. Alison
5. Jose


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Adieu, Chicago

In a few days, I will be embarking on my trek to a new land, where tobacco grows heartily (which means that sadly, the Triangle area will never go smoke-free) and you get a funny look for requesting unsweetened tea. So, I would like to take a few moments to reflect on what is so great about Chicago, the New York of the Midwest.

1. Among the many things I have done during the summer include: some random side show circus/burlesque show; a student dance show and an open-to-all dance show; Bike the Drive; the L.A.T.E (Long After Twilight Ends, a 25-mile bike ride through the streets of Chicago at 1:30 am); Critical Mass (a worldwide movement to promote the use of bicycles as a viable means of transportation); gone to the regular and doggie beaches, went to various street festivals and concerts, including one great evening at Ravinia; ran in a road race; daytripped to a state park and hiked through some canyons; played in the fountains at Milennium Park; shopped at a few different farmers markets; went for walks and runs and bike rides through hidden parks, the zoo, the lakefront; dined al fresco beneath the el tracks; watched a gay pride parade and rode in a St. Patrick's Day parade...the list goes on. It's hard to believe that all these things happen in just a few short months of nice weather in Chicago. But when you experience them, you forget all about the 20 mph winds that whip through your bones when it's 25 degrees outside.

2. Chicago is a city of communities. At one time, you can live in one neighborhood, work in another, and interact with people in myriad different communities. I lived in Lakeview, Boystown specifically, and worked at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. I was part of: the 20-something community (those of us who graduated from college 1 to 9 years ago and were trying to figure out what to do with our lives), the Jewish community (both in Lakeview and Hyde Park, and they often overlap), the gay community (by proxy), the environmental community, the University of Chicago community, the athletic community, the bicycling community, the music-lovers community (and within that, fans of specific bands--I saw a lot of the same people at various Poi Dog Pondering and Michael McDermott shows), the native South Suburban community (meaning I have run into various people I went to high school with who now live in the area), the Red Line/Brown Line/Purple Line/various bus route communities of people who take the same mode of public transportation every day to and from work. There are probably more too. And although I didn't go to Michigan for college and I didn't grow up in Cleveland, there seem to be communities of those people here in Chicago as well. It's always a little trippy and a lot of fun that the communities overlap, so that you always feel like you'll belong somewhere and you'll always see a friendly face.

3. Speaking of friendly, most people in Chicago have that kind Midwestern disposition, so they're usually happy to help out and they're very friendly.

4. You want culture, you got it. Chicago has a little bit of just about anything you could ever want here, including food, art, dance, music, language, social groups, and more for just about every ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, race, tradition, etc, and everything is open to everyone. And yet, prejudice still abounds, which is tragic.

5. Nature--you gotta look a little harder for it sometimes, but it's there. Personally, it's not enough for my liking, but still...

6. Institutions of learning--Take a college course, get a new degree, learn how to belly dance, brew coffee, parachute out of a plane, speak Armenian, whatever your heart desires. Whether it's a community college, private or public university, community center, place of worship, library, there's education to be had.

I think there's probably more that I love about Chicago, which makes it very hard to leave. Maybe I'll be back someday, but in the meantime, I'll continue to post about all the new things I'll love about the Triangle area, as well as some of the things I'll want to change. Adieu, Chicago. It's been a blast!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A mini-trip to Mexico

Today I went to the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in the Pilsen neighborhood. Mexican culture is so rich and layered and complex, and this particular exhibit featured the African presence in Mexico. Really, most modern Mexicans are a genetic mix of Spanish, American Indian, and African genes, but because there used to be such a stigma associated with interracial relationships, many people don't consider or acknowledge the possibility that they have a mixed heritage. Africans were brought to Mexico as slaves when the Spanish came to conquer the native Indian groups, and just like in the States, they played an integral role in the development of Mexico's modern society. It's a fascinating exhibit, and it makes me really bored of my own heritage. It does highlight, however, the fact that some things about the human experience are the same across cultures, and that we should be working together to bring fairness and equality for everyone, an idea especially relevant right now with all the discussion in this country about immigration rights.

I regret that in the almost 3 years I've lived in the city, I couldn't get my act together to go to the Dios de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibit, which runs every year in September and October. Perhaps I'll have to make a special trip back to see it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Bestill my heart

A little birdie told me that Trader Joe's would soon be making its way to Durham, NC. And I know homey wouldn't mess with a girl's emotions like that.

Whole Foods, hang on to your knickers. Although truth be told, when the average high in winter is 40ish degrees, the farmers' markets probably operate nine or 10 months a year, and that's much preferrable to any grocery store anyway.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Age of Misinformation

A minority congressional report has charged that 20 out of 23 federally funded pregnancy resource centers are telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma. Click on the post title to read the article.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hopping off the coat tails

Bradd Pitt is drawing attention to something good for the world besides his good looks, and he's doing it without Angie's help. Brad Piit has apparently always been interested in architecture, and now he's working with Global Green to sponsor a contest to design environmentally friendly housing in New Orleans for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Read more about it at MSNBC's special.

Green building is becoming really big. The new mega tower that serves as Hearst media headquarters was build with green elements. See, there's hope...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Women as sex objects

This topic has been way overdone, and I'm often the first to roll my eyes when people start talking about the objectification of women. However, we wouldn't be talking about it if it weren't still a huge problem, as evidenced by this Tribune article and this show on Oprah (I almost never watch Oprah, but it was on and I was distracted).

1. For Women, it's too close for comfort. This article is about the New York subway (although it could easily be about the CTA as well) and problems women face of being groped, poked, mishandled, and exposed to flashers. Why do people think that just because it's crowded, it's okay to cop a feel? Yes, sometimes it is too crowded to tell whether it really was an accident, but people definitely use that to their advantage. It's creepy. Putting your hands on someone you don't know is just wrong, no matter how they're dressed.

2. Fallen Star and Birthday Bust. Oprah's guests on today's show included an all-growed-up Jaimee Foxworth, who played the youngest sister on "Family Matters". After she got older and the tv money dried up and the acting gigs were hard to come by, she ended up doing pornography to make money. She had been led to believe that she would just be doing modeling, but went with the flow when she found out she'd be doing porn. She figured that was just a next step and that the tabloids wouldn't find out. Riiiight...the tabloids find out stuff that isn't even true, so of course they learned of her new gig.

The other guests were the mother and father who were arrested for hiring a stripper for their underage son's birthday party. They were exposed when the store that developed the photos from that party found shots of the completely nude stripper in compromising positions and turned them in. Here's the thing: as soon as the stripper started getting really naked, the mother left the room, and the father admitted that he felt really uncomfortable about the whole thing but did nothing to stop it. Oh, it gets better. The father was talking about taking care of the kids on his own when the mother felt too depressed to get out of bed, and he said he had to make sure he was home often because "you can't leave teenagers home alone for too long." What was this guy trying to protect them from that he thought would be worse than a stripper?

I pass no judgment on anyone who strips or acts in porn, or who watches strippers or pornography. It's none of my business what consenting adults do. But there are people out there who are less able to separate what they see in a strip club or adult video from what people do on a day-to-day basis, and so they think that just because a woman in a video gets all hot and bothered with a stranger, that a woman minding her business on the subway during rush hour would appreciate a pat or a grab from someone she doesn't know. If we're going to continue to advocate the freedom of expression that allows pornography, we should advocate even more strongly about safe sex and respect for our fellow humans.

Monday, June 26, 2006

If the richest men in the world can do it...

Perhaps it is old news by now that Bill Gates is relinquishing his duties at Microsoft to focus on his work with his foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Now, following in his footsteps is the second-richest man in the world, Warren Buffett. He's giving most of his money to the Gates' foundation as well, and other fractions will go to other Buffett family foundations that support education, the environment, child protection, and the arts. Read more here

I hope our local and national politicians are taking note. It's time for the top 1% of this country to do some good for the people who need the money most.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Death of a Terrorist

Last week, I tried to post my thoughts about the big celebration that was the Death of al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda, but alas blogger was down and I have since forgotten all that I was going to say. So I'll just say that for some reason this huge celebration of someone's death seems just so creepy and morbid, and all it does is bring us down to the level of all those people who were dancing in the streets in the Middle East after the fall of the World Trade Center in 2001. Yes, I understand that al-Zarqawi was a horrible terrorist and allowed horrible things to happen. But he's still a human. In a recent video, he could barely figure out how to shoot a gun (which somehow reminds me of the Dick Cheney hunting incident a while ago). Al-Zarqawi is dead now, and perhaps the battle in life with his own demons is over, and perhaps he's fighting a different battle now in death. How does his murder validate all the wrongdoings this presidential administration has committed leading up to this point? What will they think of next?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Another Conservative who gets mad props for being Green

President Bush's pick for Treasury Secretary, Henry (Hank) Paulson, is an unabashed environmentalist and may actually bring some insight to this administration about how to support the economy and boost green initiatives throughout this country. The fact that he's a Republican proves that the environment isn't a liberal cause, it affects everyone all over the world, regardless of political leaning. I hope that he can make a difference and start revolutionizing the way people think about the economy and good business practices. Someday soon, people will realize that many green business practices aren't actually more expensive than their conventional counterparts, and shortly after that, the cost of being green will be the same or less all the way across the board.
In the meantime, read Grist Magazine's profile of Paulson.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Face to face with a real live journalist

Joel Achenbach, a journalist at the Washington Post, columnist for National Geographic magazine, and published author, is definitely one of my favorite journalists. His blog through Washington Post online has a regular following of people who chat through his comments section instead of doing work all day (no I'm not one of them). In any case, now you can watch him talk online at He's not a regular guest, he just agreed to appear and talk about his WP article about global warming skeptics. Achenbach regularly talks about environmental issues, and he does it in such a way that it's not preachy or intimidating and he encourages discussion from all viewpoints. He also teaches a journalism class at a university in the DC area (I don't remember which one--maybe GW?). What a cool class that would be. I'd much prefer him to the jerky guy I had for feature writing, who stole the best question I ever asked a magazine editor.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cruellas DeVille

Maybe if someone fixed Social Security in this country, these women wouldn't be bilking the insurance companies out of thousands of dollars. Or maybe they just really hate homeless people. Either way, it's a sad story and a lesson about trusting people.

Two Elderly Women Jailed in Deadly Insurance Scam

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Greener Side of Prince Charles

I'll admit that I know very little about England. I know they have accents (which sometimes I mix up with Australian accents) and that they're generally more socially aware than Americans. I also know that their Parliament sessions are more like verbal rugby. One of the many things I didn't know is that Prince Charles is quite a progressive thinker when it comes to urban planning. Well, countryside-urban, anyway. Read this National Geographic magazine excerpt about his management of his hundreds-of-years-old estate, the Dutchy of Cornwall, that he hopes his sons will take on when he becomes king.

On a totally random side note, is that what "pass the dutchy" means? I didn't think so...

Friday, April 28, 2006

Athletes an embarrassment to rest of city

By now, we have all heard way too much about the Duke University Lacrosse players accused of raping a stripper during a house party. And now this:

The Associated Press
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Top Tampa Devil Rays Bay prospect and Durham Bulls standout Delmon Young was suspended indefinitely by the International League on Thursday, a day after throwing a bat that hit a replacement umpire in the chest.
"The Devil Rays' organization supports the decision," said Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay's team's executive vice president of baseball operations.

Young, 20, brother of Detroit star Dmitri Young, was ejected in the first inning following a called third strike in the Bulls' Triple-A game at Pawtucket, R.I.

When Young took his time leaving the batter's box, the umpire tossed him. Young then flipped his bat underhand, and it sailed end over end, striking the umpire. The umpire, whose name was not released, did not appear injured and remained in the game.

C'mon all you Durham athletes. Get it together. Learn some good sportsmanship and respect for your fellow citizens. Durham, NC, is known for a lot of great things. Don't overshadow them with your disgraceful behavior.

By the way, did I mention that in August, I'll be moving to the fine town of Durham? So I have a special investment in a positive public image of Duke University and the surrounding town.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jose, can you see?

Urban Box Office, a New York-based record label and marketing company, is recording the United States' national anthem in Spanish as part of an album called "Somos Americanos" or "We are Americans." You can read more about it here.

Many people are really upset about this, and I just don't get it. America is the country of immigrants, and although English is the national language, I don't see why anyone who feels patriotic toward the U.S., whether they're from Mexico, Poland, Botswana, or Mars, shouldn't be able to sing the national anthem in their native language. There's no such thing as "American" culture really, because we're such a melting pot, and immigrants who become citizens are required to know the national anthem in English anyway. People don't give up everything they are when they become a citizen, they still retain and celebrate their heritage and culture. So why not open our minds and learn something about the artistic touch given to our national anthem from another culture? Heck, translate it into any of the hundreds of languages spoken by citizens of the United States. Add a funky beat, mix in some inspiring words that actually mean something to people (Do Mexicans really care so much about our WASPy war with England? They historically had their own problems with the Spanish, and most Mexicans are a mix of Native American, European, and possibly even African blood anyway). People emmigrate to the States because they have more economic and educational opportunities, more religious freedom, and/or because their families are already here. They're not looking to take over the country, they just want to make a living for themselves.

Some people might argue that it's wrong to change the national anthem, to add words or infuse artistic flair. Might I remind those people that it's just a song, not a church hymn or prayer. No one will get struck down for changing a song that was written in the 1700s and doesn't even apply to many of this country's citizens who don't have the same history with Imperialist England.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Happy Belated Earth Day, y'all!

Looks like environmentalism is becoming the latest fad--this month's issue of Vanity Fair magazine is the special Green Issue, with articles about the famous environmentalists we all know and love, as well as other tips and information about the environmental movement. Ironically, the magazine is printed on the usual glossy magazine stock, which probably contains little to no post-consumer (aka recycled) paper. Eh well, they do what they can, right? I mean, that photo of George Clooney in cargo pants has to look high quality, right? In any case, the magazine features Chicago's very own Ruler of the Universe...ahem...Mayor Richard Daley, who has been a leader in creating a greener city. Chicago's City Hall building was the first in the country to have a green roof, which includes rooftop gardens and other energy-saving building materials that keeps the building cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Prior to the green roof installation, the AC ran at 100% capacity all the time; with the green roof, the AC only has to run at 80% capacity because the roof helps keep the building cooler.
Obviously, you have to go buy the magazine to read all the articles (couldn't they have put all of this issue online, which reduces the paper waste of having to buy a thick magazine?!) But check out the preview here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Say what you will about Utah...

...but they are surprisingly progressive when it comes to environmental issues. Kennecott Utah Copper Corp., a mining company, has supposedly converted to environmentalism and is planning an environmentally conscious megasuburb near Salt Lake City that will be twice the size of San Francisco when it's completed in 50 years. The true sustainability of this megasuburb remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it's creating some buzz and will perhaps encourage other mining companies to turn from their evil ways and give something back to the earth. Read more about the megasuburb here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

DeLay follow up

I have decided to join the masses and obsess about the whole DeLay-mission from God thing, mostly because my head is just spinning from trying to figure out how this guy thinks that he's God's messenger. This article from Washington Post highlight's DeLay's next mission to bring the United States together under a fundamentalist Christian agenda. To quote from the article, "...the Rev. Rick Scarborough, introduced DeLay to a Christian conference just last week, saying, "This is a man, I believe, God has appointed . . . to represent righteousness in government."
Besides the obvious fact that DeLay is the very opposite of righteousness, I'd like to point out that he is BFF with Jack Abramoff, who was just sentenced to 6 years in prison and whose downfall is just the first in a long line of dominoes destined to fall in the coming years. Abramoff is an "Orthodox Jew" which really is a joke because probably most Orthodox Jews could argue that his religious conviction is all a front, contrived to gain support from the religious right. So if DeLay wants this to be a fundamentalist Christian country, where does his buddy Abramoff (and all other Jews in this country) fit into the political, law, and business structures of this country? Or shall we all just convert now?
To quote DeLay, "People hate the messenger. That's why they killed Christ." I don't even know what to do with that.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hot News Day

A few more things that might be below the radar:
Mass. Bill Requires Health Coverage

Agencies Not Protecting Privacy Rights, GAO Says

Hope Flows Anew for Troubled Klamath

Maybe he doesn't know about that infamous video

One down, how many more to go?

Tom DeLay is leaving politics. Well, at least he's resigning from his duties and not running for re-election. But he has so many connections in Washington that I would guess he will find other ways to get his grimy little hands into some more trouble.
He said he was in public service (a policitian as public servant?! Hah! Not these days!) to do God's work and bring Christianity to government. But he's leaving because his buddies are getting busted and the polls show he would have a very challenging re-election campaign. So does he think God really approved of the money laundering and the pandering and the work done on behalf of lobbyists to degrade the environment, reduce medical benefits for the poor, take resources away from those who need it most, and line the pockets of the ever-richer corporations to the detriment of individuals and small businesses? Just like athletes and musicians, politicians are very quick to praise God and Jesus when they're successful. Funny how God and Jesus don't seem to be nearby when scandal or misfortune hits, eh? I'm not against having faith and saying a little prayer once in a while if it helps people feel better and maintain confidence as they pursue their work. I'm just saying, was God on the side of those choosing to break laws or get involved with shady business deals or keep resources from the people who really need them? Most regular people who are in some way religious try to live up to the moral standards taught in church or synagogue or other places of worship or religious observance. It's the bad eggs who preach moral and religious superiority, yet blatantly harm others behind the scenes, who try to set the standard. Because all the best things in life are free, but money sure buys a whole lot more.

Monday, April 03, 2006

FYI for Women

I've been complaining lately that despite my years of training, with weights, cardio, and yoga, and my general improvement in fitness, I just can't break my threshold in speed and endurance when it comes to running. I've been blaming it on the boobs. I know many of my sister athletes have similar woes, especially we Jewish girls with hearty Eastern European blood. I think there's hope for us though, as evidenced by this article in Discover magazine. Breasts that can fill a D-cup bra can weigh 15 to 23 pounds. Try strapping that much sand to your chest, then running a few miles.

Maybe the next generation of sports bras will help not just 20- and 30-something women who are entering the athletic community after discovering the gym in college, but also girls in junior high and high school whose adolescent body issues (embarrassment over blossoming early and avoiding gym class) prevent them from feeling empowered through sports and general athletic activities. Think of how this could reduce obesity problems in kids and reduce cancer rates in adults.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A photo in life

I remember when the lightbulb went off, about a year ago. I was riding the CTA Green Line from Hyde Park to the Loop. I looked out the window as we approached the Indiana stop, when lo and behold, there it was.
During the summer before my junior year of high school, I took a mural art class. The plan was to have finished a mural by the end of the summer that would be hung in the wing where the school radio and closed-circuit television stations were produced. Since none of us had ever attempted such a task, our teacher brought us to the Elliott Donnelley Youth Center on the South Side of the city. I don't remember what the inside looked like; we spent a lot of time in the community art garden, an oasis among the dilapidated buildings. I took lots of photographs of the mural on the wall--the style reminded me of that of Thomas Hart Benton, an artist about whom I was writing a biography for this class, who painted flowing scenes on large canvases. I also photographed the sculptures from different angles, and with other students leaning against them or examining them. One cone-shaped sculpture was painted bright yellow with red dots. A stone gazebo was inlaid with polished stones and shining tiles. There were also large painted tiles and other things too, which I didn't photograph and can't remember. That was 1996. For 9 years, those photographs have been floating around in my drawers, mixed in with other photos from parties and such, hiding behind books. Until I looked out the train window, I had no recollection of where that mural and sculpture garden were located. (Until I moved to the city of Chicago, I had no idea there was anything else besides Michigan Ave. and Clark-and-Belmont.)
And when I saw the mural on that youth center wall, it was the weirdest thing, like spending 9 years looking at a photo of a person you met once, then walking past them on the street, looking exactly like the photo. It was like finding a long-lost friend. Only this friend's facade had faded. The mural seems to be in pretty good shape, at least from a distance. But the bright yellow cone-shaped sculpture is faded to a gritty pale tan, and the stone gazebo looks tired and worn. But it's all still there, just like I remembered it in the photo. Perhaps one day this summer, I'll stop onto the center, photos in hand, and offer to help out with something.
If you want to see a photo of the Elliott Donnelley Community Art Garden, go here
The mural on the taller building on the right is the one I have so many photographs of. You can see the yellow cone-shaped sculpture just in front of it, and the stone gazebo is in the middle, right in front of the train rail.
If you want to see what the area looked like before the restoration, go here

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Why rockers rock (and not just because of their music)

I heart Guster. Their music is great, they're nice Jewish boys who sing about latkes during Chanukah, and they're also environmental activists. While on their Campus Consciousness tour, they will drive a van that runs on B20, a 20 percent biodiesel blend. According to the news article on Environmental News Network today, this "Campus Consciousness Tour,, aims to educate, inspire, and activate students, and above all, leave a positive impact on each community and college/university that the tour reaches, according to the band." The tour is sponsored by Reverb, an organization that is a project of the non-profit organization ARIA Foundation (Artistic Resources In Action). If you want more information about the tour or anything else mentioned here, click on the above link to the ENN news article, which has more info and links to the websites of the other organizations above.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Crunchy Cons

No, I'm not talking about the negative aspects of being an environmentalist (because really there aren't any). I'm talking about political conservatives who are embracing the environmental movement along with their liberal cohorts. Clean air and water, natural resource conservation, and wildlife protection aren't issues that only affect political liberals. When the environment suffers, we all suffer. More people on both sides of the aisle are stepping up to join conversations about conservation and to take action to clean up our land, air, and water. Check out this article on Environmental News Network as evidence that the environmental movement is growing everywhere, whether we want access to more organic food, to save the arctic seals, or to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
Speaking of oil, there's an article in the April issue of Discover magazine about the growing success of the the plant in Carthage, Missouri that turns the Butterball plant offal and other refuse like rubber tires and plastic into bio-oil, which can be used as-is or combined with some other oil to make gasoline. Sadly, Discover strikes again--since I'm a subscriber, I get the issues long before they hit the news stand or the online files, but in the meantime, read Discover's first article from May 2003 about the plant. I may be a vegetarian (and looking at the pile of dead turkey parts only reinforces it) but I would use the oil from this plant for everything possible. Hey, I don't have to eat it, it just has to power my car and electricity (with little or no pollution).

Roe v. Wade, Red v. Blue, Men v. Women

I find it a bit interesting that right around the time that South Dakota Governor Michael Rounds signed into law a bill banning abortion in his state, tourism ads began airing on television boasting of all the wonderful things to do in South Dakota. But this issue has brought up another interesting point. The general grief people have with outlawing abortion is that women should have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies, and it's no business of anyone's besides hers and her doctor's. I agree. But what about the fetus' father? Does he have a right to decide whether or not to have the baby? Some men are now speaking out, saying that they have been unfairly duped into paying child support for a child they didn't want. Do they have an equal say in this matter? I'm still undecided. But I will say this: There are ways to prevent a pregnancy, such as the many forms of over-the-counter and prescription contraceptives, as well as just plain not having sex. I understand that accidents happen, but if a guy is that adamant about not having children, put on a damn condom, even if the woman claims to be on birth control. Eighteen years of child support is a big price to pay for not using common sense. Maybe these guys have a case, maybe they don't. But they better base it on something besides their own regret if they want to gain any ground on the matter.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Wet Blanket

At first I was hesitant to post this article up here because it's so long and so accusatory, and I don't want to seem preachy. Well, not too preachy, anyway. But it has haunted me since Monday, and so I post it here. The article is critical of Republicans in politics, and although some Democrats are just as guilty, the issue goes beyond party politics. The problem is corruption, which must be eliminated no matter where it comes from. So regardless of your political affiliation, please read this and understand that something needs to be done.

Saving Our Democracy

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Boys Club

Yesterday, the Republican candidates for the Illinois gubernatorial race came together for an NPR radio debate. Whomever wins this primary election will face Illinois Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. Although I do care about the outcome of this race because I want the state government to be run successfully, I'm not too worried. It's generally believed that in Illinois, Republicans and Democrats are all really about the same, because they must appeal to the mostly moderate voters in Illinois. Anyway, after the debate last night, Judy Baar Topinka (the only female candidate) left and the 4 or 5 other candidates stuck around to answer questions during a press conference. Not sure why Topinka left--the news clip on WGN News (click on GOP radio debate to watch the clip) this morning didn't mention her reasons for leaving--but during the press conference, the other candidates spent the whole time criticizing Topinka and her platform. At one point, candidate Jim Oberweis (yes, of Oberweis Dairy) crooned, "Come back, Judy dearest. Come back and play with the boys." She did, and she held her own as the other candidates criticized her to her face.

Since the news clip was less than 2 minutes long and they didn't really say much else, I will refrain from making any assumptions about what else happened. But when I saw Oberweis crooning, I cringed. It seemed incredibly condescending, and whether Topinka will be a good governor (if elected) is beside the point. I just wondered 1. whether the male candidates would have done the same thing if Topinka were a man and 2. If Topinka WERE a man, whether s/he would have left after the radio debate or stuck around with the other candidates to continue the debate at the press conference. Just an interesting character study, is all.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

When it all falls down

On this blog, I usually try to avoid writing about what everyone else is talking about and instead look for the stories that may be under the radar. However, there is one really mainstream topic about which I would post here, if only I understood it. Chicago city politics fascinates me. Right now, it's slowly crumbling, as evidenced by City Clerk James Laski's resignation. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass writes about city politics all the time, which has really piqued my interest in the whole thing (though it could also be the journalist in me). Kass has been writing about city politics for a great number of years, and although he's obviously biased against Mayor Daley, he knows a lot about what happens behind closed doors and can explain it better than probably anyone else out there.

Chicago is nicknamed the Windy City not because of the weather (although yeh, it's windy) but because of the politics. The history of the city and the scandals that are slowly being exposed tell a lot about the way this city is run and how complicated it all is. I encourage everyone to look into it. If I have a lighbulb moment, I'll post it here. Happy learning!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Musical lamentation

In the past month, I have acquired somewhere in the area of a few dozen new albums, an amount of music so daunting that I haven't even tried to listen to most of it yet. My iPod and I are going to have to have a serious reconnection. During this time, I have also gotten my coworkers hooked on the workday addiction that is Yahoo Launchcast, shared my music collection with some other willing participants, and sampled yet another online music service that looks cooler than Launchcast, has none of the annoying commercials of Launchcast, plays way random music, and allows users to create more than one station.

With all this exposure to new music, I must lament the impending end of an era known as No Doubt. In 1996 I went to a Mighty Mighty Bosstones/No Doubt concert at the World Music theater, and I still hold to this day that it was the best concert I have ever been to. Although Gwen Stefani usually gets most of the attention, No Doubt was definitely more than just the strong female vocalist. The drums always carried a stong beat that stood out, complemented by the bass line and guitar riffs. No Doubt was a band that was strong because each of the members was equally strong. But now, dear friends, I feel the time has come. I feared it was nearing with the release of Gwen's independent high-school pop album (which isn't bad, but it's certainly a departure from the band's unique sound and rockin' albums). And now that she's pregnant, she and husband Gavin Rossdale are going to make their pretty little nest and have their pretty little baby and the only music produced by either of these musicians will be the lullabies and preschool songs about baby animals. Two of the other band members have families as well, and so they will probably go their separate ways, then show up on some VH1 reunion show in 10 years. I guess everyone has to grow up sometime, huh?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Mood elevator

Taking a break from the serious stuff to bring you something sure to make you smile, no matter how bad your day is. Feel free to laugh out loud, even if your co-workers think you're loony. Cats always look like they either hate the world or they were caught in the act of doing something silly (which, despite all efforts, they couldn't stop themselves from doing, as if they were temporarily possessed.) It's really quite hilarious.

The only thing better than this is Planet's Funniest Animals on Animal Planet.

Monday, January 16, 2006

And you thought DMV lines were long

Laurie Goering, foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, has her job cut out for her in South Africa. Her latest report exposes the horrendous bureaucracy of South Africa's Home Affairs Department. Take a printout of this article with you anytime you go to the DMV. It will remind you to appreciate the mere 3 hour wait. At least you know you'll walk out of there with a correct ID card or driver's license in hand, which is more than most South Africans can say.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Interesting Southern culture

I thought this story was truly fascinating: Descendants of slaves help transcribe the Bible into the language of their ancestors
We Northerners tend to think of the South as just one big backwards Red State, but there is some truly fascinating culture that doesn't make it into the news usually. One of my friends told me about her family's Southern roots and what it was like for them to be Southern Jews. Ancestors of slaves are embracing their familys' roots and the traditions they passed on. The book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil features voodoo beliefs and rituals that are still practiced today as Santeria and other Caribbean religions. I'm sure there's more out there, too, but I haven't spent really any time in the South to learn more about the things you don't hear about in the Midwest.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Morning Radio

So, the only good thing about driving to work instead of taking public transportation is getting to listen to Morning Edition on NPR. Last Thursday, I heard a really interesting story about how people look to other things besides housing as economic indicators. I don't know much about the economy, but I guess that housing prices around the country are general indicators of how the economy is doing. If prices are high, it means people feel confident about the economy and are willing to invest more money in real estate (that whole supply and demand thing). According to the NPR story, people are now looking at other prices, like those of horses (a big investment that doesn't pay off right away) and also that of dry cleaning and men's underwear. Obviously the economy isn't an exact science. But doesn't increased demand in dry cleaning and men's underwear indicate that people are soiling their clothing more due to increased stress? Just a thought...

(click on the post title to go to the NPR story)