Sunday, July 22, 2007


Hey Loyal Readers -

Click here (Chicago Moms Blog) for a chance at a free video cam. . . .

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lake Michigan and BP

This morning, both the Sun-Times and the Tribune print editorials against BP’s new plan to dump additional waste into Lake Michigan, via its Whiting, Indiana, refinery. I guess BP rules the world. . . .

Earlier this week I expressed my disappointment with the Illinois EPA. Now I can express the same for the Indiana EPA. I’m going to the lakefront to sign the petition.

I drive through Indiana every time I visit my family in Michigan, and I usually fill up my tank there because gas is cheaper. I’m not going to do that anymore. The Michigan economy is really in trouble, so I’ll spend more there, instead. I want to see Indiana make a big effort creating jobs/industries that clean up the environment.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

When Friends Book a Room Downtown

I’ll probably never be able to eat at Frontera Grill again. My friend and I tried to eat there on Tuesday night. Neither of us was especially hungry, so we thought we could handle a long wait at the bar. Except there were about 60 people queued up there. My friend, from Manhattan, said, “I don't think so.” Then we tried Heaven on Seven. Same thing. Finally, we ditched the whole mad scene and went to Greek Town—no waiting, free parking, and an exceptionally pleasant waiter who didn’t want to interrupt our conversation.

On Sunday, the wait for lunch at Bistro 110 was also two hours. I like to see and experience a booming, summertime Chicago as much as the next person, and I like to revisit my favorite eating establishments. Looks like I have to find some new ones. . . .

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chicago Water

This morning I learned that Chicago doesn’t disinfect its wastewater for viruses, bacteria, and pathogens. An Alliance for the Great Lakes report “Protecting Public Health, Caring for Chicago’s Waters: An Agenda for Action” released yesterday notes that only four major U.S. cities do not disinfect.

The other three cities falling down on the job are Memphis, Tenn., St. Louis, Mo., and Kansas City, Mo. But those cities are expected to disinfect in the near future.

The Alliance report recommends disinfecting through UV technology at a cost of $8.52 per person, and the Alliance President throws the Olympics out there as one of many reasons for investing in the city’s waterways.

I’m not excited about the possiblitiy of a Chicago Olympics, but if that would help this city fix public trans and clean up the water, maybe I should be.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Draw of the City

I'm only 100 pages into this book, but I like the way McNally describes Chicago. And Jainey—a modern, alternative, suburban high schooler:

“Jainey had always thought of Burbank as the center of her universe, a kind of mother ship upon which she sailed through life, but what Jainey saw now was that the real mother ship was Chicago and that Burbank was nothing more than a tiny moss-covered barnacle desperately clinging to the ship’s hull.” —from America’s Report Card: A Novel by John McNally

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Science Literacy (Or, What $288 Can Buy)

I have a long list of books I’d like to read before I leave this world. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is on it, and I took great satisfaction recently in checking it off.

Five years ago, when my daughters were newly enrolled in Chicago Public Schools, I chose to become involved in that system through volunteering. I’m not really a School Picture Day kind of mom or a Lunch Duty mom (though I have been, on occasion). As a reader, I’m more interested in the books my children bring home, and the kind of work my children are asked to do.

The curriculum—the exposure to various subjects—is the thing.

So I got involved in the school’s Barnes & Noble Book Fair for a few years. This is an advertised shopping day, when members of our school community spend money at Barnes & Noble with a percentage of sales coming back to our school. We typically earn about $900. I would then divvy up that money (through book purchases) between all the teachers who provided me with a wish list of books for their classrooms.

The science teacher’s list was incredible, and eyeballing it, I guessed the cost of providing it would extend beyond our tiny budget. The list included classroom sets (30 copies) of various Golden Field Guides (tree, fish identification) and a set of Silent Spring for an eighth-grade environmental science unit. I suggested the teacher prioritize the list, and Rachel Carson came out on top. Nevertheless, that year I went a little heavy in the science department, and spent $288 on 30 paperback copies of Silent Spring. I went to our Parent-Teacher organization to request additional monies for the purchase. Parents voted and agreed to give me a bit more money for book-buying. In the school newsletter I listed every book title I purchased for the teachers and how much I spent. No one complained how the money was spent. Some people even thanked me for keeping them informed.

I suspect, though, that there are parents in these United States that would complain about spending PTO funds on books by Rachel Carson. I hope I'm wrong about that, for the children's sake.

On the most recent Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISATs), my daughter’s school vastly out-performed the city and the state averages on their basic science assessments. I’m not surprised. One teacher can have quite a ripple effect.

And even though many years will pass before my daughter is asked to read Silent Spring for class, her teacher generously loaned me out a copy of the book for the summer.

That’s how I came to read Silent Spring and how I came to blog about Rachel Carson and science literacy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Put This Woman in Charge

My mover-and-shaker friends from NYC will be in Chicago next week for business. During a telephone conversation about when and where we could hook up, we talked about the TED conferences and some of the amazing people invited to speak. Here's Majora Carter making her case in the 18 minutes TED allots each presenter. Stay ‘til the end of the video. . . she won't disappoint.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Veggie Drop-Off #1

Here’s our first delivery of vegetables from the organic farm we subscribed to this year. Aren’t they beautiful? Farmer Renee dropped them off today at a church behind our local Starbucks.

What I'm able to identify is the red-leafed lettuce, the bunch of turnips (in the center of the photo), and the cucumbers. I can’t competently i.d. the other two lettuce varieties. The bag of what we first thought were green beans turned out to be long, curvy green onions (not like any I’d ever seen before). We chopped off a piece to taste. Wow—so fresh.

The challenge, of course, is how to prepare all this lovely produce during the next seven days (before the next delivery). And to get our daughters to partake!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Sun Farmer

A friend of mine went to a local bookstore to hear Michael McCarthy read from and talk about his new book The Sun Farmer (Ivan R. Dee, 2007). The book tells the story of an Illinois farmer’s devastating accident—while pulling a propane tank with his tractor—resulting in third degree burns covering 93% of his body. McCarthy documents the 45-year-old farmer’s 14-month-stay in the burn unit at The University of Wisconsin in Madison and his subsequent attempts at rehabilitating back into the farming life.

In another time and place my friend knew the wife of the injured farmer in McCarthy’s book. They attended high school together, and after listening to the author speak here in Chicago, my friend made the touching gesture of purchasing six copies of this book to give to the members of our book club. We will be meeting in two weeks to discuss it. I would not have known about this book were it not for my friend. But I am moved by it. I learned much about the science of artificial skin; advancements in burn treatments; the small, family farm; and the farming community.

I learned much about my friend, too.