Monday, December 31, 2007

one man's trash

How many of us think about how much trash one person can generate in a year? This is a thought-provoking, if somewhat extreme, example.

We can each find practical ways to reduce the trash we generate. Bags are a biggie for me. If I'm at a store, I often have a tote bag with me and put my purchases into it rather than accepting a plastic bag. If I don't need a bag, I try to avoid taking one. I try to buy items with less packaging when possible.

Look at your patterns of use. Replacing one or two disposable items with reusable ones can make a big difference. Here's to a new year of less trash. Cheers!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

burning the midnight oil

Peter Garrett of Australia's Midnight Oil has taken his activism to the next level. After previous attempts, he was elected to the Australian Parliament and has been appointed environment minister by the new Prime Minister.

I hope that the U.S. elections in 2008 will bring us a change that is similarly positive for the environment. It can't get much worse than Shrub.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

News Star Top 10

This year-end item in the News Star is worth mentioning in case you haven't seen it yet via 24-7 North of Howard Watchers or Broken Heart.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

R.I.P. Oscar Peterson

The music world has lost another giant, Oscar Peterson. He died on Sunday in Toronto at the age of 82, after giving us the gift of great jazz for many years.

Click here for Oscar Peterson's web site. This link is a CBC archive page that includes links to audio and video interview clips.

If you enjoy jazz but aren't familiar with his music, check it out. I think you'll like what you find.

cool yule

Click here for a cool animated version of an old Christmas favorite.

Chinese food for Christmas

What do you do on Christmas if you're Jewish? Click here, regardless of your religion, and have a laugh or two.

Monday, December 24, 2007


'tis the season for the faux tradition of airing grievances.

One of my biggest pet peeves at this time of year is people who don't clear their sidewalks. C'mon, folks! Some of you may live in your cars, but many of us need to be able to walk without falling on our asses and having inconvenient fractures.

So, what's your biggest pet peeve (aside from the never ending flinging of verbal dog poop on certain blogs)? Do tell.

wrong side of the window

Apparently some guy on State Street last night made the Channel 7 news at 10 p.m. a bit too interesting for the anchor. Check out the video. Dude, you're supposed to watch the show from outside the window!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

our toddlin' town

Ah, it just keeps getting better. Here's a Todd-related item from Chicagoist.

coming up fast

The New Hampshire primary is coming up fast. Having lived in New Hampshire, I think there's more than a bit of lunacy in having it so early in the year. It's too close to the holidays. Extreme weather that could reduce turnout is more likely. But they're not going to change the date on my account.

If you put any stock in polls, you might be interested in checking out this week's Boston Globe poll of New Hampshire voters.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Blago under siege

It's about time that the feds put Blago under closer scrutiny. Tighten the screws!

a different kind of holiday lights

The new thing in holiday lights is LEDs. However, not everyone loves their look, as noted in this recent Boston Globe article. Your $0.02?

Friday, December 21, 2007

it's in the bag

This article in today's San Francisco offers some nice solutions to help eliminate one of my big pet peeves: the proliferation of plastic bags. They list a variety of online sources for reusable bags to use for shopping, lunch, etc.

I have a collection of assorted canvas and nylon totes that I use for groceries and other shopping errands, carrying extra items to/from work, extra carrying capacity for travel, etc.

If you've thought about getting some tote bags and just haven't gotten around to it, or the ones you've seen are too expensive, check out the list of vendors at the end of the article. Some of their options are quite affordable, and they come in fun colors and patterns, too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

no fix for transit this year

Today's news that the stooges in Springfield have failed yet again to agree on a transit funding plan was no great surprise, unfortunately. Rod Blagojevich and Mike Madigan deserve big lumps of coal in their stockings. Julie Hamos deserves the reward of a long-overdue agreement. Stay tuned for the next round after the first of the year....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

sad news

Those of you who are familiar with the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society have probably met Mary Jo Doyle, founder and executive director of the organization. Her family and friends have my sympathy. She gave so much for the community.

Visitation will be from 3-9 p.m. on Friday, 12/21/07 at John E. Maloney Funeral Home, 1359 W. Devon. The funeral mass will be held at Saint Margaret Mary Church, 2324 W. Chase on Saturday, 12/22/07 at 10 a.m.. At Mary Jo's request, please make donations to any of the organizations listed below in lieu of flowers.

Whether or not you knew Mary Jo, you may want to watch Eve Brownstone's oral history interview with Mary Jo. This YouTube video is also available at

Memorial donations may be made to:

The Rogers Park/ West Ridge Historical Society
7344 N. Western, Chicago, IL 60645

American Cancer Society
P.O. Box 22718 Oklahoma City, OK 73123-1718

The Red Door Animal Shelter
P.O. Box 269119 Chicago, IL 60626

St. Scholastica Academy
7416 N. Ridge Chicago IL 60645

I'd like to say a final thank you to Mary Jo for all her hard work in preserving neighborhood history. She has left a fine legacy.

puppets on wheels

I caught a bit of this show at Christkindmarket today. Fun stuff!

untapped source of revenue

I noticed a recent comment on a local blog that reminded of something I've often said in passing. There are thousands of Chicago property owners who violate city ordinance by failing to clear snow and ice from their sidewalks. They endanger those of who need to walk on their sidewalks.

I've often joked that the city could have a revenue gold mine if they hired aides to go around and write tickets on all the property owners who neglect their sidewalks. At $25-50 a pop for a first offense, and more for subsequent offenses, the city could make some real money. The citizens would benefit by having sidewalks that are safe to walk on. It could also create jobs. Local youth job councils could be a source of snow shovelers for those folks who would rather pay someone else to clear their sidewalks. Could be a win-win. Your $0.02?

last minute shopping

Something to keep in mind for your last minute Christmas shopping, as well as future shopping for any kids in your life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

for the holidays

If you haven't yet visited Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza, you haven't run out of time. It's open thru Christmas Eve. There's still plenty of food and drink and interesting things to buy. Great for people watching, too.

Monday, December 17, 2007

killing time at work

funny video - NOT suitable at work where the boss might see it

Monday morning wake-up

Sunday, December 16, 2007

CTA doomsday survival guide

If the CTA doomsday actually does happen, consider riding a bicycle for at least part of your commute. Chicagoland Bicycle Federation (CBF) has a page of suggestions for some bus route substitutions. If you usually take a bus to a train, you might use a bicycle for that portion, as there are now bike racks in and around many CTA and Metra stations.

For everyday or year-round use, a beater bike might be appropriate. Working Bikes and Uptown Bikes are good sources for used bikes. Police auctions are another source. When buying a used bike from any source, it's worthwhile to take it to a bike mechanic you trust to check it out and make sure that all is in safe operating condition.

The Chicago Bike Shop Directory is a good source for finding dealers and mechanics near you. It includes user reviews.

The Bikewinter web site has lots of useful tips for riding in winter, and if you want to meet folks to ride with, there are plenty of events.


Saturday, December 15, 2007


I just noticed a story in the Reader about a new Wisconsin product available at Taste in Jarvis Square. Na zdorovye!

bedtime for Blago?

Looks like the feds are closing in on our chief crook, I mean gov. Could they have a special gift for Blago, too? Please, Santa, do you have a special lump of coal in your stocking for Blago. ;)

Friday, December 14, 2007

our work isn't done

Warm up your typing or dialing fingers again. The transit funding mess still isn't resolved, and the hole keeps getting deeper. If you need the names of your legislators and their contact info, click here to look them up.

Get ready to kiss billions of federal matching funds for transit goodbye unless the folks in Springfield come up with the state matching funds soon enough to claim that federal $$$$.

Meanwhile, Monday's threatened walkout by CTA workers has been called off, but the underlying problem still not solved - boneheads in Springfield still need to agree on funding. For all the hard work Julie Hamos has done, I'd like to see Santa reward her (and all of us) with an agreement on funding that will actually last a while and not be another band-aid.

Let's take time out from the holiday rush to call, e-mail or fax our legislators one more time, then hope for a Christmas miracle.


An oldie but still funny from Sesame Street

Thursday, December 13, 2007

score one for the taxpayers

On Wednesday, Cook County board members voted against Todd Stroger's mega tax increase proposal. I put in my $0.02 with the board members on that one, and I know plenty of other folks did, too.

But Stroger doesn't give up. When is this clown going to get a clue that he needs to make some cuts closer to home before people are willing to throw more money his way?

automatic confessional machine

The Catholic Church has installed a new automatic confessional machine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

dig it!

It's time to break out the snow shovels. Even if you just go from your door to your car, you need to shovel the sidewalk across the front of your property. Many of your neighbors depend on having clear sidewalks to walk to and from the train or bus, the grocery store, etc. It's also required by Chicago law. Please be a good neighbor and keep your sidewalks clear and safe.
Chicago Municipal Code10-8-180 Snow and ice removal.

Every owner, lessee, tenant, occupant or other person having charge of any building or lot of ground in the city abutting upon any public way or public place shall remove the snow and ice from the sidewalk in front of such building or lot of ground.

If the sidewalk is of greater width than five feet, it shall not be necessary for such person to remove snow and ice from the same for a space wider than five feet.

In case the snow and ice on the sidewalk shall be frozen so hard that it cannot be removed without injury to the pavement, the person having charge of any building or lot of ground as aforesaid shall, within the time specified, cause the sidewalk abutting on the said premises to be strewn with ashes, sand, sawdust, or some similar suitable material, and shall, as soon thereafter as the weather shall permit, thoroughly clean said sidewalk.

The snow which falls or accumulates during the day (excepting Sundays) before 4 p.m. shall be removed within 3 hours after the same has fallen or accumulated. The snow which falls or accumulates on Sunday or after 4 p.m. and during the night on other days shall be removed before 10 a.m.
(Prior code § 36-19)

10-8-190 Liability for civil damages.

Any person who removes snow or ice from the public sidewalk or street, shall not, as a result of his acts or omissions in such removal, be liable for civil damages. This section does not apply to acts or omissions amounting to wilful or wanton misconduct in such snow or ice removal.
(Prior code § 36-20)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

green for Christmas

As more people considering the ecological implications of various choices in their lives, they are presented with more dilemmas. This article in the San Francisco Chronicle raises some good points about the pros and cons of real vs. artificial Christmas trees.

I love the smell of a fresh tree, and I've occasionally gone to a tree farm to cut one. I think it's an ecological extravangance. There are enough decent looking fake trees out there to offer us some good options. A good fake can last many years if it's treated gently. Buying a real wreath can give the scent of a real tree with a much smaller ecological impact.

What's your $0.02 on the issue?

Friday, November 30, 2007

sticking around

This month has brought some sad news. Jocelyn of Rogers Park Neighbor and Trash Detective has decided to end her blogs. Craig has said that he is thinking of calling it quits with his Broken Heart blog. They have been both sources of neighborhood news that might not have seen the light of day otherwise, a valuable resource to folks who care about what's happening in Rogers Park.

Jocelyn and Craig - Thank you both for blogging and fighting the good fight. I hope that you'll reconsider and not leave the Rogers Park blogosphere. Each of you has provided a valuable service to the neighborhood. Your comments are welcome here at Fargo Observer. I'm planning on sticking around.

Wishing all of you a holiday season of peace, and a new year of positive change.

Iggy Pop chats with Dinah Shore

Yes, Iggy did chat with Dinah - it happened in 1977. For your amusement....

Thursday, November 29, 2007

winter parking fun

Don't forget: Chicago's street parking ban starts Saturday. About 107 miles of Chicago streets will be tow-away zones from 3 am to 7 am from 12/1 to 4/1 . Another 500 miles of streets are designated no parking when at least 2 inches of snow is on the ground. If you're thinking of parking on a main street, double check - read the signs.

"These arterial routes are as important to Chicago as your arteries are to you," said Matt Smith, chief spokesman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation for Chicago. "When you have parking on these streets, emergency vehicles can't get through, just like a blockage in your arteries."

If you ignore the signs and park in the wrong place, you could get hit with a $150 towing fee, a $50 ticket, $10 storage fee daily and relocation of the vehicle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jungle Boogie on Soul Train

The video quality on this one isn't great, but the outfits and the moves are a trip.

Click here to enjoy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

from the other side of Howard St.

If you want to see a good example of a hands-on alderman who communicates well with constituents, check our Evanston Alderman Ann Rainey's online forum. Too bad she's not representing Rogers Park.

Monday, November 26, 2007

send a message to Stroger

The Tribune did us a fine service today by giving us the scoop on which of the Cook County Board members seem likely to rubber stamp Todd Stroger's quest for a tax increase of nearly $900M. Eight board members have made it clear that they think the county is already collecting enough in taxes. The other nine could use our input. I've included their contact info and Stroger's below. More info is included in this Tribune editorial.

Please vote with your dialing or typing fingers.

Todd Stroger:, 312-603-6400 and 312-603-5500.

Earlean Collins, West Side, west suburbs:, 312-603-4566 and 773-626-2184.

William Beavers, South Side and south suburbs:, 312-603-2067 and 773-731-1515,

Jerry "Iceman" Butler, Near South Side, south suburbs:, 312-603-6391

John Daley, South and Southwest Sides, southwest suburbs:, 312-603-4400

Roberto Maldonado, North and Northwest Sides:, 312-603-6386 and 773-395-0143,

Joseph Mario Moreno, Southwest Side, Cicero:, 312-603-5443 and 773-927-7154

Joan Patricia Murphy, south suburbs:, 312-603-4216 and 708-389-2125

Deborah Sims, South Side, south suburbs:, 312-603-6381 and 708-371-4251

Robert Steele, Near North, Near West and Near South Sides:, 312-603-3019 and 773-722-0140

holiday creep

Why do the retail sector and certain segments of our population need to stretch out the holidays so much? I started seeing Halloween store displays at Labor Day, and Christmas stuff before Halloween. I'd be perfectly happy if I only saw holiday lights from around 12/10 to just after 1/1.

WLIT radio's all-Christmas-music format (started 2 weeks ago) makes me gag. When I go to the pool, they're now playing it there. Uggghhhh!!!! Makes me glad my head is underwater most of the time while I'm there.

IMO, the holidays are more special and meaningful if they are confined to short and distinct periods. And we've got enough
Hallmark holidays already.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

fixing blight

I noticed an excellent letter to the editor in Thursday's Sun-Times. He made some good points about TIFs, including the expiration of the Central Loop TIF in 2008 and its diversion of over $100M from the city budget last year. The purpose of TIFs, at least in theory, is to improve blighted areas. What part of the Central Loop is more blighted than the CTA?

Can anyone give me a good answer as to why none of this $100M+ was offered to the CTA? If this TIF is continued, it's time to start speaking up. For the city to put so much money towards the "superstation" at Block 37 and a paltry $3M towards the CTA in general is rather shortsighted, considering the key role that the CTA plays in the city's vitality. It's time for King Richie to agree to fork over a bit more. Today would not be too soon.

Friday, November 23, 2007

rockin' fun Friday

Click here for a rockin' Friday video. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I'm intrigued by this recent review (11/16) of a new production at the Side Project theatre on Jarvis. Sounds like it's worth a visit.

The Side Project, located in a burgeoning section of Rogers Park called Jarvis Square, is the kind of pocket-sized space where an audience of 30 constitutes a sellout.

To its credit, the Side Project space is flexible enough to withstand some fiddling around with the seating arrangements -- a concept on full display in a very good world premiere last weekend.

In Robert Fieldsteel's "Smart," two alienated teenagers concoct a seriously flawed plan to murder for money. The premise is based on the actual murders of two Dartmouth College professors in 2001, and director Adam Webster situates the audience in a long, single line across one wall, as if collective witness to a timeline scrambled in 3-D. The story of the messed-up teens (deftly played by Ricky Gamboa and Joel Vining) is augmented by that of a psychology student who is studying the crime (Evan Linder) and his pain-in-the-neck girlfriend Cathy (Kristen Secrist), who projects all her internal dissatisfaction on the guy she's dating.

There are lot of currents running through the play, and they mostly center on the chafing that anyone -- but especially an adolescent -- feels when the future (and even the present) looms like a trap. As Fieldsteel points out, no matter how smart you are, some people take longer to grow up than others.

The show features some exceptionally detailed performances -- J. Kingsford Goode and Steve Ratcliff play the murdered couple as well as the criminal investigators -- but the play spends too much time on Cathy, who is prone to eye-rolling and faux intellectualism. She is meant to be stunted and juvenile -- just like the boys in prison -- but as written and performed here, she is entirely dismissible. If you can get past the issues with her character, the production unearths more than a few emotions that feel universal and unfaked. Adolescence can be a train wreck, and no one is immune.

Through Dec. 16 at 1439 W. Jarvis St.; $15 at 773-973-2150.

-- Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

community meeting: input on new development proposal

49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore is hosting a meeting to review a proposal for the construction of a five-story, 24-unit condominium building with three commercial storefront spaces at 2001 W. Howard (southwest corner of Howard and Damen).

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, November 27th, 7:00 p.m., at the Pottawattomie Park Fieldhouse, 7340 N. Rogers.

Building owner Gus Rizakos, his architect, Irene Zemenides and his attorney, Sylvia Michas, will present the plans. The meeting on this proposed development originally was scheduled last June, but was postponed due to a serious illness in the architect's family.

The lot is 13,038 square feet in size and is zoned B1-2. A commercial building, which houses the Tastee Sub fast food restaurant and several storefront churches, currently occupies the site and would be demolished to make way for the new development.

The current zoning would permit the construction of 13 dwelling units. The owner is requesting a zoning change to B1-3, which would allow him to construct up to 32 dwelling units. His proposal calls for only 24 dwelling units.

For more information and to view the site plans, click here.

new business in the neighborhood

Please welcome Maureen Florist on Sheridan Road (7237, east side of Sheridan between Touhy & Chase) 773-764-6400. They will be open Thanksgiving. Nice to have a florist in the neighborhood again since Sheridan Florist closed.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 12, 2007

a victory for nature in the Sierras

A major piece of wildlife habitat near Lake Tahoe has been saved from development. Read more here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

fuzzy Friday

My two cats are not exactly pals and they have their turbulent moments. It was refreshing to see them sharing some peaceful time.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Moore than meets the eye

Toni has a scoop today about some previously unknown real estate dealings by Joe Moore, Kevin O'Neil and DevCorp North.

a different shade of green

Today's San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about a new green building that has the potential to give green architecture and construction a major boost.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

cat alarm clock

Those of you who have lived with cats know the reality of this one.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

wild turkey

Here's one variety of wildlife I haven't seen around here - yet.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

a temporary park

I recently posted an item about National Park(ing) Action Day, and a related local demonstration in Pilsen. A smaller demonstration in River North was not as successful. A friend posted pictures from the Pilsen demonstration, along with an item on his blog, which includes links to photos from other temporary parks set up that day. Thanks, Payton!

Friday, October 12, 2007

autumn tulip bulb planting

Come out to the 2007 community garden on Sunday, November 4, 11 A.M., to help plant bulbs! The RPGG has received a generous donation of 750 tulip bulbs for the planters and surrounding area at the 2007 RPGG/Loyola Keepers Community Garden "Circle Park " by a local resident who really loves tulips. Come help us plant these bulbs on November 4 (November 11 is our rain date) for an awesome display next spring. Bring gardening tools (shovels, gloves, spades) and maybe even a friend. Please let us know if you can help by emailing Karen McCarthy at

Location: Circle Park, east end of Morse Ave. @ Loyola Park.


The RPGG has been offered lots of free bulbs. If you are interested in planting a corner on your block, please contact Karen McCarthy asap at karengardens at yahoo dot com. The bulbs have been promised, and we would love you to help spread them around the neighborhood.

Rogers Park Garden Group meeting on 10/30

The last meeting of the season will be happening on Tuesday, October 30 at 7 pm:


Jeanne Felknor is founder and president of the East Village Block & Garden Club. Jeanne has been gardening the parkways of East Village (area between Ashland and Damen, Division and Grand) since 1999. She and her group, which includes about 40 children from the ages of 4 to 18 have gardened approximately 200 parkways in the neighborhood. Awarded Mayor Daley's Gardener of the Year in 2004, Jeanne now gardens on behalf of the neighborhood full time. It all began one day when she was picking up trash outside her home. We will also vote on the 2008 community garden project. Come hear an inspiring presentation and help the RPGG prepare for next year!

Location: Rogers Park Presbyterian Church, Fellowship Room (2nd floor), Greenview & Greenleaf.

sorry about the interruption

I messed up my knee a few weeks ago and just had knee surgery. It may be another week or two before I'm up to speed again, at least online.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

paradise paved

Since I moved back to Chicago from New Hampshire over 10 years ago, I’ve had a change of heart on the subject of parking and its costs to society and the environment. Increasing reliance on private vehicles doesn't just create traffic congestion, road rage, obesity and air pollution. Increasing the availability of parking to accommodate all these vehicles creates more impermeable surfaces, which reduces the earth's ability to absorb rainwater, increasing flooding and sending more pollution (oil from roadways and other pollution) directly into our lakes and rivers instead of letting nature filter much of it out in soil. This Slate article makes a lot of other related points. Your $0.02?

Friday, September 28, 2007

remembering Phil Frank

Back when his comic strip was "Travels with Farley," I became a big fan of Phil Frank's humor. In 1985, he decided to go local and change it to "Farley," focusing on San Francisco area humor. I was sad to read of his passing in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle.

A fellow Chronicle cartoonist pays tribute to Phil Frank and Farley. Here's a 2005 tribute to Phil Frank. Sounds like Phil got quite a send-off in San Francisco the other day.

I will miss his unique, clever humor. Vaya con dios, Phil!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Belgian Ale house update

Last time I mentioned the meeting for community input on this proposed new business. Lorraine gave me an update from the meeting, which happened last night.

She said that the general response was favorable. No drawings, floor plans, logos or
signage were presented. "Belle Chique" seems to be the name of the joint.

They are planning on a full restaurant menu - not just appetizers and bar food - including waffles & chocolate too.....traditional Belgian food - mussels & Frites, eel and sausages, Hopleaf....

Parking is a concern. They would be open 5 pm til 2 am but the back deck would be 5 pm til 11 pm only. There would not be a sidewalk cafe.

Sounds great to me. Stay tuned for further updates....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Break the Gridlock - PARK(ing) action

This happened last Friday. ZDnet ran a story on San Francisco's efforts. And here's a write-up on another local temporary park.

Residents to call attention to threatened community garden this Friday

Pilsen, Chicago: in conjunction with international Parking Day, Chicago activists, artists, and local residents will transform parking spaces into gardens in the Pilsen neighborhood.

The action is to take place in the 1900 block of S. Halsted street, from 6 P.M. to 8 P.M. on Friday September 21 2007.

The site was chosen to call attention to a garden space which was deeded to the community by former alderman Ambrosio Medrano, which garden stewards charge was innapropriately sold to Pilsen property mogul John Podmajersky Jr . by current Alderman Daniel Solis. Neighbors and participants in the care of the Cesar Chavez Community Garden, located at 19th and Canalport, were shocked earlier this summer
to find workers cutting down trees on the site, reportedly to create a parking lot for a nearby condominium development. Residents of east Pilsen have organized to fight for continued access to the garden, and will be on hand Friday to help raise awareness of the struggle.

Members of Chicago's growing carfreedom movement saw an opportunity to partner with proponents of the fight to save Jardin Cesar Chavez by targeting Pilsen and Podmajersky with this Friday's action. Payton Chung, a 26 year old urban planner, explains, "Podmajersky and Solis want to replace a garden with parking, so we're going to replace parking with a garden!"

According to the website, PARK(ing) Day challenges people to rethink the way streets are used and reinforces the need for urban open space. Pioneered by San Francisco arts collective Rebar in 2005, PARK(ing) Day 2007 is organized by Rebar and San Francisco nonprofit Public Architecture in association with The Trust for Public Land, which is coordinating a parallel national effort.

Public participation in Friday's action is sought, and participants are encouraged to add their own touches to the installation--additional plants, garden furniture, tiki lights, and outdoor decorations such as trellises and fencing are welcome.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Ground Zero and what it means now

The Boston Globe ran an excellent op-ed piece on this subject today.

Shrub continues to do the American people a great disservice, turning Ground Zero into a monument to America’s culture of victimhood. If our diplomats visited Ground Zero with Ahmadinejad, it could be an opportunity to start reversing our country's course of alienating Iran. This alienation only pushes our nations closer to the brink of war. Instead, Shrub, Hillary Clinton, and Rudy Giuliani are perversely united in denying Ahmadinejad a visit to Ground Zero.

While I am no fan of the current regime in Iran, continuing to insult Iran does not serve our nation or any other. Finding a way to step back from the brink would be a much more suitable memorial to those who died on 9/11.

Friday, September 21, 2007

RPGG fundraiser on 9/30

On Sunday, September 30 the RPGG will hold a garden sale to raise funds for the 2008 Community Garden project outside of Charmers on Jarvis. We’d love you to donate plants that you can divide from your garden, pots you’ve grown bored with, yard art that someone else may better appreciate. We’ll even take your arts and crafts items – really, any garden-themed object (including veggies from your garden) you’d like to donate and have us sell. In turn, please come join the fun and see what your neighbors have donated that you might want to buy. We are also asking businesses if they would like to donate gift certificates for products or services that we can auction at the sale. All proceeds will go toward the 2008 community garden project. To donate your items, please email us at rpggseptember at gmal dot com.


If you would like to get RPGG email notices, please send your name and email address to rpgardengroup at comcast dot net. E-mail addresses will not be shared with other organizations without your permission.

how NOHPAC meetings are done in the 49th ward

Thanks to Tim Jackson for this funny cartoon!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

three for laughs

Nothing earth shattering here, just three “news of the weird”-type items for your amusement.

Genius #1
Genius #2
Genius #3

Hard to pick a winner in this particular race, but it seems like these folks are a few brain cells short of a normal quota. Who gets your vote? ;)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

cool September bike rides - updated

This Sunday the North Shore Century awaits. There are routes for riders of all abilities, from the 10 mile family route to the 25, 50, 62 and 100 mile routes. You can see different areas of the north shore, and visit the Kenosha velodrome if you're up for 100 miles. Food at the rest stops is great. There is mechanical assistance available along the way if you have problems. Live entertainment and a massage tent await at the finish.

This ride benefits the Evanston Bike Club, which donates a large portion of the proceeds to local bike-related organizations and programs.

* * * * *

Last weekend's Boulevard Lakefront Tour was a success. It featured a 15-mile family route, a 35-mile route, and a 62-mile route (metric century), with lunch and live entertainment at the post-ride festival. The ride started and ended in Hyde Park, highlighting Chicago's system of boulevards and parks. Rest stop locations include Palmer Square and Ping Tom Park. Here are a few highlights of locations featured on the ride: Logan Square/Palmer Square, Washington Park, and the recently revived Drexel Boulevard

This ride benefits the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, our local bike advocacy group. They work to improve bicycling in the Chicago area through education, municipal bike plans, and efforts to make bicycling more feasible as practical transportation.

* * * * *

The Pullman Labor Ride is done. Beautiful day for it. It's a tale of 2 factory towns: Pullman and Marktown (part of East Chicago). If you can ride 30+ miles and have an interest in local history, it's very worthwhile. This ride benefits the Pullman Civic Organization, which was founded in 1960, when the entire historic section of Pullman from 111th Street to 115th Street was threatened with total demolition to create an industrial park. It continues the work of preserving the architectural and historical integrity of the community and helping to make it a good place to live.

For more info on Pullman, click here or here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Satan needs ice skates

[Hell has frozen over]

Last week I was riding my bike through the neighborhood and appreciating something truly amazing.

After so many years of ideas and meetings and fighting for progress, it's great to see all these things happening at once: 1640-42 Fargo being renovated, 1626-30 Fargo being renovated, the former Lerner building being demolished, and the Gale Park Community Center construction coming along nicely. The Howard El station is in mid-renovation (who ever thought that would ever happen?). A new apartment building on the Evanston side of Howard is under construction on the long-vacant land opposite the Gateway entrance. African Harambee adds another good place to eat. The Century project is under construction on Morse. More good businesses (such as the Belgian Ale House) are proposed for Jargowood. I never thought I'd see this day.


more changes at the Chicago Reader

As of 10/5, the Chicago Reader will be changing its format and changing its distribution day to Wednesday. Will this be a good thing or a bad thing? Guess we'll have to wait and see. Click here for more details.

Monday, September 10, 2007

teenage heroes

Once in a while I see a story that restores my faith that there are still some ordinary people out there who will go out of their way and risk their lives to save a stranger. This is one of those stories. My hat is off to Tom Foust and his friends for saving an elderly driver from being killed by an oncoming train. You are true heroes.

Rogers Park World Music Festival 9/15

The 6th Annual Rogers Park World Music Festival is happening in Loyola Park (lakefront between Lunt and Morse) this Saturday 9/15 starting at NOON. This showcase of musical diversity is sponsored by the Wisdom Bridge Arts Project. Free admission.

12pm Sounds from Congo Africa featuring Simon Kashama and New Community Church Choir

1pm Rogers Park Reggae featuring Tony Panther and Roots Vibration

2pm Local Funky Folk featuring andiandi

Come on down and enjoy the music!

(For info on other World Music Festival events, click here.

RPGG Comunity Garden project


Would you like to sponsor a community garden project in 2008 or do you know a neighborhood group that is interested? Is there a space that you and your neighbors think could use improvement? Are there businesses around the space that might join with you to oversee a community garden project? We really want to help RP residents and businesses beautify their surroundings for all residents to enjoy. But we can’t do it alone. We need YOU as a lead partner to make a successful and lasting project. A community garden project is win-win for everyone: by helping to improve our green spaces and plantings you get to give back to the community, share a fun project with neighbors and friends and meet people, and feel good. Something about planting tender flowers and watching them grow soothes the soul and puts a smile on everyone’s face. It is said that people who garden live longer and healthier lives (ok, we just made that up but we’re pretty sure that it’s true).

Here is the detail on how a community garden project works and what we’ll all do:

The RPGG will assist any community or neighborhood group with the creation or restoration of one garden each year on private or public space provided that can be enjoyed by the public. You come up with the idea and some neighbors, friends, or businesses and put together a proposal that includes:

* Name of your neighborhood group with group leader identified and at least 4 other residents/neighbors who will participate in the project. Include name, address, phone, and email (if available).
* Address and site location description (for instance, Loyola Park, Circle Park planters at end of Morse Ave. and the park).
* Digital photos of the site. If your group is unable to take digital photos, please contact RPGG and we will assist you.
* Approximate size of site (i.e., two 27’ diameter planters or 24’x52’ tract at ABC Park).
* A 250-500 word statement about the site and why you believe it will make for a terrific community garden project.

Deadline for proposals is October 1, 2007.
Nominating project information should be sent to Susan Murray, Community Garden Committee Chair, RPGG via email at or via mail to: 1636 W. Greenleaf, #3W, Chicago 60626.

Here is what the RPGG will do to support the project:

Provide cost estimates.
Create the site design.
Select plants (along with your group).
Provide planting volunteers.
Provide project marketing and fundraising assistance.
Advise on ongoing garden maintenance.

So what kind of work will you and your group have to do?

Fundraise and promote involvement with the community in the area.
Prepare and assist in planting the garden.
Provide ongoing care and maintenance of the garden once it is installed.
Provide a project leader who will oversee your group’s activities and involvement with the project and who will liaison with the RPGG team.

When will you have to do all this stuff?

November 2007-March 2008: fundraise.
March 2008: garden design and plant selection.
April 2008: garden site preparation (e.g., weeding, tilling, soil amendments)
Mid-May 2008: garden planting!

We are eager for your proposals. All proposals will be reviewed by the Rogers Park Garden Group membership and the final project will be selected by majority vote at the October 30, 2007 meeting. Please contact Susan Murray at susanmurray at or rpgardengroup at for a 2-page information sheet on the proposal or if you have any questions. We’ll do our best to help give your proposal the best advantage!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

the beat goes on

The Boston Globe recently ran a series about retracing the route of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" 50 years later. Kerouac's widow says his message was misunderstood. I haven't picked up my copy of "On the Road" in a while. Time to revisit the journey...

Slate ran a piece that includes some interesting quotes from folks who were close to Kerouac. And here's a Sun-Times piece to add a bit more.

When I lived in New Hampshire, I visited Lowell many times. It was interesting to experience the transition of the Lowell millyard and nearby millworker housing from gritty, neglected bits of history to national historical site and Kerouac memorial. The blue collar life of a French-Canadian millworker family that Kerouac lived is a common thread in New England culture. I knew a number of people there whose parents or grandparents worked in the textile mills that were the lifeblood of the region until the Depression of the 1930s.

Every March, Lowell celebrates Kerouac's birthday. And they have another big celebration planned for October. Kerouac's scroll manuscript is on display at the Boott Cotton Mill Museum through the end of the October festivities.

If you happen to take a trip out that way, consider a stop in Lowell - for Kerouac, for all the history, and a taste of modern Lowell culture.

Friday, September 07, 2007

1547 Jarvis liquor license proposal - updated

Many folks are interested in the new business proposed for 1547 W. Jarvis: Belgian Ale House, to be run by the owners of Celtic Knot in Evanston. This would require approval for a special use permit and a liquor license. The liquor license is a regular bar license. Some food will be served, but the focus would be on drinks. This would be a 2:00 a.m. weekday/3:00 a.m. weekend license. A community meeting prior to that approval is scheduled for Monday 9/25 at 7 pm at the 49th Ward office (7356 N. Greenview @ Jarvis). If you are interested in this issue, please come to the meeting. For more information, call 773-338-5796.


Note that the meeting has been rescheduled from 9/10 to 9/25 due to a scheduling conflict. Same time, same place as noted above.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

landmark idol

If you have an interest in architectural landmarks and would like to see your favorite landmark win a generous preservation grant, check this out. It's an interesting list of landmarks. Vote early and often! You can vote once per day until October 10th.

honeybee update

If you are as curious as I am about the recent problems with colony collapse disorder affecting honeybees, here's an update on the story.

Monday, August 27, 2007

RPGG meeting 8/28

Here's the latest from Rogers Park Garden Group:

Melina Kelson-Podolsky has spent a lifetime learning about and practicing good cooking. Born into a family of food writers and restaurant critics, her experience in the world of diverse dining began early and was enhanced with a palate broadened by world travel and farm work. She is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef and a Certified Sous Chef through the ACF and an active member of the Bread Baker’s Guild. In April 2007, Melina become one of the youngest Certified Master Bakers in the U.S., a title held by only 150 bakers. Melina has committed herself to advancing sustainable agriculture and culinary practices and has been working within her community to implement her ideas. Location: Rogers Park Presbyterian Church, Fellowship Room (2nd floor), Greenview & Greenleaf.

mosquito spraying again tonight and tomorrow

The Chicago Dept. of Health sent an e-mail notice that they will be doing mosquito spraying again on Monday 8/27 and Tuesday 8/28 from dawn to dusk. This does NOT affect Rogers Park, but may affect you if you are out and about in other areas of the city.

TONIGHT (7:00 p.m. Mon. 8/27 to dawn Tues. 8/28):
Far South/Southeast/Southwest** most of the city that is located south of 83rd Street

** area roughly bounded by the city limits on the north, North Ave. (1600N) on the south, Kostner (4400W) on the east, and the city limits on the west.

TOMORROW NIGHT (7:00 p.m. Tues. 8/28 to dawn Wed. 8/29):


** area bounded by Diversey (2800N) on the north, Cullerton (2000S) on the south, Halsted (800W) on the east, and Central Park (3600W) on the west.

** much of the city that is located south of Cermak (2200S), north of 83rd Street, and west of Wentworth (200W)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

for your garden: bulb sales

Bulbs are popular in the garden catalogs right now. There are some big local sales as well.

The Chicago Botanic Garden (1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe) will be hosting the Bulb Bazaar at from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 29 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 30. More than 200 varieties will be available, including many suitable for indoor forcing. Volunteers and experts will offer advice. See the catalog online at or call 847-835-5440 for more information.

Also check out the Hyde Park Garden Fair Committee’s Fall Mum and Bulb Sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Hyde Park Shopping Center, 55th St. and Lake Park Ave. 773-241-6943 or (click on "Committees" and then "Garden fair").

Thursday, August 23, 2007

BP backs down

Today's good news: BP has agreed to stay within the limits of its current discharge permit, rather than increasing its discharge of ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan. After initial insistence that the increased discharge was necessary, then a hint that they might reconsider, this news is very welcome. A big thumbs up to everyone who wrote or participated in a protest to help make this happen!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

saving public transit

This CTA news is yet another reminder that our state legislature is still failing us. Mayor Daley is stepping up and pushing for a sales tax increase to pay for the level of transit service that our local economy needs. Some of our legislators have pursued this option for a while.

If funding is not in place in the next few weeks, we're looking at these fare increases and these service cuts. BTW, if you weren't following the earlier rounds of this nasty game, the routes at the bottom of the service cut page were on the original list but have been restored in this latest version.

Public transit makes it possible for many Chicago residents to live car-free. Many of those who do not currently have cars cannot afford all the costs of owning and maintaining them. We do not have enough room on many streets for more cars.

Meanwhile, there have been hints about fare increases and service cuts at Pace and Metra starting soon. What most folks don't realize is that Metra has already made some cuts. Rush hour service is unaffected. However, the number of cars that are open on night and weekend cars has been reduced in many cases. A UP-Northwest line run that I often take at night is now running with 1 or 2 cars open, instead of the previous 3. Some evening/late night Rock Island runs are running with one less car now. This means fuel savings (lighting and ventilation systems) and fewer conductors. Trains are more crowded and much noisier.

Next Tuesday 8/28 there will be a rally in support of transit funding and reform at the Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph in downtown Chicago) starting at 11:30 a.m. Whether or not you can get to the rally, please contact your legislators and voice your support for transit funding and reform before we've lost service that may be difficult to restore. Our city and our jobs depend on it.

getting rid of lakes that shouldn't be there

All the recent rain has created a lot of new lakes in the neighborhood due to clogged sewer drains and other issues. Some of them smell like raw sewage. Thanks to Fargo Woman for the following contact info:

49th Ward Sanitation office 312-744-0940
Sanitation Inspector Mike Ericson.

You may have better luck in getting those lakes to go away if you contact his office directly rather than calling Joe Moore's office.

more rabid bats

More rabid bats have been found in Cook County. Be careful out there.

Garfield Park plant clinic

Weekend Plant Information Clinic
Saturdays and Sundays (throughout the year)
Hours: Drop in between 11 am - 4 pm
Where: Conservatory Front Lobby
Cost: Free

University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners are available in the Conservatory's front lobby to look at your plants or just answer questions Saturdays and Sundays, 11 am - 4 pm. Drop by with your plant or questions. Or you can call in your questions to (773) 265-9587, fax them to (773) 265-9588, or email questions to wolfordr at mail.aces.uiuc dot edu

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

FSBO gone wrong

There were so many quirky things about this FSBO gone wrong that I'd bet the attorneys' fees easily eclipsed what the buyer would have paid a realtor in fees. Oops!

another one bites the dust

The Joe Blog is gone. Bummer!

Community meeting TONIGHT about Gale Community Center

The new Gale Park community center at Howard & Marshfield is getting closer to completion. It should be open early next year.

It will be a Chicago Park District facility. The North of Howard Parks Advisory Council is working with the Park District to choose programs for the center.

What would you like to see there? Basketball? Other sports? Art and craft classes? Dance classes? Senior citizen programs? Summer youth camp?

Now's the time to put in your $0.02 worth:

Tuesday, August 21st
7:00 p.m.
Howard Area Community Center
7648 N. Paulina Street

Glenwood Arts fest this weekend

What: The Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest (GAAF) is a free, weekend-long event that features artists, open studios and live entertainment on three outdoor stages. Painting, fiber arts, jewelry, pottery and other art forms will be exhibited. Experience art, theater, music, as well as food and drink, on the cobblestone streets of the Glenwood Avenue Arts District in Chicago’s historic Rogers Park neighborhood.

NEW: Due to growth and popularity with artists and the public, the Fest expands onto Morse Avenue this year, accommodating more artists, adding a third stage and adding more KidFest activities.

Morse Music Stage
Presented by: Morseland & RE/MAX NorthCoast

Saturday, August 25th

12:00 DJ Mr. D
1:00 The Sarah Potenza Band
2:00 Soul Reys (funk)
3:00 Room One One (r&b)
4:00 Peven Everett (soul)
5:00 Treologic (hip-hop)
6:30 Chicago Afrobeat Project

Sunday, August 26th

12:00 DJ Serpico (funk, old soul)
1:00 Souvenirs (rock)
2:00 Git Gone Boys (rockabilly)
3:00 Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls (jazz)
4:00 Lowdown Brass band (brass)
5:00 Zutano (latin)
6:30 Bumpus (funk)

North Music Stage
Presented by: Heartland Café & Red Line Tap

Saturday, August 25th

12:00 Micki Croisant (singer songwriter)
12:45 Vintage (modern acoustic rock)
1:45 Lamajamal (gypsy/surf/jazz/jam)
3:00 The Theo Ubigue Theater (songs from upcoming musical, Cabaret)
4:00 The Locals (indie rock)
4:50 The Reptoids (hard rock/punk)
5:40 Roundeye (punk/rock)
6:30 Secret Agent Bill (punk/alternative/ska)

Sunday, August 26th

12:00 In One Ear (spoken word and poetry)
1:00 Ripley Caine (singer songwriter)
2:00 MWC – (jam/funk/jazz/reggae)
3:00 Animate Objects (hip hop/funk/rap)
4:00 Princes of the Futa (world music)
5:00 The Henhouse Prowlers (bluegrass)
6:00 Pete Special of Big Twist & The Mellow Fellows (blues)

South Performance Stage
Presented by: Lifeline Theatre and Duke’s BarSaturday, August 25th

12:00 Mandin Djaliah Kilombo (African drums)
12:30 Jason Kollum (circus arts)
1:00 West African All Star Dancers
1:15 Lifeline Theatre (excerpts)
1:30 The Revelettes (go-go dance)
1:45 BoHo Theatre Co. (excerpts)
2:00 Baba Manouche
3:00 Sara (belly dance)
3:30 The Space Movement Project (dance)
4:00 Strawdog Theatre: the Game Show Show (original games & live music)
5:00 Old #8 (country rock)
6:00 Mudflapps (traditional Americana)
7:00 Eric McCabe Band (blues)

Sunday August 26th:
12:00 Mandin Djaliah Kilombo (African drums)
12:30 Tag-a-Long Puppet Theater
1:30 Lifeline Theatre (excerpts)
1:45 BoHo Theatre Co. (excerpts)
2:00 Dimestore Stringband (bluegrass)
3:00 Enchantment Productions (belly dance)
3:30 R&D Choreography (stage combat)
4:00 West Indian Folk Dance Company
4:30 Irreverence Dance + Theatre
5:00 The Hormones (Ramones Tribute)
6:00 Tom Holland and the Shuffle Kings (blues)
7:00 Jah Lenn and Traffic Harmony (reggae and world music)

# # #

For more info: (773) 262-3790,

Monday, August 20, 2007

recycle in your garden

Here are two good ways you can recycle in your garden: composting and mulching with newsprint.

It's not too late to start a compost bin this year. Kitchen waste (fruit and veggie peels and non-seed parts, egg shells, tea leaves, etc.) can be mixed with yard waste (grass clippings, broken up tree branches, leaves, dried up flowers) and newsprint (non-slick pages) to make a great nutrient booster for your plants and trees. You can build your own compost bin, or buy one. The city of Chicago periodically has them available for Chicago residents at a subsidized price. Look for announcements in the local papers (usually in spring) or on the city's Dept. of Environment web page.

I got one of the city bins last summer. It got a slow start. I found that the compost needed to be turned regularly (once a week or more) and needed a certain level of moisture for things to decompose quickly. Turning the pile with a pitchfork or hoe or shovel can be challenging unless you have a fair amount of upper body strength. When I got a compost turner tool, it made the job a LOT easier (5 minutes with the tool, compared to 20-30 minutes with a shovel) and speeded up the process of decomposition by about 5 times. One trick I learned was to rinse the tool afterwards to keep it from getting clogged. I do this over the bin, adding moisture to help the materials rot.

When I pull weeds, I hold a bunch together and cut them with scissors before adding them to the compost bin so that they rot quicker. I crumple dry leaves up and break or cut small branches into pieces. Whatever you add rots faster if you shred it or break it into smaller bits. This is true for newsprint as well. BTW, the newer inks now used in newsprint are often soy-based and generally use non-toxic pigments, unlike the inks used years ago.

One warning: do NOT include seeds when you're adding to your compost bin. Unless your compost gets really hot, it will not kill the seeds, and you'll be spreading them wherever you spread your compost. If seeds are from an invasive weed, it could get everywhere fast.

Now that the compost is rotting fast, I've got a ready supply of black gold for the garden. My strawberries had stopped producing at the end of June. I put compost around the base of each plant and watered well. Within a week, the plants had new flowers on them. Now I'm eating strawberries again. Plants that were looking so-so are doing a lot better with the addition of compost. Of course, regular watering is a key piece of the equation.

You can use newsprint as mulch. Lay 3 or 4 sheets over an area, either around existing plants or poking holes where you'll plant new ones. It helps keep weeds from getting light to grow. You can add a light layer of damp leaves or bark mulch on top to hold it down and make it look nicer. Use a thicker layer of newsprint to kill grass in areas where you want to later remove grass for new flower or veggie beds.

Newsprint can also be used to make starter pots for seeds.

It's cool to be able to recycle and grow things at the same time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rabid bat alert (updated)

Animal Control put out an alert yesterday about an incident that happened this week in the neighborhood. On Monday someone found a bat in their 3rd floor apartment on the 7400 block of Hoyne. They called 311. Animal Control came to remove the bat.

The bat was DOA at Animal Control HQ. It was sent to a lab for rabies testing, per normal procedure. The bat tested positive for rabies. This is the 6th rabid bat found in Cook County in 2 weeks. Rabies is not unusual in wild animals, especially at this time of year, but it's a good idea to take a few precautions. Please have your pets vaccinated for rabies. Don't handle dead animals. If you find a living wild animal that if injured or confined, or a dead animal, don't touch it. Call 311 for help or instructions on safe disposal of a dead animal.

** UPDATE ** I talked to a friend on the block and found out that a second bat was found there. Guess how people on the block found out about the bats? A woman spotted a Sheriff's Dept. car and asked the deputy what was going on. The deputy gave her some of the alert flyers and asked her to share them with the neighbors. The flyer text was the source for the above precautions. She told my friend, who broadcast the info via e-mail to many folks in the neighborhood and to the alderman's office. The alderman's office later took credit for making the information known when it was broadcast later in another round of e-mails to more folks in the neighborhood, including the originator of the message. ** An e version of the old game of Telephone...

public meetings about property proposals

There are 2 upcoming meetings about proposed changes to properties in Rogers Park.

This coming Monday night, Jami and Suzanna Ali of 1215 W. Sherwin, will present their proposal to lease the public way (the parkway) in front of their building to allow for the perpindicular parking of four vehicles. They recently did a condo conversion of their building, but units have been hard to sell due to lack of off-street parking. The 49th Ward Zoning and Land Use Advisory Committee voted to recommend that Joe Moore oppose the lease application. The Committee did not believe that any other residential area in the city has allowed this type of parkway cut-out. They were concerned that it could set a bad precedent for future projects. The meeting is Monday, 8/20 at 7:00 p.m. at Sherwin Manor nursing home, 7350 N. Sheridan Road.

On Monday 8/27, Ayman Khalil and Kareem Musawwir of Inverbrass Funds, LLC, will present their proposal to rehab a "four-plus-one" apartment building at 6610-28 N. Sheridan Rd., requesting approx. $2M from the Sheridan/Devon TIF District to do it. They would reduce the number of units in the building from 140 to 116, and would do a major rehab of the building façade. The building would remain rental. 70 units would be affordable to individuals or families earning at least 80% of area median income, and 26 units would be affordable to individuals or families earning at least 60% of area median income. The meeting is Monday, 8/27 at 7:00 p.m. at Simpson Center, 6333 N. Winthrop (SE corner of Winthrop and Sheridan).

If you want more information or would like to put in your $0.02, there's your opportunity.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

spam nastiness

I've heard through the grapevine that someone we know got a nasty scare. Glad to hear that it was a hoax and not a legitimate threat. On a related note, I happened to be reading a recent New Yorker article about spam on the train today. It makes reference to an especially ugly new form of this garbage: death threat spam. (Note: This is near end of article - click earlier link for full article.)

BP to reconsider

This week's news about increased pressure on BP's refinery expansion plans and today's update that they may reconsider has been welcome.

Towards the end of the article, there's a quote that makes me wonder whether this guy was misquoted or if his priorities are actually that twisted. David Ullrich, former EPA bigwig, who is now director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (advocacy group of the region's mayors) is quoted as saying "There will be a day when water is more important than gasoline."

Huh? Our bodies and those of most living beings on earth can't survive without water. We don't require gasoline to physically exist. I sure hope that was a misquote, otherwise this guy is in the wrong job.

But back to BP....apparently the underlying issue is that BP's existing land does not have enough room for expansion of the water treatment plant to treat discharge to eliminate the increased pollution that would come from their refinery expansion. If they're reconsidering on the pollution issue, perhaps they can come up with a revised plan. It seems we've gotten their attention.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

$54M pants tale continues

Apparently the judge who sued the dry cleaner is a sore loser and doesn't want to pay the cleaners' attorneys' fees for the lawsuit. Somehow I don't have much sympathy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday funny

Here's a very punny news story from the Trib - how a wiener can be a loser. TGIF.

tree watering

A couple of sources that I've read recently give a reminder about watering to keep your trees healthy during dry times in summer. Trees need enough moisture to prevent drought stress, otherwise they are more vulnerable to disease, insect problems or death.

A regular sprinkler does not water a tree efficiently and wastes a lot of water. Use a soaker hose instead. Start with a wrap around the trunk, working outward in circles towards the edge of the tree canopy (otherwise known as the drip line). Give the tree a good soak for about 2 hours per week. The soaker hose will let the water go just where it's needed, without a lot of evaporation or runoff to the street. Your tree will stay healthier.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

CPD and the city

I was surprised that no one commented on this issue. Your $0.02?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

1640-42 Fargo update

Sorry, I should have posted on this earlier. Something's finally happening at 1640-42 Fargo. You might not guess it from the front unless you notice the building permit in one of the windows.

However, the back is a different story. This view is from the Rogers side of the property, where the garage and back porches have been demolished. Given the sketchy history of this property in recent years (half-occupied run-down rental with bad tenants, then long-vacant building providing easier access to break into an adjacent building), I hope that the city inspectors do their jobs so that it doesn't become another shoddy condo conversion nightmare.

Stay tuned...

Norm's garden

Thanks to Norm for helping to keep the block beautiful.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

African Harambee

We've got a new restaurant open in the neighborhood, African Harambee (7537 N Clark St., 773-764-2200). Hours: Sunday-Thursday: noon-10 p.m. ; Friday-Saturday: noon-11 p.m.

Lorraine Dostal was kind enough to write a review and share it with this blog, so here it is.

I had dinner with a close friend at African Harambee next door to Amphora (formerly Gateway Bar & Grill) on Clark Street just south of Howard.

Review = Yummy.

Most of the menu seems to be stew-like things - African comfort food - curry and coconut sauces and middle eastern accents....the meat dishes come with beef or chicken or lamb. I love lamb. Lots of seafood presentations too. Ask the servers for advice. The veggie section also seems stew like. We had some of the cabbage and some of the spinach as sides with our entrée choices. Couscous or rice and african flat breads.....the little pepper icons seem to mean "flavorful and exotic" not "hot-hot-hot-wow!" But please check with the server about that matter. (I suggested a veggie sampler plate - for those who can't commit to picking one dish only....the owner seemed receptive....perhaps if there is a popular outcry?) We shared a lamb curry (pepper icon but mild) and a shrimp & tilapia dish in coconut sauce (mild).

We had the "chicken egg rolls" for appetizer - crispy filo-like wrapping around tasty chicken with no "starchy filler," just meat. Dessert was also a crispy filo like wrapping around nuts (cashew/almond) and dried fruit with drizzle of chocolate and berry sauce and a dollop of whipped cream...o yum...perhaps not what your average African family has for dessert but boy was that nice.....

The restaurant is fresh and open and air conditioned....The staff is soft-spoken and gentle and happy to explain what the food is all about. They have a liquor license (just got it ) and expect to have African beers and wines....Entree prices were $10-$12-$15. Not bad. I will go back again and try more different things, like the beef kifto, chicken peanut stew, and more lamb. Yum!

Public announcement - You all know about the rate of "small business failure". This is not just a problem in Rogers Park. It is the nature of the capitalist system. It takes a lot of effort and hard work and up-front $$$$ to just open the front door and say "hello". If the customers don't show up, the business folds. The owner takes a risk and the next thing you know, his money is all gone and the doors are locked. EAT AFRICAN FOOD! Go back again. They open for lunch at noon.

O yes - plenty of know. There is a very big parking lot.

Support the small independent businesses in Rogers Park - especially beautiful downtown Jargowood and the nearby areas where our close neighbors and friends hope that their corner restaurant/coffee shop/store can make a success....any one can get coffee at Starbucks and dinner at Applebee's or Bennigan's. We have Charmers and (insert local coffee shoppe here) and African Harambee and Amphora and Taste of Peru...and a ton of Thai and Mexican can eat locally and globally at the same time - what a concept!


Thanks, Lorraine!

rainy morning

Friday, August 03, 2007

on blogging and civility

A while back, I was reading a few items online about blogging and civility. I bookmarked them, with the thought of writing a post on it, hoping that there would be no pressing need to address the issue. Unfortunately, things have gotten a lot worse since then.

I wouldn't go so far as to advocate a formal set of rules, as some have done. Across the blogosphere, this idea has generated discussion and more discussion. I agree with its general intention, but not with all the details.

During the initial 49th ward aldermanic campaign and the run-off, many of us have said and done what we thought necessary to work for change and a fair election on 4/17. I've occasionally had second thoughts about how I've phrased postings or comments. None of us are perfect. That being said, I'm disappointed that the dialogue between the various Rogers Park blogs has continued to deteriorate, getting uglier each week. I wouldn't have thought it possible after how ugly things got during the election campaigns.

While I do not agree with everyone's viewpoint, I'd rather agree to disagree than make personal attacks. I'd prefer not to say something unless it's something I would consider a fair criticism if directed at me.

I'd like to take a short break to think on the subject. Meanwhile, I'll offer more reading on it. The Well is one of the oldest online forums. Their moderator guidelines are here. Here's another response about the draft blogger's code, with links for additional responses, and a San Francisco Chronicle column that makes some relevant points on the topic.

Why is it necessarily for some folks to personally attack each other in order to express their views about what is happening in Rogers Park? Is their need to vent so compelling that any consequences of their words become irrelevant? Remember the "broken window" theory? Well, we've got a whole lot of broken windows on the RP blogs right now, broken with words, not stones.

There is often a fine line between criticism (constructive or otherwise) and attack. Saving one's posts or composing comments offline, waiting a while (a few hours, a day, a week), then reviewing them before posting, can act as birth control to keep hasty, angry words from hatching into hornets.

What motivated you to start blogging and/or commenting? Are you still motivated by the same reasons, or has that changed due to your experiences on that blogs? Please do comment.

I'll be back soon.

the changing face of downtown Evanston

The proposals for the Fountain Square block in downtown Evanston are generating a bit of controversy. No big surprise there.

The two competing proposals would raze most or all of the existing buildings on the block, replacing them with a high-rise mixed-use tower. I know that Evanston is hungry for more tax money, but so much high-rise development in recent years has radically changed the character of downtown Evanston.

I think that's a mixed bag. On the positive side, it is transit-oriented development, all within walking distance of the downtown CTA, Pace and Metra stations, and it supports a wider range of restaurants and entertainment venues. On the other hand, this is all expensive development, and it draws a lot more cars to downtown Evanston. Guess what, folks? They may be incorporating parking into these new structures, but the streets aren't getting any wider.

Transit and bicycle access save this increased density from sinking due to traffic jams. Whenever the city finally gets around to implementing its long-promised bicycle plan (striped bike lanes and marked shared routes), it will help. However, it may all implode if the state budget crisis is not resolved and the RTA does not receive the funding it needs to continue operating without severe service cuts. Under the latest doomsday scenario, fares would increase, purple line express service (from Howard to the Loop) and most Evanston bus service would be eliminated. Imagine what downtown Evanston could look like with a fraction of its current transit service and a new 500-foot tower? Not a pretty picture.


The invasion has begun. *sigh* Wouldn't it be nice to have a summer weekend to be able to enjoy downtown and the lakefront without a huge festival overrunning everything and clogging the streets and the trains with too many people?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

BP update

When I read about the EPA's refusal to reconsider allowing BP to go ahead with increased dumping of ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan, it was a rude slap in the face, another reminder that we're still deep in the unethical heart of Shrubland. Anything goes as long as the oil companies make more money.

At least King Richie has a spine on this issue.

What's wrong with this picture, folks? How can an agency whose stated purpose is to protect the environment say that it's okay to pollute more?

I hope that things don't get much worse before the next election, and that enough votes are cast by people who have both a brain and a conscience to turn this misguided ship around.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

interactive cell phone map

Someone was complaining a recent post about their poor cell phone service in Rogers Park. I've found that it varies quite a bit depending on who your carrier is and what phone you're using. Of course, right along the lake is probably a coverage black hole for all of us.

I got turned on to this nifty little interactive cell phone signal map. Add your mark(s) indicating your carrier, phone and typical signal strength in that spot and see what other folks have posted about their service.

Friday, July 27, 2007

taking action against BP

I was glad to hear about State Representative Harry Osterman’s proposed HR 626 urging Congress and the U.S. EPA to put a stop to BP’s plan to increase ammonia and sludge discharges from its Whiting refinery.

"Our beaches are precious and the water of Lake Michigan is transported and used by people all across our state," Osterman said. "It's important for the federal EPA and Congress to take a stand when a body of water that is shared among several states is threatened by the actions of one. I will continue working to make sure that protections of Lake Michigan are upheld in the future and no backsliding is allowed."

He encouraged Illinois residents to join in the petition campaign to show local opposition to the higher pollution levels that will result from BP's refinery expansion under the current plan.

Please visit the Chicago Park District web site or Environment Illinois to show your opposition or get more information.

Juneway yard sale Sat. 7/28

There's a big yard sale happening on the 1400-1500 blocks of Juneway Terrace this Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. C'mon down! You might find cool stuff or meet some interesting neighbors.

on a lighter note...

Tourists fined for cycling nude in Serbia. TGIF...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

$54M pants (and a few friends) to the rescue

The now infamous pair of pants was featured at a 7/24 Washington D.C. fundraiser. Proceeds from the fundraiser will help pay the legal bills of Jin Nam Chung and Soo Chung, owners of the dry cleaning business that misplaced and later found the pair of pants. Roy Pearson brought in the pants and filed suit over their loss, originally demanding $67M, and later dropping the demand to $54M. To make it worse, this jerk plaintiff is a judge. When the Chungs found his pants and offered to return them, he refused, saying it was too late, and continued with his lawsuit.

The Chungs won the lawsuit. The judge ordered Pearson to pay court costs. However, the Chungs also incurred about $100K in legal fees. The American Tort Reform Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform help the fundraiser to help the Chungs cover their legal costs. They raised over $64K, and pledges are still arriving. The groups advocate for tighter guidelines for filing lawsuits, hoping to eliminate frivolous suits like this one. They hoped that the fundraiser would help publicize their mission to reform tort law, especially in the light of cases that unjustly attack small businesses.

If the Chungs’ motion for legal fees is granted, forcing Pearson to bear the costs of his ridiculous suit, fundraiser proceeds in excess of the family’s costs will be donated to charity. I hope that Pearson gets his arrogant a$$ nailed when the judge in this case makes a ruling on the Chungs' Motion.

If he had asked them to reimburse the cost of the lost pants, it would have been reasonable. To force them to bear the stress and financial burden was far from it. It would be poetic justice if he gets taken to the cleaners.

Tour de dope(s)

The news from this year's Tour de France has me shaking my head in disgust. Many cycling fans became increasingly cynical after last year's stunning victory by Floyd Landis was tainted by charges of illegal testosterone use.

This week has been a continuing implosion of the credibility of professional cycling.

Yesterday Alexandre Vinokourov was booted from the race after testing positive for an illegal blood transfusion, and his Astana team withdrew from the race, taking Andreas Kloden out of contention.

Today was Cristian Moreni's turn, this time for illegal testosterone use. His team, Cofidis, is out of the race with him.

The kicker was the news late in the day that Michael Rasmussen, the current leader of the race, was fired by his team (Rabobank) for violations of team policy related to drug testing.

I keep wondering who will be next and how they can take such a huge chance, given the extensive drug testing programs now in place and the sophistication of today's lab tests. Is there a cure for the disease of corruption afflicting professional sports? I hope that professional cycling will be able to rebuild from the wreckage of this year's Tour. If not, can we ever believe that future victories are legitimately earned?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rogers Park Garden Group on 7/31

My apologies for not posting this sooner. There's been a lot going on this week. Please click here for info on the 7/31 garden meander.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

an independent sells out

I was disappointed to read the news that the Chicago Reader has been bought by a Tampa-based chain. I can only hope that they won't mess with the product. It's such a quirky-good mix of features.


You're gonna love this one. I was talking to a police officer friend who works in the 18th district (the station on Division just east of the river, among the remnants of Cabrini-Green). He says the station is infested with mosquitos. The front desk now has its own bug zapper and citronella candles. One of the desk sergeants was joking that the candles create a special ambience for yuppies brought in after being arrested. One joker suggested tiki torches, but that was vetoed as a fire hazard.

Note: the 18th district station is recent construction, about 5 years old. If it has enough of a water leak for a mosquito population, we're talking some fine construction. ;)

Monday, July 23, 2007

it's not just about the southwest side

Last week's alarming news story about the fight in Durkin Park and slow emergency response is about a lot more than what's happening on the southwest side. Twenty six minutes is a long time to wait for emergency response in a potentially lethal situation. One boy was beaten into a coma. Eight were struck by an SUV driven into the crowd by a 15-year-old boy. The 911 center received 51 calls from the time the fight started around 10:19 p.m. until police dispatch was notified 26 minutes later. No squad cars were actually dispatched until an officer working in another district got a call from his son at the scene and then called police headquarters.

In the words of one officer: "the incident started when a group of white teenagers who were drinking in the park, decided to chase a black teenager but was unable to catch him. Then the mob turned their sight on another black teenager who was walking with a girl, they chased, caught and beat him until a resident came to his aid."

Wednesday night's community meeting at St. Bede's drew an enormous crowd of neighborhood residents. Racial tensions have been brewing in the neighborhood for years, and smaller incidents have happened before. This problem did not appear out of nowhere.

One of the major issues here is a dirty little secret that is off the radar of most folks who are not police and are not involved in CAPS: our police department is seriously understaffed. I've been hearing this from a number of police officer friends for years, and the situation is getting worse. Classes of police academy recruits are nowhere near large enough to replace the number of officers who retire or otherwise leave the job each year. Administrative snafus have cost the department potential recruits. I know 3 young guys who actually took the entrance exam for the police academy but were never notified of their test results. They know a bunch more who got the same non-response.

In 8 and many other districts, too many beat cars and rapid response cars are often not on the street or are one-person cars because there are not enough available officers to staff the cars. A one-person car is limited in its effectiveness, because many types of incidents need two officers to ensure safety, both for the officers and for civilians on the scene. One officer I know, who works a rapid response car (dispatched to specific incidents in progress rather than assigned to patrol a specific beat) often works alone because no one else is available for the car. As he puts it, "if it's a domestic or bar fight or any kind of violent incident, I can't go in there alone. I have to wait until at least one more car shows up, otherwise the situation could get even worse." Note: this officer works in the best staffed district in the city.

Many police are less than thrilled with the operations of OEMC (Office of Emergency Management and Communications), which handles 911 service, traffic management, etc. It sounds like there are procedural issues that need to be ironed out between how 911 calls are prioritized, how they are dispatched, and how communications are handled between OEMC and CPD. The OEMC web site has a notice to the effect that the actions of the dispatchers handling the Durkin Park 911 calls are currently under investigation and that the dispatchers involved are on leave pending the outcome of that investigation. I'll be curious to hear the results. These blog items give the dispatchers' side of the story.

There's been a lot of discussion on the Second City Cop blog about manpower and procedural issues, with follow-up today. Some of this is accessible to anyone, and some won't mean much unless you're familiar with CPD and police jargon. A police officer friend who took his entrance exam 10 years ago said that over 20,000 took the exam that year and that it was the last large (10,000+) group. That was the year that the city started requiring at least 60 college credit hours as a prerequisite for entrance into the police academy and stopped accepting applicants who were military veterans but did not have college credit. There has to be a way to balance the need for a more educated police force with a method for getting enough recruits. When a test group might be as small as 1,000 and fewer than 10 percent of those actually get through the process of becoming officers (entrance exam, physical exam, drug testing, psychological screening, background check, police academy), it's a drop in the bucket compared to what the city needs.

CPD is supposed to have 13,200 officers, if all positions are filled. Depending on whose numbers you want to believe, the number of sworn officers is around 9,900 or 11,000. Either way, that's a bit of shortage. For comparison, NYC has a population around 8 million and 41,584 officers. Chicago has about 2.9 million population and let's say 10,500 officers (split the difference on the numbers above). Los Angeles has about 3.8 million population and 18,000 officers (combining LAPD and sheriffs - structured a bit differently than here. They also have a much larger geographic area).

Another sore point among police is the number of officers faking illness or injury to collect $$$ while sitting at home, or doing anything but their jobs. I can't verify the accuracy of the following quote. If it's halfway accurate, it could explain part of the big picture. "We hire and train 50 officers a month on average. We have over 700 officers on medical leave or light duty on any given day. Those officers alone collectively represent the 3rd largest police department in Illinois, behind the CPD and State Police. ... Cracking down on medical abusers alone would greatly reduce our manpower shortage."

The 8th district, where the Durkin Park incident happened, is geographically larger than many suburbs. The northernmost point is around 37th St. The southern boundary is 87th St. That's 6 1/4 miles. East-west, the northern half of the district (which includes Midway Airport and some industrial areas) runs from just each of Western to Harlem Ave., also 6 1/4 miles. It contains populated areas interspersed with some large industrial areas, connected by major streets that are sometimes serious traffic bottlenecks. Many officers feel that redistricting to improve police coverage and response times is long overdue. I think it's an issue worth examining.

Some officers are on regular detail watching aldermen's offices, aldermen's homes, the mayor's home, the cardinal's home, park basketball tournaments and other events. These officers are not sent to emergency jobs, no matter how busy it gets in their districts.

Where's the media coverage on these issues, folks? Is this incident enough of a wake-up call, or do a bunch of people have to get killed for police issues beyond the rogue cop incidents to magically appear on the public radar?