Thursday, May 31, 2007

Welcome to the Cicadas: A Plague of Locusts in Wilmette

The cicadas are here in Wilmette, and they are gross. Scientists are calling those ugly looking bugs "Brood XIII," but I just call them "locusts," and I don't like them. Soon enough, they will be chattering at top volume all day long as they call to one another, and it will be enough to drive a sane person mad.

The ciadas show up every summer, and every 17 years they come in droves. They crawl out of the ground, emerge from their old shells, and can be found in every state of creepy crawly, along with plenty of empty shells.
This year, Cicada eating seems to be the rage, with teachers and zoo animals munching on the ugly creatures. While I won't be joining them, (reports are that they taste like almonds, although some say chicken), I've found a nifty little online cicada cookbook, very pretty, with eleven pages of cicada recipes along with comprehensive information on eating and cooking cicadas. Why not print it out on nice paper, add a good cover, and give it to a friend? It will make a great present--or at least bring a laugh. But eating those creatures? If you are what you eat, do that and you are going to be one bad-looking person. Seriously. You're not starving.
The Lake County Forest Preserve has an interactive emergence map--you can check your location and add information about how many cicadas you have seen. Of course, there's the mandatory Cicada Blog and, in the event you are a glutton for punishment, you can visit several area museums which have exhibits on cidadas.

With the midwest focusing on cicadas, the National Geographic has a new article, and the University of Illinois has a new cicada website.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day: Honoring Americans

You are looking directly toward Omaha Beach and the English Channel from the cliffs above. I took this photo at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Normandy, France, which is the final resting place for 9,387 American patriots . On June 6, 1944, in the dark days of World War II, 34,000 American troops landed at Omaha Beach as the largest contingent in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. On one day alone, 2,400 Americans were killed in combat.

These Americans died because they believed in securing freedom from the despotism of the Nazis. Today, thanks to the sacrifices of so many, Germany has again become a respected member of the family of nations, and secures fundamental human rights for its citizens.

On Memorial Day we commemorate the soldiers and sailors who paid the ultimate price as their gift to freedom, as we remember the more than one million Americans who died in combat since 1775.

The President of the American Legion has called upon all Americans, and in particular political candidates, to observe this day that honors our war dead, and not use it for political advantage. For that reason, we say nothing other than "Thank you."

Link to Normandy American Cemetery downloadable video and brochure

D-Day Chronology

D-Day Video from the History Channel

Previous posts with photos: Anilore Banon's D-Day Memorial; D-Day Plan; 62 Years After D-Day.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

C'mon Over for Some Skoda Fabia Birthday Cake!

Happy Birthday to me! Like my Skoda Fabia cake? (That's my cake in the picture, above, not a car.) The only question, where do we put the candles?

Yes, I know it was a little pricey, but, hey, I'm worth it.

You can read all about this marvelous cake, see a video, and even see the car engine made from cake by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Like Grandfather, Like Mother, Like Father, Like Son - Jesse Jackson III

Readers, this is no ordinary "cute kid" picture. The smiling young man in the tie is Jesse "Tre" Jackson III. This prize winning photo graced the cover of today's Chicago Sun-Times, undoubtedly cheering the morning of all Sun-Times readers.

Young Jackson, who is only 3, stole the show yesterday when his mom, Sandi Jackson, was sworn in as a member of the Chicago City Council. Tre is also the grandson of former candidate for US President, Jesse Jackson Sr., of Chicago's Operation Push, and son of US Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. (Rep. Jackson is the startled onlooker, pictured with Tre's sister.)

While Wilmette generally doesn't agree with the politics of the Jackson family, Jesse Jackson Jr. is notable for breaking with his party to vote for Terri Schiavo when Congress took up her cause. Jackson endured the scorn of his Democrat colleagues, simply saying that as an ordained minister he had to do the right thing. Jackson is also notable for using the environmentally friendly Segway to zip around Washington, DC, and using that form of transport for personal reasons, not for public accolade.

Insulted by the Internet

The Internet has a lot of firsts. Today was the first time I was insulted by a website. I went to Youtube and received some very bad news, shared above. Worst was the bottom right. (Click on the picture for a better view.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

For the Record: Jimmy Carter was a Terrible President

I would like to be on record to say that I think that Jimmy Carter was one of the absolute worst presidents in US History. He started his presidency telling Americans that they needed to suffer, and instituted policies guaranteed to make that a reality. Among his other notable achievements was a 22% inflation rate, unseen before or since in American History.

Anybody who had to suffer under his peculiar form of leadership, cloaked in a sanctimonious Baptist mantle, remembers why Americans couldn't wait to get rid of him after four years, and happily voted him out of office.

As he ages, he has become a common scold. While in Old England and New England that was an offense of women only, I can't think of a better way to describe how he carries on.

Carter supporter?

Friday, May 18, 2007

The New Immigration Bill: Real Help for Americans

The new immigration bill is pretty predictable: come to the USA and everything will fall into place for you. Don't bother with formalities, or learning English, please, that would surely be too much to ask.

But what's an American to do? What if you don't speak Spanish and barely understand the meaning of "Para espanol, omprima dos?"

Not a problem, because not only does Tony Blair support America, the BBC has real help for Americans! Just click here to go to the BBC's free online Spanish course.

You can also test your current knowlege of Spanish and receive a guide of how to best use the site.

Wilmette Bike to Soccer Day: May 19, 2007

This Saturday, May 19, 2007 from 9:00am -3:00pm, Wilmette bike riders can ride to the soccer fields between Wilmette Jr. High and Highcrest Middle School and receive a number of helpful services. Bike helmets will be fitted by professionals, free bike safety instruction will be available, and participants can register their bikes with the Wilmette Police Department. Participants can also check their tires and pump them up, as well as lubricating their bicycle chain. There will be a "bike booth" located by the Park District soccer van for further information.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

215th Anniversary of the NYSE

215 years ago today, on May 17, 1792, twenty-four brokers and merchants met met under a buttonwood (sycamore) tree at 68 Wall Street in New York City and signed the Buttonwood Agreement, establishing the New York Stock Exchange. Unlike today's business agreements, this agreement was very short:

"We the Subscribers, Brokers for the Purchase and Sale of the Public Stock, do hereby solemnly promise and pledge ourselves to each other, that we will not buy or sell from this day for any person whatsoever, any kind of Public Stock, at least than one quarter of one percent Commission on the Specie value and that we will give preference to each other in our Negotiations. In Testimony whereof we have set our hands this 17th day of May at New York, 1792."

The NYSE wasn't the first US stock exchange; Philadelphia established its stock exchange two years earlier.

The stock of the Bank of New York was the first security traded under the buttonwood tree, and continues to trade on the New York Stock Exchange today, well over two hundred years later.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Obama Can't Get the Facts Straight, but No Problem - After All, People Were Clapping

There are plenty of media people out there ready to write-off Illinois' senator-in-absentia Barack Obama's quest to be the Democrat candidate for President, but we think that would be premature. We are concerned about BO's latest number gaffe, however. While we were willing to overlook his gross mis-statement of the number of persons killed (10 vs. 10,000) as a result of the Kansas tornadoes as a mistake anyone as green as Obama is could make, his latest wrong number shows a growing disregard for facts that is downright troubling. At a fundraising speech in Detroit, Obama stated that Japanese cars get 45 miles to the gallon, markedly different from the 30 mpg actual figure.

The Detroit News reacted with an harsh editorial. "Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois says the problems facing the Big Three automakers aren't entirely of their own making, but for those that are, he's willing and able to help if they'll turn their businesses over to the government" begins the editorial, and concludes, "Sen. Obama embarrassed himself in Detroit with his lack of understanding."

“He is going to stumble. He is going to make mistakes,” says Mrs. Obama, who has now quit her $275,000/yr job to regale small groups of voters with tales of her husband's dirty socks and other important matters.

As to the Senator's self-assessment? "You know, sometimes when you're in the heat of the moment, and you're talking fast and people are clapping, you misspeak," Obama said.

When you're the President, there is a lot of "heat of the moment" time; people clap, too. Cause for concern? Yeah, I do think. On the other hand, take a brief look at the comments of "friends" of Barack Obama's at Myspace. When it comes to misspeaking, I don't think many of them would notice the difference . . .

Update, there he goes again: This one is a more enjoyable gem uttered by Obama: "I think that we should take into account white kids who have been disadvantaged and been brought up in poverty and shown themselves to have what it takes to succeed,” Mr. Obama said. He added, “There are a lot of African-American kids who are still struggling — even those who are in the middle class may be first-generation as opposed to fifth- or sixth-generation college attendees."

Fifth or sixth generation college attendees? Obama has to be joking or simply deluded--very, very few of those around. In fact, following explosive growth in colleges at the end of the 19th century, at the beginning of the 20th century fewer than 1,000 colleges with 160,000 students existed in the United States--and that was only four generations ago for the 66% of high school graduates who now enroll in college. (The population of the United States in 1900 was 76,212,168, meaning 2/10 of one percent of the population was attending college.) In fact, it wasn't until 1918 that every state required an elementary school education. College attendance was rare indeed until after World War II. By 1955, there were 670,000 college freshman in the United States; that number climbed to 2,630,00 college freshmen by 2004.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Last Minute Gifts for Mother's Day

Oops! You forgot to buy a Mother's Day present? Need to come up with something fast? Want to be traditional and just make your Mother a gift? We have several tips that might just solve your problem, and all the solutions are free, which is even better yet.

1. Burn her a free classical music CD, using legal downloads! 17th century lute music is bound to please many moms. You can download a CD worth of MP3 selections here from lutist Thomas Berghan. Michael Hawley has a number of beautiful free classical downloads here at the Piano Society, or how about an entire CD of Debussy Preludes or Bach's French Suites?
2. Maybe your mother would like to make her own music, using her computer mouse to play any number of instruments? If you think that might fit the bill, send her this link for Mother's Day. (h/t Digital Inspiration byAmit Agarwal)
3. If your Mom doesn't have Microsoft Office, how about Open Office--you can download it for free here, and install it on her computer--she will love it!
4. Not there in person? Send her a link to a concert or two to serenade her!
5. Make her a customized radio station at Pandora that she can enjoy at home or work.
6. Use your computer to call her up on the phone free, anywhere in the world, and pay nothing, thanks to Skype. (And it's no excuse not to call because you don't have a microphone, just get out some headphones; one side will work as a microphone--but you do have to plug it into your computer)
Oh, and don't forget to send her a card!
Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Solving Our Family Crisis Using Google

In our family we are having a crisis. If you are one of Wilmette's readers from, say, a warmer climate, it's likely a family crisis that you won't be having. But with family roots in Northern Europe, and summer on its way, I am sure you will understand.

I got copied on an email, and even though I know its wrong to copy things without permission, I must quote:

"Oops. Yesterday I went to the gym and noticed how tan everyone was. So, I decided to go get a spray tan. This morning I awoke to find my hands a strange orange color. My cuticles are a little brown. I went to the pharmacy and bought whitening toothpaste. I washed my hands with it for about five minutes. Needless to say, it didn't work and now I feel like I rubbed arthritis cream all over myself. I smell minty fresh and I still have orange hands!!!!!!"

That email was shortly followed by this from another family member:

"Removing Sunless Tanner Stains: Stains from sunless tanners have two sources -- the immediate bronzer which is a dye and the DHA tanning reaction. There are products on the market that arrest the development of the DHA but nothing really effective on an already developed stain. The following are some "home remedies" that may prove effective in removing unsightly discoloration: 1) 20 minute soak (baby oil/then water or just warm water) followed by applying exfoliator. 2) hydrogen peroxide 3)lemon juice 4) body hair bleach/remover (vs regular bleach)"

It's good when family crises can be solved via Google, isn't it?

Update: Cream bleach designed for lightening body hair did the trick!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wilmette Affordable Housing and the Will of the Voters

A friend forwarded me an e-mail from newly elected Wilmette Trustee, Karen Spillers, about the affordable housing advocates. It's about what they hope to accomplish with your money tonight, May 8, 2007, before the newly elected Trustees take office. Because the letters are somewhat lengthy, click here to read them. If you have the opportunity to attend tonight's meeting at Village Hall at 7:30 pm, it might be a very good idea.

Update: The report was receved by the Board. We are glad that any action has been postponed, which is a really good idea seeing that the report is 500 (yes, five hundred!) pages! You will have to go to Wilmette Village Hall to see it. There is a summary here; basically it calls for solutions not based on economics. The conclusions of the report are clear: do it the Committe's way and do it with your money, not theirs. Socialism is very important apparently to the affordable housing advocates; that is regrettable.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Zut Alors! The People of France Vote for Change

Thanks, people of France, for voting for a President who thinks its okay to be friends with the U.S. I thought I'd put up this picture of the Eiffel Tower with a little different perspective in your honor.

It was good to see your voters voting against the old, tired socialism. Unfortunately, too many Americans have a romantic view of socialiam--if the current crop of U.S. Presidential candidates are any measure of that sentiment.

The story

Tony Blair congratulates Nicholas Sarkozy via Youtube!

Profile: Nicholas Sarkozy

Friday, May 04, 2007

Move Over Knut and Itty Bitty: Baby Elephant Ming Jung is Very Cute

**Scroll down for information about Berlin Animal Park mom, Pori, whose newborn was dramatically rescued.
Welcome to baby Ming Jung, the tiny elephant born April 16, 2007 at the Elephant Park at the zoo in Cologne, Germany. His very cuteness may mean that he could soon edge out baby Polar Bears Knut and Itty-Bitty as a press favorite, even though Cologne and Berlin (where Knut lives) zoos are hundreds of miles apart. That may be a good thing, as Berlin is quite sure that Chicago is out to steal Knut's thunder. That may be a moot point, however, as Knut is growing rapidly and is looking less like a plush toy.
Ming Jung's zoo home is located just across the Rhine from Cologne Cathedral, so visiting Ming Jung would be easy for summer tourists to the city. So far, Ming Jung is so new on the scene, she doesn't have much of an Internet presence. Luckily, Reuters has video of the new elephant baby which you might enjoy.
Ming Jung is the second elephant to be born at Cologne Zoo. The first elephant, Marlar, was born last year. Baby Marlar has some cute videos of her own. Baby Knut is still the biggest star, however, with an extended video from the Vanity Fair Annie Liebovitz photo shoot. The May issue features Knut on the magazine cover.
At Wilmette, we will likely continue the animal blogging until the news improves.
Elephant Update (5/23/07): Berlin's Animal Park (not the Berlin Zoo) has a very clumsy elephant Mom, whose name is Pori. Pori, who crushed her baby two years ago, is back in the news with her bad parenting skills. In a bid to help her newborn stand, it appeared to onlookers that the baby elephant was being crushed by his mother. The newborn baby elephant fell into the water and nearly drowned. You can see the dramatic pictures of his rescue by clicking here.
Pori and Baby Update (5/24/07): Pori the elephant's baby is fully recovered today, and doing fine. Mom and baby are getting along well, as you can see in this happy picture.
Photo credit: lichundschatten, who posts his photos on Flickr.

Wilmette's Affordable Housing Plan to Pilfer Your Wallet via your Tax Bill

Want to give half a million to a charity that might not be of your choosing and have it show up on your real estate tax bill? Better go read this post by the Backyard Conservative. If you're free next Tuesday night, I would suggest you go to the Trustee's meeting.
Like the photo? I am so sick of the bad news that I thought a cheery picture might help.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Brookfield Zoo's Itty Bitty Bear Needs a Name

Chicago's Brookfield Zoo's newborn polar bear, Itty Bitty Polar Bear, Arki's son, still needs a name! (No, it can't be Knut, that's the heart-throb polar bear cub who lives at the Berlin Zoo.)

The naming contest will be judged on creativity, merit, and connection to the zoo's conservation mission--pretty tall order, I'd say. You can get entries at Brookfield Zoo, or enter on-line. Hurry, though, the contest ends May 12, 2007.

While I like Itty-Bitty Bear, I suppose that name won't do for long. The cub is a cutie, and since the the contest is being held in conjunction with the Chicago Bears, could there be a better way to remember Chicago's trip to the Super Bowl than naming Itty-Bitty Lovie, in honor of Lovie Smith? I am not sure what that has to do with the zoo's conservation mission, so maybe you will have a better idea.

Earlier post on Itty-Bitty Bear

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

La Bandera no es un Serape:
Report on the Chicago 2007 May Day Parade

A nuestros huespides de mejico: por favor, la bandera no es un serape!

Thanks to the miracle of technology, I was able to see the May 1st immigration march on the NBC 5 Chicago website. Lots of US flags at the Chicago march, an alarming number worn as shawls. I don't want to be petty, but I have a bit of a problem with that. There were also a fair number of Mexican flags, none of which were worn as articles of clothing. Fewer flags this year than last, although I spotted a Che Guevara flag, a Hammer and Sickle, an Acorn Flag, a couple of Communist posters, a small statue of the Vigin Mary and . . . a flag of Norway? Hey, its a good day to be outside.

When I was in school, we spent a fair amount of time learning flag etiquette. I suppose, if you don't think the law applies to you, why would etiquette matter? In fact, the current crop of our guests from Mexico are the first immigrant group who seem to have decided that neither laws nor rules nor customs apply to them--including the speaking of English.

Happy May Day from Wilmette!

The Communist Party of Illinois, the Socialist Worker's Party, the Inner-City Muslim Network, ASCSME, SEIU, and a number of other organizations will be sponsoring this year's Immigration Rights May Day March to downtown Chicago.

Long gone are the days that celebrating May Day meant a bouquet of flowers for family or friend.