Monday, July 30, 2007

Jaws Revisited: Is there a Great White Shark in Cornwall?

Have you heard the sensational news of a sighting of a Great White Shark off the coast of Cornwall, England? There have been intermittent reports of sightings of the Great White in the area for some time now, and many experts agree it is possible. The Great White is the shark featured years ago in the movie Jaws, and in the book Moby Dick, and is the most dangerous shark of all. This story might be far more credible if the Discovery Channel wasn’t running its Shark Week TV special for the next several days, and it’s even more suspicious that the segment on the Great Whites begins tonight, complete with advice how to avoid attack. Nevertheless, the British have a unique ability to come up with water creature stories such as the Loch Ness Monster guaranteed to get people talking about taking a trip to England. It's also a perfect summer news story featuring vacation perils, complete with blurry video from The Sun.

Cornwall depends on vacationers for 25% of its income, and its no surprise that experts in the local press have surmised that the sighting was really a Basking Shark, which are often seen in the area. The local BBC Cornwall news, available in streaming mode, is also downplaying the story.

I was feeling grateful to live near a lake, not the ocean, until my research revealed that you are more likely to be killed by a coconut falling on you than be attacked by a Great White. Just in case sharks become the latest craze, I’ve gone over to Daily Lit and signed up for free daily delivery of Moby Dick to my inbox. I’ve also viewed this footage of Basking Sharks in the Falmouth area, just in case I come upon a serious shark discussion. Wouldn't you know that there even is a Great White Shark blog? There are several areas where Great Whites are routinely spotted, and for a real adventure tale you might like to see this story by the survivor of a Great White attack.
Update (8/7): A Porbeagle Shark was caught tje other day in Cornwall, leading to speculation that this was the shark thought to be a Great White. Porbeagles are common in Cornish Waters. In the meatime, there are reports of a Great White off the Spanish Costa Brava, a popular European vacation destination.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Green Cooling: Open the Windows

There's nothing greener or more healthy for the environment than a rummage sale, and we've been blogging all week on green topics in preparation of tomorrow's sale from 8-12 at Kenilworth Union Church (click here for more info). Today's topic is a "thermal chimney," guaranteed to cool down your house when its warmer inside the house than out. Before air conditioning was cheaply and freely available, people had a number of methods to keep their homes cool in summer, and it occurs to me that this is an advanced application of "cross-ventilation."

Here's how to cool your house using a thermal chimney: Open the lowest windows on the side from where the breeze is coming. Leave interior doors open, and open the upstairs windows on the opposite side of the house. The warm air in your house will draw upwards and out the upper window, an effect called 'thermal siphoning'. I thought this was a tip worth sharing, and there are lots more on the Natural Cooling Page at which I found at With a few days of cooler weather, it's a great time to check your screens and make sure that all windows are equipped for the rest of summer.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Driving Green: The English Eco One Speedster

We continue this week's Green Theme, and today's topic is Eco One, an English racing machine that uses E85 fuel, environmentally friendly "oil," and goes from 0-60 in four seconds. This car is a serious, high level engineering effort designed at Warwick University in England.

The Eco One features natural, renewable materials, including potato starch in the tires, and cashew nut shell brake pads. The chassis is made from steel and aluminium which can be recycled.

No Pinan Farina wannabe, the styling will surely appeal to those who fondly rememember the Pinewood Derby and the Big Wheel. For a close-up look, though. you will have to travel to London, where it will be on display at the National Science Museum from August 28-30.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Abundance of the Sea: Choosing Fish

Today's topic: consuming fish that is not only good for you but is also good for the environ- ment. No horror stories on bad fishing practices, please; the best thing you can do is to choose wisely when you buy fish to eat. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a handy pocket guide to seafood, customized for the Midwest, which you can print out, cut , fold, and put in your wallet or purse. (In the event you don't live in the Midwest, click here for a full list of pocket guides to seafood.)

It's hot out, and all that cutting and folding is probably enough work for one July afternoon, but in case you're ambitious, you can learn more about making choices for healthy oceans here.

I suppose recent news made me think about which fish is better to eat. Can you believe that no one in the mainstream media (following Al Gore's daughter's wedding which featured sea bass) has picked up on the fact that there is no farmed Chilean Sea Bass contrary to the answers when green-advocate Al Gore was questioned?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reach for a Glass, not a Water Bottle

It's the height of summer here in Wilmette, and everything is still green, thanks to some major rain last week. With Rummage at Kenilworth Union on Saturday, we are thinking green this week, and today's topic is water bottles.

Not that many years ago, there was a vast number of drinking fountains in stores and on the street. In those days there seemed to be enough cleaning personnel in public places where the fountains were almost always fresh and inviting. Chicago was was a hard city in which to be thirsty. No longer.

The demise of the drinking fountain is undoubtedly one major reason for the fact that Americans used 22 billion little plastic bottles of water last year, and I can't think of a more wasteful habit. Water from Lake Michigan is some of the finest in the world.

Bottled water is no safer or cleaner than tap water; in fact 40% of bottled water started out as tap water. In fact, there are some real questions whether tap water may be actually of a higher quality than bottled water.

So do yourself a favor; get a glass out of the cupboard and turn on the tap!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Living Green on Chicago's North Shore: Rummage Sale at Kenilworth Union Church

UPDATE: Click here for information about the July 24, 2010 Kenilworth Union Church Rummage Sale!

I am getting so tired of rock stars, political losers, movie people and other sorts of their ilk trying to dictate how you and me should live responsibly in light of of global warming that I could shake a fist and shout at them. Their holier-than-thou attitude is curious, seeing that they comfortably and regularly despoil the environment, with private jets, SUV's, and rock concerts that use more energy than one hundred villages in Africa. When these celebrities tell you they are buying carbon credits, you can thank them for monstrosities like the wind farm pictured above, despoiling the otherwise pristine coastal views of Southern Spain around Gibraltar. Lady Bird would not have been a fan.

Living in an ecologically responsible way on Chicago's North Shore is easy. You can take trains downtown. You can walk or ride a bike. Nearly every community has rummage sales that raise money for charity, recycling everything you could possibly want to own for often less than pennies on the dollar.
And speaking of rummage sales, put a few dollars in your pocket and head over to Kenilworth Union Church Rummage Sale on Saturday, July 28, 2007, where from 8am-noon there will be a wide selection of all sorts of good things with which you can feather your nest--or yourself.
Kenilworth is located between Wilmette and Winnetka, of course. Just turn East toward the lake at Kenilworth Avenue, where the Kenilworth Metra station is located, and go 3-4 blocks and you will be there! Of course, you can also take the train to Rummage. Take the Metra North Line from Olgilvie Transportation Center and get off at Kenilworth. Walk east. The church is on the North side of the street. From books to boots, to linens to luggage, from sweaters and suits to bric-a-brac and bread machines, its all pre-owned, some of it never even used, and guaranteed to keep usable items out of landfills and avoid needless manufacture.
Concerned about used clothing? Please. New Trier students snap up sweaters and ball gowns and costume items at rummage. Long time North Shore women adore used clothing and purses, and I am serious about that. In fact, you could probably tell the newcomers from the old-timers based strictly on ownership of rummage items.
Of course, the other fun thing about North Shore rummage sales is the well-educated, erudite, all-volunteer, sales staff. Comfortable with dealmaking on a daily basis, its likely that they will use those skills to send plenty of good thing to your house at a price you will be delighted to pay. With all the sale proceeds going to area charities, you not only can be green, you can also help the less fortunate. What a winning combination!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Political Candidates and Ambition

I ran across the following quote from over 300 years ago, and I thought it was great, especially in light of the vast sums of money being raised by US Presidential candidates.

"A slave has but one master; an ambitious man has as many masters as there are people who may be useful in bettering his position." -La Bruyere, "Of the Court," Characters, 1688

Cell Phone Cleaning Day

If you can find your cell phone--and at the moment, I am not sure where mine is--you might want to go the the kitchen right away! Right by the sink I'll bet you have a nice little canister of those disinfectant wipes. Do take one out and clean the whole cell phone, and don't use a spray cleaner! Why, you ask? A recent study finds that cell phones are a terrible source of germs and sharing them is almost like sharing a toothbrush.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Water Music: Summer Sounds for Mid-July

290 years ago today, July 17, 1717, George I, King of England, had a boating and dinner party. The King and a number of his noble friends traveled by open barge on the Thames River from Whitebridge to Chelsea where the dinner was planned. As parties go, there had to be music, and back in 1717, one needed an orchestra for that. Accompanying the King and his friends was a musician’s barge, with fifty musicians who entertained his majesty and his party with a new composition.

Thus was the first performance of Water Music, composed for the event by George Friederich Handel. The King liked the music so much, he had the orchestra play it three times.

Both King and composer had gone to England from Germany. The King gained his spot because all the people who had better claims to throne were Roman Catholic—hence precluded from the job that also entailed heading the Protestant Church of England. Handel gained his spot as he had served George as Elector of Hanover, Germany. Water Music is now a perennial favorite, but Handel, known as an English composer, is best known for his oratorio, The Messiah.
You might enjoy Water Music as much as the King did this day. You can listen to the opening by clicking here, and scrolling down until you reach Water Music. Two other movements can be found here, and more is found here.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Obama: Not a Peace Candidate

Aghast! Pictured above is a picture of the region where Presidential candidate Barack Obama wants to send US troops.
Illinois' Senator-in-Absentia, Barack Obama, doesn't yet have the experience to be suited for the Presidency, and runs a campaign marked by mistakes that characterize a campaign of someone not yet ready for prime time. Nevertheless, Obama is popular, and one reason for that is that he has positioned himself as a "peace candidate."
So much for peace. Obama's latest rhetoric, reveals that he wants to move the troops, not bring them home. It appears that his interest is to expand the war, giving up in Iraq, and shifting American military to the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. In fact, three years ago he spoke about a possible need to initiate missle strikes into Iran and Pakistan.
I am sure that in the days to come there will be a great deal of analysis of Obama's proposal. In the meantime, since this isn't a political blog, here's a link to Baloch revolutionary songs of the Baloch people from a website banned in Pakistan and a recent poem from Peshawar to give you a flavor of the region.
The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a tough area, filled with fierce, warlike local leaders; drug traffic; narcotics users, etc. The British were whipped there as were the Russians, and even humanitarian charities are unable to gain access.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Barack Obama: Yet Another Question about his Judgment

I've blogged before about a number of facts about Barack Obama that lead me to believe he would be a poor choice for a Presidential Candidate, but his latest gaffe is quite over the top.

Several months ago, BO made plans for a summer political camp to rally and teach campaign workers. I followed that development closely, because the story repeatedly talked about "young" campaign workers. Envisioning an "Obama Youth" movement to brainwash the very young, I researched relentlessly, but did nothing with the story when further reports discussed college-age attendees.

As it turns out, "Camp Obama" featured a convicted felon teaching Obama's campers all about politics. Since Illinois has a lot of felons with strong political resumes, perhaps it didn't occur to Obama that there is something wrong with using felons to craft political strategy.

It's not surprising that this story came from Park Ridge, via the highly regarded Tom Roeser. Keep your eyes open, and you'll see that candidate Clinton seems to still have plenty of friends, in her home town, willing to tip the opposition about her opponent.

While Obama has removed the blog post referring to the felon from his website, which in itself seems somewhat dishonest, its far more troubling that he would feature a criminal to teach the young how to run a campaign.

h/t Backyard Conservative

In Memorium: Mrs. Lyndon Johnson

In Memoriam
Claudia Alta Taylor "Ladybird" Johnson
1912 -2007
Who can ever forget Ladybird, Mrs. Lyndon Johnson, who urged us all to "plant a tree, a bush, or a shrub" in her campaign to beautify America? She was a gracious first lady, above controversy, well respected by her fellow Americans.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wilmette Eating: I Find a New Restaurant that Meets my Standards

It was a combination of hunger, this news report, a search for someplace to eat other than at home, and a coupon that sent us over to Dempster Street, just South of McCormick, in Skokie, the other night for a meal. While Wilmette is no culinary destination, there are plenty of restaurants nearby; the trick is finding someplace new where the food is good, the parking is easy, and the price fair.

I am pretty picky, and usually what I look for when I go out to eat is food that is fairly plain and simple. I don't like to put on my good clothes to eat. Most of the time I want to just get in the car and go someplace with minimal fuss. I have no interest in those noisy, trendy places where the decibel level could give you a headache, or developing a relationship with the person who takes my order. I do like a cloth napkin, sensible prices, good food quality, and decent service. I don't want to reuse my salad fork on my main course. I like water with my meals, and I like pitcher of ice water on the table. In short, I like what every restaurant should be offering but rarely does. I'm happy to report that Kabul House, which we tried for the first time, met my standards. It bills itself as "the only Afghan restaurant in Chicagoland," and is a good find, well worth sharing.

We ordered the vegetarian rice combo and the lamb kebobs. Both came with hot flatbread, a small salad and some very nice rice. The kebobs also came with some grilled vegetables. The portion size was just right, eliminating that horrible habit of taking home left overs. That was a plus for me. We also had some desert, choosing home made ice cream and some rice pudding. We liked the food, the service, and the decor, and we will go back. I recommend it, and think you would like Kabul House, too.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sick of the November, 2008 Elections yet?

Are you sick of the November, 2008 election yet? We are pretty much there already. No one I know, Democrat or Republican, can get excited about any presidential candidate, and in a first, people want to launch campaigns for Congress 25% into the current term. Honest employment, anyone?

Like visitors who have overstayed their welcome, perpetual candidates, are becoming a lot like Benjamin Franklin's proverbial fish. Over at the Drudge Report, they have an article on Voter burnout in Iowa, and a promise of a New York Times article tomorrow.

Whew! Always glad to know that we are not alone.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Off to London? First Woman Beefeater Now at Tower

I wonder how many Wilmette residents are off to England this week? Sometimes I am not sure whether its more popular in July to celebrate America's independence from England, or visit England. Whatever the case may be, starting on Monday, you will actually have a chance to see a woman Beefeater when you visit the Tower of London. Moira Cameron, pictured in the middle, above, is the first in 522 years. The Beefeaters, more formally known as Yeoman Warders, guard the Tower, and must have more than 20 years of military service to do so.

Friday, July 06, 2007

New Idea for Wilmette Kids: Outsourcing Homework in India

Outsourcing homework, what? I ran across a little video that shows a homework factory in New Delhi, the answer for Indian students who didn't do their summer assignments. Prices are very reasonable.
If you are a veteran of the Wilmette Junior High toothpick bridge project (Elmer's Glue Relief Act), you can't be blamed for thinking this could be a very, very good idea.
One problem. I have no clue as to where the homework factory is located or their phone number. Nevermind, for that toothpick project I would have been happy to settle for this.

Bloggers Abroad Liveblog Unfolding Red Mosque Events

In the midst of America's 4th of July celebration--lengthened this year by a midweek 4th--I hesitate to turn attention abroad. Nevertheless, if you take an interest in international news, you may have run into the story of a mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan known as Lal Masjid. With upcoming elections in Pakistan, it has been very difficult for the casual observer to distinguish news from campaigning, but this story definitely seems to be news.

A number of bloggers in Islamabad, Pakistan have been posting news of the Red Mosque (Lal Masjid) on the Islamabad Metroblog, which is fascinating. One blogger on the Metroblog has been liveblogging the unfolding events. This situation at the Red Mosque has been brewing for quite some time, and there are a number of candid photos available. Backgrounders, via Youtube, are here and here.

If you took the train downtown in the past few days, you may have seen extra, armed security personnel, delays boarding the train, and other reminders that we no longer live in Fortress America. With jet travel, migration, and globalization, our problems of tomorrow may be the problems abroad today.

Update: I may be wrong, and this may not be news but propaganda. A well-respected Pakistani blogger questions whether the Red Mosque series of incidents is merely a stage play for foreign consumption, but many of the comments to the post do not agree. An op-ed in an important newspaper in Pakistan also takes this view.

Further Update: Whatever the truth, there is great sadness, as stories emerge of the poor people who have gone to pick up their children. Religious schools such as these help the impoverished who have difficulty caring for their large families in a country where literacy is low and the public schools are bad.

Leaders of the Red Mosque aren't making friends across the Mideast.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth--the 231st Independence Day

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

Happy Fourth of July! We are hoping you have a wonderful holiday, and are celebrating with those near and dear.

This year, we recommend Federalist Paper #74 as a good read for those persons who are concerned about the recent events in Washington. If you would like to dip into an entire library of freedom documents, go on over to You can read the text of the Declaration of Independence here; it is always worth reading one more time.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Planning Your 4th of July Celebration in and Around Wilmette


I started this 4th of July post in 2008, and have been updating it every year.  Since so many people seem to keep landing here from a Google search, I've removed all the info from former years, and all the links refer to 2011.

Gather the family together to plan your 4th of July! Of course here in Wilmette, our Independence Day fireworks celebration is on Tuesday, the 3rd of July, at Gilson Park, so the holiday begins early for us with entertainment and food. Wilmette 4th of July 2011 info.

This year we are thinking of taking in a parade since we haven't done that for a couple of years. Wilmette doesn't have a parade, but there is no shortage of parades nearby. For a low stress parade, do consider Winnetka. It steps off at 10:00 am from Elm and Glendale, and heads East to the Village Green for a flag raising ceremony. This small parade is blissfully early, leaving time for a brief nap before lunch and is perfect for small children and the family dog as well. (Winnetka 4th of July, 2011 info - Pdf format)

We are also considering Glenview's parade which is much larger. Don't take the dog, though, there are a lot more people and the parade is much longer. The Glenview parade leaves OLPH at 11:30 am, goes west on Glenview Road, turns south on Harlem to Central, then marches west on Central to Johns Park. Glenview 4th of July, 2011 info.

Evanston's parade is great for late risers, it's not until 2:00. July 4, 2011 parade info and fireworks info.

There is also fireworks info on the links above, so don't delay putting your schedule together now!

New for 2011 is this recently posted Youtube color video of the 1957 Evanston Parade, complete with Walt Disney, the Disney characters, and some very famous Mouskateers!

Photo: Evanston has the odd tradition that people who plan to view the parade can take their chairs to Central Street and claim their spot days in advance. This year, July 1st is the official day for chair placement. Credit to eob who posts on Flickr.