Friday, August 31, 2007

Wilmette: Cleaning Up After the Storm

Nice picture, huh? I snapped that one over by Locust Road on one of my "drive arounds," looking for how others had fared after last Thursday's terrible storm in Wilmette. The "haves"--those who never lost electricity--by and large did not flood, thanks to functioning sump pumps. Unfortunately, the house pictured above took a lot of water, and I imagine that by today all that stuff is sitting out by the street.

There must be thousands of yards of carefully rolled up carpeting by curbs throughout Wilmette, along with furniture, boxes, junk, and all sorts of other things stored in basements and lower levels. It looks pretty terrible. The promised Wednesday pick-up of all that junk is now happening Saturday--I guess there must have been too much to get in all one day.

Today, my neighbor was having her walls knocked out, and I think there are a number of people doing that. At our house, we are running a new dehumidifier. If you are looking for one, Ace Hardware on Waukegan has an excellent selection. When I went over there I saw a brand new flooring store; I wonder if they decided to open just to try to sell carpet—there is going to be a lot of demand for that. We haven't finished getting all the ruined carpet out of the house yet due to limited time, heavy furniture, and "techno cottage" items, all of which have to be moved first. Wilmette resident and editorial page editor of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a good article on how his family and neighbors were affected by the storm, including his experience with wet carpet; you might like to read it..

I haven't heard my sump pump since the electricity went on Monday night; so it's possible we had an additional storm casualty. There is an awful lot of work here left to do at our house, even though we didn't take too much water. We are grateful that this is Labor Day weekend because there is a lot of labor needed, and we can use the extra day.

Today, I saw a smashed car that obviously had a large tree fall on top of it. It was loaded on one of those trucks that carry cars. There were a number of cars that had trees fall on them after the storm; and generally speaking there is a lot of damage. The best thing about this catastrophe is that no one was killed. I haven’t heard of any major injuries either. There are very few natural disasters that you can say that about, and the people of Wilmette are lucky indeed.

Oh yes, today is Blog Day. I've been to busy to write anything special, so like on TV, we will offer you a rerun.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Men from Philadelphia Restore Power to Wilmette

It was men from Philadelphia who put Wilmette back on the power grid following that terrible storm. These were burly men, strong, working for electric contractor M. J. Electric out of Iron Mountain, Michigan. Wielding pliers as long as your arm, they rode fiberglass buckets, swooping like chariot drivers flying through the air.

As I watched them work, I heard one say to the other, "I just can't imagine why they put these electric wires where there are so many trees." I chatted a bit with a couple of the men. One volunteered, "There are so many broken branches up there, I hate to think what will happen next time there is a strong wind."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Help from Afar: Wilmette Gets Back on the (Power) Grid

I was driving West on Lake yesterday, day five of living off the power grid in Wilmette. I was beginning to ease into life without electricity following last Thursday’s wind and rain storm, when I spotted a convey of 10 trucks which had just exited the southbound Eden’s. All ten turned right on Lake, and right again, directly into Eden’s Plaza. The trucks had a red shield on them, and a name I didn’t recognize, but I couldn’t fail to notice that the majority were trucks with cherry pickers, just what is needed to work on electric wires. Could it be that help was on the way?

I was learning how to live without electricity in a manner that would have done my pioneer ancestors proud. I learned to place fresh candles in the holders well before sunset, and I was becoming more careful to replace flashlights, and butane match back in the basket where I was keeping them. Quality of life had become dependent on the table cleared and candles in place before 7:30 pm. Living by candlelight requires organizational skills that aren’t necessary when living by electric light.

By midafternoon, the neighborhood was filled with excitement. Truck after truck lined the streets surrounding my home, and activity was everywhere. Men in hard hats and vests with day-glo orange reflective stripes were down the street, up the street, across the street, and in the air, moving about in cherry pickers attached to long hydraulic arms. They were pulling wires as if they were hoisting circus tents, busy attending to wires strung on poles high above, talking in groups.

It felt as if the Allies had finally landed, and I think that’s exactly what happened. These trucks bore strange foreign names of electric companies of which I had never heard from far away places. In less than three hours, the lights came on, and as quickly as the men came, they were gone.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wilmette: Danger of Being "Off the ComEd (Electric) Grid Permanently?

From all evidence, we are not among the 99% of households in Wilmette who will have electric service restored by tonight. Tomorrow we enter day six of life without electricity, following last Thursday's devastaing winds and rain.
It's good to know that George Williams, ComEd's senior vice president of operations, has stated that "We will not stop until every customer is restored.'' Geez, it never occurred to me that they would stop before everyone had power.
Permanently off the electric grid in Wilmette? That's a nightmare thought that never occurred to me. While that would be enough to put up the "For Sale" sign, I can't imagine anyone would want to buy. It's not exactly like having a well rather than city water. On the other hand, maybe I could figure out some of those off-the-grid power solutions. I do remember seeing one where power is delivered via stationary bike. That would be healthy!
Being off the grid permanently would have another benefit: the house would have to have its tax assessment greatly revised, and there's no question in my mind that a low tax bill would be good too. Is it possible that my judgment is going?

Wilmette: Day Five Off the (Electric) Grid

Living "off the grid" here in Wilmette due to Thursday's storm is getting old, but since it's day, life is pretty good. There are three conflicting reports from Com Ed when power is being restored and that is quite maddening. It's not hot out today, and that makes daytime bearable. Tomorrow its back to work, so I have to take full advantage of daylight, as there is very little that can be accomplished once night falls.

I have found an acceptable location from which to write; the price of which is that I have submitted myself to the jurisdiction of Texas, indemnified a major corporation, its affiliates and assigns, and promised to pay attorney's fees if they are sued due to my actions. Not exactly risks I like to assume, but reporters take daily risks, and how can I be any more special? After all, my location isn't a war zone, just a local restaurant with very worried legal counsel.

There is now every sort of truck in the neighborhood. Disaster services, the Junk King, roofers, tree services, a Com Ed van, a Village of Wilmette truck, and unmarked pickups and vans of every size and description that all belong to someone doing something.

The phone rings again. Today Lowe's called me and told me I was preapproved for a credit card and they wanted to rush me a 10% off coupon. I thought that was the height of tackiness, and told them I wasn't interested.

I have a backdoor light now. I took a Starbucks paper bag with handles, put 2 rocks in it, 2 tea light candles, and it adds cheer to the incredible darkness at night. As you can tell, standards around here are slipping pretty quickly.

Worst of all is the infernal sound of generators. It's a terrible noise and I don't like it at all.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wilmette Wind and Rain Storm Devastates Wilmette - Town Separated into Haves and Have-nots

A terrible Storm hit Wilmette on Thursday, instantly separating the town into the haves and the have-nots. Those who have power, about half, are largely unaffected. Those who don't have power have (without exception) water in their basements, no power, and limited use of water, and may or may not have a land-line telephone. Cell phones were not affected except for quality of service. Many trees have fallen on houses, and no one has seen such damage since the pictures of Katrina--except the houses here are all still standing. While they are now being removed, many houses had large trees fall on them. This is a major disaster for the sleepy communities of suburban Wilmette, Winnetka, and Northfield, Illinois.

The Wilmette editorial office is part of the have not group. Your editor has her laptop on the trunk of her car, and is blogging courtesy of a neighbor, who has no idea that I am using their wireless Internet connection. As part of the haves, the neighbor is likely oblivious to most of what is happening outside her home.

We are all living by candle light at night, cutting up and throwing out carpets and all sorts of stuff from our lower levels by day. People look a little dirty and disheveled and the trash pickers are descending. We are hoping for power in less than a week, but given the nature of the damage, maybe it will be longer. Hot weather predicted for next week could test the patience of local residents, many of whom are pleasant enough to talk to, but lose all control behind the wheels of their cars, where many drive aggressively and unsafely, as if immune from the laws of motion.

Disaster workers are beginning to descend from out of state. There is a lot of opportunity here. Free showers are available for local residents at the pool. All in all, it is a disaster, North Shore style. Besides, Hackney's is open, with many a kind word and an invitation to stay all day. We headed over there for breakfast, and I admit staying on was a temptation. In an area where many could head out of town and not return until they can find a clean up crew, it's a strong lesson that--for most people--there is no place like home.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Elvira Arellano, Mexican Citizen

Elvira Arellano has been catapulted to rock-star status in her native Mexico, a female version of the prodigal son. Here in Chicago she was characterized as a poor, downtrodden immigrant, barely scraping by. In Mexico, she suddenly has funds to travel to Mexico City, stature to address the Mexican Senate, and clout to have them pass a resolution asking the President of Mexico make an appeal for her at the highest diplomatic levels.

What? Is there something bizarre going on here?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Clinton and Obama: Good Politicians, but Nothing New

"The media should not be so willing to parrot each of Mrs. Clinton's and Mr. Obama's campaign themes. They are able work-a-day politicians trying to get themselves elected president. Nothing is wrong with that. But Hillary Clinton is one of the least-experienced major candidates for president in the last hundred years, and Barack Obama is neither stylistically nor substantively offering any more change than have most candidates over the generations."

I don't find too many op-ed pieces that are outstanding, but I think the article today by Tony Blankley, quoted above, is well worth reading, perhaps simply because it states the obvious. There's a little wry humor, too, which I always appreciate and I think you will like.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Peru Earthquake Update

Aid continues to arrive in Peru, and from reports, it seems that progress is being made to help the citizens, some of whom have lost everything as a result of last Wednesday's earthequake.

Progress is being made, albeit slowly. 120 health workers have being sent from the Ministry of Health to Ica, Pisco and Chincha to construct latrines and educate the population about sanitation procedures following last Wednesday's 8.0 earthquake. The doctors from Spain, who arrived several days ago but were unable to locate their supplies, their instruments and their clothing, have caught up with their things, and are helping the citizens of Peru meet their medical needs. Medical needs are largely being met. It is reported that order has been restored in Ica, although its not really clear whether there was much disorder in the first place.

While it has taken several days, an air bridge has now been established to Pisco which will deliver aid and aid workers directly to the affected region. More rural areas are still not sufficiently served, lacking sufficient water, tents, beds, blankets, and tools to remove rubble.

Generally speaking, it's considered good aid policy, following disaster, to have a program which employs the affected to clean up the mess and put cash in the pockets of the afflicted. Peru has started such a program, which will last for 30 days and starts on August 30.

Most of the children, except in Ica, have gone back to school. Most areas have sufficient water and shelters have been established. All in all, things are looking up for Peru, but there always is the question whether government reports more progress than has actually been made.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hurricane Dean and Jamaica Talk Radio

I never went to Jamaica. and from what I had been reading on the Drudge report, it seemed that Hurricane Dean might blow it off the map. So I decided to look around on the Internet for some news updates, and I found several interesting links. One was a Jamaican radio station that was broadcasting throughout the storm, using mostly a talk radio format.

Somehow I thought this would be exciting, like watching those weather men who go down to Florida and report breathlessly while branches fly in the background and they are almost blown away. Jamaica's tiny, though, and the news turned out to be extremely local. There was a report that a tree had blown down and was blocking the highway. Someone called to say that their peach tree fell over and the roof blew off one room, but they were fine in the rest of the house. Their was a weather report from another island. A PSA featured two friends chatting about getting HIV tests and wouldn't it be great for both couples to go out afterwards. Then, big news: shots were heard. Discussing that took about a half hour. Then they asked for phone calls from people with disabilities to call and tell them how they were faring, but no one called.

Another caller reminded listeners that it was important to remember the prisoners during a difficult time. Then there was news that the prison roof of A block had blown off, and B block was leaking badly, and they hoped the authorities would be there soon. At this point I decided to go do some chores. When I returned, the worst of the storm had turned south and Jamaica was spared.

The concept of listing to radio shows all over the world on the Internet is pretty exciting, but today I nearly bored myself to death.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wilmette Residents: Prepare for Water Shock

Every time I get a Wilmette water bill I am horrified. It's not the water that's expensive, its a horrible "sewer charge," which is double the water bill. Then there is a bill for the garbage collection, which used to be included in the tax bill. In addition to the water bill, we are told we are "running out of water," but anytime I go to the beach I find that very, very hard to believe. Growing up when water was cheap, I try not to waste. And water the grass? Please. Pray for rain.

Apparently, I am not alone. It seems that Wilmette residents are using so much less water, that the price is going to be raised--substantially. Over at the the Village of Wilmette, they seem to think that Wilmette residents don't watch their pennies. Personally, I can think of plenty of nice things to do with the money. Where do we get these village employees anyway?

h/t The Backyard Conservative

Welcome to Baby Jesús, Born in a Field Hospital in Pisco, Peru

That's the Baby Jesus over there to the right, except his name is really Jesús Moquillaza. He was born in a temporary hospital set up in the Plaza de Armas in Pisco, Peru on the evening of August 17, 2007. That's not his dad, also named Jesús Moquillaza, holding 7 pound Jesús, but the President of Peru, Alan García Pérez. President García has been out and about trying to rally the spirits of his countrymen countrymen following Wednesday's Earthquake in Peru. He paid the newborn and his proud parents--who lost their home in Wednesday's Earthquake--a visit.

The President kissed the newborn, and expressed his wishes for happiness to accompany little Jesús for all his life.

The Peruvian government is desperate for good news. The current count of persons affected by the earthquake is up to 33,200 families. Looting and robbing has broken out in Ica and Chincha, and extra police are being sent in. The situation has become critical in little towns in the highlands of the interior which have received no aid at all. The aftershocks continue, and in many towns, chaos reigns.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Earthquake in Peru: A Terrible Situation

The Earthquake in Peru has devastated much of the area where it hit and brought immense suffering to its people. There are 85,000 victims--many of whom are injured-- and 17,000 buildings destroyed. Aid is rushing in, but there is a genuine problem in distribution. The Pan American Highway has suffered extreme destruction, and what remains is congested as people attempt to flee the affected area. There are reports that a prison was partially destroyed, and some of the escapees are menacing people on the Pan American Highway. A series of strong aftershocks has rattled the population further. The earthquake was upgraded to 8.0 on the Richter Scale yesterday.

Excellent coverageof the Peru Earthquake and its aftermath is available at Peru's El Comercio online edition, which remains a bright spot in a scene of chaos. One of the worst effects following natural disaster is the breakdown in communications, and El Comercio is doing an excellent job of providing updated information to the country and the world. They have a pretty interesting website which combines aspects of Internet, radio, newspaper, and TV news, so you might want to take a look at it. There are a series of four videos featuring Peruvian TV film coverage here; the third and fourth show the extreme destruction that has taken place. On both websites, which are longer than most US websites, you will have to scroll down.

Bloggers in Peru are also helping fill the information gap with posts such as this one, automatically translated. In addition, Charity Navigator has put up a webpage with further information about making a contribution. Catholic charity, Caritas, is also arranging for contributions which will go directly through church channels.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Peru: Earthquake Report

In the aftermath of the Peruvian Earthquake, I am blogging over at the World Wide Help Group blog. The situation in Peru appears to be worse than originally thought, as early reports came from the city of Lima which appears to be less affected than other areas. There is a giant traffic jam on the Pan American Highway, as huge cracks have affected the road, as have downed power lines. A satellite communications team, TCF, expects to be in place by mid-afternoon offering telephone, fax, and Internet. 17 aftershocks, ranging from 4.5 to 6.0 have occurred since last night's quake, which has been upgraded to 8.0.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Assault on Free Speech in San Francisco

There is an free speech issue in San Francisco that has mostly been a local San Francisco story, and it's pretty interesting. It involves the Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, a radio talk show, and you probably won't be hearing about it from the usual free-speech advocates. The talk show host is Michael Savage whose byword is "Libralism is a mental disorder." The person who would like to silence him is the Supervisor of the City of San Francisco, Geraldo Sandoval, a liberal.

Savage, who from all accounts is a reformed liberal bad-boy who counted beat poet Alan Ginsberg as a friend, has a number of pet subjects about which he rants on talk radio. He specializes in outrageous, politically incorrect, material and undoubtedly makes most conservatives feel very liberal, indeed.

Sandoval introduced a resolution, condemning a comment of Savage's as "hate speech," when Savage opined that some immigrants undergoing a hunger strike could die for all he cared. The proposal came before the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, August 14, 2007. Only one board member, Ed Jew, who isn't Jewish, but whose grandfather was an immigrant from China, voted against the proposal, effectively stopping it in its tracks.

"For the record, I do not agree with comments allegedly made by Mr. Savage," said Mr. Jew, "but the First Amendment gives him the right to make those comments," Jew said. For further information, I found an interesting post on Voice of Truth. For more on Michael Savage, you could tune into his radio show in Chicago during evening drive time on 560AM.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Corny Pig

If you getting a little bored with the summer, how about making a picture of an animal in your lawn to amuse anyone flying overhead? Of course, no one will be able to see it if you have any trees in your yard.

The pig pictured above, cut in a corn field. was done using a GPS controlled shredder by a farmer living near Lieschow on the island of Ruegen, in northern Germany. The field is 37,000 square meters. I found the picture at BBC news, and figured it is just perfect for a slow news day in mid-August.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Look Up for Shooting Stars!

Tonight, look up in the skies and maybe you will see a shooting star or two! It's the annual Perseid meteor shower which will be visible all night long. The above star map should help locate where to be looking, but I know you won't be able to see that many stars locally. This year's viewing conditions should be better than last year due to the phase of the moon. Last year, I took a little time to watch and I did see several. While its best to go far from the city, based on my experience it's not completely necessary.

TV weathermen should have further details on the meteor shower. Or, if you are getting tired of listening to all that music on your ipod, you could download biweekly podcasts from Chicago's Adler Planetarium here.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Wilmette French Market Update

I went over to the Wilmette Farmer's Market (French Market) this morning and bought a sticky bun from the Mennonites. I think it was 3 days old. Several weeks ago, I bought some bread from Bennison's at the Farmer's Market, and it was old, too.

Day old bread used to be sold at half-price, and if you ever tried any it was better than the bun which cost $1.50. I am making the firm resolve to buy only from the nuns at the Societe de Notre Dame booth, whose baked goods are properly fresh and quite delicious. It also helps support their charities.

Wilmette isn't doing much to regulate that the produce is all farm raised. Have you ever heard of limes from Wisconsin? Really.

I know that the Evanston and Skokie markets are far better regulated, so if you are looking for locally grown produce only, I would recommend them. On the other hand, the French Market is fun as it features more than food products. It's also small, and easy to park there. Some of the fruits and vegetables are very, very good and fresh, but its strictly a situation of caveat emptor.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Cute Knut Update: No More Croissants

"One day you're on the cover of Vanity Fair, the next its Weight Watchers Magazine," says Deutsche Welle, in announcing that Berlin's Polar Bear sensation, Knut, has been put on a diet. No more croissants for Knut, and I'm not kidding that the bear, just six months old, actually was having a few of those. Even worse, Knut was nibbling between meals. Besides giving up snacking and French pastries, Knut will have his meals reduced to three a day rather than the four he had been eating.
No, that isn't Knut, pictured above, its another bear at the Berlin Zoo enjoying some water. Since Knut is a favorite, we thought he might be sensitive to a photo at the moment, but you can see one here.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Illinois State Fair: August 10-19, 2007

I love the poster of the butter cow, above, from an earlier Illinois State Fair. This year's fair will take place from August 10-19, 2007 in Springfield. Budget or no budget, we are assured that yes, there will be a fair, complete with this year's butter cow. The cow will be officially unveiled at 2:00 pm, Thursday.

This weekend, after ending up in the middle of a cornfield--rather than the restaurant where I was headed--using driving directions from Google, I wonder if there's a bus over to the fair from the Amtrack station in Springfield. You might think that with all the carrying on about global warming there might be some information on that on the Fair's website, but no. There is a daily schedule though, and it looks as if there is plenty of fun of the whole family.

Update: It's Thursday lunchtime, and there is word that there will be a live cam for the butter cow, just click here. I was unable to see the cow--probably because it hasn't been unveiled yet--but I am hopeful for a bird's eye view of the buttery bovine.

Further Update: Its Saturday morning, and I still can't see the butter cow. Try clicking here for rotating cams at the Illinois State Fair that seem to be working. Also, I called the State Fair, and yes, you can take the bus there from the Amtrak Station. Click here for details.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Submit Questions for Next Youtube Debate

On September 17, 2007, the Republican presidential hopefuls will have their own Youtube debate in Tampa, Florida. Youtube is currently soliciting video questions, in the event you have one. As they remind, hold the camera steady and speak up!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Obama Making Friends for America--Not

Thanks, Senator Obama. This is what is reported as a few Pakistani's response to your speech the other day, complete with plans to invade an ally. I think it's time for you to bow out of this race and spend some time in the Senate learning the ropes. If there is a "Stop Obama" movement please sign me up.

Note to BO's campaign staff: Clear his schedule. Send him home to get some sleep.

Previous posts on Obama: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Obama to Pakistan: As President We Will Invade You

Why isn’t Illinois’ Senator-in-Absentia Barack Obama calling on us to invade Canada? We all know there may be a number of terrorist types hiding up there, busy at well-paying day jobs until they strike. Invading Canada is just about as good and sound an idea as invading Pakistan, the subject of Obama’s get-tough-on-terror speech (video), delivered yesterday in Washington, D.C. The speech, remiscent only of the "We Will Bury You diatribe delivered to the USA by the late USSR dictator, Nikita Kruschev, perhaps predictably, earned the scorn of the other Democrat candidates, Vice-President Cheney, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States and, of course, was front page news in Pakistan.

Obama is reputed to be a very smart guy, so at some level he must understand that, as a general rule, nations don’t invade their allies. With news media focused on candidate fundraising however, the only reason I can think that he would promote this hare-brained invasion idea would be to raise ever-more millions from an American populace who believe that they don’t need to know much about foreign countries because they have people in Washington (e. g. Presidents, Congresspersons, Senators, staffers and the like) to do that for them. God save them from a foreign policy crafted by Obama.

Obama, under the direction of political consultant David Axelrod, is using a number of focus groups to get his message on target, and popular speeches raise campaign dollars, no matter how ill-advised. The problem is, you can’t get to moral high ground—and don’t get me wrong, Obama sees himself as the best and most moral candidate—by taking the low road and falling in potholes along the way. At its worst, Obama plays directly into the hands of the propaganda arm of Muslim hardliners who have been trying to convince more moderate Pakistanis that an American invasion is only a matter of time.

Obama’s speech is particularly troubling and insensitive as he delivered it in Washington on the very same day that America’s new ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, was working hard to extend the hand of friendship with an official tour to Lahore, pictured above.

The best thing I’ve read on Obama’s sheer stupidity in promoting an invasion is here, with a biting satire of Obama’s recent gaffe on his plan to meet with some of the heads of the biggest thug nations on Earth here. One can only hope that the people of Pakistan, who have been having their own debate about the value of free speech, realize that free speech includes the ability to show oneself as a complete and utter jackass, as Obama did yesterday.

Update: Get up to speed on what's happening in Pakistan by reading this special report from England's Guardian.

Further Update: This recently released report provides an excellent, in-depth analysis of the situation in Pakistan.