Sunday, March 30, 2008

Is There a Cougar Loose in Lake County?

UPDATED with helpful tips - Scroll Down
Update 4-12-2008: Has the cougar been spotted in Wilmette? Click here to read the Wilmette update.
Update 4-14-1008: The Chicago Tribune reports on a cougar which was found in Chicago and shot dead by the police at about 5:30 pm.

A couple of years ago I was out in the Arizona desert, and suddenly I saw a mountain lion about 2 or 3 feet from me. My first reaction was "My, that's a large cat," but the cougar slinked off in fast order. I'm not sure whether I was ever in danger, but Lake County is very concerned about several reports of sighting of a cougar by local residents.

Despite repeated searches I have been unable to find much information about Illinois wildlife, although it is clear that many spottings of exotics are due to escaped or released animals owned by someone as a pet.

It's obvious that foxes and coyotes, deer, racoons, squirrels, rabbits, and chipmunks, ducks and geese live among us, but could it be there is a far greater variety of wild animals that have adapted to suburbia than we have previously imagined? It would be nice if someone would gather up the information. A couple of years ago, sharpshooters were assigned to forest preserves in the New Trier area to cull a large population of deer. Is it strange to believe that their natural predators are showing up in the area? Unfortunately, no one knows.

A big hat tip to El Rider, who covered this intesting story on his blog.

UPDATE: Please read this fact sheet from the United States Department of Agriculture (pdf format) for tips on living with cougars. In addition, there are several potentially livesaving tips for you, your family and your pets which you can read by clicking here. What to do if you encounter the cougar? Read this or this to be prepared. While the webpage features an annoying growl this page on cougar do's and don'ts might be helpful.

Statistics show that a person is ten times more likely to be killed by a dog than a mountain lion, but you may want to read further about mountain lion attacks, including anecdotal evidence from 1890 to the present.

BOTTOM LINE: If you live in the area where the mountain lion has reportedly been spotted, don't go walking in the woods, especially not with your dog (dogs are mountain lion magnets), don't let your kids go outside to play alone, and don't leave your pets unattended! Note: One of the most recent sightings occurred in the forest preserves, so it isn't a good time to take an early spring hike.

Barack Obama's Tax Returns: Lingering Questions

Earth Hour interfered with income tax preparation at our house last night, but we are pleased to report that we won't be attempting to characterize political contributions as charitable contributions on our US-1040. Barack and Michelle Obama did just that a couple of years ago when they deducted a $13, 107 political contribution to the Congressional Black Caucus as charitable contribution on their 2006 tax return.

Deducting political contributions is strictly prohibited by the IRS, and I am still scratching my head about this incredible gaffe by two Harvard educated lawyers knowledgeable about both law and politics. Additionally, the return was professionally prepared by a firm that touts its tax expertise on its website. What exactly is going on here?

While Obama's campaign says that an amended return has been filed, that return should also be released. The "Oops, I made a mistake" rhetoric on Obama's part is growing tiring, but we would note that Barack himself never addressed this issue, leaving that to his official campaign spokesmen. Seeing this major mistake, Obama should come clean with the the identities of the $4,700 he deducted as gifts to "miscellaneous recognized charities" on his 2006 return." Obama's campaign also has disgorged hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions due to Tony Rezko donations, and given that money to what is reported as charities. Just what are those charities? After a mistake of the magnitude of the 2006 deduction mistake, it is amazing that no one has even raised this question, or that Obama, for all his talk about transparency, never revealed information about the miscellaneous charities or the gifts from his campaign.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama's Minister, Rev. Wright, Plans Stylish Retirement

We are pleased to see that Rev. Jeremiah Wright is being true to himself and his values by avoiding the dreaded middle-classness that he stood against for so many years at the controversial Trinity UCC church which he pastored and is attended by Barack Obama. Of course, you can't read about this peril any more at the church's website, as it has undergone a substantial overhaul in the last week. That page has been redesigned and the information has gone missing. (Update: the information has now reappeared on a new webpage along with a further explanation of middle-classness, and you can access it by clicking here. Further Update: ABC news has a pdf of the original page.)

Pictured above is the new house that it is reported that Wright's grateful congregation is buying him in Tinley Park for his retirement. It costs about $1.6 million (it is unclear whether that includes the land) and is in a gated community. While you may think the house looks middle class, I never knew a middle class person who had a 10,000 square feet house, did you? Rev. Wright has many fans. They would have you believe that only a racist would say anything negative about Rev. Wright following publicity about his deeply troubling comments on America. I'm not buying that, and I don't think you will either.

I would imagine that for Barack Obama, Rev. Wright can't retire soon enough. From the article, it would appear that the house will be owned by the Trinity UCC, and off the tax rolls. We are thinking that Rev. Wright will be very lucky to be insulated from ever-rising property taxes that seem to bedevil the rest of us.

h/t, reader JM via email

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Okay, It's Time for Spring, Hope You are Enjoying the Snow

The snow storm outside is beautiful, but I seriously believe it is time for spring. Don't you just love those Californians who send out emails with several pictures like the one above attached, along with advice to stop complaining about the snow? I thought you would be able to appreciate the fine weather we are having compared this picture from Watertown, New York. Some places in New York received seven feet of snow in February, so you know how very lucky we are!

h/t Joyce, via email

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Obama Preacher / Church Story Grows More Bizarre

The Barack Obama Trinity UCC Story grows ever more bizarre.

While I found that I was not strong enough to to stomach Rev. Wright's entire anti-American sermon as posted up on Youtube by the church, what's the big deal? He's not my pastor, and he's entitled to freedom of speech. According to press reports, the members of Trinity are very mad at everyone who dare says anything about their minister. In fact, the current Trinity UCC minister is referring to public comment on the recently retired Rev. Wright as a public lynching, equating a fairly predictable reaction to his anti-Americanism with the trials of Jesus. Well, there actually are actually worse things being said by Rev. Wright's defenders, but I don't think I will repeat them.

And more bizarre than Obama's extreme insistance about the importance of religion to him, now several stories are emerging that candidate Obama really didn't have time to go to church in the last year, anyway. Looks like an interesting week. The tepid complaints about Rev. Wright bear no reasonable relation to this sermon about Barack Obama by a preacher who strongly supports the Clinton candidacy.

As Thomas Sowell wrote today in his article, "The Audacity of Rhetoric,"
"Some are saying that Senator Obama cannot be held responsible for what his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, said. In their version of events, Barack Obama just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time -- and a bunch of mean-spirited people are trying to make something out of it.

"It makes a good story, but it won't stand up under scrutiny."

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Supporting Speaker Pelosi on Tibet

Amidst riots in Tibet, the Dalai Lama is again in the news. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi visited with the Dalai Lama in India on Friday, and China is hopping mad. China is accusing the Dalai Lama of trying to sabotage the Olympic Games in China, and accusing Speaker Pelosi of being a "defender of arsonists, looters and killers." Wilmette calls upon its readers to support Speaker Pelosi's meeting with the Dalai Lama.

"If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in Tibet, we have lost our moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world," said Speaker Pelosi.

Last October, the Congress of the United States conferred the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the US Congress, on the Dalai Lama, who is pictured above with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Robert Byrd, and President Bush. In 1989, the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize.

We would note that while the Dalai Lama is a "simple Buddhist monk," he appears to be a thoroughly modern one, with his own website, complete with downloadable audio and video files, in English, Chinese, and Tibetan.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter - He is Risen Indeed!

Hallelujah, he is risen!
He is risen indeed!

With this refrain, spoken by pastors and congregations worldwide this morning, Christians celebrate the glad resurrection of Christ. It is Easter, the most important day of the Christian year. Hymns of joy are heard in all of the churches. One of my favorites:

Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

The picture above of Jesus arising triumphantly from death is part of an altarpiece at St. Martin's Basilica in Bingen, Germany, which was built on an old pagan Roman place of worship. I took it on my summer vacation. I am not sure why Jesus is holding what appears to be a Swiss flag.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama's Church--Opens New Youtube Channel

Barack Obama's Church, Trinity UCC, hastily put up its own channel on Youtube to defend its long-time minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I decided to see one of the videos entitled "FOX Lies!! Barack Obama Pastor Wright." I got about 5 minutes into the speech, and I couldn't take it any more. It was too horrible.

Then I went over to the website of Barack Obama's old employer, the University of Chicago, which has a webpage on Hate Crimes and Bias Incidents. There I learned that characterizing someone as a "typical white person"--as Barack Obama characterized his grandmother in a follow-up radio show--might be regarded as a bias incident.

The only thing I used to have against Barack Obama was his politics and his lack of experience. Well, I was also pretty iffy on that Rezko real estate deal, too. In the wake of Obama's Speech on Race--which mostly seemed to be about religion--I would also question his judgment and his good sense. If this country has largely moved beyond race--and I believe it has--we don't need a candidate who talks about "typical white" people.
I have been saving the silly picture, above for quite a while. I thought you would enjoy it. Since everybody loves the Easter Bunny (I think), I thought it would speak to all our readers, and make it clear hatred is corrosive, indeed.

Good Friday

"Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others—one on each side and Jesus in the middle." - John 19:17

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Spring! Obama and Preparing for Easter

Happy Spring! It's also Maundy Thursday, and time to prepare for Easter. I am working hard to move on from the stress I have been feeling in the wake of the Barack Obama Religion (and Race) Lecture. I have read and heard too much. The Masters of Democrat Spin are telling us that nice people who we interact with regularly are spending their Sunday mornings at Afro-American churches condemning my race, my government, my country and how God should do anything but bless America. Can this be true? Who knew? When hatred is preached from the pulpit, and characterizes itself as teaching the Love of Christ, we know the Devil is busy, indeed.

Why should I care? I shouldn't. Evil exists, and we should not be surprised when we find ourselves in its midst. I have turned to a selection of Spiritual Letters by Fénelon, available free for reading or download from Google Books. I would recommend these letters to you, which were written in pre-Revolutionary France, for persons seeking a more spiritual life.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack Obama's Religion (and Race) Lecture

I would remind readers that last June in Hartford, Connecticut, Barack Obama said that that right-wing evangelical leaders had exploited and politicized religious beliefs. Specifically, Obama said, "Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked," he said. "Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us."

Now, Obama has given his Big Speech on Jeremiah Wright and left-wing religious leaders (also race). In doing so, he has (choose one)
1. Played the race card
2. Delivered his lecture on slavery and religion for his Sociology 201 class
3. Shown himself not ready to be President of the United States
4. All of the above.

As I did last June, again I would recommend this article on the proper place of religion in politics, written by an atheist. While I am a churchgoer, myself, the article concludes by saying "Basing public policy on private religious revelation is [the] best way politicians have found to avoid answering hard questions about or making hard arguments in defense of their proposals. The people deserve better . . ."

Some people think the the speech was about race, but I don't. Highly regarded speeches say something new, something fresh, something different. There wasn't anything new in Obama's speech when it comes to race; its the religion component that was important. We aren't going to mention that and the fact the Rezko trial is in full swing, and Obama's speech certainly took the press off coverage of that. For an exhaustive and excellent analysis of Barack Obama and the Jeremiah Wright controversy, see the posts dated March 14-18, 2008 at Team America.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chicago Celebrates St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I knew you would love the picture of the Chicago River dyed green, pictured above. I found it over at the History Channel, which has a nice webpage set up for St. Patrick's Day. Actually, St. Patrick's Day is Monday, but everyone is rushing to celebrate before Holy Week, which begins tomorrow.

Although I was hoping for a little extra sleep after a tough week, I woke up early this morning, excited for our plans to go see the Chicago St. Patrick's Day Parade. The whole family is going! We don't plan to go see the dying of the Chicago River. The way that the parade route is now set up makes that quite inconvenient. In fact, the entire parade is really quite inconvenient--I really liked it much better when it marched down State Street. We had to give that up for security concerns, though, so I guess we shouldn't complain.

I have already been to two corned beef and cabbages, and I think I am going to a third. If you don't want to go downtown to celebrate, Hackney's is a good choice. At Lake Avenue they have more shamrocks hung everywhere than you can shake a shillelagh at!

We are going to be very green for the Parade, as we are taking public transportation downtown.

UPDATE: We had a great time at the Parade, but it was too cold! The turnout was fantastic, though, and I have never seen so many green hats and green accessories. The effect was very festive. It was particularly great to see people of all races and colors wearing the green; this is a fairly recent development. We have the Irish to thank for inviting everyone to join in what used to be a strictly ethnic celebration. St. Patrick's Day is rapidly becoming a holiday that unifies the diverse people of Chicago, which makes it special indeed.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Baby Flocke Now Weighs More than 20 Pounds!

Baby Flocke, the litte abandoned polar bear who lives at the Nuremberg Zoo, is growing in cuteness! She now weighs over 20 pounds. Every day the zoo posts a new picture of her. Above, Flocke is shown lapping her milk. You can track her polar bear progress on her webpages at the Nuremberg Zoo, and also enjoy the frequently updated videos.

The Zoo shares with us the information that Flocke is now enjoying showers and is smelling much better!

Perspective on Health Care Costs

A friend of mine was was going through a box of family papers, and shared with me an old hospital bill from 1963. This was from a simpler time and the bill was simple too. This was before the age of products liability, medical malpractice, the things that keep trial lawyers in BMW's , and when the strongest medicine advertised on TV was Alka-Seltzer.

The bill was one-half page for a week's hospitalization at Evanston Hospital. Room, food and nursing was $22.00 per day. The most expensive laboratory charge was $13.50. There was a $35.00 charge for an X-ray, and some operating room and recovery room charges. The total bill was $377.00, but that did not include doctor's charges.

I found a Consumer Price Index and calculated that in current dollars the total hospital bill would come to $2,614.97. In those days, many thought that health insurance was only for the poor.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I am Tagged and am Forced to Give Answers

In an alphabet Internet tag game, I got tagged by Bala, so just to be a sport here is more information than you ever wanted to know about one of my favorite people, me.

A- Available?: Yes, but I'm picky
B- Best friend: WS and YM, and they would be better friends if they read my blog! Well, maybe only one knows that I have a blog . . .
C-Cake or Pie?: A little piece of cake, please
D-Drink of choice: Water
E- Essential thing used everyday: My laptop with the wireless connection
F- Favorite color: Blue
G- Gummy bears or worms: Which one are you sharing?
H- Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
I- Indulgence: Please, I'm of Puritan descent
J- January or February: You gotta be joking with all that February snow, and who likes January? January is for building character.
K-Kids and names: That's a secret! But there are more than one, and they love shopping.
L-Life: Is better with the Internet
M- Marriage Date: See K
N- Number of siblings: Lonely only
O- Oranges or apples: They both seem kind of cold and sour at the moment.
P-Phobias: Driving - Bully drivers, road ragers, and chance takers have nearly finished me off
Quote: "Honi soit qui mal y pense."
R-Reason to smile: I like the pictures and videos on this blog
S-Season: I like them all, but Summer is probably best
T-Tag two people: Anne and Balaji
U-Unknown fact about me: I take my laptop to bed like a book!
V-Vegetable you do not like: Cooked cabbage would be right up there
W-Worst habit: Procrastination
X-x-rays you have had: Shoulder, after that trip to the bio-Lagoon! Capsizing in a mangrove swamp after dark with a motor boat light headed toward me, a tub accident afterwards, a foreign emergency room, a vintage X-Ray machine, a doctor who spoke only Spanish, and over two years of recovery, this wasn't an x-ray, it was a life novel. Puerto Rico may be off my list.
Y-Your favorite food: Candy!
Z-Zodiac: Gemini

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Subprime Meltdown Easily Explained - The Subprime Primer

The subprime loan mess has been reduced to a primer of 45 stick figure cartoons, and it's priceless. The slideshow progresses from the borrower at a mortgage broker saying "Gee, I'd like to buy a house but I haven't saved any money for a downpayment and I don't think I can afford the monthly payments. Can you help me?" to unprintable expletives. Along the way, there is a stunningly simple explanation of what went wrong in the subprime lending debacle. (These are adult cartoons, by the way, with some strong language.) Just click on each slide to advance to the next cartoon.

Well over a year ago we discussed the growing subprime problem, which will take time to solve. The meltdown is of historic proportions, and will doubtless be studied long in the future along with the South Sea Bubble of the 1700's and the Tulip Bulb Mania of the 1600's.

h/t reader JK, via email

Friday, March 07, 2008

Is a McCain-Jindal Ticket a Possibility?

John McCain is in Louisiana today, and I would imagine one of his goals is to get to know Louisiana's recently elected governor, Bobby Jindal, a little better. Governor Jindal, pictured at the left, is a bit of a long-shot for vice-president--based on his age, the recency of his gubernatorial election, and the fact that Louisiana really, really needs his help--but he can't be counted out. Jindal, the youngest US governor, is a rising star in the Republican party. He strengths include a reform agenda, a world-class education, intelligence, and sterling conservative credentials. As a former Congressman, he offers both legislative and executive experience.

Because Republican youth generally prefer to start their careers in business rather than public service, Jindal is a bit of a Republican rarity. All that being said, we will be hearing a great deal more about this native of Baton Rouge in the future, including this campaign season.

UPDATE: It's been over two months since we published this post, and this 2008 Memorial Day weekend Gov. Jindal will be joining John McCain at his ranch for a Barbecue. Everyone involved is denying that this is some sort of interview for the Vice-President spot. Whatever the case may be, we are glad that Sen. McCain is seeking input for the campaign, and getting to know possible candidates better. Meanwhile, Gov. Jindal has three qualities that really would help the Republicans in the fall: Catholic, Conservative, and Southern. Those are key constituencies when it comes to winning in November. Gov. Jindal is also a very patriotic guy, as is Sen. McCain, which could make a McCain-Jindal ticket absolutely compelling among those who deem that important, which we suspect may still be a majority of voters.

Great While Killer Whale Spotted in Alaska Waters

A great white killer whale was recently spotted by US scientists in the waters off Alaska, but first reports are just now leaking out. Few of these mythical creatures have ever been seen, much less scientifically studied. While the marine biologists aboard the Oscar Dyson studied fish, the whale appeared before them. The great white is not a true albino, having patches of some coloration. That is considered lucky, as it may save the whale from health problems associated with albinos.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Armed Robbery in Winnetka!

Newsflash! We received a report at a little after 1:00 pm today that an armed robbery has taken place in Winnetka, Illinois at a gas station. The robbery suspect is still at large. Downtown Winnetka is apparently crawling with North Shore police. Please plan your afternoon accordingly.

Update: The gas station was the Amoco at the corner of Tower and Greenbay, and the attempt took place shortly after 11:00 am. Local schoolchildren were not allowed to leave their schools for lunch, and parents were alerted to pick up their children at the end of the day. No one has been apprehended, although dogs were used in a search for the culprit and local officers combed the area. The Pioneer Press has additional information about the attempted robbery.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Winnetka Antiques Show this Weekend

I guarantee you won't find the Paul Revere teapot pictured to the left at the Winnetka Antiques Show this weekend--its at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York--but you are guaranteed to see many beautiful things to cheer you out of these never-ending winter days. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, March 7; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 8; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m Sunday, March 9. Tickets cost $15 for a three-day admission. As usual, the Antiques Show will be held at the Winnetka Community House.

Of course, parking around the Community House can be a nightmare. Tip: For pretty much door-to-door service, park at Wilmette's Metra station and travel a few minutes North by train.