Saturday, November 29, 2008

We Visit Chicago's Christmas Market

NEW! UPDATED for 2009: Scroll down!
On the evening after Thanksgiving we went to the Christmas Market in downtown Chicago. We thought it would be fun to see it again. There isn't much that is new, but there seems to be an increase in the number of evergreens which makes it smell very good. Since the Chicago Chriskindlmarket is patterned after the one in Nuremburg, Germany, all the huts (that 's the German term for what you might call "booths") are red and white. There are some tasty things to eat and drink, and yesterday we had the leberkaese, which looks like a meat loaf but tastes like a hotdog. It's often the cheapest option in Germany, but in Chicago it is expensive. If you are budgeting, there is a McDonald's across the street which is much cheaper.
This year, there are more lights and figurines, which make the market more attractive. This is an outside walk- around-and-shop activity, including shopping for food and beverage. The gluhwein was expensive, and you had to keep the cup. Also, it was not too warm. I would suggest the cider, and maybe a flask, for a better drink.

Just when we were about to leave, some street musicians playing Christmas jazz showed up. After a little bit, a man clutching a large bag of popcorn--who sang and danced--also appeared. It wasn't clear whether or not he was part of the original group, but it all worked out fine. I had my camera with me, so I can share the moment as well as the photos I took. Hope you enjoy the video. I liked the music and dance!

2009 UPDATE: Information about Chicago's 2009 Christmas Market is now available online in both English and German, with information on vendors as well as food and drink. An events schedule has been posted. Nuremberg's Christkindl, the young girl with golden hair dressed as an angel (or, as the Germans put it, a fairy-like being, dressed in a gold and white robe with a crown atop her golden locks), will once again travel to Chicago to deliver the official opening ceremony poem in German and English on November 27, the day after Thanksgiving, beginning at 4PM.There also is still time to sign your children up for a fun event new this year: a lantern parade at the market! There is a wider variety of German food available this year, and the currywurst (a cut-up bratwurst covered in curried ketchup sauce and curry powder), a popular German snack, makes its first appearance!

Interested in Christmas Markets in Germany? Click here for Wilmette's report!

Massasoit: Friendly Helper to the Pilgrims

We had a request to post this picture that I took last summer of the statue of Massasoit. It stands at the top of the hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, watching over over Plymouth Harbor. Without the aid of this friendly native American, the Pilgrims would have had an even more difficult time of surviving in the harsh wilderness of New England.

Trouble in India and Pakistan

The terrible terrorist attacks in Bombay have ended, and a Deerfield couple escaped safely from the horrors of the Taj hotel. Now there are reports of riots in Karachi. Thanksgiving thanks for living in America.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving day to you, dear reader. May this day and those to come be filled with blessings for you and yours.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not Such Pleasant Dreams . . .

Sometimes the Google translation tool leaves something to be desired. I have been looking around for some vacation destinations, and I found this about a special hotel stay:

"Then we kidnap you in our cozy fireplace room. With a glass of wine (optional ruby or gold) starts Märchenstunde ... We read only for a half-hour tales and legends from the resin in order to prepare gentle dreams ... "

And at the restaurant I was intrigued by what must be a special dish, the "Halberstädter bishop-potty." Or perhaps you might be interested in a "salad on a bed mess in Scotch whiskey waved Chanterelles"? Now there's a chef who's not only clever but honest!

It might be no accident that the tag line for the hotel is: "You will be amazed!"

Indeed I might . . .

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sneak Peek: 2012 Pelosi from Congressional Motors

Made right here in the U.S.A. by fully card-checked unionized workers and Detroit's famous visionary jet-set managers, the 2012 Congressional Motors Pelosi is an automobile bound to be a hit for those tired of taking the bus. The Pelosi features an Al Gore designed V-3 engine, and other goodies that only a Democrat congress would think to provide. As, the only car endorsed by Barack Obama (who has never given up his love (and ownership) of the large SUV) the Pelosi is the car of change for those with a sufficiently carbon neutral lifestyle to be allowed to drive. But don't take my word for it; hop on over to Iowahawk who has all the details.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Take an Unexpected Time Out

Today started out with great promise. I took the day off work to get ready for Thanksgiving, and it made me happy that I had plenty of time to finish what needed to be done. The only two scheduled events were taking the dog to the groomer in the early AM, and a quick trip to the dentist at 12:30. I was out of the house by 8:00, and it was looking like a very productive day. I did some Christmas shopping, picked up the dog, fixed a quick lunch, dashed to the dentist and then the day suddenly went very wrong. Turned out that what I thought was a minor infrastucture problem wasn't, and I was off to emergency oral surgery by 2:00.

I am now flat on my back, resting comfortably while icing my jaw, grateful that I have a wireless connection to amuse myself. Unfortunately, this pain killer isn't one that takes you halfway to dreamland, and the shopping, straightening, and ironing projects scheduled for this afternoon are weighing heavily on my mind. This medicine says I cannot drive or work, which makes accomplishing much almost impossible. Of course, I thought I was unusually clever to schedule Thanksgiving shopping on Friday rather than Saturday, but so much for that.

Meanwhile, I'm very grateful that my dentist appointment was today, and not early next week. I am reminded that "the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong . . . but time and chance happen to them all," and gathering perspective on a day that didn't quite go as planned.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pedal Power: Used Bike Collection for Charity Wilmette - Saturday, November 22, 2008

Stop thinking about what you are going to do with that perfectly good bicycle taking up space in your garage, and give it to someone who can use it! Simply dust it off, oil the chain or do anything else you would do before sending your child off for a ride, and take it over to McKenzie School here in Wilmette on Saturday, November 22, 2008 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The school is located at 649 Prairie Ave.

The bikes will be given to Chicago's famous Hull House, who will turn them over to some of Chicago's neediest children, many of whom are wards of the state (children who have been removed from their homes due to impossible living situations) or live in shelters for the homeless. Scooters and helmets are also being collected.

Nicole Basil, a McKenzie School third-grader and the daughter of Village Trustee Mike Basil, was featured in the Wilmette Life for helping dream up this "Pedal Power" bike recycling event, along with the help of her family.

UPDATE: Collected: 247 bikes, 54 helmets, 12 scooters, $100. Wow!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pirates of Somalia Grow Bolder

"All you need is three guys and a little boat, and the next day you're millionaires."--Abdullahi Omar Qawden, a former captain in Somalia's long-defunct navy

No country seems immune from the continued banditry of the African pirates of Somalia, whose trade is capturing passing ships, taking them back to port, then ransoming them back to their owners. Because they favor large, slow, and bulky cargo ships filled with valuable goods, ransoms generally start at $1 million. About 250 ship’s crew members and 14 vessels are currently being held in the Pirate City of Eyl. More than 75 vessels have been captured this year alone, with the pirate’s latest taking a ship filled with $100 million dollars worth of Saudi Arabian oil.

The pirates are bold, well organized, and don't engage in infighting. Pirate crews consist of three types of people: former fisherman who know the waters off Somalia, former militia men who know weapons, and technical experts who understand computers, GPS systems, and other tech devices used in modern shipping. The pirates are also expanding their territory; high seas piracy now takes place up to 200 miles off the coast of Somalia. As you can tell from the picture above, the vessels used in pirate attacks are unsophisticated, small, and cheap.

The pirates enjoy high status in their country, where they are a major economic force with plenty of cash. Of course, Somalia doesn't have much of a government for the affected nations to negotiate with. Somalia is so lawless, that until recently its government abandoned the country and were living in Kenya.

UPDATE: India has sunk a suspected "mother ship" from which small boats are able to stage their attacks far out at sea.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Barack Obama: I Can See Russia!

Today I am off to church to pray for our country. I have never wanted to be wrong about a President so badly in my entire life. And I suppose it's the conservative in me that says I have never seen a person who has been elected but not inaugurated making an early start with podium graphics for the "Office of the President Elect." I can't decide whether I am more worried or disgusted.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Big News! - Wilmette to Get New Village Manager

Big news in the Wilmette Life today, Wilmette will soon have a new village manager! Mike Earl, manager since 2001 and assistant manager for ten years before that, has given two weeks notice.

No need to survey me as to what we want to be changed, I will be happy to share my views. I would like to

  1. Return to first-rate sidewalk snow plowing which existed in earlier years,
  2. Better oversight of village snow plowing. the quality of which has declined in the past few years
  3. An investigation as to why water bills have soared in the past few years
  4. Returning refuse fees to the tax bill
  5. More vigorous traffic enforcement
  6. Requirements and vigorous enforcement of lights and bells for bicycles
  7. Address pedestrian safety
  8. The ability to question whether construction work is properly proceeding according to the permit without being ratted out to your neighbors for your concern
  9. Addressing the parking situation at the train
Over the past few years, the village has developed an excellent web site. At some level that must be due to Mr. Earl's input, and we salute him for that. Perhaps the trustees could add a function where Wilmette residents can leave their concerns so that these can be kept in mind when choosing a new village manager.

While the recession may have solved the problem, we also need a village manager who is committed to keeping Wilmette a somewhat sleepy suburban village and is willing to resist the overtures of developers who see great profit in urbanizing our little town.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Post Election Projects

We are really suffering at our house after the election, although we are extremely grateful that Mark Kirk won. Hopefully he has sent Dan Seals packing. (And no, that is not Dan Seals to the left, it's Barack Obama.)Since Seals' house in Wilmette's 9th Congressional District is up for sale, we are concerned that he's headed over to better digs in the 10th. That could be a resume builder for Seals whose day job has been "Candidate for Congress" for several years now.

Last night we did crafts and refused to turn on the TV. We are steeling ourselves for the next four years of news, and need to gather our strength. We wrapped a present for our young family member who has a birthday today and another present for a friend who is getting married. We added special bows and cut out pictures to put on the envelopes. It was amazing how good we felt after not discussing the president-elect, the office of the president-elect, the first lady-elect, or the ever more miserable stories about how the Obamas will be choosing a dog.

We are hoping that the first family-elect will take the offer of a hairless, toothless, national dog of Peru. From the recent post-election puff pieces on the first family-elect, it seems that they require owning items just as special as they are. Like most yuppie children, one of the first-children-elect (the one with the Russian name?) has animal allergies, so this Peruvian dog would fit the bill. With the "Office of the President-Elect" rapidly changing its position on lobbyists (and I would note that state lobbyists are not precluded from the Obama team), might I suggest a cute little name for the bald canine, such as Checkers? Nevermind. If and when the pooch arrives, it will likely be named First Dog-Elect, and everyone will be rushing to buy one.

With the election over, we are looking forward to developing interests beyond our recent fascination with the longest campaign in history. We were considering taking up crocheting, but wouldn't you know when we started looking into that we immediately found directions to make a Barack Obama and John McCain finger puppet? That's the Obama finger puppet pictured above to the left. While we briefly considered that we could put the finger puppets to good use as frills on the turkey legs at Thanksgiving and then amuse ourselves after dinner with little skits, we decided that was a bit excessive. We are obviously having a few problems getting over the election, but we know we are on a good path.

Meanwhile, Al Franken seems to be finding votes in Minnesota wherever a Democrat body can think to look. Which reminds me of what a friend used to say, "Publia, don't think Democrats win elections just because there are more of them." Well sometimes there are more of them, of that I am sure, but I do have my doubts about votes that are found just when needed the most.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11-11-11 2008: Armistice Day Remembered

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

--by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD

It is the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day. America has largely forgotten that moment of silence, observed at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the eleventh month while standing and facing East, in memory of the fallen. Many do remember that the price of freedom is never free, and today we honor the selfless sacrifice of thousands of Americans who gave their all for the Land of the Free.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Answers to Human Misery

"This is no time to repeat the shopworn panaceas of the New Deal, the Fair Deal and the Great Society. John Kenneth Galbraith, who, in my opinion, is living proof that economics is an inexact science, has written a new book. It is called “Economics and the Public Purpose.” In it, he asserts that market arrangements in our economy have given us inadequate housing, terrible mass transit, poor health care and a host of other miseries. And then, for the first time to my knowledge, he advances socialism as the answer to our problems.

"Shorn of all side issues and extraneous matter, the problem underlying all others is the worldwide contest for the hearts and minds of mankind. Do we find the answers to human misery in freedom as it is known, or do we sink into the deadly dullness of the Socialist ant heap?

Those who suggest that the latter is some kind of solution are, I think, open to challenge. Let’s have no more theorizing when actual comparison is possible. There is in the world a great nation, larger than ours in territory and populated with 250 million capable people. It is rich in resources and has had more than 50 uninterrupted years to practice socialism without opposition.

"We could match them, but it would take a little doing on our part. We’d have to cut our paychecks back by 75 percent; move 60 million workers back to the farm; abandon two-thirds of our steel-making capacity; destroy 40 million television sets; tear up 14 of every 15 miles of highway; junk 19 of every 20 automobiles; tear up two-thirds of our railroad track; knock down 70 percent of our houses; and rip out nine out of every 10 telephones. Then, all we have to do is find a capitalist country to sell us wheat on credit to keep us from starving!"

--from a 1975 speech by Ronald Reagan

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Kenya Celebrates Barack Obama Victory

It’s been well over 100 years since America had a president who had a parent born in a country outside of the United States. With modern communications it’s now easy to follow the story in the old country with Internet editions of local newspapers. In Kenya, both the Daily Nation and the Standard are full of election coverage, including coverage of Barack Obama’s large family in Africa. The Standard has a very interesting story about not only Barack Obama’s father--a citizen of Kenya--but also his grandfather, and great-grandfather

Thursday has been declared a holiday in Kenya in Barack Obama’s honor, and his family is celebrating and making plans to go to Washington to attend the swearing in. Grandma Sarah is waiting for a phone call which she expects shortly. "We will plan how to attend the vital celebrations in the US," Sarah said at her home in Nyangoma, Kogelo village.

The Obama family has a major new benefit in their village. As they celebrated, the Kenya Power and Lighting Company showed up at the family home as it was installing electricity to the village.

Mark Kirk - Dan Seals Rematch Results

The final Cook County numbers are in for Rep. Mark Kirk and Dan Seals. With 331 Precincts reporting and 100% of the vote counted, the numbers are 86,420 for Mark Kirk and 70,493 for Dan Seals, translating to 44.92 % of the vote for Dan Seals and 55.08 % for Mark Kirk. In Lake County, with 221 of 221 precincts reporting, Dan Seals won 65, 145 votes (50.64%) to Mark Kirk's 63,497 votes (49.36 %).

Final tally: Kirk 149,917; Seals 135,638. Total votes cast: 285,555.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wisdom from George Washington

"We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."

--George Washington

Michelle Obama's Odd Fashion Choice

I am not sure how this arachnid fashion statement sends the right message about President elect, Barack Obama. To the left, the black widow spider, below and to the right (on the left), Michelle Obama on election night, likely now very proud of her country.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote Republican!

Get out and vote! Vote Republican! Vote as if your very future depended on it!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Wilmette Voting Information:
November 4, 2008 - Presidential Election

*If you are looking for a sample ballot or polling place for Wilmette or anywhere else in suburban Cook County, Illinois click here (information via Voter Infonet) (Includes links to information for voters living in the City of Chicago, DuPage County, Lake County, and Will County.)

*If you want to find out whether you are registered to vote in Wilmette or anywhere else in suburban Cook County, Illinois click here (information via Voter Infonet)

*If you want a list of all candidates who are running for office in Wilmette or anywhere else in suburban Cook County, Illinois click here (information via Voter Infonet)

*If you want judicial evaluations for candidates running for judge in Wilmette or anywhere else in Cook County click here for a printable pocket guide (information via Chicago Bar Association)

*Note: Wilmette precincts 67, 68, 69 & 70 were merged into other precincts as of August, 2007. See the above link for updated information. If you want a list of all Wilmette polling places for the November 4, 2008 general election primary, click here. (information via Village of Wilmette in pdf format)

Polls are open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Telephone number for New Trier Republican Organization is (847) 251-6100. Telephone number for New Trier Democratic Organization is (847) 446-8030.

Obama: No Friend of Coal

Nothing says change like killing the coal industry--and the media is finally picking up on the fact that Barack Obama is not a friend of coal. With renewed interest in Sen. Obama's remarks on coal, the Ohio Coal Association isn't standing by idly. Just this morning, the Association's President, Mike Carey, stated, "[T]he Obama-Biden ticket spells disaster for America's coal industry and the tens of thousands of Americans who work in it."

There's a lot not to like about coal, except for the fact that it is cheap, domestically produced energy that is a vital part of our economy. Railroads depend on revenues from hauling coal as a major source of income, and without coal the future of railroads--at least some of them--might be in doubt. Coal also produces 52% of the nation's electric power. No one is going to argue that coal is the clean energy dream of the future, but until those dreams are able to become reality, the reality is that America needs coal.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Candidate's Halloween Costumes

Had to share this!

h/t WS, via email.

Final Thoughts on Halloween

I thought we would have more trick or treaters the weather was so beautiful! While I was disappointed by the low turn out, at least I was ready. I powered myself out of my sickbed mid afternoon on Friday and bought plenty of treats. Then, I did my very best to do what I could with the pumpkins. We had one spare pumpkin, so I carved that. Then I realized that although the squirrels had chewed off the face of the one pumpkin, I could just turn it around and carve the other side, so I did that. Only a bit of the other pumpkin was left, so I just turned it upside down and carved a funny little face in what was left. I was pretty pleased at my own brilliance.

I bought a little battery-operated pumpkin saw this year at Jewel, and when I went to buy the candy I saw that they are half price. You might want to get one for next year; they made everything easy. I also had bought a pumpkin scooper made out of metal, and they were also half price. It was an excellent tool, and I recommend one of those as well.

When I was buying my Halloween treats, they were stocking the store shelves with Christmas candy. I can't imagine how that would tempt anyone after Halloween, certainly we have plenty of candy to last us until at least Thanksgiving. And the squirrels? They were no where to be seen.