Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween 2009!

I am concerned that we won't have so many Trick or Treaters today because it is unseasonably cold here in Wilmette. We will be ready though, in the Halloween trick or treating hours. We bought candy as well as salty snacks to give away. Some children don't like candy or know their parents will take it away when they return home, so they are really happy to have a choice. Last year we bought some small presents also, but we found that food treats were the most popular. The best seller, ever, was little bags of Jay's plain popcorn. The children loved that! We would have bought popcorn, but unfortunately, we haven't been able to find that anywhere this year. We have some work to do to be all ready, so we will have a busy early afternoon!

Getting Ready for Halloween

Halloween's growth in popularity grew in the USA , according to The Times, was due to large numbers of immigrants who embraced it as a non-religious festival in the 19th century. I thought you might enjoy this old Halloween greeting with a distinct ethnic Scottish flair, which is very different from a Halloween greeting you might see today.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Trick or Treating

Did you buy your Halloween treats yet? We did, but we still have to decorate. Somehow the dreary weather doesn't make it fun. It's wet out there! There were so many leaves on the streets in Wilmette this morning, it seemed a safety hazard. If you have teen drivers, you may want to ground them--or pick-up and deliver them to and from their destinations--until it all gets swept up! I was afraid that whenI braked I would skid on leaves. It all turned out fine but seemed very hazardous.

I am excited about Halloween; I love its happy atmosphere. Tonight we will carve pumpkins. Trick or Treating didn't really get going in the USA until the late 1940's, although there are some written references to it in the 1930's. The Dutch theme in the above Halloween greeting card from about 100 years ago may refer to Hollantide, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, France, also called Martinmas, a popular celebration similar to Holloween since the Middle Ages in the British Isles.

Big Spending at New Trier Likely Not Necessary

This letter from Wes Baumann, former principal of New Trier High School, came via email. The Conservativebrand blog--which is sure to have continuing coverage--posted it several days ago, but I hadn't read it before.

Wes' Letter:

Open Letter to the Residents of New Trier Township

By now you should have received a four-page brochure from New Trier High School presenting their plans for replacing a significant portion of the Winnetka Campus. This letter is to give you one person’s perspective, that of a retired New Trier administrator and 28-year resident of the township, of the current plans being proposed by the New Trier Superintendent and Board of Education for major facility work on the Winnetka Campus. I will preface my remarks with the fact that I could support a much more modest plan to accommodate the needs of the district. However, the extent of the current proposal far exceeds the needs and is not a wise use of the taxpayers’ resources.

I spent 32 years working at NT – 23 years as an administrator and most of those dealing with facility utilization. When I retired in 2002 as Principal there were few who knew the building any better than I, and they were on the Physical Plant staff. I have a serious problem with the administration describing the Winnetka Campus as old, out-of-date, and nonfunctional in so many aspects.

It may be old but it is certainly still very functional and has been kept up-to-date.

Over the last 15 to 20 years New Trier has done much to upgrade the Winnetka facilities:
As recently as four years ago, all new PE and athletic locker rooms replaced the old ones for a cost of over $6 million, and these are schedule for demolition in the current plans.
The library underwent a major gutting and renovation several years ago for over $2 million, which the administration now wants to abandon and have rebuilt as part of the new facilities project.
Between $300,000 and $400,000 was spent on each of 11 science labs providing all new lab fixtures that are compatible for teaching any of the sciences -- all with complete computer accessibility; additionally 3 new science labs were added.
A new HVAC system has been installed that provides air conditioning to most of the building.
Almost all of the windows have been replaced with new windows that have double pane glazing.
The post-high school-counseling suite has been totally renovated.
A new state of the art Health Center has been added.
Additionally, the building now has wireless Internet accessibility.

I have conducted many tours of the campus for alumni who were here for reunions, classes dating back from the late 30s to the mid 70s. They have all remarked what great shape the building is in. Alums living in other parts of the country with kids or grandkids in high school have often expressed envy about NT’s facilities wishing as much for their children or grandchildren.

The school board is now moving toward spending around $180-$200 million to tear down most of the west side of the building (the student cafeteria, the Tech Arts building, and the Music building); and on the east side of the building the Gates gymnasium and the boiler plant would also be demolished. The replacements -- a three-story structure that will cover almost two-thirds of residential Woodland Avenue on the west side and a larger competition gym and a massive new field house will be built on the east side. The project will decrease campus green space and substantially increase the amount of impervious surface in a landlocked, residential neighborhood, besides drastically increasing the massing on the site. The New Trier campus is already very significantly overbuilt for the land it is on. Additionally, NT will lose a practice football field and a softball field at a time when field space is so precious.

What the taxpayers will be asked to support, through increased property taxes, is meeting the desires and dreams of what the staff would like under ideal conditions, i.e., no financial restraints, not what is deemed necessary. Furthermore, I have talked to a number of veteran teachers, staff and mid-level administrators who do not view this plan as a necessity or as being a wise use of resources. They just don’t feel the “need” that is being portrayed to the community. The Board is currently aiming for a February tax rate referendum to support their plan. As the superintendent said over a year ago this will not result in better education as measured by test scores. Also looming on the horizon is the fact that the school board will need to come back to the residents and ask them to pass an education tax rate referendum that will be necessary to support teachers’ salaries and core educational programs.

I agree that the Winnetka Campus could use some additional space, as special education and technology have required much more space; and our students are taking more academic classes; for example, as New Trier has pointed out, enrollment in science classes has jumped from 42% to 95% in the past 40 years. However, most of the space needs could be accomplished in the current footprint of the school. Removing the two-story Tech Arts building and the single story cafeteria and replacing them with a three to four-story structure could satisfy virtually all of the space needs while addressing most of the handicap accessibility issues on the west side. This could all be accomplished without significantly increasing the footprint of the campus or reducing field space.

New Trier’s reputation has been built by it products, that is, its students, not the physical building. I have not met one North Shore parent who did not want their child to consider an Ivy League school because it had old buildings and old classrooms. Most people that I have talked to are far more concerned about maintaining our ability to draw and retain an outstanding faculty.

I do not want to see a failed referendum, but I also do not want to squander taxpayer’s money. The burden of high property taxes is straining many residents. I also fear that if this huge bricks and mortar referendum were to pass that the forthcoming referendum for an increase in the education fund rate, which supports teachers’ compensation and other critical parts of the educational program, will be jeopardized as our community is becoming taxed beyond reasonableness. I want our community to be proud of its school for the right reason, that is -- what is going on inside the walls not the walls themselves.

In 1950 Life Magazine featured New Trier and stated that it “exemplifies the U.S. public high school at its best.” The article further states, “unassuming New Trier does not look wealthy and does not act it … New Trier’s real lesson is that it is well to pay adequate school taxes and to use them intelligently.” I firmly believe that the current scope and scale of the proposed project is NOT a wise use of the community’s resources. As the Superintendent has previously stated this project will not improve education as measured by test scores. This is not the time to seek to build an edifice to the glory of the administration or the architects or even the community. Let us remember what has made New Trier great; it is the people – the students, the parents and the faculty, NOT the bricks and mortar.

If you have read this far I would like to thank you. The next question is, what to do? If you feel as I do, that the size and scope of the proposed project is too large and does not justify the large expenditures you should contact the Board of Education and let them know how you feel. Conversely, if you believe that the township should spend $180 - $200 million for the proposed upgrades contact the Board members and express your support.

Wesley A. Baumann

New Trier - Open Your Wallets!

Conservative Wilmette blogger, Eva Sorock, has been working on her blog, conservativeBrand, for some time, and it has really started to shape up and look good. While I don't think she's quite mastered the hyperlink yet, she mastered political comment long ago. Eva spent years taking the heat as an alternative viewpoint on the Wilmette school board, daring to question what needed to be questioned by any genuine representative of the people. While I sometimes (or often, depending on the tides, the weather, or the issue) don't agree with her as far as specifics, Eva's viewpoint is always thoughtful and worthwhile. With discussions of millions of dollars at stake in a planed spending spree at New Trier High School, I am adding her to my blogroll; her voice will be an important one.

For my part, I am seeing and hearing more local evidence of quiet but substantial discomfort as a result of the economy's gyrations. Some may be temporary, or more perceived than actual, but with many of the area's residents tightening their belts, it seems to be a terrible time to consider projects to increase taxes. Second half taxes in Cook County are really late this year. The word is that there will b a substantial increase. While there are other explanations, I imagine there is going to be a genuine collection problem, and that there was a great deal of pressure to wait to send out the tax bills until well after the decision of the Olympic Committee. I fear there is going to be a good amount of suffering, and by that I mean the taxpaper and not the government.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Proft Points Out Reform Can't Happen Without Reform

I hope you are following Dan Proft's campaign for Governor, because he is saying things that may not be popular among some Republicans, but need to be said. Sort of like your conscience, only different. Today, he pointed out that reform begins in the Republican party, and weighed in on the political adage, "When we're in, we're in, and when you're in, we're in. We're always in." Do have a look.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Join the Trend: No Local Paper at our House

Newspaper circulation has declined, and I imagine my story isn't atypical. Our house was getting so burned out on the grizzly death-and-murder formula of the Sun-Times, we found about half the days we weren't even taking it out of its wrapper. Just as I was considering cancelling it for basically being worthless, it stopped arriving in the morning. Come to think of it, I couldn't remember paying a bill lately for it. I imagine I put it on the side of the table and never quite got around to it. The other day I bought a Tribune on the stand and remarked to a colleague that I might subscribe to it now that it had been reformatted and gotten small enough so that reading it would not be a whole day's work. She told me that if you subscribe, they still drop off a large-sized edition. So much for that idea. No one called from the Sun-Times to look for my renewal and I didn't bother looking for the bill.

So, for the first time since I was 20 years old, I am not subscribing to a local paper. While I feel out of the loop, there wasn't much loop left in the paper at all, so I imagine we will try this for a while. But it really feels strange.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Dog Does Not Need to Wear A Costume for Halloween

No. No matter how bored you are today or how cute you think this Halloween costume is, don't even think of doing this to the dog. If you promise you won't get any smart ideas, you can click here for even more reasons why pets hate Halloween.

Time for Indian Summer?

I hope it isn't too late in the season, or maybe it happened already, but I am patiently awaiting the warm days of Indian Summer. Hope it doesn't forget to come! Above, the famous 1907 cartoons of Injun Summer by John T. McCutcheon, made famous by the Chicago Tribune.

Backroom Dealing: Healthcare In Washington and Other Thoughts

So much for involving the public on he healthcare debate; that didn't work out so well. Now, healthcare has moved behind closed doors in Washington. Could we just replace Congress with the Chicago City Council? They might work more comfortably with the Man from Chicago--or should I just say the Chicago Troika of Emanuel, Axelrod and Obama?

The Obama Team has now added France to its list of snubbed countries: nothing says change like shaking off the shackles of France and England, does it? Bye guys, most Americans loved being friends with you. Sorry; we'll still visit if we can.

America's still waiting to hear about Afghanistan. Come to think of it, so is Afghanistan. If the public had bothered looking at what was left of Obama's record in Springfield, after much of it simply disappeared, it should be no surprise at all.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hula Hooping Should not End TV

Hula Hoop? Okay! We can get with the program! But that is a very bad belt to wear while hula-hooping and the untucked shirt is downright un-firstladylike. And frankly we are puzzled about Michelle's explanation that her family couldn't afford fast food when she was growing up. That's a complete fabrication. Michelle's dad's salary as a city worker was much more than ample; we know the numbers from local news stories. I bet her mom didn't like fast food. The "up from poverty" story that the Obamas peddle--which some of the world actually believes--can only relate to a world where lack of private chefs and personal jets is considered poor.

What does worry me, though, is Michelle's big focus on the idea that children shouldn't watch TV. That is just about totally mean. I loved TV as a child, and the younger family members loved TV when they were children. When you get older, TV gets more boring. If you have all your TV joy taken away as a child, you probably will never enjoy it at all. After I grew up, I used to love watching the evening news if I was home. Then the networks started carrying ads that featured pills for odd maladies with frightening side effects. After that, around the time they cast Katie Couric as a news anchor, they stopped covering what used to be news stories. Now I can't enjoy the evening news at all, and if it wasn't for such nice TV memories I might be really sad.

Monday, October 19, 2009

White House Continues Assault on Freedom of the Press

"All fascist movements advocate the creation of an authoritarian government that is an autocratic single-party state led by a charismatic leader with the powers of a dictator."
-excerpt from Wikipedia's article on Fascism

Has Barack Obama lost control of the White House itself? Troubling days. Iran is enriching uranium and the White House is focused on the War against Fox News.

For some time now, astute observers have suspected that David Axelrod and Wilmette's own Rahm Emanuel are the country's real decision makers. Certainly their similarity to those strongmen of history who have populated the palaces of weak and inept leaders is remarkable. One of the most troubling facets of this administration--and Axelrod and Emanuel in particular-- is the pervasive belief that the press needs to be controlled. Yesterday, Rahm Emanuel took to TV to educate George Stephanopolis about the evils of a free press. Even more troubling is that every day it becomes clearer that the real ideology driving the White House is not a liberal ideology, but a fascist ideology that includes control of the media.

White House communications director Anita Dunn admits a fondnesss for the authoritarian Mao Tse-tung, believed to be responsible for the deaths of millions of his countrymen, and the fact she has been appointed to that position should give pause to every American who values the First Amendment. The administration is making further assaults against free speech at the UN, aligning itself with Egyptin approving vast exceptions to free speech that exist in repressionistic Muslim nations.

Wilmette has no doubt that Democrat leaders count many civil libertarians among its members. Let us hope that in the coming days that they will join with Republicans in a bipartisan manner and gather the courage to put country before party to speak out against this assault against America's cherished freedoms.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Up! (In the Attic)

"Falcon is the youngest of three boys who seem to have the kind of escapades few boys do these days." -Anne Gerhart's article about the little boy who was feared had left his Colorado home in a weather balloon.

Yes. Unfortunately, there is isn't much adventure in hiding in the attic.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wilmette Backs Obama for Heisman Trophy

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I always say. For that reason, I would like to announce that today, Wilmette joins the movement to award the Heisman Trophy to Barack Obama. Why not? Since ESPN set up a special webpage to vote for the nominee of your choice, make sure you make your voice heard! Click here to vote for Barack Obama as this year's Heisman Trophy winner! Yes We Can!

hat tip: Gateway Pundit

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sic Transit Gloria Cristofori Columbi

Let me be the first to wish you Happy Columbus Day! Did anyone even wish you a Happy Columbus Day this morning? I didn't think so. No one seems to celebrate Columbus Day anymore. Gone are the days that the holiday gave children dreams of the ships the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, and the great adventures of Genova's Cristoforo Colombo. Columbus Day used to be an excuse for a fun unit in grade school, a spaghetti dinner, and some shopping at the abundant Columbus Day sales. Now this holiday lies by the wayside, dusty and neglected.

Pictured above is a room at the Alhambra Palace in Grenada, Spain, a UNESCO world heritage site, where legend has it Columbus met with Queen Isabella of Spain to seal the deal for funding Columbus' trip to the Indies. Because of technological limitations, he ended up discovering the Americas. When you consider how Columbus changed the history of the world, this is a pretty exciting place to visit.

Slow US Reaction: Shocked that Smart Canada Refuses Guantanamo Detainees

If you are wondering when or if any business gets done at the White House between the President's never ending appearances, seems that they are just a little behind. Four months since Canada said no thanks to taking inmates of famed war-on-terror prison, Guantanamo, the White House expressed surprise in their lack of interest. Outsourcing: the clever way to close Guantanamo, wouldn't you say?

I am surprised that Washington doesn't plan to just release the Guantanamo detainees at large in the USA. Actually, I imagine they will. The Democrats don't seem to be able to turn the USA into a third-world country fast enough to suit their tastes, but I think they are doing a stunning job. Canada still appears to have some good sense. I'm keeping them on the list of places to consider if the Democrats finish off our country completely.

I put up another picture from my vacation. While Tremezzo is beautiful, Italy is off my list of places to consider for emigration. Tremezzo has the advantage of being closer to Switzerland than Wilmette is to Chicago, but I'm not sure what that advantage means. Maybe it is the weak weak dollar, or its closeness to Switzerland, but is Italy very expensive. Worse, there aren't any lifevests on the passenger boats. That was not a very happy discovery for me, as I am safety minded. The views however, are really beautiful. There is no question in my mind that any view is improved by the addition of an Alp.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mediterranean Diet: More About Exercise than Food

So I suppose there is some truth to that "fat people eating" comment that I heard on TV when Rio beat out Chicago for the Olympics. Here in Chicago, it is believed that food might be a real tonic for health, and the TV commenters are forever discussing the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Why food is discussed as the only component in that diet makes no sense at all. The biggest difference in the Mediterranean, and in Europe generally, is the vast amount of walking that people have to do just in the course of a day.

Click on the above picture, and you will more closely see a photo I took of a poster suggesting a walk for people visiting Tremezzo, Italy. Advertised as a "leisurely and pleasant walk," it will take you nearly 2 hours, one way, and is five (5) miles long. I suppose you could take a boat or a bus back, but I think the idea is to do the round trip on foot. Is there any wonder why the Mediterranean diet is healthy? That is a lot of exercise!

Good Weekend for your Flu Shot

Got my flu shot yesterday, and I am happy to report that I have no reaction. This is better than the last 2 years, so don't hesitate to go get yours. Why am I sharing? Generally speaking, I find that most people around me report precisely the same effects as I do. While I try to get my shot on a Friday or Saturday just in case, judging from my experience, this year that may not be necessary.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Clever! Obama Scores Nobel Peace Prize While Waging War

O bizarro! What Mahatmas Ghandi was never able to achieve, Barack Obama--whose war stance is beginning to look a lot like Richard Nixon's--got just by talking. By awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama's place as the biggest celebrity in the world is now safe.

When you realize that Norway is a Socialist country with socialized medicine, it all begins to make sense. Obama's nanny state goals likely kept the prize committee swooning. And seeing Obama's Chicago background, you might just want to check the contracts members of the commitee hold. Hope there aren't any hired trucks!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Bill Ayers Asserts Authorship of Obama's Dreams From My Father

So much for getting away from politics, but this one is hot. Blogger Anne Leary, the Backyard Conservative, has done a post (which has grown to an entire series of posts) on running into Bill Ayers at the airport in DC. There, Ayers asserted in a very brief, informal interview that he wrote Barack Obama's book Dreams From my Father. Now it is possible that Bill Ayers was just having fun or that he was lying; he has a long history of trying to destroy society and this might be his latest chapter. I wouldn't put it past him. It is also possible that the man Anne ran into was not Ayers; we all know stories of someone who is often "recognized" as someone else. Nevertheless, this is a dynamite story, a real "must read."

Bloggers are trying to assess Anne Leary's credibility, but with the exception that Anne may not have identified Bill Ayres correctly (she has a picture) or Ayers was lying, I don't doubt the report. In fact, I think the wrong identification can be ruled out, as this is not the first time that Ayers has made the claim that he authored Barack Obama's best seller over the past few days. That leaves whether Ayers was or was not lying, and I simply have no way to tell. Do read the post. (Also the followups to the original, where I might say Anne has outdone herself reporting on herself.)

Only a few people know that a few years back I spent a fair amount of time urging Anne to start a blog. She used to send around emails to a group of friends when a political subject struck her fancy. I thought she should have a wider audience. Which is to say that I have known Anne for a long time, like maybe 20 years. I count her as a friend, and I don't suffer friends who aren't honest or don't speak the truth.

UPDATE: On Saturday, October 10, Anne Leary will be interviewed by Jerry Agar at 4PM, and on Sunday by Tom Roeser at 8PM, both on WLS-AM, 890.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Done With Politics

Think I've been obsessed by politics and the economy lately? Me, too, so I took a few days to relax and collect my thoughts. With Chicago losing the 2012 Olympic games to Rio, it was a good time to be out of town. Do you like this view from my hotel room? As one TV wag said when I heard that Rio had beat out Chicago for the 2012 Olympic games, "When you think of Brazil, you think of bronzed people at the beach; when you think of Chicago, you think of fat people eating."

I don't think that comment was very kind, but while I was away I did decide that the average meal you could get just walking around in Chicago as a tourist, makes Chicago a world-class city, no matter what the International Olympic Committee has to say.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Yes Mahmoud There was a Holocaust

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn't the only person in the Mideast to deny the Holocaust and I cannot imagine that even if he admitted the existence of World War II death camps that the facts would bother him much. Palestine is the Mideast's cause and the Jews be damned. Freed from the visual evidence of a past that has long been part of life in the Wilmette area--the death-camp tattoos, the endless stories of family members lost, the forever effects of surviving--it may be easy to delude oneself about history occurring over half a century ago, and that in a faraway country. Be that as it may, it isn't easy to think of the US having a serious chat with this pious, self promoting Iranian, or that it could happen on the watch of that Wilmette boy, Rahm Enamuel. He is, as they say, a bar mitzvah and should know better. If there's one thing that stands out in the harassment and murder carried out against the Jewish people over the centuries, it is the evil effect of those who idly stood by.

"Within weeks of Hitler’s 1933 rise to power, the iron gates slammed shut on inmates of the first Nazi concentration camps. It was the start of an unparalleled experiment in persecution and genocide that expanded over the next 12 years into a pyramid of ghettos, Gestapo prisons, slave labor camps and, ultimately, extermination factories. . . . Couched in patronizing and dehumanizing language, documents from the earliest camps foreshadow a system that would define the word 'genocide.' They show that years before the mass-scale killings began at death camps such as Auschwitz, the intellectual groundwork of viewing categories of humanity as subhuman was already in place. . . .When they began work six years ago, [project director] Megargee said the researchers estimated 5,000 to 7,000 sites existed. 'Based on our research, it is now clear that there were over 20,000 such sites in Germany, in German-occupied territories and in the states allied with Nazi Germany." - from an AP 2005 report

The picture above is from a series painted from memory by Johannes Steyer, a Jehovah's Witness incarcerated at Buchenwald as #1795. The text is translated as "Jehovah's Witnesses (Bible Students) before them, a group of Jews struggling to carry stones from a quarry."