Monday, July 28, 2008

This is BETTER Than The Lottery . . .

This is so much better than the Lottery! First, by spending $5, you could meet the next President of the United States. And that's priceless. Second, your $5 has a better chance of doing good for the country by giving it to Barack Obama than it has in the State's coffers.

Here's the email I received from Barack Obama's campaign a couple of weeks ago. You, being thoughful and intelligent, may have received it too. If not, but you want to donate anyway, feel free to click the link below.

Jessica --

I wanted you to be the first to hear the news.

At the Democratic National Convention next month, we're going to kick off the general election with an event that opens up the political process the same way we've opened it up throughout this campaign.

Barack has made it clear that this is your convention, not his. On Thursday, August 28th, he's scheduled to formally accept the Democratic nomination in a speech at the convention hall in front of the assembled delegates.

Instead, the convention will move to an outdoor stadium where Barack will join more than 75,000 people for a huge, free, open-air event and deliver his acceptance speech to the American people.

It's going to be an amazing event, and Barack would like you to join him. Free tickets will become available as the date approaches, but we've reserved a special place for a few of the people who brought us this far and who continue to drive this campaign.

If you make a donation of $5 or more between now and midnight on July 31st, you could be one of 10 supporters chosen to fly to Denver and spend two days and nights at the convention, meet Barack backstage, and watch his acceptance speech in person. Each of the ten supporters who are selected will be able to bring one guest to join them.

Make a donation now and you could have a front row seat to history:

We'll follow up with more details on this and other convention activities as we get closer, but please take a moment and pass this note to someone you know who might like to be there.

It will be an event you'll never forget.

Thank you,


David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

links and emphasis mine.

So please join me by making a $5 donation before July 31st. And if I win, I'm taking someone. I don't know who, but you can start trying to buy my affection now.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Want Your Blood

Okay, well I don't really want your blood personally, but the Young Professionals of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce (of which I'm a member) does.

We are holding a Blood Drive from August 16th - 22nd with a huge kickoff party on Saturday, August 16th from 9:30-3:30.

Summer is typically a time of low blood donations, but greater need, and your help would be greatly appreciated. Our goal is 100 units of blood. All blood will be given to local hospitals, so your blood may even help someone you know. LifeSource is currently experiencing a shortage of Type O and Rh Negative blood, so if you have this, your donation is crucial.

To schedule an appointment and have your donation creditted to Young Professionals, visit LifeSource's website and enter the code 212C. Walk-ins are welcome, although there may be a short wait. When you schedule your donation online, you can choose your donation center. So you don't have to drive to Arlington Heights, if there is a location closer to you.

Kick-off Party
with prizes, entertainment, and food
Saturday, August 16th
9:30am - 3:30pm

Blood Drive: August 16th - 22nd

LifeSource Donor Center
(Between Sports Authority & Trader Joe's)

Schedule online and choose your donation center at
Blood Drive Code: 212C

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Congratulations Jared!

My friend Jared Fox, a student at Lake Forest College (my alma mater), was recently honored by the Human Rights Campaign as their 2008 LGBT Student of the Year. Congratulations Jared! You're the best and I'm so proud of you! YOU truly are a shining example of the leaders that attend LFC.

Friday, July 25, 2008

RIP Randall Pausch: 1961-2008

If the name Randall Pausch doesn't mean anything to you, well, read on, it will.

I first discovered Randy Pausch last fall when I happened to stumble upon Oprah being replayed at 11:00pm in Chicago. I was fixated and could not change the channel. He was an amazing man, who despite significant health challenges and knowing with certainty he was dying, lived his life to the fullest every moment. He never dwelled on the negative and the "what ifs" or "why me's". Instead, he took his challenges and shared his lessons with the world to help make us all just a little bit better.

I previously wrote about him here and here. You can also find Life lessons with Randy Pausch on

He is famous for The Last Lecture aka "Really Living Your Childhood Dreams."

Trust me, it's worth watching. It will speak to you in many ways.

Randall Pausch died this morning.

'Last Lecture' professor dies at 47

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (AP) -- Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist whose "last lecture" about facing terminal cancer became an Internet sensation and a best-selling book, died Friday. He was 47.

Randy Pausch emphasized the joy of life in his "last lecture," originally given in September 2007.
Pausch died at his home in Virginia, university spokeswoman Anne Watzman said. Pausch and his family moved there last fall to be closer to his wife's relatives.

Pausch was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer in September 2006. His popular last lecture at Carnegie Mellon in September 2007 garnered international attention and was viewed by millions on the Internet.

In it, Pausch celebrated living the life he had always dreamed of instead of concentrating on impending death.

"The lecture was for my kids, but if others are finding value in it, that is wonderful," Pausch wrote on his Web site. "But rest assured; I'm hardly unique."

The book "The Last Lecture," written with Jeffrey Zaslow, leaped to the top of the nonfiction best-seller lists after its publication in April and remains there this week. Pausch said he dictated the book to Zaslow, a Wall Street Journal writer, by cell phone. The book deal was reported to be worth more than $6 million.

At Carnegie Mellon, he was a professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design, and was recognized as a pioneer of virtual reality research. On campus, he became known for his flamboyance and showmanship as a teacher and mentor.

The speech last fall was part of a series Carnegie Mellon called "The Last Lecture," where professors were asked to think about what matters to them most and give a hypothetical final talk. The name of the lecture series was changed to "Journeys" before Pausch spoke, something he joked about in his lecture.

"I thought, damn, I finally nailed the venue and they renamed it," he said.

He told the packed auditorium he fulfilled almost all his childhood dreams -- being in zero gravity, writing an article in the World Book Encyclopedia and working with the Walt Disney Co.

The one that eluded him? Playing in the National Football League.

"If I don't seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you," Pausch said.
He then joked about his quirky hobby of winning stuffed animals at amusement parks -- another of his childhood dreams -- and how his mother introduced him to people to keep him humble: "This is my son, he's a doctor, but not the kind that helps people."

Pausch said he was embarrassed and flattered by the popularity of his message. Millions viewed the complete or abridged version of the lecture, titled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," online.

Pausch lobbied Congress for more federal funding for pancreatic cancer research and appeared on "Oprah" and other TV shows. In what he called "a truly magical experience," he was even invited to appear as an extra in the new "Star Trek" movie.

He had one line of dialogue, got to keep his costume and donated his $217.06 paycheck to charity.

Pausch blogged regularly about his medical treatment. On Feb. 15, exactly six months after he was told he had three to six months of healthy living left, Pausch posted a photo of himself to show he was "still alive & healthy."

"I rode my bike today; the cumulative effects of the chemotherapy are hurting my stamina some, but I bet I can still run a quarter mile faster than most Americans," he wrote.

Pausch gave one more lecture after his Carnegie Mellon appearance -- in November at the University of Virginia, where he had taught from 1988 to 1997.

Pausch often emphasized the need to have fun.

"I mean I don't know how to not have fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day I have left. Because there's no other way to play it," he said in his Carnegie Mellon lecture. "You just have to decide if you're a Tigger or an Eeyore. I think I'm clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It's just too important. It's what drives us."

Born in 1960, Pausch received his bachelor's degree in computer science from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.

He co-founded Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center, a master's program for bringing artists and engineers together. The university named a footbridge in his honor. He also created an animation-based teaching program for high school and college students to have fun while learning computer programming.

In February, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences in California announced the creation of the Dr. Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund for university students who pursue careers in game design, development and production.

He and his wife, Jai, had three children, Dylan, Logan and Chloe.

Here's more on Randy Pausch: Time Magazine and Time's 10 Questions.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Onion is Psychic!

Forget Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends Network and Miss Cleo, if you want to know the future, just read The Onion!

Seriously, I couldn't make this stuff up.

WASHINGTON, DC–Mere days from assuming the presidency and closing the door on eight years of Bill Clinton, president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that "our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over."

President-elect Bush vows that "together, we can put the triumphs of the recent past behind us."

"My fellow Americans," Bush said, "at long last, we have reached the end of the dark period in American history that will come to be known as the Clinton Era, eight long years characterized by unprecedented economic expansion, a sharp decrease in crime, and sustained peace overseas. The time has come to put all of that behind us."

Bush swore to do "everything in [his] power" to undo the damage wrought by Clinton's two terms in office, including selling off the national parks to developers, going into massive debt to develop expensive and impractical weapons technologies, and passing sweeping budget cuts that drive the mentally ill out of hospitals and onto the street.

During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

"You better believe we're going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration," said Bush, who plans a 250 percent boost in military spending. "Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?"

On the economic side, Bush vowed to bring back economic stagnation by implementing substantial tax cuts, which would lead to a recession, which would necessitate a tax hike, which would lead to a drop in consumer spending, which would lead to layoffs, which would deepen the recession even further.

Wall Street responded strongly to the Bush speech, with the Dow Jones industrial fluctuating wildly before closing at an 18-month low. The NASDAQ composite index, rattled by a gloomy outlook for tech stocks in 2001, also fell sharply, losing 4.4 percent of its total value between 3 p.m. and the closing bell. Asked for comment about the cooling technology sector, Bush said: "That's hardly my area of expertise."

Turning to the subject of the environment, Bush said he will do whatever it takes to undo the tremendous damage not done by the Clinton Administration to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He assured citizens that he will follow through on his campaign promise to open the 1.5 million acre refuge's coastal plain to oil drilling. As a sign of his commitment to bringing about a change in the environment, he pointed to his choice of Gale Norton for Secretary of the Interior. Norton, Bush noted, has "extensive experience" fighting environmental causes, working as a lobbyist for lead-paint manufacturers and as an attorney for loggers and miners, in addition to suing the EPA to overturn clean-air standards.

Bush had equally high praise for Attorney General nominee John Ashcroft, whom he praised as "a tireless champion in the battle to protect a woman's right to give birth."

"Soon, with John Ashcroft's help, we will move out of the Dark Ages and into a more enlightened time when a woman will be free to think long and hard before trying to fight her way past throngs of protesters blocking her entrance to an abortion clinic," Bush said. "We as a nation can look forward to lots and lots of babies."

Soldiers at Ft. Bragg march lockstep in preparation for America's return to aggression.

Continued Bush: "John Ashcroft will be invaluable in healing the terrible wedge President Clinton drove between church and state."

The speech was met with overwhelming approval from Republican leaders.

"Finally, the horrific misrule of the Democrats has been brought to a close," House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (R-IL) told reporters. "Under Bush, we can all look forward to military aggression, deregulation of dangerous, greedy industries, and the defunding of vital domestic social-service programs upon which millions depend. Mercifully, we can now say goodbye to the awful nightmare that was Clinton's America."

"For years, I tirelessly preached the message that Clinton must be stopped," conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said. "And yet, in 1996, the American public failed to heed my urgent warnings, re-electing Clinton despite the fact that the nation was prosperous and at peace under his regime. But now, thank God, that's all done with. Once again, we will enjoy mounting debt, jingoism, nuclear paranoia, mass deficit, and a massive military build-up."

An overwhelming 49.9 percent of Americans responded enthusiastically to the Bush speech.

"After eight years of relatively sane fiscal policy under the Democrats, we have reached a point where, just a few weeks ago, President Clinton said that the national debt could be paid off by as early as 2012," Rahway, NJ, machinist and father of three Bud Crandall said. "That's not the kind of world I want my children to grow up in."

"You have no idea what it's like to be black and enfranchised," said Marlon Hastings, one of thousands of Miami-Dade County residents whose votes were not counted in the 2000 presidential election. "George W. Bush understands the pain of enfranchisement, and ever since Election Day, he has fought tirelessly to make sure it never happens to my people again."

Bush concluded his speech on a note of healing and redemption.

"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

"The insanity is over," Bush said. "After a long, dark night of peace and stability, the sun is finally rising again over America. We look forward to a bright new dawn not seen since the glory days of my dad."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wall Street Got Drunk

Wall Street got drunk.

I guess that explains why gas is over $4 a gallon, jobs are being eliminated hourly, we have an unprecedented mortgage crisis, and the economy is just generally in the toilet.

It takes some HUGE balls to say this even in jest. But I guess it takes a recovering alcoholic like our current Idiot-In-Chief to know what happens when someone gets drunk.

Gas Tax Holiday - Good or Bad?

One of John McCain's favorite ideas is the Gas Tax Holiday. He spoke about it this morning (link to follow).

A Gas Tax Holiday is a period of time when there are no taxes on gasoline. In this case, it would be Federal Taxes. State and/or local taxes would remain. If you drive a regular car, you would save, in theory, 18.4 cents per gallon. If you use diesel, in theory, you would save 24.4 cents per gallon.

There are a few things I don't understand about this idea.

2. Originally, he proposed that the Gas Tax Holiday would run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but recently, the AP reported that he wanted to extend it without saying how long he wants to extend it. Specifics. I'd like specifics.

3. It seems to me that the 18.4 or 24.4 cents per gallon is not just "fun money," but rather it is used to pay for things such as roads, schools, and the like. These aren't luxuries, like a trip to Dairy Queen might be. We need these things. Where will the money come from to pay for them if we have a Gas Tax Holiday? Or will we have a tax increase after the tax is reinstated to recover the money lost during the Gas Tax Holiday?

4. Gas station owners claim that despite $4+ per gallon prices, they are struggling and only make about 10 - 12 cents per gallon and that gets eaten up with credit card charges. The idea behind a Gas Tax Holiday is that the price of gas will go down from say $4.18 a gallon (with the tax) to $4 a gallon (without the tax), but what's the motivation for the gas station that's been struggling, and in some cases losing money, to lower their prices? Won't they just think to themselves "thank goodness! I can finally make up some of those profits I've been losing?" I know you're thinking that if the Shell station on one corner lowers their prices, the BP across the street will follow. But what if none of them lower their prices? They're certainly not required to do so.

5. Won't people be even more irritated when the Federal Gas Tax is reinstated? And then what?
6. Would John and Cindy McCain be willing to personally cover the financial losses to the Federal Government from their vast beer fortune?


I Love Facebook!

For the 3rd or 4th time in as many months, I have reconnected with a long lost childhood friend through Facebook. And I don't mean that we found each other on Facebook, sent a friend request and now are Facebook Friends (TM). Yes, we've done that, but we've gone further and had real conversations and become part of each others lives again.

First, it was Laurie. We were good friends in high and on the cheerleading squad together. It turns out she's living back in the area and her sister owns Grand Cru Wine Merchants, a wine shop about a mile from my house.

Next, it was Paul. We've known each other since we were 6. The first thing he said to me when we reconnected was "do you still hate me for throwing that baseball through your sliding glass door"? For about a month in 1982 after my house burned down, we were back door neighbors. We chat a couple of times a week now after not speaking since high school. And, for the record, I don't hate him. I don't think I hated him then. But it's fun to laugh about that door, especially since no one got hurt. He now lives in California.

Tonight, it was Jeff. Again, Jeff and I have known each other since we were 6. We had fun catching up tonight and sharing all kinds of crazy memories (none of which I'm going to share here - sorry!). I think we both even learned a few things that we didn't know. Jeff is living in Lake Villa.

How did we find and reconnect with long lost friends before the Internet and Facebook? Thanks Al Gore.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Best Garage Sale Find. Ever.

Last weekend I had a garage sale. It was a ton of work, but very successful.

About 11:00 on Friday morning, a man probably in his mid-60s rode up on this very old moped. When I commented on how cool his moped was, he told me he got it was a 1978 moped he bought at a garage sale 3 years ago for $25! When he bought it, it wasn't working and he stuck it in his storage shed planning to eventually get around to fixing it.

With gas over $4 a gallon, he decided to start putzing around with the bike and discovered that the carburetor needed to be cleaned. Once he cleaned the carburetor, the moped started right up and purred like a kitten.

The best part is the moped gets 85 miles per gallon! Of course, it only goes 32 mph max, but for running errands in Arlington Heights, that's perfect.

He said it was the best $25 he ever spent!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Big News! Nana Knew Me!

This is such huge wonderful news that I had to take a break from my break to share!

I try to call Nana regularly, but it's really difficult because most of the time she is asleep. When I am lucky enough to get her on the phone, she doesn't seem to know me.

But Friday was her 92nd birthday and it was important to me that I speak to her. So I've been calling multiple times a day hoping I might find her awake. Finally, late this afternoon I called and the nurses were just getting ready to take her to dinner, so she was awake. I could hear the nurse telling her she had a phone call, but for some reason, the nurse didn't tell Nana who was calling.

"Hello Nana" I said, without identifying myself. I wasn't being mean, she interrupted me before I could get the words out.

"Hi Jessie" was her immediate response. She hasn't been able to say Jessica in probably a year.

The two most beautiful words in the world.

I then told her I loved her, wished I could wrap my arms around her and hug her, and was very happy to hear her sweet voice. She didn't want to talk, so our conversation was over.

But she knew me.

For the first time all year without prodding from the nurse or my mom or me. Nana knew me.

Nana's 92nd birthday was Friday, but I received the gift.

No Blog Post Today

God rested on Sunday. So I am taking a day off from blogging.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Happy Birthday Nana!

Nana on her 80th birthday and retirement from Bank of America - after 40 years!

Today is my Nana's 92nd birthday. She was born on July 18, 1916 in Batesville, Mississippi, a poor farming town just west of Oxford, home to University of Mississippi.

Words can't express how grateful I am that she's still with us. Although she doesn't know me, I cherish the moments when I call and just hear her sweet voice.

My Nana has always been my biggest cheerleader. When I lived in DC, I don't think a week went by without a handwritten, multi-page letter from Nana usually also filled with newspaper clippings she thought I would enjoy (this was before the internet). I imagine that if she were still able, I'd have regular lengthy emails containing many hyperlinks she thought I would enjoy.

A sexy pic Nana sent to my grandfather while he was overseas during WWII. She had some hot legs!

Last weekend, she had a rare afternoon of lucidity and shared the story of her marriage to my grandfather, Jesse Paulk, with a family friend. Nana told the friend that she and my grandfather were married on September 30, 1938 at Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee and that she made her wedding suit. She said that they were always in love, that she still loves him with all her heart (he died on September 12, 1961 - my mom's 13th birthday), and that she always misses him. She said she looks forward to being with him again in Heaven and that she wants to just hug him.

My mom is throwing a birthday party for Nana at the nursing home, complete with cake and strawberry ice cream (Nana's favorite) and balloons. I can't wait to talk to Nana when Mom is there.

So take a moment and wish my Nana a Happy 92nd Birthday. She's a remarkable woman.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

You Can Call Me Reverand Little Merry Sunshine

You'll recall that last fall I attended a meeting with the Cook County Assessor's Office regarding the reassessment of my home (and all the others in my township). My assessment had increased 45% in 12 months and also included many inaccuracies about my home (1 1/2 car garage, 2 1/2 baths, etc.), but despite numerous appeals in past years, I could never get the County to change my assessments and inaccurate description of my home.

So I hired an attorney to do the job for me this year. And just moments ago, I learned that I had success. I'm gonna save $400 this year and $1200 over the next three years! Yeah! Of course, the attorney cost me $270 PLUS all the paperwork.

But evidently I didn't have to work that hard. In fact, it seems that if I'd simply spent 30 seconds to complete a form online I'd become an ordained minister and could then slap a cross on the front of my house - all for FREE mind you - and I could completely eliminate my property taxes!

Man's home is castle—and church
State gives Lake Bluff estate a religious break worth $80,000 in property tax, but village says not so fast to pastor-owner

By Susan Kuczka Chicago Tribune reporter
11:06 PM CDT, July 16, 2008

A Lake Bluff resident said he converted this $3 million estate into the Armenian Church of Lake Bluff so his ailing wife and daughter can worship. (Tribune photo by David Trotman-Wilkins)

When George Michael placed a cross on the side of his lakefront mansion, neighbors assumed the decoration was simply a display of the man's religious faith.What his neighbors didn't know is that Michael had decided to convert his $3 million residence into the Armenian Church of Lake Bluff, qualifying him for a nearly $80,000 break on his annual property tax bill.

Now, locals are questioning whether the property is a church at all. Village officials wonder how they'll be able to make up the lost revenue, and residents worry that their share of the tax burden will grow as a result.

Meanwhile, Lake Bluff officials notified Michael that if he is running a church, he'll need to pay more than $115,000 in fines for failing to get the village's permission, setting up a possible court battle.
"It's a honkin' house," said Shields Township Assessor Teresia Yakes, who recently appraised the Michael mansion.With "No Trespassing" and "Private Property" signs everywhere, the Shore Acres subdivision looks like an unlikely place to open a church.

Michael told state officials last month that he began his North Shore congregation more than a year ago after he got a pastor's degree from an online religious site.

While only a handful of close friends and family attend the church, Michael opened his house of worship to spare his disabled wife the hardship of having to travel to practice her religion, attorney Mark Belognia said.

"He's a devoutly religious man, as is his family, and this is the best and only way for them on a weekly basis to practice their faith," Belognia said.

Neighbors said they have never seen evidence of Sunday services held at the home. Village officials said Michael didn't approach them about special permits he would need to open a new church.

'I do find it a stretch'

And in February, the Lake County Board of Review rejected Michael's claim that he had converted his home into a church, ruling the property's use appeared more consistent with a residence than a church, said board Supervisor Martin Paulson.

"I do find it a stretch," Paulson said of the state's June 12 decision to grant Michael a property tax exemption.

Michael, owner of a Chicago real estate firm and a bank official, won the state exemption after he presented the Illinois Department of Revenue with a copy of his clergy license from the Church of Spiritual Humanism, photos of a church altar, the church's affidavit of organization from January 2007, church bylaws and copies of weekly church bulletins dating to December.

He also provided copies of a quitclaim deed from March 2007 that transferred ownership of the couple's 22,000-square-foot home—formerly listed in the name of his wife, Susan—to the Armenian Church of Lake Bluff, and an October 2007 church bank statement from Citizens Bank & Trust in Chicago. Michael is vice chairman of the bank, Belognia said.

Michael also provided a list of 10 members and officers of his parish council, including at least one who is an independent contractor with Michael's real estate firm, Michael Realty & Associates in Chicago, according to his attorney.

The information Michael supplied convinced state officials that the residence in the 1900 block of Shore Acres Drive was a church.

"We didn't go up on a Sunday morning and see if there were services, but we did require them to sign an affidavit and send us church bulletins about services," said Revenue Department spokesman Mike Klemens. "We did enough checking . . . to convince us that yes, even though the village doesn't want to grant the exemption, and the Board of Review didn't, it is a church, it's being used as a church, so we granted it."

Michael's attorney said his client jumped through the bureaucratic hoops so that his wife and daughter—both of whom are physically disabled—could avoid travel to attend Armenian church services elsewhere. Previously, the Michaels had regularly attended services at St. Gregory the Illuminator Church in Chicago, his attorney said.

"He believes he has a constitutional right to practice his faith, that he violated no zoning codes and that he properly received a property tax exemption for his church," Belognia said.

Michael purchased the home on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in 2004 for about $3 million. He built an addition that contains a playroom for his children and installed an electric lift so his wife could get down the bluff to the beach below his home. He was billed $79,758 for 2006 property taxes.

The Michaels live in the house but have set off a portion for the church, the attorney said.

Although Lake Bluff officials plan to appeal the state's decision, village manager Drew Irvin said officials on June 24 sent Michael a $115,000 bill for violating zoning ordinances, based on the very affidavits Michael provided to the state. Local ordinances do not allow for operation of a church in an area of town zoned as "country estate residence" without a special permit, Irvin said. Village code allows a fine of up to $500 per day, per violation. According to Michael's application, he had been operating a church for 460 days, but village officials levied a fine for half that much, Irvin said."The village is simply following up on zoning violations," he said.
$10.3 million in dispute

The zoning dispute is not the only financial matter Michael faces.

Last month, a Milwaukee bank—M&I Marshall & Ilsley Bank—filed a foreclosure lawsuit against Michael and his brother, Robert C. Michael, in Cook County Circuit Court, seeking $10.3 million in unpaid mortgage payments and loans on commercial buildings, storefronts and residential buildings in Chicago and nearby suburbs.

Michael declined an interview, but Belognia said he hoped to amicably resolve the zoning issues. He notified the village July 3 that Michael would suspend services.

The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America in New York, meanwhile, has no record that the Armenian Church of Lake Bluff exists—or that it has been consecrated as a house of worship.

Michael remains registered as a parishioner at St. Gregory, according to Rachel Goshgarian, director of the diocese's Zohrab Information Center.
UPDATE 7/19/2008: John Kass of the Chicago Tribune ran a column yesterday about what an upstanding guy Mr. Michael is (not).

The Proof is in the ComEd Bill

My ComEd electric bill arrived yesterday and I am thrilled. Well, okay, not thrilled, but I am doing the Happy Dance. (That link put a smile on your face, right?)

The billing period started June 10th, just a couple of days after I got the Solar Attic Fan, and is the first bill I've received since its installation.

When comparing my one month usage for the same time period last year, my electricity usage has DECREASED by 35.6%!!!!!!!!!!!

You are probably thinking, "Well, that's convenient Jessica, but Chicago has experienced a relatively cool summer this year with very little need for AC usage" and you'd be correct. The average daily temperature from June 10th - July 11th, 2008, according to my ComEd bill was 72 degrees. During the same period in 2007, the average daily temperature was 74 degrees. Not a significant difference.

My Solar Attic Fan has produced significant savings for me in one month! Yeah! Great for Mother Earth and great for my wallet! Thanks Dave!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thoughts of You

Thoughts of You is a poem my mom used to recite to me when I was little, often when she was tucking me in at night. I just found it handwritten inside one of my old day planners. I don't know how I know it's by Katherine N. Davis, but that's what it says. I googled her and the poem and can't find either one.

Thoughts of You
by Katherine N. Davis

If my thoughts could only do
The things I wish they would,
They'd call on you and brighten up your day.
They'd chase your cares away
And bring laughter instead . . .
They'd perch upon your bed
And fluff your pillow and even wait on you.
They'd let the sunlight in
And make gay flowers bloom
In profusion in your room.
They'd keep you company and chat
Of how you feel and this and that,
And smile at you and
Read you a good book.
Last of all, they'd make you feel
That each day is fair and sweet . . .
and then their job would be complete.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Missed Learning Opportunity

The story below appeared in this morning's Daily Herald and it simply saddens me. Letting children see democracy in action through voting is one of the most valuable and easily taught lessons available to schools.

When I was a child, I remember seeing the big blue voting boxes appear at the end of October, talking with the voting judges on voting day both before and after school, and then seeing the boxes disappear a couple of days later. (Disclaimer: Cousins of mine were always election judges at my school, which may have also piqued my interest in all that was going on). I would always ask my parents if they voted (they did) and I grew up believing that everyone voted. They just did. At least in my mind. It wasn't until many years later, maybe not until I got to college, that I learned that not everyone voted. I won't get into my soap box about why everyone must vote. You can thank me anytime.

In my opinion, so many lessons children receive are caught, rather than just taught. Sure, my parents voted and my family is politically active, which gave me a head start. Without seeing democracy in action, how do kids who grow up in homes where the parents don't vote and who believe it's all fixed anyway or their vote doesn't matter or the rich, elite, and powerful will always run everything come to believe anything else? It's one thing for children to hear about voting and read about elections in the classroom, but using schools as polling places when school is in session brings it all to life and teaches kids valuable lessons about being responsible citizens.

I will concede that since I don't have kids, I may not understand the overwhelming need to protect them from all the dangers in the world. But I think that the logic that allowing strangers into the schools to vote brings unnecessary risk to children is false. I vote at a school and we are restricted to the gymnasium, which is accessed directly from the outside. School isn't in session (thanks District 25!), but even if it was, we would never even come close to seeing kids.

Using the logic relied on by proponents to close schools on Election Day, I think that also calls for eliminating all field trips (which I also think is over-the-top). Strangers walking around the zoo or a museum can't be controlled and have far greater access to children than anyone does on Election Day. Maybe kids also shouldn't go to the public pool or town festivals or play outside.

Many school districts have also eliminated annual trips to Washington DC because of liability issues. My class trip to Washington in 1985 changed my life. I saw and experienced all that I had read about in history books. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence were no longer just words I had to memorize. I remember thinking during that trip that I wanted to live there someday. My parents couldn't afford to take a family vacation there and but for that trip, I might never have lived in Washington DC.

I understand that the world is very different today than it was 25 years ago, but I worry about the unforeseen costs we incur by overprotecting kids. Without these lessons in civics, history and politics, how will we raise the next generation of public servants? How will kids even know a life in public service is possible or what it means?

Too many kids grow up believing they can be the next Michael Jordan or David Beckham, which simply isn't realistic. And as a society, we encourage it. Of course, not everyone can be the President of the United States either, but everyone can and should be involved in their community and local government either as a volunteer or elected official. And it all begins with voting.

More schools taking day off for election day
By Jake Griffin
Daily Herald Staff Writer

Published: 7/15/2008 12:05 AM

Fewer students are getting the up-close-and-personal lessons in American democracy they once were afforded.

Citing safety concerns and faster voting operations, a growing number of school districts are giving students Election Day off this year.

In most counties, 30 to 40 percent of the polling places are schools. That's because they are usually centrally located, easily accessible and have the space.

But what they often lack is a security detail to keep voters from wandering the school. Combine that with a massive increase in traffic that day and parents, school administrators and election officials can see a problem just waiting to happen.

"Our school officials were very receptive to our proposal because of how thorough we were with our research," said Robin Church, president of the Indian Prairie Unit District 204's parents council, which serves portions of Naperville, Aurora, Plainfield and Bolingbrook. "We know nothing has happened; that's why we call it a proactive school safety initiative."

District 204 is not only keeping students home Nov. 4, but it swapped some teacher in-service dates to keep kids home during the February primary as well.

"What we've done is committed to use nonattendance days on election days to avoid having kids in school then," said Mark Metzger, District 204 school board president. "If you're allowing the general public into the building, then we're worried about our kids."

The District 204 group's report has become the Magna Carta of Election Day school safety studies. Other parent groups in DuPage County have asked for its help and members have made presentations to the county's election commission about the benefits closing schools would have on voters. Some officials elsewhere also endorse the group's findings. They cite the dangers of self-directed parking at most schools for voters, shared entrances for voters and schoolchildren, and controlling access to the school.

"To me, that is such an ideal situation," Kane County Director of Elections Linda Mitchell said about closing schools on Election Day. "It would mean so much to getting our jobs done more easily."

It's not a new idea; it's just that the District 204 report pretty much covers every base. It received endorsements from state education and election groups. The group even did a safety audit of schools during a recent election that showed how easily voters can get into the school.

Its report also includes safety initiatives if boards determine schools must remain open. They suggest adding security personnel to keep voters out of restricted school space, requiring sign-in sheets, and training election judges in school safety procedures.

Neighboring Naperville Unit District 203 will remain open on Election Day because the teachers contract won't allow them to take the day off, said Melanie Raczkiewicz, the district's associate superintendent for operations. She would not provide great detail about the school's security protocols other than to say the issue has been discussed.

"We do have a person who stays in that polling area to keep an eye on things," she said. "Safety is our primary concern and we have never had a problem."

Fourteen school districts in DuPage will keep students home on Election Day this year. Election officials in other counties also are reporting more schools taking the day off this year.

"We've lost some schools who don't feel it's safe for us to use their space for voting," said Lake County Clerk Willard Helander. "We have statutory authority behind us, but we know if we're not wanted, the day is not going to go as well."

Attempts to legislate the issue have all met the same fate. Three bills designed to keep kids home on Election Day were essentially killed in committee last year in Springfield.

"We caught a lot of problems with the bill," said state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, an Antioch Republican. "Everybody had an excuse not to do it, and it got to be more controversial than it was worth."

Osmond's bill simply required schools to keep students home on Election Day. Chicago Democratic state Rep. Connie Howard's bill would have made the day a state holiday and given just about everyone the day off.

"I just thought it might encourage everyone to come out and vote if they didn't have anything else to do that day," she said. "But we heard about it from everyone who was complaining their businesses would suffer if they had the day off."

Another bill would have required teacher institute days be scheduled on election and primary dates before any other day, but it never made it out of committee, either.

One law that did get passed bans registered sex offenders from voting at schools. But everyone admits there's no one at the polling places making sure that law is obeyed.

"I don't think any of these bills made much of a difference to us," said Jean Donovan, the past president of the District 204 parents council. "We came in with everything we had and all these people to say this was the right decision and our board listened."

No school
These school districts are among those not holding classes on Election Day in November:

DuPage County
Queen Bee School District 16, Glendale Heights
Keeneyville School District 20, Hanover Park
West Chicago Elementary School District 33
Glen Ellyn School District 41
Lombard Elementary School District 44
Downers Grove Grade School District 58
Maercker District 60, Clarendon Hills
Darien Public Schools District 61
Gower School District 62, Willowbrook
Center Cass School District 66, Downers Grove
Woodridge School District 68
Glen Ellyn Elementary District 89
Indian Prairie Unit District 204
Elmhurst Unit District 205

Lake County
Beach Park School District 3
Emmons School District 33, Antioch
Waukegan Public School District 60
Kildeer Countryside School District 96, Buffalo Grove
North Shore School District 112, Highland Park
Round Lake Area School District 116

Kane County
East Aurora District 131

Cook County
Palatine Township Elementary District 15
Wheeling Township Elementary District 21
Prospect Heights School District 23
Arlington Heights School District 25
River Trails School District 26
Schaumburg Community Consolidated District 54
Mount Prospect School District 57
Des Plaines Community Consolidated District 62
East Maine School District 63

Monday, July 14, 2008

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Blog . . .

Note: Little Merry Sunshine has been temporarily hijacked by Betsey and Ross.

This is Ross . . . .

Betsey and I don't often get to speak, but we decided that we have something to say. Our mom isn't here right now, so we thought this would be a good time to write on her blog. But PLEASE keep this a secret . . . she might not be so happy we did this.

We just want to say "thank you" to everyone for their warm birthday wishes. And the fireworks were amazing. Do you know how cool it is to have an entire country declare a holiday and throw parades and fireworks and festivals just for you?

ROSS! What are you doing with my blog?

Mom, I'm speaking. You get to talk ALL the time. This WHOLE blog is about you.

ROSS GARDNER! We need to talk. You are in BIG trouble!

Just ignore her. As I was saying, Betsey and I appreciate the cards and notes and presents and parades and fireworks. I apologize for not issuing this "thank you" sooner, but do you know how difficult it is to wrestle Little Merry Sunshine from my Mom?

Ross, REALLY, we need to talk.

MOM. Give it a rest!

Anyway, the best part of our birthday was the presents. We LOVE the presents. Betsey's favorite is the feather boa. I've never seen her race and jump around for any of the feather toys. Usually, she lets me have them all to my self - I'm quite the gymnast. But Betsey really hogs this one! I haven't been able to play with it yet. That's ok because I love the new balls I can bat around on the floor and trip my mom with when she's wearing high heels or first thing in the morning. HAHAHAHAHA! You should see that!

So thank you for making our birthday, the 4th of July, extra special!

This is Betsey . . .

Thank you Mom for all the yummy birthday treats! I love the new feather boa. It's so girly, just like me! Finally a feather toy Ross doesn't like. Yeah!

Are you both finished? First, let me say, that although I do not appreciate that you hijacked my blog, I do think it's nice that you wanted to say thank you to everyone for their presents, cards, and birthday wishes. But I think there's something you need to know. I know I've always told you that the 4th of July parades, fireworks, and festivals were all in your honor. But they're not. The 4th of July is the day that the 13 American Colonies declared their independence from England in 1776.

Betsey & Ross in unison: WHAT? You lied to us?

Yes and I'm sorry. I just wanted your birthday to be special. And I wanted you to not be afraid of the fireworks as you were on your first birthday. But don't worry, Santa IS real.

Boy are we PISSED. We will get her though. She won't sleep tonight that's for sure.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm Moving!

Call the moving company! Start packing the boxes! Betsey, Ross and I are moving!

I know you are in shock. You had no idea this is coming. Heck, members of my family are probably unable to breath and mad as Hell that they're reading this kind of news here rather than being told by me in person. Well, deal with it. I have found Utopia and we are moving!

Are we moving to back to DC? Um, no. Florida? Nope. You'll never guess, so I'm just going to tell you.

Well, okay, honestly, I'm not exactly sure on a specific location yet, BUT I can tell you that it will be well within the borders of the 6th Congressional District in Illinois.

Why the 6th District? Well, because I learned today that in the 6th Congressional District, which is represented by Peter Roskam, "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." Wait, no. That's Lake Wobegon. But believe me, it's an easily made mistake.

Anyway, there are no problems in the 6th District! Really! They don't have record high gas or food prices, jobs haven't been lost, there is no mortgage crisis, property taxes are low, the environment is pristine and global warming hasn't effected them, schools are excellent, the roads are in great condition, there is no crime, they are not worried about terrorism, and everyone has excellent health insurance.

How do I know this? Because Rep. Roskam is a co-sponsor of the Military Honor and Decency Act which would "forbid the sale of racy magazines and movies on Army bases around the world." That means that Playboy and any movie showing with any nudity would be banned.

According to the Sun-Times, the US already prohibits the sale of hard-core porn on military bases on U.S. bases, but this new bill is far stricter in its definition of nudity: "human genitals, pubic area, anus, anal cleft, or any part of the female breast below a horizontal line across the top of the areola with less than an opaque covering but does not include the exposure of the cleavage of the female breast exhibited by a dress, blouse, bathing suit, or other apparel."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not actually a fan of porn. But the fact is we ask our soldiers, specifically the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, to serve is horrific conditions for months and months at a time. They obviously can't be intimate with their spouses or significant others while they are overseas. We all know how the government feels about gay sex in the military. And now Peter Roskam wants to take away the one release they have left.

Peter has done such an outstanding job preventing or eliminating all other concerns in his District that now he wants to remove soft-core porn from military troops around the world. I bet his constituents are so proud.

I hope Jill Morganthaler mops the floor with Roskam in the November election. With leadership like this, I wouldn't vote for Peter Roskam for dog catcher. He's clearly got too much time on his hands.

Oh, and no, we're not moving.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Pot of Gold

I had a skin care class scheduled for this evening in Woodstock, which is between 45 minutes and 1 hour away, depending on traffic, and in the boondocks. In fact, I wouldn't even really call it a Chicago suburb, although I guess it is.

I've been sick the last few days and despite the fact that I was feeling better today, by 4pm, my energy was zapped, my voice hoarse, and my head ready to explode. Add to that an entirely black sky at 4pm and to say I didn't really want to go would be an understatement. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed after slathering my body in Vicks VapoRub.

But I made a commitment to these six women and I went. I was going to pamper the women at Rebekah's House. Rebekah's House is a transitional home for women overcoming alcohol and drug dependency.

The women I met with tonight ranged in age from 18-50, I would guess. The bond they shared was obvious as they each helped one another. They were warm, genuine, funny, smart, loving, and grateful as they fell all over themselves thanking me for coming to spend time with them. And within seconds, I forgot I was still feeling crummy.

I didn't go there to sell anything and I didn't. My entire purpose tonight was to pamper the women at Rebekah's House. Yet somehow, the universe always makes sure I get paid.

On my way home, I was driving into the storm with the sun peeking through the black clouds behind me. And then I saw it in front of me. A semi-circle rainbow. I don't think I've ever seen an entire semi-circle rainbow before. The colors were so vivid - red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet. They were all there and they took my breath away. I turned onto Dick Tracy Lane where there was a huge field and got out of my car to get a better look and maybe take a picture with my cell phone.

And then a second rainbow appeared. About 10 feet above the first one, although I'm sure it was further away than 10 feet. The second rainbow wasn't quite as bright, but it was a complete semi-circle, just like the first.

I stood there against my car with the rain coming down on me captivated by this miracle of nature. Without a doubt, the semi-circle double rainbow I saw tonight was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

I was so grateful to have driven to Woodstock because the double rainbow wouldn't have been visible in Arlington Heights and even if I had seen a rainbow from home, I certainly wouldn't have seen the semi-circle of both rainbows.

At that moment, I thought about that old saying about finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I realized, as I stood there in the pouring rain, that my pot of gold was being able to enjoy the double rainbow and being able to help other women feel good about themselves tonight. And I was blessed.

I'm not sure how to move the video from my cell phone to my blog, so until I get that figured out, enjoy the picture below of a semi-circle double rainbow. Aside from the blue sky, mountains, greenery and the guy, this is exactly what it looked like. Oh, and my second rainbow was brighter.

And below is a picture from the Daily Herald of what a single rainbow looked like tonight in Libertyville. This is what I saw, only more intense and two of them.


It's ALWAYS a good day when it's shown with irrefutable evidence that I'm right about something.

What am I right about now? I'm so glad you asked.

Today, I'm right that my 1995 Honda Civic is still very popular and worth protecting. In fact, my car is the #1 most popular car with car thieves. And it's the 4th year in a row in the top 10.

I'm going to print out the CNN article and keep it in my car because my friends make fun of me a lot when I pull out my Club and use it to lock my steering wheel. Normally, I only do this in the City of Chicago, but I do it at other times too, like when I'm at the mall. But clearly I drive something worth protecting.

I know that the Club can be cut through, but that takes some extra effort on the part of a thief and by my logic, no one wants to risk getting caught trying to steal a car

So make fun of me all you want. But my car is paid for, my insurance is low, and have I mentioned that I get over 30 mpg? And clearly it's highly desirable.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I Should Have Partied Like It's 1999 . . .

Friday morning, I woke up with a wicked sore throat and could feel the congestion beginning, so I took it easy and drank lots of fluids believing that pumping myself full of vitamin C and water would quite literally flush out whatever bug was thinking it might attack my body. Saturday morning, I woke up with an even more sore throat and stuffiness in my head. Thinking I should take care of myself, I bagged the plans to go dancing and drinking at Sidetrack with Tim, Tony, and Ted. I even added an insanely hot and long shower to my regime of vitamin C and water.

Now, it's Wednesday and I have a full-fledged summer cold. I've gone through an entire box of Kleenex and have added DayQuil, Robitussin and some nasal spray, but have given up on the vitamin C. My head feels like it is about to explode. If it would, at least I'd be free of the snot that builds up faster than I can blow my nose.

You might be thinking, "Well, Jessica, quit bitching and go see your doctor." That's a nice idea, but the most she can do is give me an antibiotic and I don't like those. The truth is that this simply has to run its course. Other than the head that's currently holding more snot than brains and the sore throat, I feel fine. My energy is good and my attitude is better.

But, damn, I wish I'd gone out on Saturday night. If I'd known that taking care of myself wouldn't do any good, I would have partied like it's 1999.

UPDATE 4:25pm: This nasty cold hadn't really interfered with work until 30 minutes ago when I was on the phone with a new client and started hacking away uncontrollably. EXCELLENT impression. I'm sure she's excited about having me in her home tomorrow. Now I must go see what powerful drugs I have.

Monday, July 7, 2008

John McCain Hates Me (and Probably You Too)!

Over on Monkey Muck yesterday, I learned that John McCain hates me (and you too probably). Truthfully, that's ok. I'm not really his biggest fan and wasn't going to vote for him anyway.

But still, hate? John McCain HATES me? Really? Why does he feel the need to put so much of his energy into HATE? This is just my opinion, but maybe if he put as much energy into his campaign as he does into HATING me (and you too!), he might be doing a bit better. I'm just sayin'.

Just so I'm clear, not only is John McCain bad for my sex life, but he also hates me. Well, ok then.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I Want My Own Country Too . . .

Growing up, my dad used to tell people I was going to be the first woman President. I probably won't end up as the First Woman President of the United States, but I don't see any reason why I can't become the ruler of my own country.

As the man in this video shows, it's actually quite easy.

The first step seems to develop a name for my country. Next, I'm going to establish that I, and I alone, am the Supreme Ruler of my country. After that, our first National Holiday will be my birthday.

Sorry about the commercial. It's the Tribune's fault.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The BEST Birthday Card I Received!

As you know, my birthday was a few weeks ago. I think I've finally adjusted to now being in my "late 30's" rater than my "mid-30s".

On the Gardner side, I am the eldest of 7 grandchildren, but just barely. My cousin Andrea is two months younger than me and until Dave was born, we were it. We were doted on by everyone. It was wonderful.

All these years later, Andrea and I always exchange birthday presents and make a big deal out of each other's birthday. Usually, we're on-time about it too. Because she lives just outside of St. Louis, the celebration happens via the phone, email, and snail mail. This year, as a special treat, Andrea was in town in mid-May, about a month prior to my birthday, and we had a fantastic weekend! So when my birthday went unacknowledged, I really didn't think anything of it. My assumption was that this year, we jointly celebrated our birthdays together, albeit very early.

Imagine my surprise on Thursday when I reached into the mailbox and found a very thick card with her return address on it! Rather than thinking this this envelope was for me, I assumed it was a card for Betsey and Ross's 12th birthday yesterday. But it was for me! Hooray!

When I opened the envelope, I found a card with a picture of President Bush saying "The celebrification of a person's bornfulness is a rightitude we hold dear in this nation. Make it your bestest!" I laughed pretty hard.

And then I read Andrea's lengthy note, which I've reproduced here for you, and laughed so hard I almost had to change clothes . . .

I'm sorry I missed your birthday! I guess there's a first time for everything, right? Well, between hoping my house doesn't flood, 60-hour workweeks, school deadlines, moms who total cars, employees quitting left and right, late periods, barfing dogs, crabby husbands, the gas crisis, the rising cost of postage, and bad hair days, something was bound to slip between the cracks! If it makes you feel any better, and it should, I am celebrating your birthday this very minute by eating a birthday cake
sundae. Here's to you!

With happiness, guilt and regret . . . Happy late birthday!

Oh my God Andrea is so funny! That was the best birthday card I received!

I almost forgot . . . the reason the card was so thick was because she also sent me 5 scratch off lottery tickets. In the interest of full disclosure, I had never seen scratch-off lottery tickets before. Once I figured out how many squares to scratch off (answer = all), I discovered that none of my tickets were winners.

The Declaration of Independence

One of my favorite memories of living in Washington DC was heading down to the National Archives on the 4th of July for a reading of the Declaration of Independence by the Town Crier before the annual 4th of July Parade. My first summer, in 1993, Attorney General Janet Reno led the ceremonies.

Click here to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence on NPR from July 4, 2008.

The Founding Fathers are depicted in the painting Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Betsey & Ross!

I can't believe you're 12 today!

Before you, I had no idea what pets really bring to a person's life. Since I grew up without pets, my belief was that pets were just a burden. But you help me unwind when I'm stressed, you snuggle with me when I'm sad, and you find a way each day to make me laugh. And you are anything but a burden.

Thank you.

May your 13th year be even better than your 12th.

I love you.
Oh, and yes, of course, the fireworks and parades are for YOU!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

One Night Only!

While most people are prepping for the fireweorks, claiming dibs for the Arlington Heights parade route tomorrow, or delighting with anticipation over seeing the Little River Band, I will be at Arlington Park with Tim and Tony cheering Long John to victory in the Midwest Daschund Races.

It's going to be an exciting night, to say the least. Check out the press release from Morgan Terrace last week.

And, of course, you're all invited to join the excitment.

Long John Strives for Top Dog Status
Come out and cheer Team Long John to Victory!

West Loop, Chicago - June 28, 2008 - Weighing in at 10.5 pounds, and at 11 years old, classifying for a prime position in the Senior Sausage age category, Long John Dornacher will hit the speedway for top dog prize at next week's MidWest Dachshund Races. The races are on Thursday, July 3 at Arlington Park Race Track, beginning at 7 p.m.

"We really hope that he'll cut the mustard and more than ketchup with the crowd, but set the pace," said Team Long John manager, Anthony Dornacher.

Long John has been training, doing morning laps around the block in the West Loop.

"Now that Oprah is on summer hiatus, we don't have a gaggle of Oprah fans lining up to see the show. Their 'Ooing' and 'Ahhing' and 'Is that one of those wiener dogs?'-cooing just offered up a distraction," observed his coach, Timothy State.

Manager Anthony Dornacher is concerned about the fragility of Long John's aging spine. To counteract any discomfort, State has been icing the arch of his back, giving daily massages, and providing him fish oil capsules for lubrication.

"Everything's moving faster, and I suspect he's going to do well." said State. "I mean, this dog is all rib cage and abs, suspended under one supple spine, his bottle nose breaking the wind. I dare any Oprah fan to try to catch him. Sans their gold lamé heels."

Long John Overcomes Adversity

CUE: Jim McKay 'Wide World of Sports' Sympathy Music

Jim McKay: Having recently lost his lifetime companion, Sheleata Kanatuna, to a dreadful cancer known as feline fiber sarcoma, Long John succumbed to a downward spiral of doom -- depression. For weeks on end, he failed to get out of bed.

In March, he hit rock bottom, incessantly licking his paws while longing in the bed all day.

It was during this period that Manager Dornacher left town for for a business trip with his new job. For two weeks, he was in Macon, Georgia, with parachuting Elvi (the plural of Elvis) and Miss Georgia, where Dornacher grand opened an upscale shopping center. Irony aside, Long John was left at home to care for State.

When State forgot to eat, Long John was forced to take charge. With vivacious energy, Long John circled the block. He ran freely, ears flapping in the breeze. A liveliness not seen since before the days of Sheleata Kanatuna's sudden demise.

They say that the body heals through motion. They say that the body heals the mind. And so, through motion, he healed his mind, and his depression. Long John, he runs. He runs like the wind. To be free again.

But he had such a long way to go, to make it to the border of Mexico. So he runs like the wind.

And then injury.

While Manager Dornacher was schmoozing Georgian Beauty Queens, Long John's rear right foot was consumed by the building's entry door in a tragic morning walk accident. What was left was skin, flapping in the breeze. In a role reversal, State scooped up the hobbling wiener, whisking him away to the emergency vet where a team of medial experts patched his foot back together, ironically, by applying glue to his hoof.

CUE: Jim McKay 'Wide World of Sports' Rebound Music

Jim McKay: Long John worked through his inner depression through taking to the streets.

His hoof now healed, he's back, and he's stronger than ever. Next week, will he take the title in the Senior Sausage category? Will he achieve a dream only Sheleata could have hoped for?

# # #
About MidWest Dachshund Races
Arlington Park Race Track - Thursday, July 3 - Races start at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

I read the article below in this morning's Chicago Sun-Times. It's a bit ironic that this article appeared two days before Independence Day. As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Truthfully, I'm not even sure what could be done to stop this. It angers me that President Bush is doing this with just a few months to go in his administration. January 20th can't come soon enough.

The presumption of innocent until proven guilty has obviously gone by the wayside. And, of course, Bush wants the phone companies to have the power to spy on us without any ability for us to take action against them. Why?

FBI may get OK to investigate any American without evidence of crime
July 2, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is considering letting the FBI investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups.

Law enforcement officials say the proposed policy would help them do exactly what Congress demanded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: root out terrorists before they strike.

Although President Bush has disavowed targeting suspects based on their race or ethnicity, the new rules would allow the FBI to consider those factors among a number of traits that could trigger a national security investigation.

Currently, FBI agents need specific reasons — like evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated — to investigate U.S. citizens and legal residents. The new policy, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press, would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious.

Among the factors that could make someone subject of an investigation is travel to regions of the world known for terrorist activity, access to weapons or military training, along with the person’s race or ethnicity.

More than a half-dozen senior FBI, Justice Department and other U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the new policy agreed to discuss it only on condition of anonymity, either because they were not allowed to speak publicly or because the change is not yet final.

The change, which is expected later this summer, is part of an update of Justice Department policies known as the attorney general guidelines. They are being overhauled amid the FBI’s transition from a traditional crime-fighting agency to one whose top mission is to protect America from terrorist attacks.

‘‘We don’t know what we don’t know. And the object is to cut down on that,’’ said one FBI official who defended the plans.

Another official, while also defending the proposed guidelines, raised concerns about criticism during the presidential election year over what he called ‘‘the P word’’ — profiling.

If adopted, the guidelines would be put in place in the final months of a presidential administration that has been dogged by criticism that its counterterror programs trample privacy rights and civil liberties.

Critics say the presumption of innocence is lost in the proposal. The FBI will be allowed to begin investigations simply ‘‘by assuming that everyone’s a suspect, and then you weed out the innocent,’’ said Caroline Fredrickson of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey acknowledged the overhaul was under way in early June, saying the guidelines sought to ensure regulations for FBI terror investigations don’t conflict with ones governing criminal probes. He would not give any details.

‘‘It’s necessary to put in place regulations that will allow the FBI to transform itself ... into an intelligence gathering organization in addition to just a crime solving organization,’’ Mukasey told reporters.

The changes would allow FBI agents to ask open-ended questions about activities of Muslim- or Arab-Americans, or investigate them if their jobs and backgrounds match trends that analysts deem suspect.

FBI agents would not be allowed to eavesdrop on phone calls or dig deeply into personal data — such as the content of phone or e-mail records or bank statements — until a full investigation was opened.

The guidelines focus on the FBI’s domestic operations and run about 40 pages long, several officials said. They do not specifically spell out what traits the FBI should use in building profiles.

One senior Justice Department official said agents have been allowed since 2003 to build ‘‘threat assessments’’ of Americans based on public records and information from informants. Such assessments could be used to open a preliminary investigation, the official said.

However, another official said the 2003 authorities are limited, tightly monitored by FBI headquarters in Washington and, overall, confusing to agents about how or when they can be used.

Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the guidelines are part of a ‘‘harmonizing’’ process that will not give the FBI any more authority than it already has. He and two other senior Justice officials would not deny the changes as they were described to AP by others familiar with the guidelines.

‘‘Since we are still in the process of drafting the guidelines, we are unable to comment any further about timing or the specific outcome of the review,’’ Roehrkasse said in a statement. ‘‘It is important to note, however, that nothing in the attorney general’s guidelines can authorize what is prohibited by any statute or by the Constitution.’’

Although the guidelines do not require congressional approval, House members recently sought to limit such profiling by rejecting an $11 million request for the FBI’s security assessment center.

Lawmakers wrote it that was unclear how the FBI could compile suspect profiles ‘‘in such a way as to avoid needless intrusions into the privacy of innocent citizens’’ and without wasting time and money chasing down false leads.

The denial of funding could limit the FBI’s use of profiles, or ‘‘predictive models and patterns of behavior’’ as the government prefers to describe the data-mining results, but would not change the guidelines authorizing them. The guidelines would remain in effect until a new attorney general decided to change them.

Courts across the country have overturned criminal convictions when defendants showed they were targeted based on race. Racial profiling generally is considered a civil rights violation, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft condemned it in March 2001 as an ‘‘unconstitutional deprivation of equal protection under our Constitution.’’

President Bush also has condemned racial profiling as ‘‘wrong in America’’ and in a December 2001 interview had harsh words for an airline that refused to let one of his Secret Service agents board a commercial flight. The agent was Arab-American. ‘‘If he was treated that way because of his ethnicity, that will make me madder than heck,’’ Bush said.

Immediately after 9/11, hundreds of Muslims and Arabs were detained, deported and monitored as the government urgently sought information that could prevent another attack. Despite efforts to repair and nurture relationships with those groups, Muslim- and Arab-Americans still complain of being singled out by federal security practices.

Martin Redish, a constitutional and civil rights scholar at Northwestern University School of Law, said courts are likely to give the FBI a lot of leeway in deciding how to open national security investigations.

‘‘But it’s a very fine line to be drawn when the basis of the investigation is dominated by the ethnic background of the subject,’’ Redish said. ‘‘And when the investigation results in harassment, you have a serious constitutional concern.’’ Citing Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh — two white Americans — the ACLU’s Fredrickson said: ‘‘Profiling has sent us in the wrong direction. ... I thought we learned our lesson in that regard.’’