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Showing posts from May, 2015

What should we call Food System Reform?

I've had several discussions lately with critics of food system reform that have recurring themes.

1) "Let's quit focusing on GMO vs organic because there are bigger issues." I actually agree somewhat with that statement though not going where they usually want the discussion to go. The controversy over GMO has become a symbol of the larger problems in the food system not because there's anything so horribly wrong with GMOs. And most moderates in the debate will tell you that organic is not the end goal per se. Organic is simply the best all-around system at the moment. But it has shortcomings. GMO are simply a convenient stand-in for the ethical problems of industrialized, modern food production. By no means should they be the focus. They're just easy to target. And it's very difficult to identify a totality of what we should be aiming for...much easier to identify what we should NOT be aiming for.

2) One of the things I've written about previously i…

How to really fix the "Keep Right Except To Pass" problem

I've read several items lately--including news from Indiana where they just passed a new Keep Right law--that makes it sound like one of the huge problems facing our nation's highways is people in the left lane. Clogging our interstates with slow vehicles. Slowing down law-abiding drivers. I suspect that this isn't actually the case.

But first, a couple of explanations...
1.) It should be obvious, but if you're in the left lane on a divided highway going less than the speed limit with room in the right lane, you're a lane blocker. You're wrong. Move over.

2.) Speed limits exist for a reason. Don't speed and whine. Yes, if you're going 5 mph over you're unlikely to be pulled over and given a ticket for speeding. What about 10 mph over? More of a gray area. But is it really necessary to do 85 in a 65 mph zone? If you get the book thrown at you for this kind of dangerous driving, don't complain. You deserve it. Please obey posted speed limits!

3.) …

An awesome Chicagoland museum you've never heard of...

With the rain on Memorial Day, our goal was to find something cheap, indoors, fun for the kids, and not horribly crowded. We're actually pretty good as a family at finding free, obscure museums. Call it a hobby. Sometimes I'm afraid to even mention them because they're often hidden gems that we like to have all to ourselves. But this one was so impressive that I'm highlighting it.

It's called the Raupp Museum and it's located...well...in the middle of a suburban housing subdivision. The land it sits on was donated with the stipulation that it be turned into either a library or museum so the Buffalo Grove (northwest suburbs) Park District runs it. The galleries, especially the Main Gallery, are top notch for such a small, local museum. There's a mix of low-tech hands-on with artifacts and displays telling the--weird, fascinating, unique?--history of Buffalo Grove. (I think our village is more interesting with an even better story and here's to hoping our…

Maggie Daley Park review

"Review" sounds so harsh, maybe. But I didn't want to use "report" because that sounds more like a simple account of our visit. Which this post is not. I don't want to be overly critical of this amazing place. But I also want to paint a realistic portrait of what your family is in for if you go. It's a mixed bag, but in the balance I'd say it's a fantastic addition to Chicago. Definitely give it a try...just read this first.

The Basics:
Maggie Daley Park is the new recreation area to the east of Millennium Park with Randolph to the north, Columbus to the west, Monroe to the south, and Lake Shore Drive to the east. This past fall, parts of the park opened for ice skating with a meandering ribbon. There's a rock-climbing wall, playground, tennis courts, picnic tables, etc.. For the purpose of our time there on Friday, this review is going to mostly be about the large playground in the southeast corner. It's a major draw and very crowded as…

The evolution of Disney World vacation planning

When I was last at Walt Disney World in the early 2000's, it was a completely different experience than today. If it's been a decade since you were there and you're a parent planning a first visit with the kids, you're going to want to pay attention. Gone are the days when you could walk up to a favorite restaurant without a dining reservation and hope for an open table. Leaving aside third parties even (those have exploded), Disney's own online experience has changed your day in the parks due to the ability to reserve Fastpass for rides in advance. (Or even switch them on the fly depending on lines.) Recent promotions like Free Dining in the fall have created Black Friday type frenzy where vacationers are on hold for hours with travel agents hoping to score a free food plan. And, frankly, there's a lot more to do...partly due to those Fastpasses. More entertainment, more character interaction, more opportunities to book special tours or extras like dessert whi…

South Blvd streetscape

First, a disclaimer...I speak for myself on this blog. Obviously. My views are my own and I do not in any way speak for anyone else

When I first moved to Oak Park, Marion Street was still a pedestrian mall. With plenty of empty storefronts at that. I remember when the cheese market was across the L tracks where the electronic cigarette store is now. So there's no denying that the streetscape project that opened Marion Street back up to auto traffic has had a huge impact. It's now a crowded, bustling corridor that makes a great backdrop to community events and business is thriving. Would I have used bricks? No, they're horrible to ride a bike on. Would I have suggested Marion be made a one-way street because two-way traffic doesn't quite fit? Yes. It's not perfect but certainly better than what was there. The same can be said of the Phase II project that streetscaped South Marion on the other side of the L.

And the same can be said of what was presented to us last…

Fishing with the Chicago Dads Group

About the last place you'd expect to catch my family on a Saturday morning is...fishing. I think the last time I had fishing gear in my hand was when I was about the same age my kids are now. My grandfather took me a few times. He had a small boat, bought me my first pole and tackle box, and I have recollections of the old Styrofoam cooler he used. You'd think that in all the years I was a Boy Scout, I'd have gotten some fishing experience. I remember camping, sledding, shooting, horseback riding, canoes, archery--no fishing. Ever.

One of the dads in the group was nice enough to sponsor the day...complete with pizza for lunch afterwards at a nearby restaurant. They had plenty of extra poles to use and provided bait in the form of live worms and bits of hotdog when we ran out of those. The event took place at the Busse Reservoir. For those unfamiliar, Busse Woods is a 3,558 acre forest preserve to the northwest of O'Hare airport. In addition to the picnic areas and 10 m…

A philosophy of use

My phone alarm was set for 5am but our radio goes off at 4:30am everyday. Sometimes I sleep right through it as background noise, but this morning I was listening to the memorials to B.B. King. I turned the phone reminder off and looked out the window to check the weather--I always have an idea beforehand depending on whether the birds are singing. Today they are, but the alley is damp from the overnight rain. I'm weighing in my head if I should try to ride or not. There aren't any huge flood puddles, but certainly not the ideal conditions due to dark clouds overhead. The radar is mostly clear and it's only a 20% chance of showers. So I get my bike shorts and jacket on. 
We often have conversations in our house about our mutual enjoyment of worn items. A fray, a scuff, a scratch, a slight dent. It means something has been loved, played with, enjoyed. We're not the kind of people who have nice things that go on shelves. Dirt from being out in the world is better than du…

Hillary and the Nones

Despite something like 20 Republicans in the race and several Democrats (including Hillary Clinton announcing), I haven't officially written anything in-depth about the 2016 Presidential contest yet. Consider this political geek post #1. Although what prompted me to write it was less the current political landscape and more the cultural landscape. This week, Pew released a fascinating new religious identity poll that's being argued over in a variety of circles. The short version is that the Nones and non-Christians are up and there are fewer Christians.

As I wrote about on the blog during the oral arguments for gay marriage at the Supreme Court, the shifts in American ideology over my lifetime are amazing. As a person in my 30's who grew up during the Clinton years, the growth of liberalism to counter the conservative movement has been a welcome surprise. The first Presidential election I could vote in was Bush v. Gore, quickly followed by 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq...I&#…

XTERRA Vortex wetsuit review

By the time my new 2015 XTERRA wetsuit arrived over the weekend, it had been a bit of an ordeal. They're renown in triathlon circles for having the very generous 30 day test period for returns. You can swim in it (even in the pool--though certain warnings apply to that idea) and either return it or exchange it for a different size. Plus, they're a sponsor of my triathlon club--in addition to frequent sales, I have an ongoing, significant discount to use. 
So I'd had my eye on prices for awhile, but finally jumped when I saw a slightly-used Vortex for just a bit over $100. I already swim in a sleeveless, older Profile Design. It just seemed like a good opportunity to get a full sleeve suit to go along with that one. Almost all of my open water swimming would either be in Lake Michigan--cold all the time--or during a fall race where the sleeves would be appreciated. 
The next morning, I got a phone call from XTERRA...somehow between the time I purchased and opening for busin…

Kindergarten transition

Today we have Kindergarten Open House. Which is the chance for incoming students to visit their school for the first time. All the teachers will be there--even though we won't find out who our son has until August--along with support staff like librarians, the gym teachers, etc.. There will even be school spirit clothing on sale along with members of the PTO available to answer questions. Our school happens to be a bit of Holy Grail within our school district (families actually move to be within our boundary) because of the possibility of getting a lottery spot in our Spanish Immersion program. It's a multi-year commitment to spending half-days using Spanish-only. All students get some Spanish, however, so even if we're not one of the immersion classes he'll still get some instruction.

But keep in mind today is only one step of a long process. Yesterday it was registration.

The school district has a whole list of required documents...
Requirements for Registration Studen…

Bad arguments for GMOs

This article popped up in my newsfeed this morning. It's from National Geographic and titled, "Can This Scientist Unite Genetic Engineers and Organic Farmers." We'll ignore, for a second, that the very title/idea itself is silly because organic farming--by definition--cannot include genetically modified anything. So it's hard to imagine some sort of middle ground. Not that there aren't voices in the food/ag debate trying. A full toolbox is not necessarily a bad thing, I'll allow. I think that's what the article is trying to get at is that modern farming is on a continuum where we shouldn't be at the fundamentalist extreme of either end. Fair enough. Neither technique has all the answers, true. Especially in organic circles these days the talk is about more holistic systems, soil regeneration, and being less loyal to "organic" and more loyal to the bigger picture of environmental health for sustainability.

But back on topic. The piece is …