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Showing posts from November, 2015

Abortion, colleges, Islam...the limits of free speech

I'm a big fan of the 1st Amendment, generally. I'm anti-censorship...especially when it comes to books in schools. And I've always fancied myself a Voltaire admirer in the vein of "I disagree but will defend to the death your right to say it" (even though Voltaire never actually said that). You know what Voltaire did actually say? "Use, but do not abuse."

Americans sometimes operate under the mistaken idea that we have absolute free speech. But that's not true. You can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater. You cannot use fighting words. You can't use obscenity. You can't make false statements. You can't incite violence. You can't use speech owned by others. Commercial speech is less protected.

There's actually a complicated legal network of exceptions to the entire 1st Amendment. You can't have prayer in school. You don't have a right to assemble on private property. There are guidelines. And we certainly don&…

What the Transportation Commission does--and doesn't--do

I would never want to deny the God-given right of an Oak Parker to complain. It's what we do. My complaining is also what got me involved in local government. It's how I first met Village Trustees. It's why I first attended meetings. And those meetings are what made me want to get involved. I now serve as a volunteer on the 7-person Transportation Commission.

As I read some of the commentary over at our local paper this morning, however, I felt like our role needs some clarification...especially as it relates to the high school pool controversy.

The Transportation Commission is an advisory body who serves at the pleasure of the Village Board. We make recommendations, but ultimately it is your elected officials who will vote on policy. We're simply there to review and be active citizens who give thoughtful discussion during the (yes, usually long) process of getting anything done. Each year we create a Work Plan--with approval--that sets our agenda for the next year. We…

Happy Thanksgiving

As I took my daughter to school in the rain just now, was thinking about all the debate going on about the Syrian refugees. They want the same things for their kids that I want for mine.

To go to school.

Someplace dry and safe.

To be left alone to live in peace how they choose.

They're not terrorists. At one point in time, somebody thought all our ancestors were unsafe, dirty, violent, and would undermine the nation...Irish, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Jews, Catholics, former slaves. Now it's Mexicans and Syrians and anybody who wears a hijab.

Do you know what made the Pilgrims get in a tiny 100 x 25 ft boat and (illegally) cross the Atlantic to face nearly certain death? It was illegal to not attend the Church of England & they faced execution and prison if they stayed.

Sound familiar? Happy Thanksgiving.

"A mighty woman with a torch."

From the time Hitler came to power in the 1930's to the defeat of the Nazis in 1945, over 300,000 Jews emigrated from Germany. Many Americans don't know our own history that in 1939 a ship with over 900 Jewish refugees on it was forced to return to Europe where 254 of the passengers would eventually be killed in the Holocaust. When Germany annexed Austria and began pogroms during 1938, the United States had in place strict quotas on Jewish refugees which fell far short of the actual number seeking refuge. 125,000 applicants lined up for 27,000 visas. Even as reports of mass crimes against humanity reached the US in the 1940's, America imposed a strict limit on immigration due to national security concerns.

We've seen this crisis before. And American isolationism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant policies were already one of our more shameful pieces of the past. Now it's 2015 and certain members of the Republican Party in the US are talking about rounding up 11 millio…

GMOs are like cars

I don't think people who support GMOs are bad people, or wrong, though I do think they can be fairly stubborn and close-minded. They actually make some good arguments. And I would hope a moderate, reasonable person isn't hoping for the eventual elimination of GMOs altogether. Certainly not the position I take. I see room in our future for GMO crops. But I do think that the extreme end of the pro-GMO spectrum is fairly cynical.

It's not the only group of very vocal supporters who come across as short-sighted though. If you're a cycling advocate, you know who I'm about to talk about...the car people. Many of them are anti-bike or bike-skeptical. Many of them just see the road--happily--as primarily being about cars. It's not the only comparison between GMOs and automobiles that works well.

Cars are wonderful things. They allow us to wake up early, drive 500 miles on superhighways, and be to our destination by lunch. They're safer than they used to be--for oth…

A brief history of industrial agriculture

If you want to know about the current debate over the future of the US food system, I suggest starting with two pieces of information taken from the US Census.

--Between 1900 and 2000, the US population grew increasingly metropolitan each decade. From 28% urban in 1910 to 80% urban in 2000. The suburbs account for the majority of this metro growth accounting for half the US population.

--In 1900, the population density per square mile in the US was 21.5 people. By 2000, it was 79.6 people per square mile.

Combined with the economic pressure to scale up ("get big or get out"), US farms are producing more food with fewer farmers for a growing urban consumer demand and face the loss of prime farmland around major metro areas. Agricultural areas providing, say, nearby dairies for Chicago are now sprawling bedroom communities.

In short, the US farming population is more likely to be older and focused on large-scale production of commodity crops to be sold with a network of animal…

Tale as old as time...

One of my earliest memories is theatrical. I remember my grandmother taking me to a puppet show at the local library--was it Snow White?--and the room was packed. I craned my head over the tops of the front rows to see and I don't recall anything else other than the stage that had been setup and the feeling of "special" that comes from seeing a performance and having someone you love show it to you for the first time. The Mama and I frequently comment that both of us come from theatre backgrounds and it's one of the things we've left behind as parents that we'd like to return to when we grow old. We've seen only a handful of plays together when time allows because we'd both already left that phase of our lives when we met. It's like each of us has this huge, untapped creative streak neither of us has experienced about the other.

Most people know I'm a huge supporter of science and technology education for young children. But our family is also…

The Blue Wall

One of my most popular posts over the last 30 days has been my post on Hillary Clinton from September. Nothing has really changed factually from that, but the narrative has certainly changed. We've spent October watching an increasingly ridiculous Republican sideshow--getting more ridiculous even as I write over Ben Carson--and Hillary sat through double-digit hours of grilling in front of the Benghazi Committee and came out smelling like roses with soaring polls. She had a Democratic debate performance that pretty much iced Bernie Sanders out of any hope for gaining on her. (We'll leave aside, politically, the Gov race in Kentucky which really wasn't that earth-shattering even if tons of ink is being spilled on doesn't say that much about 2016 since KY is a deep red state anyway.)

Since much of what I explained in the "3 dumb reasons people think Hillary is in trouble" post was just basic stuff to keep in mind going forward, I wanted to give my one-y…

To share or not to share?

I've never been one of those parents who jumped on the "privacy" bandwagon screaming about how technology is gathering too much personal data about our children or how we should keep photos of them offline until they're old enough to self-post them. (But you'll notice that you see no/few family pics here. We save the sharing for extended family and friends.) You'll also find no reserved social media spots here for my kids. I'm not preserving their future handles as a placeholder for them one day taking over their individual online personalities. That's a bit too "reserve your cemetery spot" creepy for my tastes.

I have, however, noticed a few parents starting to write some thoughtful lines--not usually a full treatment, just an aside that comes up in a different topic--about how the older their kids get the more they hold back in sharing online. For sanity, security, convenience. I don't think it's a "privacy" thing per se.…

Building a relationship at the bike shop

I'm trying to remember if I fully blogged the details of my string of bike mishaps over the summer. It's relevant to a discussion of good bike shop service. Somewhere between Tour de Pepin and the Chicago Triathlon, I had a series of broken parts, flat tires, and half-finished ended in a low speed crash. It was frustrating. And one of the broken parts was the year-old Look clipless pedals--a small, snapped piece of metal. In retrospect, I should have sent those in under warranty. But it was the middle of summer and I wanted to get back to riding as soon as possible. Sending pedals in to the manufacturer would have meant lost saddle time.

So, instead, I bought whatever was hanging on the shelves at the store that matched my cleats. In this case, a very cheap pair of plastic Look Keo Flex. In some ways, I knew what I was getting into. I can't imagine why a pedal company would make plastic pedals. These are low-tension and aimed at beginners. Credit to Look, they …