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theJID blog

Creative ideas on lots of subjects

By James I Dahle | Home Owner in Elmhurst, IL
  • Behind the law-making political door

    Posted Under: General Area in Illinois, Quality of Life in Illinois, Market Conditions in Illinois  |  March 22, 2012 3:35 PM  |  1,128 views  |  No comments
    Behind the political door: Telling lies with the truth.

    We all should worry about who gets elected.
    They make the rules that control our lives,
    the rules that raise our taxes, the rules that
    control our housing industry.

    Even though I believe you are an intelligent person,
    maybe you shouldn't be allowed in here, because
    you probably aren't ready to know this much
    about professional politics.

    Let's quickly talk about the Political game:
    Money, right?

    And what is the money used for?
    Campaigning, right?

    And who GETS the campaigning money?
    Where it is spent?
    Media, right?

    Mostly TV and newspapers.

    Okay - you are ready for question #1.
    1) What do you believe is
    the absolutely worst thing that can happen
    to any candidate early in a primary? Answer:
    To be WAY out in FRONT in all the polls.
    In FRONT!

    Why? His fundraising money dries up.
    Being WAY BEHIND is bad also, of course -
    but that's probably the second worse thing -
    although nobody wants to back a loser -
    some loyal followers and family members
    might still send a trickle of money to help.
    Sort of a pity thing.

    Now think about it:
    Why would anybody fund a clear winner,
    no matter how much you like him. Very few would.
    You would believe he doesn't NEED your money.

    Although many people do like to
    identify with a winner, whether it's
    a sports team or a candidate, because
    it makes them feel like they are the winners, also,
    living in that shadow.

    The big contributions will only come
    to help a "close" candidate become the "leading" candidate.

    But everybody just gives up on wanting to
    fund a clear "loser" because it also
    makes the contributor feel like a loser.

    You know that.

    If you really believe your favorite candidate
    will lose, you will not contribute money.
    It's like throwing away your money.

    Yes, I'm going rather slow here,
    but you'll appreciate where we end up.

    Now consider this: And if there is a clear front-runner,
    there will be no big campaign money, so
    there will be no big TV and print media spending.

    No need.

    Can you see where we are? Think about TV and print media.
    We've just said the networks and publications
    will get NO money for political ads
    in a run-away election! Elections are incredibly profitable for media.

    It's better than Christmas. It's the one time
    every four years when they make the most money,
    and also - the most money is available.

    Yet if there is only one clear possible winner -
    there will be no ads, or very few ads.

    No landslide of income for a candidate -
    to fight with another candidate and to try to sway your vote.

    No need - so no money.

    The candidate does his fighting on TV and in print -
    with expensive TV and print ads,
    so media ends up with almost all the money.

    The candidates also give money to
    the survey reporting services, and they spend money
    on producing their campaign ads.

    Also, to a much smaller degree,
    if no success is in fund raising,
    there is no money for the campaign helpers.

    No money for the campaign office rents.
    No money for signs (and no need for signs).

    Lots of 'jobs' lost.

    But now think about an area that we rarely think about:
    How do we KNOW who is ahead?

    Who tells YOU how the candidates are doing?
    The same media that broadcasts survey results
    is the media that profits from the fund raising.

    Where do the survey facts that they broadcast come from?

    There are many independent survey companies.
    The ONLY way a survey company gets paid
    is from selling the results of their surveys
    to the candidate or the media.

    And mostly the media.

    Pretend you own a TV network
    and the XYZ Survey Company walks into your office
    to sell you their latest survey.

    Their survey proves one candidate is WAY ahead,
    and the other candidates do not stand
    even a small chance of winning.

    How much would you pay so you can broadcast
    this truthful survey?

    Probably nothing, you won't buy the survey.
    The survey company gets NOTHING for their work.

    Because this is not the news
    you want to report. It will kill
    the candidate's fund raising.

    It would halt the candidate's growing campaign fund,
    and that would stop the candidates' spending.

    Suppose you (still in the role of TV executive)
    already knew this bad survey was true
    from PREVIOUS surveys you broadcast.

    Again, you won't buy the results of the survey.
    Old, unexciting news. but worse: no contest
    between the candidates!

    It is clear you'd instruct the survey company
    not to come back unless the results were more "useful".

    Don't lie, but come back with
    the "truth" you want to hear.
    And if the survey company asks enough questions
    of enough little groups of people
    in enough different little places,
    eventually, the results can be anything that
    you want them to be.
    The wording of questions can also control the answers.

    And they can discard the surveys that
    don't prove what you want to prove.

    It's a truthful survey. It's an honest survey.
    But it is not a TYPICAL survey of typical people.

    If a survey company can show you a survey where
    all the candidates are running close - GREAT!
    You pay for THAT survey! Exactly what you wanted!
    The survey company knows this.
    But how can that be made to look like the truth?
    Because the survey company found a group
    of 20 people in Dubuque, Iowa, who finally gave you
    the 'honest' results you wanted, possibly because
    one couple was related to one of the
    lesser known candidates, another couple
    went to school with another candidate, etc.

    And "35% are for caqndidate A,
    35% are for candidate B,
    and 30% are for candidate C"

    The reasons don't matter - the unusual (and not typical)
    result is great for the survey company -
    and the candidates - and the broadcast media -
    and the printers - and the campaign workers.

    Everybody wins.
    Maybe not you, but nobody says you HAVE TO donate money.
    You freely donate because of the excitement
    of getting YOUR candidate to win.

    How does broadcast media talk about
    that one signle tiny
    Dubuque survey of 20 people when it's broadcast?

    Simple truth: "Survey results in the midwestern states
    show this is a very close race!"

    Although it's only 20 people who were surveyed,
    the results are what everybody wants.

    And the survey company finally sells a survey.
    And each candidate gets lots of money.
    And the candidates give that money to the broadcasters.

    You do understand where you find out
    how the candidates are doing?

    The media.

    Do you understand who gets
    giant profits from the "right" news?

    The media.

    But if they tell you there is one clear winner -
    one clear leader way ahead of the others,
    the fantastic income for TV and Print Media stops.
    Nobody sends money to support "their" candidate.

    So we need a tight race for everybody
    to get big contributions. Besides surveys,
    there is another way to make
    the race a close race - professionals have their workers
    vote for the other guy in a survey.
    If you are a professional campaign worker,
    you may be asked to vote for the opponent!

    Bring up his numbers, get him better results
    so YOU get more money - more contributions!

    At least you may be asked to say
    you favor the opponent in written or phone surveys
    to help his statistics.

    If you are a Democrat, you may be told
    to cross over and pick a weak Republican candidate
    to make the race look closer!

    it will raise more "panic" money for you!

    It is amusing to hear people say
    they don't vote in the primaries and will wait
    until the 'real' elections.

    What makes that funny is the politicians -
    who NEVER skip a primary -
    then elect THEIR favorites - period.

    The open voting selection process is
    actually then over by the time
    YOU get to the polls in the fall.

    Your choices have been narrowed by
    the Political Party professional biggies.

    Your selections - your choices - have actually
    been mostly eliminated. The "rebels" didn't make it.

    The loyalists are the only names on the fall ballot.
    But remember - it's about money.

    The closer the outcome for all candidates LOOKS, the better.

    You'll also contribute more money "so MY candidate can win!"
    "He's so close! He needs more of my help!"
    Instead of "my candidate doesn't stand a chance!"

    And where did you find out if you should give more money?

    The Media.
     
    The broadcast of Surveys!
    As published by those who will eventually
    end up with your money!

    Remember who is telling you who is ahead:
    the people who end up with your campaign money -
    the broadcast media!

    Now go back outside and close that door behind you.
    Keep this between you and me.
  • Mother ComEd loves you.

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in 60126, Tech Tips in 60126, Going Green in 60126  |  May 8, 2011 5:39 PM  |  1,625 views  |  No comments
    In Illinois, the new thing is headed our way -
    the electric "Smart Meters"

    The benefit being sold by ComEd is that
    Smart Meters will replace your electric meter,
    and then, God forbid, if you have a power outage,
    ComEd can almost instantly discover
    you are without power,
    and leap to your rescue.

    Any "downside?"
    It may cost you about $3 a month.
    Not so bad.

    So - it is obvious,

    Mother ComEd loves you and wants to
    keep you warm or cool or well lit.
    Without a power outage.

    There used to be in Chicago
    a news-gathering business
    under the heading of "City News Bureau"
    and if you had NO experience,
    maybe just coming out of writing school,
    they would still hire you.

    Thus - MANY professional writers began at the City News Bureau.

    They were famous for ONE SIGN that hung in their newsroom:

    "If your mother says she LOVES YOU, . . . check it out.


    WIth that in mind, I wanted to be sure Mom ComEd loved me.

    As I explored "Mom's" generous interest in me,
    lots of things appeared.

    The most understated of them was
    the Smart Meter ITSELF!

    The Smart Meter doesn't just alert Mom
    about a power outage.

    It also allows ME to see exactly
    how much electricity I am using.
    Not just monthly - but hourly,
    or maybe even by the MINUTE -
    and it allows me to see
    what happens if I turn off stuff.
    COSTS! RATES! WOW!

    WOW.

    And the benefit? The Smart Meters even show you
    what you are saving in MONEY,
    What you paid last year,
    last month, yesterday - WOW!

    As I sat amazed by the Smart Meter -
    I wondered why mom didn't tell me this great news?

    So I continued to "check it out" -

    The silence about those wonderful features fasinated me.

    It seems Bolder, Colorado also had used
    Smart Meters! We are not the first.

    That made me feel better. You too?

    But as I continued to "check it out" -
    in Bolder, according to a TV special,
    Bolder's cost to homeowners TRIPLED!

    I no longer felt better.

    How 'bout you?

    Let me give you a mixture of reporting and
    guessing and inventing facts, here:

    I suspect Bolder's electric supplier "Mom" said
    "we can supply only this much power,
    but during peak times,
    industry and residents use too much -

    . . . so either we have to build expensive
    new power generating equipment,

    or our residents have to cut back on useage
    during peak times and use various appliances
    when the demand isn't so great."

    And so the local government got involved,
    to the delight of their electric Mom.

    "Here's an idea" somebody said -

    "Let's charge MORE for power at peak times,
    and people will see they can save money by switching to
    using big power-draining items at less busy times.

    "AND OUR NEW SMART METERS
    will let our beloved citizens see
    the advantage of not using power during peak times
    and how much they'll save during less busy times!"

    Air conditioners, dish washers, clothes dryers, etc.
    SAVE MONEY!

    But - -  Want to wash clothes at midnight?
    Do the dishes at 8 in the morning?
    Turn down the air conditioner until after 10PM?

    I don't know the actual times 
    nor when the rates switched, but guessing,
    we can be reasonably sure that when we use things,
    others are using those same things.

    So the electric company was able to raise rates,
    - - - but just for "busy time use" only.

    Are you with me here so far?
    Seems reasonable so far? You on-board?

    The drooling electric "mom" knew human behavior.

    People are slow to change if they change at all.

    It sounds so good - but everybody thought
    "let my neighbor do it.
    I have habits, and I like my habits -
    which is why they have become habits."

    After the new higher rates for peak times went into effect,
    one dramatic thing changed.

    Prices.

    Not consumer's behavior during less used times.

    So - NOW what to do? What can we DO?

    The electric company and their
    new "partner" - government regulators,
    raised prices MORE during peak times,

    The excuse?
    . . . so nobody would have to pay for those
    new electric generators to produce more electricity.

    And afterall, everybody can see on the Smart Meters
    how much they are paying! Or saving.

    THAT should make them change their habits!
    Even higher rates for peak times.

    What happened?

    The result?
    Nothing except everybody's prices went up again.
    Change is for the other guy.

    Now come back with me from Colorado and
    let's look at our local Illinois Moma ComEd.

    The Smart Meter has so many features.

    Wonderful features to give information,
    but Mom didn't even mention them
    as they now push only to have
    the "power outage" feature sell
    the Smart Meter to Illinois.

    No mention of how smart we can be
    on useage.

    Just the Smart Meter's "power outage"monitoring -

    Seemed to me like they were saying
    "here kitty kitty kitty"
    and then "BANG! Got ya!"

    Thinking more - consider this:

    There are OTHER "dangers" in
    YOU being able to monitor
    your electric usage from home, but also from 
    the office, or even the car with a smart phone,

    Can you think of them?

    How about this:
    A burglar with a basic knowledge of computing,
    who sees you have nothing electrical going on -
    or that LAST WEEK you ran this and that,
    but this week you didn't.

    You are not home!

    YOU ARE ON VACATION! - - - time to break in.

    This next statement will probalby surprise you:

    I am FOR using the Smart Meters,

    But we need to educate ourselves,
    we need to educate our neighbors,
    and put in a few safeguards.

    The result is we actually can save energy,
    saving consumpson of fuels, reducing polution,
    and saving money.

    The cost? Change.

    We have to change.

    Up to it? Set an example, (so I don't have to. haha)
    And maybe a nasty period of higher prices
    will create lower prices.

    There are law suits against the power companies in some areas,
    which I sustect are for promising saving and not delivering.

    Also - security for Smart Meters seems badly needed.

    But being aware of where others ran into trouble,
    we can set up rules and monitors and education.

    Then Mother Nature, Mother Earth,
    and future generations will praise you.
    As you change your habits, you develop new habits.
    and they become your habits.

    And the bonus:
    several mothers will love you.


  • If you fix it, will you get it back?

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Chicago  |  January 17, 2011 2:21 PM  |  1,427 views  |  No comments

    We professional Realtors get a magazine
    titled "Realtor" that gives us
    lots of great information.

    In the January issue is an article about
    remodeling costs and how much
    you can expect to get back.

    A steel entry door is the only item
    that I saw where you might get ALL your money
    back when you sell. Everything else seemed
    to give you back about half to 3/4 of what you paid
    for the construction.

    So - you're ready to stop reading, eh?

    But some things will help you sell your home,
    as apposed to not getting anybody to even look
    at your house.

    Example - an awful garage door might cost you
    $1,300 to replace, and you will only get back on average
    about $1,000 of that - but consider the value of having
    buyers stop and walk through your house,
    rather than just drive by.

    Realtor magazine also lists replacing SIDING -
    a big deal and big cost of about $14,000,
    and they suggest you'll only recoup about $10,000.
    But imagine the impression buyers will feel
    when they notice your sparkling clean exterior.

    Get back to me if you are wondering about
    any other specific improvement - there's a list
    of about three dozen, and everything from
    an attic bedroom, a deck, another bathroom,
    major kitchen re-do, or even windows.

    They give very rough estimates, but I admit
    I wouldn't know what to even guess.

    This is a "Buyer's Market" - meaning there are
    lots and lots of houses for sale. You should wear
    your "Sunday Best" if you hope to attract even a
    "looker" as they speed by to other houses.
  • Taxes, Exemptions, Appeals

    Posted Under: General Area in Dupage County  |  June 28, 2010 2:51 PM  |  1,660 views  |  2 comments

    In Elmhurst, on May 12th,
    at the Elmhurst Public Library,

    the Supervisor of Assessments
    for DuPage County, Craig Dovel,
    talked about property taxes,
    how to apply for discounts,
    and what options and exemptions
    are available for seniors.

    The place was packed.

    Don’t ya wish you’d been there?

    Well, you have me, working for you.
    And here’s some of what you missed:

     

    (If you are impatient
    and want some quick magic dust to sprinkle,
    first understand you are dealing with
    governing bodies who get salaries
    because they know stuff and work hard.


    So you have to know stuff and work hard
    to make it a stand-off when you talk with them.

    But you can do that, can’t you?)

     

    The battlefield:

    To begin, here is what happens
    before you see your bill.

     

    1.)   They decide the value of your house

    2.)   They subtract any “exemptions” you get

    3.)   They multiply by the “tax rate”

    4.)   They send you a bill.

     

    You can stop reading now if you wish.
    From here on I’ll tell you
    if you should fight the “system”
    and if so, how.

    Let’s look at each step to see
    where you might save money.  

     

    There are lots of houses in DuPage,
    and what your house is probably worth
    is what similar houses near you
    have recently sold for.

    No two houses are exactly alike.
    That’s the first “crack” in the system
    that might get you a lower tax.

    Next is a biggy  “Exemptions” –
    and they could be deductions for
    home improvements, veterans,
    disabled persons, senior “homestead”
    and Senior Assessment Freeze.

     

    The simple facts:

    The tax rate has to feed 378 taxing bodies in DuPage.

    They each need money to operate,
    and so they add up all the money they need,
    and divide it by all the people who can pay.

    That number becomes the "tax rate" -

    Hey – don’t get angry with me!
    I’m just the messenger here.
    Take a minute and come back
    when you’re stable again.

     

    There are several soft spots in your tax bill.

    But let me head you off from your first rant.

     

    You want to grab the newspaper
    and run up to the assessor.

     

    One thousand people
    who came into the Assessor’s office
    just before you - had one sentence:
    “My taxes are too high”

     

    (Bring evidence.)


    Yes, your home is probably worth less
    than it used to be worth.
    EVERYBODY’s is. And that by itself
    won’t help you.  Sorry.

    Remember that thing about 378 taxing bodies
    all needing money?

    The dollar amount they get doesn’t go down. 
    But the “number” used to figure
    how much to tax everybody
    might change upward
    so they can get back up to the dollars they want.

    Can you understand that?

     

    Let’s say the owners of 1000 houses,
    with each of their houses worth one million dollars,
    have to come up with five million dollars to run the city.


    Now if the value of all those houses
    drops to 500,000 dollars,
    those 1000 homeowners
    still need to come up with five million dollars
    to run the city.

    However – if you can prove
    your personal home’s assessed value
    (what your home will sell for)
    is less than what the assessor says,
    you stand a chance of reducing your tax.

     

    How do you prove
    your house isn’t worth what they say?

     

    Check for houses that sold, that are like yours.
    A good Real Estate agent can help you.
    Take six to ten examples of sold homes
    with you when you go to
    growl at the poor public servant.

    NOTHING like your place has sold?

    Don't be discouraged - if somebody has
    an inground pool and you don't,
    deduct some value for a pool
    from his selling price to reach your value.

    Get it? Add dollars for what you have
    and the last sold house didn't have -
    and subtract dollars from his price
    for things he has that you don't.

    You can do this. I have confidence in you.

     

    But we’re not ready yet.

     

    This is simple “math”
    but it may not sound like it.
    I know you can handle it,
    so read carefully:

     

    On your bill, your published "value" is 1/3
    of the assessed value of the house.

    Now in truth, that’s just a clever way
    to make you feel good –
    to get you thinking
    you got away with something,
    because you believe
    your home is worth three times
    what they say.

    And you are right. But it keeps you quiet,
    because some of you will believe you fooled them.

     

    Now some bad news:
    The market value is based on
    the last THREE years, not one year.

    Now some good news:
    Next year, the declining home values
    will finally really kick in.

    Now the really bad news:
    The County still needs
    their clump of money
    for those 378 pieces of the pie.

     

    Here are the more boring details:

    On January 1 of each year,
    the list of Taxable Property is prepared.

    By November 15th, property is valued
    as of last Jan. 1st

    Then, the “equalization factor”
    is determined by taking
    the amount of money needed -
    and dividing it by
    the number of people who can pay.

     

    That number is published.
    Now you have 30 days to complain.
    And somewhere around next March or later,
    you get your bill.

    Due in two installments to lessen the pain.

    Houses hit their price-peak in about 2006 –
    and then started to drop like a rock.

     

    It made sense
    for house prices to plummet
    since they got up there
    like a rocket
    instead of the slow steady climb
    they’ve always travelled throughout history.

    History of steady growth will return,
    when we shake off the silly rocket-rise.

     

    But it’s those rocket years of 2006, 2007, 2008
    that appeared on your 2009 tax bill,
    due and payable in 2010.

    Finally, in 2011, the dropping prices
    should start to appear.

     

    However, remember –
    if all assessed values are reduced by 10%,
    property taxes will be the same!

    Let me get off this downer subject
    and hand you some very good news:

     

    You personally can “appeal” your assessment.

    Contact your township assessor.
    And the sooner the better.
    Give him/her documents to prove your point.

    That means comparable sold properties,
    or maybe you paid for an appraisal.
    Make it look like you worked at it.
    Bring lots of paperwork.

     

    And be nice. The Township Assessor
    may be sort of a little guy
    compared to the County Assessor,
    but he/she is able to
    change your assessment
    without you even filing a formal appeal!

     

    That’s not your only option,
    but that’s your first step.

    Strike out?

    Then you can try a formal request
    of the County Board of Review,
    next the Circuit or Appeal Court
    of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, etc.

    See why being nice is important?

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

     

    Now let’s get to work on finding
    some exemptions for you.

    The beauty of exemptions is
    they reduce YOUR tax,
    and the “other guy” has to
    pick up your deduction.

    I assume that’s a beauty, eh?

    The first “exemption” is
    a general residential exemption
    of “$6,000” amounting to
    about $340 off your tax bill.
    Sort of a cookie they throw out to everybody.

    From there on, you have to earn it.

    “Home Improvement” can earn you
    a $1,400 deduction
    if you go the full $25,000 maximum,
    but spending $25,000
    might save $1,400 is what we’re saying.

     

    There are four Veterans’ options,
    as there should be – talk with the county.

    Disabled persons might be able to
    knock off $110 or so.

    There’s a Senior Homestead option 
    of $4,000 that ends up really meaning
    a savings of about $220.

    But a really good one is
    the Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze.
    It’s a biggy at about $31,400 off
    to save you about $1,800!

     

    I have never understood
    why Senior discounts are not regarded
    as age discrimination
    against younger people.
    But it’s an option. Let’s keep it quiet.
    Afterall, kids don’t vote.

     

    Your next questions is
    how do you apply for these exemptions,
    right?

     

    First of all,
    you don’t contact me for your exemption.

     

    You can contact me to buy or sell your house.

     

    But you again contact
    your Township Assessor
    for the General (Residentail) exemption,
    assuming you meet the one requirement:
    You live in your house.

     

    Also contact the Township Assessor for
    your Home Improvement exemption.

    Seniors, Veterans and the Disabled
    have to contact
    the Supervisor of Assessments Office –
    but I’ve done this
    and you honestly will not believe
    how helpful and nice
    that phone call will be.

    If you are as lucky as I, my call was
    unhurried, informative, encouraging,
    and the guy I spoke with even filled out
    some of the form before
    mailing it to me to complete and send back.

    Each exemption has some fine print –
    restrictions – limits –
    but talk with the folks,
    and save yourself some time.

     

    Enough?

    Next time,
    I hope I see you in the chair next to me.

     

    The Elmhurst Library should be
    on your list of weekly stops,
    because it is a jewel in our community.

    And it is fun to get their newsletter.

    Sign up if you don’t get it. Lots of things going on,
    many current subjects, usually free.
    And the surroundings are way-comfortable.
    Rarely crowded.

    Unless the subject is taxes.

    Stay well, travel safely, peace be with you.

  • Ducks hatch fish in your drinking water!

    Posted Under: Crime & Safety in 60126  |  December 24, 2009 12:05 PM  |  695 views  |  No comments
    As we around Chicago know, most suburbs get their water
    directly from Lake Michigan. We drink the water of Lake Michigan.

    And as any Chicagoland TV watcher knows, the Chicago City
    Council never reminds us of a Harvard vrs Yale debate.

    So when the city declared all out war on one fish,
    and destroyed
    tens of thousands of "good fish"
    but got one bad fish, we appplauded.

    Even if they had to buy that one bad fish
    to throw into the mix,
    to quiet the eager news media,
    they got 'er done. One dead bad fish,
    and tens of thousands of good fish served their community.

    What concerned me was the poison.

    And how quickly and well it worked.

    And how normally, fish seem to withstand horrible water,
    but could not survive
    the poison we dumped in the water
    to solve the perceived problem.

    That's our water supply!
    We drink that Lake Michigan water!

    Oh - wait - I hear something:

    "Calm down. Calm down. They were not aiming at you!"

    Feel better?

    Ahhhh. What a relief.

    The Chicago City Council didn't mean to hurt us.
    That should make you feel better.

    We were - what do they call it?
    We were possible "collateral damage."

    They were after a FISH - not you and me.

    I'm about to disclose a secret -

    . . . or at least I hope you'll help
    keep this a secret from the Chicago City Council.

    I have a friend who can do almost anything, and he installed a pump.
    Stay with me here.

    Have you seen those ponds near new suburban industrial buildings?
    They are attractive ponds, but it is also a fire-fighting feature.

    The water can help put out a building fire,
    if water service to the site is interupted.

    But water will freeze unless it is constantly circulated.
    That's what his pump did.
    Moved the water, gave a nice "spray" fountain. Attractive.
    And the water doesn't freeze.
    Also it helps keep down that green stuff that forms in still water.

    One day, the pump stopped.   Stopped!

    It had been a few years, but Frank was shocked.

    He does not do sloppy work. So he pulled the pump to shore and inspected it.

    Fish. Fish had clogged it. Now Frank was furious.

    Who "stocked" that pond with FISH? Who put fish in this pond?

    Can you guess?
     
    It was Mother Nature.

    With the help of ducks.

    Fish lay eggs.
    Those eggs float.
    When ducks land in any water,
    they can pick up fish-eggs.
    Eggs stick to them. 
    On their bottoms,
    on their paws. Feet.
    Whatever.

    And when the ducks land
    in another body of water,
    those eggs come off.
    Hatch.
    And become fish.


    Help me keep this a secret. Please!

    Let us now return to the scene of the bad Chicago fish. 
    Obviously poisoning ALL the fish in Lake Michigan
    will not keep any fish out of Lake Michigan, if a duck lands there.

    If you tell Chicago
    how ducks work with the fish to populate
    any body of water,
    . . . 
    is it a strech to believe the Chicago City Council
    will move quickly - and now they will
    solve this new problem for us,
    perhaps by putting barges out there on the Lake Michigan,
    with machine guns, and shoot any approaching ducks?

    We're Chicago. We get it done!

    Of course, you people
    who live along the lake shore in high-rises
    should be careful and stay away
    from the windows when you hear shooting.

    "Calm down. Calm down. They were not aiming at you."

    Feel better?
  • Why not go back to outhouses? They're greener.

    Posted Under: Going Green  |  December 23, 2009 4:01 PM  |  622 views  |  No comments

    We talk of conservation, and then we flush our toilets with drinking water.

    And we flush often. There are new "two stage" toilets, offering options
    on how much drinking water to flush down the toilet, depending on
    what product you are flushing. But I bet you didn't rush out and get one.

    I'd bet while we approve of water conservation, our personal investment
    suffers from "how much money will I save?" compared to
    "will it help save the world?" Don't blush. It's human.

    But even without a new toilet, why do we flush so often?
    The sewer is in no hurry to get your waste,
    and why are we so very anxious to
    send it? Probably mostly out of habit.

    Too bad we can't have toilets where we can't see what's in them.
     
    But rather than wait for that day:

    GOOD NEWS, fans, I have entered into plans
    for manufacturing a new old product.

    Outhouses.

    Some of the people living in the fancy suburbs
    probably won't grab their check books, and those
    who do will probably not be invited to the next block party, but bravely,
    let's go forward here.

    First decision I've made without you is it should be a one-holer.
    You'll see the wisdom of this soon. 

    And second, we need to fight the user's resistance
    to our new "outdoor" location,
    so I plan to use a bit of marketing, such as signs saying
    "Free WiFi" and
    "For a good time, call - - - - - - -"
    (Don't get excited, I'll list the number for exact time,
    so you can set your watch)


    Immediately, I expect the government will form a committee
    to study this approach, to keep us safe, look for taxing opportunities.

    And I believe they will send out researchers,
    who will eventually return reporting these words were heard
    in and around outhouses, during their extensive research-survey:

    "Did you fall it?" (obviously, there must be a safety risk) and

    "It smells like somebody died in here" (obviously a matter
    to be addressed before the next occupant.)

    Now the first concern "did you fall in" requires a safety feature:

    How about a round, floating lifesaver,
    such as those used at boating piers. We'll hang that on the outside
    of our outhouse for emergency rescues.

    The second problem: "it smells like somebody died in there" 
    is more involved.

    We will not want to dismiss somebody dying as something to be ignored,
    so you and I will design our outhouse as a casket. Yes, a casket!

    Then if somebody dies, we are ready.

    You remember those long handles that caskets have on the sides 
    for pallbearers to use to carry the casket?

    We'll put those outside our outhouse, and run them
    vertically up each side of the small outhouse.
    Then, if there's a death, we tip the thing backwards
    and march off with the body inside.

    Their casket is the outhouse. Or the outhouse is their casket.

    Okay, I hear you: there should be some sort of ceremony
    for the dear departed. Yes, you are right. (And you
    are a nice person to think of that, by the way.)
    Do you remember that lifesaver?

    On the BACK side of the lifesaver,
    we'll have somebody design that
    as a wreath.

    Lots of people are good at that wreath stuff,
    and we'll stress a preference for a subtle, conservative looking wreath,
    that would be suitable for a dignified funeral.

    Hey - work with me here: Look, we're trying to be
    as green as we can with recycling. Get with the spirit here.

    Then when a "user" kicks the bucket,
    we'll just push over the outhouse,
    flip over what was our lifesaver
    so the back "wreath side" is showing instead,
    and now we're ready for a respectful funeral.

    But wait, if there really is a danger of death in there, no doubt
    the government will have more to say and
    we will need some sort of early warning system.

    But we are not going to run electricity to our outhouse,
    so the best solution that I can think of
    is a canary in a cage, as is used in a coal mine.

    You don't want to know how this works,
    but for those of you with tender, caring hearts,
    it would be best not to name the canary.

    Almost done with my early plans. Stay with me. 

    When we get our first death, we now need a
    disposal area, and the obvious option is
    after our funeral parade around the yard, we can just
    lower the casket into the original hole
    that we dug under our outhouse. 

    I see even a sweet touch of respect in this action.
    Preserving the whole little area as a memorial.

    So early planning and construction suggests
    we make that hole big enough and deep
    enough to cover the casket, so we just could lower it vertically, 
    after perhaps a little march around the yard
    and a few nice words about the "enclosed."

    And I hope you picked up on that space saving vertical grave idea.

    Some cautions come to mind with our first digging, however.
    With the danger of frost turning our burial
    into a pop-up statue of the deceased,
    we want to get it low enough in the ground so it's
    below the frost line.

    And to drop it low enough, we'll need extra dirt 
    to toss on top of the coffin,
    and  . . . aw, I can see now you're keeping up now . . . .
    you knew already:  that extra dirt will come from
    when we dig the next hole for the next outhouse!

    And we'll grab that wreath, flip it back to the lifesaver side,
    and hang it on our new outhouse.

    Okay, I don't have a timeline on this yet,
    but orders and suggestions are being accepted.

  • Easy money for the state without raising taxes

    Posted Under: Quality of Life  |  December 7, 2009 10:16 AM  |  375 views  |  No comments
    As I look out the window at my parked car,
    I smile with some pride at my "vanity plate" JID.

    As you probably know, it isn't a big deal.
    Ten or twenty bucks more than "normal" plates.

    And the only real limitation is getting a plate that
    somebody else didn't think of.first.
    Mine was one of the first ever issued in Illinois!

    We see vanity plates every day, all the time,
    many very clever, funny ones,
    most personalized with initials, like mine.

    Okay. Now get ready to plug your ears.
    Screams of protest
    are about to be heard.

    Why doesn't the state charge for those fancy plates
    twenty times what a regular plate costs?
    It's a source of "free money" -

    Remember, nobody NEEDS a vanity plate.

    Think about it - nobody needs a fancy plate to get to their job.
    Nobody has to choose between food and a fancy license plate.
    Nobody has to decide between getting the kids new shoes,
    or should dad spend the money to get a fancy license plate.

    But that's not true of taxes. You pay your taxes or you go to jail.
    Pay your taxes before food, shoes, gasoline.

    And I predict that there is a strange BONUS in this high-priced
    vaniety plate cost -

    Those who THEN spend a silly amount and buy vanity plates
    would gain the "WOW" factor. Like the respect we give to those
    who buy expensive, fancy cars. Respect!

    And so we'd possibly see even MORE fancy plates. Nothing surprises me.
    But it's basically free money for the state.

    Right now, a fancy plate means almost nothing. $10 or $20 more than
    the guy parked next to him. But make it twenty times the cost of 
    an ordinary plate?

    Respect! The respect that foolish spending attracts - 
    A fancy mink coat!
    A Beemer.
    Boasting about eating at over-priced restaurants.
    Fancy jewelry!
    A house too big (oops -- I'm a real estate agent)
    A resort vacation.
    A penthouse.

    And the state would get some serious money
    without taxing anybody!

    There are - what - about ten million cars in Illinois?

    It seems like about one in ten has a fancy plate today.
    Sometimes "Corporate" or company names but mostly personal.

    But wait. Here's what needs to be done to make it all work:

    No free rides. That's the key to making this work immediately:

    NO grandfather clause.

    All fancy plates expire at the end of the year or when they are up for
    their annual renewal this next time.

    Everybody's rights to their personal plates.

    To keep or renew YOUR fancy plate,
    fork over twenty times the cost of a "normal" plate.

    And if you don't - YOUR fancy plate is up for grabs by anybody.
    But not all people can just renew at the higher price:
     
    Those really "low number" plates, such as those 26 really fancy 
    SINGLE letter (A, B, C, etc) and the nine SINGLE digit plates (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.)
    should be up for highest bidder first, then the annual high plate renewal cost second -
    but the NEW winning bidder would own the plate until he gives it up, or fails to renew.

    Probably those nine single number plates (1 - 9) should be auctioned
    sort of eBay fashion, over a few weeks.

    Then probably the numbers from
    10 through 50 also, and finally 51 through 100.

    And from there up,
    let's make it first-come, first-serve.

    And after winning the auction for getting that extremely fancy number,
    and paying that price, plus paying the 20 times "new normal"
    annual fee for the plate - the annual inflated fee takes over,
    until the plate is abandoned.

    But nobody has to go through the bidding or first-come again, after the first time,
    until you give it up. Then it's first come first serve again.

    Similar bidding on the 26 single letters (A, B, C, D . . . .).

    Everybody, every plate, corporate - personal - funny ones - ALL of them.
     
    But once you NOW get your special plate, from "now" on, it's yours,
    as long as you pay the NEW annual higher fee. Stop renewing, and the plate
    is up for grabs again.

    Can you hear the protests already?

    There are enough clout-heavy owners of great plates
    who would give the political community (your state representative/senator)
    a choice - "you want me to contribute to your re-election,
    or do you want me to spend my money on my own expensive license plate?"

    Can you visualize after that conversation, how quickly this proposal
    would be crumbling into dust,
    and quietly blowing away with the breeze
    of big-donation protests?

    Money for the state without raising taxes? What? Is that even legal?

    Yes, it can be done.

    But enjoy with me for just a few minutes the dream -
    raising big, serious money without raising taxes.

    Without adding another penalty to the unemployed
    who need to get around and look for jobs while feeding
    their families.

    Shocking concept, eh?

    Okay. End of the dream. Back to reality.
    Awake, my naive friend.
    Time for us to wake up
    and let's read today's newspaper.

    Let's see:
    "More unemployment,
    More foreclosures,
    More business bankruptcies,
    That means less tax money to run our state!." 
    You know what that means:

    Time to raise taxes.
 
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