Understanding Illinois: What To Do About Income Inequality?

NowlanSeptember 3, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

I consider this column exploratory. I am not an economist, and I have much more to learn about income inequality. Indeed, I welcome your comments, which I will use as a basis for a subsequent column (jnowlan3@gmail.com).
But I know something is going on. I need only look at my hometown of Toulon in central-western Illinois.
When I was a boy in the 1950s, older boys would graduate from high school and take jobs “on the line” at Caterpillar in Peoria and Deere in Moline, and earn more than their college-educated school teacher sisters.
Most families felt they were of the middle class. Read More

Preparing for the End of the Gardening Season

KimForColumnSeptember 3, 2014

by Kim Riedel
Master Gardner

August was a very busy month for me trying to keep up on all the produce that was ripening. Tomatoes, hot peppers and sweet peppers, pears, and grapes have been the main culprits that have kept me running the fastest. Besides the 60 hour weeks at work, I have bottled lots of grape/aronia jelly, chili sauce, and salsa. I have also had fun with my dehydrator, steamer/juicer and strainer this season. I even invested in a new water bath canner. I celebrated when I had a 56 hour work week instead of a 60 hour by buying a jam/jelly maker (which I absolutely love). The pears have been harvested and besides the apples, the harvests are finally slowing down. I noticed early on in the gardening season that my tomato plants just take my tomato cages straight to the ground with their weight. So since I was impressed with the few tomato towers that I got the other year, I ordered a few more towers for next year along with some tomato ladders and other supports that will be in use. Read More

It’s Just Golden: Some Clowns Cry in the Dark

Golden Column PhotoAugust 27, 2014

by John Golden
NP Columnist

Unless you have been salt mining in the middle of the Danakil Desert for the last month, you most likely already know that the accomplished comedian Robin Williams took his own life recently. For years, he had had great success, prodding us into laughter with his spontaneous, high-energy approach to comedy, but the gifted actor finally succumbed to his personal demons and build-up of mental scar tissue. To me, his self-induced demise was so abrupt and tragic that it seemed almost Shakespearian.

Obviously, I did not know the late Robin Williams personally, but oddly his sudden passing caused me a substantial level of emotional turmoil anyway. After I had heard the terrible news, I suddenly found myself stumbling through a mourning process that was much more powerful than I would have expected. The shock lasted for a few days, as I spent many moments pondering and sorting through the variety of feelings that had been abruptly conjured up inside my silly little brain. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Fermilab Looking Into the Smallest Things

NowlanAugust 27, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

As I scribble a note for this column, I am standing 350 feet underground at a research experiment that is sending beams of trillions of neutrinos underground to a detector located 500 miles away in Minnesota.

I am at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in west suburban Chicago, where Big Science—and big achievements—are the hallmark of the sprawling lab.

Illinois has two national laboratories out of 17 in the country that are operated by the U.S. Department of Energy—Argonne in southwestern suburban Lemont is the other.

Together the labs expend more than a billion dollars a year and employ 5,000 people, about half of whom are scientists and engineers. Read More

Caviar with an Oink

Bill Bailey, WIUAugust 20, 2014

by William C Bailey
Professor, School of Agriculture, Western Illinois University

Let’s be honest, while an excellent university, not many world records are made at Western Illinois University. But that changed recently when a member of the School of Agriculture’s faculty and Good Hope, Illinois resident Associate Professor Mark Hoge, sold a pig (Yorkshire boar to be exact) for a staggering $270,000 – a world record price, according to the National Swine Registry. Assuming the pig weighed 280 pounds when sold, that pencils out to be about $60 an ounce, very comparable to the price of some caviar.  The price of a prime filet mignon is about $30 an ounce.  And the price of the hamburger purchased from a fast food establishment is about 50 cents an ounce. Read More

Taking a Look Back

August 20, 2014

by Jerry L. Ginther
NP Guest Columnist

Some of you may remember the old C&EI Railroad depot that used to sit alongside the tracks near the corner of Harrison and Fuller streets. Probably fewer will remember the name of that railroad before the Missouri Pacific purchased or merged with the former Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad. I remember and I suspect those my age and older may have a nostalgic moment as they read this.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: Transportation Infrastructure Needs Investment Now

NowlanAugust 20, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

We cannot let investment in our strong transportation infrastructure go the way of state pensions, putting it off until tomorrow—until it’s too late.

Our transportation system is the jewel in the state’s somewhat tarnished crown.

We have 2,300 miles of interstate highways, more than any states but California and Texas. Six interstates radiate into Chicagoland and three into metro-East St. Louis. Read More

Summer Winding Down, Farm Bureau Staying Busy

HarveyAugust 13, 2014

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

It seems like only yesterday that the summer was upon us and the return of school was a distant thought. I hope everyone has had an enjoyable summer and got to experience a fair, festival, or caught up on that “to-do” list.

As you read this, the Illinois State Fair will be winding down for the year. If you have never experienced the State Fair, it is something to see. There is so much going on, day and night, that it is sometimes overwhelming but still worth it. To me, the fair is the close of summer and also the last time I will get my fair food for another long year. The Illinois State Fair goes on until Aug. 17 so you still have time to make it. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Where Have All the Monarchs Gone?

NowlanAugust 13, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

The official insect of our state is endangered, at least here in Illinois. The numbers of the glorious monarch butterfly have declined sharply in recent years throughout the Midwest and at the overwintering sites in central Mexico.

Should we care? What can be done about it, if anything?

Twenty years ago, when I walked the Rock Island Trail northwest of Peoria, I would come upon profusions of the orange butterflies with their striking black and white markings.

Yet this past weekend, on a prairie walk at Jubilee College in Peoria County, my associates and I saw but one monarch, and we all noted how scarce they had become.

A subtropical species, the monarch butterfly ventures north from Mexico each spring in search of its larval (caterpillar stage) host, the milkweed. Two or three generations of the insect later, the monarch arrives in the Midwest. Read More

More Chinese Food Safety Questions

Bill Bailey, WIUAugust 13, 2014

by William C Bailey
School of Agriculture at Western Illinois University

Over the past number of years, I have discussed food safety issues in China several times. One column discussed contaminated pet food, imported from China, while another column centered on contaminated infant formula that was manufactured and sold in China. The most recent Chinese food scare has a local spin – two Illinois firms are involved, one that produced the questionable products and the other that unknowingly sold them. The two firms, with headquarters 45 miles apart, are working together to solve a problem from half way around the world.  Read More