Understanding Illinois: University of Illinois Attracts Chinese

NowlanSeptember 17, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is one of the world’s great graduate research centers. The 2013 world rankings compiled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, one of China’s most prestigious, placed UIUC at 25th best in the world, ahead of elite U.S. institutions such as Duke, Northwestern and the Ivy League’s Brown.
The challenge is to stay near the top of the rankings in a context of fierce competition to develop and attract star faculty and the research grants they bring to campus.
I am amazed that UIUC has done as well as it has. It is sometimes tough to attract faculty to a small city (actually cities) on the prairie where it can be difficult to find a rewarding job for one’s spouse.
A huge challenge is money. UIUC lacks a large, multi-billion dollar endowment like those at some major private institutions. The university entered the fund-raising game late, relying instead on generous state funding. Read More

Growing up in Sullivan: The Accordion – A Once Popular Instrument

September 17, 2014

by Jerry Ginther

About 1960, the mothers of 25 or 30 of us local kids signed us up for accordion lessons with the Illinois Conservatory of Music. As a group we were filled with enthusiasm before the first lesson. Most of us had never held an accordion prior to that day, and we were ready to see what sort of racket they made. We figured out on our own that it would make some kind of noise if we would hold down just one of the piano keys while we pulled or squeezed the bellows. Beyond that we had no clue as to what else it might do. However, on that first day each of us received a small, 12-bass accordion complete with carrying case for home practice. Those small accordions would be sufficient to get us through the first book of instruction. After completing the first book a decision had to be made on whether to continue or “throw in the towel”. Continuing meant a rather healthy investment in a larger accordion. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Getting Smarter on Prison Sentences

NowlanSeptember 10, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

The U.S. has five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of it prison inmates, according to Mary Ann Dyar, executive director of an Illinois prison diversion program.
We need to get smarter on whom we send to prison and for how long.
“I probably sent away a thousand or more people for drug crimes,” recalls former federal judge Mike McCuskey of his 16 years on the U.S. court bench in central Illinois. In effect, he filled up a federal prison.
I had dinner recently with old friend McCuskey, now retired from the federal bench and back serving as a state circuit court judge in Peoria. Read More

Farm Bureau Update: Harvest Soon Upon Us

HarveySeptember 10, 2014

By Tyler Harvey
Mo-Do Farm Bureau Manager

Patience is a virtue. I remember when I was younger my parents or other knowledgeable people in my life telling me this. As I write to you today, it seems this is the way with the 2014 harvest. When I sat down to write this article, I looked back at last month’s edition and had to smile and thank Mother Nature for proving me wrong once again. Even with the very warm and humid weather that we experienced the last week of August, the lack of growing degree days as a whole through August has made signs of an early harvest disappear. However, with this we hope that this has helped the yields out there rise just a little more. Read More

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