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"Housing [on the west side] remains comparatively cheap," writes Burney Simpson in the Chicago Reporter (December), "but prices are climbing. 'Two years ago you could pay $8,000 to $10,000 for some properties,' said Ted Wordlaw, a real estate broker who has worked in the area for 18 years. 'Now an unfinished property sold as is will go for $50,000 to $60,000.'"

Honey, I've decided to double our payment to the day-care center. Average weekly pay of a child-care worker, according to Voices for Illinois Children in a recent pamphlet: $250. Of a zookeeper with one year's experience at Brookfield Zoo: approximately $600.

Is life a little slow downstate? From a Moline firm offering party games: "OFF WITH YOUR HEAD. This fun game brings 'beheading' to a whole new dimension. Each contestant is suited in a knight's costume that covers their entire body. The costume has a fake head attached by velcro, 2' above player's own head, which their opponent has to try to knock off using a plastic ax. The first player to 'behead' their opponent is the winner."

Orwell lives. Douglass Cassell of DePaul's International Human Rights Law Institute on his visit to China in the 1970s: "At one factory, I saw smoke coming out of the chimney. I asked about it, and the guide told me there were no emissions. I said I just saw them. 'No, you didn't,' he told me. I learned that places where truth is officially deprived of any meaning really do exist" (Salt of the Earth, January/February).

While you were sleeping. Number of the 557 Chicago public schools now requiring students to wear uniforms: 391 ("Chicago Educator," January 8).

Things libertarians don't want to know. E.D. Hirsch Jr. in his new book, The Schools We Need: "In the economic sphere, customers tend to know what they want. Consumer preference in schooling, by contrast, is not easily determined by the consumers themselves. For one thing, the results of schooling take a long time to show themselves....[Parental choice] introduces competition under monopolistic conditions that may cancel out its utility. Other things being equal, parents prefer to send their children to the closest school. A better one that is five miles further away needs to be much better before parents have sufficient incentive to travel the extra distance. Since they rarely have a principled way of judging the comparative quality of the close vs. the distant school, they will usually keep their child in place....It is unlikely that any structural reform can leverage our whole educational system until the current intellectual monopoly is broken."

Who's been proofreading with the spell-checker again? A local computer users' newsletter, "The Rest of Us," complains about the shortage of volunteers: "It causes an undo stress on those who do contribute."

Evidently most outlet shoppers have no idea where they live. From publicity for a northwest-suburban outlet mall: "89 percent of Huntley Factory Shops shoppers are from the northern suburbs; 5 percent of Huntley Factory Shops shoppers are from metro Chicago."

"My most radical suggestion is to brick up abandoned buildings instead of boarding them up," writes Richard Townsell of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, which in six months has had two of its buildings demolished, without notice, by the city's Department of Buildings, even though they were slated to be rehabilitated. He says the city wouldn't feel obligated to bulldoze buildings if criminals couldn't use them. "I know that buildings become un-boarded by drug dealers who stash drugs while they sell them. I don't know of any drug dealers with tools to get through bricks. Kids will not be dragged into [bricked-up] buildings. Wear and tear from weather could be reduced, and fires would not get set because access would be eliminated. This is a 'win-win' situation for everyone. More skilled jobs would be created for residents. Buildings could be saved and later renovated by local contractors. Buildings would get added back to the tax rolls" (Network Builder, Fall).

"You can't understand one sex without understanding the other," says Leora Auslander, director of the University of Chicago's new Center for Gender Studies, emphasizing that "'gender' here is not a code word for 'woman' or 'gay.'... The assumption has been that straight men don't have gender--that they're neutral, universal figures. But once you look at them as having gender, as having a sexuality, a whole world of questions opens up." And a happy Valentine's Day to you too.

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