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Attention shoppers: apocalypse in aisle 14. An information-systems executive concerned about computers that will have problems with the switch to the year 2000 told this story to the Food Marketing Institute's annual gathering at McCormick Place on May 4: "An executive from one major chain...set the clocks in a store ahead to the year 2000 to see what would happen. The horrifying news was that within 45 seconds the store was paralyzed, and that wasn't because of the scanners. Instead, items like the safe, the security cameras, the heating and air conditioning system and other mechanical devices quit first."

The moral of Chicago school reform, according to Catalyst editor Linda Lenz, quoted in the Joyce Foundation's 1997 annual report: "It's not the well-designed program but how people relate to each other inside the school that counts."

"Frankly, all this talk of cars for incessantly 'active' folks, who evidently can't stand still for a moment, makes me tired," writes James Flammang in the Chicago-based newsletter "Tirekicking Today" (April). "What are those of us with inactive, lounge-around lifestyles supposed to drive? Where are the cars (and other products) for folks who define 'exercise' as moving to another chair, or rising from the couch to toss down a few quick snacks?"

Clintonesque. Rod Heard of the Better Government Association, in its newsletter "Watch" (April): "Several days ago, I was telling a client that at an upcoming trial I wanted him to be very calm and exude wisdom and reason. I told him, 'Until these most recent events, I would have told you to act presidential. Now I'm not sure what that means.'"

That's OK, parents don't have to have any at all! Jerome Stermer, president of Voices for Illinois Children, writes in the group's spring newsletter: "The state of Illinois requires only 90 hours of training for certification as a child care teacher, while a nail technician must receive 350 hours of training and a barber needs 1500."

"A recent poll by Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society found that 66 percent of black teenagers in urban centers believe they can earn a living playing sports," writes Salim Muwakkil in In These Times (May 3). "This is more than twice the percentage of young whites who hold such beliefs. . . . Yet, according to Michael Messner, whose 1992 book, Power at Play, examines the powerful influence of sports in American culture, a black man has only a 1-in-50,000 chance of going pro."

Job titles we couldn't resist. Patti Malmborg is "threats coordinator" for the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. According to the minutes of the group's February 3 meeting, she recently "responded to intrusions into Trout Park Nature Preserve in Kane County by the City of Elgin, Lake in the Hills Fen Nature Preserve in McHenry County by a gravel mining corporation, and Wadsworth Prairie Nature Preserve in Lake County by a land developer."

Think the CTA is making its cuts rationally? You can't prove it because the criteria aren't public. In contrast, reports StreetWise (May 12), "the suburban bus system, PACE, has public criteria to determine the need for cuts, including a provision that there has to be a minimum of 50 riders per day to continue service." One CTA bus route that was cut served 210 people per hour. "The basic problem," says Art Lyons of the Center for Economic Policy Analysis, "is the CTA is not in the business of attracting riders. It's in business to raise subsidies."

"The only game downtown" for birdwatchers, according to the Friends of the Chicago River newsletter "River Reporter" (Spring), is Wolf Point, just west of the north end of the Orleans Street bridge. "In late April come the Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers; a Red-breasted Nuthatch usually puts in an appearance as well. One memorable April, a Black-billed Cuckoo showed up one day, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo the next. One can spot Baltimore Orioles, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and in a typical year, 15 species of warblers. What a way to spend a lunch hour!"

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