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The City File

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My compliments to the microcircuitry of the chef. University of Chicago computer scientist Kristian Hammond has developed a computer program, CHEF, that can learn from its mistakes. "One of the recipes it created was a beef and broccoli stir-fry," he says. "But if you cook broccoli with beef, the juice from the meat makes the broccoli soggy. Once the program recognized that, it changed the recipe to add the broccoli at the last minute. But the important part is that this solution -- add crisp vegetables at the last minute -- was then integrated throughout the program. When I asked it for a recipe for chicken and snow peas, it recalled the previous failure and modified its recipe to avoid the soggy vegetables."

"Come spring," notes the Norbic Network (March 1987), "a business owner's thoughts turn to graffiti removal."

"The real problem is not that the lake is too high but that the condos are too close," observes James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Times (March 19-25, 1987). "And while the politicians are persuaded to stand with the condo owners, and shake their fists at the lake, the rest of the city is rooting for the waves. . . . The condo crowd are hard people to like. I was at a conference at which a Chicago parks partisan bemoaned the loss of lakefront to private operations like yacht clubs; a woman in front of me -- whose name tag identified her as a lakefront resident -- turned to her companion and in a stage whisper asked in that whine in which pampered Midwestern women address an indifferent world, 'What's wrong with yacht clubs?'"

Good news about the dread disease -- of the 1970s. Cancer Facts (December 1986) reports that the cancer death rate for Americans under 55 has dropped from 38.2 per 100,000 in 1975 to 35.7 in 1984--even though there has been a steady rise in cancer incidence among this group.

"Where electric companies do compete head-to-head for customers, they are managed more efficiently, their average costs are lower and their residential customers pay less for the power than do their counterparts served by electric monopolies," says University of Illinois professor of business administration Walter Primeaux. Twenty-seven communities in nine states have competing electric utilities, he says, including Lubbock, Texas, and Cleveland. His 20 years of study indicate that "with competition, residential rates are between 16 and 19 percent lower."

Likewise, each student who eats nutritionally sound meals will be rewarded with a case of Twinkies. At Hibbard School (3244 W. Ainslie), "Students who read twenty-five or more books and complete reports [signed by parents] will be treated to a visit to the Board of Education's television studios where they will produce and star in a video that will be shown to their fellow students." Better yet, according to a Chicago Public Schools press release, top readers may get to visit WMAQ TV studios, "where they will meet some of the station's on-air personalities and learn about station operation." Makes sense. After all, who would read all those books for the privilege of visiting some publishing house?

Recycling may be the logical solution to Chicago's impending garbage crisis --the city will run out of landfill space by 1991 -- but according to Patrick Barry, writing in The Neighborhood Works (March 1987). "proponents of recycling may well be hard pressed to get their share of funding. That's because big business and government agencies are concentrating their efforts on building waste-to-energy plants with costs starting at $150 million for 1,000-ton-per-day facilities. . . . which environmentalists say produce airborne dioxin and other toxic chemicals."

Lie, cheat, and steal your way into the mayor's office in the new parody game "City Hall," created by My Kind of Games. If the last six months haven't sated your appetite for wheeling and dealing, you might want to try this pastime -- "as much a part of Chicago as: dumpsters that vote, great pizza, indicted politicians, and day baseball."

Richard J. Daley "brought a certain order to the city," says University of Illinois at Chicago historian Melvin Holli, explaining the results of a survey in which 40 experts ranked Chicago's mayors. The experts rated Daley way ahead of the rest in accomplishments, leadership, and political skills. "You may not have liked him, and all may not have been well, but at least you knew that the city would still be here tomorrow." Strange -- that's not how I remember 1968.

April 26 may be a more significant anniversary than the space shuttle explosion -- but can you remember where you were when you heard that Chernobyl had blown up?

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.

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