Town Hall

My Congressional district is the Illinois 10th.  We seem to identify as Moderates, which has us sending the following people to Congress:

2010:  Robert Dold – R

2012:  Brad Schneider – D

2014:  Robert Dold – R

2016:  Brad Schneider – D

There was redistricting in the middle of that, too.

Since the election, I have been rather more engaged with my elected officials, and I have listened in on recent town hall conference calls with both Brad Schneider and my state Senator.  In both cases, a short introduction was made with a summary of some current events and then there was Q&A.  I remember hanging up with two feelings:

  1. People aren’t asking questions – they are putting their opinions out there in the form of questions.  And Ugh – who wants to listen to that?
  2. I appreciate hearing what my representative has to say and am glad that no one is being nasty.  Wait.  Are the questions being vetted before they are asked?  There have been no follow ups, are people being cut off?

Huh.

Well.  Today, I decided to show up to one in person.  I arrived..perhaps 20 minutes early, and was the fourth person to sit.  The staff was friendly, thanking us for coming and asking us to sign in.  Rep. Schneider arrived, with apologies for being late (I hadn’t noticed.  He said that his staff made him get a haircut.) and then dove right in to his talking points about the congressional committees on which he serves.  This included a side note that the Judiciary Committee is where Articles of Impeachment happen.  Smooth.

Then to the Q&A.  A guy from Arlington Heights went first, with one of those multiple-part questions about health care.  I stopped listening about halfway through when he said, “And how do you expect to do that without the doctors in the room?!”  I might have tweeted something snarky at that point.  Several questions were like that.

Nothing was particularly contentious or confrontational.  Wait, there was one guy that tried to challenge Schneider’s “flip-flop” on the Iran agreement.  I think I heard him ask if the congressman had even read it.  I almost snorted.

I was keeping mental notes on how many men as opposed to women were given the opportunity to speak – and where in the district each speaker lived.  Eight men and three women was my count.  None of the women were asking five part questions, either.

The first woman exclaimed, “We are losing our rights!  What are the Democrats doing about it?!”  I have a Republican friend that would have dismissed her as an hysterical liberal, but the question, “What are Democrats doing?” is perfectly valid and, in my opinion, led to the only small bit of tap-dancing that Schneider did.

The second woman was rather long-winded, but asked what was being done about the hyper-partisanship in Congress right now.  Schneider answered that negotiations are happening, but always behind closed doors.  Apparently, some Republicans need the cover of darkness to reach across the aisle.  (OK, maybe some Democrats, too.)

The third woman asked about the erosion of Voting Rights, which I thought was a great question because that is something we take for granted in our part of Illinois.  Schneider noted that in some rural areas, the offices to obtain the official state identification needed to vote are prohibitively far away.  He noted the rural poor in Alabama, in particular, just have no way to get to those offices in person.

Overall,  I appreciated the meeting.  I wish that more women were given the microphone, and that’s on the staff, not on Rep. Schneider.  I will stipulate that women were somewhat more tentative in raising their hands, but there was absolutely no shortage of women looking for a chance to speak.  I wrote up a comment card on the way out.

Bernie’s Book Bank

I may have mentioned that my awesome employer allows for each of us to have two work days each year for volunteering events.  Last week we spent some time at Bernie’s Book Bank.  Their mission: “facilitates the collection, processing and redistribution of new and gently used children’s books to significantly increase BOOK OWNERSHIP among at-risk infants,
toddlers and school-age children throughout Chicagoland.”

They receive donations of used books from individuals and groups as well as new books from publishers.  The volunteers sort, label, and package up books for the kids. My group did the packaging for second and third graders.  It was sort of like wrapping Christmas presents!  Except instead of wrapping paper, the books were in plastic bags.  The regular volunteers told us to mix up the traditional gender books because the kids get an opportunity to trade with their classmates.  (Or, I might add, second graders might be less hung up on the traditional gender thing.)  So it was pretty easy.

When our session was over, we were shown a video of a school delivery and we could see how excited the kids were.  And check out this Thank You note that was blown up and put on the wall:

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Bernie’s has plenty of “drop in hours” so that people can show up and volunteer whenever they like without making a big commitment.  And they can certainly accommodate groups by appointment.  Even little kids can get in on the action, as one of the jobs is to put Bernie’s labels on each of the books.  So obviously, I am endorsing this place as worthy of time and donations.

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I Went to C2E2 and Didn’t Take Pictures

I had heard of the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, but never attended.  Yesterday, after my Book Club was postponed, I decided to go.  A couple of authors I like were there, they were going to have some stuff about 24 and in fact, my online friend Elliott Serrano was moderating a panel called 24 Reunion.   Also.  Lots of Star Wars stuff.

Note to Self:  It takes for freakin’ ever to take the El to McCormick Place.

When I arrived, I went straight to the Expo floor.  Bad idea.  It is very easy to lose track of time that way.  When I finally thought to look at the program, I saw that I had plenty of time to make a panel discussion of sexism in Geekdom called, “Glass Ceilings, Missing Stairs and Gatekeepers: Geeks Still Deal with Sexism”.  I am posting this link so that I can look up the panelists that have blogs.  I liked them a lot and one side of the table was definitely talking more than the other.  I was at least 20 minutes early for the panel and the line was snaked around the hall.  I got in pretty easily, but am certain that people were turned away.

The session was pretty good, but there was only one example that I hadn’t heard before and it surprised me and it really shouldn’t have: I believe it was Dawn Xiana Moon that told a story of being at a conference and wearing a Speaker badge and someone on the expo floor or something asked if that was really her badge or if she had borrowed it from a friend.

Seriously?!

I have not had these really bad, sexist experiences in Geekdom.  To be fair, I don’t live there.  I am not a Geek Blogger and am not active in the Fantasy/SciFi fan community.  But I really like to visit.  When I first became acquainted with my geek friends, I felt like they were really glad to have more girls in the room.    So the first time I heard of a lady getting a rape threat for posting something online, I felt sick.  Of course, I knew that stuff was happening to women online.  But I had been under the impression that Geekdom was a relatively safe place for girls.  The panel made the point several times that just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening and everyone ought to step up and ensure that bad behavior isn’t happening in the community.

On to happier topics:

I missed Mary Robinette Kowal, but there were two autographed copies of her book left at Anderson Booksellers booth so I bought one.  After I decided that I need to stop buying fiction and use my library, Shades of Milk and Honey was the first book that made me say, “Damn!  This is why I need to buy books!”

After wandering the floor a bit longer, I went to the 24 Reunion, where actors Louis Lombardi, James Morrison and Carlos Bernard met to swap stories.  They took a few minutes to warm up, but Elliott got them talking and there were a lot of laughs.

By the time that session was over, I was done.  18,000 steps that day, thank you very much.  I snapped one picture on the way out.

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If I were to attend again, I would have a strategy before showing up.  C2E2 has an app where you can build a schedule.  That might be more structure than I can stand, but the point is there are tools to ensure that one doesn’t lose the day staring at drawings of Darth Vader.

New Favorite Charity – Adopt a Classroom

I forget where I first heard of Adopt-a- Classroom, but the premise was very familiar:

Teachers spend a lot of their own money for stuff needed in the classroom.  School budgets are tight, parents can’t always afford supplies and teachers want the best for their students. 

So teachers can go on this website and make a request for resources.  Donors can search for a particular school or teacher to support, or browse the database for a classroom that sparks their interests.  Once a donation is made for a particular classroom, the program hooks up the teacher with its partners to spend the money as effectively as possible. 

So.  There are lots of schools in Chicago that could use some help.  I found a teacher that wanted to buy some books for a classroom library to encourage her bilingual second graders to read.  It is not news that most low income students lack books at home, and we all know that starting early is good.  I liked this project for three reasons:

1.       Chicago

2.       The teacher could use my donation right away, as opposed to waiting for other donors to fully fund a project

3.       Duh.  Books.  Reading.

Also, my nephew Alex is in second grade.  So I made my donation.  I received an acknowledgement right away.  A couple of weeks later, I received a letter from the teacher:

Thank you so much for adopting my classroom. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. My students will be thrilled to know that someone is thinking of them and cares enough to donate money so that we can have more books in our classroom library. My students are incredibly motivated and love diving into new books. They are constantly asking me if I have more books about different topics and I always try to find what they are asking for. I know that they will be more motivated if they are interested in what they are reading. My students are in a bilingual spanish classroom, and are just beginning to read in English. They are grabbing the English books off the shelves and are extremely excited to show me what they are learning as they read those books as well. Thank you again for your donation. I will put it to good use and my students will be so grateful.

Later that night I received another e-mail.  The teacher I sponsored had done her shopping and sent me another note, along with a detailed list of her purchases.  By “detailed list” I mean the titles of each book and how much each one cost so that I could see that my entire donation went to the classroom.  Scholastic books is one of the partners.  I didn’t need that much detail to believe that my dollars were going to a good place, but it was very nice to see.

Charity Navigator gave Adopt-a-Classroom four stars last year.  You can find them at adoptaclassroom.org.

Q101.com

A few months ago, Chicago lost its alternative radio station.  There aren’t very many rock stations left, and Q101 was a Gen X staple.  If I remember correctly, it launched the summer that I left for college.  I had two clues that it was fading:

  1. Each December, they would run the top 100 songs of each year they had been on the air, and listeners could vote on their favorite year.  Those 100 songs would be played again on New Years Eve.  The same year’s songs won every single time.  That would be 1994.  The #1 song was “Closer” – Nine Inch Nails.  They stopped that particular holiday event.
  2. Joy and I were talking about Q101 and she commented, “All their songs are old.”  I immediately denied it, but then I started noticing.  
Well.  Music was just better in the 90’s.  Or something.  Damn, we are old.
So.  Some conglomerate decided to kill Q101 and start an FM news radio station.  But in its final week, all the old DJs started calling in and they would talk about music and antics and I remembered how many of them I liked.  
I remembered hearing that Q101 would live on, but I hadn’t actually gone online and played the live stream.  Someone mentioned it on my twitter feed, and I clicked over.
It is Q101 music. With no DJs.  And no commercials!  Some people are trying to build its online presence and perhaps get it back on the air.  (You know what’s playing right now?  Limp Bizkit covering George Michael!  Ha!) So.  Facebook.  Twitter. Check it out.
I swear, I am listening more now than when they were on the air.  Apparently, I am not the only one:
“96,000+ listeners in September….GREW to 156,000+ in October! Thank you for listening to http://live.Q101.com/!!!!”

I could do without the multiple exclamation points.  

So, now I listen to Q101.com whenever I am at home, online and not otherwise audio-occupied.  I listened to it when I was at the library.  I listened when I was in Washington!

(sigh)

I love the Internet.

Doing the Shakespeare

My awesome friend John did me a good turn by going to the Bird Walk with me on Monday.  In the 90 degree heat.  The joke was that my mother pledged $25 if I didn’t walk more than three miles.  So that was my excuse.  We don’t have a final number for the fundraising, but I know that Erica’s project on Crowdrise is showing $780 right now, my employer is in for $20 more, and most of the donations weren’t even recorded there.

Anyway.  The least I can do is plug John’s show.  He is performing in New Rock Theater’s production of MacBeth.  The Reader has reviewed it, and it seems to be great.  And the comments on the review were snarky right out of the gate, so that might be worth a click.  If you are into that kind of thing.

This is the coolest playbill I have ever seen:

It is running on weekends through June 25.  You can get tickets here.  Which I still haven’t done yet.  But I will!

Edit:  And another review is here.