Do you remember when

  • Convertibles had retractable hard tops instead of soft, cloth tops.
  • Station wagons had rear side panels made of wood.
  • The 1965 Volkswagen Beetle was the car everyone wanted.
  • Every new sedan had a pinstripe running down its side panels.
  • More than 67% of the tires sold in the U.S. were whitewall tires.

A dramatic change is occurring in the auto industry today. Sales of traditional cars are down, but the demand for trucks and SUVs has increased. reported that “three years ago, trucks and SUVs represented 50% of the U. S. market. They closed 2016 at 63% of total sales, and analysts don’t see that changing anytime soon.”

Why have SUVs become so popular? Consumers like the space, the high seating, all wheel drive, the improvements in fuel economy, the special promotions, and elevated incentives. Cheap gas has made the vehicles more appealing. The January 8, 2017 Chicago Tribune RIDES article “Sport utility valentine,” says that qualities like these have made vehicles “like the Honda HR-V, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, and Toyota RAV4 the hottest things on wheels.”

Still, even with incentives, the average sale price of a vehicle rose to $32,000 according to the LA times article. Prices for the BMW 5-series SUV start at $51,200, excluding destination charges.

Why are so many consumers eager to buy a new vehicle? According to an article entitled “Consumer Demand for Trucks, SUVs Outdistances Interest in Cars” on, the average age of vehicles on the road is 11.4 years. The article further explains, “Since the end of the Great Recession in June 2009, the U.S. auto industry has experienced six consecutive years of growth—a period unmatched since the 1920s.”

To see a video of the 2017 Chevrolet Equinox, go to The New 2017 Chevrolet Equinox SUV Premier Review at

PLEASE NOTE: If you are unable to access a video by using the link, type the name of the video into your search engine.

—By Karen Centowski



If you’ve lived in the same house twenty or thirty or forty years, you probably have a bunch of junk in your basement.  Once upon a time, each item had a purpose.  Now some of it is household hazardous waste.

What exactly is considered household hazardous waste?   Half-empty gallon cans of oil based paint.  Part of a quart of oil based stain.  A half-empty bottle of pesticide you used for a crabapple tree.  Burned out fluorescent bulbs.  An old thermometer.  An almost empty aerosol can of Endust.

Sometimes it is hard to do the right thing.  Remember the times your son changed the oil in his car?  What did you do with the used oil?  You couldn’t pour it down the drain.  You weren’t allowed to pour it down the storm sewer.  You weren’t supposed to put it into the garbage.  So you had him put the dirty oil back into the empty bottles.  You now have a case of used motor oil.  What should you do with that?

A person is tempted to call one of those “Just Point” disposal companies.  You know the kind.  The customer points at an object he no longer wants, and (for a fee) the object disappears.  It is so tempting to make a big pile of unwanted hazardous waste and “Just Point” at it.

Here’s a better and cheaper alternative.  Take the stuff to one of four Illinois-EPA long-term household hazardous waste collection sites in Naperville, Chicago, Rockford, or Lake County.  The Illinois EPA also coordinates one-day household hazardous waste collections each year in the spring and fall.  For information, call (217) 524-3300.

Below is a list of items accepted at the Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Naperville:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Automotive fluids (including oil, gasoline, and anti-freeze)
  • Asbestos materials (in a size that will fit in a 55-gallon drum and not in excess of 50 pounds)
  • Batteries (including automotive, marine, and sump pump)
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fluorescent bulbs, CFLs (sealed, unbroken only)
  • Household cleaners, drain openers, and pool chemicals
  • Mercury
  • Paints and stains (oil based only)
  • Peanut oil
  • Poison, pesticides, and fertilizers
  • Non-controlled prescription and over-the-counter medications)
  • Propane tanks (20 pounds)
  • Solvents and strippers
  • Thermostats
  • Unknown hazardous substances


  • Ammunition
  • Compressed gas (other than propane)
  • Empty spray cans and containers
  • Explosives
  • Helium tanks
  • Latex paint (see below)
  • Paper, glass, metal, wood, and Styrofoam
  • Radioactive materials
  • Sharps (needles or lancets)
  • Smoke detectors
  • Tires, trash, and non-hazardous materials
  • Unopened, useable consumer products


Latex paint is not a hazardous material. To discard leftover latex paint in the trash, it must first be hardened.  Leave the lid off, or, to expedite the process, add an absorbent such as cat litter, oil dry, or sawdust.  Once the liquid paint is absorbed, place the can in the garbage with the lid off, so the driver can tell the paint is dry.

The Household Hazardous Waste Facility in Naperville is open to all residents of Illinois.  For additional information about hours of operation and drop-off procedures, go to “Household Hazardous Waste Facility” on the Naperville Web site.

—By Karen Centowski







If you need a ride home from a concert or a ballgame or a party in downtown Chicago, have you considered calling Lyft?  Would you call Lyft to take you to the airport?  Do you feel comfortable having a Lyft driver?  How much do you know about Lyft?

Launched in 2012 by Logan Green and John Zimmer, Lyft is a ridesharing company which links passengers who need rides with driver who have cars.  On its Lyft page, Wikipedia explains, “All drivers must undergo the following screening process:

  • Department of Motor Vehicle, national sex offender registries, and personnel-type criminal background checks. The criminal background check goes back seven years and includes national and county-level databases, as well as national sex offender registries.
  • In-person interviews with current Lyft drivers.
  • Drivers must be 21 years or older and have had a driver’s license for more than 1 year.
  • Zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy.”

Wikipedia continues, “Riders must download the Lyft app to their iOS or Android-based phone, sign up, enter a valid phone number, and enter a valid form of payment (either a credit card or a link to a Google Wallet or Pay Pal account). When a passenger wants a ride, he or she opens the app and requests a ride from a nearby driver.  Once confirmed, the app shows the driver’s name, their ratings by past passengers, and photos of the driver and their car.”

When the ride is completed, funds are debited to the passenger’s credit card or Google Wallet or the Pay Pal account.  Lyft takes 20% to 25% off the top as business revenue.  The remainder goes to the driver’s account.

Lyft drivers are allowed to accept tips.  100% of the tip goes to the driver.  Since Lyft is a cashless platform, the tip is processed through the app, the receipt, or a member of the Lyft staff.

Drivers and passengers rate each other on a five-star scale after each ride.  The drivers are very aware that they must maintain a high approval rating in order to continue as a Lyft driver.

Lyft drivers have complained about the huge amount that Lyft takes off the top.  In addition, they often describe the amount earned per hour as far less than the $35.00 advertised.  They say that the advertised amount earned per hour does not take into account the cost of gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, insurance, car washes, repairs, etc.  These business expenses may reduce their actual earning to $6.00 or less per hour.

In addition, drivers may sit for hours waiting for a rider in their area. If no rider requests a Lyft, the drivers earn nothing.  Some have devised a strategy for being available.  For example, a driver may choose to work 4:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M. to take businessmen to the airport.

All in all, it’s up to you.  If you feel comfortable with Lyft, give them a call.  If not, make other arrangements.

—By Karen Centowski


Illinois USA

Have you ever thought about the Midwest in 1607?  That was the year the English established Jamestown, the first settlement in the New World.  What did this part of the Continent look like?  How did our system of property lines, townships, and roads develop?

Before the European settlers came to what is now Illinois, the landscape was diverse.  There were tall grass prairies, forests, springs, salt licks, ravines, hill country, bluffs, caves, swamps, rivers, and lakes.  Bear, deer, bison, wolves, elk, and cougar roamed the land.  Birds, wild turkeys, pheasant, quail, and even pigeons were abundant.

According to Illinois Natural History Survey, 40% of the land was forest with 60% prairie.  There were oak and hickory forests. American elm, American beech, pin oak, sycamore, tulip tree, sugar maple, pawpaw, buckeye, and ash trees are also native to Illinois.

In the early days of this country, surveying the land was very important.  Surveying determined boundaries, recorded navigable streams and lakes, charted coastlines, and mapped land surfaces.  Ironically, this important work was done using a 66 feet long chain, usually with one hundred swiveled links, called a “Gunter’s chain” and a compass.

By 1785 law only Gunter’s 66-foot chain was allowed for land surveying work.  An acre of land is equal to 10 square chains.  There are 640 acres in a square mile or 6,400 square chains, 80 chains on each side.

Illinois Natural History Survey describes the process: “Surveying the land in Illinois began in 1804 and was largely completed by 1843.  The surveyors moved across the state laying out a rectangular grid system, known as the Public Land Survey System.  They were required to keep field notebooks where they noted details about their survey (such as which kind of tree was ‘blazed’ or marked as the section corners), as well as notes about the quality of the landscape, mines, salt licks, watercourses, springs, mill seats and other ‘remarkable and permanent things’.”

If you drive out into the country and get off the main highways, it will be very apparent to you that the farmland is divided into square miles.  Each square mile is 640 acres.  The rural roads mark the dividing line between square miles.  In Illinois, a township is six by six miles square or 23,040 acres.

Illinois Natural History Survey describes the next step: “When the surveyors completed a township, they were to make a map of the area.  These surveys represent one of the earliest detailed maps for Illinois.  Most of the over 1,700 townships in Illinois have at least one version of the original surveyor’s map.”

Think of that!  Before GPS (Global Positioning System) was even imagined, men like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were able to determine boundaries, record navigable streams and lakes, chart coastlines, and map land surfaces using a 66 feet long chain and a compass.

—By Karen Centowski


Garlic Mustard

Question: What do the following six things have in common: Asian carp, emerald ash borer, garlic mustard, bush honeysuckle, Japanese stiltgrass, and feral swine?

Answer: Each is an invasive species in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Web site defines an invasive species as “any species not native to a particular ecosystem, including its seeds, spores, or other biological material capable of propagating that species and whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm.”

If you have gone to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and visited Cades Cove outside of Gatlinburg, you have seen European hogs, also called wild boar or swine. Wild boar are native to Europe, Asia, Japan, Malayan Islands, and parts of Africa. In America, they are considered an invasive species. According to, “While some wild boar in the U.S. were originally brought over by the Spaniards, the wild boar in the Smokies trace their roots back to escaping a game preserve on Hooper Bald in the 1920’s in what is now the Nantahala National Forest in Graham County, North Carolina.”

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the wild boar keep cool by wallowing in muddy and wet areas. They root in search of food such as bulbs and tubers. They will also eat acorns, snakes, mushrooms, and small mammals. These behaviors are destructive to the ecosystem of the park. The wild boar also contaminate streams and rivers and soil with coliform bacteria and Giardia. Both are a threat to human health.

The first reports of feral swine in Illinois occurred in the 1990’s in southern Illinois. These animals can cause significant damage to soil and agricultural crops by rooting in the soil, wallowing in wet or muddy areas, trampling the crops, and feeding on the crops. Thirty-two counties have reported the presence of feral swine.

Feral swine, also known as feral pigs, feral hogs, wild boar, and razorbacks, may carry more than thirty parasites and thirty diseases. Many of these can be transmitted to people, pets, wildlife, and livestock. The diseases which most often affect people are brucellosis, E coli, salmonella, and trichinellosis.

Eradicating feral swine is difficult. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources article entitled “Feral Swine/A Threat to Illinois” notes that “feral swine have high reproductive   rates—adult sows have 2 litters per year with 5-10 piglets per litter. Juveniles begin breeding in as little as 6 months of age. At these rates, 60-70% of the population must be removed each year just to keep the population from increasing.” The IDNR recommends “trapping (corral traps) as the most effective way to remove entire family groups of feral swine. Feral swine may only be shot by hunters who are deer hunting during the firearm deer seasons, including the late winter and CWD seasons.”

—By Karen Centowski