Amid the noise of the political landscape, you may have overlooked an important issue involving AT&T landline telephone customers. AT&T wants to end its copper landline service in Illinois.
This issue affects 1.2 million business and residential landline customers in Illinois. Bryan McDaniel, Citizen Utility Board director of governmental affairs, added, “Each of those landlines doesn’t serve just one person. So millions of people would be impacted.”

Why would anyone prefer to have a landline rather than a wireless phone service? According to a HELP SQUAD article in the Living section of the July 12, 2017 issue of the Chicago Tribune, “CUB’S main concern about the passing of HB1811 is that VoIP and wireless phone service are not as consistently reliable as copper landlines. For this reason, CUB states that medical devices, home alarm systems and access to 911 could all potentially be compromised.” There is also concern that this change could also adversely affect low-income individuals and those who live in rural areas of Illinois.

How did this happen? In the final days of the 2017 Illinois legislative session, a bill called “HB 1811: Interpreter for Deaf—Sunset” passed. Governor Bruce vetoed this legislation on June 30 (obligating AT&T to continue support of copper landlines), but on the next day the General Assembly overrode that veto. That set in motion AT&Ts ability to end its copper landline service in Illinois.

What’s next? AT&T landline customers will be receiving inserts in their bills titled “We’ve recently made some change to your residential service agreement.” Note two key changes:

  1. “The amendments (‘Consent to Contact” and “Network Changes”) will automatically begin 30 days after receiving this notice, or July 1, whichever is later. If you don’t agree with the terms of the amendment, call us at 800-288-2020 to cancel your service. If you don’t cancel your service, it means you accept the terms of these amendments.”
  2. “If you do not allow AT&T to install the new network equipment at your premises, your telephone may be disconnected in compliance with subsection (b) above.”

What can you expect after that? Eric Robinson of the Citizens Utility Board, described the transition: “The process will include a minimum of four notices to residential customers, a process at the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) that could take as long as 255 days, followed by a process at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Following the first two notices, customers who do not believe they have access to an alternative voice service can raise their concern with the FCC, which will conduct an investigation of available alternatives for those customers. The final transition can only occur after completion of any ICC investigation and subsequent similar proceedings at the FCC.”

When Cathy Cunningham, HELP SQUAD columnist, asked how quickly this might all occur, Robinson said, “The process to complete the switchover could take a number of years.”
What can you do to prevent this from happening? Call the local offices of your legislators. Ask the person who answers to give a message to your legislator. Tell them that you need a landline. Explain that wireless phone service is not as consistently reliable as landlines. Explain that medical devices, home alarm systems, and access to 911 could be compromised. Ask them to oppose AT&T’s plan to eliminate landlines in Illinois.

—By Karen Centowski



Where do you go to have the oil changed in your car? Do you take it to the dealer who sold the car to you? Do you take it to a gas station with mechanics you trust?

Maybe you’ve pulled into a quick lube shop to have the oil changed. You were in a hurry, and you didn’t need an appointment there. You drove past it every day on your way home from work, but you never took your car there.

Soon after the technician pulls your car into the bay, he comes out to talk with you. He tells you that your car needs extra services. According to, the recommended service they advise usually includes one or more of the following: high mileage oil, fluid system cleaning, brake fluid flush, transmission flush, and transfer case or differential fluid change. You don’t know a thing about cars except how to drive them. How do you know if the recommended service is necessary or just a way for the technician to make a quick buck?

One way to find out more about your vehicle is to read the owner’s manual. It will tell you how often your car should receive an oil change, a new air filter, tire rotation, transmission flush, radiator service, etc.

Before you have any major work done, get a second opinion It may be inconvenient to get a second opinion, but it could save you a lot of money. It can confirm legitimate service recommendations and weed out upselling. Ask a mechanic you trust to take a look at the vehicle. This could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Several news organizations have done investigative reporting about the problems with upselling. First, they ask a highly rated, highly certified auto technician to examine and run tests on the vehicles to be used in the study. The auto technician provides written reports of the assessments. This gives the investigative reporters an idea of what might be legitimate upselling.

Then the investigative reporters are sent to quick lube shops to have the oil changed. If the auto shop recommends additional services, the investigative reporter questions the need for the service and asks for estimates. The costs can be significant!

The investigative reporter then leaves the quick lube shop and asks the highly rated, highly certified auto technician to review the recommendations. The technician determines what was a needed service and what was simply a case of upselling.

The average person has a limited knowledge about the maintenance of cars. It is easy to feel pressured when an auto technician at a quick lube shop recommends an additional service. However, be aware that the auto technician at the quick lube shop receives a “cut” or bonus for each additional service. He may not have your best interests in mind. Upselling benefits not only the auto shop but also the auto technician who persuades the customer to authorize additional services. Be careful!

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about oil change upselling, go to Oil Change Scams: Hidden Camera Investigation On What Really Happens to Your Car (CBC Marketplace) at


Fansworth House
Photo by Victor Grigas

Designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1945 and built in 1951, the Farnsworth House has both interior and exterior glass walls. Built on stilts, it sits on a flood plain along the Fox River in Plano, Illinois. In an article entitled “Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House Is At Risk” at, the author describes it as “one of the most famous residential examples of mid-century modernist architecture in the country.”

This glass box house was constructed for Dr. Edith Farnsworth as a country retreat. Despite questions about its practicality and livability, the significance of the Farnsworth House was immediately recognized. A model of the Farnsworth House was exhibited in 1947 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

The house continued to be a private residence for over fifty years. In 2003, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Landmarks Illinois purchased it. Today it is owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is open as a public museum. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Despite being built on stilts, the house has been flooded by the Fox River three times during the past eighteen years. The Chicago Tribune reported that “The worst flood, in 1996, smashed one of the home’s huge plate-glass windows, sending more than five feet of water inside and causing thousands of dollars in damage.” During the 1996 flood, Aurora, which is on the Fox River upstream from the Farnsworth House, received the greatest 24-hour rainfall (16.94 inches) in Illinois history. The storm was considered a 1-in-1000-year event.

Several plans for saving the structure are being discussed. One idea is to move the house further back from the river and up to higher ground. Another more daring plan described by the Chicago Tribune is to “temporarily move the house from its site, build a pit beneath it, and insert hydraulic jacks that would lift the house out of harm’s way the next time the Fox attacks it.”

Undoubtedly, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is committed to saving the house. National Trust has the influence, money, and expertise to accomplish this feat. Stay tuned for further developments.

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about the Farnsworth House, go to Illinois Adventure # 1607 “Historic Farnsworth House” – You Tube at https://



At 6:30 p.m. on June 30, 2017, twenty oil tanker cars belonging to Canadian National Railway derailed near to the downtown in Plainfield, Illinois, forty miles southwest of Chicago. The cars piled up against each other, accordion style. Four of the tanker cars leaked, and 45,000 gallons of crude oil spilled. Much of the crude oil flowed into trenches along the railroad. Fortunately, none of the oil reached the DuPage River. None of the oil caught fire.

Moving crude oil by rail has been controversial. Shipments from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota peaked at 498,271 in 2014, according to the Association of American Railroads. At that time, many oil tanker cars being used to transport the oil from North Dakota to refineries on the East Coast were older with fewer safety features. In 2015, twenty-one tanker cars on a Burlington-Northern Santa Fe train derailed just south of Galena, Illinois. Several of them ruptured, split open, and blew up. The 105-car train was headed to Chicago at the time of the accident.

According to the March 6, 2015 ABC -7 Chicago news report at, “New information from federal authorities is that that 25 million Americans live within the 1-mile evacuation zone that straddles tracks used by crude oil lines. Dozens of the tanker trains crisscross metro Chicago each week.”

In December of 2015, President Obama signed a transportation law called the FAST Act. The law requires that the new cars must have thicker steel shells, insulating materials, full-size metal shields at each end, and improved outlet valves underneath the car.

The new rules create a new standard, “high-hazard, flammable trains.” These are defined as “a continuous block of twenty or more tank cars loaded with flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through-out a train.” Tanker cars carrying petroleum crude oil are marked with a DOT placard with a hazmat symbol and the number 1267.

According to, “Seventy percent of the oil being fracked out of those booming fields in North Dakota’s Bakken region is shipped via what the oil industry calls a ‘rolling pipeline’ of railroad trains.” Despite the obvious problems of transporting oil by rail, the Association of American Railroads has pointed out that railroads have an excellent safety record with crude oil, even surpassing pipelines in recent years.

—By Karen Centowski

To see a video about the oil tanker train, go to Freight Train Carrying Crude Oil Derails in Suburban Plainfield You Tube.


mini skirt

If you went to Catholic school in the 1950’s, you might remember a nun asking you to kneel down on the floor of the classroom. Your skirt or dress had to touch the floor as you were kneeling. If not, your skirt or dress was deemed “too short.” You could not wear such an outfit to school.

Things have really changed. In 2016. a student in a local high school was told to hold her arm down at her side while she was standing. Her skirt or dress had to be at least as long as her arm with fingers extended. That means the hemline of the garment could be mid-thigh!

What causes hemlines to vary from short-short to floor length? One theory was proposed in 1926 by Professor George Taylor from the University of Pennsylvania. It is called the hemline index. The theory is that women’s dresses rise and fall with the stock market. The stronger the economy, the shorter the skirts. The weaker the economy, the longer the skirts.

Other factors can influence the length of dresses. For example, during World War II, the government needed fabric for the war effort. According to “Vintage Fashion—The History of Hemlines” at,, “In 1942. Clothing rationing brought about actual regulations on women’s clothing! The UK had their “Utility Clothes” regulations, and the USA introduced Regulation L85 which set skirt lengths to 17 inches above the floor.”

Internationally known clothing designers also play an important role in determining the length of dresses. For example, in 1947 Christian Dior, a French fashion designer, introduced his first collection. It featured designs using large amounts of fabric to create a feminine silhouette.

During the 1950’s, the popular style was a dress with a full, billowy skirt that hit below the knee. A blouse and full, billowy skirt was also the preferred attire for teenage girls. The blouse was often sleeveless or short sleeve.

In 1962, a controversial item of clothing, the miniskirt, came upon the scene. The hemline was eight inches above the knee. A Huffington Post article describes the reaction: “Major designers like Coco Chanel and Christian Dior were initially against the trend. Chanel even deemed them “just awful.” The Netherlands banned the skirts for a limited period of time.” Inspired by the fashions she saw on the streets, British designer Mary Quant raised her hemlines to several inches above the knee in 1964.

In 1968, designer Oscar de la Renta created a maxi-dress for Elizabeth Arden Salon. Other designers soon followed, and the maxi-dress craze began. The dresses were made from soft fabric and flowed down to the floor. The Maxi has had a resurgence and is one of the top styles today.

—By Karen Centowski