Tag Archives: education

ELON MUSK HAS TUNNEL VISION

Say you’re flying into O’Hare Airport and want to get to downtown Chicago. What are your options? Currently, you have five options. You could take a CTA train for $5.00 or less and get downtown in forty-five minutes. You could take a taxi for around $40.00 and get there in twenty-five to ninety minutes. You could use the shuttle van services for over $25.00 and arrive downtown in twenty-five to ninety minutes. You could hail a rideshare such as Lyft or Uber for $35.00-$50.00 (surges to $140 or more) and get there in twenty-five to ninety minutes.

As early as the 1990’s, Richard J. Daley had envisioned a high-speed rail line between downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport. In fact, according to a Chicago Tribune article published June 14. 2018, the city and CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) spent more than $250 million on the Block 37 “superstation,” a shopping center atop a station for the high-speed rail. However, “Daley ordered the work stopped in 2008, saying the technology was outdated and more than $100 million more was still needed for completion.”

In 2011, Mayor Rahm Emanuel resurrected the idea of a high-speed rail line from downtown Chicago to O’Hare and in 2016 hired outside engineers to help explore the possibility for the high-speed rail line.

On February 9, 2017, Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference to provide an update on the state of Chicago’s infrastructure. He also endorsed the idea of a high-speed rail line from downtown Chicago to O’Hare. The rail line was expected to cost billions of dollars and would require major support from private investors. Emanuel announced that Bob Rivkin, who had previously served as general counsel for the CTA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and Delta Air Lines, had been hired “to drum up support and find partners to make the new O’Hare express line a reality.”

Enter Elon Musk, the billionaire tech entrepreneur. On June 14, 2018, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Elon Musk’s Boring Company had been selected from four competing bids to provide high-speed transportation between downtown Chicago and O’Hare Airport. Musk’s Boring Company would dig a fourteen-feet in diameter tunnel from downtown Chicago to O’Hare. Lined with interlocking concrete pieces, the tunnel would contain self-driving electric vehicles called “skates.” Each “skate” could transport sixteen passengers at speeds from 100-150 m.p.h. Under Musk’s proposal, it would take just twelve minutes for passengers to get from O’Hare to downtown Chicago at an estimated cost of $25.00.

The estimated cost of the project is almost $1 billion. Who is going to pay for this? Elon Musk says his company will pay for the entire project. “In exchange for paying to build the new transit system, Boring would keep the revenue from the system’s transit fees and any money generated by advertisements, branding, and in-vehicle sales,” Rivkin said.

Will Musk’s high-speed transit system ever get built? Critics point to numerous challenges such as environmental impacts, regulatory approvals, financing costs, and unforeseen complications. According to a Chicago Sun Times article “Mayoral challengers, academics raise caution flags about Musk’s O’Hare Express,” Joe Schwieterman, director of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute, “gave the mayor and Musk high marks for dreaming big and aiming high. But he gave the project only a one-in-three chance of ever being built. And even if it does, he’s afraid Chicago taxpayers could get stuck with at least part of the tab.”

—By Karen Centowski


To see a video Elon Musk’s Boring Company To Build Express To O’Hare, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24yqz0jZVaw.

THE CHANGING FACE OF RETAIL

Ever since the first enclosed shopping mall opened outside Minneapolis in 1956, shopping malls have dominated retail. The mix of anchor stores including Sears, JC Penney, Macy’s and hundreds of smaller shops proved a winning combination. Serious shoppers could purchase clothing, jewelry, toys, books, Halloween costumes, and even major appliances from a variety of stores. Teenagers could go to the mall to “hang out.” Mall walkers could use the indoor walkways as exercise areas. The mall was the place to be.

These new shopping malls ranged from the humongous Mall of America in Minneapolis to the upscale Watertower Place on Michigan Avenue in Chicago to the local malls outside large cities across America. At its peak, there were more than 3,000 malls in the United States. Only 1,100 currently exist.

Anchor stores such as Sears. JC Penney, Carson’s, and Macy’s were critical to the success of the malls. They drew a large number of customers within the malls. The smaller shops benefited from the increased foot traffic past their stores. In addition, retailers often signed co-tenancy agreements in their leases with malls. These agreements allowed them to reduce their rent or get out of a lease if a big store closed.

Major department stores such as Sears, JC Penney, Carson’s, and Macy’s are struggling to stay alive. According to an article “America’s Malls Are Rotting Away” published December 12, 2017, “Sears, which had operated nearly 3,800 stores as recently as a decade ago, is now down to 1,104 stores. Macy’s closed 68 stores this year, and JCPenney was set to shutter 128.” Carson’s has recently announced it is going out of business.

What caused these anchor stores to fail? A number of factors contributed to the failures. Too rapid expansion. Changing habits of shoppers. Online shopping. Competition from Amazon.

Each story is different. For example, consider the story of Sears. This company had started out in 1888 as a mail order business. Using its famous Sears Catalog, it was able to reach potential customers in big cities, in small towns, and on farms across the United States. Sears sold everything from clothing to musical instruments to houses. Sears opened stores in large cities. By the turn of the century, it was the nation’s largest employer.

In the 21st century, things changed. Sears faced increased competition from companies such as Walmart and Home Depot. To raise capital, it sold off its Craftsman tool line, DieHard batteries, and Kenmore appliances brands. It sold off real estate of underperforming stores. According to http://money.cnn.com/2017/11/30/news/companies/sears-losses/index.html, “Sears, which had operated nearly 3,800 stores as recently as a decade ago is now down to 1,104 stores.”

To see a video about the changing face of shopping malls, go to “American shopping malls struggle to survive You Tube.”

—By Karen Centowski

AT HOME WITH MOM

 

Mom always had a huge garden on the farm. She grew potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, peas, onions, green beans, sweet corn, pickles, cucumbers, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, and blackberries. There was a bed of asparagus along the fence, and rhubarb plants in another area. A peach tree and an apricot tree grew along the path to the chicken house. We used to say that if we couldn’t grow it, we didn’t eat it.

When Dad retired from farming in 1968, he and Mom moved to a house in Decatur. The house was on a quiet street, not far from a small shopping center. The property backed up to the baseball fields of a high school. The backyard was perfect for a garden. Dad trucked in a load of good, black dirt.

Mom and Dad lived in that house for many years. Then Mom’s mind began to fail. It was as if a computer in her brain had a short in it. Once she tried defrosting a frozen chicken by putting it in the bedroom closet instead of in the refrigerator. She was storing the object in an inappropriate place, an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another time, Dad had driven Mom to the beauty shop just a few blocks away. He told her to call him when she was finished at the beauty shop, and he would pick her up. He was sitting in his big Lazy Boy chair next to the front window when he saw Mom walking past on the sidewalk. By the time he got up to go outside to get her, she had disappeared. Vanished. Dad called the police, and they came to help search for Mom. They found her around the corner about half a block. She was sitting in a Burger King! Getting lost in familiar places is another early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sometimes when they left the house to visit relatives, she would become frantic at dusk. She thought they needed to get home to put the screen in the door of the chicken house so the foxes would not eat the chickens. That was the routine we had when we lived on the farm, but that was years ago. This was another sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mom could still dress herself. She could still cook. Since Dad was in good health and living in the house with her, Mom was able to continue living in their house. Without Dad, she would have needed in-home care or an assisted living facility. She died suddenly at age eighty-one.

If you have a family member who needs in-home services, call American Home Health at (630) 236-3501. The agency can provide round-the clock nursing care by Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). Our service area covers fifteen counties in Northern Illinois including Cook, Lake, McHenry, Boone, Winnebago, Ogle, Lee, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, LaSalle, Grundy, Will, and Kankakee. American Home Health is licensed by the State of Illinois and accredited by the Joint Commission.

For further information, go to www.ahhc-1.com, or call (630) 236-3501.

—By Karen Centowski

DEALING WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT

harassment

When recent media stories focused on Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and his history of sexual harassment, the reader might have dismissed this as more Hollywood “trash.” Surely this type of behavior does not occur in other occupations such as nursing. Wrong! In fact, home health nurses often deal with sexual harassment by patients.

On December 20, 2017, Medscape conducted an online poll of nurses. According to an article entitled “Me, Too! For Home Care Providers,” “73% of nurses polled said that they had been sexually harassed by patients.” The harassment could have been anything from offensive jokes and sexual comments to inappropriate touching.

Why would this occur so frequently in home health? The article, “Me Too! For Home Care Providers,” says that the conditions are right for this to occur. Home health nurses provide care in the homes of the clients. The nurse is often alone with the client. The client is on his “home turf” and may feel emboldened to act inappropriately. Sometimes the client’s medical condition may impair his ability to behave appropriately. For example, the client may have suffered a stroke which has affected his behavior.

Both federal and state laws forbid sexual harassment. The article “It’s Not Just Hollywood: Sexual Harassment in Nursing” at https://nurse.org/articles/harvey-weinstein-and-harassment-against-nurses/ lists the following steps a nurse can take when a patient behaves inappropriately:

  • Set boundaries early. What can begin as a seemingly innocent joke can quickly escalate to an onslaught of sexual commentary.
  • Make it clear the attention is unwanted. Sometimes changing the subject or an unamused look isn’t enough to get your point across.
  • Report the harassment to your supervisor. They may be able to reassign the patient to another nurse.
  • Do not be alone with the patient. If you are unable to have the patient reassigned, bring in a coworker.

It is very important for nurses to document every instance of sexual harassment by a patient. The documentation must be very specific. “Me, Too! For Home Care Providers” gives the following example of documentation on the case of inappropriate touching: “The patient touched my left breast.”

After receiving a report of sexual harassment, the supervisor and upper management will investigate the situation and take necessary action. This may include reviewing clinical notes, interviewing other nurses on the case, and counseling clients and care-givers. Every part of the investigation must be documented.

If it is possible that the client’s behavior may be caused by a clinical condition such as a stroke, the supervisor and upper management need to contact the patient’s physician to seek assistance. It may be necessary for the provider to discontinue services to the client.

—By Karen Centowski

CARJACKINGS SKYROCKET IN CHICAGO

If you live in Chicago or the collar counties, you are probably accustomed to the huge number of shootings or homicides that occur in the city. Now another crime, carjacking, has surged to its highest numbers in at least ten years, according to a Chicago Tribune article printed December 29, 2017.

Although the vast number of shootings and homicides tended to be concentrated on the South and West sides, carjacking occurred throughout the city, often in trendy neighborhoods and downtown. Among the 967 victims of carjacking in Chicago in 2017 were ordinary citizens, an off-duty police officer, and a Lyft driver.

What is carjacking? Merriam-Webster defines it as “the theft of an automobile from its driver by force or intimidation.” The word “carjacking” is actually a combination of car + hijack + ing. According to Merriam-Webster, the word was first used in 1991.

Thieves often use force, threatening the drivers with a gun or knife, to rob their victims of their money and their vehicles. Sometimes the thieves then use the vehicles in drive-by shootings, smash-and-grab burglaries, and other crimes. Sometimes they might just go for a joy ride in the car and abandon it on a city street.

What methods do criminals use to steal the cars? One method is called “bump-and-run.” The criminals intentionally drive their car into the rear of the victim’s car. When the driver gets out of his car to survey the damage and exchange insurance information, the criminals threaten the victim with a weapon, jump into the car, and drive away.

Darren Reboletti, a Lyft driver, was dropping off his Lyft passenger around 1:30 A.M. on December 20, 2017 on the South Side of Chicago when he felt another car bump into his brand-new Jeep Cherokee from behind. When he got out to check the damage, someone from the other car jumped into his Jeep. Reboletti tried to pull the thief out of the Jeep, but the thief kicked him, swore at him, and threatened to kill him. Reboletti backed off, and the thief drove away in his 2017 Jeep. The second vehicle, a blue Ford Exposition, also fled.

Another method is distraction. The criminals place a $20.00 bill under the windshield wiper of a parked car. When the driver gets out to retrieve the $20.00 bill, the thieves jump into the car and drive away.

A third method is armed robbery. On December 18, 2017, an off-duty Chicago police officer was sitting in his personal car two blocks from police department headquarters on the South Side. Two men approached the officer’s car. One man tapped on the passenger’s side window to distract the officer. The other man, Carlos Hendricks, age 18, went to the driver’s side, pulled a gun, and demanded the car. According to the Chicago Tribune article “Police: Charges filed against man shot while carjacking off-duty Chicago cop near headquarters,” the officer fired one shot and hit Hendricks in the abdomen. Hendricks was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The other suspect ran away and remained at large as of December 19. A gun belonging to Hendricks was recovered from the scene.

—By Karen Centowski

USE YOUR GIFT CARDS NOW


If you received gift cards for Christmas, now is the time to use them. You may be tempted to squirrel them away in a drawer, but that would be a big mistake.

The two most common kinds of gift cards are retail gift cards and bank gift cards. Retail gift cards are only redeemable at a specific retailer or restaurant. Bank gift cards such as American Express gift cards or MasterCard or Visa can be used at any location that accepts that card.

Why should you use your gift cards as soon as possible? Michael W. Frerichs, Illinois State Treasurer, warns that the value of the card may be eaten up by fees if the card is not used promptly. In his January 2018 E-NEWSLETTER at Michael.Freichs@llinoistreasurer.gov, he explains, “Remember that while money on a typical bank gift card cannot expire for at least five years, depending on the circumstances, inactivity fees could begin in as little as 12 months. Therefore, it is possible that inactivity fees could consume the cash value of a bank gift card before the five-year window has expired.”

“Under Illinois’ Consumer Fraud Act, most gift cards sold in Illinois that are usable only at a specific retailer or restaurant are not allowed to incur inactivity fees.”

There are other reasons for using your gift card now. For example, if a retailer or restaurant closes, you will not be able to redeem your gift card. Imagine your disappointment if you have saved a $50.00 gift card which is now worthless!

Remember that your gift cards are the same as cash. If your gift card is lost or stolen, report it to the police. Then contact the issuer of the card (e.g., Mastercard) to determine if it is possible to get a replacement card and what the cost would be to get it.

If you are sitting around with a stack of unused gift cards, you are not alone. An article entitled “$1 billion in gift cards go unused every year-here’s how to avoid that” published January 1, 2018 on marketwatch.com, stated, “Consumers spent more than $130 billion on gift cards per year, according to advisory company CEB Tower Group, but roughly $1 billion went unspent.”

What can you do with this stack of unused gift cards? Here’s an obvious solution. Use them for online shopping. Almost every major retailer has a website with online shopping. You could buy a new outfit or LED light bulbs. You could even order a pizza and have it delivered to your house!

Whatever you do, use your gift cards now.

— by Karen Centowski

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

If you have ever bought a house, you have probably heard the real estate agents’ mantra: “Location, location, location.” According to an article in the balance called “What Location, Location, Location Means in Real Estate,” the phrase means that identical houses can increase or decrease in value due to location. The word “location” is repeated three times for emphasis.

A number of factors can make one house more desirable than an identical house in another location. You can probably name four or five of these factors. For example, families with children will often want a house in a top-rated school district. The fact that a house is in a top-rated school district increases the value of the house.

Homes on lakes or rivers often command top dollar. By its very nature, riverfront property is limited. Building almost any house on riverfront property automatically increases the value of the house.

Did you know that a house in the middle of the block is considered more desirable than the same house on a corner lot? Why? The homeowner in the middle of the block feels less vulnerable. He doesn’t need to worry about auto accidents at the intersection, drivers cutting across his lawn, etc. Likewise, a house in the middle of a subdivision has more value than the same house backing up to a busy road at the edge of the subdivision.

The economic health of a city can influence the value of properties within the city. If a city has a vibrant economy with good paying jobs, people want to live there. By contrast, if a city’s economy is depressed and people cannot find work, the value of homes declines.

The physical location of a house can decrease its value. For example, houses under flight patterns at O’Hare and Midway suffer from noise pollution. Although more than 10,000 residences and 8,000 homes have been provided soundproofing tactics under the Residential Sound Insulation Program, other homes are not eligible because they are outside the boundary.

In like manner, houses built along railroads are less desirable because of noise. The noise level of a train passing through a residential neighborhood is extremely high. The blaring of the horn, the clacking of the wheels, the vibration of the ground is an annoyance during the daytime and interferes with night-time sleep.

Houses built along freeways suffer from both traffic noise and air pollution. Built as walls along a freeway, roadside barriers can help reduce traffic noise. Studies show that barrier walls and proper roadside vegetation can improve near-road air quality. Nevertheless, the value of nearby properties is negatively affected by the freeway.

If you are in the market for a house, remember the famous mantra: “Location, location, location.” You can remodel a kitchen. You can add an extra bathroom. You can install new carpeting. The one thing you can’t change is the location.

— By Karen Centowski