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By Harold Henderson

(Some) newcomers welcome. The city Department of Environment is working to restore native vegetation and habitat at North Park Village Nature Center, but ecological nativism won't work everywhere, writes commissioner Henry Henderson in Urban Naturalist (January/February/March). "In the Department's City Trees guide, in addition to recommending native species such as Hackberry, Catalpa and Hawthorn, we also recommend such non-native species as Japanese Tree Lilac, Ginkgo and cultivars such as Redmond Linden and hybrid Elms for sites such as streetscapes, vacant lots and industrial properties....These species are able to survive and grow in the extreme temperatures, car exhaust, salt spray and disturbed soil and drainage conditions common to the urban environment, often much more effectively than species native to the Chicago area. So, in the urban environment, the ecological goal of 'sustainability' entails establishing a hybrid culture, bringing native and exotic species together into a new landscape."

Antiques are where you find them. The weekend of February 10 Eagle River, Wisconsin, will host an "Antique Snowmobile Derby," featuring "re-enactment of the very first snowmobile derby, which was held at Dollar Lake"--all of 33 years ago.

"Both the direct instruction and progressive camps share a disdain for what goes on in most classrooms," writes Linda Lenz in Catalyst (December). "The average Chicago teacher emphasizes facts over discourse, and relies heavily on worksheets, textbooks and short-answer questions. 'If I see a real problem with basic skills and learning in schools, it's that teachers don't spend enough time teaching,' says Barbara Bowman, president of the Erikson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development. 'And by that, I don't mean teachers telling children things. Rather, I mean setting up things for children to learn from.' Teachers might assign an essay on 'your summer vacation' but not help children learn how to write a good topic sentence and then check to see whether they actually learned how to do it."

Oops! I forgot to be chemophobic there for a minute! A press release touting alleged "HIV and AIDS cures by holistic experts" recommends, among other things, replacing dental fillings that contain mercury and nickel with "pure plastic."

Last one to finish wins? In McGaw YMCA's LazyMan Triathlon, starting February 12 in Evanston, participants will run 26.2 miles, swim 2.5 miles, and bike 112 miles--indoors, in up to six weeks.

"[There's] a troubling new pattern," writes John McCormick from Cook County Hospital's trauma unit in Notre Dame Magazine (Autumn). "Dr. John Barrett, 50, director of the Trauma Unit since 1982, says that a decade ago only 5 percent of all gunshot victims had been hit by more than one bullet. With the availability of semi-automatic weapons, that number has risen to 30 percent." Says Barrett, "The real enemy is kinetic energy, which equals half the mass of an object times its velocity squared. The mass of the semi-automatic bullet isn't much different from that of older ammunition, but the increased muzzle velocities of weapons like the 9-millimeter handgun produce tremendous increases in energy that has to be absorbed when the bullet tears into tissue. Basically, the bullets carry more injury capacity. What we used to call 'war wounds' we now see every day."

The gods are in the details. More than half of the 1,003 Illinois companies surveyed by the state chamber of commerce will give employees a paid holiday for Good Friday on April 5 this year. Less than 1 percent will do the same for any Jewish holidays. No other religions made the cut.

Gee, in that case, I guess it's worth every penny. Cost to taxpayers (so far) of defending Mayor Daley's 1992 ward remap against a voting-rights lawsuit, according to Illinois Politics (December): nearly $7 million. If the suit is successful, it could force the city to draw two additional majority-black wards and one more majority-Hispanic ward--which might endanger the careers of aldermen Ed Burke, Patrick Huels, Terry Gabinski, and Richard Mell.

Sprocket politics. "The past 20 years of building new roads to accommodate sprawl development has produced a regional roadway system that is too expensive to maintain," Randy Neufeld, executive director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, is quoted as saying in the organization's December/January newsletter. "We need to position bicycling not as another special interest depleting the shrinking pot, but as an investment many times more cost effective than capacity expansion."

If this is the "Super Bowl for feminists," then they must be the AFC team. Leora Tanenbaum, reviewing Women on Ice: Feminist Essays on the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan Spectacle in In These Times (December 25): "Most of the contributors to Women on Ice admit that they have a soft spot for Harding and brush aside her participation in the vengeful assault on Kerrigan. Only film and television critic Sandy Flitterman-Lewis is willing to confront Harding's crime....That most of the contributors neglect to analyze Harding's violent and desperate action is a testament to how far the field of cultural studies can stray from reality."

Send tips to cityfile@chireader.com.

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

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