Quick Hits – August 30, 2017

Give the ESO a break!

Apparently, there are mixed feeling over the City of Elgin forgiving $161,000 of a $183,000 loan to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra. I get it! At a time when taxpayers are at the breaking point, the last thing any city council should do is turn away black ink.

I also understand the ESO has had their moments over the last six or seven years, none of which we really need to be repeated here. Suffice it to say that regularly dealing with artists is a lot like trying to herd squirrels across Larkin Avenue just as the high school inmates are being released.

To say they’re certainly not political folk is a massive understatement.


But I’m OK with letting the loan go because the ESO has truly has made an effort to turn things around. New CEO Dave Bearden has brought balance to the fiscal force, calmed those former turbulent musician waters and attendance has grown to almost 1,000 patrons a performance.

And I don’t see that $161,000 as a gift as much as it is an investment.

With that debt off the books, that ESO balance sheet will be far more attractive to those all-important grant givers, which means any future City bailout will be far less likely.

Then there’s the fact that the ESO truly is a jewel in the crown of The City in the Suburbs (I still hate that motto). They’re a world class ensemble that puts on stellar performances for eminently reasonable prices. And a slew of the folks who make it to The Hemmens avail themselves of Elgin’s eating and drinking establishments before and after performances.

So with the ESO self-sufficient, bringing in outside grants and boosting the local economy, that $161,000 is money well-spent. At least Elgin ain’t being blackmailed into paying for a new stadium to benefit a $500 billion NFL team!

All that said, were I an Elgin City Councilman, a terrifying prospect if there ever was one, I would add a loan forgiveness clause that made it clear that, if the ESO goes off the rails again within the next five years, that loan balance gets reinstated. And “off the rails” would be determined by a council majority vote.

As for me, I love the ESO! My wife and I got to meet Leonard Nimoy after a performance some five years ago and I still haven’t washed the hand he shook. Considering some of the previous dire proclamations, I’m glad this one’s working out.


Get out of my way!

On the grand scale of things that truly matter in this existence, this probably wouldn’t make the top 500. But we all have our pet peeves and some situations are simply symptomatic of a greater cultural epidemic.

To wit, the act aggravating me most lately is grocery and big box store employees who not only get in your way, but block you from getting to something you were looking for.

It happened this month at the Batavia Trader Joes. I was heading down the frozen food aisle when a young woman carrying a box of light breakfast items made a 90 degree turn and put herself and the box right in front of me. I had to stop short not to run into her.

It’s a common occurrence at the St. Charles Meijer, too. Why, this week, one of the staff was so mesmerized by his cell phone, I had to leap out of his way as he plowed down a main aisle.

Though this should be a matter of common courtesy, since parents no longer impart manners, someone’s got to make these employees understand that, without customers, they wouldn’t get paid. Sure! If someone’s rolling a huge stack of carts in or wheeling a ton of boxes down an aisle, I’ll step aside. But the customer should get the right of way in all other cases.

And that includes moving boxes and their conveyances out of the way if we’re trying to get at something.

Most customers understand this principle and apply it themselves. I’ll patiently wait for senior citizens, give mothers with children a break and generally let women go first because that’s the way I was raised.

It’s a very simply concept. Within the bounds of reason, defer to the folks who make that paycheck possible. Thank you for hearing me out.


LSAT prep!

Former Elgin City Councilman John Prigge, who actually can write, and I were engaged in a fascinating journalistic philosophical discussion when he asked if I’d read his latest piece. When I replied I was too busy trying to sell my children into white slavery and doing LSAT prep, he said he’d “like to see a picture of that.”

I asked “which one,” and John replied that it didn’t matter.

So, since the whole white slavery thing could get me in trouble with the Feds, I thought it would be more prudent to go with the LSAT photographs.

For the uninitiated, and those who simply haven’t been paying attention, one must take the LSAT to get into law school, a place I will be heading in the fall of 2018. NIU to be more specific.

And I have to say the LSAT is a fascinating proposition. It’s nothing like the SAT, ACT or any other standardized test I’ve ever taken. One of my favorite Kane County attorneys likes to say this about the LSAT, “Preparing for a test that fails to reliably reflect the future lawyering skills it purports to gauge is big business.”

She’s dead on!

To her point, I would scream at those sample test questions because:

  • They often bear no resemblance to any reality I’ve ever encountered.
  • Some of the reading comprehension passages are so poorly written they make Daily Herald reporters look good.
  • Some questions contain the kind of factual inaccuracies that make it hard to get past them to the multiple choice answers.
  • The LSAT folks employ college logic class terms that no one uses in real life.
  • The LSAT folks truly enjoy trying to trick test takers.

And I’m guessing they don’t want people to suddenly start shrieking and swearing in the middle of the test. But once I realized that:

  • You have to suspend reality and approach those questions as if they are the truth.
  • You need to low your way through those passages despite and problematic prose.
  • The test is designed to determine whether 21 year-olds can construct and deconstruct the basic building blocks of an argument.
  • Three of the five offered answers can almost always be eliminated right away.

I started doing alright!

And wouldn’t you know! Being an 11-year journalist finally has a benefit in that it prepares you for LSAT questions, especially those in the reading comprehension sections. Silly me! I was beginning to think that writing would never pay off!

It also doesn’t hurt that, Dave Killoran, the author of the PowerScore suite of LSAT prep books, responds to email question regarding overarching test theories. He’s been very helpful.

So, thank you for asking, John. It’s actually going quite well!


Taking some time off!

Speaking of law school, since I will be visiting the NIU hallowed halls version and sitting in on a class or two on Friday afternoon, there will be no Friday Quick Hits.

You never know, I could be inspired by something, but it looks like I’ll be relaxing on Labor Day as well.

But I guarantee you I’ll be back next Wednesday with more great stories!

One thought on “Quick Hits – August 30, 2017

  1. Totally agree with you on the ESO. It’s an investment the city needs to continue.

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