16 FRIDAY “Contrary to what the FDA and Monsanto say, genetically engineered milk is an entirely different product from natural milk,” says Dr. Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition (and emeritus professor of environmental medicine at UIC). He says research has proven that drinking milk from cows treated with rBGH increases the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer and that it can be linked to the decreasing effectiveness of antibiotics in the general population. But that hasn’t stopped the FDA from approving its use; last month the administration announced it would not mandate special labeling and testing of genetically engineered food and crops. That’s the hot topic at this weekend’s Genetic Engineering Action Network conference, which kicks off tonight with a free public forum. The speakers will include Epstein and representatives from the Institute for Social Ecology, the Center for African-American and Ethnic Studies Programs at Adelphi University, the International Network on Bioethics and Disability, and others. It’s from 6:30 to 9 at the Apparel Center at the Merchandise Mart, 350 N. Orleans. Call 312-951-8999 for more.

17 SATURDAY “I go to church early to get a seat on the front row of the balcony just so I can look over at all those hats,” says 69-year-old Jacquelyn Jenkins in Craig Marberry’s new book, Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats. He interviewed some 50 hat-wearing women for the book–Michael Cunningham took their pictures and Maya Angelou wrote the foreword–and will discuss what they told him today at 11:30 at Barnes & Noble, 1130 N. State (312-280-8155). It’s free.

A quarter of the trips people take are to a destination less than a mile from home, and three-fourths of those are made in a car. If people would just walk or ride a bike on these short jaunts they’d improve their health dramatically, says Jeff Sunderlin, a program administrator at the Illinois Department of Public Health. But most people never get up off the couch–for a number of complex reasons. Sunderlin will explain why at the annual meeting of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. It’s today from noon to 3 at the Midwest Consumer Bicycle Show, which is this weekend at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road in Rosemont. The first 100 people to show up for the CBF meeting get free admission to the show; if you miss the cutoff, admission is $7 for adults and $5 for kids. Call 312-427-3325 for more.

18 SUNDAY A dominant message in Swedish folklore is that hard work and discipline lead to prosperity. A good example is the classic story “Salt on a Magpie’s Tail,” in which a poor boy is tricked into earning the things he desires. Eight stories that feature supernatural beings will be woven together at today’s performance of Swedish Folk Tales, a Field Museum “Cultural Connections” program starting at 3 at the Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark. Tickets are $17; call 312-665-7474 to register. The show continues its run February 23 through March 18; call the Swedish American Museum at 773-728-8111.

19 MONDAY Forget what went down in Florida last November–here in Cook County some 49,923 suburban voters messed up their ballots badly enough to disqualify their presidential votes, while state and city election officials have been hit with multiple lawsuits aiming to eliminate the punch-card ballot system. Today a group of experts will testify at a hearing on electoral reform sponsored by students from the Mikva Challenge, a group of over 200 kids from 11 high schools who worked on the last election. Presenters at today’s free Presidents Day hearing include Cook County Clerk David Orr, community activist Richard Barnett, Du Page County Election Commission executive director Bob Sarr, Rene Luna from Access Living, and others. It’s today from 10 to 12:30 in the auditorium of the State of Illinois Building, 100 W. Randolph. Call 312-669-0960 for more information.

20 TUESDAY Philadelphia-based anarchist historian and IWW organizer Robert Helms spends his free time traveling the country to track down obscure information on infamous and not-so-famous anarchists. He’s uncovered a ton of new information, such as the fact that feminist freethinker Voltairine de Cleyre, whom Emma Goldman called “the most gifted and brilliant anarchist woman America ever produced,” died at 45 from a venereal disease she’d had for 20 years. Helms, who’s also the editor of Guinea Pig Zero, a zine for and about test subjects, will give a free slide lecture called Dead Anarchists I Have Known tonight from 5 to 7 in the video theater on the lower level of the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State (312-747-4999).

Great Small Works’ multimedia production of the Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln uses puppets, paper dolls, music, elaborate costumes, and Bänkelsang–a medieval form of public storytelling–to present the true story of a Jewish pearl trader and moneylender who lived in 17th-century Hamburg. Glückel, who married at 14, had 12 children, and was a widow by the age of 44, put her story–the only known premodern Yiddish text by a woman–on paper as a way “to drive away the melancholy that comes with the long nights.” It’ll be performed tonight and tomorrow night at 8 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. Tickets are $20; call 773-722-5463.

21 WEDNESDAY The life of Ruth Ellis, the “oldest out African-American lesbian,” is the subject of a documentary film by Northwestern University doctoral candidate Yvonne Welbon. A mix of narrative re-creation with historical documentation, Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100 tells the story of the “life, loves, and struggles” of the gay-rights activist, who died in October at the age of 101. Welbon will discuss the film and her award-winning technique after a free screening tonight. It starts at 7:30 at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 1967 South Campus Drive, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. Call 847-866-0300 for more information.

22 THURSDAY When it comes to jobs, exports, and wages, postindustrialism can’t hold a candle to the U.S.’s old manufacturing-based economy, says former Forbes and Financial Times editor Eamonn Fingleton. “Perhaps the easiest way to see how bright manufacturing’s future truly is,” he says, “is to remember that about 90 percent of the world’s population is poor. As the world’s developing nations bootstrap themselves out of poverty, how will they spend their money? Do they ache to acquire such postindustrial products as personal home page software, databases of American newspaper clippings, or Wall Street’s latest portfolio hedging services? Probably not.” He’ll discuss his theories and his new book, In Praise of Hard Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future Prosperity, tonight at 5 at the Chicago Temple, First United Methodist Church, 77 W. Washington. It’ll be followed by a panel discussion with representatives from the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Chicago Manufacturing Center, the Center for Labor and Community Research, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and World Business Chicago. It’s free; call 312-236-4548.

The mission of the recent CITY 2000-themed issue of the Journal of Ordinary Thought is to encourage amateur writers “to record and reflect on their everyday lives with…grace, precision, and imagination” equal to the efforts of CITY 2000’s battalion of professional writers. Tonight Virda Jean Towns-Collins, Charles Clements, Pat Guy, and about a dozen other writers will read from their work in front of photos from the exhibit “Chicago in the Year 2000” that speak to some aspect of each story, and CITY 2000 director Richard Cahan will give a gallery talk. It’s from 6 to 7:30 in the Chicago Rooms on the second floor of the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Washington, and it’s free. Call 773-684-2742 for more information.