Nation’s supply of nerds threatened. “Human life always has been a struggle against the limits of nature,” writes University of Chicago law professor Martha Nussbaum in the New Republic (December 4), reviewing the recent book From Chance to Choice: Genetics and Justice. She worries that parents-to-be may use genetic technologies to seek the superficial best for their progeny. “We know that many of the most creative and valuable human lives are the result of particularly difficult struggles that forced people out of the mainstream and made them the targets of contempt and abuse. Anyone who has ever been bad in sports, or the wrong body type for some sexual stereotype, knows that genuine suffering is involved in these ‘impairments’–and so a caring parent might well demand genetic alterations to prevent them, thus producing a nation of large-busted women and muscle-bound men. But shouldn’t culture be changed rather than nature?”

“There’s an odd component of globalisation, which I find myself at a loss to explain,” writes George Monbiot in the Guardian (November 30), a commentary distributed on ZNet ( “We are, we’re assured, living in a global village, whose people are daily brought closer together. Yet we hear ever less about what is happening in distant parts of the world. There is less foreign news in the papers than there has been for sixty years. Foreign documentaries are almost extinct. Parliamentary debate about overseas issues has all but dried up. In the midst of the communications revolution, we are becoming strangers to each other.”

Everyone wants to be onstage, nobody wants to be in the audience. Dan Guillory, an English professor at downstate Millikin University, laments the decline of poetry (Illinois Issues, December): “In sum, there are many writers of poetry today, perhaps more than at any other time in our national history, but decidedly fewer readers.”

“Welfare recipients in Illinois are surprisingly upbeat” about their lives and about welfare reform, according to a recent press release from the University Consortium on Welfare Reform, which includes Northwestern, Northern Illinois, and Roosevelt universities, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. “More than half of the former recipients are working and report job satisfaction and improved financial situations. Nearly all expect to be working within a year.” Median monthly earnings were $960.

Third City again. According to a recent report from the American Electronics Association (Philanthropy News Network Online, December 8), as of the end of 1998, San Jose had 252,888 high-tech workers, Boston had 234,822, and Chicago had 180,400.

“This line between form and function is blurred everywhere in [artist Dan] Peterman’s studio at 61st Street and Blackstone in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago,” writes Kathryn Hixon in the New Art Examiner (October). “What began as a modest recycling center and junk yard has ballooned into a sprawling complex that includes a complete wood shop; a Volkswagen repair garage; community garden plots; a large kitchen; offices rented to The Baffler, a literary magazine; an art gallery; a common area big enough to hold 200 people; and a bike shop, as well as Peterman’s spacious studio. The space developed as needs arose and occupants figured out solutions for the evolution of the use of the space. A majority of the building projects are achieved through barter.”

Those who apply to be “Teachers for Chicago” need to be “well-informed and know what they are up against,” says one intern in the alternative-certification program for the Chicago Public Schools, quoted in a recent Chicago Panel “Initiative Status Report.” “It’s difficult working and going to school. Get rid of your social life. My friends all hate me. I never see them.”

Save the date. According to a recent press release, the 2001 “American Solar Challenge” will start July 15 in the Museum of Science and Industry parking lot, with solar-powered cars built by university teams heading down Stony Island as they begin their journey to southern California.