Wacky optimist award. From Mayflower Transit’s “checklist for a smooth move”: “Give yourself at least two weeks to unpack and organize your belongings.”

More help for those who need it less. “At the University of Chicago –home of the nuclear chain reaction and Pinochet’s economic development team–plans are under way to cut back spending on financial aid by directing aid dollars from poorer to wealthier students, thereby discounting tuition prices for the well-off,” writes Kim Phillips in In These Times (July 8). It’s a market thing: the university can make itself “affordable” to academically likely upper-middle-class prospects with a smaller financial-aid package than less-affluent applicants would need. Is this an outrage? Phillips is not sure, because “college education is one of the cornerstones of the American class system,” and so “financial aid at private schools is just another version of the Horatio Alger story, holding out the tantalizing prospect of individual advancement while social inequalities remain in place.”

“Like Christianity and most other religions, TV offers its congregants a coherent story concerning how to live in the world,” writes David Marc in his new book Bonfire of the Humanities. “Television is the oracle of a religion called consumerism…. Opponents of consumerism–right, left and otherwise–are generally blind to the nature of consumerism’s dominance. To secular humanists network TV is another dangerous drug served up by the dealers who gave you the opium of the masses; to born-again Christians it is another false messiah brought to you by the folks who gave you Darwin, Freud, and Marx. But consumerism is a revolution against the paradigm used by both sides to explain consumerism. The messiah has both arrived and is arriving at all times. Utopia is both declared and imminent. The commercial has made the material spiritual. There’s no use complaining about the shortcomings of life, except that complaining reminds you that you are looking for solutions. Remedies are available. Buy them.”

Not as unusual as you thought. Percentage of children under 18 living with both parents, according to the census bureau by way of the Illinois Association of School Boards News Bulletin (June 21): 71.

“Large numbers of Mexican trucks entering the U.S. are not meeting basic U.S. standards,” according to a recent press release from the National Association of Independent Insurers, based in Des Plaines. “Many Mexican trucks have numerous accidents due to containers that leak, brakes that malfunction and bald tires…. Mexico imposes no ‘hours of rest’ restriction on truck drivers…. Mexican trucks frequently exceed the U.S. legal weight limit, sometimes by more than double.” The insurers want the Clinton administration to continue its moratorium on Mexican trucks traveling beyond border commercial zones until these and other safety issues are resolved.

Right-wing foundations’ investment in outside-the-Beltway think tanks “paid off particularly handsomely” after the 1994 conservative sweep, according to “Buying a Movement,” a recent report by the liberal lobby People for the American Way. “One common function of these state think tanks is the creation of policy papers for state legislators, which in turn become the basis of legislation, floor statements, press releases, op-eds, and more. One such group, the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, even named one of its newsletters Intellectual Ammunition, suggesting that its ideas were more oriented toward political advocacy than exploration.”

Mommy, where is Amelia Earhart today? From the July 20 program at the Chicago Children’s Museum: “Celebrate Amelia Earhart’s birthday. Design and make your own paper airplane.”

Recycling is where you find it. Art Shiver quotes a Houston computer salvager in Chicago Computer Currents (July): “We have been sending disk drives to people in China who clean them. A disk drive might be 70 percent aluminum, but because it will have quite a bit of steel in it, it won’t have quite the value in this country. Plus, the labor is too expensive to strip out those little screws; but in China they’ll do it. In fact, they’ll take out all those little screws and sell them to someone else who will sell them retail.” The U.S. salvage value of an average PC is $9.62.

“To the Democrats in Springfield, the school reform bill represented the monumental irony of the new order,” writes Charles Mahtesian in Governing magazine, quoted in Illinois Issues (July). “Those institutions the Democrats really wanted the Chicago city government to control–airports, stadiums, waterworks–the Republicans were trying to take away from them. The one institution Republicans wanted to reform but didn’t want to oversee–the school system–was being dumped in the mayor’s lap.”

Lest we forget. Tashi Delek (Summer), newsletter of the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago, notes the visit of Buddhist monk Palden Gyatso, who was arrested by the Chinese in 1959 at age 28 and “spent most of his adult life in prison, finally gaining his freedom at the age of sixty-one. Outside of prison, most of the rest of his family had gradually disappeared…. Reflecting on his long years in prison, he observed that for him, life had been something like a dream: he never had a chance to really feel it.”