And never wash your hands. “If you see something out of the ordinary, follow it,” chemist Bob Filler advises science students in the IIT newsletter Perspectives on the Professions (January 1991). “Those tangents are sometimes where the interesting science is.” Nutra-sweet, for instance, “was discovered in Skokie about fifteen years ago. A researcher went home and noticed that his food was sweet. His wife said, ‘I put nothing in it.’ He said, ‘Oh yes you did.’ It turned out that he hadn’t washed his hands completely when he left the lab. He went back and realized that he had discovered a non-caloric synthetic sweetener.”

Jane Byrne redux. “Though she was a disastrous mayor…she was the victim of sexism at the hands and mouths of the ugliest men imaginable,” writes William J. Leahy in Leahy’s Corner (February 1991). “The press used every unflattering photo of her that they could. Those Washington supporters who claimed that they were the first to beat the Machine lied. She was the first. Widowhood forced her into domestic isolation, and when she took power she resorted to the only weapons that women are allowed to have by men: gossip, backbiting, shrieking, quick changes of mind, tantrums, and all the rest that we men force women into. Daley is too small a man to take her in from the cold. She could easily head his administration’s efforts on behalf of women or perhaps as an ambassador for tourism for Chicago.”

The block club program from hell. A recent press release reveals that the Internal Revenue Service Outreach Program is “actively soliciting speaking engagements throughout 1991.ÉOutreach speakers are experienced tax law specialists….They can explain the audit process, simplify IRS notices and collection procedures…”

Humming will be strictly prohibited. The Museum of Broadcast Communications plans to host “An Evening With Chicago’s Hottest Jingle Writers” May 21.

Swamped. George Bush’s “no net loss” policy on wetlands is not working, according to a Lake Michigan Federation study: “Of 1,995 permits granted between 1986 and 1989 to dredge and fill wetlands or navigable waters in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes Basin, only 73 permits required wetlands to be mitigated….For every acre gained in the Basin through mitigation, 1.87 acres were permitted to be destroyed.”

“The protests of suburban taxpayers notwithstanding, it isn’t Illinois’ wealthy suburbs that are paying the most onerous rates,” writes James Krohe Jr. in Chicago Enterprise (April 1991). “The highest effective 1988 property-tax rate (4.421 percent) was paid by the citizens of impoverished East St. Louis. The lowest rate–only .989 percent– was paid in Northbrook; the next lowest rate was Chicago’s 1.433 percent.”

“Of the National Association of Radio Talkshow Hosts’ more than 900 members, only 50 are women,” writes Toni L. Kamins in Extra! (March/April 1991). “Regardless of what they have to say, women are constantly judged by their looks. By contrast, Rush Limbaugh, the powerful and provocatively right-wing host heard on some 280 outlets nationwide, is never described as the thrice-divorced, tubby king of radio talk.”

Gagging on GATT. The Newsletter (April 1991) from the Chicago environmental group Terra says that the push to “harmonize” world food-safety standards in the name of “free trade” could be hazardous to your health. “Many Codex [UN] standards are far below those now enforced by the US EPA….Codex standards for DDT residue on peaches and bananas are 50 times higher than those of the US EPA.”

“If a developer wants to get in and make a quick profit on a building, that’s going to tell you something,” Dan Murphy, vice president of Environmental Systems Design, tells Dale Eastman in The Neighborhood Works (April/May 1991). ESD is the largest electrical engineering and consulting firm in the midwest. “It’s going to tell you to go with electricity. But if a developer or owner says, ‘I want a building I can live in for 20+ years and I don’t want my fuel costs to be exorbitant,’ that’s going to tell you to go with gas. Because long-term, gas is going to be at least three times cheaper than electricity, and that’s just the way it is.” A combination of Com Ed incentives and short developer time-horizons, however, has made the vast majority of Loop office buildings all-electric during the last 20 years.

“No one says of a person building his dream house, ‘Does he really need so many rooms?’ nor of an author, ‘There she goes publishing another novel. Can’t she just settle down and enjoy the two she’s already written?’ But a couple expecting their fourth or fifth baby is discussed all over town,” writes Jo McGowan in U.S. Catholic (March 1991). “People who write books or build houses or play musical instruments all have to achieve their goals with sacrifice. The point is that the goal should be worth it. In the case of children, there no longer seems to be a consensus on this question.”

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