National characters. From a recent Harper’s: “The U.S. frontier is in the West and its hero is an outlaw; the Canadian frontier is in the North and its hero is a policeman.”

Dept. of inventions your grandparents got along without: Hammacher Schlemmer now offers a $33 “parked car hot air extractor” whose fan is powered by a photovoltaic panel. Of course, you could just buy one of those paper flaps to keep the sun out in the first place.

“Why would anyone want to be mayor of Chicago?” writes Ann Seng, president of the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs, in One City (March/April 1989). “The problems and issues facing our city…should be enough to scare off all but the brightest, the best, the most articulate, the most dynamic, the most experienced, the most innovative and the most committed-to-our-city candidates. You be the judge if this is the situation in which we find ourselves.”

The extremely difficult and exacting qualifications required of a good multiple-guess test writer, according to Educational Testing Service program administrator Carole Slaughter: “People tell each other that if you make a blind guess, ‘C’ is probably the correct answer. And sometimes, with teacher-made tests, this is true. When you’re writing a multiple-choice question, it’s very hard to resist writing the correct answer by the time you’ve reached the third choice. However, good test-makers work hard to ensure that the correct answers are evenly distributed among the ‘A’ through ‘E’ options” (ETS Developments, Winter 1988).

Business services, health services, and restaurants and bars are the biggest business sectors in Chicago these days, according to the 1988 annual report of the city’s Econo-mic Development Commission. In those three sectors 11,872 firms employ 246,253 workers–more than the next six largest sectors in the city put together (banking, wholesale durables, insurance, educational services, printing and publishing, and air transportation).

Why didn’t they have that problem with the numbers racket? In Illinois Business Review (February 1989), Mary Laschober explains that state-sponsored lotteries “appear to have a natural life cycle. As people become bored with existing games, interest wanes and sales decrease. Frequent introduction of new games and aggressive marketing and promotion seem necessary to maintain revenues.”

“You never know what to expect when you go to a hospital,” says 36-year-old medical student Abbie Nelson in Mount Sinai Hospital’s 1988 annual report. “But I saw right away that students were treated like valuable human beings–that doesn’t happen very often. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.” Not quite what most of us look for when entering a hospital, but we get the idea.

The real world behind the Reagan Revolution stage set, from Dan Swinney’s review of The Great U-Turn in Chicago Enterprise (March 1989): “Exactly 60 percent of all jobs created between 1979 and 1987 paid less than $12,000 a year. That is less than the poverty level for a family of four.” Worst off? The industrial midwest.

That reminds me–isn’t it time for lunch? From a recent U. of I. press release debunking myths about bats: “Though not exactly her pets, four Malayan false vampire bats are under Tyrell’s care and respond vigorously when she approaches to feed them a tasty meal of beetle larvae.”

Maybe the potholes are bigger than they were four years ago. In 1984 the Illinois Department of Transportation improved 1,947 miles of highway (out of a total of just over 17,000 miles), and in 1988, just 912 miles. Yet according to state comptroller Roland Burris, total road-funds expenditures were slightly higher in 1988, and the available month-end balances in the funds averaged three times higher in 1988 than four years earlier (State of Illinois Fiscal Condition Report, February 28, 1989).

Joke of the day. Paul Varnell writes in Windy City Times (March 2) about the late but welcome visits of Illinois Department of Public Health director Bernard Turnock to high schools to talk about AIDS. “At Oak Park-River Forest when Barney told the students that the best absolute protection against AIDS was not doing sex, ‘that was the big joke of the day,’ said one attendee. ‘The place just went up for grabs.’ Cardinal Bernardin should have been there.”

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