Getting strange for the holidays. According to a recent UIC press release, nutrition instructor Janet Regan Klich urges holiday shoppers to use the supermarket as a gym. Park at the far end of the lot, she suggests. Choose items from top and bottom shelves only. And “pick up two 46-ounce cans of juice and do arm curls and lifts while walking around the store.”

Signs of the times. “My 74-year-old, Spanish-speaking mother recently came to visit me, as she does every year,” writes Carmen Aguinaco in the Chicago-based U.S. Catholic (November). “On this occasion, she was detained at the Airport Immigration Service for the longest time. I told her that next time she should say that she had every intention of stealing a high-paying job from a hardworking and deserving American. But they might have taken her seriously and deported her.”

Management-directed fund drives are “unfair to employees,” writes Donald McNeeley, president of Chicago Tube & Iron, in the newsletter of DePaul University’s Institute for Business & Professional Ethics. “This places undue pressure on employees, some of whom may not be in a position to afford [to contribute]. Further, perhaps some of those who can afford such would, in a more neutral environment, select a different charity which is more personal to them.”

On the road. “In 1970, 10 percent of all commutes crossed county lines,” according to the Metropolitan Planning Council’s draft report “Housing for a Competitive Region” (October). “By 1990, inter-county commutes had nearly doubled, to 19 percent.”

“Life after death has gotten more difficult over geologic time,” says University of Chicago paleontologist Susan Kidwell, who’s quoted in a recent university press release. She specializes in taphonomy, the study of what happens to an organism after it dies, as it decomposes and becomes fossilized. “There has been tremendous evolution on the supply side of the equation–the organisms that produce potential fossils–but also among agents of destruction, those organisms that destroy bones and shells….Half a billion years ago, post-mortem processes were less severe but shells were also less durable, with the result that the mixing of multiple generations [in the same layer of rock] is less of a problem.”

$4,000,000,000,000? That’s what the U.S. nuclear weapons program has cost (in constant 1995 dollars) to date, writes Stephen Schwartz in the Hyde Park-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (November/December). Four trillion dollars is “the amount of all outstanding mortgages on all buildings and homes in the United States.” Why so much? According to Schwartz, “The constitutional system of checks and balances was rarely applied to the nuclear weapons program. A cloistered bureaucracy, largely unaccountable to Congress, managed the program. Congress frequently neglected its oversight function, allowing decades of wasteful spending.”

“The Internet can affect your teeth” according to a press release from Chicago-based AGD Impact (November), a magazine of the Academy of General Dentistry, introducing an issue encouraging dentists to discover on-line communications.

That’s $712 a pound, and really easy to lose. SourceOne Wireless in west suburban Wheeling now offers “the world’s smallest pager” for $89. It’s “about the size of half a credit card, the depth of a pack of gum, and weighs under two ounces.”

“The problems of crime or violence or drug abuse don’t happen in a vacuum,” reflects Father Dave Kelly, associate pastor of Chicago’s Assumption Parish, in Salt of the Earth (November/December). For instance, “it is rare to find teachers who live in the communities where they teach. I wonder how attitudes would change if those same teachers lived in their school’s community? What if the police officers or mental-health counselors or probation officers or judges lived in the same neighborhoods as those they served? What if they went to the same grocery store or walked in the same park?”

“Math programs for kids don’t teach math. They test,” report Lorraine and Jordan Breslow in Chicago Computer Currents (October). “Ideally, we would like our children to learn early in life that math, like reading or art, can be fun and creative. But for now, the Wall Street wizards who make Barbie believe that ‘math is hard’ would have us believe that through the miracle of multimedia, math is easy. It isn’t.”

Certainly not enough of that around here. The press announcement for the Chicago Paintball Factory (an indoor arena for the popular nonfatal war game) on West Van Buren describes it as “a warehouse loft space transformed into a ‘nighttime city of the apocalypse.'”

“People presume free-range [chickens] spend much or most of their days outdoors with ample space, exercise, sunlight, social life, and at least some sustainable vegetation,” writes Karen Davis in the Animals’ Agenda. “To U.S. egg producers, however, free-range birds are simply uncaged, though their range may consist [only] of the crowded floor of a building with nest boxes along the walls.”

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