Trip to Chicago

Helping to preserve my town as an historic place in Illinois involves considerable research and travel. I will do anything to help advance knowledge and to goad action. I get very nostalgic about an area that our grandparents and even great grandparents built for their progeny. At a very young age, I was completely taken with its history. Now I must go to Chicago to interview a former resident who has some documents and photos to show me. I am a bit concerned about being a small-town guy in a big, dangerous city. Don’t laugh; you know what can happen. Peril lurks around every dark corner. We don’t have nearly the crime rate in our safe, little town. I hope I am not being naïve.

I am not used to thinking about self defense, but I am preparing in advance. I bought a Taser (a brand of stun-gun) that I keep at home for such trips and I have a FOID (Firearm Owner’s ID). I am ready! I studied up on how to use it and what affect it has on the victim. Basically, it delivers high voltage (but low amperage) to the body. It is a short-term shock in spite its power. It is not the deadly charge I expected. It does send signals to the central nervous system that results in considerable pain due to muscle contractions. It is easy for the police to subdue rioters with this weapon. It really packs a punch.

Despite gearing up for the trip with the Taser in hand, I changed my mind at the last minute and elected to carry pepper spray instead after reading Self Defense Guide. I was worried that it wouldn’t be legal to take on a plane. It is also used by the police as a viable alternative. This is a simple but very effective form of self defense made up of chilis. Image that! A harmless vegetable turned into a chemical weapon. At close range, a few sprays will cause the eyes and nose to burn, followed by coughing and choking. It is temporary like a stun-gun and immobilizes the victim for some time, allowing you (the real victim) to run away from a mugger and get to safety, where you can call the police and post a warning on Facebook. It sounds less intense than a stun-gun, safe, and totally impressive.

Despite all my worry and concern, I didn’t have to pull out the pepper spray—not even one time. Not even for a growling stray dog. There was no loose bear from the zoo. Ha! The trip was profitable, fun, and a kind of mini vacation. I learned a lot about my hometown, information I am eager to share with others as soon as I return. I enjoyed the sights and landmarks of this metropolitan center and had time to try some great restaurants. Nevertheless, I am glad that I know about self defense and that I had my preferred tactic along with me just to be sure. Even with a problem-free trip, I still believe in taking caution.

Storm Aftermath

Someone in every historic town needs to be appointed as local guardian, or at least to head of committee of like-minded souls. Usually these are people who go back for generations in the town and have ancestors that help establish now historic spots like the Gardner Museum of Architecture. It is one of our landmarks and I have taken it upon myself to keep my eye on its impending deterioration. I will then have to take charge of restoration, and most important of all, fundraising for the project. Local funds are in short supply so it will need some supplemental resources not to mention some construction volunteers. I am looking forward to heading up the project. It will be one among many given the age of many buildings in our town. This is going to be a life-long enterprise for me and many other citizens who care as much as I do about preserving the original character of our town.

Recently, we had a bad storm and as soon as it abated, I wanted to take a look at the Gardner Museum to see if there was any severe damage. I wanted to do a thorough inspection of the roof and attic so I took along my super-bright LED flashlight as a companion. Its illumination would make sure I didn’t miss anything critical and there were a number of impressive leaks in the roof. I shone the light closely so I could assess the problem and make notes about needed repairs. I would have to find the right person to do the job so it would last through the next winter onslaught. I wasn’t capable of doing the job so it was a permanent fix. At best, I could do some patching and painting. I let the word out and got some responses from a few roof repair companies. Of course, I chose the one that volunteered to do the job for no fee as it was an historic building. This is ideal when you are short of funds. Other buildings had damage that had to be addressed immediately.

After the work was proceeding nicely, I let the local press know of the generosity of the company. They printed a nice article about the building and the on-going restoration. The highlight of the article addressed more attention to historic sites and their care. It was a kind of local appeal and it worked as my group received a number of calls from volunteers and donors who wanted to rally to the cause. They were impressed by the roofing company stepping up to the plate and felt that they, too, could do something on their own, however small. I got donations of building materials and many commitments from handymen and construction workers to join in any designated project. The more the merrier and in this case, we had a jolly bunch, thanks to the newspaper publicity. I no longer worry quite so much about my town.

Keeping the Lights On

Illinois as a state is not the warmest region of the union. The mid-west is notorious for freezing temperatures during the winter onslaught. It comes like clockwork year after year. More than once a month in the high season before spring, the airport is closed and people get stranded. In fact, many dread the word “winter” more than anything else. They learn to be prepared for the worst or face the consequences.

When the power goes out, it can be a matter of life or death. While many homes and offices have backup generators, many do not. I had to make the decision recently after a few bouts with failed electricity. I had not thought about it much prior to one particular episode. I just got out a ton of blankets and got into a cozy bed.

After a particularly bad winter storm, however, when people were snowed in, I realized the importance of this handy item. It doesn’t cost that much relative to the suffering you receive at the hands of Mother Nature, but it will run in the thousands. Manufacturers offer a bevy of models, ranged from the small portable generators suitable for camping through to huge systems that are designed to power your entire home or office. A home unit provides quiet, reliable power in a pinch. You should know your needs before buying. Let’s say you decide, or get a consultant to suggest, about a 40 kW unit.

Here is what you will get: an emergency standby model suitable for larger homes and small commercial buildings. It will run on natural gas. The sound level approximates that of an idling car and not more as it has an acoustically-designed aluminum enclosure. The generator is akin to an automotive engine and it may be designated as 5.4L V8—pretty powerful. It will also have a digital control system that facilitates service and maintenance. The LCD display will tell you what you need to do at a glance and can be tied to your computer, tablet, or smartphone—super convenient. The unit is resistant to corrosion.

There’s more! This particular generator as an auto shut off feature, high coolant temperature, low oil pressure, and what is known as overspeed. You can add on a transfer switch and generally customize the system for easy use. It comes with forklift delivery to your door. It is the Generac Protector and it does the job! There is only one drawback and that it does not have its usual tax advantages in the state of Illinois. Elsewhere, check with your dealer as this feature saves you money.

So, this is but one example, but it shows how you can take charge, fork over some big bucks, and secure your safety and well-being during the winter. If you have a family, it is a requirement to be sure. If you have children or elderly people in your home, it is that much more important. Many older structures do not come with such wonder machines, and any upgrades and renovations to them should include one in the budget. It is important for posterity, of course, but also a mandatory action of the moment.