March 1, 2008

Phil Saxon opens new show at Monfort's Gallery

Phil Saxon and wife, Pam, right, at show's opening;
with Monfort's owners Ray and Miriam Hoyum

Monfort’s Fine Art Gallery is featuring new work by Racine artist Phil Saxon.

Saxon’s newest work is on display through March 15. Saxon uses a variety of media including ink, charcoal, acrylic, watercolor and gold leaf, as well as collage techniques, to create an image that uses texture and contrast to highlight specific focal points in every painting. His genre is almost entirely figurative expressionism focusing on people in various settings and themes.

“My paintings express self-discovery and self-disclosure," Saxon says. "Working in a series enables me to explore conceptual, compositional, and technical ideas while focusing on a specific theme. My intent is not to illustrate a particular idea or experience, but to express fragments of ideas and experiences."

Saxon received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from UW-Milwaukee and his Masters of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University. He has shown in galleries in Southeast Wisconsin, Illinois and exhibits throughout the U.S., and his work is in many collections.

Monfort's, at 423 Main Street, features a new artist every month; this is the fourth time Saxon has been featured over the past five years.

February 29, 2008

TDS internet customers fight massive phishing attack

TDS Telecom's email customers have been under attack this week,and the company and its Madison-based subsidiary, TDS Metrocom -- with more than one million phone lines and 300,000 internet customers -- has been struggling to maintain service and protect customer accounts.

For two days this week, customers had trouble with email -- it either wouldn't send or couldn't be retrieved. For hours on end.

The problem was two-fold. First, a coordinated phishing attack -- hackers sending fraudulent emails seeking account information -- obtained access to some customers' accounts and ran amok, generating what the company called "an extreme amount of email," more traffic than the system could handle. For hours on Monday and Tuesday, the attacks all-but shut down the email service -- customers couldn't send or receive email -- although phone and other internet access were not affected. Delays continued through Feb. 28.

TDS spokesperson DeAnne Boegli says the company put 200 more service reps on duty to deal with customer issues -- in many cases helping customers set up "strong" passwords -- passwords with at least eight characters, a capital letter, a number and a symbol. Harder to guess than your first name, donchaknow.

At the same time, TDS reported that customers in Minnesota underwent a "vishing" attack -- callers offered discounts and tried to pry account information from customers that way. (Vishing is a combination of voice and phishing.)

Andrew Petersen, director of public relations for TDS Telecommunications Corporation, said, "We have smart customers and thankfully they have been great in alerting us to the calls. It appears that these scam artists are just using a phone book to call our customers."

TDS offered the following tips after the break:

How do you know if your password is strong?

Must be at least 8 characters in length
Must contain upper AND lower case (a-Z)
Must contain at least one numeric character (0-9)
Must contain at least one special character (!,@,#,$,%,^,&,*,(,),_,+)
A space is not allowed within the password.
Cannot be ‘password’
Cannot contain the ‘username’
Example of an acceptable password: eXample2%

TDS reminds customers that it will never send an email to ask for password or other personal information, and only asks for this information when a customer calls the company directly.

Quick Phishing Tips:

Do not respond to Phishing emails in any way, not even to type, “take me off the list” or “unsubscribe,” because it validates your email address to the hacker.
Simply delete all emails from unknown or suspicious sources.

Never give out passwords or other personal data to phone or email solicitors
Call the company at a trusted number, such as the one on your bill, to verify it’s a valid request if you are unsure.

Use a variety of strong passwords with different companies you do business
Report Phishing emails and SPAM to your service provider or virus programs
Do not forward Phishing emails to warn your friends, it only feeds the system.

Lassie come home? Well, this one would like to ...

Remember Lassie? Of course you do. The distinctive (and smart!) Collie has starred in at least a dozen movies since the first in 1943 (which also featured Elizabeth Taylor), and four long-running TV series.

Not that everyone is a fan: "Lassie looked brilliant, in part because the farm family she lived with was made up of idiots. One of them was always getting pinned under the tractor, and Lassie was always rushing back to the farmhouse to alert the others. She'd whimper and tug at their sleeves, and they'd always waste precious minutes saying things like: "Do you think something's wrong? Do you think she wants us to follow her? What is it, girl?" as if this had never happened before, instead of every week."

OK, we won't ask humorist Dave Barry if he wants to adopt this lovely Collie -- ours is a male, by the way -- as were all the celluloid Lassies. Nick is 2, neutered, good with other dogs and available for all ages. His owners moved to a place where no dogs are allowed. (We can't say what we think of those places; this is a family website!)

Nick is friendly and good-natured. He likes to "talk" with grunts and grumbles, and he is housetrained. Like all Collies, he needs regular grooming.

Nick also needs an owner willing to explain to everyone who meets him that he is not Lassie. If you are that person, you can adopt Nick from the Countryside Humane Society.

If you're going to adopt a Lassie doppleganger like Nick, it will help if you know at least a little Lassie history:
1. Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Stewart, Peter O'Toole and Jeanette MacDonald also shared the stage with one or another of the many scene-stealing Lassies over the years.
2. Lassie is one of only three animals to have a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame; the others are Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart.
3. And finally, Lassie was "born" in 1938, first appearing in British-American author Eric Knight's short story Lassie Come Home published in the Saturday Evening Post.
Kennedy, last week's dog up for adoption -- a Phalène -- has found a new home!

February 28, 2008

Kenosha County to back Great Lakes Compact

The Kenosha County Board is expected to endorse the Great Lakes Compact next Tuesday.

Last week, the Wisconsin State Senate's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources met in Kenosha for a public hearing on the Compact -- officially, Senate Bill 523, The Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resource Compact -- and testimony was overwhelmingly favorable. More than 50 people spoke in favor of the bill; three were opposed.

A resolution in support of the Compact will be introduced Tuesday before the next meeting of the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors, by supervisors William Grady, District 1, and Jennifer Jackson, District 20, with bipartisan support.

The measure calls upon the Wisconsin Legislature and governor "to quickly ratify this bill into law so that others may follow," and urges Congress to approve the Compact "so it may become a binding interstate compact on Great Lakes bordering states."

" In looking for support from Village officials, we found many to be on board and willing to speak at the next board meeting. The Village of Bristol and Pleasant Prairie as well as the Mayor of the City of Kenosha and their Water utilities Manager, Ed.St. Peter, all concur that the Great Lakes Compact is detailed and works for Kenosha County," said Jackson.

The complete resolution is HERE.

So far, no such action has been taken by the Racine County Board of Supervisors.

Unified: Student threatened 'Columbine-style' attack on Walden

UPDATE, 2/29/08: WRJN is airing a phone call from a woman who says she is the mother of the student who allegedly made the threat. The woman called the station yesterday afternoon.

The caller describes her son as "a straight-A student, who made a terrible decision. It was just talk, not a threat.... He and a few of his friends were making a joke in poor taste and poor judgment and should suffer the consequences for that."

She said there were "extenuating circumstances" including the fact that her son "doesn't even know where Columbine was" or what happened there.
- - -

Unified put out a statement on reports that a student at Walden III High School threatened to carry out a "Columbine-style" attack on the school.

Here's what the district is saying:

* On Wednesday, Walden III school staff was made aware that a student had made comments about a ‘Columbine-style’ attack on the school.

* When the staff became aware, staff took it very seriously and involved the Racine Police Department immediately.

* The situation is currently under investigation by the Police Department and the Racine Unified School District.

* The threat did not affect the safety of our school or disturb instruction.

* There will be an increased police presence at the school as well as additional security procedures implemented. The district asks that students and parents cooperate with these new procedures even though it may be inconvenient.

* Disciplinary actions have been taken by the district against the student who allegedly made the threats and the district continues to investigate this matter.

February 27, 2008

Neighborhood Watch plant sale a sure sign of Spring!

Like those colorful seed catalogs suddenly filling our mailboxes, I have in my hand another sign of Spring: the order form for Racine Neighborhood Watch's annual plant sale. Somebody please tell the Weather Man that Winter is so over!

"It's Flower Time!" says the form, only rushing the season a little. The deadline for ordering is April 18.

The money raised by Neighborhood Watch's plant sale supports the entire program: block watch meetings for crime prevention, monthly neighborhood meetings, National Night Out, free mediation, and participation in community projects such as Earth Day, Make a Difference Day, and others.

Neighborhood Watch has been in Racine since the early 1980’s, and the plant sale has been a colorful fixture since 1995. Originally, Neighborhood Watch just sold geraniums, but now offers a wide variety of flowers and even a few vegetables. All plants come from a local grower. Order deadline is April 18, and the pickup and delivery date is Saturday, May 17.

Clicking HERE will produce the order form. Just print it out, fill it in and return it to Neighborhood Watch with payment. If for any reason you can't retrieve the form, contact Mary McIlvaine at Racine Neighborhood Watch, 800 Center Street, Room 316, Racine, WI 53403; call 637-5711 or email.

What's behind Senate's decision to debate Feingold-Reid?

The Senate's decision Wednesday, by a 70-24 vote, to debate the two Feingold-Reid bills that would redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq and cut off combat funding within 120 days to focus the military and intelligence services on defeating Al Qaeda around the world is like an iceberg, with more of the story under water than visible to the naked eye.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, says, for example, that Senate Republicans finally agreed to have this debate "because they're under the false impression that Democrats may be embarrassed to debate the war in Iraq." (Actually, not so far-fetched, if you've watched the Clinton-Obama sniping over who said no to Iraq funding first, and who was wrong when. On the other hand, McCain is so far to the other side with his support of the war, that both parties should be uncomfortable.)

The Associated Press quoted Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, saying the debate "would give us a chance to talk about the extraordinary progress that's been made in Iraq over the last six months."

Feingold quoted a story on "One senator has called the Iraq debate 'a waste of time.' Another called the debate a 'diversion.' Yet another said that Feingold-Reid was 'too restrictive.' And all of these are quotes from Democratic members."

Regardless the political game-playing, there will now be up to 30 hours of debate on the bill.

During the debate Wednesday, Feingold defended his proposals:

"Sen. Inhofe said my bill demanding a strategy to defeat al Qaeda wasn’t needed because we already have a plan to defeat al Qaeda. He failed to explain why, if we already have a strategy to defeat al Qaeda, al Qaeda has regenerated and reconstituted itself and is planning more attacks on our homeland. Adm. Mullen has been quite clear that, under our current strategy, Afghanistan is a second priority where we only 'do what we can.' "
"Sens. Inhofe and Lieberman have claimed that we do have political reconciliation in Iraq… if Iraqis have agreed to political reconciliation, as Senator Inhofe suggests, well then, doesn’t that mean we’ve achieved the objectives of the surge and we can start bringing home the troops? When does the other side think we can bring our troops home – 5 years? 20? 100? What kind of ‘success’ is that?"
"Some members of this body seem to believe that the war in Iraq is between U.S. troops on the one side and al Qaeda on the other…The recent patterns of violence in Iraq actually confirm what the Intelligence Community has said all along: that the war in Iraq is sectarian and intra-sectarian, and far from the over-simplified “us versus them” that proponents of an endless military engagement in Iraq continue to describe."
"Iraq is not the central front on the war on terrorism. To the extent there is such a front in this global conflict, it is clearly Pakistan and Afghanistan. Early this month, the DNI testified before Congress that the central leadership based in the border area of Pakistan is al Qaeda’s most dangerous component."

Feingold at White House for briefing from Bush on Africa

For those of you who think Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, should be in the White House -- well, tomorrow's the day! Alas, it's just for a briefing with President Bush...

Feingold, chairman of the Senate African Affairs Subcommittee, and other congressional leaders will meet with the President to hear about his recent five-nation tour of Africa, which included stops in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. Feingold has traveled to Africa eight times since joining the Senate in 1993.

"Africa faces serious challenges that affect not only the people of that continent but the international community as a whole," Feingold said. “I look forward to meeting with the president to hear about his trip and discuss issues like preventing disease, including HIV/AIDS, addressing human rights abuses, the importance of humanitarian assistance, and supporting democratic institutions. I am pleased that the president is recognizing the importance of Africa."

Prior to the president’s trip, Feingold sent him a letter encouraging him to emphasize the importance of continued democratic reform, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and peaceful conflict resolution. A copy of the letter is available here.

Ryan bill addresses illegals' with employee verification

Congressman Paul Ryan, R-WI, 1st District, joins two other congressmen Thursday introducing legislation to address illegal immigration with a new employee verification law.

Ryan will take part in a news conference on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 11 a.m. with two other members of the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, Sam Johnson and Kevin Brady of Texas.

The New Employee Verification Act, Ryan says, will ensure a legal workforce, secure workers’ identity, and protect Social Security. The bill strengthens enforcement through tougher employer penalties, replacing the current error-prone and cumbersome I-9 process with an electronic verification system.

Susan R. Meisinger, President and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, and Lynn Shotwell, Executive Director of the American Council on International Personnel, will speak at the news conference in support of the measure as well.

February 26, 2008

Legislature to honor Corinne Owens Thursday

Racine civil rights activist Corinne Owens has been named a Hometown Hero by the Wisconsin State Assembly. Ms. Owens, active in the Racine community for 60 years, was nominated for the award by Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine. She will be honored on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. in the State Capitol’s Assembly Chambers.

The Hometown Hero award is presented to outstanding citizens during each two-year session of the Assembly. Members of the community are nominated by their state representatives and winners are chosen by either the Speaker or Minority leader. Those selected as Hometown Heroes are given the award and honored in front of the State Assembly.

Corinne Owens arrived in Racine in 1946. She began her career as a teacher in Mississippi but was denied a teaching job in Racine due to a then district policy that barred African American teachers.

She started the Racine chapter of the NAACP in 1947. Since then, Ms. Owens has led campaigns for fair housing in Racine, more police officers on city streets, and more minority teachers. She has mentored many young people and has organized scholarships to help Racine’s African American youth.

In 1968, she returned to the classroom after more than a 20-year absence. Today, at the age of 95, Ms. Owens is still a dedicated volunteer teacher in the Racine school system. She was inducted into the Southeastern Wisconsin Educator’s Hall of Fame in 1994.

Among many other accomplishments, Corinne Owens was also the first woman and minority to be appointed to the Gateway Technical College Board in 1971. She served as chairwoman of the board from 1978-79.

"I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award than Ms. Owens," said Rep. Mason. "It is especially appropriate that we acknowledge her during black history month. Ms. Owens has accomplished more than anyone I know and she is still going strong. I am honored to be able present this award to a living legend," he said.

Mason's bill raising minimum wage gets hearing

Assembly Bill 274, which raises the minimum wage from $6.50 to $7.25 per hour and indexes it annually at the rate of inflation, will receive a public hearing Wednesday in the Assembly Jobs and Economy Committee. The Senate Companion to Assembly Bill 274, Senate Bill 130, passed the Wisconsin state Senate on Jan. 15. Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, is the lead author in the Assembly and Sen. Russ Decker, D-Schofield, is the lead author in the Senate.

"I am proud that raising the minimum wage was the first bill I introduced in the Wisconsin state Legislature," said Mason. "Approximately 255,000 workers — 10 percent of Wisconsin’s workforce — will experience some increase in pay if this legislation passes. Additionally, 92,000 children have parents who will benefit from this increase.

"Indexing the minimum wage rate to inflation will help middle class families struggling to keep up with rising costs," he said.

"Wisconsin’s minimum wage now ranks 40th in the country. The impact of this critical legislation is far too important for it to become a part of a political stalemate. I call on my Republican and Democratic colleagues to meet the needs of working Wisconsinites by passing this necessary legislation as soon as possible," he concluded.

Billboard opponents win four battles!

There'll be no billboards by Horlick Dam.

Back in October, there was a contentious Planning Commission Meeting, over the application by Adams Outdoor Advertising to erect a number of new and improved (bigger and electronic) billboards around town. Our story, with a link to a map showing all the locations, is HERE.

Adams wanted to "improve" four existing billboards (i.e., make them bigger) and erect six new billboards ... some of them double-sided and electronic.

Dozens opposed the plan at the hearing, and the Planning Commission deferred action. Well, now at least a partial victory for the protesters.

According to Brian F. O'Connell, director of city development, "Adams has withdrawn its request for new billboards at three locations. As a result, the locations are no longer before the City Plan Commission."

The three locations that will NOT be getting billboards are: 3026 Mt. Pleasant St.; 3640 Northwestern Avenue (adjacent to the Root River); and 1623 DeKoven Avenue (at Memorial Drive). Adams had proposed putting two billboards at 3640 Northwestern Ave., an electronic one 14' by 48' and the other 12' by 25', on either side of the Root River near Horlick Dam.

UPDATE: As for the other billboard locations in Adams' original application, those projects come up for Planning Commission action today (Wednesday, Feb. 27) at 4:15 p.m.

Kohl, Feingold concerned about our aphrodisiac

I must have led a sheltered life, because when I saw the news release today from Sens. Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl about their efforts to protect Wisconsin ginseng, my first reaction was: Whaaaaa? I grew up in New York, and everybody there knows ginseng comes from Chinatown.

Well, once again, I am wrong.

Feingold and Kohl report that 90 percent of the ginseng grown in the U.S. comes from Wisconsin. They further claim that Wisconsin ginseng "is widely heralded as the premier ginseng in the world," a claim I'll have to accept on their word, since I've never ginsenged.

The issue here is whether the Senate Agriculture Committee will keep a requirement in the Senate Farm Bill that raw ginseng root must be labeled to identify the country where it was harvested.

Kohl and Feingold say the high demand for ginseng has led smugglers from Canada and Asia to label their ginseng, "which often has traces of pesticides and other chemicals not approved in the U.S.," as Wisconsin-grown, misleading consumers and undercutting domestic ginseng growers. A country-of-harvest label would help consumers and producers by ensuring that consumers who pay a premium for Wisconsin-grown ginseng are getting what they pay for and that the higher prices find their way back to the pockets of hard-working American ginseng farmers, they say.

"This ginseng labeling provision is crucial for Wisconsin ginseng farmers and consumers who lose when foreign farmers free-load off of Wisconsin ginseng’s unparalleled reputation," Feingold said. “The final Farm Bill must maintain this simple provision to ensure that consumers looking for Wisconsin ginseng are getting the real thing and not a knock-off."

The ginseng provision in the Senate version of the Farm Bill was based on Kohl and Feingold's Ginseng Harvest Labeling Act of 2007.

But what is ginseng, anyway, and what's it used for? And what's the difference between Wisconsin-grown and China-grown ginseng? Ah, so! Once again, we turn to the Internets for answers. All the smutty sex talk you were hoping for is after the break. reports:
Ginseng is another long-touted aphrodisiac. Recently, the Journal of Urology reported, "the Mean International Index of Erectile Function scores were significantly higher in patients treated with Korean red ginseng than in those who received placebo." In animal studies, ingesting ginseng doesn't appear to have an immediate effect on testosterone levels, but the ginseng may trigger other mechanisms that lead to increased performance and libido.
(They also debunk the value of Rhino horn.)

WebMD says:
An herb very commonly associated with love is ginseng. Some say ginseng is an aphrodisiac because it actually looks like the human body. (The word ginseng even means "man root.") Studies have reported sexual response in animals who have been given ginseng, but there is no evidence to date of ginseng having any effect on humans.
(But at least it's better than Yohimbe and Spanish Fly, both of which have nasty side-effects like paralysis and death.)

The Food and Drug Administration is also less than encouraging:
Many ancient peoples believed in the so-called "law of similarity," reasoning that an object resembling genitalia may possess sexual powers. Ginseng, rhinoceros horn, and oysters are three classical examples.

The word ginseng means "man root," and the plant's reputation as an aphrodisiac probably arises from its marked similarity to the human body. Ginseng has been looked on as an invigorating and rejuvenating agent for centuries in China, Tibet, Korea, Indochina, and India. The root may have a mild stimulant action, like coffee. There have been some experiments reporting a sexual response in animals treated with ginseng, but there is no evidence that ginseng has an effect on human sexuality.

So, exactly what is the purpose of ginseng? We turn to the Ginseng Board of Wisconsin -- which makes clear the difference between our ginseng and Asia's, while at the same time ignoring totally any purported sexual side-effects. (Didn't they get the memo?) It's all about temperature, donchaknow:
"There are two types of ginseng. Often both types are taken for a health balancing effect. Consumers take American ginseng for a cooling effect and Asian ginseng for a heating effect."
Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng): This ginseng is white root and generally used to cool the body. It is an adaptogen (a substance that helps the body adapt to stress) that cools and soothes. American ginseng is produced in Wisconsin.

Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng): This warms the body. This root is red and is typically grown in China and Korea. It is used to increase stimulation and warm the body.
There you have it. Just be sure to check the label. And be careful out there. (One of these days, when they're least expecting it, we'll ask Kohl and Feingold what they use ginseng for...)

A world without Starbucks? Yikes, today! (for 3 hours)

All you Starbucks junkies out there (you know who you are) are in for a jolt tonight, and we're not talking about the caffeine in a Venti Espresso Macchiato, or whatever a $4 cup of coffee is called these days.

For three hours tonight, Starbucks is going dark. As in closed. At 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time (that's 4:30 here), all 7,100 Starbucks will close for training. According to an article in the Seattle Times, Starbucks is introducing a new set of standards for making their coffee drinks, and the most important feature of each store — the espresso machine — had to be commandeered to spread the knowledge to the baristas.

"They will be trained in creating the perfect shot, steaming the milk and all the pieces that come together in a drink," a company spokeswoman told the newspaper. (Gee, we woulda hoped they already know how to do that stuff.)

More HERE.

In the meantime, we're sure coffee lovers (and those of you who go mostly for the wi-fi connection), can find other alternatives around town. Can you spell JavaVino, Grounds Keeper, Caribou, Wilson's, Dunn Brothers, Mocha Lisa... who am I missing?

Hang in there, Starbucks aficionados. For three hours, anyway. Be brave.

February 25, 2008

Racine Yacht Club at 92 explored on CAR 25 TV show

Everyone in the Belle City knows of the Racine Yacht Club. Isn't that the place down by North Beach?

However, if you ask, "Have you ever been inside of the yacht club;" most likely the answer is "No." That's just a place for sailors who own boats, would be the common sentiment of the average citizen. But since 1916 the Racine Yacht Club has been so much more than that to this city.

Perspective on CAR 25 will air a one-hour documentary covering the history, development, social activities and community services of the yacht club. The show is hosted by Lori Minneti, and features James Rooney; Rick Hennig, sailing and ice boat racer; Amy Cermak, Adventure Sail Leader; and Olympian Tony Herrmann Jr. Producer John Polodna also interviews Kim Shortess, Ira Kahoun and others while giving an overview of one of the oldest yacht clubs on Lake Michigan.

This episode of Perspective begins March 1. It will appear on Saturdays and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., and on Wednesday at 10 and 9 p.m., on cable access channel 25 on Time Warner.

Wisconsin Fridge Poetry: Kringle me this, cheesehead!

Remember those magnetic poetry kits we had as kids? Little flat magnets with words printed on them that stuck to the front of the refrigerator? You couldn't resist making sentences, or poetry out of them every time you walked by.

Well, has created a Wisconsin Poetry Activity that brings the memories rushing back. Using the magic of the internet (and Macromedia Flash, which you probably have whether you know it or not), they've created a pseudo-refrigerator and stuck about 75 pseudo-magnetic words on it -- not just any words, but exactly the ones a Poet Laureate would need to describe Wisconsin: kringle, bratwurst, cheesehead and uff da among 'em. (But no Packers -- what were they thinking?)

In any case, the example above was taken from a poem submitted to the Portal Wisconsin site, and if our own experience is any guide, you will spend far too much time using your mouse to move the words around, trying to create your own poems. Go HERE to try it.

If you come up with a keeper, send us a screenshot! Just email it HERE.

Other, similar, internet word games are HERE, with themes like "artist," "genius," "romance," "office" and "gardener." All wonderful time-wasters.

And yet another tip of the hat to

Racine native wins Grammy

(Photo: William Terry is on the far right playing bass.)

Racine native William Terry (Horlick, 1990) won a Grammy at the recent music awards. Terry won as a bass player for Terrence Simien and the Zydeco Experience. Simien is considered a Zydeco master; Terry has been with him for two years.

"He's done more in his short life, 35-36 years, than most people do their whole life," said Terry's brother, Scott Terry, who lives in Racine.

Terry moved away after high school to go to school at the University of New Orleans. His music career has taken off as a bass and tenor sax player for Simien and Buckwheat Zydeco. Terry has played in groups that headlined Summerfest and the New Orleans Jazz Fest, and traveled the world.

He was playing in Africa when Hurricane Katrina hit, taking out everything Terry owned. He moved back to Racine for awhile with nothing more than what he had on him when went on tour.

Terry is back in New Orleans now, and he has his own Grammy statue. The whole group won an award for Simien's album, "Live! Worldwide."

Scott Terry said he's still waiting for a picture of his brother with the statue. "He's definitely the first one in the Terry family to win a Grammy," Scott said.

(Photo: William Terry with his mom after playing at Summerfest with Terrence Simien and the Zydeco Experience.)

Thoughts for Food is March 1; save the date!

This year's 16th annual Thoughts for Food event will be different from recent years'. Scheduled for Saturday, March 1, it will feature the same kinds of foot-stomping live music as in year's past, and the same purpose: to raise funds and food donations for the Racine County Food Bank. In its 15 years so far, Thoughts for Food has raised $265,000 and more than 66,700 pounds of food for the food bank.

Thirty-six bands and performers have been scheduled at 10 different stages. The difference is that all those stages will be closer together -- all north of the Root River. Old-timers will remember that the very first Thoughts for Food event was staged at just one bar -- George's Tavern.

The change this year -- scaled back from an event that ranged all over downtown in recent years -- will make it easier to attend more multiple venues, since they'll all be closer together, and will allow the organizers to do away with most of the expensive ($4,000) buses used in past years to ferry partygoers around. There will still be a shuttle to carry event-goers between the Racine Yacht Club and Michigan's Pub.

Best yet: there will be another Thoughts for Food event on Sept. 20, this one staged only at downtown venues!

Tickets are $10 if bought by Friday, Feb. 29; after that they are $15. Tickets are available at any of the venues except the Racine Yacht Club, as well as at the Racine County Food Bank. Tickets bought in advance provide entry to the main event as well as to the Pre-Event Band Showcase on Friday, Feb. 29, from 7 p.m. to midnight, at the Eagles Club.

Complete schedule of events and bands below.

Other events staged in conjunction with Thoughts for Food are:
-- An All-Ages Event on Friday, Feb. 29, at the Racine YMCA. Tickets cost $6, plus two non-perishable food items. This year's lineup:
6 p.m., The Arsonist
6:45, A Guide to Suicide
7:30, The Reinforcements
8:15, Labeled
9, East of You
9:45, Anatomy of a Masochist
10:30, Bury My Enemies
--A Fund-Raising Dinner at the Corner House on Friday, Feb. 29, featuring a choice of prime rib, filet mignon, lobster tail or king crab. Tickets are $100 each, or six for $500. Social Hour from 5:30 - 6:30 with cash bar and dinner at 6:30. All net proceeds benefit the Racine County Food Bank and availability is limited. To purchase tickets, contact Dan Taivalkoski at the Food Bank at (262) 632-2307 or John or George Kopolus at the Corner House at (262) 637-1295.

But the main event, as usual, is the performers at the varied venues. Here's the schedule so far:

George's Tavern
1201 North Main St.

Mean Jake 7:00 - 8:15
Rhythm Dogs 8:30 - 9:45
Pulltops 10:00 - 11:15
Shameless Place 11:30 - 12:45

Fraternal Order of Eagles 281
319 Hamilton St.
Root River Band 7:00 - 8:15
Fun Factory 8:30 - 9:45
Pavlik, Stellman & Martin 10:00 - 11:15
Private Saunders 11:30 - 12:45
Fraternal Order of Eagles 281
EZ Liv'n 7:00 - 8:15
Lyden Moon 8:30 - 9:45
Flat Pocket 10:00 - 11:15
Identity Crisis 11:30 - 12:45
1301 North Main
Rumble Box 7:00 - 8:15
89 Mojo 8:30 - 9:45
Sun Spot 10:00 - 11:15
Radioactive Squirrels 11:30 - 12:45
Racine Yacht Club
2 Hubbard St.
Mesnard Location 7:00 - 8:15
Twang Dragons 8:30 - 9:45
3 Floors Up 10:00 - 11:15
CoAxe 11:30 - 12:45
Michigan's Pub
1300 Michigan Blvd.
Elusive Parallelograms 7:00 - 8:15
Mohr Avenue 8:30 - 9:45
Killing Dick Phefer 10:00 - 11:15
The Andes 11:30 - 12:45
Redline Tavern
1201 North Wisconsin St.
Catch Me One Kid 7:00 - 8:15
Matthew Specht 8:30 - 9:45
Billy Orphan 10:00 - 11:15
OCD 11:30 - 12:45
209 Dodge St.
Titus, Rench & Wheary 7:00 - 8:15
Night Wing 8:30 - 9:45
Mark Harrod 10:00 - 11:15
Lake Effect 11:30 - 12:45
The Rhino Bar
1659 North Main
Melvin Barker & The Blues Cruise 7:00 - 8:15
JosB 8:30 - 9:45
Gypsy Creed10:00 - 11:15
Highway 13 11:30 - 12:45
303 Dodge St.
Bands and times to be announced
.Stay tuned....

Candidate wants $1 homes for police officers

County Board Supervisor Ken Lumpkin has an interesting idea to solve crime in his district's neighborhood: get cops to live there.

Steep discounts on homes for police officers is one part of Lumpkin's three-part plan to address crime on the city's near north side. Lumpkin represents the area on the County Board and hopes to serve the area on the City Council, as well. He's up for election for both offices this spring.

For the first phase, Lumpkin wants to create a Police Home Loan Program, which would takes abandoned or condemned houses or seized crack houses and offer them to policemen for $1. The program would also provide the officers with a low-interest loan to improve the dwelling.

The Police Home Loan Program would be a part of the city's community-oriented policing model, which is designed to place officers in neighborhoods where they can get to know people and help them address problems.

Lumpkin said his plan is designed to promote better neighborhoods and to fight crime at the same time.

"The city already have a program to create homeowners by providing down payment and low-interest fix-up loans to city residents," he said. "This would extend these resources to officers wishing to make a dramatic difference in the city."

To purchase a $1 house, officers would have to make a five-year-commitment to live in the neighborhood. The home would have to be located in the present five-census track area.

"Officers who live in the community are more understanding of their neighbors and can better service them," Lumpkin told listeners at one of his ten listening sessions he is holding throughout the 4th District.

"I feel strongly that we must take new steps to curb crime in a way that we can put problem-solvers measures back in the neighborhoods," Lumpkin said.

The second part of Lumpkin's plan would be a negotiable merit pay incentive for officers who are willing to live in high-crime census tracks.

"We already know the benefits of our COP Houses are doing throughout the central city," Lumpkin said. "Couple that with officers living in the neighborhood, the result can only be the reduction of crime."

The last part of his three-step plan is to bring people who make the decisions for the police department closer to the people in the neighborhood.

"In order for there to be good relationships between the police department and the community the two must be engaged with each other," Lumpkin told supporters.

He wants to work with the Fire and Police Commission in order to hold several Commissioner meeting at neighborhood community centers.

Lumpkin said that few people in the inner-city realized that the Commission is the governing body of the police department.

"These session would allow the commissioners to hear the voices of the people that police officers are sworn to protect," Lumpkin said.

Lively, scandalous farce at Racine Theatre Guild

The Racine Theatre Guild is presenting The Gamester, a riotous new comedy filled with romance, disguises, secret alliances, scandalous situations and silliness. Playwright Freyda Thomas took a Moliere-ish French farce and twisted it for modern American audiences. There isn't a dull moment on the RTG stage, 2519 Northwestern Ave., between now and March 16.

Did I mention it's all in verse? And the music is a hoot. And it's not suitable for kids? And the gowns put Oscar night to shame.

Set in Paris at the turn of the 18th Century, The Gamester has wonderfully outrageous characters weaving in and out, resulting in hilarious entanglements. The central character is Jean Valere (Ryan Nelson), a handsome young man who cannot stay out of the casinos. He must choose between his two passions: gambling and the beautiful Angelique (Veronica Wudi). She insists he abandon his wild lifestyle. (Women haven't changed much in the past 300 years.)

His father (Brian Deal) has threatened to disinherit him if he doesn’t mend his ways. But Valere has racked up so much debt, he can’t quit. Loyal servant Hector (Tom Spraker) does his best to keep the wolves from the door. An insatiable (!) older woman, Madame Securite (Dawn Van Ess), is happy to give Valere money, in exchange for sexual favors. Likewise, the bitter widow Madame Argante (Nicole Gorski), Angelique’s sister, has a love and a fortune she’d like to share with Valere.

Angelique, too, is pursued by others, most persistently by Valere’s fat, old, bald uncle, Dorante (Joseph Vignierei). Angelique’s companion, the sensible and uptight Madame Preferee (Chris Heilgeist), keeps a close watch over her charge. Foppish Marquis De Fauxpas (Bob Benson) wants to express his love for Mme. Argante, but becomes a stammering idiot in her presence. Mme. Argante’s maid, sweet Betty (Angela Apmann), has a personality quite opposite her shrewish employer. A Croupier (Jonathan Martinez) sets the play in motion, operating the wheel of fortune, and all’s well in the end.

The production is a sensory delight, lush with period costumes, elaborate masks, elegant wigs, a stylish set, classical music and clever dialogue. Written in verse, the language should not deter anyone: it is easy for contemporary audiences to follow and heightens the comedy.

Doug Instenes directed; Sarah L. Hunt-Frank designed the set, combining French high style of the time with the look of a gambling hall; Sharon Johnson serves as production stage manager.

Sponsored by Sharon’s Cleaning Service, performances of The Gamester run weekends from through March 16. Show times are 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 1:30 p.m. on Sundays, with additional shows at 7 p.m. on March 2 and 9, and at 4 p.m. on March 15.

Tickets cost $16 for the 8 p.m. shows and $14 for all others. Discounts are available for seniors, season subscribers, groups and students; the play is not recommended for young children. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and one hour prior to each curtain time. On performance Saturdays, the box office opens at 2 p.m. For reservations, call 262-633-4218. To learn more, visit the Racine Theatre Guild's website.

Alternative Health Care: Community health center looks to get the word out

There's a good chance you haven't heard of the Racine Area Community Health Center.

First, it's new. The community health center opened a year ago in the Northwestern Medical Center at 2405 Northwestern Ave. as an alternative source of health care and dental care for people on Medicaid or limited insurance. It's run by the same organization that operates the 9-year-old Beloit Area Community Health Center, which has 65 employees and sees 8,000 patients a year. Racine's center staffs two doctors (general practitioners), a podiatrist, two dentists, a hygienist, bilingual support staff and day care, with plans to include mental health services, children's doctors, and more.

Community health centers are common around the country. In all, 1,100 centers in the U.S. see 17 million patients a year, which makes them the No. 1 health care provider in the country. Kenosha and Milwaukee both run community health centers, and now Racine is trying to get one going, too.

But you probably haven't heard about it. Here's the second reason: it's tough to break into the health care market. Even a clinic aimed at providing affordable health care is competing against organizations like Aurora and Wheaton-Franciscan, plus established nonprofits like the Racine County Healthcare Network. Advertising costs money and word-of-mouth travels slow.

Racine's community health center is trying to fill the gap between a provider like Wheaton-Franciscan and a provider like the Healthcare Network. It's for people with some money, but not enough to cover medical bills. Not that it's cheap. The minimum fee to see a doctor at the health care center is $50, in part because the clinic hasn't received a federal waiver to treat uninsured patients. However, the fees, which can reach $65 depending on income, are much cheaper than going to the emergency room and paying full price to see a doctor. That can range into the hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, even if you have insurance.

"Emergency rooms are the most costly way to use health care," said Richard Perry, executive director of Racine's community health center. "We're trying to keep people out of the emergency rooms."

Perry started the Beloit clinic nine years ago as the sole employee with no patients. He's not even a doctor. But he spent 20 years in the Navy working in health care, and got his first clinic going in Beloit's poorest neighborhoods.

He's hit some snags in Racine. A big one is recruiting doctors to work at the center. The Northwestern Health Center is located outside of an under-served census tract, which means the center doesn't quality for a federal program that allows new doctors to work there in exchange for relief on their student loans. But the center has still been able to hire two doctors - Dr. Mike Mangold and Dr. Alan Kanter - and a podiatrist - Michael Kokat - who are seeing about 400 patients at the moment.

The dental clinic has more patients. With most private dentists unwilling to see Medicaid patients (the reimbursement rate is low and many Medicaid patients often cancel appointments), the health center is a reliable alternative.

"We could have 10 chairs going and not be able to meet the need," said Perry during a recent tour of the center's dental clinic. The clinic has three working chairs and two full-time dentists, Jack Fisher and Heather Campbell.

The third reason you haven't heard of the community health center is because we don't realize there are alternatives to health care available. Places like the Healthcare Network and Perry's center are increasingly becoming the backbone of a national health insurance system that is leaving millions behind. While Aurora and Wheaton-Franciscan spend billions of dollars rebuilding hospitals to appeal to rich baby boomers who will soon need services, they're shutting out a growing number of people who can't afford to walk through a doctor's door.

"We're not the answer in universal health care, but we have a significant role," Perry said.

The Bush Administration agrees - sort of. The number of health care centers have doubled during his seven years in office, but the funding for the clinics remains static. That means less to go around for everyone, a common theme in our health care system.

What's frustrating to Perry is the needs are so great. Not only do people need doctors and dentists, they need counselors, day care providers, eye doctors, prevention programs, prenatal support and countless other services that are available to a select few, and withheld from people on the edge.

What's hopeful is a community health care center surrounds itself with people who understand that need. The majority of its board of directors has to be patients of the center, and the staff at the center have to represent the community they're serving. That means a lot of minority employees and bilingual employees, Perry said.

"Almost by mandate we have to mirror the population we serve," Perry said. "We are very culturally diverse."

Once a Racine cop, now a suspense thriller author

"In Orlando, Florida, Michael Moresby hammers his fifth victim to death outside the Beacon Tavern. The same day in Racine, Wisconsin, his twin brother, McMillan, kills his fourth in the Holiest of Holy rooms. And outside the Brewer’s Miller Park Stadium, Eric Murin’s baseball cap tumbles into the path of a careening Buick. Somewhere beyond the line of life and death, in the vastness of the cosmos, there flows a river of sensations accessible by few. Identical twins can. Seers too. And occasionally the victim of a near death experience. For Homicide Detective Dell Murrin, it is an awakening. And what he sees is terrifying..."

And so begins Racine mystery writer Rick McCluskey's first thriller, River of Sensations, published under the pseudonym Sheldon Doyle.

McCluskey is something of a mystery himself. He started out as a cop -- 23 years on the Racine Police Department, rising to sergeant and the department's Training Division supervisor. And then in 1995 he tore up his knee and was forced to retire on disability. What to do?

He started writing: human interest articles and short stories. Nothing got published. "I did learn some valuable rules when it came to writing: Never quit, always believe in yourself and edit, edit, edit. I can’t say that enough about the latter. And if you can’t be brutally honest, then have someone do it for you.

"I never quit. There was gold in them there hills, I just didn’t know how to mine it. So I tried my hand at other genres, writing whatever came to mind. I wanted to find one I felt comfortable writing, but always from a cop’s perspective. And I eventually found my niche: The suspenseful psychological crime thriller."

(Reminds me of the famous "Writing is easy" quote by novelist Gene Fowler: "All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.")

As McCluskey describes it, his first novel started out as a short story. "It just started growing, mainly because I was sitting in front of the computer and had nothing to do. It took close to six years before it didn't look like a bunch of chicken scratchings." The turning point came about three years ago, when McCluskey met Colleen Kappeler, a writing coach and editor from Kenosha who founded the Kenosha Writers' Group.

"It's wonderful to be able to meet with writers, talk about what we're doing, discuss rejections. I was sort of winging this on my own, trying to write novels. She created the writers' group, then stepped into the background and let us run it. I could never find anything like that in Racine."

Whatever the cure, and Kappeler's editing, it worked. McCluskey has finished his third novel and is now wrapping up a children's book about witches and fairies, written for his granddaughter, Michaela, that he's ready to turn over to an illustrator.

Not that being a published novelist is financially rewarding -- yet. So far, McCluskey is a self-published writer, working through, which prints his books "on demand," one at a time as orders are received. He's sold about 25 so far ... OK, not very many (he bought four of those himself) but as a writer, anyway, he may be on a roll. The suspense thrillers are just pouring out.

His latest book, Betrayal for Eternity, goes off in a new direction, and he says those who've read it are most enthusiastic. It's about a young woman FBI profiler whose first case turns out to be a sociopath who starts to go after her (sounds like Silence of the Lambs up to this point). Her boss decides to hide her, so she goes home to Baraboo, WI, where her boyfriend from high school is a policeman. He has a lot of missing persons cases ... one thing leads to another and it turns out that now she has two killers coming after her. (I'm hooked, and this was before I read the first couple of chapters.)

"I don't imagine I'm going to be anything like James Patterson or Dean Koontz," McCluskey says, "but just to be able to say 'I wrote a novel' is gratifying and humbling at the same time."

And what about that pseudonym? Where did Sheldon Doyle come from? Glad you asked: It's a conflation of McCluskey's two favorite authors: Sidney Sheldon and Arthur Conan Doyle.

To learn more about the author, and read excerpts from McCluskey's novels, and some complete short stories, go to his new website, HERE.

To order the novel Betrayal for Eternity -- print is $15.95 or you can download it for just $5.50 -- go HERE.

Hat tip to

500th post!

We hit something of a milestone this morning ... our 500th post on this blog. We're approaching our 5-month anniversary, which averages out to 100 posts a month. Not bad for a couple of part-timers working on a shoestring.

Seriously, a thousand thank you's to everyone who has read RacinePost in recent months. You keep us going. For what it's worth, here's our first post.

JT webmaster snaps at reader

Here's an interesing exchange on the JT website between a reader and one of the newspaper's web employees. It's a good illustration of our local paper's arrogance and disregard of criticism. (And, no, we're not Toby.)


February 24, 2008

Snowdance announces 2008 'Best in Snow'

Here are the winners of this year's Snowdance competition:

Third Place: "Second to Last," which is better known to audiences as the NASA play. The comedy opened with actors Ron Schultz and Cody Ernest playing astronauts singing along to David Bowie's "Space Oddity." Schultz said Sunday that he and Ernest came up with the opening with director Rick Ditter. "We were just playing around with different things to see what works," said Schultz, a fixture at the Sixth Street Theatre and in the Snowdance cast. The play was written by Ignacio Zulueta, of Oakland, Calif. He won $100 for finishing third in contest, which is judged by votes from audience members.

(Editor's note: If you haven't seen the plays, it's not too late. Time Warner On Demand is going to pick up the show and run it in its entirety. It will also offer each play on demand individually. Diane Carlson, of Sixth Street Theatre, said they don't have dates on when the plays will run on TV, but she'll put out word when they're available. We'll list the times on RacinePost when we find out.)

(Photo: The closing ceremonies on the 2008 Snowdance comedy festival.)

Second Place: "Shopko," by Joe Thompson. Thompson's plays are a fixture in Snowdance, and the Madison playwright didn't disappoint with this year's tale of a man who finds friendship in the checkout aisle of Shopko. Thompson won $100 for second place.

First Place: "The Crucifixion of Moe and Ira." Probably the edgiest play of the year, it stars two men crucified for telling jokes and speaking out against the Roman empire. Rich Smith took the lead on the play, which he described as a "little scary" when he first read the script. "We had no ideas how audiences would take it and who we would offend," he said.

But Smith found real meaning in the message of a comedian/performer who is silenced by authorities for material they find offensive. "Artists can be crucified for what they do," Smith said. The play grew from that message, and playwright Lynn-Steven Johanson, of Macomb, Ill., was rewarded for her edgy material with the 2008 Best in Snow. She won $300 for finishing first.

(Photo: Rich Smith, creative director for OOHPs, holds the award for Best in Snow.)

Following Sunday's final show and closing ceremonies, the cast celebrated another successful run. Nearly all of the shows over the past four weeks were sold out, which continues Snowdance's run as big source of income for the all-volunteer theater group. The Over Our Head Players, who perform Snowdance, will be back in the coming months with a couple of shows. April 4-26 they'll be performing "Deflowering Waldo" by Adam Szymikowicz, and May 16-31 they'll have "Theatre/Schmeatre," a collection of original material written by OOHPs, paired with live music. The new show is being compared to the "hijinx" skits that run between the plays during Snowdance.

Here's a few more notes from this year's Snowdance:

* Brandy Harrel's turn as an air guitar goddess (complete with power slide) was all the more impressive when you find out she's 5 months pregnant. "Before every show we weren't sure what would happen," Harrel said. "We had to remind Cody (her co-star), 'If she goes down, you have to help her up.'" Harrel said there was only one show where she struggled for a moment - and she pulled that one off too.

Harrel was joined at the closing show by her husband David, who has been something of a theater widow over the past few months of rehearsals and shows. "I spend my weekends alone," he said, but added that it was no problem. He saw three shows this year. "She really love it," he said about Brandy.

* Zachary Scot Johnson got one of this year's biggest laughs with a bit about Charlie McCarthy. So, who's Charlie McCarthy? He was the dummy for ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, best known for his performances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Bergen is dead, which means Charlie McCarthy is packed in a closet somewhere ... hence Johnson's frozen pose for a good three minutes during the show. "During rehearsals it was hard," Johnson said about holding his position, "but for the shows it was no problem." The bit was written by Jerry Rannow, a Hollywood sitcom writer who lives in Racine. Among Rannow's shows: Welcome Back, Kotter.

Johnson will be back on the Sixth Street Theatre stage Friday for the release of his new CD, "These Days." The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $5.