November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve Service

The Racine Downtown Cooperative Parish held its Thanksgiving Eve Service on Nov. 26 at First Presbyterian Church. Here are photos and stories from a wonderful evening:

Ben Johnston-Krase, of First Presbyterian Church, hosted the event and gave the welcoming talk after a performance by Olympia Brown UU's choir. First Presbyterian organist Jerry Buck played the prelude.

The photo above is the combined choirs of the Downtown Cooperative Parish, which performed the song, "For the Beauty of the Earth" by John Rutter.

Nabeeh El Amin, of the Racine Islamic Center, gave the call to prayer and Lori Gorgas Hlaban, interim minister at Olympia Brown, gave a scripture reading.

John Brosseau, of the Beth Israel Sinai Congregation, Jim Schatzman of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, and Martice Scales, of the HOPES Center, offered meditations.

Father Ricardo Martin of St. Patrick's Catholic Church and Cristo Rey Catholic Church offered a prayer and Joyce Gregg, of Evangelical United Methodist Church, read from James 3:13-18.

An offering was collected to support the Downtown Cooperative Parish Food Pantry, and Brad Van Fossen of First United Methodist Church offered a prayer of dedication.

Johnston-Krase and the Rev. Tony Larsen, of Olympia Brown, led the audience of about 150 people in a sing-a-long hymn, "Giving to Life."

Master Teacher Tony Somlai, of the Original Root Zen Center, helped the audience pass the peace by encouraging everyone to wish people they meet happiness. He then had the crowd mix together and wish each other happiness, a greeting that spread to the fellowship of homebaked pies following the service.

Arr. Wilber Held played "Simple Gifts" as a postlude to the gathering.

Tony Somlai encourages the audience to wish their friends, and their enemies, happiness.

November 26, 2008

Racine Camera Club names competition winners

Snowy Egret of Alcatraz, by Pam DeGrace

Members of the Racine Camera Club focused intently as three judges scrutinized entries submitted in the club's first photo competition this year. A wide array of subjects were submitted in three categories: digital, slides and prints. Judges Armin Clobes, Eugene Dodd and Norris Richardson determined Award and Honorable Mention recipients by a point system, gradually reducing entries through consecutive reviews.

Lester River Bridge–Duluth, by Pam DeGrace

Results of the competition are as follows:

Digital: The two photos chosen as award winners turned out to be by the same photographer, Pam DeGrace, for "Snowy Egret of Alcatraz" and "Lester River Bridge–Duluth." DeGrace said she spent more than an hour gaining "the Egret's trust in my presence -- long after my friends left me stalking this bird. He was about 10 feet away. I shot the close up with a Canon 40D/70mm-300mm lens. The sun was in the right place, as was the bird. He was worth the wait."

Honorable Mention went to DeGrace for "Snowy Egret on Alcatraz," Mary Barrows for "Sunrise Beach" and "Rainbow #2" and Dianne Surendonk for "Time To Remodel," a photo of a building under construction in Paris.

Time to Remodel, by Dianne Surendonk

Slides: Award winners were Mary Barrows for "Missing Man Formation" and Dianne Surendonk for "Springtime in the Rockies." Honorable Mention went to Taylor Mackey for "Pelican" and Mary Barrows for "Beautiful Balloons."

Prints, Class A: Award winners were Kathy Brand for "Hydrangeas" and Taylor Mackey for "Bloom." Honorable Mention went to Kathy Brand for "Trolley" and Jason Madson for "Top of the Brooklyn Bridge," at right.

Prints, Class B: Award winners were Rigo Alcala for two untitled prints and Tammy Dowhower for "Towering Splendor."

Racine Camera Club meetings are free and open to all interested photographers. The next competition will be held Feb. 12, 2009. The club meets the second Tuesday of the month from 7–9 p.m. at the Racine Arts Council, 316 Sixth St. For more information, call 681-3219.

Bass Lake in Minong, WI, by Rigo Alcala

Rigo Alcala's Windpoint Lighthouse

The kids grow up so fast!
Two of Zoo's lion cubs leaving home

Mom, Elsa, kept watch while three of her cubs napped in June

Two male Transvaal lion cubs born at the Racine Zoo will leave on Friday, Nov. 28, for the Miami Metro Zoo in Florida. The two males, Jabari and Kwame, are part of the Pride of Racine litter of four born to Elsa and her mate, Aslan, on Sept. 6, 2007.

“While we are certainly sad to see them go, we knew that space was going to be a future issue when Elsa gave birth to four happy, healthy cubs and the moves are in accordance with our mission to foster the growth and development of threatened animal populations,” said Jay Christie, the Zoo's president and CEO.

The lion moves are a result of the recommendations of the Lion Species Survival Plan managed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, of which the Racine Zoo is a member. The Species Survival Plan program began in 1981 as a cooperative population management and conservation program for selected species in zoos and aquariums in North America. Each survival plan manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.

Elsa and Aslan will remain at the Racine Zoo indefinitely, while the remaining two members of the Pride of Racine, Bomani, a male, and Kya, a female, will be moved to other institutions in the future. A gift from Johnson Bank, Elsa and Aslan were brought to the Zoo in November 2005 with the intent that they would breed.

Meanwhile, in other Zoo news, the two female zebras recently acquired from the Glen Oak Zoo in Peoria, are now out of quarantine and on exhibit in place of the black rhinos who are often indoors during winter avoiding the cold weather. One is a 25-year-old Grant’s zebra, while the other is a 4-year-old Damara zebra. This is the first time the Racine Zoo has had zebras in the collection for 26 years. More on the zebras (and how to tell them apart) HERE.

More on the Zoo's summer babies here.

Mayor Becker to have cancer surgery Dec. 1

Mayor Gary Becker is scheduled to have a cancerous kidney removed on Dec. 1.

Becker will have the surgery at Froedtert Memorial Hospital in Wauwatosa and, if all goes well, will be out of work for two weeks.

In an interview Wednesday, Becker described the procedure as routine. He said the cancer is contained within the kidney and has not spread. No chemotherapy is needed.

"They say taking out a kidney is the new gall bladder," Becker joked.

The tumor was discovered earlier this month after Becker spent Nov. 5-6 in the hospital with an upper respiratory infection. While X-raying his lungs, doctors noticed a mass on his kidney, Becker said.

"I was fortunate to be in the hospital when I was," he said.

Becker said his absence should not affect city operations. Becker expects to miss one City Council meeting. City Council President David Maack will run the meeting in his absence.

Here is the message Becker sent out to city staff Wednesday:
As most of you know I have had some respiratory problems, and spent a few days in the hospital on November, 5th and 6th.

That has gotten much better, but while in the hospital they did discover a tumor on my kidney. It is contained and has not spread, so it is not a big deal. However, the kidney will have to be removed.

I will be going in to Froedert on Monday December 1st for the operation. I plan on a 2 or 3 night stay and then another week or so of recovery at home.

I will keep you posted, but at this time it is not something to worry a great deal about, and I expect a full recovery without any need for follow up treatments.

Everyone have a great Thanksgiving and I will see you in a few weeks.

Caledonia couple has new twist on St. Nick's Day

St. Nicholas Day is coming– Are you ready?

When you wake up on Dec. 6, will there be a shoe full of candy waiting for you? If you answered yes, you're one of the few Americans who live in a home where St. Nick's Day is celebrated.

St. Nick's Day?

It's not celebrated much in the U.S. -- although there has been some awareness of the holiday in Wisconsin -- but in Northern Europe St. Nicholas Day is a big thing. Traditional celebrations included gifts left in children's shoes (from which American Christmas stockings developed).

Good children receive treats -- candies, cookies, apples and nuts -- while naughty children receive lumps of coal. In Germany, children still put a shoe outside their bedroom doors on the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, and hope to find candy, coins and maybe a small gift in them on Dec. 6. In the Netherlands, children put their shoes in front of their chimneys in hopes of finding chocolate or a small toy in their shoe when they wake. (Illustration above is a Belgian postcard from the St. Nicholas Center Collection.)

But in the U.S. ... not so much. Patrick and Mindy Flynn of Caledonia are trying to change that. And they think they've improved on the idea of putting candy in kids' smelly shoes by creating special embroidered gift bags just for Saint Nicholas Day.

Patrick Flynn remembers his mother celebrating Saint Nicholas Day and asked her -- she's 80 now -- how the tradition started in her family. She said, "Gosh, I can't remember. It must have been after the 'little kids' started coming, because I didn't know about it earlier on." Flynn -- the sixth of nine siblings -- notes that his five older brothers and sisters are what his mother calls the "first generation;" the last four -- he's now 45 -- are the "little kids."

Nonetheless, his family isn't the only one to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day.

Mindy Flynn, a first-grade teacher at Fratt Elementary School, said, "I recall children in tears, after discovering many of their classmates had received a visit from St. Nick that morning, only to discover they had been left out. Some kids kept crying, 'Mrs. Flynn, why didn't he stop at our house?' "

That led to their eureka moment. "It was at that point my husband and I decided to create more awareness of the tradition by creating a shoe bag, embellished with an image of St. Nicholas and the date so parents would not forget.”

The bags are an offshoot of the couple's home-based "hobby business," Advantage Promotions, which focuses on embroidered corporate apparel items and school spirit wear.

Patrick says, "We came up with the idea last year during conversation over Christmas Eve Dinner. We registered the domain names and (Could not believe they were both available.) This is the first year we sold them. We actually started selling them a couple months ago and have sold more than we anticipated. One company in New York ordered over a hundred to give to their employees on St. Nicks Day. That was pretty cool!"

The shoe bags, which neatly hang on a doorknob or hook, are available for purchase at the couple's website. Order quickly and they'll arrive neatly embroidered with your child's name in time for this year's Saint Nicholas Day. To order, go to the website links above.

November 25, 2008

Ryan applauds Obama's budget director

Rep. Paul Ryan had nice things to say today about Peter Orszag, Barack Obama's choice to head his Administration's Office of Management and Budget. Here's Ryan's statement:
"I offer Dr. Peter Orszag my sincere congratulations on his nomination. I can’t think of a more qualified candidate to lead the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget.

"During his nearly two years as director of the Congressional Budget Office, I believe Dr. Orszag has proven his mettle as one of our nation’s leading experts on the federal budget. He and I have enjoyed a strong, productive working relationship, and I have been particularly impressed with his understanding of the looming entitlement crisis, and the critical need for action."

November 24, 2008

Kalamazoo Promise: Showing Racine the way?

Remember the Racine Promise? It burst upon the scene earlier this month, as city officials announced they are seeking grants to study the feasibility of a program that would guarantee college tuition to any Racine high school graduate.

Well, here's a story about the Kalamazoo Promise, the program the city would like to emulate. A panel discussion in Kalamazoo last week -- about how to market the city and the Promise -- was filled with positive statements about the program, now in its fourth year, from local officials.

The city leads the U.S. in per-capita job creation; hotel tax revenues are up 8 per cent; entrepreneurs are draw to the community. Robert Miller, Western Michigan University vice president for community outreach, says Kalamazoo is "ahead of the curve'' in revitalizing its economy through education. He credits the Kalamazoo Promise for that, and says. "The entire state and nation could take a lesson from Kalamazoo.''

Which is just what Racine hopes to do. Alderman Aron Wisneski -- who along with Greg Helding and City Administrator Ben Hughes is pushing for the two $8,000 grants to get a study under way -- sent us a link to the article referenced above. He adds, "For all the negative voices around here that complain about how we need to do something about jobs and crime, it strikes me as important that they finally get what this is all about -- jobs and crime. If there is one thing that we have learned throughout human history, it is that the more educated a populace is, the better off it is in all ways."

To Russia With Love (from Case IH)

Especially for Russia: Case's new JX95 Tractor

Any tractor aficionados from Racine who happened to be in Russia last week would have felt right at home.

The big news at the Moscow Agrosalon, the first Russian international exhibition of agricultural machinery, was a series of new models from Case IH.

With more than 220 models in 13 product lines, it should be no surprise that Case offers special models for a farm economy as large as Russia's. And they did: introducing big tractors and specialized equipment whose purpose is beyond a city boy like me. (Patriot Sprayer, anyone? Windrower?) Moscow is Case's hub for the entire Russian Federation, with several distributors including two appointed just this year. Case, we are told, "is steadily growing its market share in the combine and tractor segments."

Here are some pictures if you want to compare what's available in Moscow with what's parked in your barn or buried under today's fresh snowfall.

Case square baler LBX 332

Case's Patriot sprayer 4420