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A few fun facts about Illinois' candidates for governor

Tue, 2014-09-23 14:35
When voting for governor, Illinoisans must be well aware of the candidates' views on policy matters such as whether or not they want to raise taxes, how they plan to keep the budget balanced and if they support raising the state's minimum wage. Voters should also learn about the candidates' ideological views before heading to the voting booth Nov. 4: Which candidate's views most closely resembles their own on the role of government? Has one or both been accused of any kind of corruption?

But getting to know the candidates as human beings with families and interests and hobbies can shed light on the kind of governor they might turn out to be as well. Here are some fun facts about Illinois gubernatorial candidates Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner:

Quinn was the captain of his high school cross country team

Rauner is in a motorcycle club called The American Flyers

Quinn attended Georgetown University for his undergraduate degree and Northwestern University for his law degree

Rauner attended Dartmouth College for his undergraduate degree and Harvard University for his M.B.A.

Quinn likes to play basketball

Rauner's favorite song is "What a Wonderful World," by Louis Armstrong

Find out more fun facts about Quinn and Rauner at Reboot Illinois, including which one holds baseball season tickets and which one had a dairy-farmer grandfather.

If You Love Your Dive Bar, Then Kill It!

Tue, 2014-09-23 14:33
We catch a lot of flak for introducing readers to classic, hidden, and out of the way watering holes around the country. Many readers have admonished us for alerting tourists to their favorite bars, insisting that now the places will be crowded with gawking yokels drawn to the spot because of our article (flattering, actually).

Snake and Jake's Christmas Club Lounge in New Orleans.

A commenter on our article about New Orleans' Snake & Jake's Christmas Club Lounge simply told us to knock it off and keep these finds to ourselves.

But here's the honest truth: dive bars, classic and new, are disappearing at a blinding rate in the United States, and if you honestly love your favorite neighborhood watering hole, then you'll do everything necessary to save it - you'll even be willing to kill it.

What do we mean by "kill" it?

Simply this: you've got to be willing to tell others about it, publicize, and otherwise open it up to the gawking yokels you despise so much. Sure, it will "kill" the vibe that brought you there in the first place, but it may keep the bar around longer.

In a recent Newsweek article, writer Alexander Nazaryan makes clear the plight of the dive bar in today's major cities. Simply put, they are closing across the United States. In fact, he says we're facing an "epidemic" of closings. Laura Holson paints a similar picture about New York's dive bars in a New York Times article.

The epidemic they discuss is, unfortunately, an almost natural progression. Most of these old, broken down bars are built in the less desirable neighborhoods of America's cities. Over time, drawn by the low rent prices, these areas start attracting more trendy establishments willing to take a chance.

Then, young families and professionals begin moving in. Little by little the once decrepit section of town faces full-blown gentrification - it becomes the hot place to relocate.

And so the lonely holdout of skid row - the neighborhood dive - finds itself surrounded by galleries, coffee shops and cafes. And then the rent skyrockets. And they are forced to close.

But is this true for all old dives?

The answer is no.

It's doubtful McSorley's will ever close (but never say never).

McSorley's Old Ale House in Manhattan's Bowery will probably never close. Neither will Chicago's Green Mill or Oakland's Heinold's First and Last Chance.


Simple: because they are destinations, not just bars.

Each of these is in area guidebooks (and not just ours). They are recommended to visitors by friends who've visited. They are noted to tourists when they check into their hotels. They are, in short, NOT hidden or out of the way.

And that, we think, is the secret to saving these places: to not hide them, but to celebrate them.

That's why we wrote our book in the first place. That's why we travel as often as possible to find these places and tell you about them. We want people to go to them because we want to keep them open. We believe that as they become more popular it will likewise become more difficult for landlords and others to force them to close.

Sure, you might not like the tourists who wander in on occasion, but you'd probably like it less if the place simply vanished forever, replaced by an upscale fashion boutique or chain restaurant.

So if you want to save your bar from closing, help it out and tell people about it.

Rahm Emanuel Urges Illinois Lawmakers To Decriminalize Marijuana

Tue, 2014-09-23 13:20
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday urged Illinois lawmakers to decriminalize the possession of less than 15 grams of marijuana. He also pushed for a statewide penalty reduction from felony to misdemeanor for those caught with 1 gram or less of a controlled substance.

“It doesn’t make sense that one arrest for a very small amount of a controlled substance can lead to a lifetime of struggles, sending people in and out of prison and putting up barriers to get a job or finding a place to live. We need action from Springfield," Emanuel said in a statement, per the Chicago Tribune.

The mayor testified Tuesday at a legislative hearing before the House-Senate Joint Criminal Reform Committee, which is looking for ways to ease overcrowding in the state's prisons and jails and to reduce racial disparities in sentencing which disproportionately affect blacks and Latinos.

To push for softer pot penalties is also part of a strategy to get lawmakers to strengthen penalties for gun crimes, Chicago news outlet WGN reports. Emanuel has faced consistent criticism for the rate of gun violence in Chicago since he became mayor in 2011.

Emanuel has previously argued that easing up on drug arrests frees up police to tackle gun crimes and other, more pressing issues.

In 2012, Emanuel successfully lobbied the Chicago City Council to pass an ordinance decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana within the city limits.

Two years on, however, the ordinance giving Chicago police the discretion to issue $250 to $500 tickets for possession of 15 grams or less of pot is considered a failure. Arrests for marijuana possession actually increased, despite police having an option to ticket offenders, and the city collected just $67,256 of the $310,755 in fines levied in the first year of the program, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Illinois currently has a pilot program in place for legal medical marijuana use.

End the Algae Assault: Great Lakes Mayors Should Push for Clean Power Plan and Clean Water Protection Rule

Tue, 2014-09-23 12:05

The nation was greeted last month with the distressing news that nearly a half-million Americans were robbed of access to drinking water by toxic algae blooms near Toledo. It is amazing, spooky and utterly unacceptable for the citizens of a civilized nation to be deprived of safe and sufficient water because of pollution and inadequate infrastructure—especially when they are  perched at the edge of the Great Lakes; the world’s largest source of surface fresh water, and 95% of the fresh water in the USA.

In an important Op-Ed in The Blade Bill Stowe, CEO of the Des Moines, Iowa Water Works, makes clear that the issue is not unique to Toledo and northern Ohio. Algae explosions are clogging inland waterways and lakes throughout the nation. Numerous cities in America are in imminent danger of experiencing the same problem of poisoned water. As Mr. Stowe makes clear, the only reason Des Moines has not gone through the same crisis, is that his city pulls drinking water from two rivers, and is able to alternate between the two, when one or the other is dangerously contaminated. Note: both rivers have been rendered undrinkable by algae, just not at the same time. He thinks it is only a matter of time before both are impacted at once. Sobering stuff.

Here in Chicago, we also must take note.

We cannot complacently imagine that we are protected by the fact that Lake Michigan is deeper and thus less prone to poisoned conditions than Lake Erie. The City wisely chose to up its testing in the wake of Toledo’s troubles—especially as other parts of “our Lake” are being similarly degraded. Check out the series of articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s investigating algae blooms crippling Green Bay  and it’s clear that there is very real work to be done in our neck of the woods too. Stowe’s Toledo op-ed is a clarion call for aggressive action to deal with both the water and carbon pollution issues fueling the algae blooms. And he hopes that Ohio and Iowa will lead on both issues.

I hope that will happen—but the City of Chicago should step in right away regardless.

Rahm Emanuel is convening a summit of regional mayors to discuss water quality in the Great Lakes. I hope they will focus on the twin terrors at the heart of this algae assault: water pollution and climate change. With the Great Lakes on the front lines in both fights, this summit is an opportunity for the Mayor to galvanize support for fixes on both issues being debated nationally right now that would go a long way to stemming the algae assault:

  • We are seeing decades-old predictions from climate science coming to pass in the region with serious economic, health and quality of life implications. And if their algae predictions come to pass, it’s going to be a lot worse. Mayor Emanuel must lead the Mayors to aggressively support President Obama’s historic Clean Power Plan to slash carbon emissions. Their voices are necessary and will be powerful.

  • We need to make it harder to pollute America’s waters. Ohio has waged a veritable war on wetlands, which is problematic since they actually help filter the fertilizer that fuels these algae blooms out of runoff. Now is the time for the Mayors to support the important Clean Water Protection Rule (also known as Waters of the US) which would return legal protections to streams, wetlands and headwaters—ending a source of pollution flowing into our larger bodies of water like the Great Lakes.

It is time to get serious about stopping climate change, making our cities more resilient, and protecting clean water. Otherwise, Toledo’s troubles will soon be our own.

"What Lurks Below" image by Milosh Kosanovich

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

Aaron Neville, Michael McDonald Join All-Star Lineup For Mavis Staples Tribute Concert

Tue, 2014-09-23 11:02
CHICAGO (AP) — Mavis Staples is getting the tribute treatment.

An all-star lineup of musicians including Gregg Allman, Aaron Neville, Taj Mahal, Eric Church, Michael McDonald, Patty Griffin and more will salute Staples during the I'll Take You There - Celebrating 75 Years of Mavis Staples tribute concert Nov. 19 in Chicago. Staples has had one of music's most powerful careers as a member of The Staple Singers and as a solo artist, connecting the gospel music of her upbringing to social issues and causes. Resulting soul music anthems like "I'll Take You There" helped define the civil rights era.

The 75-year-old singer also will perform during the tribute, which will be recorded for release later. Tickets go on sale at 11 a.m. EDT Monday through Ticketmaster and the Auditorium Theatre.



Now That You're Officially Allowed to Eat Fall Foods, Go Master These 5 Staples

Tue, 2014-09-23 09:58
Fall is here.

I'm never more excited for a season. It means I can finally wear black without being ridiculed, bring out my turtlenecks in typical German 1980s fashion, and relish those smells from the vendors who manage Nuts 4 Nuts on Manhattan street corners. It's the perfect time for exploring restaurants that serve up hot dishes like curries, soups and warm homemade pasta, or curling up a with a book and a nice chai latte in a local cafe.

But there's also no better season to explore the ultimate cooking destination of your own kitchen. It's time to dust off those baking pans that have hibernated during summer. It's time to search for your yiayia's avgolemono recipe, or call up your bubbe for instructions on how to make her family-famous matzo ball soup. Here's to fantasizing about savory meats, spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, crisp fruits, and hot drinks that are not just for your caffeine fix -- they're an absolute necessity as you traipse the streets while arctic air blasts your face.

Not a cook? Fine. But you might want to learn how to make a proper mac and cheese or try your hand at baking -- before it's too late and you have to speed to Boston Market to buy a dilapidated apple pie and sub-par side.

1. The ultimate comfort food: macaroni and cheese

From chicken pot pies to Ma's meatloaf (yes, even Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers was addicted to this motherly meal), fall is the perfect time to start perfecting comfort food. Mac and cheese is definitely a must-know recipe for the season, and with these super easy instructions, you can't go wrong. How could you possibly not want to learn how to create the ultimate cheesy dish? Odds are you probably have most of this stuff congregating in your cupboards or pantry anyway, so go to town and savor this golden goodness. It is the ultimate fall entrée or side dish.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/psharpley

2. In a fight for the season's sweetest taste, the winner is pumpkin.

Pumpkin is the omnipresent sight, smell and taste of fall. There is no better time to experiment with savory or sweet dishes that revolve around the flavor. Obviously, pumpkin pie is a timeless staple and perfect for beginners, but what about throwing pumpkin in a stir-fry?

Or making it the highlight of your weekly pasta night?

At the very least, dump that Starbucks pumpkin spice latte -- the only pumpkin-like thing about it is the shape you'll slowly morph into if you consume several per week. Or... just make your own.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/36940459@N06

3. Slow-cooked seasoned meat will warm your soul.

Yes, come fall, meat is usually what's for dinner. From pot roasts to pork tenderloin, folks around the country are turning up their ovens and firing up the grills. Heartwarming sustenance is here to stay for the next several months. While I don't eat meat on the regular, I embrace the wonderful scents and tastes of slow-cooked brisket or lamb infused with garlic. Try to buy grass-fed, organic and/or local meat, and serve up your table with these hearty staples.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/blueant

4. Roasted root veggies are perfect as a side or on their own.

Of course, what better accompaniment for a meat dish than vegetables? Fall is the time for root vegetables -- they're hearty as well, packed with nutrients and take on bold flavors. Load up carrots, quartered onions, and celery alongside a baking meatloaf, or make plenty of side dishes with sweet potatoes, squash, parsnips, and even Brussels sprouts. Also, check out this chart to find the perfect produce for your next seasonal adventure.

5. Warm booze... because.

Time to pull out those spices and your saucepan. Who doesn't enjoy a warm alcoholic beverage while sitting in front of the first fire of the season (or in my case, lighting a candle that smells of cinnamon and pretending I can feel the lone flame)? Spiked hot cider, mulled wine, and my personal favorite -- a hot toddy -- are fall and winter highlights that will keep you warm and buzzed as you watch that marathon of your favorite Netflix show.

Now, stop eating that box of Kraft mac and cheese and drinking boxed wine. It's time to shake your way to the kitchen and start baking. After all, 'tis the season!

Chef Jeff Mauro and Singer Phillip Phillips at the Food Network in Conert

Tue, 2014-09-23 07:47
Gearing up for Tuesday night's Dinner Party, I headed to the Food Network in Concert at Ravinia last Saturday. In a very fun and off-the-cuff interview, I met with funny man, Jeff Mauro, host of "The Sandwich King" and "The Kitchen," and Phillip Phillips whose platinum album, "The World from the Side of the Moon" sold 9 Million copies after he won the 11th season of American Idol. His second album, "Behind the Light," was released this May.

Although seemingly an unlikely pair, around noon Mauro and Phillips did a cooking demonstration together, where Mauro did the demonstration and Phillips noted that he got a grill for this birthday. Just after they mixed it up on stage, I joined the two of them on a back balcony for an outside, completely unscripted interview (below).

In our chat, we talk about their pawnshop connection, the pressure and stress of competing on reality TV shows, and how much of the shows are reality and how much are scripted. Also, in the spirit of fun competition, I give Mauro and Phillips a friendly food and lifestyle quiz, and their answers have me and the entire crew in stitches. Be sure to catch Phillips' hilarious favorite expression at the end and Mauro's surprise rendition of an apropos tune sung for Phillips who was enjoying his 26th birthday.

Enjoy this hilarious interview with these now good buddies recorded right before Mauro headed off to a book signing, Phillips prepared to perform, opening that night for John Mayer, and I set out to try samplings from over 50 well-respected chefs and 100+ wineries scattered among the beuaitful Ravinia grounds amidst a day full of music, food and wine.

The Joffrey Ballet Soars in Ambitious Triple Bill: <em>Stories in Motion</em>

Mon, 2014-09-22 22:59

The Joffrey Ballet's extraordinary mixed bill, Stories in Motion, exploded onstage at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago this past weekend: three ballets that trace a timeline of the infiltration of Modernism in ballet -- from George Balanchine's final work for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1929, to Antony Tudor's 1936 distillation of sexual mores in Edwardian England, and Yuri Possokhov's high-tech riff on rape and arson set against the backdrop of an ancient Japanese warrior culture.

With the ink barely dry on the Surrealist Manifesto, Balanchine recounted the biblical allegory of the Prodigal Son against vivid, Fauvist backdrops and introduced a Greek chorus of comic thugs, very effectively and menacingly danced by the male corps. The strapping Alberto Velazquez tore up the stage in the title role on Saturday night, utterly convincing as the youthful rebel who succumbs to a Siren, then returns home a wretched mendicant. The supremely athletic Christine Rocas was most bewitching when wrapped around Velazquez: locking him inside her leg lifted in attitude devant, and slithering provocatively down his body in a backbend while gripping her ankles. But Rocas never ventured into the territory of the strange and sinister, as other great interpreters of the role have done; she appeared about as sinister as an NFL cheerleader. And a slight slip of technique was visible as she repeatedly sacrificed turnout at the hip in search of higher leg extensions to the side.

While the final scene of the ballet contains no formal dance movements whatsoever (unusual for Balanchine), anyone who ever had a father could not fail to be intensely moved at the sight of Velazquez hoisting his limp and broken body into his Father's arms. Whereupon the Father -- portrayed with great dignity and reserve by Artistic Director Ashley Wheater -- wrapped his cloak around his son's near-naked body and carried him solemnly toward the house.

Tissues emerged to dab at eyes during intermission, and were needed again once the curtain rose on Tudor's Lilac Garden, as hay fever threatened. The stage was cloaked in dark, sheer drops painted with abstractions of flowering bushes so thick that we sensed the oppressive perfume of lilacs. We have gatecrashed a garden party of well-bred folk of the Downton Abbey era (Season One) during which the aristocratic Caroline and The Man She Must Marry (presumably a wealthy man chosen to buttress her family's dwindling fortune) have several anguished, clandestine encounters: she with Her Lover and he with An Episode in His Past. These interludes keep getting interrupted, however, by nosy party guests who drag the two couples back to the formalities of social dance.

Tudor employed a minimal range of classical ballet movement for the legs, with precise and delicate footwork -- one impassioned duet consists merely of a series of sissonne jumps that change directions -- but he defied classical tradition in his use of the arms, which are expressive in a naturalistic manner. His default position of the arms is very low, almost pinned to the side of the body in a stance that conveys vulnerability -- in contrast to the generous, open and slightly rounded classical carriage of the arms. The heights of sexual fervor are expressed twice in Lilac Garden, when each of the two male leads -- very finely danced by Miguel Angel Blanco and Dylan Gutierrez on Saturday night -- upends his partner, her pointes momentarily shooting skyward.

Tudor dancers do not emote; through their steps, through changes in body tension, through gesture and touch they reveal desire, pain and conflict to the audience even as they seek to conceal those emotions from one another. The Joffrey gives the most exquisite performance of this understated, interior masterpiece that Ballet to the People has ever witnessed, with a fine interpretation of Ernest Chausson's Poème delivered by the Chicago Philharmonic and solo violinist David Perry. Victoria Jaiani is transcendent as Caroline, while the lovely and musical April Daly strikes a contrast as her spunky rival.

Leaping forward into the internet age -- signaled by stunning video projections and the anarchic use of upper- and lower-case in the ballet's title -- RAkU plays fast and loose with the story of the 1950 burning of Kyoto's Temple of the Golden Pavilion by a mentally unhinged monk. Not unlike the preceding pieces, this is highly stylized costume drama, though primitive and erotically charged in a different way. The cinematic score by Shinji Eshima, like the choreography, has moments of restrained, hypnotic beauty, and of oneness with nature (cue the sound of crickets). Then all hell breaks loose: kimonos are whipped off bodies by invisible wires; a quartet of stomping samurai slash the air with swords; their leader, the commanding Fabrice Calmels, troops off to fight in distant lands, leaving his princess bride -- once again, the luminous Victoria Jaiani, this time in heroic mode -- to be stalked and raped by a mad monk (Temur Suluashvili, in a heartstopping performance) who then torches the temple.

The gang of four return, this time with a casket bearing the ashes of the princess' husband, and proceed to rape her, too. (An unforeseen plot twist: weren't these warriors loyal to her husband barely five minutes ago? But this narrative defies logic, as do the librettos of many classic ballets.) In her grief and torment, the princess flings her husband's ashes over her body and toys with suicide, wielding her husband's sword. It's a wonder she doesn't expire, but the Philharmonic keeps playing, Buddhist monks start chanting, snow starts falling, and the princess-who-won't-die signals her descent into madness by repeatedly raising a sickled foot (in ballet terms, the ultimate sign that Modernism has triumphed) then either falls asleep or dies (unclear).

Possokhov's inventiveness flags as he repeats phrases -- notably the cruel flinging of the princess' broken body into the air during the gang rape. And there was not much choreographic distinction between the intimate bedroom pas de deux of the princess and her husband and the first rape scene. Possokhov's treatment of sexual violence was more original and compelling in his 2013 Rite of Spring for San Francisco Ballet.

The visual splendor of RAkU is undeniable, however, anchored by the breathtaking scenery and projection design by Alexander Nichols and mouthwatering costume designs by Mark Zappone. The references to a more or less imaginary ancient Japanese warrior culture follow longstanding ballet tradition that imagines an India full of Hindu temple dancers who bare their midriffs in bikini tops (La Bayadère), and a Russia under siege by monstrous Oriental despots (The Firebird). The hunky samurai of RAkU fight in long flowing silk skirts slit alluringly on the side of the hip, revealing vast swathes of vulnerable anatomy. The demented monk frequently assumes the plank position and other yoga poses, but also soars thrillingly in strings of double sauts de basque that remind us that not only is this ballet, it is RUSSIAN ballet. Political correctness aside, this is entertainment of a very high order, which the artists of the Joffrey deliver impeccably.

Photos by Cheryl Mann:
1. Alberto Velazquez in Balanchine's Prodigal Son
2. Alberto Velazquez & Christine Rocas as the Siren in Balanchine's Prodigal Son
3. Alberto Velazquez & Ashley Wheater as the Father in Balanchine's Prodigal Son
4. Victoria Jaiani as Caroline & Dylan Gutierrez as Her Lover in Tudor's Lilac Garden
5. April Daly as An Episode in His Past & Miguel Angel Blanco as The Man She Must Marry in Tudor's Lilac Garden
6. Dylan Gutierrez, Victoria Jaiani, Miguel Angel Blanco, April Daly in Tudor's Lilac Garden
7. Fabrice Calmels as the Samurai & Victoria Jaiani as the Princess in Possokhov's RAkU
8. Temur Suluashvili as the Monk in Possokhov's RAkU
9. Victoria Jaiani (right) & Warrior ensemble in Possokhov's RAkU
10. Victoria Jaiani in Possokhov's RAkU

Marijuana Tax Revenue May Top $3 Billion A Year With Legalization

Mon, 2014-09-22 18:40
Money may not grow on trees, but it apparently does grow on marijuana plants. If all 50 states legalized cannabis today, they'd be collectively raking in more than $3 billion a year in taxes.

That's according to NerdWallet, a personal finance site, which forecasts a total $3.1 billion annual windfall for state governments that legalize the popular plant.

California would gain the most from legalization. NerdWallet projects the Golden State would generate more than $519 million per year, which the website points out would almost fund the entire 2013 budget for California's Department of Parks and Recreation. New York would be second, with $248 million, NerdWallet said. Seven additional states would bring in $100 million or more from legalization, and 25 others would stand to make at least $20 million per year.

NerdWallet's estimate assumed a flat, 15 percent excise tax on marijuana -- the same as Colorado's excise tax on recreational marijuana sales. NerdWallet added state and local sales taxes to that figure.

The site didn't subtract medical marijuana tax revenues in the 23 states that allow medicinal use of cannabis. The post-prohibition forecast also failed to calculate reduced government spending on law enforcement. In 2010, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimated more than $8 billion in annual savings in law enforcement costs if marijuana were legalized.

To estimate marijuana sales in each state, NerdWallet used the widely cited Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Surveys on Drug Use and Health to find the number of marijuana consumers aged 25 and older. NerdWallet calculated the approximate number of pot users in each state, and applied the percentage to the U.S. population. It estimated the total U.S. marijuana market at $14 billion, as projected by Miron.

Of course, tax rates in states may vary wildly from NerdWallet's 15 percent assumption. And estimating a marketplace for a substance that has been banned and stigmatized may be fraught. In Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, recreational marijuana tax revenue has been far lower than predicted.

Still, recent studies have projected that the U.S. marijuana industry may reach $8 billion to to $10 billion in sales by 2018.

In 2012, Colorado and Washington state legalized recreational marijuana. Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. In November, Oregon and Alaska voters will cast ballots on the legalization of recreational marijuana, voters in Florida will decide on a medical marijuana ballot measure, and Washington, D.C., voters will consider legalizing recreational marijuana possession and use.

Take a look at NerdWallet's map of the United States below to see tax revenues your state might expect from legal, regulated marijuana:

Pastor Gets Rival Gang Members To Put Down Guns And Pick Up Basketballs, And The NBA Notices

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:43
A midday basketball game on Chicago's South Side brought together an unlikely group of people Saturday. Churchgoers, NBA stars, community leaders and gang members all gathered for the third annual Chicago Peace League Basketball Tournament.

"At first nobody wanted to work with us. Everyone thought it was going to be a disaster," the tournament's organizer, Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina church, told The Huffington Post. The tournament is the culminating event for St. Sabina's Peace Basketball League, which brings in members from factions of The Black Disciples, Killa Ward, The Black P. Stones, The Gangster Disciples and other local gangs. Members play alongside one another as teammates, working toward a common goal of peace.

Pfleger and his congregation are among Chicago's most active anti-violence activists, with St. Sabina holding weekly peace walks and vigils for victims of gun violence. During one of the weekly Friday night vigils in 2012, Pfleger decided to bring a peace-oriented basketball league to the neighborhood.

"One particular night we were out walking with our church folk, and Isiah Thomas happened to be out with us," Pfleger said. The NBA Hall of Famer and Chicago native told Pfleger, "Hey, I'm in," and the Chicago Peace Basketball league was born.

Chicago Bulls star Joakim Noah also participates in the tournament, Pfleger said. Noah volunteered as a coach for Saturday's game and has done outreach over the years with members of the league. Other NBA players also showed up Saturday to help coach or support the players; Noah's Bulls teammates Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson, as well as Chicago natives Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks and Will Bynum of the Detroit Pistons, were among them. NBA referees also volunteered for the games.

“The NBA players talk about how [the men] can build peace in the community,” Pfleger said. "Basketball has tremendous power because it helps build relationships, and the ball became the driving force, not gang divisions."

Despite a crowded facility packed with rival gang members (or those at risk of being recruited into gangs), Pleger said there's never been an incident in three years of hosting the league or the high-profile tournament. In fact, Plfeger said the surrounding community in St. Sabina's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood has seen a "drastic" drop in violence since the league began.

"We’ve seen the relationships improve," he said.

“Around the area of St. Sabina, kids see it as a place of safety, a sanctuary,” Thomas told

For each game during the two 12-week league sessions, Pfleger says there are speakers who talk to the young men about everything from conflict resolution to money management to self-esteem, and that players also share meals together.

"In the past three years, hundreds [of participants] have gone through and got GEDs, about six are off to college. Others are going to city colleges," Pfleger said. "A guy who got shot last year this fall went off to Alabama State."

Pfleger also said St. Sabina has even hired some of the players and has helped others find jobs. Members from the church find out what the young men need, be it jobs, social services or education.

“My consistent belief is 95 percent of these men just want an option," Pfleger said. "Five percent may just want to be shooters, want to be gangster. But the rest? Give them an education, get them a job."

A 30-year-old participant named Charles, who played the game wearing an electronic ankle monitor, told the Sun-Times, “I was in a state of shock playing with these guys, because we spend all this time trying to hurt each other." Charles, who told the paper he's no longer active in a gang but was involved before going to jail, added, “This was more than a feel-good moment. It’s bringing us closer.”

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This College Student Is Trying To Eliminate Small Talk One Big Question At A Time

Mon, 2014-09-22 17:17
Kalina Silverman thought she was alone. She was wrong.

As a freshman at Northwestern University, Silverman had a tough time adjusting to life on the Evanston, Illinois campus. While writing an article for her journalism class about her experience, she asked the class of 2016 on Facebook if they had similar experiences, and the stories came flooding in.

"It made me realize that everyone goes through tough stuff and they just don't talk about it," Silverman, now 20, told The Huffington Post in an interview. "Then the next year I was having a really deep conversation with one of my friends and said 'Wow, I wish every conversation could be like this,' and he said how much he hated small talk. Immediately the idea of 'Big Talk' popped into my mind and it grew from there."

Silverman began her project called "Big Talk" where she approaches strangers on the street and films their responses to bigger life questions, like "What do you want to do before you die?" She hopes that by labeling it "Big Talk" the concept won't seem as intimidating as it initially sounds.

"My dream for the whole concept is for it to become a social movement where people want to have big talk in every day life," she said. "I'd love to have discussions or groups to talk about these things. I want it to inspire people to go up to strangers and start asking these kind of questions when they meet them."

Her social experiment raked in some seriously emotional responses. Watch the video above to see the seriously emotional responses her social experiment raked in.

Top 8 Liberal Arts Colleges in Illinois, Ranked by <i>U.S. News and World Report</i>

Mon, 2014-09-22 16:52
Though it's too late for this year's first-time college students to make use of U.S. News and World Report's college rankings, the list comes just in time for high school students are who are just starting to think about colleges. As part of their national rankings of colleges and universities around the country, eight colleges in Illinois were listed among the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

U.S. News and World Report breaks down its rankings in to four different categories: National Universities, Regional Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges and Regional Colleges. Here's a description on how the four categories are separated:

Schools are categorized by their mission, which is derived from the breakdown of types of higher education institutions as refined by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 2010. The Carnegie classification, which is used extensively by higher education researchers, has been the basis of the Best Colleges ranking category system since our first rankings were published in 1983.

The U.S. Department of Education and many higher education associations use the system to organize their data and to determine colleges' eligibility for grant money. In short, the Carnegie categories are the accepted standard in higher education. The category names we use are our own -- National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, Regional Universities and Regional Colleges -- but their definitions rely on the Carnegie principles.

National Universities offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master's and doctoral programs, and emphasize faculty research. National Liberal Arts Colleges focus almost exclusively on undergraduate education. They award at least 50 percent of their degrees in the arts and sciences.

Regional Universities offer a broad scope of undergraduate degrees and some master's degree programs but few, if any, doctoral programs. Regional Colleges focus on undergraduate education but grant fewer than 50 percent of their degrees in liberal arts disciplines; this category also includes schools that have small bachelor's degree programs but primarily grant two-year associate degrees.

Illinois didn't do as well on national liberal arts colleges rankings as the city of Claremont, Calif. did... Claremont had five of the top 35 liberal arts colleges. But Illinois still had a strong showing with eight colleges ranked. Those eight Illinois liberal arts colleges are below, with their national rank in parenthesis and their location and enrollment listed:

8. Monmouth College (tie 165th)
Monmouth, Ill.

Total enrollment: 1,256

7. Illinois College (tie 155th)
Jacksonville, Ill.

Total enrollment: 1,028

6. Principia College (tie 139th)
Elsah, Ill.

Total enrollment: 480

5. Lake Forest College (tie 120th)
Lake Forest, Ill.

Total enrollment: 1,622

See the top four Illinois liberal arts colleges according to U.S. News and World Report at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: The 15 best Illinois colleges, according to Forbes
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Americans Think Chicago Is The Most Dangerous U.S. City, But It's Really Not

Mon, 2014-09-22 16:47
A new poll found that over half of Americans think Chicago is more dangerous than any other large U.S. city. But their perception does not match the reality of the Windy City's crime rate, which is actually falling.

The YouGov poll, published last week, found that Chicago is the only city that a majority of respondents believe to be unsafe, with 53 percent identifying it as dangerous. The next most dangerous major cities, according to respondents, are New York City, Los Angeles, D.C. and Miami.

(Story continues below.)

The opinion poll's findings, which include only the nation's 10 largest cities, conflict with other recent rankings of dangerous U.S. cities. In Forbes' 2013 ranking, based on FBI data, Atlanta came in as the most dangerous of the 10 cities included in the YouGov poll. Detroit, which is not a part of the YouGov poll, ranked first overall on the Forbes list.

The YouGov poll also contradicts overall crime trends in Chicago. Through the end of August, police say the murders in Chicago were down 7 percent, though shooting incidents were up 5 percent. The Chficago Police Department has previously noted that the city's homicide rate is at its lowest point in 50 years.

The Pew Research Center has also pushed back against Chicago's "murder capital" reputation, pointing out in a July analysis that Chicago actually had the nation's 21st-highest murder rate in 2012, the most recent year for which the FBI has released official data. Six other cities -- Richmond, Virginia; Birmingham, Alabama; Flint, Michigan; Detroit; New Orleans and D.C. -- have at some point since 1985 been home to the nation's highest homicide rate.

Still, violent crime continues to disproportionately impact areas of Chicago's south and west sides. Over the most recent weekend, three people were fatally shot and at least 30 were wounded in shootings, according to DNAinfo Chicago. The fatalities occurred in the city's Englewood, East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park neighborhoods.

The YouGov poll also found that most Americans don't recognize that today the national murder crime rate is half what it was 20 years ago and that respondents' perceptions of how safe or unsafe a city is have little to do with whether they've actually been to the city.

YouTube Star Sam Pepper Attempts To 'Prank' Women By Grabbing Their Butts

Mon, 2014-09-22 14:12
There's a (big) difference between a prank and assault, but this YouTube star seems to have confused the two.

Sam Pepper, a British YouTube celebrity with a following of over 2 million, posted a video on Sept. 20 where he walks around grabbing unsuspecting women's butts and films their reactions. The public outcry for the clip to be taken down was so loud that YouTube removed the video this morning.

Pepper is famous for his outrageous YouTube prank videos, however this one not only confused but angered many of his fans and a large portion of the Internet.

The video features Pepper walking up to five different women, starting a conversation and then pinching their butts when they look away. It's painful to watch as these women awkwardly laugh off Pepper's "prank" and walk away, violated and confused. As one YouTube commenter wrote, "Literally the first girl said 'I don't like that.' Line crossed."

The video has received so much negative feedback that people have been reporting the clip to YouTube asking for it to be taken down since it was posted this past Saturday. The hashtag #ReportSamPepper, created by 19-year-old Tumblr user Kara, has been populating Twitter the past few days -- and, thankfully, YouTube listened.

#reportsampepper because calling it a "prank" does not make it ok to go around and sexually harass women

— gomezz (@flavorgomez) September 22, 2014

With a Pepper comes assault. #ReportSamPepper

— mamrie hart (@mametown) September 21, 2014

#reportsampepper because no woman should ever have to be touched without consent

— sarah (@sarahmicheled) September 22, 2014

#reportsampepper just bc you label it as a "prank" doesn't excuse the fact that you're sexually harassing women.

— ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ (@msftxbieber) September 22, 2014

Reminder: Everything online is edited! Just because someone is seen laughing doesn't mean they aren't screaming internally! #reportsampepper

— Liam Dryden (@LiamDrydenEtc) September 21, 2014

#reportsampepper bc having a million subscribers on YouTube does not give you a free pass to grope girls and call it a "prank"

— elita // sept 25th (@woahmerrygold) September 21, 2014

Sexual harassment is not a joke, and women's bodies are not there for your amusement and video views. #reportsampepper

— Daisy (@_daisyporter) September 21, 2014

#ReportSamPepper because he thinks its okay to objectify women

— Brad(◡﹏◡✿) (@breastblackery) September 21, 2014

Many of Pepper's fellow YouTube stars have denounced his behavior, including Laci Green, Tyler Oakley, Hannah Hart, Hank Green and Charlie McDonnell. Hank Green, one of the founders of the national conference for online video creators called VidCon, also took to Twitter to voice his outrage:

For people asking, it's safe to assume that people who sexually assault women in "prank" videos will not be welcome at future VidCons.

— Hank Green (@hankgreen) September 21, 2014

Sex positive vlogger Laci Green weighed in on the controversy, writing an open letter to Pepper on Sept. 21 on Tumblr: We are deeply disturbed by this trend and would like to ask you, from one creator to another, to please stop. Please stop violating women and making them uncomfortable on the street for views. Please stop physically restraining them and pressuring them to be sexual when they are uncomfortable. Please show some respect for women’s right to their own bodies. While it may seem like harmless fun, a simple prank, or a “social experiment”, these videos encourage millions of young men and women to see this violation as a normal way to interact with women. One in six young women (real life ones, just like the ones in your video) are sexually assaulted, and sadly, videos like these will only further increase those numbers.

And Tyler Oakley, an LGBTQ advocate with over 5 million YouTube followers, took to Twitter as well, stating:

Saddened by @sampepper's new video. Sexually harassing women is vile to begin with, but normalizing it by calling it a prank? So harmful.

— Tyler Oakley (@tyleroakley) September 21, 2014

The Huffington Post reached out to Sam Pepper and YouTube for comment but did not receive a response from either at the time of publication.

The bottom line? Sexism and assault disguised as humor is still sexism and assault.

[h/t Kinja]

Race and the economy: Learning from Ferguson

Mon, 2014-09-22 14:09
Peter Creticos, executive director of the Institute for Work and the Economy, believes discussion about what happend in Ferguson, Mo. last month, reflects a discussion Americans have been having about inequality for decades, but that the question of why it happend extends beyond race.

Since it is in our nature as a country to look through the lens of race whenever there is an issue involving white and black protagonists, we ignore other factors that drive recent events. The events that happened in Ferguson, along with Dearborn Heights, MI, when Theodore Wafer shot Renisha McBride in the face, and when George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in Sanford, FL, are not confined to race alone, but to a deep-seated set of fears of survival and well-being that transcend this racial construct....

The incessant drumbeat of jobs being outsourced and offshored has challenged the standing of hard-working people regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. Wages continue to be pushed down while new demands are placed on workers to simply re-qualify for jobs that they hold now....

African Americans continue to get the worse of it. Those who start out poor not only continue to hit "normal" intractable barriers to greater economic opportunities, they also have to deal with persistent, almost undetectable discrimination - at least undetectable to the people doing the discriminating...

The differences felt in this millennium are that great changes are hitting middle income whites who, for the first time in generations, face the prospect that they will be less well off than their parents, and that their children and possibly their grandchildren may be worse off still. During other times of economic stress, the people exercising the levers of power fought back by holding onto whatever remained in their control.

Read the rest of Creticos' thoughts on race and the economy at Reboot Illinois.

Here in Illinois, the Better Government Association has launched a probe to look into the hiring of a Cook County Sheriff's office emplyee after she resigned. Colleen Haran was found to be logging hours that she didn't work and resigned instead of being fired. But the BGA found something more interesting in the way her employment at the sherrif's office began than how it ended. The BGA found that she had several connections to other city workers. Did her clout help her get the job?

Promo For Morning Show 'Nobody Watches' Is Just Telling It Like It Is

Mon, 2014-09-22 12:51
What does a news station do with all that hate mail it gets telling it how much it sucks and is the worst news station in the world?

Make a video out of it to promote the news station, of course!


var src_url=""; src_url += "&onVideoDataLoaded=HPTrack.Vid.DL&onTimeUpdate=HPTrack.Vid.TC"; if (typeof(commercial_video) == "object") { src_url += "&siteSection="+commercial_video.site_and_category; if (commercial_video.package) { src_url += "&sponsorship="+commercial_video.package; } } document.write('');

Thank you WGN 9 News viewers for that incredibly entertaining material.

And keep an eye out for these billboards:

(h/t: FTVLive)

What We Learned From The NFL's Week 3

Mon, 2014-09-22 12:36
We're now in week 3 of the NFL season, and who would have thought that Arizona -- with Drew Stanton making two starts -- would be undefeated, or that New Orleans and Green Bay would both be 1-2?

Denver and Seattle provided the type of theater that many anticipated during the Super Bowl, giving the NFL precisely what it needed after a catastrophic couple of weeks. But there was plenty more to like during week 3 -- namely, the possible emergence of a new star at quarterback and the continual decline of an old one. Let's take a look at what we learned.

Kirk Cousins Can Ball

No surprises here: Every time Cousins has been thrown into action, good things happen. As I advised during my NBC Sports Radio show Sunday morning, he is a fantasy must-start, throws an excellent deep ball (see: DeSean Jackson) and has real command of what he wants to do with the football. The Philly defense isn't elite by any means, but it shut down Andrew Luck for a half. Cousins threw for 427 yards to go along with three scores and one interception, and was efficient and confident in the pocket. With RG3 out for an extended period of time, Cousins will have a real opportunity for the first time in his career.

The End Of Tom Terrific?

New England fans (and Tom Brady fantasy owners) were hoping that Brady's early struggles this season were a mirage. But after tossing for 234 yards for one touchdown against Oakland at home, it is officially panic mode. "It’s not going to be easy for us," Brady said following the Patriots' 16-9 win. "I don’t think any team plays us and we get -- you know, we get their best." The truth is that the Pats have neither a deep threat nor their top-tier offensive line of old. Logan Mankins' trade is evident, particularly during plays that take longer to develop, when Brady is not afforded the time he needs. In three games, Brady is completing just 58.8 percent of his passes while averaging 5.54 yards per attempt -- both of which would be career lows.

Still Super

The Seahawks don't lose at home, and yet, with a 4 percent chance to win the game heading into his team's game-tying drive, Peyton Manning almost pulled off the impossible. Manning, who was pressured for much of the game, was magnificent when it mattered most, as was Russell Wilson. The 25-year-old Wilson, despite throwing fewer than any other quarterback in the league this year, continues to be one of the most efficient passers in football, and leads the NFL in comeback/game-winning drives since he was drafted. There was a lot to absorb from this game -- a 26-20 Seattle win in overtime, a revamped Broncos defense with nine new starters, the ongoing struggles of feature running back Montee Ball and the dominance of Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who thrashed a quality front for 138 total yards, including the game-winning score.

Still Undefeated

Cincinnati should not be flying under anybody's radar. At 3-0, the Bengals boast a plus-47 point differential -- the best in the league -- despite featuring two new coordinators. (Remember that Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden are both gone.) Of course it is very early, but we should also praise quarterback Andy Dalton, who recently signed his mega-deal under stark criticism and has completed 65.5 percent of his passes. While he has just the two touchdown passes and the one pick, he's finally throwing the ball down the field. Incredibly, the Bengals have trailed for a mere 51 seconds the entire season.

They've Got Next?

It took a 0-2 start and a 30-0 halftime deficit for Jacksonville head coach Gus Bradley to finally give the keys to Blake Bortles. Bortles made his fair share of mistakes, but he also tossed a couple touchdown passes and kept a slew of plays alive that he had no business doing. It is that athleticism and escape ability that made Bortles the first quarterback to come off the board.

Sunday also marked the debut of Teddy Bridgewater, who entered the game for Matt Cassel after Cassel fractured his foot. Bridgewater is nowhere near the physical presence of Bortles, but he had a tremendous amount of success running a pro-style offense under Charlie Strong at Louisville. During a close game and in a tough environment against New Orleans, Bridgewater made a couple nice throws and scrambled a bit, but also showed the same deer-in-the-headlights look from his dreadful pro day before the draft.

Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure and catch my NBC Sports Radio show, Kup and Schultz, which airs Sunday mornings from 9-12 ET, right here.

David Bowie Exhibition Details How An Artist Became An Icon

Mon, 2014-09-22 12:34
There’s never been an artist quite like David Bowie, so it’s only fitting that a major exhibition chronicling the legend’s work is as diverse, expansive and exciting as his career over the past half century.

David Bowie Is,” opening Tuesday at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, contains more than 300 artifacts selected from an incredible 75,000 items Bowie had archived over the years. With a location-based headset, viewers can hear corresponding interviews, commentary and -- of course -- music as they move through the show.

Along with the immersive audio, the exhibit packs in more than 50 of Bowie’s costumes from personas like Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Thin White Duke, multiple hand-drawn storyboards for his stage shows and music videos, and contextual media like World War II news clippings, the famous 1972 “Blue Marble” photograph of Earth from space, and posters from the film “A Clockwork Orange,” all of which inspired Bowie’s creative process.

“The show is so much about process... it’s about how you make things,” MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling said during a Friday preview of the exhibition. “You can consistently see how [Bowie] was reinventing himself over and over.”

The MCA’s show is the only U.S. stop on the exhibition’s international tour. Below, a preview of the show:

"David Bowie Is" will be on view at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art from September 23, 2014 to January 4, 2015.

White House Continues Pushing Colleges To Tackle Rape Culture

Mon, 2014-09-22 10:41
The White House released guidance on Friday pushing colleges and universities to conduct campus climate surveys to ensure ongoing compliance with Title IX, the gender equity law requiring schools to respond to and prevent sexual violence on campus.

A best practices document presented last week with the Obama administration's "It's On Us" campaign encouraged colleges to conduct the surveys "in consultation with research personnel with expertise in survey design and data collection and analysis." Schools should analyze the data collected "to assess the rates and nature of sexual misconduct, any location hot-spots or risk factors, knowledge of the College’s sexual misconduct policies, procedures and resources, and the consequences of violating such policies," the White House said.

The college's Title IX coordinator should be in charge of these climate surveys, the administration suggested.

The White House first made a push for the surveys in April, releasing a sample survey along with the first report from the administration's task force on sexual assault. It is currently conducting a pilot survey with Rutgers University. Legislation proposed in July by a bipartisan group of lawmakers would create a mandate for colleges to do the surveys annually.

Higher education groups have shown a resistance to implementing the surveys, though the idea of conducting them is widely endorsed by advocates and experts on the topic. Groups like the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators and the American Council on Education, which represents college presidents, started showing opposition to the surveys soon after the White House task force report in April. Since then, they have largely remained reluctant to back the surveys -- though they haven't ruled them out.

However, in a sign that college administrators are warning up to the Obama administration's policy proposals on sexual violence, NASPA created the #SAPledge Friday, pushing campus officials to "talk openly about sexual assault."

Signing the pledge would mean student affairs employees would promise to challenge "negative gender stereotypes, sexism, and rape culture on campus," and to "listen to, believe, and assist victims of gender-based violence."

"We’re supporting the 'It’s On Us' campaign and expanding it to have student affairs administrators pledge their commitment to end all gender-based violence," NASPA President Kevin Kruger said Friday.

7 Things I Learned About Love When My Dad Started Online Dating

Mon, 2014-09-22 08:46
When most 20-somethings have dating questions, they call a single friend. A few might call their moms. But what if your "person" is a 60+ guy who also happens to be your dad?

When I first moved to New York, I was that girl who checked in with Mom back at home most nights; she was hilarious and witty and always interested in my day. Plus, she had stage IV cancer, and therefore a lot of mother-daughter wisdom to impart. Those calls were among the most open of my life. With time against us, we were oddly free with our stories and advice.

The phone calls stopped a few weeks after my 23rd birthday, when my mother died of breast cancer at the age of 56. She left behind two daughters... and her husband of more than 30 years.

For a while, neither Dad nor I felt much like picking up the phone.

Then, two years after we lost Mom, I was home for Christmas and saw installed on Dad's phone.

Uh... Dad? Are you... online dating?

That conversation was among the least open of my life.

A few days later, though, I caught him sitting in the living room, laughing at something on his iPad.



Seriously? What is it?

You have to see this pic.

Dear reader, it was not pretty. While I was not prepared for this dark glimpse into online dating profile pics for the 60+ set (let's just say there were some, uh, questionable props involved), a strange question formed in my brain:

Dad, what does your profile look like?

A beer (or three) later, we had revamped his profile pictures (puppy photo, yes; woman with her arm around you in profile pic; no) and "about me" section (yes, Dad, using the wrong "their" is a deal breaker at any age). I returned from Christmas break feeling like I had helped Dad get closer to moving on with his life... and with the realization that I needed to reexamine certain parts of mine.

Slowly, Dad began calling me with online dating updates. At first, I was appalled. Then, fascinated. Then -- horror of horrors -- I found myself calling him for advice. When I got over the initial mental terror, I realized he was kind of perfect for the job:

  • He knows who I am when I'm 100 percent myself; I can't fool him into thinking I want or am something I'm not.

  • He has seen me cry and knows when it's over something that will make me stronger or just a waste of my time.

  • He has successfully survived the dating scene in his 20s (and landed quite a catch, in my opinion).

  • He has my best interest at heart, because if this guy becomes my family, he becomes Dad's family, too.

Not every man I go out with gets the Dad treatment (and because I know you're thinking it, no, my sex life is off-limits). But here's the thing: My dad found the love of his life, lost her, and was able to put himself out there again after 30 years, a good deal of pain and allow himself to love again. Here are seven things my father taught me about love:

1. Be friends first.
My parents met on a blind date arranged by friends. Dad said when he saw Mom, his jaw dropped. The attraction was instantaneous, mutual... and then the blizzard of '78 happened, blanketing the highways that ran from Mom's home in upstate New York to Dad's outside of Boston in snow. Since they couldn't see each other, they wrote letters. In them, they offered one another support; Mom encouraged Dad's fledging career as a public defender, and Dad was a shoulder to lean on during Mom's search for her brother, who went missing during the Vietnam War.

I met one former boyfriend through mutual friends. The attraction was instantaneous, mutual... and so we jumped right over the friend zone and into exclusivity. Five months later, I realized that while my heart still beat faster every time I looked at him, there were certain topics I'd stopped bringing up around him -- namely, things about my family and feelings -- because he didn't share those parts of his life with me.

"So much of a relationship is mental," Dad told me. "You need someone to keep you positive, who believes that what you do and care about in life is good."

Pick someone you can talk to after a hard day or a happy day. Someone who supports you, no matter what.

2. It's OK to take your time -- the good ones are worth the wait.
Grief is complicated. We had both lost someone we loved, and anyone we'd welcome into our lives was going to have to be OK with taking it slow.

Against the advice of my father (and many friends), I rushed into a new relationship shortly after a long-term one ended, and not long after losing Mom. Spoiler alert: It didn't last.

Dad told a woman he liked he wasn't ready to settle down yet, and the craziest thing happened... she gave him space. They're still together and really, really happy. The time apart let them both realize what they meant to each other and showed them that they could be happy alone -- a crucial first step toward being happy with someone else.

3. Pick someone who makes you laugh.
Let me tell you something: Chemo sucks. But even on her darkest days, Mom would crack jokes about how odd it was that her orthopedist was named Dr. Wack and her dentist Dr. Payne (now THAT is wack).

Given where I came from [see: above], I'm a bit of a sucker for bad puns. If you aren't willing to be silly with me in good times, what's going to keep us going when life gets less fun?

As Dad would say, think of those sleepover parties you had as a kid: Some nights you want to stay up late playing games, but most of the time you just want to laugh and talk until you fall asleep. Now, imagine you could only invite one friend over for a sleepover for the rest of your life. You better pick someone who can make you laugh.

4. Make sure he/she loves you, not just the idea of you.
My dad was hesitant to list his profession as "attorney" on his online dating profile. He said women would contact him and he'd always wonder if they were attracted to him because his job title suggested success or wealth. He wanted to be loved for who he was (a rockin' Dad who also happens to be in a rock band), not the job he held.

I once dated someone who had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and was looking for someone who was "wife material." On paper, I fit everything he was looking for: Ivy League degree, solid job... and blonde hair and blue eyes, just like his ex. He was handsome, successful and charming; I liked saying I was his girlfriend. But when we were alone, we'd have these awful fights where I realized we had very different views on very basic things... like what it means to be in a relationship. We looked good together on paper (and, after some Instagram filtering, I'd argue, in photos), but we weren't good together in real life.

Make sure you are dating a person, not "the person you are supposed to be with."

5. How do they treat you when disaster strikes?
My dad and mom shared a bed for more than 30 years. They made me in it when they were young (ew), they let their two daughters crawl in and watch TV with them in it when they were a bit older, and it became the place my dad would carry my mom to after trips to and from the bathroom after multiple cancer-related surgeries that robbed her of her femur, breast, lymph nodes and dignity.

When Mom died, my boyfriend at the time rushed from New York to Boston and spent his birthday in a funeral home at her viewing. While the relationship didn't work out in the long run, he's still a trusted friend today.

The good ones don't run away when it's hard; they stand by your side and carry you, if necessary.

6. Sometimes (but not always), wisdom comes with age.
I recently dated someone who was... well, let's just say he was significantly younger than I am. My dad offered me the following advice: "At his age, I was dating my college girlfriend. She was great, but I wasn't ready to get married or be serious, so I ended it. Then I met your mother, and everything clicked."

Sometimes, you just aren't at the right stage of your life to be the partner someone else needs. And letting them go means they'll eventually find that right person... which -- bonus -- can lead to some awesome kids.

And on that note...

7. Know when to let go.
"You can go." My dad whispered that to Mom minutes before she stopped breathing, her organs giving out after a three-year battle with inflammatory breast cancer. He wasn't ready. It hurt. But she was in pain and he loved her enough to let her go.

My longest relationship lasted seven years. My ex-boyfriend is a kind, accomplished man, but we weren't right for each other. Since we spent most of our 20s together -- in many ways, grew up together -- the separation was difficult, but we cared enough about each other to want the other person to be happy, and realized the best way to do that was to part ways.

Hard stuff, but if my dad can do it, so can his daughter.

Dating can be exhilarating, and it can be demoralizing. But I have a pretty good role model to remind me that no matter how bad or boring the date, the good guys are out there... somewhere.