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Sixty years ago Wednesday, the first rock and roll concert happened in Cleveland.

The promotional poster for the Moondog Coronation Ball, the world's first rock and roll concert. Source: Wikipedia

The Moondog Coronation Ball was kind of a disaster. It ended in a riot. One person was stabbed. But it was also the first public indication of how hot this new rock and roll trend had become. Organizers originally hoped for about 10,000 people. Twice that number showed up.

The Ball was the idea of Alan Freed, the Cleveland disc jockey who first coined the phrase “rock and roll.” He’s the reason Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. And every time you find yourself in a packed concert venue, listening to music that’s a little too loud and a little too fast, you’re taking part in a tradition that began in Cleveland at the Moondog Coronation Ball.

Officially, the anniversary was on Wednesday. But the Ball was held on a Friday, and right now it’s almost quittin time across the Midwest.

So go have a Ball, in honor of Alan Freed.

A view of downtown Chicago, from a map drawn in 1893. Credit: Big Map Blog

Want to see how much Chicago has changed since 1893? The folks over at Big Map Blog have scanned this incredible bird’s eye view of the city drawn by Peter Roy.

The blog lives up to its name by scanning maps at high resolution, so you can zoom in and see what was going on in your neighborhood 119 years ago.

(Not from Chicago? The Big Map Blog has lots of historic maps from around the Midwest.)

Credit: flickr user agrilifetoday

Not too long ago, jobs in the new green economy were seen as the number one solution to transform the Midwest economy. You almost couldn’t go to any sort of economic luncheon or policy briefing without hearing about it.

So, how is the Midwest actually doing when it comes to creating these “green jobs”?

Meh. We’re doing all right. Not great. Not horrible.

Yesterday, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics for the first time released data on how many jobs there are in “green goods and services.” The figures include construction jobs for people who weatherize homes, manufacturing jobs for people who make fuel efficient cars and scientific jobs for people who try to come up with environmental solutions, among many other kinds of jobs.

The headline is that the U.S. had about 3.1 million of these green jobs in 2010, accounting for about 2.4 percent of all jobs in the country.

If you just look at the sheer number of jobs, the Midwest did pretty well: Both Illinois and Ohio rank in the top ten. But those are also big states, with lots of jobs. So, if you look at the numbers just based on the percentage of the states’ overall jobs that can be classified as “green,” then the numbers are less impressive.

Basically, most Midwest states are just slightly above average when it comes to green jobs.

Iowa and Minnesota had the highest green job rates in the Midwest. In both states, green jobs make up 2.7 percent of the total number of jobs.

Michigan is the worst state in the Midwest for green jobs, by percentage. It’s tied for 36th in the country, with 2.1 percent of its jobs in the green economy.

Our own Kate Davidson reported last year on Michigan’s struggles to create these kinds of jobs. And former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm pretty much staked her legacy on clean energy jobs.

So what gives? Politicians across the Midwest have claimed that our states will become leaders in the green economy. Our region may not be failing, but it’s certainly not leading – at least in terms of job creation.

What more needs to happen?

In October 2010, a 360 foot long crack appeared in rural Menominee County, Michigan. Residents nearby reported hearing booming noises. Is this what's coming for Clintonville, Wisc.? Credit: Wayne Pennington, Michigan Technological University

We’ve been as fascinated as anyone else about the strange news coming out of Clintonville, Wisc. this week. Residents in the small town have been hearing mysterious booming noises in the wee hours of the morning.

It may be a stretch to consider this an economic story, but Clintonville is being flooded by out of town reporters, who must have some kind of economic impact. And at least one engineering firm is getting business from it.

Plenty of people online also speculate that “fracking” could be behind the mysterious noises. Hydraulic fracturing, the natural gas drilling method usually just called “fracking,” did play a role in a series of earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio.  The U.S. Geological Survey just confirmed that there is small seismic activity behind the Clintonville booms - tiny tremors that only measure 1.5 in magnitude. But town officials say they’ve ruled out most man-made causes for the tremors (the closest known fracking operation is about 20 miles from Clintonville).

That leaves natural causes as a possible explanation. says the Midwest’s abnormally warm spring could be playing a role, as ice in the ground quickly melted and the soil suddenly settled.

But one of the biggest questions, of course, is whether these noises are something to be worried about.

Some Clintonville residents are thinking they might not want to stick around and find out. A few have already fled just so they could get some uninterrupted sleep. But in the town of Moodus, Conn. strange booming noises have been rattling residents for hundreds, if not thousands of years. There, the noises have been attributed to very small earthquakes, though no one is quite sure why they’re happening in Moodus.

There’s also a more local precedent to the strange happenings in Clintonville. In October 2010, residents in a rural section of Michigan’s Menominee County heard a series of strange booms. A few days later, Eileen Heider discovered that her 53-acre property suddenly had a new hill, and a crack in the earth that stretched for more than 350 feet. Geologists at Michigan Technical University later determined the crack came from an earthquake, though it was such a minor quake, it would have barely registered on any seismic measurement tools. Nonetheless, it’s considered the first recorded earthquake in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Charting a path between three Midwest towns where mysterious noises have been reported. Credit: Google Maps

The Menominee Crack, as it’s now called, sits just 80 miles northeast of Clintonville. Eighty miles in the opposite direction is the town of Montello, Wisc. Tuesday night, residents in Montello started hearing noises as well. The three towns form a line that runs almost parallel to the western shore of Green Bay.

Changing Gears has not yet consulted with any geologists on what this could mean. But if (if!) Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula suddenly starts drifting away into Lake Michigan, we promise we will tell you what the implications are for the Midwest economy.

Last fall, Accuweather forecasters predicted a weather so bad in the Midwest that people in Chicago would want to move. As we all know, that didn’t happen. Not by a long shot.

Instead of snow, we're getting this/photo by Micki Maynard

Now, according to the Chicago Tribune, the weather prediction company has come up with a reason it was so off base: the Japanese tsunami.

“We’re wrong sometimes, we can admit it,” meteorologist and news director Henry Margusity said Wednesday. “It was not exactly the best forecast.”

He theorizes on his blog that drifting debris from the tsunami last March seems to be sending warm weather aloft over the Pacific, which in turn is wafting warmer breezes here. Because the Pacific is the world’s largest ocean, it has a great deal of impact on global weather.

“If you match up where that debris field is right now with where the warmer than normal water temperatures are, they match up perfectly,” he said.

That also means we’re in for a warmer than normal summer, which could affect Midwest agriculture, businesses and our lifestyles.

Are you buying it?


In the past week, Chicago has been awash with members of the national political press corps, who waxed enthusiastically about its lakefront, deep dish pizza and friendliness.

Chicago Skyline/photo by Micki Maynard

Now, with the Illinois primary over (Mitt Romney won, by the way), all those journalists are on planes out of town.

And that might be the last time they think about Chicago until this fall’s general election – unless they’re back to cover the NATO summit in May.

The situation sums up Chicago’s challenge in being considered a world class city, writes Phil Rosenthal of the Chicago Tribune.

“We want the world to think well of us all,” he says in his column today. “A greater problem, perhaps, is that too many people don’t think of us, well, at all.”

Rosenthal talked to Rowan Bridge, a BBC Radio producer who has also lived in Washington, D.C. “I don’t think most people in the U.K.have any idea where Chicago is,” Bridge told Rosenthal.

“Most people in England think the United States consists of three cities — New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles — because they’re the ones that run the media, they’re the ones where the celebrities hang out, they’re the ones where the politicians are.”

This week, a delegation led by Gov. Pat Quinn and Amy Rule, the wife of Chicago Mayor Rahm, is in Brussels, drumming up excitement at NATO about all the things Chicago has to offer. They’re bound to mention parks and performances and Garrett’s Popcorn and its great chefs.

But all this sparked a discussion on the Changing Gears team: what makes a city a world class city? Here are a few criteria that we came up with.

International activity. To be world-class, a city has to be the international center of something — the place you have to go in your field, where all things stem from. Think of global financial capitals such as New York, London and Hong Kong, or political capitals such as Washington and Beijing.

Chicago is a player in many fields, from airlines to the legal world to food, but it does not seem to be the go-to place in any one area. (If you disagree, tell us in comments).

Culture. Los Angeles is clearly an global entertainment capital. So is London. Paris is the center of the art and fashion worlds. Milan matters when it comes to music, Rome and Shanghai for all those things put together.

Chicago has a theater scene, and a food scene, and a music scene, and plenty of movies are made there. And when Oprah did her show there, Chicago drew people from all strata of global society. All those things are elements of a global city, but again, Chicago doesn’t inarguably lead in any of them (although I know I’ll get an argument from some foodies).

Location. The Tribune’s Rosenthal hits on this in his column this morning and our Changing Gears team agrees. Chicago’s location between the two coasts simply hurts its world class candidacy.

When people come to the U.S. from overseas, they can work in visits to a variety of places just by sticking to the east and west coasts. Getting to Chicago takes effort. Visitors from anywhere outside the Midwest have to fly there, where it’s possible to drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco or Las Vegas, or take a train from New York to Washington.

There’s one thing that Chicago has in spades when it comes to a world class city: pride of place. Almost everyone who’s from Chicago or lived there has warm feelings about it, especially NPR’s Scott Simon, a faithful cheerleader who even named one of his books, “Windy City.”

But when it comes to world class status, as Rosenthal puts it in his column this morning, “that’s not enough.”

What are your views about Chicago? Does it deserve to be considered a world class city? What does it need to do to get there?

Part-time farmer Howard Haselhuhn at his West Michigan hops farm. Credit: Lindsey Smith

This month, we’re looking into some of the hidden assets of the Midwest – the parts of our economy that don’t often get noticed when we talk about our strengths (the first part of the series is here). Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of local economies in the Midwest – it accounts for billions of dollars worth of exports and thousands of jobs. There’s been a lot of concern about whether enough young people are going into farming these days. But the ag industry goes well beyond being just farming – and plenty of young people are interested in that.

At Navy Pier, a special meeting of the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences’s FFA chapter is being called to order. Ringed around the room, one by one, chapter officers check in during the traditional opening ceremony. It ends when President and Senior Jennifer Nelson asks her fellow FFA members: “Why are we here?”

The students stand and chant in unison: “To practice brotherhood, honor agriculture opportunities and responsibilities, and develop those qualities of leadership that an FFA member should possess.”

These students are part of the 17,000 FFA members in Illinois alone. Membership in the organization overall has increased 20 percent since 2000, to more than half a million members across the country. But there’s a reason why FFA no longer calls itself Future Farmers of America.

Actual farmers make up just about two to four percent of the American work force. But people who work in related industries that depend on what farmers do account for at least a quarter of the entire work force. That includes everyone from people in food services jobs to Kraft executives to commodities traders.

These students were at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show to exhibit a garden they designed and built, and to sell food produced in the school’s kitchens.

Applications to the public school – located on the far south side of the city – have almost doubled in the past year.

Chicago High School for Ag Sciences senior Justice Plummer. Credit: Niala Boodhoo

But student Justice Plummer wasn’t so sure about agriculture when she first found out she got in. Her mom convinced her to go, and she’s never looked back – even though she’s the first in her family to go into the industry.

At the moment, Plummer is nine for 13 on being accepted into colleges she applied for – all to study agricultural business. She wants to major in agriculture business in college, and eventually get her Master’s degree and work in the Peace Corps, all in relation to agriculture business or finance.

“Everybody looks at me, like, ‘Agriculture?’” she says, laughing. “They just think of farming. But it’s all about food, clothing and shelter, and people are always going to need those kind of jobs.”

Instructor Corey Flournoy agrees.

“Just here in Chicago – some of the largest food companies are based here, from Quaker Oats to Kraft Foods,” says Flournoy, who is in charge of the new Center for Urban Agricultural Education, a partnership with the University of Illinois. “The opportunities to work in agriculture – because those are agricultural companies – are plentiful. We need more people to go into those fields.”

Educators like to use the acronym STEM to describe this need for people who know science, technology, engineering and math.

“I say that agriculture puts the STEAM into STEM,” said Laurie Kramer, an associate dean at the U of I’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.  When I asked her how much farming was a part of the college’s curriculum, she laughed and said you would think it was “big.” That’s what it was like 50 years ago.

“Nowadays, things are very, very different,” says Kramer. Seventy percent of the college’s students come from urban environments. The few students who focus on farming are likely to come from farming families, she said,  adding that today, the number of farms – especially those operated by families – is very small.

“It’s very expensive to run those operations, it’s very tricky,” she says.

Part-time farmer Howard Haselhuhn would agree. He’s an electrical engineer for Texas Instruments. But his West Michigan farm has been in his wife Amy’s family for several generations. She’s a CPA. When they were first married, Amy says they thought about farming full-time, but:

“We just didn’t see how we could possibly make a living off of a farm that was this size and growing commodity crops and also make payments off the land,” she says.

Together, the couple saved for 25 years to buy the 420-acre land from the rest of her family. Most of it is rented out to full time farmers. But on the weekends, they make the three and a hour trek west from their house near Ann Arbor to check on their hops crop.

Michigan’s farmers exported $1.75 billion worth of food – mostly to Canada – in 2010. Forecasts are that number will top $2 billion this year. The state’s goal is to double Michigan’s exports in the next five years.

More than half the farms in the Michigan area are what the USDA considers residential or lifestyle farms – meaning that the owners have other full-time incomes. Another 20 percent are retirement farms – what the Hasselhuhns hope this will be.

The farm was started in the 1930s by Amy’s great-grandfather. She says growing up on the farm gave her strong attachment to the land that Howard now shares. And even though they didn’t grow up there, her children have it, too – that weekend, her eldest son and his wife were also up at the farm, helping out. Her hope that is future generations of Haselhuhns will be at this farm, maintaining that attachment to the land.

This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. If you want to learn how to be a part of our network, click here.

The University of Chicago has posted a job opening. The requirements include being able to stand for 45 minutes at a time, and climb 235 winding stairs to get to work. And oh, yes, have some musical ability.

The posting is for a carillon player at the Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon. has the details.

What’s a carillon, you might ask? According to the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance:

“A carillon is a musical instrument consisting of least two octaves of carillon bells arranged in chromatic series and played from a keyboard that permits control of expression through variation of touch. A carillon bell is a cast bronze cup-shaped bell whose partial tones are in such harmonious relationship to each other as to permit many such bells to be sounded together in varied chords with harmonious and concordant effect.”

Carillon players might seem to have limited career opportunities, but there are more carillons around the Midwest than you might think.

There’s one in Burton Memorial Tower in Ann Arbor, and a smaller one in the Kerrytown market nearby. The University of Wisconsin has one. The Deeds carillon is the pride of Dayton, Ohio.

By the way, the Chicago job pays $50 per performance.

Take a look at the students at the University of Rochester in New York who are learning the carillon ropes. Do you have a carillon where you live?

A rendering of what Cleveland's waterfront could look like, if the plan approved yesterday is successful. Credit: City of Cleveland

Yesterday, the Cleveland city council approved three new ordinances that should clear the way for an ambitious new downtown waterfront plan.

The plan was initiated by mayor Frank Jackson, and it covers 90 acres, including the existing Cleveland Browns football stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It calls for new pedestrian walkways, a marina, tree-lined boulevards and up to two million square feet for retail, restaurant and hotel development. And it opens up more of the lakefront to the public.

The mayor’s chief of regional development told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last year that total private investment in the project could reach $2 billion by the time it’s done.

If you’re waiting for the catch, here it comes: None of that $2 billion in investment has been locked-in yet. One port official told the Plain Dealer, “There’s significant interest” among developers. But he didn’t offer anything specific. Some officials say it could take 25 years for the plan to be complete. But if the project manages to succeed, it will be a win of historic proportions for Cleveland. Grand plans for remaking the city’s waterfront have come and gone, dating back as far as 1959. Let’s hope this one works out.

Spring sprang today, and many Midwesterners have shed their winter coats and boots for shorts and t-shirts. But one group of Midwesterns are trying to resist the urge to speed up the season. 

Farmers in Wisconsin normally start planting corn around April 15. And just because the temperatures are in the 70s this week, that doesn’t mean they can get an early start.

“Everybody wants to be the first one, to get the neighbors talking,” said Scott Pfeuti, who farms on 2,000 acres between Monticello and Albany, Wis. He told the Wisconsin State Journal that he’s sticking with his normal schedule.

Agronomists are telling farmers to resist starting their crops early. even though the ground is warming up quickly and there are no signs it’s going to cool down anytime soon, the newspaper said.

“This weather is odd,” Shawn Conley, an assistant professor in the UW-Madison agronomy department, told the paper. “I think we have to be cautious and just know what the risks are out there.”

In an average winter, frost can run three feet deep, but in Wisconsin, the frost did not even make it to one foot deep in some places. Insects wintering in the soil weren’t killed and those living in bark survived easily.

That poses a danger to crops and also to people: without a spring snow storm, experts say mosquitos will probably be back much earlier than usual around the Great Lakes.

Tomorrow, Changing Gears’ Niala Boohoo looks at the future of agriculture around the Great Lakes. It’s a more popular career than you might think.