Column: Men cooking for a good cause

Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on May 6, 2011

My wife is the chef in the family. She makes beautiful Sunday dinners that sometimes can take all day.

Me? I do my best. My best cooking qualities are my abilities to follow a recipe and to use kitchen utensils without hurting myself. Needless to say, I won’t be asked to be a contestant on “Top Chef” anytime soon.

However, with the help of a good recipe, I can hold my own in the kitchen using those modest abilities. As such, I’m more confident than ever heading into my third 60 Men Who Cook event tonight at the Kane County Fairgrounds.

This year, I’ll be sticking with desserts and making raspberry-cream cheese muffins. It’s a “Cooking Light” recipe, which I’ve had good luck with in the past. Delicious and healthy. (Well, as healthy as raspberry-cream cheese muffins get.)

After running out of my 200 chocolate-covered red velvet cake balls halfway through the event last year, I’ll be upping the ante to 300 samples, which means I have quite the shopping trip in front of me Thursday evening.

I’ll be purchasing three dozen eggs, 24 cups of raspberries and 60 ounces of cream cheese among other ingredients. (I don’t think you actually can buy cups of raspberries, so let’s just say an armload of raspberries. I think that’s the proper terminology.)

There also will be 59 other scrumptious dishes to sample at the event, including treats such as English trifle, pork carnitas with jicama and radish slaw, Thai beef salad and chocolate profiteroles with vanilla ice cream. As well as something called garbage eggs, which brings about some fantastic mental imagery. Let’s end on a better note, shall we? Cheesecake. There will be cheesecake.

If you’re interested in attending, and I hope you are, the event will be held from 5:30 to 10 p.m. tonight at the Prairie Event Center at the Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles.

Tickets are $30 presale, two for $50 presale or $35 at the door. Tickets are available presale at Fagans Graphic Design, the Geneva Chamber of Commerce office, the Geneva History Center, The Paper Merchant and State Street Jewelers.

It’s also for a good cause. The proceeds from this Geneva Chamber of Commerce fundraiser will go to the Geneva History Center, Geneva Lions Club and Rotary Club of Geneva. There will be a 50/50 raffle at the event, as well as $1 voting for your favorite dishes.

And just like with elections, you even can vote ahead by visiting http://www.genevachamber.com/60Men.htm and casting your $1 vote electronically.

A good cause, good food and a good time. I hope many of you are able to attend, and if you do, stop by, say hello and have a muffin. There should be plenty to go around.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

Column: Breaking down to get a smartphone

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on April 23, 2011

After years – or what seemed like years – of resistance, I finally broke down and bought a smartphone.

Four hours later, I was completely addicted.

It’s not that I was against technology. It’s that I’m against technology that will cost me a lot of money when the item it’s going to replace isn’t broken.

However, my old

cellphone that I got for free with my contract four or five years ago finally gave up the ghost and it was time to move into 2011.

Now, I’m the proud owner of a smartphone. And I can already see that this is going to lead to marriage counseling.

My wife just tried to ask me a question while I was writing my column and playing with my smartphone. It took me a little longer than it should have to begin to answer. She eventually started counting. I got to nine seconds. I will need to try to work on getting that down to about three seconds or less. When I get distracted and take too long to answer questions, my wife refers to it as “Joe Grace, live from Tel Aviv.”

Needless to say, the smartphone is going to take me to Tel Aviv often.

Like me, we’re continue to move forward with technology at the Kane County Chronicle.

Our Twitter account at twitter.com/kcchronicle and our Facebook account at facebook.com/kanecounty chronicle continue to update readers throughout the day with stories and breaking news. You can check us out by following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook.

We also have begun sending out morning updates and breaking news through email. You can sign up to receive those emails by clicking on the “E-mail Alerts” button on the right side of our home page at KCChroni cle.com.

And if you would like to get Monday’s news, sports stories, cartoons and puzzles, you now can check out our Monday online edition by clicking on the “Today’s

E-edition” button on the right side of our home page on Mondays.

We’re also working on putting more videos and photo slideshows with our stories so you can enjoy those, as well.

And, of course, you can check out our mobile site by going to KCChronicle.com on your smartphone. And, for the first time ever, I can too.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

Column: Online comments to return with new policies

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on March 26, 2011

For the past two weeks, we have not allowed comments on the stories on our website – http://www.KCChronicle.com – as we have re-evaluated our policies regarding our online comment forums.

That comment moratorium ends on Monday.

We received some fantastic feedback from our readers during that time period. Some called for leaving the comments as they were. Others wanted them to never come back. But the majority shared a similar message – keep the comments, but make those who comment more accountable for what they post.

Our new comment forum polices seek to address this.

First, everyone who had been using the comment forums must re-register. We now require a first name, last initial, town and user name – all of which will be displayed with the post. We also will randomly review registrations to ensure that those who comment are who they say they are. Those who submit false information will no longer be allowed to use the comment forums.

Our new policies also will strengthen the terms of service in regards to baiting and name-calling, and editors will be authorized to take a zero-tolerance approach to violators.

Please send us feedback on these changes over the weekend and let’s continue the dialogue when comments come back on Monday.

We’ve made several improvements to the comment forums since they began in 2006 and these are just the latest changes. We will continue to work with readers to create online forums that allow community discussions that are fair and transparent.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

Column: Our endorsements one part of the discussion

Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on March 25, 2011

Today and Saturday we’ll unveil our Editorial Board’s endorsements for the April 5 election.

Weeks of work went into the Editorial Board’s endorsements, from interviewing candidates individually to going through the questionnaire answers they submitted for our Election Central website – http://www.KCChronicle.com/election – to reading any other material we could find on the candidates.

Personally, as a member of the Editorial Board, I have done little other than study candidates for the past few weeks. I’ve talked with 47 candidates in 13 races. I’ve read countless pages of campaign literature. I’ve even dreamed about interviewing candidates, which – suffice it to say – is not exactly dancing sugar plums.

This year, we will endorse candidates in the races for St. Charles alderman, Geneva alderman, Batavia alderman, Elburn trustee, Sugar Grove trustee, Geneva School Board member, Batavia School Board member, Kaneland School Board member and Campton Hills village president. We also will take a look at the Kane County Forest Preserve District referendum. You can see some of our endorsements in today’s Opinion section.

We were pleased that the decisions weren’t easy. There are incredibly qualified candidates, and in some of the races, we think it’s a no-lose situation for voters. No matter who gets in, the voters will be well represented. It’s quite evident that almost all of the candidates have done their homework. And while some of the candidates had qualities that were more important to us when deciding who to endorse, you might have different criteria when choosing a candidate.

It’s important to remember that our endorsements are simply the recommendations of a few people.

I thought Dan McCaleb, the editor of one of our sister papers, the Northwest Herald in McHenry County, might have summed it up best.

“Our endorsements do not end the discussion. They are part of the discussion.”

We hope you will continue the discussion after reading our endorsements by finding out more about all of the candidates in the races, that you view our endorsements as a starting point. We encourage you to visit our Election Central website and read up on the candidates, look them up on the Internet – some have websites – or contact the candidates and question them – most are easy to find.

It has been a long few weeks preparing for these endorsements. We hope you’ll spend some time in the weeks left before the election to decide through your own study whether you agree with our endorsements.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

Column: Happy week for this fair-weather fan

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on March 18, 2011

I had promised in early December that I was going to handle winter better this year.

“I’ll never get used to winter,” I wrote. “I’ll never truly embrace it. But maybe, just maybe … I can make peace with it.”

I’m sad to report that there can be no peace. I did not handle winter any better this year than I had my previous seven in northern Illinois. I grumbled. I complained loudly. I lashed out at random piles of snow. It was not pretty.

As you might guess, this has been a very happy week for me. We turned the heat off in our home. I’ve walked around outside without a jacket on. I heard birds sing and – for the first time in months – it didn’t sound like a death knell for warmth.

It was a very happy week.

What can I say? When it comes to the seasons, I’m a fair-weather fan.

• • •

The 2011 Trivia Bee for Literacy will be held from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday at the Q Center in St. Charles. I will be on one of the Kane County Chronicle teams with promotions manager Kelsey Rakers and Mike Mueller from circulation. The other team will be comprised of photo editor Sandy Bressner, reporter Ashley Rhodebeck and sports reporter Kevin Druley.

The event will benefit Literacy Volunteers Fox Valley, a group that helps people throughout our area improve their literacy skills through one-on-one tutoring so that those people can make a better life for themselves.

While watching a trivia bee and participating in a silent auction might not be an ideal morning for some people – it would be for me, but I have nerd tendencies (and proudly so) – there are other ways you can help this group.

If you’re interested in helping to improve literacy in this area, call 630-584-2811 or visit http://www.lvfv.org/howtohelp.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

Column: Election Central website up at KCChronicle.com

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on March 15, 2011

It might not surprise you that I’m once again writing about the upcoming election on April 5.

Early voting began Monday at the Kane County Clerk’s office, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Building B, Geneva, and other sites throughout the county, and it will last through March 31. Visit the clerk’s website at http://www.kanevotes.org for a complete list of early voting sites or call 630-232-5990.

If you would like to more about the races and the candidates in them, we launched our Election Central website today, which you can find at http://www.KCChronicle.com/election.

Election Central will include all the stories we’ve written about the upcoming election, as well as our specific race previews that we’ll be highlighting the rest of this week. It also has candidate profiles and candidate answers to our questionnaires that were e-mailed earlier this month. Also included on the page are links to sample ballots and a list of polling places.

It’s a great place to get started as you learn about those who will be on your ballot on April 5.

• • •

Monday was the first day of our two-week moratorium on online comments and we’re getting fantastic feedback from readers.

Please keep it up and continue to send us feedback as we evaluate how our online comment forums will function after the two-week moratorium. You can fill out the feedback form at the bottom of any story at http://www.KCChronicle.com.

• • •

We had a great response to our call for readers to submit their best nature shots to us for our photo contest. Some of the photos are remarkable, and there’s a picture of a squirrel you have to see to believe. (Seriously, I’ve never seen a squirrel pose like this before. It reminds me of myself after a big meal.)

You can submit your own nature photo or vote for your favorite at http://www.KCChronicle.com/photocontest.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

Column: A healthy community forum for all

Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on March 12, 2011

Reader comments on the stories we post to our website sometimes can be wonderful community tools. Sometimes they point out an angle we hadn’t thought of that we can follow up on. Sometimes they kick-start a community discussion that really breaks down the points of an issue.

As such, we continue to believe that comment forums are a valuable and useful community tool.

But sometimes they are far less than wonderful, especially when they devolve into name calling, half-truths and pettiness. When forums sink into the dredges, the utility they provide to the community can disappear.

It is our goal to host healthy public discussions between our readers, and there are times when that simply isn’t happening.

Because of this, we have decided to re-evaluate our online commenting model and will be seeking reader feedback to decide exactly what that future model will look like and how we can best host a meaningful area for exchange.

We will be having a moratorium on comments during this re-evaluation time. Starting on Monday, there will be a two-week break in which no comments can be posted to any of our stories or blogs at http://www.kcchronicle.com.

During that two-week period, we will be soliciting reader feedback on our online stories that will help us as we revise our comment guidelines as we work to create better online forums for community discussion. These online response forms will be at the bottom of each story, where comments currently reside.

After receiving reader feedback and evaluating our options, we will announce the changes we will be making to our online commenting model after the two-week break.

Comments truly can be a wonderful community tool. We’re hoping to work with our readers to create a system that has them being a wonderful tool most of the time, not just sometimes.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com.