Sunday, February 28, 2010

Whoa, Wait, What?

Dear NBC,

Why did you interrupt the Olympic Closing Ceremonies to bring us the first episode of "The Marriage Ref."  It's the OLYMPIC CLOSING CEREMONIES!

Look, I realize that you're struggling.  You've pretty much said you're losing money on the Olympics (though have gotten some boffo ratings).  You're desperate for your mid-season replacement shows to do well.

Those just don't seem like good enough reasons to cut the Closing Ceremonies in half and show them during late-night coverage.  Would you cut the Presidential Inauguration in half?  The State of the Union?

Let's keep the pomp and circumstance where it should be--and try not to show your desperation.  It's a little sad.

Your pal,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

For the Record

Dear Khloe Kardashian Odom,

Hey, I didn't get the memo that you were no longer on the Pill.  Was it in a press release?  Or was this just casual conversation in a highly selective interview setting?

If it's the former, please add me to your mailing list.  As a writer, I'm constantly on the lookout for new stories ideas and leads, and my goodness, this was so earth-shattering that I'm sorry I wasn't able to help you share that information with the rest of the world!

Please reach me at pa2jilljaracz @ yahoo . com and keep me up to date with all the latest from Khloe!  Or tweet me @jilljaracz!  Or whatever!

Your pal,

P.S.--You have your own website and blog too???  Where the hell have I been?

P.P.S.--What is it that you do again?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Get Out the Chisel and the Pom-Pons

Dear Jim Dean, Democracy for America,

Thanks for your recent e-mail that contained the subject line "Roland Burris: Senate Healthcare Hero." It's one of the few Democracy for America e-mails I actually read. (you folks send a lot of e-mail, did you know?)

I was just curious--do you know if Sen. Burris plans to include "Senate Healthcare Hero" on his tombstone?  Or is it up to me to keep cheering him on so that he can officially claim that title?

Also, are there other Senate Healthcare Heroes we can cheer on in the Senate's quest to actually accomplish something?  What are their colors?  I'll make some pom-pons, and the two of us can recruit a Senate Cheering Squad and go to Capitol Hill.  I've even got some cheers ready to go!  What do you think of these?

Who thinks the public option's great?
Goooooo Senators!


We say, "No!" You say "More!"
We say, "Donut!" You say "Hole!"


You ain't got no alibi
You healthy, yeah yeah, you healthy
(Health care rocks!)

And that's just the beginning!  Come on, Jim!  Help me cheer on the Senators in this historic quest to bring health care to everyone in America.  Together we can do it!  Are you willing to accept the challenge?

Your pal,

[sent via e-mail through the DFA's website]

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oh No, You Wouldn't!

Dear President Obama,

I saw in the Chicago Tribune today that George Ryan's crew is asking you to release him from jail.  I'm begging you to ignore these pleas and make him finish out his sentence.

Look, I understand he's ill.  I get that his wife is sick.  But is that any reason to commute a sentence?  Would you do that for just any random criminal?  Just because George Ryan served as the governor of Illinois shouldn't grant him any special treatment--especially when he used his office as a means to gain an advantage in election fundraising....and those actions led to the the horrific deaths of the six Willis children.

Sure, George Ryan is a decent guy.  Dude attended my church whenever he was in Chicago on a Sunday. But even nice guys do dumb, stupid, awful things that are against the law, and our judicial system is set up to enforce that.  I'm sure our prisons are stocked with people that were fine, upstanding citizens until Oops!  Killed a guy!  or Oops!  Bilked people out of billions of dollars!  Are their pleas for clemency seriously considered?  If they were, would we have overcrowded prisons?

As a voter (which technically makes me one of your bosses), I kindly request that you nip these Ryan clemency requests in the bud and get back to getting this country changed.

Many thanks.
Your pal,

[sent via e-mail through]

Keep Your Pants On!

Dear U.S. Snowboarders Nick Baumgartner and Nate Holland,

You're so cute!  Going on about the integrity of your sport being compromised by tighter pants!

Let's get a couple of things straight though:

  • Snowboard Cross is not the "red-headed stepchild of snowboarding."  It's infinitely cooler to watch than the half-pipe.  Yeah, it's something when a boarder does flips in the half-pipe, but oh, it's a flip to the right!  Now a spin to the left!  All set to music!  The Snowboard Cross is speed and jumps and competing against people at the same time.  It's exciting!
  • In twenty years (if not sooner), Snowboard Cross racers will be trying anything to shave hundredths of a second off their time.  Tighter suits are inevitable.
  • Snowboarding has integrity?  What integrity?  Oh.  Do you mean you want to "keep it real"?  Snowboard Crossers with tight pants are keeping it real.  They're keeping it real fast.
Just relax and let the sport go through its natural progression.  It's going to, no matter what you think.

Citius, altius, fortius!
Your pal,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Home Is Better Because of You

Dear Nancy Wall Hopkins, Deputy Editor, Food and Entertaining, Better Homes & Gardens,

This past August, I discovered that my mother had started another subscription to BHG for me.  Upon receipt of my first issue, I groaned.  She'd done this before a couple of years ago, and since I had neither home nor garden (a rental apartment with no outside living space just isn't the same), I merely flipped through the magazine each month and within a half-hour, had tossed it in the recycling bucket.  BHG just wasn't my cup of tea.

However, this time around, I'm pleasantly surprised with my subscription.  I still have neither home nor garden, but the recipes are really standing out.  I don't remember trying many of them during my previous subscription, but over the last few months you've published some great recipes.  The No-Knead Focaccia Tiles?  A big hit at a party.  The desserts in the February 2010 issue?  Well, I'm still working my way through them (I want to try almost all of them), but the Vanilla Sparkling-Wine Pound Cake was delicious, and the Chocolate Stack Loaf was a big hit with some chocoholic friends.

So I'm writing to say thanks.  Thanks for having a quality food section that's made me feel connected to the magazine. I've really grown to like your publication, and I hope you continue to keep up the good work.

Your pal,

Monday, February 15, 2010

Phil's on It!

Note to Readers:  Phil Rosenthal is the Chicago Tribune's "business of media" columnist.  He writes about some really interesting topics, which is one of the reasons I contacted him about the NBC "premium" video coverage.  He got back to me with lightning speed:

My guess is that the "premium content" on the site -- which is what classifies that as -- is being subsidized by the "participating cable, satellite and IPTV providers," which is why a subscription is required. They're paying the freight, and they dangle this as a minor but exclusive value-added benefit of actually paying for their services.

But I have sent an inquiry to NBC. So if I get more details, I'll let you know.


I'd totally pay for Olympic online content, if given the chance.  I wish you'd given me (and at least one of my Facebook friends who's now scrambling to get a digital converter box) the option to buy access too! 

And Phil got an answer quickly:
The answer to your original query is pretty much what I told you. The only thing I would add is that highlight packages are free of charge and free of requirement that you subscribe to cable, etc., and for most people and most events I would suspect that is plenty.

That's sad for us with (a) The Fever, and (b) no cable.  There's more of us out there than you might assume, NBC.
Your pal,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Reaching Out to the Local Experts

Dear Maureen Ryan and Phil Rosenthal,

Do either of you have any idea why will allow you to watch full recaps of Olympic events only if you subscribe to cable TV? I don't have cable (too expensive), and for a variety of reasons, didn't get a digital converter box. I rely on the internet for most of my television watching.

Today, after spending the afternoon in a bar in order to catch some biathlon coverage, I tried to watch said biathlon event online (NBC barely showed any of it on TV; I wanted to see more of it). However, since I don't have cable, I can't watch.

Do you know why NBC decided to do this? I'm more than happy to watch ads in order to pay for online coverage--heck, I'd even subscribe to the website during the Olympics in order to have access. Why have they decided that users can't have access unless they have cable TV?

Thanks for your time--I enjoy reading both of your columns and appreciate your expertise.

Your pal,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Have Nots Screwed Again?

Dear NBC Universal,

I'm trying to watch a replay of the biathlon event online, but when I try to watch full events online, it tells me I have to log in to my cable provider. I don't have cable TV. Cable's pretty expensive. The recession hit my family pretty hard, and we don't have it. Heck, we didn't even get a converter box for the regular TV.

Today I went to a bar specifically because I wanted to watch the biathlon coverage. NBC's coverage was abysmal. The event wasn't that long to begin with, but NBC only showed a few minutes of it--not even enough to get a feel for what was actually happening. Meanwhile, there was plenty of time to get a "preview" of the moguls event.

So at home I tried to stream the full coverage, and found out that because I don't have cable, apparently I can't get access. Because I'm one of the 'have nots,' does that mean I'm stripped of my dream to watch the Olympics?

Please get back to me ASAP. The Olympics wait for no one.
Your pal,

Friday, February 12, 2010

Feverish About a Gig

Dear David Wallechinsky,

Today, February 12, 2010, is a great day, isn't it?  You know what I'm talking about--tonight another Olympics begins, and we can celebrate two weeks of Winter Games.

I'm certainly celebrating--I've got yet another fantastic edition of your The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics: 2010 Edition (Complete Book of the Olympics)
in my hands, and my biennial case of Olympic Fever has commenced.  The cowbell is perched on my chair arm, and I'm ready to cheer!

Anyway, I wanted to say thanks for compiling your sourcebook, and should you need help compiling future editions, please feel free to contact me.  I may be no official Olympic historian (yet), but I'm a damn good researcher (ten+ years with a major management consulting firm), have a way with words, and I'm passionate about the Olympics.

Oh, I know what you'll say.  You've already got a co-collaborator in your nephew Jaime Loucky.  If he ever flakes out on you, there's some Hatfield & McCoy-type rift in the family, or the project just becomes too big for two people, I'd be happy to step up and help out.  Just let me know.

Citius, Altius, Fortius!
Your pal,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Did We Listen to You?

Dear Homeowners,

So, did we take your advice?  Will we rent a place in Boston before we buy?  Or will we just jump in and buy a house?

You'll be happy to know that we've decided to rent.  Part of our decision is based on your advice, with the rest being decided by the market.

You know what was for sale in Natick?  I saw this house listed for sale.  Then I saw it listed as a rental on Craigslist, so we took a look.  We discovered a tiny 3-BR Cape Cod.  Well, let's back up and look at the outside.  The garage fit exactly one car, had an enormous hole in the roof, and was filled with junk.  The siding was dinged and coming off in places.

The floors of the living area on the first floor?  Gorgeous--the wood had been refinished, and they were beautifully done.  The first floor also had a wood stove that would've been nice.

That's about it for the nice bits.  The small master bedroom had one lovely wall of panelling.  Closets were small (a given, since it was an old house).  The one bathroom had been redone, but it was definitely a cheap-looking redo.  Kitchen?  Whoa.  It needed work.  It was nice that it came with an oven range, but I don't know why the owners left the wall holes from the previous double oven.  And the refrigerator was classic 80s as well, with cracked handles.  We could've kept it, the landlord said, and inferred that if we wanted a new one, we could buy it.  Yeah.  The rest of the kitchen was old and grungy.  And small.  I think this house was under 900 sq. ft.

The upstairs?  Well, the roof pitched so steeply that the Boy fit in about 1/4 of the space in either of the two bedrooms.  Even I had trouble fitting in a good chunk of the rooms.

The basement?  Equally as short.  I even hit my head on the way downstairs.  The Boy could only stand up straight if he was between the rafters, and even then he almost lost an eye on a hook that was sticking out of one of them.  The gas dryer seemed all right, though who knows if it worked.

We had to pass on renting it, so I can't remember the rental rate right now.  The asking price on a sale?  $289,000.  Yeah.  Almost THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS on a house that needed probably close to $50,000 worth of work put in it.  Who's got that kind of money?  Especially for a house that clearly looks like a starter house (or if this is a step-up because it has 3 bedrooms, I'd hate to see what smaller houses go for).  How could you find someone who's willing to buy it after you've fixed it up?

I don't quite understand it, but whatever.  We're back to renting, which is also proving to be a bit of a chore.  I never realized that the most important thing we're looking for in an apartment after the number of bedrooms and cost of rent is one where my husband can stand upright.  Seriously!

So we're looking onward.  Maybe at some different suburbs.  And we're trying not to get discouraged.  We'd originally thought that if we found a really great place, we'd be willing to pay double rent for a month, but we've since discovered that we're probably going to have to pay first and last month's rent, and a broker fee and, quite possibly, a washer and dryer.  For some reason, a lot of apartments we've seen just have hook-ups.

I suppose this is an East Coast thing we have to learn, but it hasn't been the most fun process yet.  Still, I hope that we'll have a decent place, and maybe in a year we'll revisit the house-buying thing again.

Thanks for all your advice--it's been helpful!
Your pal,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Was Haben Sie Gedacht?!

Dear John Piersma, School Board President, Illiana Christian High School,

Take a second and go look at ICHS' 1990 Yearbook.  You'll see my picture plastered all over the book, but the one I'd like to point out is on page 80:  German Award Winner.

I'm writing you as a concerned alumnus.  I've heard that Illiana plans to drop its German program.  That one classroom of German I students does not generate enough interest to make continuing the program worthwhile.

But I don't quite understand why German still wouldn't be worthwhile, especially a program like Illiana's that has such a stellar reputation with many universities.  According to the Foreign Language page at Illiana's website:
The Department of Foreign Languages views both the universal phenomenon of human language and all forms of such language as uniquely human gifts bestowed by God, Himself the Eternal Word.  As a means of verbal communication among persons language is a central component in bearing the image of God, and as such is central to the Christian school curriculum.  In its marvelous diversity language reflects the awesome limitlessness of the Creator.
Apparently the powers that be at Illiana think that diversity now comes in just two forms:  Spanish and English.

Then I read the school's course catalog.  It's pretty telling that the school does not seem to think much of the German program.  It has no introduction, while the Spanish classes are nicely described:
In today's marketplace, Spanish has become an essential tool in communication.  Spanish will be essential in many professions in the public sector such as social work, social service, medical and the trades.  Because of increasing open trade with our Spanish-speaking neighbors, Spanish will also be a necessary tool in the business world.  With the increase of our Spanish-speaking neighbors in the U.S., the ability to communicate with them will allow us to bridge the cultural gap and share the message of Jesus with them in their own language.
Germany is the fifth-ranked economy by GDP.  Mexico is tenth (2008, World Bank).  Germany is still a very important country in the world, especially in the business world.  With globalization, many major companies need to have offices in Germany.  These companies require their top employees to work overseas in order to be eligible for promotions--and "overseas" involves more countries than just Spanish-speaking ones.

In terms of sharing God's message, according to the U.S. State Department, Mexico's 2000 Census reports that 93% of Mexico's population is Christian (mostly Catholic, yes, but that's not including Seventh-Day Adventists, LDS, or other religions).  Meanwhile, State Department estimates of Germany's religious population have Christianity (including Catholicism) at a mere 66% of the population.  Taking away German would be taking away great opportunities for Illiana students to be good stewards of God's Word.  You know, sharing the message of Jesus with Germans.  In their own language.

Winning the German Award wasn't the end of German in my life.  Illiana's German program shaped a good portion of my professional and personal life and I continue use it on a weekly basis.  I majored in German in college, and was one of three freshman who tested into the highest level possible.  I studied in Vienna.  I worked at one of the top global consulting firms and was selected to participate in an exchange program where I worked in the company's Munich office (this was supposed to be a three-month exchange, but I was the only American in my department who spoke German, and the Germans couldn't decide who to send, so I went for six months so two Germans could experience working in America).  Currently I'm a freelance writer, and one of my gigs involves writing profile articles on European companies.  I receive interview notes in German and turn them into English-language articles.  Through all of these experiences, I've made friends in Germany and Austria, including one dear friendship that dates back to a Frau Westerhof-led Europe trip in 1990.

I implore you to reconsider the decision to abandon the German program.  Give students a chance to learn this language and have more options in their future.

However, you can decide to disband this program.  Just know that if you do, Illiana will be dead to me.  I never want another newsletter.  I never want to know who's running for school board.  I never want another invitation to a lousy golf tournament.  And most importantly, I never want another letter asking me to donate money to the school, because I refuse to financially support an institution that actively seeks ways to limit opportunities for its students to learn--and does so in the name of God.

Your pal,
Class of 1990

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Dear Reebok/CCM,

My brother gave my husband a Reebok/CCM Chicago Blackhawks hockey jersey.  Not that you have time for the backstory, but it's funny because my husband isn't much of a hockey fan (and being from Detroit, he's especially not a Blackhawks fan), nor did he know whose hockey jersey he was wearing (for the record:  Toews).  Yet, he likes the jersey and wears it a lot, especially since our apartment is usually cold, and the jersey makes for a nice extra layer.

However, this jersey now needs to be laundered.  Unfortunately, there are no laundering instructions in the jersey.  These bad boys are expensive, and I'd hate to ruin it by guessing.  Luckily, your customer service staffer Jeff was pretty helpful and suggested that cold water wash would work.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

And if you've got the time, could you let me know why the jersey doesn't contain a laundering tag?  I'm guessing part of the reason is that NHL hockey players don't need to know how to wash their own jerseys--that most professional hockey leagues include laundry services.  But for those of us who buy these shirts and don't have access to the professional know-how, would it hurt to include that info?  I mean, this baby has a "Made in Canada" tag.  Do Canadians have a certain inherited trait that knows how to wash a hockey jersey without instruction?  

Thanks for your help.
Your pal,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Regarding Case ID: 3410062

Ah, the power of e-mail!

Dear Ms. Jaracz,
Thank you for contacting us regarding Sensodyne® Pronamel™.

It's always a pleasure to hear from a satisfied customer and we're glad to hear that you are enjoying such good results from using our product. 

We think it's a great product as well and it's good to know that it's working so well for you. We appreciate your taking the time to contact us and will pass along your communication to some of the other people who are on the Sensodyne® team. We all love messages like yours!

We appreciate your taking the time to contact us.

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare
Case # 3410062

Friday, February 5, 2010

Will Work Polls For Brownies

Dear Alderman Tunney,

It was really nice to see you visit our 6th precinct polling place at the primaries this past Tuesday--and I'm not just saying that because you casually slid a box of oh-so-delicious Ann Sather's brownies on our table.

Granted, I think I was a little overzealous when you came in, and I didn't mean to get so excited-sounding. I know--I saw the half-second, "Do I know this person/is this another freak?" look flash in your eyes after I joyously yelled out, "TOM!!!"  The answers are, "No, you probably don't know me because it's been a while since I've been to a community meeting," and, "You'd better be the judge of that."  [Of course, personally, I don't think of myself as a freak, but do many true freaks feel that way?]

At any rate, you stopped by at a slow point during the day, and we Election Judges felt your visit was most welcome.  I do think you're doing a really good job as alderman and wanted to share that with you.  We live in such a large, diverse ward, and I really get the sense you're trying to work for all of the people who live in our ward.  You understand that our diversity makes us interesting, and I'm glad you want to preserve it in our neighborhood.

Thanks again for the brownies (and for the breakfast goodies).  Just wanted to let you know that I'm not going to start calling you on every little piece of minutia and start taking some wacky positions on issues.  I'm just a content constituent.

Keep up the good work!
Your pal,

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Special Today Is....Voting!

Dear Registered Voters of IL (and any other state that has a Primary Election today),

Go vote.  Today.  Please!

I beg you not only because I'm an Election Judge, and the primaries aren't necessarily that busy at the poll, but also because as a registered voter, you have a say at what goes on in our government.  Tired of corporations and lobbyists making all the decisions?  Today is time for your say--and if you don't like your elected official not listening to you, now's your chance to get that person out of office.  This is especially true if you live in Cook County and live with the highest sales tax in the country.

I look forward to seeing you at the polls!
Your pal,

P.S.--If today ISN'T your Primary, find out when it is and VOTE!

P.S. 2--To all editors:  Is "Primary Election" capitalized?  I'm having a moment with that one.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pasting on a Compliment

Dear Sensodyne ProNamel Brand Manager,

About a year or so ago, my dental hygienist recommended I switch to Sensodyne ProNamel toothpaste because my tooth enamel was getting a little thinner.  Who drinks pop and likes citrus fruits?  This girl!

Well, much to my delight, the ProNamel toothpaste worked its magic over the next six months, and my hygienist said the enamel on my teeth looked much better.  Boy, was I relieved!

I haven't had a problem since, and I credit your product for that.  I also have to say that ProNamel played a big part in my recovery from some nasty bug that I caught.  This sickness had me praying to the porcelain god a LOT over a 24-hour period.  I don't know about you, but whenever I puke, I have to brush my teeth afterward--not because I want the vomit taste out of my mouth, but because I fear the stomach acid that I just brought up is going to eat through the enamel of my teeth.

Even though I puked eight times during my illness, I followed up each vomiting session with a good brushing with ProNamel, and I felt safe and secure about the health of my teeth.

Thanks for putting out such a great product.  Using it gives me great peace of mind!

Your pal,