Friday, July 28, 2017

Health and Safety Tips for the Solar Eclipse

Looking at the sun when it is partially eclipsed is unsafe
SPRINGFIELD – On Monday, August 21, 2017, a solar eclipse will be visible across the entire U.S.  The last total solar eclipse seen coast to coast in the U.S. was in 1918.  Starting shortly before noon and lasting until 2:45 p.m. central time, people in Illinois can see the moon pass in front of the sun.  There is a 70-mile wide path across the country called the path of totality, when the sun will be completely blocked by the moon.  Parts of southern Illinois are in the path of totality and people there will see a total eclipse.  Totality in Carbondale and the immediate surrounding area will last approximately 2 minutes and 40 seconds.  Central and northern Illinois will see varying degrees of the partial eclipse with decreasing magnitude further north.  More information about the path of the eclipse and how long it will last can be found on the American Astronomical Society website.

Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief phase when the moon entirely eclipses the sun.  The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewers. 

“Looking at the sun without eclipse glasses or solar viewers can cause ‘eclipse blindness’ or retinal burns,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.  “Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.” 

To date, four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17. Follow this link for more information about eclipse glasses and solar viewers from the American Astronomical Society.

If you’re planning to spend the day outside and turn the eclipse viewing into an event, keep in mind sun and heat safety.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Illinois Unclaimed Property

In Illinois, forgotten bank and investment accounts are a common form of unclaimed property. How does an account become forgotten? Typically, as businesses upgrade technology, an address might be accidentally altered or a name misspelled. One number off on an address, or one letter off on a name, could create enough confusion to ‘misplace’ an account. Or, when people move, a little-used account might be overlooked when completing the change of address forms.

In Illinois, property is considered unclaimed if the owner has not touched it in five years. A database of unclaimed properties can be found here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nonfiction Book Review

This Close to Happy: A Reckoning with Depression by Daphne Merkin

Attractive, educated, and successful, Daphne Merkin appeared to have all the glamorous trappings of a charmed upper-middle class life – including a coveted position as a staff writer for The New Yorker. But in between landing lucrative book deals, summering in the Hamptons, and hobnobbing with Manhattan’s literati, she was also periodically staving off overwhelming urges to drown herself, slit her wrists, or walk into oncoming traffic. In her new memoir, This Close to Happy, Merkin paints a sharp and devastating portrait of despair. With graceful candor, she recounts her lifelong battle with clinical depression, which led to various hospital stays, myriad meds, and a rotating cast of therapists. She also describes her obsessive, destructive relationship with her mother, a withholding and enigmatic woman who loomed large in Merkin’s life, even after her death from lung cancer. This Close to Happy is a deeply intimate book, and some may cringe at the author’s propensity to overshare – or worse, they may characterize her as another “poor little rich girl” insufficiently aware of her obvious privilege. But the quality of her writing – elegant, perceptive, and utterly absorbing – ultimately elevates the material, so much so that the book essentially transcends the genre of confessional memoir. Furthermore, in the age of social media, where carefully crafted images of happiness are the norm, This Close to Happy qualifies as an especially courageous book. By sharing her descent into darkness, Merkin helps to shed light on a poorly understood disorder that unfortunately still carries a burden of stigma. --Romi Pekarek Smith