Category Archives: sightseeing

The Art Institute of Chicago Wins Interactive Award at SXSW

And the winner was: The Art Institute of Chicago for its digital tool called JourneyMaker in the Visual Media Experience division.

The tool allows families to create their own personalized tour of the Art Institute museum ahead of time, to make their “in-person” visit more rewarding.

The yearly Interactive Innovation Awards entered its 20th year at this year’s SXSW conference, and gave out a total of 13 awards. The awards cover a wide range of categories, including wearable tech, VR & AR, smart cities and new economy.

Visual media experience, the category for which the Chicago Art Institute was recognized, awards projects that “create content and deliver it in a way that moves beyond passive viewership by providing a more immersive and engaging entertainment experience.”

JourneyMaker was launched last year. Users create a personalized tour of the museum choosing one of eight storylines, like Superheroes or Time Travelers. They then select the works found in the museum that they would like to visit that fit within their chosen theme. When you are done, you can even print a hard copy of the guide you just created, and come well-prepared for some great museum fun.

The main goal of the tool is to make what otherwise could be a daunting, confusing experience at the museum into an organized, enjoyable journey which the whole family planned together in advance.

IRS Opening Branches at Your Nearby Seven-Eleven

Seven-11 will now take money from taxpayers for the IRS. Photo by HenryWBee
Seven-11 will now take money from taxpayers for the IRS. Photo by HenryWBee

In order to make it as easy as possible for the approximately 1 in 13 households in America that don’t have bank accounts to pay their taxes, the IRS will allow people to pay them at Seven-Eleven convenience stores.

Seven-Eleven convenience stores are small groceries found in a huge number of neighborhood strip malls has been catering to people without bank accounts or credit cards more every year. The IRS decision to allow payments in 7,000 of these stores throughout the country is a reflection of the need to make it easier for people to pay their tax bills.

“We continue to look for new ways to provide services for our taxpayers … this provides a new way for people who can only pay their taxes in cash without having to travel to an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

Anyone that would like to pay their taxes at a Seven-Eleven will have to sign up first by going to payments page. They will receive instructions and an email confirming their information after the IRS verifies it. Then they will receive a payment code and more instructions. Then they will be able to make a payment at a local store.

The IRS urges anyone considering this option for payment to start in advance, because it could take a few days to get confirmation. To avoid penalties or late fees payments need to be made by April 18 this year. There is a $1,000 payment limit per day, and a $3.99 fee for each payment.

Uber’s Ads Designed to Sway Chicago to Their Side

Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010), Mayor of Chicago since 2011
Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff (2009-2010), Mayor of Chicago since 2011

Uber, the convenient app that allows customers to call a cab directly from their smart phones, has been competing with Chicago’s regular taxi companies for a while, but in what some might say is an unfair way. Currently Uber drivers are not allowed to operate to and from the city’s two major airports, O’Hare and Midway; nor can they take people to or from the McCormick Place convention center.

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a leveling of the playing field by giving Uber access to those three strategic locales, incensing the conventional taxi drivers who believe (and probably rightly) that such a move would bite off a huge chunk of their already diminished business.

On the whole Chicagoans would like to see Uber flourish, creating more completion which they believe will lower taxi prices and improve service, but the revelation that the mayor’s brother Ari is an investor in Uber did not help Uber’s case. Therefore an intense ad campaign has ensued to further persuade the public to get on board with Uber. The Uber ads are hitting the taxi industry where it hurts:

“You never know. Will a taxi show up in your neighborhood? Will an empty cab pass you by? That’s the reality with taxis. But now you have a choice. With just the touch of a button, Uber will show up anywhere you are,” explains the ad.

Chicago’s City Council will most likely be voting on this issue next week. The Aldermen will need to choose between what Uber says will be an additional $20 million per year into the city’s coffers from fees and surcharges; or to support traditional taxi cabs and their hold on the city’s taxi transportation industry.

Moody’s Says Chicago Pensions Burdensome for City

Chicago's pension funds underfunded in a big way. Photo credit: Flickr
Chicago’s pension funds underfunded in a big way. Photo credit: Flickr

According to a recent study by Moody’s Investors Service, Chicago’s pension fund has the most underfunded retirement plans in the country. How underfunded is that? Moody’s says the pensions cost the city 8 times annual revenues.

Based on a three year average calculated by Moody’s Chicago’s pension obligations add up to a total of $29.8 billion. That figure comes to 15.5 percent of its property tax base, making it also the highest in the nation using that parameter.

Chicago came in at the bottom of this list also two years ago, the first year of this Moody’s survey. The office of Mayor Emanuel did not comment on this report.

Unlimited Parental Leave New Policy at Netflix

Netflix offering new, liberal parental leave policy
Netflix offering new, liberal parental leave policy

The new policy for employees at Netflix is fabulous news for new moms and dads who would like to spend some quality and quantity time with their newly born children for the first year after birth.

Netflix announced that they are now going to allow workers to take unlimited maternity or paternity leave anytime during the first year after either a birth or adoption of a new child in the family.

The new policy is extremely liberal, with no demand for any kind of decision as to whether the employee wants to come back at all, or come back full or part time, or stop working now and coming back later, and anything in between or in combination. The Netflix policy will be continue paying the normal salary, regardless of the amount of time the worker works, with no cumbersome switch to disability, maternity or sick leave.

The company is being praised for its liberal policy regarding parenthood and time off from work. There is no regard whether the parent is the mother or father, and the time period allotted recognizes the key importance of a child’s first year of life.

Summertime in Chicago

There is so much to do in Chicago and over the summer things heat up even more!  The summer festivals in particular are usually a hit.  One of them – the Taste of Chicago 2015 – is actually the world’s largest food festival.  With free admission and a focus on the diverse culinary scene of the state, 60 restaurants were featured this year.  Some of the big names that made an appearance there were: Bobak Sausage Company, Chicago’s Dog House, Lawrence’s Fish & Shrimp to name but a few. That took place in the beginning of July and this year marked its 35th anniversary.

For those looking for some musical entertainment, check out Rush Hour Concerts’ Make Music Chicago 2015.  A full day of free musical performances, the event is now in its fifth consecutive year.  Every year it takes place on the Summer Solstice.  It is a true celebration of “the ability of everyone to participate in music-making.”  Highlights include:  A Father’s Day Sing-a-long and The Sinatra Mobile Piano Bar.

Then there are the theater productions taking place over the summer in Chicago.  These include: Doubt: A Parable, the Broadway musical On Your Feet and The Herd, amongst others.

Of course, while in Chicago over the summer, the numerous farmers markets are definitely worth checking out, in particular the popular Green City Market and the fireworks which are a real blast!