Paul Wood

Paul Wood

The UI Research Park is having a Ball

The "Hot Tamale Baby" herself is headed for the Outside at the Research Park series Friday. MARCIA BALL will show off a long set from her new "Shine Bright." Staff writer Paul Wood asked the blues/country/jazz singer and piano player about her upcoming show and her career.

Those Who Served | Civilian taught soldiers language key in wartime

CHAMPAIGN — Not everybody who helps the U.S. cause in war wears a uniform.

Frances Schneider was a civilian instructor in World War II, teaching Morse code to enlisted men at Scott Field in Belleville.

She just turned 100, and she can still run off Morse code in her musical style, which helped her memorize it.

"I could go through the whole alphabet for you," she said.

Wired In: Mark Van den Avont

Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech difference-maker. Meet MARK VAN DEN AVONT, a sophomore at the University of Illinois. He decided to create a product, HexNest, to prevent a dangerous problem that affected him — he's OK now — and people in the same situation. The UI has been a big help, he says.

Getting Personal: Jamar Brown

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 35-year-old Champaign resident Jamar Brown chats with staff writer Paul Wood. Brown is a lab mechanic at the University of Illinois Department of Civil Engineering, but that's not his only work.

Inaugural pageant much different for first Champaign County Fair Queen

RURAL CHAMPAIGN — The first Champaign County Fair Queen, and that cape she wore, are still looking sharp after 60 years.

Lois Wood is out in front of a cornfield at the family cattle farm on a rural road that feels like a drag strip.

"Does this make me look like the Flying Nun?" she asks before she and husband Don dare crossing the speedway.

Those Who Served | Through the Golden Gate to South Pacific

URBANA — Howard Ross earned the Purple Heart when Japanese troops zeroed in on his position in the last few months of World War II.

He says his foot is just fine; in fact, just recently, he threw out the first pitch in a doubleheader at Parkland College.

Wired In: Benjamin Khachaturian

Each week, staff writer Paul Wood chats with a high-tech difference-maker. This week, meet BENJAMIN KHACHATURIAN, founder and CEO of RingWing LLC, a catchable toy glider that kids can use indoors. He's also an FAA-certified commercial drone operator and a DJ.

How did you get into this?

Significant Structures | For 122 years, UI Observatory has helped demystify the sky

URBANA — In 1896, when the University of Illinois Quad had only a handful of buildings, the school's new observatory was part of the original South Farms, just north of the Morrow Plots.

"It was built on a little hill on the edge of campus," astronomy Professor Bryan Dunne notes.

So it was really dark at night. Perfect for looking at the stars.

Getting Personal: Jamie Boas

Each week, we offer a Q&A with a local personality. Today, 36-year-old rural Pesotum resident JAMIE BOAS, a 4-H youth development educator in Piatt and DeWitt counties for University of Illinois Extension, chats with staff writer Paul Wood.

Station Theatre's 'Aliens' is 'a perfect slice of reality'

URBANA — "The Aliens" is all about very human behavior.

Opening at the Station Theatre tonight, Annie Baker's play was described by The New York Times as "A gentle and extraordinarily beautiful new play."

The cast includes Tommy Howie, Robert Bradley and Jake Fava.