Ebert to appear on 'Oprah' on Tuesday with new 'voice'

Urbana native Roger Ebert will appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Tuesday, using a new text-to-speech computer-software generated voice based on his own.

Ebert told The News-Gazette on Friday via e-mail that he calls his new voice "Roger Jr."

"I'm writing a blog that will tell all," he added.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic posted last week at Twitter that he had taped an "Oprah" segment and it was to air on Tuesday. Locally, the program airs at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday on WCIA Channel 3.

March 6 fundraiser benefits victims of earthquake in Haiti

A "Hearts for Haiti" event next weekend will raise money for victims of the January earthquake with music, improvisational performances and a raffle.

The fundraiser – organized by local community members and backed by the American Red Cross Central Illinois chapter – is scheduled for 3 to 6 p.m. March 6 at Class Act, 114 S. Neil St., C, a theater company with interactive performances and education.

The lineup includes performances by CU Theatresports Comedy Improv, Mordechai in the Mirror, Ryan Groff from Elsinore, and Duke of Uke.

CU Tweetup at Jupiters at The Crossing

The News-Gazette hosted another Tweetup at Jupiters at the Crossing on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010.

Emergency rules announced for "Unofficial" in Champaign

CHAMPAIGN — Mayor and Liquor Commissioner Jerry Schweighart on Friday announced several emergency orders that will be in place for the “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” event UI students will hold on March 5.

Bars in the campus area must raise their minimum entry age from 19 to 21 during Unofficial, and they must also have a doorman aged 21 or older checking identification at the entrance.

C-U hopes for Big Broadband grant still alive despite 1st award elsewhere

CHAMPAIGN – Officials are still "cautiously optimistic" about the fate of their $31 million Big Broadband proposal after a federal agency announced its first Illinois award on Friday.

Gov. Pat Quinn was in Sycamore on Friday afternoon to announce that the federal government would release nearly $12 million to develop a high-speed Internet network there. Meanwhile, Champaign-Urbana officials were still wondering whether the governor would have an opportunity to make a similar trip to Champaign.

Public hearing set on cleanup of former base

RANTOUL – Public hearings will be held in Rantoul sometime in May so that citizens can review and comment on proposed cleanup projects at the old Chanute Air Force Base.

Comcast's digital expansion adds to need for converters

URBANA – Comcast will digitize its "expanded basic" channels later this fall, requiring some area customers to get digital set-top boxes and digital adapters.

The change won't take place for several months, but Comcast is encouraging customers to make the change early by providing additional stations to those who do.

Most Comcast customers – about 78 percent nationwide – already subscribe to digital cable, so they won't need to make changes unless they have secondary TVs that aren't properly equipped.

Friends, foes say prominent Dem Gerri Parr was a unifier

Even her political enemies have good things to say about Gerrie Parr, the former Champaign County auditor and Democratic Party chief who died last week at the age of 63.

"Gerrie played tough but she played fair," said Mark Shelden, the Republican Champaign County clerk. "We had some battles, like you would expect that Republicans and Democrats would, but there was never a cheap shot from Gerrie Parr."

Broadband expert forced to postpone Champaign trip for third time

CHAMPAIGN – Apparently the third time was not the charm.

City council members Tuesday will for a third time defer a discussion of the $31 million Big Broadband proposal, after Maryland consultant Doug Dawson informed city officials on Monday that he was still sick and could not make the trip to Champaign.

Volunteers building 'Fab Lab' to teach fabrication skills

URBANA – Volunteers are creating a "Fab Lab" on the University of Illinois campus where school kids and area residents alike can learn fabrication skills.

When completed in a couple months, the lab will join about 40 other Fab Labs around the world where people can design and build their own projects.

The labs are typically equipped with laser cutters, sign cutters and milling machines, as well as electronic assembly and test equipment, power supplies, resistors, capacitors and circuit boards.