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Big Tiny World

61639440-17114339Personal blog of WGN-TV Reporter Nancy Loo. She’s short. She blogs. Many call her “Big Tiny”.

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There’s nothing like reality to put the holidays into perspective. Last month, I reported on the ComEd crews who left for New York to lend a hand after Superstorm Sandy. This particular convoy of manpower and equipment was sure to be appreciated. It included guys who knew exactly how to handle flooded vaults and get them back online. You couldn’t help but feel proud that Chicago could send such specialized help. Despite weeks away from their families, the crews looked proud to go and eager to help. They more than likely provided a happier holiday season for many people in New York. Below is part of an email I recently received from one of the guys. I am sharing it with his permission.

I am happy to report that all of us are returning safely and I only had a couple altercations with rats.  Actually, there may have been a third but there was debate among us as to whether or not the animal was a rat or a racoon.  From a slight distance, they both looked the same.  The roaches were tollerable although there was one time when we opened up a vault cover and a couple of our “tough” guys went yelping like little school girls because of the 3-4 inch monster swimming around.  

When we arrived, the people of New York greeted us warmly and it was quite impressive to be a part of a 15 vehicle convoy with our emergency lights on and police stopping traffic for us.  Some of the other utilities actually commented on it as well.  As far as the work went, it was somewhat similar to what we do here in Chicago but we adapted well to any changes.  It was amazing to see the damage done to buildings and other areas though.  The southern end of Manhattan was hit hard as was the Coney Islandarea of Brooklyn.  I don’t really have good pictures as we were working the night shift and my camera is sub-par at best.  We helped restore as much power as possible but the problem was more that the customers were not ready for service.  For instance, we were sent to restore a service to one building and when we arrived and inspected the building, the electrical room still had water dripping from the equipment.

Brooklyn was a different story.  We didn’t see as many customers not ready for service but what really struck me was the aftermath in the streets.  On Thursday morning, I was working about six blocks away from the water and I noticed that there seemed to have been some cobblestone brick work being done because there was sand wiped over it.  When the job was complete, we started driving down the street and I noticed the sand didn’t stop and it dawned on me that the sand wasn’t there for the bricks, it was washed over from the beach.  That prompted me to take a ride over to Coney Island to check the damage and also because I never saw Coney Island and I thought it would be cool to see.  It was.  The damage was surprising though.  Coney Island is lined with two streets on either side of the main part of the park.  On one street were mounds of sand about four to five feet high.  As I stood on the boardwalk I was really amazed to think that God could so easily rush the ocean onto land and line the streets half a mile away with sand.  It really reminds one of their place on this Earth that’s for sure.


IMG_6786At the age of 75, Tony Arredia is more active than many 20 year olds. It’s hard to keep up with him since he is always on a schedule. You can hear his Bridgeport childhood when he speaks. But his true hometown love is the northwest suburb of Des Plaines. So he’s running for mayor again.

After serving two terms as the mayor of Des Plaines, term limits prevented Tony from running again four years ago. I told him then he would likely get bored within days. At lunch last week he admitted I was right. I got to know Tony over a decade ago through mutual friends in Bridgeport and Chinatown. And I’ve had to interview him through the years due to the persistent flooding problems in Des Plaines.

Despite a higher paying position working with the Maryville Academy in recent years, Tony feels he has more work to do as Des Plaines mayor. The suburb now has a new casino churning millions into the city budget annually. The current mayor is running for state rep.

Why are you running again?

I’d been asked by quite a few people to run again. I considered it for a long time and decided I will run because I feel at this point the city needs experience in the mayor position.

Do you wish you had never left?

I would have liked to have stayed for four more if we wouldn’t have had term limits. The city needs some structure to deal with the casino money. This administration, which granted is new, was still talking about what to do with the casino money three months ago when they knew the money would be there. The plan should have already been in place. It’s somewhere between $9 and $11 million a year and that’s above and beyond our taxes. That’s a good chunk of money.

What’s job one if you’re elected?

The first thing I’d do is appoint a committee to come back to me in two months with a plan to service the entire west side of Des Plaines (to prevent future flooding). Number two, we’re gonna talk about the casino money and how it should be distributed. After that, we need to talk about infrastructure, bringing in small businesses, large businesses and looking at all the land we’ve got.

Do you feel up to this, running and serving? It’s a lot of work.

God has been good to me, physically and mentally. I haven’t met anyone yet who can keep up with me working. Because of that, I think I can serve a term. Beyond that I don’t know. If I didn’t think I could do it physically or mentally, I wouldn’t even attempt to do this thing. If I thought there was someone better than me running, I would support them in a heartbeat.

IMG_6646We weren’t looking for a second dog. But the little doggie featured in this WGN Midday News Adopt-a-Pet segment earlier this month is now part of my family. My husband happened to be watching when I interviewed Karen Ortolano from Friends of Chicago Animal Care and Control. “Cindy Lou” looked so sweet and Karen’s description of the ideal home for her hit home with me. My husband had a feeling I would want to adopt her.

Over the years, I know the Adopt-a-Pet segment has made a difference in finding homes for all kinds of animals. It has also provided WGN homes for a few. Former midday anchor Allison Payne adopted a dog from a segment in 2010. And current midday anchor Dina Bair has adopted two dogs. I’m sure other employees have also taken in pets that were featured on TV.

The true test for my family was seeing how Nutty our 9-year-old Shih Tzu would react to sharing his home. Karen brought the puppy over on Saturday to see how she’d do. Nutty was skeptical at first, and he is likely jealous, but he seems to really enjoy having her around.

We didn’t care for the name “Cindy Lou”, though. Maybe because it’s too close to Nancy Loo. We considered a lot of names, with my son throwing in his two cents from college. My daughter suggested Koko (Coconut = Koko + Nutty. Get it?) and that seems to be the winner.

Koko is funny. Her ears look way too big for her head and the way she waddles is amusing. She quickly adapts to situations and she is already better at fetching her toys than Nutty. He always just looks at us as if to say, “Why should I go get that for you? I really don’t want it myself.”

We have no idea about Koko’s true background. We just know that she’s about ten months old and wound up at the shelter weeks ago with a broken elbow. Her limb has been treated and continues to heal. You would never know it because she always looks happy. It’s not clear if she was ever abused. We’ve been told not to crate her since it seems to traumatize her. Koko is definitely some kind of Chihuahua and terrier mix, probably Jack Russell since she’s so fun and playful. And based on her waddly walking style, she may also be part Corgi.

It doesn’t matter. We are happy to welcome her into our family. Even as my husband laments about the extra caring, feeding, grooming and vet costs, I know he also loves being able to rescue an animal in need.

I asked Karen for her input for this blog post. I mentioned how our adoption may not make much of a dent in the overall problem of unwanted animals. She responded, “You’re wrong when you say that one adoption doesn’t really make a difference. There’s an old saying in rescue that adopting one pet won’t change the world, but the world will change for that one pet. And it’s true; I’ve seen it with all five of my own rescue dogs, and you’ll see it with Koko as she learns and grows and thrives as part of your family. Granted, it’s still a sad reality that we lose more pets than we save, but that just makes us work harder to find rescue for the abandoned, encourage spay and neuter, and let people know there are places other than breeders where they can get their new best friends. There are so many amazing dogs and cats in need, but every single one saved is a victory.”

To learn more or rescue a pet in Chicago:

For info on adoptable pets throughout the country:

photoSomewhere out there, a guy named Leon is also known as Big Tiny. I learned this after randomly accepting a Words With Friends game invite. I assumed I was playing a WGN viewer until my opponent messaged, “Leon, is that you?” I guess the person expected an easy win against Leon, AKA Big Tiny. But I’m Big Tiny on WWF.

Like so many other people, I am addicted to this app. And I’ve blogged before about my love for Scrabble. Word games are a fun distraction for journalists. I usually have over twenty games going between all of my apps. I win more than I lose. But I don’t keep close track of my record and I think it’s good to lose. I am always learning new tactics and words from superior players. Though my biggest mistake is sloppy play when I’m rushed.

I was a Scrabble addict long before Words came along. But now I’ve learned to appreciate both. The boards are quite different so switching between the games can seem like a good brain workout. I ran across a good training tool this week over at Chicago Now. Former newspaper editor and blogger Joe Grace wrote a helpful post called Five Keys to Success at Words With Friends. I’m relieved to know I’ve already learned most of Joe’s tips.

Among the people I’m constantly playing, current and former camera crews, reporters, anchors, producers, Andrew in WGN promotions, Scott over at the Tribune Tower, my hairdresser, my girlfriend Duong, a school teacher, a lawyer and a doctor. But I also maintain a rotating pool of randomly selected people who I assume are viewers or friends of friends. Or maybe they’re friends of Leon.

(Note: I decline a lot of game invitations. Please don’t be offended. I either have too many games going, don’t know you personally or know that I’ve already played against you.)


RowenaHer hair is shorter but Rowena Li is still unusually tall for a Chinese woman. My 5’9″ former intern is back at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism after four months studying abroad in France. While grabbing a quick lunch together last week, we had no shortage of things to talk about and catch up on. Has it really been six months since I blogged about her leaving WGN?

Rowena seems ready to conquer the world. And with her skills set and intellect, the world is likely her oyster. She remains one of the sharpest interns I’ve ever worked with. I regret the feelings of dread I had after agreeing to host her for a summer internship sponsored by the Asian American Journalists Association.

In wrapping up her studies at Northwestern, Rowena is taking a statistics course in which she claims the work is “literally fourth grade math”. But she’s quite enthused about diving further into investigative journalism with her involvement with the Medill Innocence Project this semester.

Rowena is heading to Asia in March because she won a lucrative grant to document a unique situation in a tiny and remote village in far northeastern China. An obscure language and culture are about to die out with a final generation.

On the day we had agreed to meet for lunch, we had left the location up in the air since I had no idea where my news assignment would be that morning. I’m certain Rowena was relieved I offered to pick her up at the Addison El stop so she wouldn’t have to come all the way in to WGN. Not because she’s a poor college student who didn’t want to take the bus or pay for a cab. She is still a coulrophobic. Visiting the TV home of Bozo causes anxiety due to Rowena’s fear of clowns. However, she seems to have no fear of the TV news business.

Jordan Reeves was born just right. In fact, Born Just Right is the name of the blog her mom started ahead of her birth almost seven years ago. She was born with an arm with a hand and an arm with a full humerus that stops at the growth plate. Never will you hear Jordan or her family describe the situation with the words “without” or “missing”.

5820165158_790b0a69dd_zWe had the pleasure of having Jordan and her mom stay at our house last week because she was being fitted for a new “helper arm” here in the Chicago area. She’s had four other prosthetics. But I guess annual upgrades are necessary since Jordan keeps growing and prosthetics keep improving.

Jordan’s mom teaches at the Missouri School of Journalismand we’ve been friends for about a decade. When Jen messaged to ask about staying at our house, I immediately responded that it wouldn’t be a problem.

And it wasn’t. Despite my super early bedtime for my WGN Morning News shift, it was nice to see Jen and Jordan as we all came and went. It was especially fun to hear Jordan playing with the dolls and toys at our house that are now largely ignored by my teenage daughter. I imagine all the American Girls saying to each other, “Whoa, who’s this new girl shaking all the dust off of us?” or “Finally, someone changed my outfit. I’ve been wearing that dress for over two years!”

Jordan’s new helper arm took a little longer to make than anticipated. But due to logistics and my work, I never got to see it in person before the girls headed back to Missouri. Jen and I keep in close touch through social media so I love seeing her pictures and updates on Jordan there.

I miss hearing her little voice at our house. And I’m sure the American Girls are hoping she’ll be back someday so they can change into another outfit.