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Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008 12:43 am

Cap City

Water collecting, water dispersing, plus name game

Diane Lopez Hughes

Three smoking barrels

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn wants to make Illinois the rain barrel capital of the world (although he'd likely have to go 12 rounds with Gov. Rod Blagojevich over funding for a Water Receptacle Museum and Visitors Center and other barrel-related tourism budget items). To get the ball rolling, Quinn launched a contest to give away three of the barrels, each hand painted by a central Illinois artist: "Starry Night" by Erinn Dady of Champaign, "Native Illinois Plants" by Ellie Apland, of Champaign, and "Textile Designs of India" by Sharon Jackson of Urbana (not pictured). Barrel broker and Champaign resident Austin Grammer donated the 55-gallon food-grade drums for Quinn's giveaway. Grammer says one inch of rain equals 625 gallons of water that can be reused in gardens and flower beds, conserving water and saving homeowners money. Installing the apparatus takes about 20 minutes. To enter the drawing, visit www.standingupforillinois.org/cleanwater. The deadline is Sept. 12.

The things we do for love

Sure, Barack Obama, with his charm and good looks, has been known to make a few ladies, and maybe even a few fellas, faint. But, that's probably not what he had in mind during his last trip to Springfield.

On Saturday Obama made an appearance at the Old State Capitol to announce and introduce his presumptive vice-presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. Not only was it warmer than his frigid, 4 degrees fahrenheit February 2007 stop in the capital city, but it was the polar opposite — hot, with some of that famous Midwest humidity.

Supporters who stood in the sun for hours had their water bottles taken by security (no projectiles allowed). Once they made it through the metal detectors, excited spectators streaked past the $2 cups of water being sold by Downtown Springfield, Inc. to stake out vantage posts in the plaza.

When sun-poisoned Obama fans started dropping like flies — some before the senator even made it to the stage — frantic volunteers began filling cups and handing them out through the audience.

We're thinking better weather, or at least a free water distribution system, is in order for Obama's next visit.

Same name, different game

We weren't fooled for a second when we got a press release announcing that Diane Hughes was hosting a celebratory stop for disciples making a pilgrimage to their sacred homeland. It was the fact that it was Harley-Davidson riders, on their way to the 105th anniversary confab in Milwaukee that could have thrown us for a loop.

Not to be confused with Diane Lopez Hughes — the peacenik who protests war, global warming, the ban on travel to Cuba and has been arrested three times for civil disobedience — this Diane Hughes lives and breathes Harley at the local dealership, Hall's, which her parents opened 46 years ago, about a month before her birth. She wears jeans and a Harley shirt at least six days a week, and rides a Softail Deluxe.

When we tracked down Diane Lopez Hughes, we found her in Redwing, Minn., participating with her son Brendan in a Witness Against War walk en route to the Republican National Convention, natch. Via phone, she described her current attire as a Gandhi tee that says "peace" in 40 different languages, shorts purchased from the Sojourn thrift store, and a pair of re-soled Birkenstocks. She says she rode a motorbike once, three decades ago, and has never wanted to repeat the experience.

"But that doesn't mean I don't like Harley people," she says. "A lot of people on Harleys, when they pass our vigil, they give us thumbs up or the peace sign."

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