Midsommar Maypole at Bishop Hill

At long last Bishop Hill  has scheduled it’s Swedish Midsommar maypole dance on a Saturday instead of a Friday so that those of us who work on Friday can make the trip after work in time for the festivities. (The traditional Swedish summer solstice was celebrated on June 23, but this year the main celebration will be June 27.)

olof krans bishop hillBishop Hill was a utopian community established by Swedish immigrants in the 1840’s.  It is now maintained by the state of Illinois and is a National Landmark Village, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Think rhubarb pie, Swedish meatballs, antique shops, concerts in the park, and folk dancing.  The complete schedule is here. Let the summer begin!

Now if only they had camping facilities less than 20 miles away, like maybe at the Colony Bed and Breakfast or the Colony School or (in my dreams) a municipal campground like they have Decorah, Iowa. A long drive in the dark after an exhausting late night barn dance is not something I look forward to.

I will have to settle for Johnson Sauk Trail State Park, which always has plenty of tent spaces in the $10 range, no matter how late you arrive. Yes, I know about Prophetstown State Park, even further away–the “prophet” being Wa-bo-kie-sheik (White Cloud), advisor to chief Black Hawk in the 1830’s.  Prophetstown used to have great tent spots right on the river bank until it was closed by flooding and taken over by mosquitoes.

olof krans harvest


Illinois guts ESL funding

“..the grant that funds your position is scheduled to expire on June 30, 2009…”

Everyone was talking about “the letter” at work this week, so I checked my mailbox, and sure enough, I had mine. The funding cuts effect all the adult education courses, including ESL and GED.  It wasn’t a complete surprise. I’m also on the listserve for Literacy Chicago–last week I got an email from them with a press release:

Illinois Literacy Programs Lose Funding
House Passes Bill Eliminating State Funds
for Adult Education and Family Literacy

Spread the word! There is a rally at the Thompson Center, 171 W. Randolph, on Thursday, June 4th, 2009 at 11:30am against the “doomsday” budget cuts that were approved by the Illinois General Assembly on May 31st,. The Governor has called the Democratic and Republican leadership into a meeting at noon on Thursday. Please join us for this multi-organization emergency action, organized by Action Now.

And then their newsletter:

Illinois Literacy Programs Lose Funding
Recently, the House passed an Appropriations Bill that eliminates state funding for Adult Education and Family Literacy. This would require that the Illinois Community College Board turn back all federal funds, which would result in the closing of all adult education programs throughout Illinois. The impact of this reduction would be devastating to the 118,000 students currently being served, as well as all of those who plan to seek out adult education services in the coming fiscal year.

We thank each of you who took the time to contact your elected officials this past week. The situation is ongoing, however, and we encourage you to continue to be in touch with your legislators on our behalf.

Contact directories:

If you have any questions, please call Jessica Keller at 312-870-1100 x103 or email jkeller@literacychicago.org. Thank you as always for your support!

So what is my AFSCME union local doing about this?  Oddly enough, I had a letter from them today too. They are busy rerunning the local’s election because too many people returned ballots without signing the outside of the envelopes.

Arthur M. Sackler Museum Islamic collection: Greed is a sign of poverty

From the Arthur M. Sackler Museum in Boston.

The black portion of the bowl is a Hadith (saying attributed to the Prophet) and reads in Arabic, “Modesty is a branch of faith, and faith is in paradise”; the red letters are from an epigram attributed to Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the son-in law of the Prophet and the fourth of the orthodox caliphs, and reads, “Greed is a sign of poverty. Peace.”
bowl with hadith inscription

greed is a sign of poverty

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Sampling peaty malts

Last week I tasted single malt scotch for the first time (Cragganmore from Speyside) and fell in love. So this week, on my birthday, I had saved up my nickels and dimes and was ready to do some tasting at the Duke of Perth, a scotch bar on the North Side.

bottlesI wanted to explore the peaty scotches, and explore them I did.  In order, they were Talisker from Skye, Caol Ila from Isley, and Laphroaig from Isley.  The Talisker was a great one to start off with, having the most distinctive peatiness. The Caol Ila was more subtle, and by the time I got to the Laphroaig, I was struggling to taste the peatiness–it was different in some way, although it’s definitely there. The Laphroaig I saved for last, and when no one was looking, swirled a couple of ice cubes from the water chaser around in the glass to make sure I had gotten every drop.

For the second course, I wanted to just sip something. I asked the bartender about Ardbeg, and he said it would be similar to the Caol Ila.  The Caol Ila would be considered more “peaty” while the Talisker is more “smoky”.

I ended up having Aberlouer, aged in a cask previously used for aging sherry.  I have to say the Aberlouer was perfect in the way that a man you are not in love with is perfect.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with this scotch.  In time, one could possibly get to know it better and spend some enjoyable hours with it. The only problem is, no spark.  What can I say.  Cragganmore was my first love and is still my true love.

cragganmore(Did you know there was a “whiskey architect”, Charles Doig, who rebuilt the Cragganmore distillery?)

Single Malt Scotch with Hats

duke of perthLast night I spent my birthday sampling single malt scotch at a Chicago scotch bar called the Duke of Perth.  Oddly enough, the bar also had both a goat and a hat, odd because the whole scotch thing came out of some comments made by Languagehat.

The goat I’m afraid was dead, (a mountain goat, I was told)  but the head was preserved on the wall wearing an American  sailor hat.  A matching moose deer head over the bar wears a Scottish police hat.

deer with hat

mountain goat

Don’t let me forget to say something about Ardbeg (no, I didn’t taste it).

Looking for Ibn Zaydun

Does anyone know what this poem is?

Here is a partial quotation from a Jordanian named Zaydoun. His namesake was the poet Ibn Zaydun from Spain who was famous for loving a princess. The Ibn Zaydun poem fragment is something like “We used to meet…our meeting” the last word being the Arabic word “deena” (?) (meeting).  Apparently the first two lines of the poem are somewhat famous in Arabic and are studied extensively in Syria.

A cursory review 9f a few google books shows Ibn Zaydun was the great poet that set the standard for judging later poets.  So far I have tracked down the quite short Wikipedia article about Ibn Zaydun, a tantalizing tourism biography, and a few lines of a poem from Syrian (?) blogger MoCo:

God has sent showers upon the abandoned dwelling places of those we loved. He has woven upon them a striped, many colored garment of flowers, and raised among them a flower like a star. How many girls like images trailed their garments among such flowers, when life was fresh and time was at our service… How happy they were, those days that have passed, days of pleasure, when we lived with those who had black, flowing hair and white shoulders… Now say to Destiny whose favors have vanished – favors i have lamented as the nights have passed – how faintly its breeze has touched me in my evening. but for him who walks in the night the stars still shine: greetings to you, Cordoba, with love and longing.

Birthday Malt

Last week I tasted a single malt scotch for the first time– and in spite of not being a scotch drinker, fell in love.  For my birthday I decided to do further explorations of the single malt scotch world.

Googling for single malts in Chicago, I discovered that major cities do have bars dedicated to the single malt scotch, and Chicago is no exception.  The place to go is the Duke of Perth at 2913 N. Clark.  I left home at about 10:30, but the traffic on north bound Lake Shore Drive was so bad I didn’t get there until 11:30, with another half hour driving around the block on those impossible north side one way streets trying to find parking. Finally by midnight the crowds were beginning to thin out and I had secured a place to park less than a block away.

I had really worked up an appetite looking for that parking spot, and realizing it had been four or five hours since my last meal, I thought a snack was in order to lay down a good base for the evening’s exertions.  Unfortunately the kitchen was closed and there was nothing whatsoever to eat–no peanuts, no goldfish crackers, and certainly  not the old Chicago standby,  Tombstone ndividual frozen pizza.

The staff had some sushi behind the bar they were sharing with each other, and I was reminded of all the places in the world you can sit at the bar and order food from the place down the street.  Not here.

But I didn’t come to eat, I came for the scotch, especially wanting to try one of the peaty Islay malts recommeneded by Languagehat.

‘There are several samplers you can order to get a taste of several malts at once and this is what I ordered. For $18 I got three half-ounce samples served in tallish snifter-thingies.  The three peaty malts were Talisker 10 year from Skye (pronounced the way it looks), Caol Ila 18 year from Islay (pronounced cull EE-la), and Laphroig 10 year from Isley (pronounced lə FROIG).

Low battery, to be continued…with the Aberlouer (prounounced aber LAUW er) aged in casks previously used to age sherry.

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