Receta: Frijoles Charros

A recipe for “Cowboy Beans” from my students–or maybe I should have translated “charros” as “mariachi”. Mariachi Beans, then. Bonus points for identifying imperative (imperativo) verb forms.

bacon (tocino)
Mexican sausage (chorizo)
pork ribs (costillas)
ham (jamón)
weiners (salchichas)
onion (cebolla)
garlic (ajo) optional
hot pepper (chiles) jalapeños, yellow, green, or red
beans (2 pounds for 6 people)

boil 2 lbs. pinto beans in water with a little salt for two hours
cut meat, tomato, onion, chili pepper into small (1″ or less) cubes
put oil in a frying pan
fry the bacon 5 minutes
add the ribs, and fry 5 minutes longer
add the rest of the meat and vegetables and heat
when beans are soft, add the meat and vegetables to the beans
mix everything together

Posted in ESL. 2 Comments »

Un-Establishment of Religion: Chicago Mayor Daley Freaks out the Methodists

Note: if you arrived at this thread looking for information about disability events Friday and Saturday (from

The Disability Community Open Mic will be hosted by the Temple on July 24th from 6-8:30pm in the James Parlor. This is an annual event that provides a forum for people to share their thoughts, writings, and poems about the disability experience. Food and drinks will be provided.

Come watch the Disability Pride Parade on Saturday July 25th with your family and friends. Parade steps off is at 11am from Van Buren St and marches north on Dearborn to Washington St, ending at Daley Plaza. Over 40 disability groups march as a way to increase disability awareness and promote the belief that disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity. Stay for the fun post-parade celebration with music, performances, and speakers in Daley Plaza. There are also exhibit booths where the Temple will have a booth to share information about our church.


Can you close down a church with uneven parking regulations? The Methodist church in the historical Gothic building across the street from Daley Plaza is about to find out. Churchgoers who tried to park in front of the church Sunday found themselves greeted with the following sign:


Do Not Park Here

After 30 years of cooperation the city has decided to withdraw its permission for us to park on Washington and Clark Streets on Sunday mornings. They will tow without regard for our attendance at worship services.
You may park for $5 at the Washington-Wells Madison Self Park Garage. Enter at 172 West Madison or 170 West Washington. Get an over-ride ticket available from the person on duty at the Temple’s Washington Street entrance.

The street, usually parked full on Sunday morning all around Daley plaza, was totally deserted.

Methodists during 11 am service

but a few did make it into the church:

Do Not Park with handicapped cart

Compare this to the vibrancy of the city on Easter Sunday:

Easter Sunday-Washington avenue

How does the city deal with other churches about parking?  I walked over to the Gold Coast to see how the Mayor’s own church, Holy Name Cathedral, was faring.  As it turns out, God is on vacation over at Holy Name:

Holy Name on vacation

but the parking situation couldn’t be better.

Holy Name across parking lot

In case anyone is wondering, the parking lot belongs to Holy Name Cathedral and the Archdiocese of Chicago:

Holy name parking sign1

And other churches?  I walked over to St. James Episcopal, also a historic church, famous for their weekly rush-hour wine-tasting concerts, and found a quiet side street equipped with paid parking machines, as is the area surrounding Holy Name.

St James Pay to Park

Although the city is no doubt desperate for more revenue to pay for it’s O’Hare expansion and other projects, “Pay to Park” is not a viable option for Washington Avenue where the Methodists hang out–it’s a very central street prone to rush hour gridlock.

Instead of trying to shut the city down to residents during the weekend, City Hall should be trying to open it up.  Like most American cities, Chicago experienced a decline in the 60’s , and is now beginning an upward trend. The city has a new vitality in the city center, typified by overall gentrification and some new condo developments on the near south side.  Although not as well funded as institutions like Fourth Presbyterian and the Pacific Garden Mission, the above church has done way more than its share for those who have fallen through the city’s safely nets–the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill–even though it has meant church members being accosted on their way in and out of the church and some older church members being afraid to walk even as far as the bus stop. Now many of those social services have been shifted elsewhere and I no longer see large numbers of panhandlers and homeless in the immediate vicinity of the church and plaza.  But the city should be taking advantage of the new atmosphere of security to promote the city, and to turn it into something the residents can use, rather than trying to turn it into a ghost town and shut down those who are making a positive contribution.

Here is an example of what the plaza should look like.  It’s a group of children playing on the Picasso during one of the festivals last year.

I love photographing the Picasso and somehow manage to take a picture of it almost every time I’m downtown, which isn’t that often due to parking and transportation costs.  But at any rate, this is what art is for. This is what Chicago is for.
picasso eyes

temple and picasso picasso with children temple and picasso1

*”Unestablishment of Religion”:

The First Amendment
“ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. ”

UPDATE: Temporary signs have been posted permitting Sunday parking with a permit.

Conquering the Middle East in antiquity

“You are King Xerxes, King of the mighty Persian Empire, and you are about to embark on one of the greatest military campaigns in history.”

An interactive map, courtesy of the National Endowment for the Humanities, shows the march of Xerxes’ army. If you get stuck and can’t answer a question correctly, you are redirected to a page where you can review the history.

There is also an extensive index of interactive maps, and as a bonus for Arabicphiles, a lesson plan for writing a ghazal, a bedouin form of poetry.

Posted in Arabic. Comments Off on Conquering the Middle East in antiquity

Platforms and Tracks

In some countries trains are designated by “platform”. But, as you can see, in Chicago several different trains can leave from the same “platform” and directions to trains are given by “track” number. In this short video (0:32), you can hear an announcement of an arriving train that says in part, ” “arriving track number one please stay behind the yellow line ’til the train comes to a complete stop… Indiana, the South Shore… now arriving track four…”

In the underground “pedway” that has been gradually expanding under the city, directions are marked to various “tracks”:

Underground-the ramp to track 1

Underground tunnel to track 1

Underground- Access to tracks

At Millenneum Station, Tracks 8 and 9 are accessible from the same platform.  The area between tracks 9 and 10 (Sign: “This Platform Closed”) is referred to as a “platform” even though it isn’t elevated. Tracks 10 and 11 are also accessed from the same platform; here a train is waiting on Track 11.

Millineum Station at Randolph-Track 8 and 9

Millenneum Station at Randolph-this platform closed

Millenneum Station at Randolph-Track 10 and 11

At the Van Buren Street Station, again two tracks are accessible from the same platform. The first picture is Platform 2 taken from Platform 1, with Tracks 1 and 2 in between. The second photo looks towards the Loop. From left to right, Platform 1, Track 1, Track 2, Platform 2, Track 3. The third photo is looking outbound. From left to right you can see Track 3, Platform 2, Track 2, Track 1, and Platform 1.
Van Buren Street Station-Platform 2
Van Buren Street Station-four tracks two platforms northbound

Van Buren Street Station-four tracks and two platforms

Finally, a remote station with only inbound and outbound commuter tracks, and freight tracks on the side. The first picture is looking inbound, the second is of the same two platforms and two commuter tracks looking outbound.

Hegewisch inbound-track one and two1

Hegewisch oubound-Track one and two

Easy dictionary

So many dictionaries and so many acronyms.   There’s SOED, there’s the  W3NI…you could get dizzy trying to follow a linguablog. So how do you sort out dictionary pedigrees? Which one is authoritative?

The SOED is not just a dictionary, it’s the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, a dictionary of historical meanings. The OED CD-ROM is £169.57+ VAT, the SOED CD-ROM is £51.06 + VAT. It’s also online for a subscription of £205 a year.  The OED is the Bible of the linguistics world.

W3NI is Webster’s Third New International dictionary.  It weighs 12.5 pounds, is 4 inches thick, and costs $81.27 on Amazon.According to Wikipedia:

This dictionary is preferred as a backup source by two influential style guides in the United States, although each one directs writers to go first to other, shorter dictionaries. The Chicago Manual of Style, followed by many book publishers and magazines in the United States, recommends Webster’s Third, along with Merriam–Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for “general matters of spelling”, and the style book “normally opts for” the first spelling listed (with the Collegiate taking precedence over Webster’s Third because it “represents the latest research”). The Associated Press Stylebook, used by most newspapers in the United States, refers readers to W3 “if there is no listing in either this book or Webster’s New World“.

search bar1The latest edition of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is free online. Now we’re getting somewhere. Not only that, you can get free downloads for Firefox that add it to your search box  (very nice) and to your mouse’s right click  (oopsie, not compatible with version 3.o).  (Yes, they have IE too.) Now you won’t have to make a button and add it to your sidebar so you always have the link.

Then there’s always OneLook , that searches 1024 dictionaries, many of them old enough to have expired copyrights. Also,, a usage dictionary and thesaurus.

(Thanks, Noetica.)

Posted in Education. Comments Off on Easy dictionary

“She’s not a mandated reporter.”

Yesterday I took public transportation downtown and had to change buses.  As I was waiting for a bus, I heard a woman behind me chewing out one of her children. Then I heard a resounding slap.

This is not the safest neighborhood in the world–when I walk in the building where I work, two blocks from there, there are three security guards who are off-duty Chicago police. So I hesitated a nanosecond before I turned around and gave the group a long stare. When I was sure they had seen me, I turned back.

The mother immediately started a running commentary about me. Good heavens, was she on drugs that early in the morning? Was I in danger? I turned back, looked her in the eye, and said, “Do you know what a Mandated Reporter is?” There was a moment of silence. Quietly, “Look it up.” I turned back, hoping she wasn’t armed.  More silence and then the running commentary resumed with someone behind my back. “…She can’t be a mandated reporter…she can’t work for DCFS…” (Department of Children and Family Services–they can take your children away.)

Close.  She didn’t know what that was , but she knew what I was talking about.  A mandated reporter is someone who is required by law to report any abuse they see. If they don’t, they can lose their job, and more. I only know of two people who have ever reported abuse. One situation resulted in counseling for the mother who had also been abused as a child. The other had such a negative result on the person who reported it she said she would never do it again.

Am I a mandated reporter? I don’t know. I have been before in other positions I’ve had, but I don’t know for sure about this one. What did I see? Nothing. Who did I see? I don’t know. Where was my cellphone? At home.

The mother’s running commentary now turned to the fact that I hadn’t seen anything. I kept my back to the group. One of the children complained that another child had him them. Don’t hit, said the mother. (YES!)

What else could I do? Tell the children about the 1-800 hotline? I don’t know if it’s even still in existence. I know the grant that funds my job and is at this very moment being slashed by the state legislature also funds the hotlines and shelters.

Now the mother was lecturing the child for continuing to sit down when the bus was coming. I looked up and there was a bus still a block away. There was more. The mother continued to harangue the child, mostly using the word “attitude”, but she hadn’t paid the fare for one of the children. After driving a few blocks the bus driver finally said, “If you don’t pay his fare, he’ll have to get off.” A guy in a crossing guard uniform paid the child’s fare. “Say thank you” demanded the mother. There was a muffled “thank you”. “No,” the mother demanded, “Go up there and say thank you.”  Did the mother not think she was the one responsible for the child’s fare?

When the child turned around to go back to his seat I saw a face that was blank, devoid of all feeling, withdrawn. Then I remembered what someone who had been abused as a child had told me–the physical abuse hadn’t hurt as much as constantly being told they were worthless.

Then I looked down at the jacket I was wearing and remembered I had been wearing it one day when I had visited an American woman in Amman.  Someone was trying to set us up as my roommate–Jordanians can’t imagine living alone.  She was leaving her husband because he beat her, she had told me. On that day, the husband arrived when I was in the bathroom.  As soon as he saw me, he left. After he left, she told me why she had asked me to come.  She had told her husband I was from the embassy.  Now she would have no further problem with being abused by him.

What a distressful, distasteful morning.  What is going on that I keep getting pushed into this protector role?

Chance Rehearsal at the Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center has to be my favorite sacred space. Sure, Chicago has churches, some of them are even historic, but it is the ritual, not the space that makes a church spiritual. When you walk into the Cultural Center, there is a sort of hush, as if you’re walking to a library, which is exactly what this building used to be. The books are long gone, but the building was saved from the wreckers ball, and now the public wanders in and out, enjoying the wall mosaics, the marble staircases, and the Tiffany stained glass dome.

I never get tired of walking through this building. Today there is a five piece string group rehearsing and the Tiffany dome can be enjoyed with a proper soundtrack. (This one is 1:47 long; if you really like the building and want to see more of it, here is a slightly longer one (4:46) that shows the rooms to the side and back as well.)