By request. (AJP, Sig, and Trond)

Out of all the things anyone would want to see in Chicago, why storage?  Okay, this is my storage at my old apartment building that I get in exchange for mowing the lawn.

Lawnmower next to door. Note padlock. This used to be a coal chute.
I hope you are satisfied.
This is the real reason for going. My Jordanian mint.
Once a week when I mow the lawn I also grab seven sprigs of mint and take them back to my new apartment. They go in a vase by the window for my tea. When they are gone, it’s time to mow again. The small leaf blades aren’t grass, they’re fresh garlic.

Norwegian American Press

More photos from My Summer Vacation…

My great grandfather signed his name with a X. For a while the family puzzled over the old documents, thinking he must have been illiterate.  But no, someone else remembered he always read the Swedish paper that he got from Minneapolis–there were several–so now the mystery is only deeper.

There were several Norwegian-language papers as well.  Here is what they were printed with and what they looked like, the equipment being part of a display in the basement of Vesterheim museum in Decorah, Iowa.

The explanatory sign:
1 Norwegian Press sign

Linotype (?) machine:
2 linotype

Explanatory sign for hand printing press:
3 hand printing press sign

Hand Printing Press:

4 press

The newspapers:
5 papers
6 Decorah papers

7 Norwegian newspapers

Lord, Enrich Me

koran lord enrich me with knowledge1-300Eid is over, time to replace the Ed Mubarak widget.  The new one says “rabbi zidni illma” or “Lord enrich me with knowledge.” It’s from Koran 20:114

فَتَعَٰلَى ٱللَّهُ ٱلْمَلِكُ ٱلْحَقُّ ۗ وَلَا تَعْجَلْ بِٱلْقُرْءَانِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يُقْضَىٰٓ إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُۥ ۖ وَقُل رَّبِّ زِدْنِى عِلْمًۭا ﴿٤١١﴾

I love to read those internet discussions about Islam.  This one is from a Pakistani forum where someone asks:

I want to learn any kalmaat 1) to recite before starting to study so that my mind won’t get distract ( i’m sick of it) _ 2) or to help in memorizing ,heard of such things but don’t know any , hoping anyone of u would help. one famous one I know is “Rabbi zidni illmaa”.

Kalimah in the Koran is usually translated as “word”; Kalimaat is the plural.

Here are some suggestions from the forum:

Dua While Studying Something Difficult

“Allahumma la sahla illama ja-‘altahu sahla anta taj ‘alu al hazana eza ma shi’ta sahal”

“Oh Allah! Nothing is easy except what you have made easy. If you wish, you can make the difficult easy”

which I also found here, along with more duas for studying.


Some of My Favorite and they work like missile

1. Ya alliem—— For Study
2. Ya latifon—–For every thing

Please recite them numberless with your breath in and breath out

How mysterious that they “work like missile”.  But participants’ requests for more information did not produce further explanation.  Googling Ya alliem yields a redirect to “al-‘Alim (‘a-leem) the All-Knowing”, the second of the 99 names of Allah. Ya latifon redirects to Ya Latif! O Gently Kind! Another of the ninety-nine names.

Another of the forum members adds:

ya haseebo is great for studies too… especially exams

Al-Haseebo is another of the names of God meaning “The Reckoner” and having to do with accounting.

From this description of a recitation for curing jaundice, we learn the system of using the names:

The way to recite:
Allahumma Ya-Haseebo, Ya-Haseebo, Ya-Haseebo …….
In the next breath you will again say Allahumma Ya-Haseebo …….. like that to
complete 300 times.

I should be taking notes here, since I don’t have health insurance.

The ninety-nine names of God seem to be quite popular, here is a list.

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Eid Chicago-style: prayers and guns

There are two “eids” or festivals in the Moslem religious calendar: the “big eid“, a feast for those who are returning from the Haj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, and the small eid, the three day feast that follows the fasting month of Ramadan. Today is the first day of the post-Ramadan feast.

A few years ago prayers were held in the mosque, with overflow, mostly for the women, in adjoining buildings where the prayers could be seen on large TV screens.  For the last few years the prayer has been at a local soccer stadium.

eid parking lot

The men are in the front, the women in back.  An empty twenty-foot strip of grass separates them.

eid crowd in soccer stadium

The governor even showed up and gave a talk. For more mainstream-type photos, see the Chicago Tribune‘s coverage of the event.

For my view, keep going.

The traffic was worse than rush hour, and crowd control was provided by the police department and by the soccer stadium staff, who referred to the women’s entrance as “entrance for women”, not the “entrance for sisters”, as the mosque staff do.

eid traffic

Here is a typical sight in this neighborhood–women with scarves driving land rover type vehicles, here seen in the rear view mirror.

eid rear view mirror

Then on to the mosque parking lot, where there are events for children, mostly moon walks and toys for sale. Small boys with toy pistols run through the crowd shooting at various people.  “We’re out of bullets,” says one.

eid mosque

I am reminded of the year I was in Jerusalem during eid.  Small boys ran though the ancient streets shooting at each other with toy machine guns. Not an impromptu activity.  I once saw an organized school program in which girls did folk dances and little boys, five years old at the most, marched around the stage with plywood machine guns. What a childhood. And how lucky I am to be born in a country where children can be children instead of being expected to go to war.

But what’s this? The guns are toys, I think, but it looks to me like the little Moslem boys are being taught warfare.

eid gun1

eid gun2

eid gun3

eid gun4

eid gun5

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Eid Mubarak

eid mubarak2

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An Old Hack

australian akubra hatCanehan, a sometime commenter at Languagehat, has started his own blog, An Old Hack. This is going to be great.  Not only did Calahan once live in my home-away-from-home, Amman Jordan, but he also had my secret dream job–he was a reporter for a major news service.

What exactly is an Old Hack?  Says Canehan, it’s a self-depreciating British journalists’ term for a grizzled old veteran who can do the job and has no illusions about being a star. It’s a term that’s not age-related, but just means veteran or experienced.  I would love to be an “Old Hack”–it sounds so worldly and jaded and Guy Noir-ish–more serious and atmospheric than the Lois Lane kind of thing, but Canehan says it’s a term that’s only used for guys.

What’s a “Canehan” and how do you pronounce it? He explains that all here.

And the hat?–it’s an Akubra, the signature hat from Canehan’s native Australia.

Some people learn once when they are young and in school and then stop learning.  For me, learning has been a lifelong adventure and has often taken place in non-traditional ways or outside of academia.  My discovery of writing came late; I owe it to an editor who encouraged me by introducing me as “a journalist” before I even had my first piece published.  I can’t begin to tell what a thrill it was the first time I saw my name in a byline.  It’s a greater pleasure than even chocolate, and I do take my chocolate seriously!

So I will be very eager to see what Canehan has to say about the Middle East…and about writing.

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There are those who say Americans don’t know how to garden. Not true, although the climate here is not as temperate or favorable to some plants as countries that enjoy the warming influence of the other side of the Gulf Stream, and the typical American neighborhood doesn’t look as landscaped as European ones. Someone once remarked that Europe looked “finished”. American is far from being finished and someone with the itch to play with landscaping materials will find plenty to do.

Here is this week’s gardening activity. It started with a problem area, the north side of an entrance.


front garden before

Turning the soil proved harder than it looked.  It was one huge mass of intertwined roots, with a couple of eight or ten inch concrete blocks buried a few inches down, maybe part of an old porch support.

The next problem was where to obtain free plants.  Hostas start at seven bucks for the ordinary kind and go up from there.  It’s not my property and I don’t have a budget to work with, so I’ll have to be creative. Time to start another project.

Here is the back yard of where I used to live, that I still take care of in exchange for storage.  Looks a bit overgrown.  Maybe time to trim things and divide a few plants. Before I started in on this area, maybe three years ago, it was a poorly growing lawn.  I added a border with plants that I either bought or were gifts from my mother’s yard, and rejuvenated the lawn.


back yard before

After it’s been cleaned, I have an entire trash bag full of hosta, iris, daylily, and ornamental basil left over.


back yard after

I water it thoroughly, edge the bricks with a spade, and throw some Miracle-Gro foliar feeder on it for good measure.

Then it’s back across the street to install the plant divisions in the problem area, with a little peat moss mixed into the soil under each plant.


front garden after

In the front, a row of shade-loving hosta, the ordinary kind with white on the outer leaves. These grow rapidly and there are always enough to divide–in a year one plant will yield two more plants.  In the middle, a blue leaved hosta and a yellow leaved hosta, interspersed with impatients.  The yellow ones looks identical to green hostas until you put them in the sun, then they turn yellow.  Impatients grow well here, in either sun or shade, although they do a little better in the sun.  In the back are irises and a jade plant, both survive in shade. The soil here is sandy–this was once the bottom of a prehistoric Lake Michigan that was much larger–and the soil drains quickly.  Ideally the soil should have four inches of peat moss dug into it, or even compost, but again, I don’t have a budget for this project.  Instead I had a little Miracle-Gro infused peat moss left over from some other project and mixed it with the soil under each plant. Hopefully that will help it retain moisture around the root.

The real purpose of a garden like this is to get perennials established so you don’t have to plant annuals every year.  Realistically, gardeners die or move away, but a good established perennial bed will look good even without care.  Even though it’s the skeleton of perennials that make the garden, it’s the flowers that people notice and comment on.  I find if I include some showy flowers, nobody has much comment about the rest of what I do and I am allowed to proceed without impedance.

front garden longshot

It’s still a little straggly right now, but in time everything should fill in nicely until it looks something like this, but without the rampaging morning glory (yes, this was a mass of weeds before I took over):

front garden comparison

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