Black seeds

Black seeds are supposed to be good for the respiratory system, in particular nigella sativa, the seeds mentioned (in a hadith?) by the Prophet. These came from the Yemenis’ store, so I’m sure they’re authentic.

Google tells me I can make a tea by pouring boiling water over a tablespoon of the seeds, covering the cup while it steeps, and adding honey. This is the same method I learned in Jordan when one of my students made me a cup of zaatar (fresh thyme leaves, not the dried “zait and zatter” type) for a cold. The taste seemed a bit weak, so this morning I decided to try a seed method I learned in Amman using anise seeds for bronchitis. The herb is boiled in a small espresso pan for several minutes and poured into the glass though a tea strainer. Here it is in an everyday casset shai (tea glass).


Biblical and Koranic mentions from wiki:

When they have leveled the surface,
do they not sow caraway (“fitches?”… “black poppy?”) and scatter cumin?
Do they not plant wheat in its place,
barley in its plot,
and spelt in its field?…

Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
nor is a cartwheel rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
and cumin with a stick.

Isaiah 28:25,27


[Sahih Muslim : Book 26 Kitab As-Salam, Number 5489]
Abu Huraira (Radi Allah Anhu) reported that he heard Allah’s Messenger as saying: Nigella seed is a remedy for every disease except death.

Narrated Khalid bin Sa’d :We went out and Ghalib bin Abjar R.A was accompanying us. He fell ill on the way and when we arrived at Medina he was still sick. Ibn Abi ‘Atiq came to visit him and said to us, “Treat him with black cumin. Take five or seven seeds and crush them (mix the powder with oil) and drop the resulting mixture into both nostrils, for ‘Aisha has narrated to me that she heard the Prophet (sallalhu-alaihewasallam) saying, ‘This black cumin is healing for all diseases except As-Sam.’ ‘Aisha said, ‘What is As-Sam?’ He said, ‘Death.’ ” (Bukhari)


Avicenna, most famous for his volumes called The Canon of Medicine, refers to nigella as the seed that stimulates the body’s energy and helps recovery from fatigue and dispiritedness. It is also included in the list of natural drugs of ‘Tibb-e-Nabavi’, or “Medicine of the Prophet”, according to the tradition “hold onto* the use of the black seeds for in it is healing for all diseases except death” (Sahih Bukhari vol. 7 book 71 # 592).

*hold onto indicates long term use; studies have reported changes in blood chemistry after several weeks

Shrimp and yellow pepper

Shrimp and pepper is pan fried with Sazón Goya con culantro y achiote (coriander & annatto), which gives it the yellow color, and a little olive oil; the rice noodles are soaked in hot water for about ten minutes before being added to the pan and tossed.

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Riparian Hegewisch: Indian Creek confluence

Last week I explored a slag heap I have been walking past for years, and crossed over Indian Creek to get to the top of it. That got me thinking about Indian Creek.

There is some really interesting information about this little creek, and maybe I’ll post some links some other time, but today I just wanted to look at the confluence where it empties into the Calumet River. Indian Creek starts at the outlet of Wolf Lake, where it flows over a small, partly submerged dam.  It winds through an industrial area, then empties into the Calumet River a mile or so away to the west.

Some of Chicago’s rivers have been reversed. The Chicago River is one of them; the technology learned on the project was applied to the building of the Panama Canal. Another reversed river is the Calumet;  Indian Creek empties into it.  Has Indian Creek been reversed? I haven’t found the answer to that yet. A better question might be whether Indian Creek is natural or made by human intervention. Wolf Lake used to empty directly into Lake Michigan to the east; now its outlet is Indian Creek to the west.

Today I start out at the bridge just south of Carondolet Ave and E 126th Street.

The color of the water by the slag heap upstream is an odd whitish green color–you can see the color change even in the satellite view.  View Larger Map Here it’s not so obvious, even though the water looks far from clean. I see several guys fishing, but no one catching anything.  One guy tells me he just saw a muskrat.  I ask if he’s fishing for crappie, which are supposed to run in the spring, but he says this time of year they catch Coho salmon, at least in Wolf Lake.

The creek passes under another bridge at 126th Street, then fans out into a sort of wildlife area.  The large white bins in the background are on the opposite shore of the Calumet River.

This is odd: stakes with chicken wire, apparently marking some sort of channels. I suspect it’s for the salmon.

The mouth of the creek is blocked with stones, except at the far end.  Again, I suspect the salmon have something to do with this.

My curiosity satisfied, I return, and see an almost full moon over the 126th Street bridge.

A nearby truck loading area is guarded by dogs, which eventually remember to bark at me.  I understand why people breed and keep this sort of creature, but I hate to see animals treated like this.

It’s a cold, cold day.  The wind is around 30 mph and out of the north–“blustery” the forecast says.  Not pleasant at all , especially near the water, but at least the sun came out late in the day.

Computer anti-virus

If you bought a Windows computer system with a free year of a Symantec product like Norton anti-virus already installed, sooner or later the year is going to be up. Then what? Run without an anti-virus? Run periodic checks with free products?

I have just spent a tiring three days installing, uninstalling, and tweeking after I tried to watch a broken online video and all of the sudden my computer “sounded different”. I was sure I had picked up some sort of malware, but Spybot Search and Destroy found nothing. AdAware found some privacy objects, but it wasn’t clear if they were removed or not. And the computer kept “sounding funny”, making a racing sound when I wasn’t running anything. Bitdefender, on the first pass, said I had a virus it had not removed, but on the full scan, nothing turned up. I even tried AVG, which merely puts viruses in a “vault” without deleting them, but that found nothing at all.

Finally I discovered Microsoft’s anti-virus products. The first one is a free online scan called Live OneCare safety scanner that found my virus and gave it a name, besides cleaning the registry of some 300 unused items. The second one is Security Essentials, free to anyone with a valid copy of windows, that removed my virus on the full scan.  Once you install it, it continuously scans for viruses.  They both run only under Internet Explorer, but hey, it’s Microsoft’s product, why not.  You only appreciate Firefox all the more when you go back to it.

Speaking of Firefox compatibility issues, if you have the FoxLingo Translation Toolbar and are thinking of upgrading to Firefox 3.6.2, well, I just tried it and FoxLingo 2.6.1 doesn’t work with that version.  I had to downgrade Firefox back to 3.6 to get the FoxLingo and toolbars back.

The Prinicipality of Palestine.

Yesterday I updated my google Reader by adding a subscription to the blog Atlas Obscura, “a collaborative project with the goal of cataloging all of the singular, eccentric, bizarre, fantastical, and strange out-of-the-way places that get left out of traditional travel guidebooks and are ignored by the average tourist. If you’re looking for miniature cities, glass flowers, books bound in human skin, gigantic flaming holes in the ground, phallological museums, bone churches, balancing pagodas, or homes built entirely out of paper, the Atlas Obscura is where you’ll find them.”

Already the few keyclicks it took to subscribe to the blog has paid off with information about the Principality of Sealand, a tower called a Maunsell sea fort built by England during WWII in international waters:

In 1967 Major Paddy Roy Bates occupied the island and declared it a sovereign principality, appropriately named “Sealand.” For the past four decades Bates and his family, with rotating visitors, have occupied the island, named themselves Royalty, and gone about their business much like heads of state.

In 1978 a German citizen claiming to be the “Prime Minister of Sealand” attempted to take over the island while Bates was away. Bates retook the island by helicopter attack and held the German captive. First Germany attempted to negotiate with Britain, who said Sealand wasn’t their country. The Germans then negotiated directly with Bates, and after a few weeks their countryman was returned. This encounter bolsters Bates’ claim that Sealand is a nation, as Germany recognized them in negotiation.

Since this time Sealand has fired at the British Navy, issued passports, minted coins, and participated in international sporting events….


Now, if Mr. Bates can declare himself a nation, and get away with it, “WHY CAN’T PALESTINE DECLARE ITSELF A NATION? This is just so obvious to me; whatever is taking them so long?

But wait, there is another revelation in store.  The Principality of Sealand is not alone; in fact, there is a name for this phenomenon–“micro-nations”–and Atlas Obscura has a whole separate tag for micro-nations.  So far, they have written about no fewer than eleven micro-nations. Count ’em, eleven. And get this,  one of them is INSIDE THE CITY OF JERUSALEM!!!1!

Are you listening, Palestinians? Are you listening, Dr. Fayad  (author of “The Salam Fayad Document: A Palestinian Initiative to Bear Responsibility”)?

Forget  “settlements”.  So what, settlements. They’re the only places it ‘s safe enough to put a bank ATM machine.  They’re the only places it’s safe enough for Arab women to walk without being harassed by Arab men. Leave them alone.  There must be plenty of “empty” land still left that can be reclaimed; there’s even a precedent for that move.  I hear the West Bank is absolutely sitting on an underground lake.

Build your own Palestinian nano-nations, but forget all that dreary intifada stuff.  Make a sweet little Arab country without  shebabs–you know the guys I’m talking about, the ones who don’t want to keep their hands to themselves. You know who they are.  Send those jerks to Gaza to live out their lives with kefeeyas wrapped around everything but their eyes.

Then build a principality with the best felafel, the best mahmoul, and that bear-claw-shaped, date-filled Palestinian bread that’s to die for.  Plant a few palm trees to sit and eat them under.  Don’t forget a mosque where the women can worship on the same floor side-by-side with men, and don’t have to hide in the mosque basement for fear the men will stare at their butts while they’re praying.  And then issue passports–and visas–for it.

The Micro-Nation of Palestine.

Build it and they will come.


Alexander Arguelles is a polymath who says it’s more effective to teach yourself a language than to take a class. He has an interesting page on his blog called “Guide to autodidatic foreign language study” where he demonstrates his method of practicing speaking a foreign language while walking briskly.

Comparing language learning to learning a musical instrument or a  sport, he says the first thing is to learn proper posture. Then, he says a brisk walk is needed to focus the attention on the material, a slow walk will have you soon distracted.

His method of language learning uses twenty minute segments; anything longer and focus will be lost.  He alternates writing with speaking, and changes languages frequently to keep from becoming fatigued.  The video also shows his system of recording his practice in a notebook in order to track his progress. Ironically, the video is 56 minutes.

The method is called “shadowing”, and involves reading out loud along with a recording of a native speaker, a the same time or slightly behind the speaker. He also works on several chapters at a time, reviewing the older chapters while pushing ahead with exposure to newer material. I tried this with my class; they say they like it.

Hyde Lake Plateau

Last week I took a walk to an area I always thought was a gravel pit.  It turned out to be a flattened mound–some sort of slag pile. After puzzling over the satellite image, and comparing it with old maps, I have concluded that this is none other than the lost Hyde Lake.

I love these old maps (they’re all clickable).  The first one is by the Army Corps of Engineers, 1811.

From left to right:  Lake Calumet, Hyde Lake, Wolf Lake, George Lake, all flowing more or less north, into Lake Michigan or into the Calumet river, which at that time flowed north into Lake Michigan.

A regional street map from 1902, showing Hyde Lake still in place.  Little Hegewisch has already been laid out, and its railroad tracks split as they go north on either side of Hyde Lake.

But by 1911, the steel industry has been well established in the Calumet area and Hyde Lake is no longer on the Waterways or Railroad Transportation maps.

From a satellite, you can see where the railroad track splits, but Hyde Lake is nothing but a gray mound.

Close up, you can see the railroad tracks bifurcating on the south, Wolf Lake to the east, the Ford plant on the north, and on the west, another railroad track squeezes between the marsh and the gray mound. In the middle of the gray mound, you can see high “sandstone ridges” described in early surveys.

Here’s what it looks like from the ground. First, entering the area across a marsh from the south, then climbing across the railroad tracks, then climbing up the low hill to the top of the plateau.

From the top of the plateau, to the north can be seen the Ford plant and the sandstone ridges mentioned in early surveys, and to the south, the neighborhood of Hegewisch.

Indian Creek flows into the surrounding wetland from Wolf Lake to the east, and here there are many signs of deer and birds. I cross the creek and walk along the north side of the plateau area on sidewalk across from the assembly plant. Finding a path back south, I ford the creek by way of some rocks, and find myself back on top of the plateau.

Finally I get up close to the peak in the middle of the slag dump, the “sandstone ridges” mentioned in old surveys. You can certainly see they were formed in an ancient sea bed.

I am reminded that this area was at once at the bottom of ancient Lake Michigan, covered by 60 feet of water.


UPDATE: A former resident of Hegewisch has confirmed for me that Hyde Lake was filled in by slag from steel production from National Steel.  That hill? –we put that there, he says.

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