Student favorite

In my tiny corner of the universe, Gloria Estefan’s Hoy has surpassed even the catchy dance rhythm of Selena’s Bidi Bidi Bom Bom among the teenage language lab crowd. I admit I find myself drawn to it too.

In Spanish:

In English:


Tengo marcado en el pecho
todos los días que el tiempo
no me dejó estar aquí.
Tengo una fe que madura
que va conmigo
y me cura desde que te conocí.
Tengo una huella perdida
entre tu sombra y la mía
que no me deja mentir.
Soy una moneda en la fuente
tú mi deseo pendiente
mis ganas de revivir.
Tengo una mañana constante
y una acuarela, esperando
verte pintado de azul.
Tengo tu amor y tu suerte
y un caminito empinado.
Tengo el mar del otro lado.
Tú eres mi norte y mi sur.


I have scarred on my chest
every day that time
didn’t allow me to be here.
I have a faith that matures
that goes with me
and cures me since I met you.
I have a footprint
lost between your shadow and mine
that doesn’t allow me to lie.
I am a coin in the fountain.
You are my unfulfilled wish,
my desire to live again.
I have an unchanging morning
and a water colour, hoping
to see you painted in blue.
I have your love and your luck
and a steep track.
I have the sea to the other side.
You are my north and my south.
Hoy voy a verte de nuevo
voy a envolverme en tu ropa,
susúrrame en tu silencio
cuando me veas llegar.
Hoy voy a verte de nuevo,
voy a alegrar tu tristeza:
vamos a hacer una fiesta
pa’ que este amor crezca más.


Today I am going to see you again.
I am going to wrap myself in your clothes.
Whisper to me in your silence
when you see me arrive.
Today I am going to see you again.
I am going to cheer up your sadness.
We are going to have a celebration
so that this love might grow more.


Tengo una frase colgada
entre mi boca y mi almohada
que me desnuda ante ti.
Tengo una playa y un pueblo
que me acompañan de noche
cuando no estas junto a mí.


I have a phrase hanging
between my mouth and my pillow
that undresses me before you.
I have a beach and a village
that are with me at night
when you are not next to me.


Hoy voy a verte de nuevo
Voy a envolverme en tu ropa.
Susurrame en tu silencio
cuando me veas llegar
Hoy voy a verte de nuevo
Voy a alegrar tu tristeza.
Vamos a hacer una fiesta
pa’ que este amor crezca más
Today I am going to see you again.
I am going to wrap myself in your clothes.
Whisper to me in your silence
when you see me arrive.
Today I am going to see you again.
I am going to cheer up your sadness.
We are going to have a celebration
so that this love might grow more.
Posted in music. Comments Off on Student favorite


The last word on the Shirley Sherrod tempest goes to the insightful Zogby, who observes:

Something is fundamentally rotten in our political culture — where groups seeking political advantage can so easily make victims of innocents and cowards will let good people pay a price rather than defend their rights to a fair hearing.

But of course that’s not how the politics plays out.  If she had not been fired, the teabaggers and right-wing pundits would have made her name a by-word for continuous attack on the liberals, by shear repetition of lies.  This way she gets to sue Breitbart, making headlines that advance the liberal cause as the case plays out in court, and more headlines when she ultimately accepts a new position somewhere.

Today the church bells in the neighborhood were playing

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind…

and I thought, not gonna happen.

After the flood

What a week.  First the extreme temperatures.  Friday at 5 p.m., when I was on my way to my third class of the day, the temperature was still 94 degrees.  Then it stormed. My students wanted to know how to pronounce “lightning”. More loud storms throughout the night, then around 5 a.m. my fan slowed down so much it nearly stopped, and I knew the Chicago electrical grid was not holding its own.  Fortunately I am not one of those without power today, although the streetlight on my block was a casualty. This morning, traffic was at a standstill, as the cars from the Dan Ryan (once voted one of the ten worst highways in the nation) were routed off the expressway and onto side streets–going the opposite direction!–to avoid flooded areas. Only one of my students made it into class this morning–but not until after the break.

After all of that, I need a nice cold margarita.

And a poem:

FRAGMENT OF BAROQUE by Leonard Cohen from Let Us Compare Mythologies

Schloss-Monbijou before the war…

in a Baroque castle

among genii, angels, stucco and tin,

she sat before a harpsichord,

beside a candelabra

in a dim room

playing the Couperin

of heavy carpets and roses

carved in wooden tables,

while the men and women

clinging sadly to a myth

sipped brandy

listened to the mass

of needlework tone

and thought

of white lace and silk fans

soaking in river foam.

Quiet days for some,

measured by the subtle ring of crystal

and nods of ivory heads;

days of listening

of women’s tongues tasting,

of harpsichords treasured

by Prussian queens.

[image: Vermeer’s Lacemaker]

Posted in Illinois. Comments Off on After the flood

Writes like

The London Review of Books blog is sending people to a site called “I write like” to paste in samples of their writing, have it analyzed, and find out what famous author they write like. The site informed me I write like someone called Cory Doctorow, who I never heard of before.  It turns out that besides writing science fiction, he has written for the blog Boing Boing and has also been associated with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which I have linked to many times both here and on other blogs.  One of his short stories is open source and can be read online in its entirety. I haven’t really read any science fiction since its golden age back in the 70’s, but I was intrigued enough to read this one to the end, something I rarely do these days.

Posted in Books. 2 Comments »


“We all smile in the same language,” was the declaration at the bottom of the personalized notepad of the ESL director where I got my first teaching job. It worked for her, but for me it would be a bit too saccharine.

Today during class, in the midst of sniffles and “bless you”‘s, it occurred to me that we all sneeze in the same language. But what we say afterwards suddenly became obsessively interesting to me. The Hispanic students say “salud”, or health. The students from Haiti say “Dieu te benisse”, pronounced something like deeu tay beNEESS, and meaning “God bless you”. They gave the French automatically, but were quite pleased when I asked for the Creole, which is “Bondye beniw” or bless you, pronounced something like bonDIAY buNEW. And in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia,

pronounced something like maasNETtess, and also meaning bless you.

Nobody has a cuter snake than this

Posted in Wildlife. Comments Off on Nobody has a cuter snake than this

Bishop Hill

A few weeks ago I visited the Swedish utopian village of Bishop Hill, Illinois  for the traditional Midsommar maypole celebration.  It’s a pretty town and always reminds me of all the things I love most about being in the country. Here are some more pictures from the visit–everything from Swedish meatballs and the pie menu at one of the local restaurants, to a group of oddly expressive straw goats, to unique garden arrangements, to a sharpening wheel of the sort I remember from the farm.

Posted in Illinois. Comments Off on Bishop Hill


An inchworm hangs from a single gossamer thread.

Doesn’t the inchworm have some marigolds somewhere to measure? A pity my own marigolds aren’t blooming yet, I thought. Then, thinking twice, I wondered why anyone would bother to write a song about it if inchworms and marigolds didn’t appear at the same season. Double checking my marigolds, sure enough the short ones have just started blooming.

Oh, it was Danny Kaye’s song:

Not forgotten

I’m usually pretty good about blocking out the military content of stuff I run into on a day to day basis, but this week Canahan’s trip to a local Commonwealth war grave and Studiolum’s story about looking for a war grave in Russia have sensitized me to the subject. So the other day, I noticed this POW-MIA (Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action) flag that flies from the library, that I walk or drive past several times a week. The fine print says “you are not forgotten”.

Posted in Illinois. Comments Off on Not forgotten

The Fourth

Yes, I’m afraid I’ve snuck into the park after hours again.

Taking it gently after a week of twelve-hour shifts, and hoping not to  have another relapse of fever and chills, I spent the evening walking around the neighborhood watching the progression of explosives.  Before dark, it was mostly firecrackers, bottle rockets, and small balls that emitted colored smoke. Tiring of things that go bang, I headed for the park at Wolf Lake, the one place I was sure the ban on fireworks would be enforced.

Once the sun went down, the park was quickly cleared out by aggressive park vehicles driven by park employees who were no doubt eager to go home to their picnics.  Once the park had been closed and the gates locked, I snuck back in and watched the colors bloom in the sky from one end of the lake to another.  The sound of explosions never stopped.

Back in the neighborhood, more fireworks appear in the skies above an unpretentious row of Chicago bungalows on Avenue O.

Several families on one block will go together and kick in $50 or so apiece, buy their fireworks across the border in Indiana, and put on their own private show.  Party music emanating from the garages in the alleys, when you could hear any above the constant explosions, was of the mariachi and salsa variety.

Other years there have been more fireworks, something on every block at least, but all in all, this year wasn’t too bad of a show.

Posted in Illinois. Comments Off on The Fourth