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On Cholera and the Importance of Playing “Oregon Trail”

As each day does tend to do, today has brought and abundance of unexpected items.  The first was an unanticipated inoculation, which has left my right glut slightly swollen and sore.  That, however, was hardly surpassed by the following:

My Center at the University of Chicago is currently co-hosting a teachers’ continuing education seminar for Chicago-area teachers.  This year’s topic is “Natural Disasters and Social Responses," a terribly important and interesting topic, but perhaps not one that is particularly relevant to K-12 teaching needs. However, that’s neither here nor there.  The important thing is that today one of my history professors delivered a lecture on disease and social/governmental response, particularly cholera epidemics in various periods of Peruvian and Brazilian history.  In the Q&A post-lecture, one of the teachers in attendance said: “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of cholera, could you please tell me a little bit more about it? What is it?”
Now, forgive me if I’m being a snob…perhaps I am merely a product of my surroundings. But, THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME A HUMAN EDUCATING THE CHILDREN OF THE CHICAGO AREA HAS EVER HEARD OF CHOLERA. 
Did she never play Oregon Trail growing up!? At least TWO people in every game I ever played died from cholera. AT LEAST TWO. Even as a child, I was aware of the severity of losing two people out of what, six?, to a disease that broke the body down via severe diarrhea and dehydration. 
Has she never read anything on 19th century history? Nothing on EuropeNothing on Asia? Nothing on Westward Expansion in the United States? Orphanages filled with children whose parents had perished due to cholera outbreaks? I mean…if this is the case, then our higher education systems are failing our educators.
At the very least, what about Chicago History? Cholera outbreaks in Chicago initiated the creation of the Chicago Board of Health in the early part of the 19th century. 
Or, how about Nobel Prize Winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his famous novel? in 2007, Love in the Time of Cholera was made into a feature-length film, for Pete’s sake, featuring BOTH Benjamin Bratt AND Javier Bardem. 
Perhaps the most devastating and poignant realization is that this woman has somehow missed the last two years of expansive news coverage of the severe outbreak of Cholera Haiti has experienced post-earthquake.  Forget history training, because, sure, sometimes you forget the things you read in textbooks and hear in lectures. Forget popular literature and film, because, hey, it’s not for everybody.  But SURELY she is aware of the modern-day natural occurrence-turned-social disaster that plights Haiti. I refuse to believe she doesn’t peer at headlines or listen/watch to the news every once in awhile. 
This poor woman with her innocent question should not be scorned or ridiculed. The problem here, is, that somewhere our [higher] education system has failed an educator by neglecting to shape an individuals’ teaching education to include a well-rounded, if not basic, knowledge of world-history, popular science, modern world events, and general training in making intelligent observations. We will not and cannot possibly be experts on a large range of subjects, but it certainly does not hurt to have a little knowledge about a lot of things—especially when instilling this knowledge into the nubile minds of our younger populations. Although small pieces of information, for instance, information about cholera epidemics throughout history, might seem insignificant in and of themselves, when coupled with these other bits and pieces of information, they form a knowledge and awareness of the world at large.  That knowledge transforms us into humans who have a decent understanding of what shapes our environment, and of what shapes the environments of those around us. We become more useful global actors.  We become engaged, maybe even proactive in creating sustainable environments to live in. 
It can and should be argued that the United States education system fails to instill this ability and yearning to be engaged global citizens in its children. It can and should be argued that the United States hosts an education system whose global focus is so narrow that it prevents us from truly being the great nation we claim to be. However, the failure of the United States education system to create engaged and useful individuals is part of a much larger conversation that would have me typing for hours on end and is one that has caused me to digress, because, what we’re talking about here is Cholera, right?
Clearly the first step in prevention of negligence in Cholera awareness is to re-instill Oregon Trail as a regular part of the curriculum in elementary schools nation-wide. Let’s cover our bases by educating children about the proper methods of fording rivers and the hazards of diphtheria while we’re at it. The second step is to work on that whole education detail.

In closing, I’d  like to add that in an earlier presentation on the perils of fracking, the same woman who expressed surprise at learning about Cholera also claimed to have never heard of fracking, which is another testament to the need for trainings in astute observation and awareness of what is going on around us. I think I’m going to send her this informative video.

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Bagels, Bagels, Who Wants Some Bagels?

I love a good bagel (understatement).
I love baking the bread products (understatement again).

And most of all, I love a baking endeavor that allows for an afternoon spent in the company of a friend.

These  loves naturally merged into a baking endeavor that had an altogether satisfying outcome: everything bagels and an afternoon with my dear friend and fellow transplanted Kansan, Scotty. For Christmas, Scotty bought me a beautiful bag of bread flour from the small Amish grocer’s found down the street from his house. I’d been hoarding the flour as though it were a precious metal—not wanting to waste it on some paltry undertaking.  Bagels, though, seemed most deserving of this beautiful flour. And, as it turns out, this gorgeous flour did indeed make for some spectacular bagels—the dough was soft and pliable, and rose with extraordinary enthusiasm (picture below). As such, I strongly recommend using a quality bread flour for your bagels—nobody wants a sub-par bagel, after all.  There are expectations (or at least there should be) for these tasty little morsels. 

I stumbled across this recipe for bagels last week, and modified it ever-so-slightly so as to incorporate some onion flavoring into my breakfast/snack/dinner/food-for-all meals.

Everything Bagels:
(makes 8)

1 1/4 cup warm water

1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1-2 tablespoons flakey onion salt (I used the ‘fancy’ salt)
1 egg

To make-a-de Bagels:

1.  Combine the water, sugar and yeast into a vessel and allow to sit for 6-8 minutes (this is a terribly fascinating process and if you don’t know much about yeast and how it works, I recommend reading this for a quick and easy science lesson.)  I always feed my yeast in my liquid measuring cup, as it allows for easier pouring later. 


2. Combine the flour and 1 1/2 tsp salt into the bowl of a stand mixer (make sure you attach the dough hook).  Once the yeast mixture has activated, pour it into the flour mixture and combine.  Knead for 6-7 minutes until the dough is pliable and smooth.  Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).


(take a look at this beautifully risen dough!)


4.Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and press your finger through to form the center hole. The center hole should be big (awkwardly large, even), as these bagels will expand quite a bit during the baking process.  If you don’t make the center big enough, you’ll end up with bagel rolls, instead.



(Make the center hole larger than this!)

5.Once you have shaped all of the bagels, allow them to rest for ten minutes or so.  Then, place them into a pot of boiling water (they should float).  Let them boil for 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, then remove to a baking sheet.

6. Whisk the egg plus 1 tsp water in a small bowl and brush over each bagel, and then sprinkle on the seeds.image

7.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  


*Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days. Eat. Enjoy.


Filed under everything bagels baking bagels

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Oh! There’s a blizzard outside

A thick layer of white blankets the city.  And, though it is beautiful to watch the snowflakes quietly turn the world into a romantic still frame of monochromatic color, it is not nearly as poetic to engage with the snowfall as it is to muse on its beauty.  It takes no mercy on fingers, toes, or exposed noses and cares nought for comfort (see picture of human snowball below). 


Emily Dickinson put sentiment to verse ever so well:

"The Sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A traveling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How some one treated him;

Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.”

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A love poem for all occassions

Valentine’s Day is approaching, and, although the inundation of pink and red  cards filled with mass-produced sentiments would have you believe the ways to say “I love you are limited,”  there are, in fact, a great many word gifts to give those around you.  

These poems for instance.  These poems on love are beautiful treasures:

1. A Lover


If I could catch the green lantern of the firefly

I could see to write you a letter.

Originally published in Poetry, March 1917.


2. [love is more thicker than forget]



love is more thicker than forget

more thinner than recall

more seldom than a wave is wet

more frequent than to fail


it is most mad and moonly

and less it shall unbe

than all the sea which only

is deeper than the sea


love is less always than to win

less never than alive

less bigger than the least begin

less littler than forgive


it is most sane and sunly

and more it cannot die

than all the sky which only

is higher than the sky

E.E. Cummings, “[love is more thicker than forget]” from Complete Poems 1904-1962, edited by George J. Firmage. Copyright 1926, 1954, 1991 by the Trustees for the E.E. Cummings Trust. Copyright © 1985 by George James Firmage. Reprinted with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.



3. In Love, His Grammar Grew



In love, his grammar grew

rich with intensifiers, and adverbs fell

madly from the sky like pheasants

for the peasantry, and he, as sated

as they were, lolled under shade trees

until roused by moonlight

and the beautiful fraternal twins

and and but. Oh that was when

he knew he couldn’t resist

a conjunction of any kind.

One said accumulate, the other

was a doubter who loved the wind

and the mind that cleans up after it.

                                           For love

he wanted to break all the rules,

light a candle behind a sentence

named Sheila, always running on

and wishing to be stopped

by the hard button of a period.

Sometimes, in desperation, he’d look

toward a mannequin or a window dresser

with a penchant for parsing.

But mostly he wanted you, Sheila,

and the adjectives that could precede

and change you: bluesyfly-by-night,

queen of all that is and might be.

Source: Poetry (January 2012).


4. “I loved you first: but afterwards your love”


Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda. – Dante 
Ogni altra cosa, ogni pensier va fore, 
E sol ivi con voi rimansi amore. 
– Petrarca

I loved you first: but afterwards your love

    Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song

As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.

    Which owes the other most? my love was long,

    And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;

I loved and guessed at you, you construed me

And loved me for what might or might not be –

    Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.

For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’

    With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,

         For one is both and both are one in love:

Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’

         Both have the strength and both the length thereof,

Both of us, of the love which makes us one.



5. Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways



How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.




6.[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

                                                      i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you


here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart


i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

“[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” Copyright 1952, © 1980, 1991 by the Trustees for the E. E. Cummings Trust, from Complete Poems: 1904-1962 by E. E. Cummings, edited by George J. Firmage. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.


7. One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII



I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,   

or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:   

I love you as one loves certain obscure things,   

secretly, between the shadow and the soul.


I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries   

the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,   

and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose   

from the earth lives dimly in my body.


I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,   

I love you directly without problems or pride:

I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,

except in this form in which I am not nor are you,   

so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,   

so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

Pablo Neruda, “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII” from The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems, edited by Mark Eisner. Copyright © 2004 City Lights Books.


8. At a Window



Give me hunger,

O you gods that sit and give

The world its orders.

Give me hunger, pain and want,

Shut me out with shame and failure

From your doors of gold and fame,

Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!


But leave me a little love,

A voice to speak to me in the day end,

A hand to touch me in the dark room

Breaking the long loneliness.

In the dusk of day-shapes

Blurring the sunset,

One little wandering, western star

Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.

Let me go to the window,

Watch there the day-shapes of dusk

And wait and know the coming

Of a little love.


9. A Red, Red Rose



O my Luve is like a red, red rose

   That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

   That’s sweetly played in tune.


So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

   So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

   Till a’ the seas gang dry.


Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

   And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

I will love thee still, my dear,

   While the sands o’ life shall run.


And fare thee weel, my only luve!

   And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my luve,

   Though it were ten thousand mile.


10. Wild nights - Wild nights! (269)



Wild nights - Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!


Futile - the winds -

To a Heart in port -

Done with the Compass -

Done with the Chart!


Rowing in Eden -

Ah - the Sea!

Might I but moor - tonight -

In thee!


11. Bright Star



Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—

         Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

         Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task

         Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask

         Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,

         Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

         Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever—or else swoon to death.


12. Invitation to Love



Come when the nights are bright with stars

Or come when the moon is mellow;

Come when the sun his golden bars

Drops on the hay-field yellow.

Come in the twilight soft and gray,

Come in the night or come in the day,

Come, O love, whene’er you may,

And you are welcome, welcome.


You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,

You are soft as the nesting dove.

Come to my heart and bring it to rest

As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.


Come when my heart is full of grief

Or when my heart is merry;

Come with the falling of the leaf

Or with the redd’ning cherry.

Come when the year’s first blossom blows,

Come when the summer gleams and glows,

Come with the winter’s drifting snows,

And you are welcome, welcome.


13. To My Dear and Loving Husband


If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me, ye women, if you can.

I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.

Thy love is such I can no way repay;

The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.

Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,

That when we live no more, we may live ever.


14. Valentine To RR Written Extempore Feb. 14 1802


Custom, whose laws we all allow,

      And bow before his shrine,

Has so ordained, my friend, that you

      Are now my Valentine.


Ah, could my humble Muse aspire

      To catch the flame divine!

These are the gifts that I’d require

      For thee, my Valentine!


May virtue o’er thy steps preside

      And in thy conduct shine;

May truth and wisdom ever guide

      And guard my Valentine.


May piety, seraphic maid,

      Her influence divine

Shed on thy head, and ever lead,

      And bless my Valentine.


Life’s dangerous paths safe may’st thou tread,

      Shielded by Grace divine;

And when these artless lines are read,

      Think on my Valentine!

Filed under poetry valentine's day love poems words love words of love

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January 29th—the day in which we honor the Sunflower State

Today is Kansas Day—-the day in which my home state, the plot of land nestled in the heart of the country, celebrates its glorious entrance into the union.  This year, Kansas turns a whopping 152 years old, and, to celebrate its longevity, I would like to take this opportunity to dispel some myths and instill a few key points of general knowledge to the public:

1. Kansas is NOT part of the south.  It is America’s heartland.  Literally. Look—smack dab center of the U.S.  

Furthermore, Kansas cannot historically identify with the South, as it was a free state and not a slave state (see Bleeding Kansas in #2). You may refer to it as the following: a plains state, a state with rolling hills, the midwest, the sunflower state, the heartland, or simply as Kansas. 

2. Bleeding Kansas.  Most good Kansans know of this tumultuous history between Missouri’s pro-slavery border ruffians and Kansas’ abolitionist free-staters.  But for those of you who may have missed this fascinating tidbit of civil war-era history, brace yourselves for a very rough, very condensed version of what went down.
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act created the Kansas and Nebraska territories, and through popular sovereignty, left it to the territories to decide whether slavery would be allowed or not.  Missouri, the neighboring state to the right for those of you unfamiliar with the map, was a slave state and vied for Kansas’ adoption of slavery.  The soil along the Missouri river which separates Kansas and Missouri was perfect for slave-based agriculture, which meant that the majority of large slave-holdings resided in close proximity to the river.  If Kansas entered as a free state, it would, in  Missouri’s eyes, disrupt the status quo by providing the lure of free soil just over the border.

So, to take action and to protect their interests, many Pro-Slave MIssouri residents came to the Kansas territory and “settled” in areas along the eastern border.  At the same time, numerous anti-slavery organizations sent quantities of free-staters to settle in the same border region.  Almost immediately, ideological clashes ensued, often erupting in guerilla warfare-style violent, bloody, and sometimes fiery skirmishes.  Approximately 56 people were killed in these skirmishes in the short span  between 1855 and 1859.  

In the midst of the physical turmoil, the territory’s political governance was at odds over what sort of constitution would govern the future state of Kansas.  Several drafts were made—some that created free-state governments, and some that created pro-slavery governments.  Finally, in 1859, the Wyandotte Constitution, with all its abolitionist glory, was drafted and approved, and on January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the union as a free state. 

The Civil War erupted less than three months later.

3. Nobody likes Fred Phelps. Don’t worry, everybody in Kansas is aware of how obnoxious he is.

4. Sometimes, a lot of times, Wizard of Oz references get old.

5. There are other cities/towns/villages in Kansas OTHER than Kansas City.

6. For the most part, electricity is pretty commonplace.

7. Important trivia to remember:
State Song: Home on the Range
State Tree: Cottonwood
State Bird: Meadowlark
State Animal: Buffalo
State Insect: Honeybee
State Reptile: Ornate Box Turtle
State Flower: Sunflower

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Day 20 of the 30 day yoga challenge. 
Grateful for my body’s continued cooperation and minimal bruising. 

This week I learned a new yoga trick: dragonfly pose.  It may be my new favorite thing to practice, although I keep reminding myself that, as sensei Cassi says, it’s the simple, less showy poses that will carry me through the rest of my life—tadasana for life ! (?)  

Anyway, Cassi came over this evening to take some photos for a piece she is putting together for her blog on yoginis and their cats.  Queso was less than enthused, as was to be expected.  These are a little peek at the photo goods!

Filed under yoga catsofyoga dogsofyoga 30dayyogachallenge

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Re-thinking bedtime stories

Ask any of my near and dear friends, I am a vivid dreamer.  My psyche, apparently, is in a constant whir, producing sturdy thoughts and images todot my slumber every night.  Always I make an effort to write down the more striking episodes, with hopes that someday they come in useful to some creative endeavor (where are these ideas when I’m awake, I ask you?). I have pages filled with greyscale silent dreams, dreams of velvet-clad magicians predicting the demise of humanity, and dreams of somber springs.  

Because I dream with such intensity, I try not to read anything harrowing before I fall asleep.  Recently, my bedtime reading endeavor has been “Meaning in History,” a book published in 1949 by Karl Löwith  (1897-1973), a former professor of philosophy at Heidelberg University, Germany. One would assume that such reading would serve as a safe bedtime endeavor—-something thought-provoking but not necessarily fodder for dreams. 

Wrong.  Apparently philosophy books, too, are capable of penetrating the mysterious world of dreams.

Last night, images of a young Karl Marx, albeit a handsome, groomed and very un-marx-like version of the actual man, clad in blue overalls and sitting silently on a park bench fluttered through my sleep. 

I can’t wait to see what the chapter on Voltaire brings.


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Tuna Blazer on Funyuns

My dear Yuna (who has had the (mis)fortune of being dubbed “tuna blazer” due to my phone’s penchant for autocorrecting her name from Yuna to Tuna) came to visit me at work today…and, as can usually be expected, provided me with a much needed bout of comic relief. 

As we stood in front of the vending machine, not-so-guiltily indulging in Rice Krispie Treats, she suddenly pointed to the top row of the machine and exclaimed:

WHAT IS THIS? What is an ONION-FLAVORED ring!?  What can be CHEAPER than an ONION? I don’t understand why you need and onion-flavored RING…just eat the real thing.

Such wisdom, Tuna Blazer, such wisdom.  What propels humankind to forgo the beauty of a real onion for an onion-flavored object that comes from a neon yellow bag?  The eternal mysteries of life. 

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Two of my favorite male idols are celebrating birthdays today:

Stephen Hawking (born 1942),


and David Bowie (born 1947).


Let’s all take a moment to bask in the glory of the Penrose-Hawking theorems and gravitational singularities, and in Hunky Dory, clearly two of the best things to come out of the 20th century.

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Whilst doing my Monday morning deep breath and relaxation mental exercises (preparation for the work week at hand, and medicine for the copy machine crisis that popped up before 9:30 even struck), I came across the following quote in a charming little article about mushroom hunting.  And, while a relatively small number of us are mushroom hunters, a very large number of us could benefit greatly from remembering to acknowledge how small we really are in the grand scheme of things.

A little voice in my head told me to change my perspective, and I fell on one knee. I loosened my focus, and there they were. Colonies of morels, all around me. The feeling was almost spiritual: It is the realization that your will alone is not sufficient to make good things happen. You have to acknowledge how small you really are before the Mycological Force will pity you. And then maybe, just maybe, it will reveal what you seek.

Hank Shaw, “The Thrill of the Mushroom Hunt”