Author Archives: jaynecoster

Nowruz – A Celebration of the Iranian New Year

–submitted by Joyce Bromley; photos by Ted & Joan Ballweg

Iranian New Year Celebration 016Who could not use some Nowruz (celebration of spring and annual renewal)?  Majid Sarmadi brought the rich Iranian new year celebration to the Cultural Awareness Fellowship Group and their guests in this year of 2595.  This 3000 year Persian tradition is a celebration of renewal and hope with prepared foods that represent the seven angelic heralds.  Hyacinth (one of the first flowers of spring) brings beauty and its fragrance permeated the room.  The eloquently set table was a sight to behold.  Garlic bulbs decorated with a string of tiny pearls bring good health; vinegar takes a long time to make and requires patience; a beautiful tureen of sprouts (lentils) prosperity—good harvest and a year without hunger; elaborately decorated eggs promise fertility–rebirth; goldfish swimming in a bowl, a symbol of life; the illumination of candle-light brings happiness—good over evil; fresh fruit and sweets bring joy; and we ended with a taste of ground sweet sumac.  A book of poetry lay open reminding us of the eloquent Persian language.  This was the experience of haft sin and only the beginning of the evening.

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After an enthralling slide show of Iran–the culture, the geography, and its people—we traveled the gastronomic route.  Appetizers of eggplant paté, and hummus; a table display of basmati rice with saffron, casserole of assorted beans, braised eggplant with filet mignon; saffron chicken; and basmati rice with lima beans and dill—all of which were as sumptuous as they were beautiful.  All of these delicacies were entirely prepared by Majid.  Oh yes, the desserts!  Cream puffs (made earlier in the day), fresh fruit, rice-flour cookies, cardamom muffins, sohan (almond toffee), were enjoyed with a cup of tea.  At the end of the evening Majid gave us a gift to extend the evening.  We each received a freshly pressed one-dollar bill for good luck.

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We became Majid’s extended family and together we celebrated the joy of friendship in the Persian tradition and are richer for the experience.

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Holistic Support for Returning Veterans and Their Families

–submitted by Donna Hurd; photo by Pete Christianson

Will Beiersdorf 3 22 2017

From left: Club President Michelle McGrath, Will Beiersdorf, Nasra Wehelie and Susan Schmitz

After recognizing and showing appreciation for all Rotarians and guests who have provided military service to our country, fellow Rotarian Will Beiersdorf provided a brief but comprehensive overview of an organization that provides holistic support and care for those service men and women who have returned home with physical and often, severe invisible wounds of war.

With first-hand knowledge of the stress of deployment, Will was called into active duty after the events of September 11, 2001, leaving his wife and three young children behind.  Since that time, 800,000 service men and women have been deployed multiple times. This was almost unheard of prior to that date.  The toll of numerous deployments affects not only the servicemen and women but also their families.  The services available for many who have served are often inadequate and in all cases, only treat the wounded, leaving their families to seek help from other providers or caregivers.  Two million children and parents sought mental and behavioral healthcare since 2001.  One-third of the men and women returning from war suffer some type of trauma.  Approximately 400,000 have suffered a traumatic brain injury.  Besides the wounds suffered, approximately 22 veterans end their life every day, leaving family members to carry on.

In March 2013, Will was invited to assist with the formation of the Road Home Center for Veterans and their families.  Since that time, the organization has seen 400 – 500 veterans and their families each year.  They remove all barriers to receiving the needed services.  The organization’s mission is, “Help heal the invisible Wounds of War.”  They accomplish this by going beyond the level of care expected and needed.  The continuum of care provided by the Road Home Program incorporates clinical care, counseling, outreach services, and education.  The program employs Outreach Managers who have experienced the trauma of war, either directly or indirectly and can tell the story of why their services and this program are so needed.

Service Above Self, not only exemplifies Rotarians but also the brave men and women who choose to serve to protect the freedoms we all enjoy.  The bottom line of this program’s existence is, “We owe it to them to give back and help.”

 

Fostering Diversity in the Workplace

–submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Pete Christianson

DSC_0003Karen Lincoln Michel challenged us to think in a different way about workplace perceptions, the importance of fostering diversity in our workplaces (particularly if we are leaders), and to be sensitive to the welcome our workplace culture extends to those with different ethnicity, gender, or cultural background.

Leaders with hiring responsibility need to be aware of affinity bias – the tendency to hire those who look like us or have the same background.  Our perceptions can powerfully influence our decision-making process, often without us realizing it!  By selecting people with similar characteristics we miss out on key insights and perspectives that someone outside of our experience and background can bring.  She challenged leaders to have the courage to step out of their comfort zones to realize the benefits that increased diversity can bring.

True workplace diversity demonstrates benefits in terms of being able to attract top talent, improved customer relations, improved employee satisfaction, better decision-making, and retaining talented employees.  The business environment is a diverse place and hiring and retaining staff to effectively address that environment only makes good business sense.  On a tangible basis, Ms. Lincoln cited a McKinsey study that indicated that firms with greater diversity showed a greater likelihood to financially outperform their peers.

Finally, culture matters.  Workplace and community culture is important to the success of diversity efforts.  Is the culture welcoming?  Do persons of color feel isolated?  Programs and policies are not enough – leaders have to truly engage and drive the initiative and commit to recruiting and supporting diverse candidates.

Ideas for true engagement in workplace diversity programs include having an officer or position in charge of fostering diversity, mission statements that include diversity as part of the organization’s core values, creation of an inclusive and positive atmosphere, widely seeking out candidates, and providing mentoring relationships to support individual success.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Wine Fellowship Event March 12, 2017

 

–submitted by Mike Wilson

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Mike & Patty Wilson

The Rotary Wine Fellowship Group met at Mike and Patty Wilson’s home to taste wine to compare the major French wine regions with their new world protogees.  We had white and red Burgundy, Bordeaux, as well as Northern and Southern Rhone wines and virtually all were selected from the Wilson wine cellar.  The examples were nearly all very well rated by respected rating organizations (88 – 95 points, mean score 92) and many of the vineyards were very old (one wine from Australia where the vineyard was planted 124 years ago and several others over 100 years, and yet others the oldest regional vines available.

We tried a 2014 white Puligny Montrachet from Pernot, and discussed the Burgundian village (now just used to house workers) and that the area included the greatest white wines of the world (e.g. Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet and Batard-Montrachet). This wine is still available at Steve’s for a modest sum.  This was compared with a Robert Young Vineyard Alexander 2013 Chardonnay ranked among the best of California that year, and a Wilson favorite.  We also compared it with a 1995 Kalin chardonnay Cuvee W which is the current release of Kalin having being kept by the owner for 20 years before releasing to the public for purchase – an extraordinary practice for a business given that now even the great wineries now make their wine for immediate sale and early consumption. At Kalin cellars the owners are microbiologists (Terrence and Frances Leighton) and the sole winemakers, that make all their own wines from bought grapes.  They produce about 7000 cases per year, and are credited with being the first Californians to pioneer the unfiltered Sur Lies approach to white wines.  Kalin also champions the fifth taste – Umami (the meaty brothy taste that is represented by MSG Wine March 12 2017 Ebut without the MSG salt contribution). They seek this out in their wines before release.  The Puligny narrowly wins as the best tasting compared to the quintessential Robert Young Vineyards and the very different Kalin.

Next we tried the red Burgundy and I had selected a Premier Cru Nuits-St-Georges Les Pruliers by Lucien Boillet where the grapes were planted in 1911.  Nuits-St-George is considered the main village of this region and is slightly smaller than Beaune to the North.  Nuits-St-Georges has no Grand cru vineyards but there are 41 Premier Cru vineyards of which Les Pruliers is one.  This wine was compared to similarly rated 2006 Oregon Pinot from Belle Pente Murto Vineyard and a 1995 Kalin Cuvee DD bottled in 2000 (some 17 years ago, and this is the current release vintage).  The Oregon Pinot Noir was considered the best of the bunch.

Wine March 12 2017 AWe had two 2000 Bordeaux blend wines and compared this to a 2006 Rubicon Estate
Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Bordeaux were a Chateau Talbot and Grand-Puy-La-Coste, respectively 4th and 5th Growth wines in the 1855 Classification of the Haut-Medoc region that includes 61 wines and is the current quality standard of these wines. The 2000 vintage was considered an excellent vintage on both the left (Graves, Medoc, and Haut-Medoc) and right (Pomerol and St. Emilion) banks, a unique situation in the history of these wine regions. This vintage is considered one of the Great vintages because of this, and is one of the few vintages that the price has never fallen below the pre-release prices (when I bought these 2000 wines). The clear winner was the eminently drinkable Californian Cabernet despite it’s lower point assessment (90/91 compared to the Bordeaux: 93 and 94/95 ratings).

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From left: Beth & Rob Van den Berg; Chris & Elaine Rich; Jennifer & Bob Winding

We tried the Upper Rhone (Syrah only red grape allowed) 2009 Cote-Rotie La Landonne by Rene Rostaing and this was compared to an Australian Barossa Valley Shiraz that come from a vineyard initially planted in 1893, and a 1998 Hanna Sonoma Syrah.  While the Cote Rotie was the winner, it was scored at less than the Australian Shiraz (93/94 vs 95) in recent accepted tastings.  The Cote Rotie is interesting as Etienne Guigal (a Rotary tasting will be at Steve’s on University on the 27th April that will assess Guigal’s wines – wait for the call for signup) came to the region, recognized the potential of the wine, restored the reputation of these wines. In the 1940’s when the AOC was created there were only 40 hectares left in grapes, the rest having been converted to Apricot trees. The land was converted back to vineyards as the quality returned to it’s former glory and the apricot trees were removed to get the total acreage back to 210 Hectares.  The vines had been uprooted as the slopes approach 60 degrees and concrete walls and terraces need constant maintenance for tending the vines and picking the grapes.

Wine March 12 2017 BThe last wine we tried was a Chateauneuf-du-pape (CNP) which is from the southern Rhone and has mainly Grenache, Syrah and Mouvedre (the GSM label made famous by Australia with their exports of this blend). Other red and white grapes provide an AOC appellation requirement minimum of six different varietals while the appellation allows at least 9 red and 6 white wines.  The ground here is different, having huge heat retention stones (galets) extending from fist sized examples to huge boulders. When Patty and I visited Ch. Beaucastel in the mid 1980’s we wondered how they could even plant the vines in those “rock fields”.

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From left: Leslie & Peter Overton; Ken Yuska; Sandy & Dana Corbett

We tried a Chateau Beaucastel Famille Perrin 2011, the most expensive wine of the tasting. Ch. Beaucastel always uses 13 grapes in their CNP.  We tried it against a 2011 Paso Robles Tablas Creek Esprit GSM with additional Cunoise, and the interesting fact is that Ch. Beaucastel (Perrin family) co-own this Paso Robles property with their US importer (Robert Haas). They found a property, stocked it with 8 vines from Ch. Beaucastel, waited out the 3 year quarantine, and now sell the Rhone wines and the Rhone vines from their USA winery. The Esprit de Tablas is the second best wine from Tablas Creek and the Famille Perrin is Beaucastel’s second best CNP, so it was a good comparison altho the wine from France would have much older vines. We also tried a GSM from Adelaida, also the same year.  All were excellent, all were well rated and there was no definite winner, just personal favorites, with no one wine getting a majority vote.

Wine March 12 2017 CThis was a great tasting and we had 5 cheeses (3 of which are pictured here) selected for these wines and chocolate covered strawberries made by Patty. These included a local Mozzarella on melba toast, with Normandy Brie also on Melba Toast.   We had Dubliner (invented by an Irish UW faculty while getting his PH.D. in Ireland – now sold by Kerrygold (but not currently banned like the butter). We had Cambozola, and Wensleydale cranberry cheese (another story of old English cheese slowly disappearing until owner of the last factory sold to the management who regenerated the business). The Mozzarella and Brie went well with the white and lighter Pinot Noir, while the other cheeses and chocolate strawberries stood up to the reds.  Overall, the tasting was great fun for everyone.

 

Introducing the Candidates for MMSD School Board Seats 6 and 7

–submitted by Ben Hebebrand; photo by Pete Christianson

Muldrow Toews Vander Meulen 3 8 2017

From Left: Kate Toews, Ali Muldrow and Nicki Vander Meulen

The Rotary Club of Madison hosted a forum for candidates to the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Each candidate offered an opening and closing statement.

Ali Muldrow, Seat 6:  In her opening statement, she stressed her long-standing commitment to MMSD, going all the way back to her days as a students, having graduated from east High School in 2004. As an alumna, she has continued her ties to East High School, volunteering her talents in a capacity as a facilitator of an arts club.  Ms. Muldrow’s platform centers on equity and inclusion: “Our district has a history of not serving every student equally,” she said. “We talk a lot about racial disparity, an opportunity gap, and an achievement gap – we talk a lot about exclusionary practices – we should talk more about inclusive efforts and practices.” In her opening statement, she concluded by painting a vision of the district “working differently” toward an ideal of “students falling in love with learning.”  In the closing statement, she elaborated on her idea of inclusionary practices. Recalling her days as a student, when 50 percent of the African-American district population did not graduate from high school, she “watched her peers disappear.” Instead, she urged “to reach for the stars – to aim to be at the forefront of inclusion and make space for students who have been left out.”

Kate Toews, Seat 6:  As the parent of a student enrolled in the MMSD, she affirmed her strong “belief in public education.” Citing her background in industry, specifically her work with the McKinsey & Co. global consultancy, she stressed her expertise in setting a vision and implementing such a vision into reality.  Ms. Toews’ platform centers on a three-prong vision: “We have the ability to be the best district in the country, because we have an engaged community. We can show the rest of the country how to do urban education,” she said, stressing clearly that privatization of schools is not the answer. She classified the School Board’s recent decision to fund a private school with a Caucasian student population as wrong, referring to a recent decision to extend charter school status to a current private school. Secondly, she cited the district for having a “workforce challenge,” implying that employment opportunities are not competitive. Thirdly, she mentioned the achievement gap that has “plagued us for a long time” – solutions can be found in hiring teachers of color and focusing on early childhood education.

Nicki Vander Meulen, Seat 7: Identifying herself as an autistic person, her candidacy is deeply rooted in the notion of “giving a voice to the students who are voiceless.  Ms. Vander Meulen’s platform centers primarily on how students with disabilities and with disadvantages need to be treated differently.  Citing disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for African-American and handicapped students, she questioned the district’s discipline procedures. “We need a behavior education plan where facts are the same, and where punishments are equal,” she said. Further, she stressed the need for restorative justice solutions as opposed to handing students over to the juvenile court system.  She objected to current seclusion and time-out practices for disabled students as an example of unequal treatment.  Furthermore, she questioned the district’s wisdom in publishing a 70-page long document outlining behavior expectations and requiring students and families to sign those. “Let’s make the rules clear, simple, and precise.”

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.

Dane County Circuit Court Candidates Forum: Jill Karofsky vs. Marilyn Townsend

–submitted by Bill Haight; photo by Pete Christianson

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Marilyn Townsend and Jill Karofsky

The two candidates for an open Dane County judge position began with an opening statement, then answered a series of questions presented by moderator Rotarian Andrea Kaminski.

Both candidates indicated a strong desire to address concerns of racial disparity, fairness in the judicial system and support of alternatives to incarceration – help versus punishment.   Both have backgrounds that illustrate their commitment to these concerns. Karofsky is serving as Executive Director of the Office of Crime Victim Services and as Wisconsin’s first Violence against Women Resource Prosecutor. Townsend has represented Unions and men and women on a broad array of issues, typically in cases where a client calls out their employer or a government agency for discrimination on the basis of wage, race, age, gender, or disability.

Attorney Karofsky, though not a judge, emphasizes her previous experience as an assistant district attorney handling “more than 10,000 cases in Dane County Courts, the exact kind of cases the judge will hear.”

Judge Townsend has served the Village of Shorewood Hills as Municipal Court Judge since 2012. In this capacity, she notes, she presides over trials, motion hearings and initial appearances, and decides the guilt or innocence of those who appear before her.

Karofsky contends that while municipal judges play an important role, Townsend’s municipal court experience dealing with mostly ordinance violations is not similar to the complexity of criminal cases, such as homicides, she would find in the circuit court.

When asked by the moderator about their “judicial philosophy” Townsend said she strives to make sure everyone’s voice is heard, “not just the rich and powerful,” Karofsky said her philosophy emphasizes “fairness, respect for everyone and a willingness to try new things [such as alternative courts for specialized cases]”

“Who is your hero?” Moderator Kaminsky asked.

“Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt,” said Townsend, “because they stood up for the little guy.”

“My Mother [former Middleton Mayor Judy Karofsky], replied Karofsky, “because she always fought for fairness for the little guy.”

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.

Hip Hop Architect in the House!

–submitted by Dawn Crim; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

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Club President Michelle McGrath and Michael Ford

What can Rotarians learn from the intersection between hip hop and architecture? Michael Ford educated Rotarians on the intersection first starting with history. How hip hop has influenced things over time with things ranging from chairs, boots and photos to artist evolutions. Michael Ford took Rotarians through the creative journeys of Pablo Picasso’s art and Le Corbusier’s architecture illustrating their connection to Hip Hop and the influence Hip Hop had on their work.

Michael Ford shared how Le Corbusier’s five design elements first introduced in Paris were brought to life in urban buildings in New York through Robert Moses’ designed buildings. Unfortunately, Robert Moses only took parts of Le Corbusier’s plan, just using the physical structure, missing the spirit of what the building could do for people. The result, Michael Ford described as an architectural ‘bad remix’ because the buildings in New York City, although similar in physical structure were considered ‘concrete jungles’, not contributing positively to the spirit and lives of the people living there.

According to the talk, it is no coincidence that rap was born in New York City, in the Bronx, because that is where many of these structures were built. One can trace rap songs in the 1970’s back to descriptions of these structures.

From the popularity of his lectures and expertise, Michael Ford is helping to design the Universal Hip Hop Museum in New York City.  He is working with Hip Hop artists from the 70’s and 80’s like Kurtis Blow and the Sugar Hill Gang to design exhibits to tell their our story in the museum. The museum will include public housing, market rate housing, a hotel, children’s museum, retail space and an amphitheater.

Michael Ford has done talks and projects all around the country. He has also created Hip Hip Architecture Camps here in Madison. The camp’s mission is to introduce traditionally marginalized or underrepresented youth to architecture, urban planning and economic development through the lens of hip-hop culture.

He has partnered with the City of Madison Department of Planning, Community & Economic Development, The Madison Public Library and Capital Area Regional Planning Commission to help kids bring their visions and voices into the Imagine Madison Initiative. This initiative will provide input into the City’s 25-Year Comprehensive plan.

From the response to today’s talk, many Rotarians may also bring their ideas to the plan. Some of those ideas may be grounded in hip hop.