The best way to catch a water leak before it's too late

A water leak can be one of the most expensive accidents to happen in your home. (Ask me sometime about ABT’s installation of a faulty fridge valve that caused over $20K in damage in our kitchen.)

I recommend you buy several Govee Water Leak Detectors and place them anywhere a leak might occur. The loud alarm could save you a lot of money, as it’s easy for a leak to escape detection until after it has done significant damage.

If you know me as a home automation expert, it might be surprising that these are non-automated, standalone alarms. But this is a perfect example of when isolated, inexpensive, and reliable sensors are the best choice. These are “set it and forget it” simple, and you won’t miss an alert due to network interference or a technology mismatch. Additionally, you can buy five of these for half the price of one automated sensor. (Buy from Amazon.)

That said, if you’re hellbent on unnecessary complications, you can apparently get a hub and an app from Govee that will work with these. Instead, I suggest you just convince yourself that you’re deploying a fleet of autonomous robot guardians, then get on with your life and hope that they only problem they ever detect is a low battery.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means


This book by Ross Petras and Kathryn Petras is subtitled The 150 Most Commonly Misused Words And Their Tangled Histories. That’s a fair summary, but it could also be “Schadenfreude for Grammar Pedants.”

Not what you think cover with gordon meyer

This book discusses words that are commonly misused. Many of them are word pairs and often they are homonyms, in which case mistakes are somewhat understandable among those who don’t read very much. But many of them are just words that don’t get used very often. For example, some people confuse “podium” and “lectern.” In fact, until I read this book, I wasn’t completely sure how they are distinct. (Briefly, you stand on a podium, and behind a lectern.)

Another example is “per se,” which means intrinsically, but as the authors observe, “many people persist in sprinkling it incorrectly in their conversations, like a handful of croutons.” The authors also offer an interesting bit of trivia that the word “ampersand” derives from the phrase “and per se,” and alarmingly, Google reports that some ignoramuses are now writing “per say.”

“Peruse” is another word that stood out to me. It’s commonly misused to imply casual observation, but in fact means the opposite — to carefully examine.

The authors also discuss some regional differences, such as the word “revert,” which is commonly used in India to mean “reply.” Go figure. Just don’t try this at home. (Unless you happen live in India, in which case, even the O.E.D. says it’s OK.)

Two more examples: Oral means “pertaining to words,” and verbal means “spoken.” So if someone tells you to do something, they are giving you verbal instructions. And, a pair of oft-confused words that the disgraced Donald Trump might need to learn, venal means corrupt and venial means pardonable (usually relating to sin).

I can’t forget to mention that each word is accompanied by an example of where it has been used incorrectly. Interestingly, many of them are from the Huffington Post, but virtually no media or personality is spared. This alone will make this book appeal to self-appointed grammar police.

Finally, the production values of this book are outstanding. The binding, covers, design, and paper are of the highest quality. I know this an odd thing to mention, but this book just feels good to hold. I bought my copy at Judy Blume’s delightful Books & Books in Key West, but of course you can also find it the Amazon.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: Bullet Points and Punch Lines

I bought this book because, based on the back cover blurbs, it seemed like it might be in the same ballpark as some of my favorite (and, alas, deceased) authors such as Hunter S. Thompson, George Carlin, and Abbie Hoffman. The writer, Lee Camp, is host of “Redacted Tonight” (never heard of it) which airs on “RT America” (ditto), but he’s also a standup comic and this book is subtitled The Most Important Commentary Ever Written on the Epic American Tragicomedy. How could I say no?

gordon meyer with book

Unfortunately, while Camp is a punchy writer, the book lacked the depth and cleverness I yearned for. Oh, I learned some things, and I appreciated all his footnotes, but too often it felt like he was straining to be snarky and outrageous. I’m fine with that, when it’s also clever and pointed, which Camp fairly was.

One lesson I still have not learned in this life is that you I have to finish reading a book that I've started. I read all of this one, but past the halfway point it became a bit of a slog as I realized it was more annoying than interesting. And I mostly agreed with his points, so I’d consider myself a sympathetic reader, but he wore out his welcome with me. That won’t stop me from quoting some facts he brought forth, but it does mean that I appreciate the writers I mentioned above even more. I suppose I might need to lower my standards a wee bit.

I’m sure, after this dour review, you’re dying to read the book for yourself. You can find it, of course, at Amazon.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

A little free library in Chicago

A new Little Free Library has appeared in the neighborhood! Formerly known as "Little Free Library #76261," you can find it on the 1600 block of N. Wolcott Ave, in the Chicago Wicker Park - Bucktown neighborhood. Follow on Instagram for updates and news. If you keep your eyes skinned, you're sure to see a few esoteric titles appear.

LittleFreeLibrary

Thank you to Scot Kamins for inspiring this, all the way back in 1999 or so. (He has no idea.)

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Is that a haunted bell in your pocket?

The fun mailing list "What's In Your Bag?" provides insight into what I carry when conducting bizarre walking tours in my Chicago neighborhoods. Go ahead, peek into my man purse, I don't mind (this time): What's In My Bag? -- Gordon Meyer -- Issue 74.

gordon meyer bag photo

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Cropping a photo to any size with iOS 14

Apple has changed the cropping tool so that, by default, it preserves the photo’s aspect ratio. This seems like a reasonable change, except when the reason you are cropping is to change a photo’s shape. In that situation, after you tap the crop tool, tap Reset (at the top of the screen). This will allow you to freely adjust the crop region.

the reset button in Photos

For another photos-related change in iOS 14 (and one that is very puzzling) see iOS 14 Camera Setting Not Restored on Launch


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

The House of the Blood Stains

This stately Amsterdam house, built in 1670, was the home of six-time mayor Coenraad van Beuningen.

house of the blood stains front

Slipping into madness later in life, he suffered apocalyptic visions of the future and decorated the outside of his home with arcane symbols of protection, scrawled upon the grey stone in his own blood.

house of the blood stains door

Despite numerous attempts to remove the markings, they can still be seen after more than 300 years, if you know to look.

blood stains detail

blood stains detail

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

My favorite bag; my favorite things

gordon meyer tour bab photo

Each week, "What's in My Bag?" features one interesting person and the four favorite things in their bag. Here is my contribution to this fun list. Thanks to every one at Cool Tools for the opportunity.

I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer

Book Review: No Ketchup

This book by Dennis Foley, subtitled Chicago’s Top 50 Hot Dogs and the Stories Behind Them, is a city-dweller’s delight. Foley has credibility to spare (more on this later) and the book is organized in a way that’s perfect for keeping in the glovebox of your car. That way, you’ll never be without guidance when the urge arises to eat like a true Chicagoan.

Gordon Meyer with book

Foley rates and ranks hotdogs across the city (sorry not sorry suburbanites) using a succinct scale and terms defined in the front of the book. By the time you’ve read a few, you’ll find yourself looking for a 4 mustard bottle place that serves thummys with a full M7 complement. (Trust me, it works in the context of the book.)

But the book is more than just hot dog reviews. If a place also makes a good Italian Beef, that’s noted too, for example. But the best bonus is the stories that Foley includes. There are numerous sidebars about history, people, and city life. It’s clear that Foley is true blue Chicagoan — a salt of the earth type that cares about his fellow citizens and has the Irish gift of gab.

I trust Foley’s rankings because he clearly gets around. All the compass directions in the city are well-covered, aided by the fact that Foley used to be an electrician for the city’s Streets and Sanitation department. This took him all over, and the job allowed plenty of time for lunch breaks. (Insert your favorite city worker joke here.) Interestingly, the folksy and casual tone of his writing belie his MFA and law degrees. Chew on that for a while!

Sadly, although this book is current, it was researched and published just before Trump’s pandemic so there will surely be some changes to the restaurant landscape in the coming months. For that reason, I encourage you to seek out local recommendations now, and to forgo using the coupons that are included in the back of the book. They’re only for a dollar off (of a ten dollar purchase) and I’m betting the extra buck will be appreciated by the restaurant.

Foley has done the gut-wrenching (literally) work of eating more than fifty hot dogs over the course of fifty days. (The places that didn’t make the cut are omitted and unnamed.) The least you could do is buy his book, right? I got my copy at Quimby’s Bookstore in Wicker Park, but you’ll find it on Amazon, too. Bonus: If you buy it from Quimby’s stop by the nearby Devil Dawgs — which is in the book — or neighborhood gem George’s, which Foley inexplicably did not list.


I do not accept advertising, but the Amazon want you to know that some links may contain affiliate codes that dangle the promise of earning me a few pennies towards running this site (at no additional expense to you). Humbly, Gordon Meyer