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Book Review: The Little Winter Book of Gnomes

Gordon Meyer with Book

This charming book artfully combines two meanings of the word “gnome.” That is, it features not just woodland wee-folk, but also wise and pithy sayings. (Interestingly, the latter definition is the oldest, according to the O.E.D.)

The author of the book, Kirsten Sevig, is a Minneapolis designer with (as if you haven’t guess from her name) Nordic roots. Her watercolor paintings perfectly complement the wisdom, such as “She who chops her own wood will be warmed by it twice.”

Also included are a handful of Norwegian recipes (such as Gløgg) and crafts (such as Woven Heart Baskets) that she grew up with. My favorite is the rice porridge recipe, which Sevig helpfully adds is also useful for earning the favor of Gnomes. By the time you reach the end of this small volume you’ll agree with the parting apophthegm: “The journey is the reward.”

The Silver Ingot: A Las Vegas Text Adventure Game

I've written a short text adventure game you can play in your web browser. It's called "The Silver Ingot: A Las Vegas Adventure" and it's based on actual events.

To play, just click this link: Play Now

It has been decades since I last wrote a "choose your own adventure" game, and I used this opportunity to learn a more modern authoring and coding approach. (It's written using Twine2.) I hope you like it. If you've ever played ZORK or Colossal Cave, you'll feel right at home.IngotLogo

Automatically open the printer status window

If you're a Mac OS X (macOS) power user, you should certainly have a copy of Keyboard Maestro. (If you don't stop reading now and go there. You're welcome.) This tiny little trick requires that you have it...

My HP LaserJet printer is not on the same floor as my home office. Therefore, whenever I print something, I like to keep tabs on the print job so I know when it's finished or has encountered problems. Normally, to do this, you have to click the printer's icon in the Dock.

I hate clicking things when I don't have to.

So I wrote what might be the world's simplest macro. It's triggered by the print job starting, then it clicks the monitor apps which causes the status window to open. Brilliant? Not really, but it is very handy. Here's what it looks like:

Screen Shot 2020 05 25 at 1 59 32 PM

Book Review: Why You Should Read Children’s Books

It was almost as if this book was following us around the bookstores of London, almost like a lost puppy. There it was, near the cash register at every store we visited (which was, frankly, too many to count), waiting for us to finally adopt buy it. (Who could resist that cute cover?) At The London Review Bookshop, I finally gave in.

gordon with book

Boy am I’m glad that I did! What an utterly charming, earnest, and convincing book. The author, Katherine Rundell, makes a compelling argument that adults should allow themselves to enjoy children’s fiction. We can rediscover our childhood selves (with the benefit of wisdom earned) and enjoy reading for pleasure, not obligation. As I read her arguments, memories of the joy that the Scholastic Book Catalog would bring to the school year came rushing back.

So pick up a copy of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise, then the next time you’re in a bookstore, stop and linger (but not creepily, of course) in the young fiction category. I dare you to allow yourself to pick out a title. You have my, and Rundell’s, permission to do so.

A Cat at Begraafplaats Huis de Vraag

Begraafplaats (cemetery) Huis de Vraag (House of Inquiry) in Amsterdam isn’t near the tourist center of the city. To get there from our apartment in Plantage we took the subway to Centraal Station, then a tram, then walked for about a mile. Totally worth it.

The 1800s-era cemetery is a controlled wilderness surrounded by urban development, and if it weren’t home to at least 12,000 graves, it would have been lost years ago. It’s open to visitors during limited hours, but is no longer accepting new residents.

cemetary gate

After circumnavigating the cemetery’s boundaries (because we couldn’t find the entrance), the first thing we noticed was an old pixie ring in the yard of the caretaker’s house.

fairy ring

Just beyond the gates proper, we were immediately met by a black cat who seemed to have been waiting for our arrival.

black cat

Seriously, and without exaggeration, after greeting us the cat begin walking down the pathway and kept turning back and mewing to make sure we were following.

black cat

Whenever we stopped to look at a grave, she would wait, then continue on — guiding us into corners and nooks we might not have discovered ourselves. It was a strange and delightful experience.


After several minutes of following the cat, when it was 3 or 4 meters ahead of us, it turned a blind corner. When we made the turn we were surprised to find a quiet lady tending to one of the graves. The cat had vanished — we never saw it again.


Nor did we see any other humans. Although prior visitors were in evidence as many of the graves were decorated with carefully laid nuts, which were plentiful from the low-hanging trees.


After our visit we stopped at the nearby Pipes and Beans cafe where we were the only Americans, and probably the only tourists, present. We loved the coffee and cake, and the proprietor asked with a wink if we were in town for the Amsterdam Dance Event (a citywide rave festival).

Addendum: Our visit was in October 2019. Several months after returning home I found this fun story about another couple who had almost the same experience as we did.

Announcing: Bizarre Fact Files

My newest publications are now available!

Bizarre Fact Files are pocket-sized books of Chicago neighborhood history and tidbits.

Bizarre Fact File boolets on table

Fact File volumes now available:

  • Bucktown

  • Wicker Park

  • Notable Neighbors

  • Notorious Neighbors

For sale now at Quimby’s bookstore (mail order and curbside pickup). #LoveYourLocals

For more info or to order directly, visit Bizarre Chicago

Book Review: Grave Plots

I was slightly surprised when I learned that the ‘zine Grave Plots was about the sale of cemetery lots via Craigslist. I’ve only used Craigslist a couple of times (to obtain purportedly haunted furniture for my performance studio), but in retrospect this shouldn’t have caught me off guard. A tiny piece of land, that originally cost a surprisingly large amount of money, might be the perfect example of a burden you’d want to quickly unload.

Gordon Meyer reading Grave Plots

Marc Fisher has done a fine job of assembling listings from all over the country (Including some that are close by). In addition to the striking similarity of tone, several themes emerge from the desperate listings. I won’t spoil the fun, but there seem to be a handful of circumstances for wanting to unload a grave site, and for some reason, specifying the circumstances is de rigueur. Some of the listings also offer amusing suggestions of items that they will consider taking in trade.

I recommend this publication as an enlightening, if not glum, view into an area of secondhand commerce that you’ve probably never considered. I got my copy from the delightful Quimby’s.