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July 2020

Book review: Superstitions

Superstition: Black Cats and White Rabbits by Sally Coulthard offers a history of common folk beliefs, and being a UK publication, many of the tales are heretofore unknown to most Americans. And even those you might already know — such as “touch wood” or avoiding sidewalk cracks — are illuminated with nuance and history. I found several new superstitions to add to my usual repertoire of practices.

Gordon Meyer with book

But aside from Coulthard’s content, the production and design of the book are both outstanding. The illustrations by K.J. Mountford are lovely. (Don’t you think that “Coulthard & Mountford” sounds like a Broadway team?) And I guarantee you’ll appreciate Hardie Grant’s clever, and perfectly executed, two-books-back-to-back design. The “white rabbit” side of the book covers superstitions that bring good fortune, while the “black cat” pages feature practices we should all avoid.

Well, as you can tell by now, I think this book is simply delightful. It might be difficult to find in a US bookstore (provided you can still find a US bookstore) but it’s available at Amazon. If you read it, I promise you’ll never look at a rainbow in the same way.


Tablet Stands I’ve Known

I love the AmazonBasics Adjustable Tablet Holder Stand so much that I’ve purchased four of them. Not because of breakage or loss, but because they work so damn well. In addition to being suited for a variety of digital devices — I use mine with iPhone, Kindle, and iPad Pro — they work great for displaying collectables such as plates, awards, or books. They’re inexpensive, and pack light enough (and small enough) that I carried one across Europe for five months. (And I hate hauling stuff around that I don’t need, I needed this!) What makes it so versatile is the degree of adjustability. (Amazon’s photos really don’t do it justice in this regard.)

Now, having said all that, I’ve also tried the AmazonBasics Multi-Angle Portable Stand. It’s nominally smaller, but not nearly as adjustable. But if I were looking for a stand that would mostly remain in one place, adjusted to a single angle, I’d choose it. (For example, an iPad kept on the kitchen counter.)

Finally, I should mention the Twelve South Compass. It’s beautiful. It is a lovely piece of art and craftsmanship. If an intruder broke into your home, you could use it to knock him out and then plunge one of its arms deep into his chest. As much as it aesthetically pleases me, I don’t travel with it, and rarely use it.



Book Review: Chicago Gets Four Stars

Gordon Meyer

Local writer Joe Mason (of The Chicago Reader, among other publications) has new zine titled Chicago Gets Four Stars that offers succinct and interesting summaries of offbeat Chicago history. Mason has chosen (if the book were more expensive I’d say “curated”) some really good stories, and tells them in a way that makes you feel like you’re two old friends chatting over a beer at a local pub. Even if you’ve heard some of the bits before, he’ll shed new light and make you nod your head with respect for the telling. I’m happy to give Chicago Gets Four Stars …wait for it…five stars. (The only downside is that his passionate argument for Chicago’s claim to the jibarito might make you hungry to eat one.) Get your copy of Mason’s zine at Quimby’s.



Quick fix for the KitchenAid Nespresso Espresso Maker

If you have a Nespresso Espresso Maker by KitchenAid (Model KES0503SZ) then you have likely discovered a minor flaw. Namely, the design of the water tank can make it difficult to see how much water is in its tank.

If you’re experiencing this issue, here’s a simple fix. Drop a cork from a wine bottle inside the tank. It’s easy to spot from the outside and you’ll know exactly how much water is present before you push the brew button.


cork in water tank

Aside from this hiccup, I rather like this coffee maker. It’s sturdy, cosmetically matches my other KitchenAid appliances and (most importantly) offers a size setting that is larger than the Lungo that other Nespresso machines have.