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September 2020
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November 2020

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

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

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.

Book review: Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show

Gordon Meyer with the book

This book, by Steve Bryant, was delightful. I think anyone will enjoy it, but if you happen to be a magician, ghost show fan, or resident of the Midwest (or, ahem, all three) you’re in for a treat with page after page of allusions that will make you smile.

Before starting to read this book, I didn’t read the back cover summary. Therefore, I didn’t come to realize that Lucas and the troupe were dead until I got to around page 23. A realization that made me laugh with delight. (It’s not really a spoiler for me to say this, as most people will pick up on that a lot sooner, if not before they begin.)

Another moment, which I definitely will not spoil, is the perfect ending. Seriously, it’s exactly how the book should wrap up, and it offers something that you’ll recall with a smile in the future.

It’s a rare feeling for me to have, but about halfway through this book I realized that it would make a wonderful movie. I hope that Disney or someone else has optioned it from Mr. Bryant, it has so much potential for the big screen!

Just one more note, yes this is a “Young Adult” book, but don’t let that dissuade you. It’s smart, clever, and fun. And if you need more convincing see my review of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise.

Now, run off and get your copy of Lucas Mackenzie at Amazon, I’ll meet you in the back row of the theater, the show is about to begin!