Book Review: Chicago America’s Workshop

This 2021 book by Peter N. Pero provides a plethora of photos from Chicago’s industrial era. It’s divided into sections for Heavy Industry, Manufacturing, Food & Beverage, Printing & Publishing, Retailing, Music, and Candy. Each section opens with a brief discussion of the industries and their impact on the city and country.

gordon  meyer holding book

I particularly enjoyed how the book highlights the city’s dominance as the country’s crossroads. The breadth of influence is almost overwhelming, and will certainly give you a renewed appreciation of Chicago’s cultural and economic power.

There are numerous photos, many of which I hadn’t seen before. The captions are helpful, but unfortunately often fail to provide much information about where the company or factory was (or is) located. I would have appreciated more detail in this regard.

As a love letter to the city, and a chronicle of the past, this book is a worthy addition to any Chicagoan’s shelf. I got my copy at Quimby’s in Wicker Park, but of course, you can also find it at 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

Firex double beep meaning and replacement

Recently, the Firex smoke and carbon dioxide alarm on the first floor of my home started beeping. It was an unusual double-beep, not the usual low battery sound I’ve heard it make before. (Also unusual is that the beeping started during the day, not in the wee hours of the morning, as is usually the case. Just happenstance, I’m confident, but a welcome change.)

After much searching and reading online, I learned that a Firex double-beep signals that the detector has stopped working and needs to be replaced.

Unfortunately, Firex was absorbed by Kidde a few years ago. (The date of manufacture on my detector was 2004, so it should have been replaced years ago, but seriously, who checks their smoke detectors for an expiration date?)

Thankfully, the Kidde i12010SCO is a replacement for the hard-wired Firex FADC that I had. It just needs a plug adapter to connect to the Firex wires. (The wires power the device, even though it has a battery, and they signal other detectors in the home to sound off when any of the detectors are triggered.)

I opted for this particular Kidde because it has a built-in 10-year Lithium battery, which by the time the battery dies, the detector will have reached its expiration date.

I should mention that even with the necessary wiring adapter, there’s a tiny bit of work involved. The mounting ring that held the Firex needs to be replaced with the one for the Kidde, but in my case, that was just a couple of screws.


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

Notes from a BeagleBone Black newbie

A long while back, when Radio Shack was going out of business in Cupertino, I picked up a BeagleBone Black to play around with. Thanks to the pandemic, that time has finally come.

I’m confident in my geek credibility, but this thing has really taxed my skills. All the documentation I could find was, if not obtuse, written with a lot of knowledge assumptions. Here, then, are the things that I had to either discover myself, or suss out from a lot of different places.

  • The board has an OS in firmware, so unlike a Raspberry Pi, it will boot up out of the box.
  • If you do install a memory card that contains an updated OS distro, it will boot up from that instead, provided that you flashed the card with the .img and not the .xz file. Don’t believe the misleading documentation that says the etcher will decompress the file for you. It will, but only the .img, not the .xz.
  • Bonus tip: On a Mac, use the great utility BetterZip to decompress the .xz file.
  • Apparently you can update the firmware with the new OS by editing a single line in image’s config file. You will find instructions about how to do this by booting with buttons held down, but that’s the old method. I didn’t try either method as I’m happy running from a 32GB card.
  • The Display connector is a microHDMI port. Not MiniHDMI like the Raspberry Pi Zero. Time to check your junk drawer for yet another obscure adapter.
  • The mDNS (Bonjour) name will be, by default “beagleboard.local” The only user is “root” and there is no password assigned to that account.
  • If all the LEDs on the board are lit up, something went wrong during startup. If you’re trying to run headless (see microHDMI, above) this is the only way to know there’s a problem. When the unit is running correctly one of the LEDs will flash repeatedly in what is supposed to be a “heartbeat” (but if my heart ever beats like that, please call an ambulance).
  • Raspberry Pi users will be pleased to discover that the unit has a power switch.
  • Once booted, the unit is running a web server. This will show you a few details about your device.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the device, altho it comes with a lot of stuff pre-installed and I have no idea what it’s all for. (Now I know how Android phone users feel.)

I made a pleasant discovery about how to create a box to hold the board, which I described previously: Beaglebone Black Card Box

Most of the notes above were written early in the pandemic, and so far my Beaglebone has an uptime of well over 400 days. During that period I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had to restart the Raspberry Pi.


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

How to Select All and Copy from the iOS Notes app

I use the iOS Notes app to store templated email messages so that I can quickly respond to common enquiries that I receive for my business. This works quite well for me. (I keep them all in a group called “Copy Desk” so that I can find them easily.)

However, Notes doesn’t have an obvious way to select all the text in a note and copy it to the clipboard so that it can be pasted into a reply. In most iOS apps, when you select a bit of text, the pop-up menu that appears includes a Select All command. But, as you can see below, Notes does not.

screenshot from Notes

But there is a way to copy an entire note to the clipboard, it’s just a bit hidden:

Tap the More button (a circle with three dots, in the upper-right corner of the note).

notes screenshot showing location of control

Tap “Send a Copy.”

notes app screenshot

Tap Copy.

notes screenshot

Then switch to Mail and paste into the body of your message.

Alternatively, if you’re creating a new mail message and not replying to an existing one, tap Mail in step 3.


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

This documentary is on fire

Historian and public speaker William Pack has produced a nice documentary about The Great Chicago Fire. (This year being the 150th anniversary of the event.) He was nice enough to cast me as one of commentators, but aside from that, you'll enjoy it. It's available on YouTube for a limited time.

The Essential Great Chicago Fire on YouTube

gordon meyer on screen

Screen shot courtesy of another talented Chicagoan, Michael Burke.

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

Leaky Peet’s Nespresso capsules

Although they are common in Europe, non-Nespresso coffee capsules (“original size”) are just now starting to become widely available in my part of the U.S. This is good news, as variety and price pressure are so very American.

However, having tried the Peet’s Coffee capsules for several months, I don’t recommend them. While the coffee is as good as you’d expect, Peet’s has gotten something wrong about the manufacture of the capsules.

Normally, using other capsules, I can run thru an entire tank of water in my Kitchen Aid Nespresso and there will be just a tiny bit of coffee in the under-cup drip tray.

With Peet’s capsules, the tray is close to being filled! Every so often, it even overflows onto my counter after just four (Lungo) cups.

Clearly, the Peet’s capsules are loosely “Nespresso compatible,” at best. Whoever engineered these knock-off capsules should go back to the drawing board. Because of the mess, and the inconsistent amount of coffee in your cup, pass them up if you see them at your grocery store.

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

Macro to load remote images in macOS Mail.app

I recently changed my Mail.app settings so that images in mail messages are not loaded automatically. Until the new privacy features in macOS Monterey roll out, I made this change to avoid some tracking by spammers (and mailer services). (You can find this setting in Mail > Preferences > Viewing)

However, I quickly grew tired of having to click the "Load remote content" (sic) button to display legit message properly. If there were a menu command for this (ahem, Apple) it would be simple to use a keyboard shortcut to accomplish this. Unfortunately, clicking is the only way to interact with this control.

When I searched the 'net for solutions, I found several complex AppleScript solutions to the problem. (You'll find them, too.) But these didn't appeal to me at all, so I turned to the excellent Keyboard Maestro instead. It turned out to be a stupidly simple problem to solve, as you can see in the one-step macro below.

macro by gordon meyer

Enjoy!

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: The Old-Time Saloon

Originally published in 1931, this edition is a delightful facsimile reprint by the University of Chicago Press. Also included are an enlightening introduction and helpful end-notes by Bill Savage.

The author, George Ade, is an under-appreciated Chicago reporter, humorist, and playwright. He was especially known for his ability to reflect the vernacular of the commoners in his work, which is very much in evidence in this book. True to his journalistic background, the subtitle of this book is “Not Wet — Not Dry, Just History,” by which Ade means that it is neither pro-alcohol (“wet”) nor anti-alcohol (“dry”). And throughout the book, which focuses on the saloon culture that was lost due to Prohibition, he sticks to his promise. It’s descriptive, factual, and fascinating, but presented without judgement.

gordon meyer with book

Without judgement, but with full appreciation and a definite mourning for what was lost. Since this was written during Prohibition, with no foreknowledge of its eventual repeal, the book is an interesting snapshot in time. And even though the country eventually broke free of its delusion and corrected the mistake, the corner saloon never returned in the same way.

There’s much here to like, and most of it is best read or retold over a drink, but here are a couple of things that stood out to me:

  • Ade describes a culture of saloon singing, much of it fueled by the popular Delaney Song Books. Some of my best college memories involve the drinking songs of my fraternity (Ade was a Greek, too) so this really spoke to me. Alas, today, one can’t break into a rousing group sing-a-long, unless you’re in a karaoke bar, I suppose.
  • Regarding the proliferation of tied houses in Chicago, the breweries were not very selective with whom they partnered. Many of their conscripted proprietors had to resort to underage peddling and other nefarious activities to stay afloat, thus fueling the anti-saloon movement that doomed their existence.
  • Closing saloons led to more drinking at home, which primarily consisted of cocktails (hard liquor) and not beer. A textbook unintended consequence.
  • The separation of “wet” and “dry” proponents was largely an urban vs rural divide. Echoing the political problems we still suffer with today.
  • Although I had read about this before, Ade provides some new (to me) detail about Mickey Finn, the bartender on South State Street, who originated the knockout drops that allowed ladies to rob paramours while they were unconscious.
  • The term “scofflaw” is a Prohibition coinage, referring to people who drank despite the Volstead Act and its enforcers.

I bought my copy at Quimby’s, but you can, of course, find it at the Amazon too.


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

Hotel Room Nightlight Hack

While some hotel rooms provide a night light in the bathroom, most do not. And for me, a nightlight is a necessity. Not just for late-night micturition, but also to help quickly resolve the feeling of “where the hell am I?” that sometimes happens when I wake up in the middle of the night.

So, I travel with a nightlight in my dopp kit. I use an inexpensive and bright night light (although I do wish it were less bulky). It’s cheap enough that I don’t beat myself up too badly when I accidentally leave it behind. But I hate it when that happens, so I came up with a technique that helps me remember to unplug and pack it before I depart.

gordon meyer nightlight

In the photo, you can see that I’ve attached a long, multi-colored string to the night light, using a piece of tape. (I got this rainbow string at Home Depot, but any dark-colored string would do the trick.) The idea is that a long, hanging string will catch my eye when I’m scanning the room to make sure that I’ve packed everything. This has worked for me 20+ room nights and counting, so maybe it will work for you, too.


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