Wisconsin Observations

Greetings from Manitowoc, Wisconsin — and the exact spot where Sputnik fell to earth.

gordon meyer standing

The second-best thing about Manitowoc was the “Ditto” antique store that’s in the back of the “Dead By Dawn” B&B. The former was charming and had some great locally sourced hand-carved figurines. The latter was closed, but the idea is just wonderful.

gordon meyer holding carved figure

We also visited the Sheboygan Indian Mounds Park. When we arrived, there were three cars in the parking lot. By the time we exited our car; we were the only ones there. (Hey, don’t leave on my account!) We saw not another (living) soul during our visit. We heard the trees speaking (which we recorded) as we followed a diminishing trail that crossed at least two dwellings that were reminiscent of those depicted on Sasquatch “documentaries.”

gordon meyer took this photo

Unexpectedly, there are contemporary houses that abut the mound area, giving truth to the trope about living on an ancient Indian burial ground. I wondered if a realtor would consider being on sacred ground a selling point.

burial mound gordon meyer

Because it was so quiet and peaceful, and seemingly welcoming, we decided to have our picnic lunch at the tables near the entrance. Unfortunately, the tables were covered with dirt and sap, so it was a standing meal.

mound sign gordon meyer

As we left, a tree in the yard across the street caught my eye. It seemed to take human-like form, but that may have been a trick of the light.

strange tree photo by gordon meyer

At the 3 Sheeps Brewery, which we visited before the mounds (so thus, could explain the tree thing), I was drawn to a vending machine that sold advertising cards which just happened to also be a game of chance.

gambling machine photo by gordon meyer

I couldn’t resist spending a dollar on a ticket. I was not a winner. But I enjoyed the 3 Sheeps beer, so I guess that’s a “win” of another sort.

ticket by gordon meyer



Not just for kidnappers

One of the most unsung, but most useful, things to add to your suitcase is a package of RediTape Duct Tape. It’s the regular duct tape you know and love, but comes in a reasonable length “flat pack” that makes it easy to pack. (You can get it in multiple colors, too. I prefer white, which looks less industrial than the typical silver tape.)

What will you use it for? You’ll surprise yourself at how many uses you discover. The adage that “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” becomes true — a good, strong piece of tape solves numerous problems: inside pants that need hemming or repair, suitcase and shoe repairs, first aid, automobile cabin rattles, tamper-evident bag seals, and hotel room peephole privacy covers. (Yes, it’s paranoid, but sadly actually happens.) I’m confident you’ll find even more ways to use it once you have it on hand.


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.



Hue headaches when traveling

I like Philips Hue lights — they form a mostly reliable branch in my standalone home automation strategy. (In other words, I don’t use them with HomeKit, but only because I prefer isolated systems for reliability. Keep reading for why.)

Unfortunately, the Hue system has a serious flaw that can bite you in the ass when you’re traveling. Namely, the hub firmware and the control/scheduling app have to remain in sync, but you can’t update the hub remotely.

So, when you’re away from home, never allow your Hue app to update itself. Doing so could create a situation where your entire Hue system is disabled until you return home and update the hub, too.

Until Philips fixes this, live in fear of an automatic update, or simply don’t rely on Hue as a key part of your home automation system. (See first paragraph, above.)



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


A visit to Amsterdam's Oudmanhuispoort (2019)

Gordon Meyer Old Man's House Passage

Oudmanhuispoort (Old Man’s House Passage) was part of an 18th Century senior citizen’s home. We learned about the place during a late-night “ghost tour” and vowed to visit the ancient market when it was open for business. Not too long after, a rainy day provided the perfect excuse.

In the mid 1880s this passageway became a place for vendors to sell music, books, and prints. That’s still going on today, although during our Tuesday morning visit most of the stalls were closed. One booth that was open sold nothing but used dictionaries — of every kind imaginable, such as “Biblical Greek.”

It’s said that Amsterdammer Vincent van Gogh was inspired by the Japanese prints he saw here, forever changing the course of Western art. The print vendor open on the day we visited had many great pieces to choose from, at very reasonable prices. Two (a Pooka, and a Water Fairy) will be making their way back home to Chicago with us, which poses a new challenge for our luggage situation, but we’ll do our best. (Update: We visited again, and while more booths were open that time, it was still fairly sparse. Perhaps September is off-season for the market.)

Gordon Meyer Old Man Prints Purchase

The shop’s owner was a charming lady whose only U.S. visit has been to Los Angelas, so she had a few questions about Chicago, which she said was one of her best-selling old map prints.

Postscript: The passageway and surrounding buildings are now home to the University of Amsterdam’s School of Law, which makes clear their view of interlopers in classic passive voice:

Gordon Meyer Amsterdam Schol of Law