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.


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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.)


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Another reason not to go to Alabama

Dumbasté -- the moron in me recognizes the moron in you.

Alabama fails to reverse ban on school yoga as conservatives say they fear rise in Hinduism

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Is that a haunted bell in your pocket?

The fun mailing list "What's In Your Bag?" provides insight into what I carry when conducting bizarre walking tours in my Chicago neighborhoods. Go ahead, peek into my man purse, I don't mind (this time): What's In My Bag? -- Gordon Meyer -- Issue 74.

gordon meyer bag photo

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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

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My favorite bag; my favorite things

gordon meyer tour bab photo

Each week, "What's in My Bag?" features one interesting person and the four favorite things in their bag. Here is my contribution to this fun list. Thanks to every one at Cool Tools for the opportunity.

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

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

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

A true story from Amsterdam (2019)

Gordon Meyer holding a guitar pick

We had a “date” to meet Kay and Flo for drinks the day after our joint nighttime dinner cruise of the Amsterdam canals. Gale and I arrived early and settled in at “Bar Americain” at the American Hotel. (The fact that we were early will surprise few of you.)

The walls of the bar are filled, corner to corner, with framed 8 × 10 photos of celebrities. Gale immediately recognized a few — such as Boy George — and as we waited for the arrival of the server we tentatively identified several more, including Slash.

Our server, Roger, confirmed many of our guesses and explained the photos were all taken in the bar. (I was wrong about Lenny Kravitz, it was a Dutch singer that Roger assured me I’d never heard of.) Gale and I were both surprised at how bad Billy Idol looked and would have never recognized him. And of course there was no mistaking the boys from Texas, ZZ Top.


One of my favorites, which Gale spotted, was a young Dweezil Zappa.


Dweezil Zappa photo

Kay and Flo — who were staying at the hotel — said they heard that it was soon to become a Hard Rock property. Which makes sense, given the rock star appeal. A guest book in the lobby displayed the signatures of UB40, who were playing in town that weekend.

Roger did a good job of keeping us well served and told us, when asked, that he was a true native, having been born just a few blocks away. He also offered Kay and Flo a couple of tips for their next destination, Barcelona.

As we left I gave Roger a Bucktown pin, and he gratefully reciprocated with a Bar Americain guitar pick.

We had a great time visiting with Flo and Kay. We left them well after dark (despite intentions otherwise) and had a long walk back to our canalboat, in a heavy rain. But it was worth the experience and friendship, both new and old. I’m hoping we get back to see Roger again before we leave.


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: Londonist Mapped

It was only the second day of our long trip across Great Britain and Europe and here I was at Waterstones in Kensington purchasing a large-format book. Bless my wife for putting up with my impulse to buy it. (But she made it clear that I was the one who would have to stow it until we had a chance to send it home.)

Gordon Meyer Londonist Mapped Book

The hassle of hauling, and eventually mailing, “Londonist: Mapped” was worth it. It’s a self-described book of “Hand drawn Maps for the Urban Explorer,” which is accurate, but it isn’t until you page through the book that you discover how quirky and enchanting the contents truly are. Londonist.com commissioned many artists to create the maps and each one offers and different style and perspective on the city. It’s impossible to pick a favorite, but “Things you might not have done near Brick Lane,” “A banker’s pub crawl,” and “A guide to tube pedantry” are all fascinating. And as a visitor, the brief but enlightening text that accompanies each map made me feel more knowledgable than I am.

Now that we’re back home in the U.S. — and locked in our mandated self-quarantine — opening this book not only takes me back to happy memories, it also reminds me that things to love and appreciate are everywhere underfoot.

If you’re fortunate enough to be a Londoner, I suspect that you’ll love this book. If, like me, you only get to enjoy London occasionally, get this book now and you’ll have a greater appreciation when you’re there, and happy daydreams of visits until you return. You can order a copy here at 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