• Bodum coffee grinder handle hack

    They all laughed at me at the invention symposium (that I dreamed up in my head) when I showed them that it could be done! I installed a handle to my coffee grinder and emerged vindicated and victorious. The handle was real. The vindication was imagined.

    For nearly a year now my Bodum Bistro electric burr coffee grinder has been a source of frustration. Not in grinding coffee beans to be brewed into delicious perfection, but at the struggle I went through each time I had to pull it out of a below cupboard. It has gripping dots on the rear of it that insufficiently provides hand traction to help raise out with one hand.

    Two weeks ago I wrote an email to the Bodum company, headquartered in Switzerland and the manufacturer of these coffee grinders and got a satisfactory response thanking me for my suggestion of a new design. I described a grippable, ergonomically fit handle on the backside of the appliance.

    "Thank you for your feedback. Please consider that it will be sent to our design team so they can consider it." See? Satisfactory. But what Tiago S., a member of the customer service team who responded to my suggestion, isn't considering himself is that I will send him photos of the engineered handle on the back of my Bodum Bistro electric burr coffee grinder and that it has become a resounding success in my household.

    The installation of the Ace Hardware black utility pull handle came with great risk. I could have cracked the outer plastic by drilling 4 screws into it. The screws might have bored too deep into the cylinder and interfered with the grinding mechanism. The handle could have been too flimsy for the size and weight of the grinder. The risk was worth the reward. But what of my invention symposium colleagues residing in my head? Those people, they will laugh no more.

  • John Stamos offers to play 'Chachi', Scott Baio not amused

    When former cast members Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Don Most, Anson Williams and Marion Ross of the 70's sit-com Happy Days announced plans to do an on-line Happy Days reunion fundraiser for Wisconsin Democrats, John Stamos noticed a missing actor from the popular show.

    Scott Baio, who himself played Chachi on Happy Days over 30 years ago and is the biggest star the Trump campaign can muster, didn't take either announcement well.

    Baio tweeted, "Shouldn't he be taking care of Aunt Becky?" mocking Stamos and his Full House co-star Lori Loughlin and her legal troubles. Then added: "This is what Hollywood has come to. #shameful #LiberalsAreDesperate"

    As a Happy Days nerd I do not feel bad for Baio and his sham acting being left out. Maybe his little feelings are hurt. Too bad. You picked your Trump poison now stop whining. And, Chachi, you burned down Arnold's and that is unforgivable (this is a deep dive into the Happy Days-verse. Sorry).

  • Same-sex civil unions supported by Pope Francis

    In the upcoming documentary, "Francesco", Pope Francis breaks from traditional Catholic Church doctrine and speaks about his belief in legal unions between same-sex partners.

    Washington Post:

    "What we have to create is a civil union law," he said.

    Francis has long expressed an interest in outreach to the church's LGBT followers, but his remarks have often stressed general understanding and welcoming — rather than substantive policies.

    Priests in some parts of the world bless same-sex marriage, but that stance — and Francis's new remarks — are a departure from official church teaching.

  • Delicious snack resembles dried Play-Doh

    I love these Ancient Grain Twists. Not just for the spicy chili kick they provide. Not just the attempt to make my snacking seem healthy by adding turmeric. But, the sentimental thing I love is the shape of each stick. It takes me back to childhood and pushing Play-Doh through the Fun Factory molds. It's the "shooting star" shape I associate with the Ancient Grain Twists specifically. Remember pushing the Play-Doh through those molds and then dropping everything to go watch cartoons, only to find them all dried into chalky hardened artifacts a day later? That is exactly what Ancient Grain Twists look like, except they're delicious.

    The ancient grains the package speaks of is chia and quinoa, although there was a 2018 lawsuit disputing that. Quinoa, by the way, is pronounced "Keen-wa". I do not write this as a condescension but as a service in the event you do not know. I need to save you the possible embarrassment I suffered in a Whole Foods a few years ago when I pronounced it "Kwin-oh-uh", after only having read it in print. The clerk laughed at me, but I deserved it.

  • Facebook post leads to Nazi-stolen painting returned to Jewish family

    The Arkell Museum in upstate New York posted a picture on its Facebook page of its painting "Winter" by American artist Gari Melchers, unaware that the Mosse family of Berlin originally owned it before fleeing Germany in 1933. It was pilfered and resold by Nazis.

    A student working with Dr. Meike Hoffmann of the Free University of Berlin spotted the post. Hoffmann leads the Mosse Art Research Initiative in reclaiming the more than 1,000 pieces of art and artifacts the Mosse family lost when the Nazis came into power.

    The Arkell Museum fully cooperated and handed the painting over to FBI agents. It is finally being given back to the family after a yearlong delay due to the pandemic. "Winter" is expected to fetch hundreds of thousands at auction this December through Sotheby's.

    The next time fake news and bots and misinformed uncles crowd your Facebook feed and you're ready to pitch it, consider that there's also puppies, babies and finding justice against the Nazis too.

  • Man urinates on other passenger on red-eye flight

    When you're a pastor from North Carolina taking a late night flight leaving Las Vegas, consider urinating in the airplane bathroom and not on your fellow passenger while she sleeps. Alicia Beverly of Detroit woke up to a warm liquid splashing on her leg.

    "I jump up and I seen his private area out and I screamed and that woke everybody up," she told Fox 2 Detroit. "By that time I actually looked at him and I see him shake himself off and I'm like this man just peed on me! I looked and there was a puddle of pee in the seats!"

    The pastor's camp claimed he had an adverse reaction to a sleep aid, but he was taken into custody and charges are pending.

  • Two-headed shark caught off the coast of India

    Nature found a way to make those terrified of sharks even more worried about the ocean. A shark with two heads (previously at BB). Two damn heads! Fortunately, the bi-noggined fish was a spadenose shark, which at its full mature size is just over two feet long. After taking the requisite pictures the Indian fisherman released it back to the Arabian Sea waters and into your nightmares. That's right, it is still out there, and most assuredly coming for you.

    Feature photo by TheAgent41 Posted in 2-Headed Shark

  • Taco Bell fans fight to save menu favorite

    A pandemic. An election. A Supreme Court. A Mexican pizza. These pressing issues are on the minds of Americans and one is causing over 120,000 of them to mobilize and sign a petition on change.org, established by Krish Jagirdar. Yes, the Mexican pizza is under siege, and its fans have waged a counter strike against Taco Bell.

    From Yahoo:

    In September, the fast-food franchise announced a series of menu cuts that, depending on your love for pico de gallo, may have been pretty heartbreaking.

    Pico de gallo aside, the most painful announcement seemed to involve Mexican Pizza. The dish, which is essentially a large, round taco topped with pizza sauce, tomatoes and cheese, will leave the menu in early November.

    Between now and November, Taco Bell will either respect the will of the people or plow forward with their own plans. Is Taco Bell toying with their devout clients to boost its profile, forcing them to fight for menu items they hold dear? If Coca-cola's history of switching to "New Coke" and then switching back to "Classic Coke" tells us anything, it's that taking something away from your base, only to give it back, is not the worst marketing ploy.

  • Ethan Hawke as abolitionist John Brown in The Good Lord Bird

    Showtime's The Good Lord Bird gives a riotous 7-episode ride through the end of abolitionist John Brown's controversial life, stunningly portrayed by Ethan Hawke.

    In anticipation of a great television series I found the real John Brown's bible, and letters he had written, available for perusal at the Chicago History Museum. Brown's final note, scrawled the day he was to hang, an almost precognitive warning of the coming Civil War and what was inevitable to end slavery.

    Charlestown, Va, 2nd December 1859

    I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty, land: will never be purged away; but with Blood. I had as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed; it might be done.

    John Brown's bible.

    James McBride's book The Good Lord Bird is the basis for the series. McBride uses satire and comedy to feature the great African-American statesman Frederick Douglass played by Daveed Diggs, as well as Ethan Hawke's John Brown.

    "I got seduced by McBride's voice. I couldn't stop laughing," Hawke told Rolling Stone magazine in a September interview.

    If I found anything humorous about the real John Brown it was in one particular letter he wrote to his family on October 20th, 1857. Nearly the entire letter admonishing them for not writing back (not an uncommon frustration parents still have). Can it be that you have all done writing me, Brown guilt-tripped.

    He then meticulously listed the 5 other dates he had sent letters to receive not one response. Yes, John Brown, as a parent, I understand.

  • Attempt to make Turkish coffee in tiny sauce pot ends in failure

    If you think you're going to make a fine cup of Turkish coffee (replete with cardamom and a mint leaf floater) in a pot, you are shamefully wrong. I tried it. Hideous.

    My wife uses a tiny sauce pot (above) to scramble an egg, even though we have suitable frying pans. I call it the "egg pot". The Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent knows that only a complete oaf would think he could make a good Turkish coffee in an egg pot!

    You need an ibrik. For God and country, you NEED an ibrik. In 1540, Suleiman had coffee at the palace ground by a mortar and brewed in an ibrik. This simple culinary tool has been crafting the world's finest brews ever since. Copper crafted and adorned with decorative imprints, a long handle and a pouring spout. This is going to take your Turkish coffee from "egg pot" to perfection.

    Get an ibrik immediately, then step onto your front porch and heave your egg pot as far away from your home as possible.

  • Woman takes bar exam while in labor

    If any union needs a tough adjudicator, someone who knows how to power through tumultuous situations, they might start with Brianna Hill, a law student at Loyola University in Chicago who took her bar exam while in labor. [ABC7 News]

    Hill started taking the bar exam remotely from her home, due to the Covid pandemic's in-person test-taking restrictions, when she went into labor.

    She dealt with her pain and water-breaking issues, finished the first part of the 2-day exam and then went to the hospital. The next day she was allowed to take the second portion of the test from a private room where she breastfed her newborn. She recovered from delivery, nursed her son and completed her bar exam; Hill gets her results in December.

  • The naming of 'Inside Vladimir'

    Kevin Reome has been an improv instructor at The Second City Training Center in Chicago since 2005. Reome's written, directed, produced, performed in many scripted and improvised shows (The Eulogist, Rahm Zombie, Jam Sandwich, Lightfoot Loose) and teaches improv workshops around the country and in corporate settings.

    In 1994 I took improv classes at Improv Olympic and was eventually put on a performance team by the owner Charna Halpern. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were also on that team, along with about 10 other dudes at the start. Generically we were named "Team A" and tasked to come up with an actual team name.

    There were five of us at The Naming. Tina and Poehler were neither of the five. They were invited. Everyone was invited, but only 5 could make it. The plan was to meet over drinks and name our improv team. We met at the Old Town Ale House across from The Second City Chicago. The Ale House—the obvious choice to meet for such an occasion. This dank bar was, and is, the perfect extension of improv. It is warm booze and late nights and Tamale Guy and edgy wall art and improv students and improv professionals and a great after-show watering hole. It's where improv gets discussed but also provides a distraction from it. One time a friend saw Robert Plant there.
    "Did you snap a picture of him?" I asked.
    "No. That's why he went to the Ale House." Plant and my friend shared the code of the Ale House. Let people be.

    Our group sat at the sticky front table looking out across North Avenue. Me. Ross Foti. Jason Weisberger. Martin Gobee. Andy Cobb. I drove and picked some people up, and I remember Cobb taunting me from the backseat of my car with his new belly button piercing, relishing how bad it smelled. He used the word "horrific" and said, "Reome, you gotta smell this," threatening to put his navel-crusty finger under my nose.
    "Get away! I will wreck this car!" I yelled.

    In case you don't know, getting together with other new improvisers, who are comedy superstars in their own minds, to name a team, is equal to threading a needle in low light—you might get it, but it's going to be frustrating for a long time. My advice? Hang out or rehearse with your improv friends and let whatever inside joke present itself. That's your name. Here are some of my improv classes names, all borne out of hilarious scenes: "Dinosaur Triplets! Rawr!", "70 Alcohols", "Savvy As Balls". The key is, let the name come to you. This must be true for music bands too.

    Going into The Naming I armed myself with one single "clever" name ready to present to my cohorts. I really thought I had a winner and we were going to be done early. I let that one rip right at the top.
    "In Through The Outhouse!"
    "Hm."
    That was the collective response to just about everything anybody put out there.
    "Pull!"
    BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

    All of our clay pigeon offerings were shot immediately after being launched.

    I spotted the marquee of the Piper's Alley movie theater, which used to operate where Second City's Harold Ramis Film School is now. Two of the art house movies showing were "Farewell My Concubine" and "The Snapper". The entire names of those movies couldn't fit on the marquee so it said "Farewell" and under that "My Snapper".

    "I've got it! There it is! Our team name is "Farewell My Snapper!" I said.

    BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

    Barely a consideration. Sometimes silence hovered over the table, an awkward respite. Five dudes staring listlessly towards the center of the table, desperately searching their twenty-something brains for anything remotely clever.

    "I saw…a title in a video machine last week," I said lethargically. "It was me and Clampitt. We were at J. J. Peppers, that convenience store on Belmont and Sheffield. There was this enormous, like, vending machine, but for movies."

    Remember, this was 1994. Redbox was not nearly a thing yet. We hadn't seen anything like this self serve video system. Now, think of how big a VHS cassette is. This thing not only had a decent selection of current movies in a giant windowed case, but they also had an adult section. It was just like getting your pizza flavored Combos out of a vending machine, but instead of the untwisting coil to release your treat, this monstrosity had its own way. It sent a robot claw on a track to grab your movie and drop it to the bottom door for retrieval. Jeff Clampitt (Jeff was on the team, but not at The Naming) and I entertained ourselves with the names of the adult films. One of these titles came to me at the Old Town Ale House that night.

    "…vending machine, but for movies," I paused. "Shoot, I wanna get it right. Let me think." I knew it was a Russian name and I almost said "Dmitri". "Inside Dmitri" could have been our name? I'm glad I got that right. A second later it came to me.

    "Inside Vladimir."
    The table exploded with laughter.
    "That's it!" someone said.
    "What? Are you serious?"

    Now, Jason Weisberger was the toughest critic at The Naming. His double-barreled skeet-shooting shotgun had a few extra barrels. He didn't play, and would let you know how bad your suggestion sucked. Refreshing yet daunting.
    "You know it's a gay porn…" I said.
    "Yeah, we know," Jason said through a laugh.

    Let me be completely honest here. I still think porn movie titles with filthy spins on mainstream movies can be funny. Do I think gay titles make it funnier or more edgy? I don't. Now. Unfortunately, my nascent Chicago self then did. I'm not exactly proud of that and we know what all of my excuses would be but, let's not. I'm still evolving. Apologies to all LGBTQ friends from my ignorant, immature younger self.

    Our work that night was done. We had our name. Or did we? I would have to run it by Tina the next day (couldn't immediately text her, because…1994). Martin, Amy Poehler's roommate, would tell her that night. The 5 bros at the Ale House might have thought they came up with the perfect name but what if they were just being knuckleheads? I called Tina the following day. She had a bit of Jason's critical edge to her and could easily blow this one out of the air and send us back to the Old Town drawing board. Nervously, I told her. She burst out laughing. Again, I responded with, "Seriously? You're good with that?"
    "Yeah, it's hilarious," she said.
    "Ok, then."

    Our giddiness on the night we first used that name was embarrassing. We could barely contain ourselves, like 3 year-olds with a big secret. We were at the 2nd floor stage at the Wrigleyside bar on Clark Street. Downstairs was a total sports bar. Upstairs—a very fun improv stage with cool curves and levels. We were the opening team for the house team, probably Mr. Blonde. We fidgeted nervously in the back by the bathrooms when Charna took the stage to introduce the night's show.
    "Oh my God. She's gonna say it."
    "Did you tell her our name?"
    "Yes. I just told her."
    "I can't believe it. She has to say it now."

    "…let's bring up our first team of the night…Inside Vladmir?" Charna said inquisitively through a smile.

    "She said it!" we squealed like nitwits. We took to the stage and turned in a delightfully lackluster sub par performance.

    In the coming weeks Jeff Clampitt hosted an Inside Vladimir get-together with chili and drinks, to really solidify the group. He lived on Sheffield near Belmont, very close to the infamous J.J. Peppers. On the way to Clampitt's place I went there to buy beer with another person from the team. I'm not sure who I was with, but I was excited to show them our namesake in the video vending machine. I pointed to the right area and…it was gone. Checked out. An empty slot where it once sat. We returned to Clampitt's and once everyone had arrived (yes, Tina and Amy were both there) Martin Gobee made an announcement to the group.

    "I have a little surprise for everyone," and he pulled out a VHS cassette that said "Inside Vladimir" on the label. "We're watching it. Right now." And he put it in the VCR.

    "YOU checked it out! We saw the empty slot at the store. Dammit, I should have known," I said.

    The film started out with a buff guy doing lat pull downs on a chrome exercise machine. The voiceover was a man with a Russian accent. "I came to this country from Russia…" and the full title of the film came on screen. "Inside Vladimir Correa." A big star in the adult film world? Apparently. The spine of the tape didn't allow for the full title to be printed or we might have had a longer name.

    Again, the movie was not any more horrifying because of the gay sex, it was just the idea of watching any kind of naked activity in a group setting that was thrilling and anxious and uncomfortable for people of that age and in that time. We yelled and pitched in unison as if we were going up and down the hills of a rollercoaster with what was on the screen. And for the record, toe-sucking, hetero or otherwise, was no one's favorite, but that was how the movie opened. We screamed.

    In the coming weeks we became a legitimate house team at Improv Olympic. The evening we took our team photo standing in Lake Michigan we also performed later that same night and Inside Vladimir took a major step forward. We were trying out a new long-form, inspired by what Del Close was teaching us at the time. We didn't yet have a name for it but as the sun set on Oak Street Beach and the city lights slowly came on, the pink neon "The Drake" sign (The Drake Hotel) appeared and we named our form after it. We went to iO on Belmont and performed a "Drake". Charna exploded saying, "You did it! That was unbelievable!" and uncharacteristically hugged us all afterward and the name became more than just an infantile snickering innuendo. I think we all started to forget what it came from and were proud of the team we became. Tina and Amy just kept getting better week after week and helped Inside Vladimir be a reliably funny team at iO. Seeing those two with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show several years later, explaining the Inside Vladimir name and mentioning J.J. Peppers was such a surreal culmination to the whole thing. Our Lake Michigan team photo on page 106 of Poehler's book, that's pretty good too.

    Here is the full list of Inside Vladimir players in 1994:

    • Jeff Ahern
    • Jeff Clampitt
    • Andy Cobb
    • Tina Fey
    • Ross Foti
    • Charles Glen
    • Martin Gobee
    • Jim Jarvis
    • Mike Meiners
    • Amy Poehler
    • Kevin Reome
    • Jason Weisberger
    • Witt (cannot remember last name)