I love Opuntia compressa.

I love Oppuntia compressa var. humifusa.

This is Chicago’s native cactus species. Yes, there is a native cactus species! You can see it growing wild in Hegewisch or cultivated in Rick Bayless’ urban garden.

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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I love hearing Lee Crooks.

If you watch TV or listen to the radio in the USA, you have probably heard Lee Crooks. As of this posting, you might hear him in national spots for  companies as diverse as Wrangler,  Argosy University, and Kohler in addition to narration on the Discovery Channel. Mr. Crooks also lent his voice to three Thomas the Tank Engine books.

If you live in Chicago or have used its public transit recently, you might also know Mr. Crooks best as the voice of the CTA. While I occasionally miss the old voice and style of the L announcements (watching tourists get a confused look as she announced, “This is Chicago” brought a few smiles to my face), Mr. Crooks isn’t too shabby. In fact, this video shows that he is a hard-working professional who loves his job. Plus, how great is it that the voice of the CTA actually rides the CTA?

I hope our trains will play his sonorous voice at every stop for many years.

I love Malort faces.

There is a Flickr pool devoted to them here, Buzzfeed has a list of them here, and John Hodgman wants you to make one.

You might have some questions. What, exactly, is this stuff? Why is everybody making faces? Why are they drinking it if they know they are going to make a face?

Jeppson’s Malort is like absinthe’s black sheep of a cousin. Made from wormwood but without a charming anise flavor or an association with heavyweights of art and literature (who also happened to be heavyweight drinkers), Malort will likely never be sipped in cute cafes or called any kind of fairy. It is in a family of beverages called brännvin, which translates from Swedish to English as “burn-wine.” No, really, try it!

IMG_3513

Here is my Malort face.

 

My bartender described the flavor to me as the flavor you might get in your mouth if you pass out face-down on some chemically-treated grass. I found it reminiscent of hair spray with a furniture polish aftertaste. Allegedly it aids digestion after consumption of fatty foods, but I tried it mainly because I could, and for the novelty of the experience. You can only make a Malort face in or around Chicago, because you can only get Malort in and around Chicago.

Here are three of my favorite Malort faces.

From seriouseats.com.

From flickr.com.

From flickr.com.

Tip: when attempting to document a Malort face, wait a few seconds after the drinker finishes. The full force of the flavor takes a little time to manifest. Be a friend; offer some water.