Welcome to our web site. For more information about Stephie's art, please also check out artbystephie.com.
For Matt's writing projects, please go to storiesbymatt.net. Enjoy your visit here!

10/02/17: I've written in the past about problems I've had with news aggregators on the Internet. Whether it's truncated headlines or stale links, it seems that the material presented could benefit from some better programming, or at least someone looking at the results. I spotted another one yesterday, right in the middle of coverage of the horrifying attack on concertgoers in Las Vegas. Can someone please explain to me what the algorithm was that thought that "ashley simpson naked pictures" was somehow related to a maniac with military-style weapons shooting up the Las Vegas strip?

09/14/17: News item I saw today said that Grant Hart, drummer and co-songwriter for punk rock band Hüsker Dü, had passed away. It seems that we're losing musicians at a faster clip lately, which kind of makes sense I guess, seeing as how none of us is getting any younger, and the rigors of a rock 'n' roll lifestyle will eventually take their toll.
     I was never a big fan of Hüsker Dü, but years ago, on the strength of a glowing review (possibly in Trouser Press) I bought a cassette of their then-current release Warehouse: Songs and Stories. This was back when I would buy pre-recorded cassettes of things that I figured I would listen to primarily in the car. I think I listened to it once through and put it away. There were a few songs on there that I thought were not bad, but overall I was disappointed, especially after the high praise heaped on the album in that review.
     Not long after, Hüsker Dü broke up, and the other songwriter in the band, Bob Mould, released a few albums that I found to be more accessible than the Hüsker Dü one I bought. I don't know if I heard anything more from Hart, although I now see that he's had a number of releases in the years since the band broke up. In that time, however, I occasionally saw references to the Warehouse album, almost unanimously in positive terms. Sometimes when I would run across a mention of it, I would pull the tape out and give it another listen. I don't think I ever listened to it more than once through before again putting it away, many times not even listening to all the tracks.
     But then a funny thing happened. A year or two ago, I put Warehouse on my phone to listen to (having converted the cassette to MP3 many years ago) and discovered that I recognized almost all of the 20 tracks, to the point where I was singing along with many of them. And I looked up the album on the web and found that a few of the songs I liked best ("Charity, Chastity, Prudence, and Hope" and "She Floated Away") were actually Grant Hart compositions. I don't know that my musical tastes have changed all that much, or if just by giving it a listen ever few years, the album has grown on me, but I think I finally see what prompted all those positive reviews. And that makes Grant Hart's passing a little sadder to me.

08/29/17: One of my heroes, Ron Fortier of Airship 27 productions, liked my latest novel, The Sleep Detectives Go To Washington, and wrote a review of it on his blog site. You can read the review here.

08/26/17: Stephie and I went to an art fair that we'd never been to before. The Bucktown Arts Fest was held, predictably from the name, in and around a park in Bucktown, an area on the north side of Chicago. The fest was centered in Holstein Park but actually spread out down several streets in the neighborhood. It was surprisingly not that hard to find parking and there were lots of interesting art booths to see. There was also a row of food trucks and a few stages of music. It was a really nice show, and Stephie said that she might try to get a spot there, as it seemed to be more fine art and less crafts than many of our local shows.
     The thing that impressed me the most, though, was the band playing on one of the stages. The tent was way at the end of one of the streets, well past the last art booth in that direction. The sign pointing there said "New Roots Jazz Stage," and not knowing what that meant, we thought we'd walk down to check it out.
     When we reached the stage, there was a quartet on stage, and six people in the audience, but the music was fantastic! It was kind of vintage jazz and blues, the type of stuff that novelty acts like Leon Redbone used to play, or more recently the Squirrel Nut Zippers. There was a woman playing guitar and singing, a guy playing a washboard, another guy playing a trumpet, and a guy at the back playing what I learned was a sousaphone. The band was Myra and the Moonshiners and after their set, we bought a CD. It was only after we got home and I looked them up on the Internet that I discovered that they're from Minnesota, so the odds of seeing them again are not high. Still, at least we have the CD!

08/21/17: The last near-total solar eclipse visible in the Chicago area was in May of 1994. I remember I was working in Downers Grove at the time, and we went outside to witness the spectacle. None of us had any special glasses or anything, although some had the pinholes-in-cardboard devices, which was supposed to be the safest way of seeing what was going on in the sky. It was a beautiful, cloudless day, and I recall that pinhole gizmo not working really well, but you knew something was going on even without looking up because the daylight noticeably decreased.
     It was weird because it was not dark like a bunch of clouds rolled in to obscure the sun. You could tell the sun was still shining, but the light was dim. The main thing I remember was when someone noticed the shadows on the ground. Where the sun was shining through the trees, there were hundreds of little crescents on the ground, each showing a tiny eclipse. Of course, this was before everyone had cameras in their phones (or even before everyone had phones in their pockets) so I don't have any pictures of that effect.
     The '94 eclipse was 94% coverage. The eclipse today was supposed to be 87% complete, not as much as last time, and since I'm working at the Chicago Botanic Garden, there are plenty of trees around to fiter the light so there still should be plenty of examples that I can get a picture similar to what I saw 23 years ago. Near the time of totality, we emerged from our basement lair and walked the Garden. The place was packed, and most people had these cardboard glasses that the Garden was giving out in conjunction with the Adler Planetarium. It looked like we were in a drive-in with hundreds of people watching a 3-D movie!.
     Alas, the weather did not cooperate this year, as just before totality, clouds rolled in and obscured our view of the sun. Just before the clouds got really thick, you could easily see the crescent shape of the sun without any protective eye-wear. Shortly afterward, the clouds took over and it became just another cloudy day. I don't know how long people stayed, hoping to get another glimpse of the last, best eclipse of our lifetime, but I was disappointed I didn't get a picture of the tiny eclipses on the ground.

08/16/17: I was at work today when I got a recorded-message call from "Credit Card Services", offering to reduce my debt. As directed by the friendly message, I pressed '9' to speak with a representative. A woman came on the line and asked me, "Are you responding to the offer of a free consultation?" I replied, "No, I'm responding to the unsolicited phone call I just got," but before I could say anything more, she hung up on me. How rude! It's almost as if she thought I was wasting her time.

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