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!

11/10/17: Two days ago, we had the first real cold snap of the year. As I was walking into work from the parking lot, I heard sounds in the trees as if hundreds of squirrels were running around. It took me a second to realize that the many leaves that were remaining on the trees had frozen overnight and were snapping off and falling through the branches, making the sounds I was hearing. As I approached the building I worked in, I noticed that the color of the leaves had turned, seemingly overnight, so I took a picture of the area in front of the front door. I then turned around and saw the rising sun had illuminated the tops of the trees, an effect that I always liked, so I snapped a picture of that as well to share with Stephie.
     Two days later, I was walking in and saw an entirely different scene. The leaves were almost entirely gone from the trees, and even more surprisingly, gone from the ground as well. I turned around and while the difference was not as obvious as in front of the building, the leaves were gone from larger trees as well, and again, most of the leaves were gone from the lawns. Kudos to the grounds team for their quick work.

10/20/17: Many of you know that I'm a fan of old movies, and as an extension, old movie theatres. We had an old, beat-up local theatre (the Brighton Theatre on Archer Ave.) in our neighborhood when we were growing up, and I saw many a movie there on the big screen, especially once I was old enough to walk there myself. The Brighton is gone, torn down as so many of the neighborhood movie palaces have been, but I still get excited when I get a chance to go to one of the few remaining theatres from the cinema's golden age.
     I had one such opportunity today, as Stephie and I made the trek up to Waukegan to see Chris Issac perform at the Genesee Theatre. The Genesee was built in 1927 and had shown films until 1982, then sat unused until 1999, when the city of Waukegan bought it. They made many changes, both inside and out, but it still retains some of the feel of the movie palace it once was. I don't think they have the ability to show films any more, but it's a great place to see a band play, and Chris Issac put on an excellent show.
     But if you go, you need to stop by the lounge on the second floor. We were there early, and were milling around, looking at the decor, when someone suggested we go upstairs. On the second floor, in what looks to have been a lounge for the theatregoers, they have a display of memorabilia relating to the building's history and past life showing films. They have the console from the pipe organ that was used when silent films were shown. There are blow-ups of newspaper articles, from the theatre's grand opening to when the manager invited John Dillinger to watch a film there (and claims that he actually attended!) There are reels of film and film cannisters to show how movies had to be transported to the theatre to be shown. I highly recommend spending a few minutes there if you find yourself in Waukegan for a concert.
     While I was marvelling at the blow-ups of the architectural diagrams of the theatre, I struck up a conversation with the security guard posted there. We talked about the demise of the local movie theatres, and how I try to visit the remaining ones when I can. He said that his family ran a theatre in Twin Lakes, WI, which is a coincidence because my aunt and uncle had a vacation home there when we were kids, and we visited there at least once a year. I don't remember a theatre there, but then he said, "And my brother used to manage a theatre on the south side. It was called the Brighton." I said, "That was the theater in my neighborhood when I was a kid!" He said, "Yeah, what a shithole," to which I replied, "Yeah, but it was our shithole."

10/18/17: There has been a trend in recent years of people taking pictures of their food and posting them on on social media. Thinking it a frivolous waste of time, I never thought that I would do such a thing, but that's exactly what I have for you today. Here's a picture of one of my favorite lunches.
     Years ago, I discovered that I really liked the Mild sauce that Taco Bell provides in little packets for use on their fare. I would go there regularly for lunch (there was one nearby work) and would always grab a handful of Mild sauce packets that would wind up in my desk drawer, for use primarily on McDonald's Breakfast Burritos. I always felt a little guilty about taking so many, and was happy when I found bottles of the official Taco Bell Mild sauce on the shelves of our local Jewel. I usually buy a couple at a time just so I have one handy.
     Around the same time, I discovered Trader Joe's Fat Free Bean and Rice Burritos. No, they're nowhere near the quality of a decent Mexican restaurant, but they're inexpensive, filling, and although a little high in sodium, not as bad for you as many frozen meals. Perfect for taking to work for a quick lunch. And I found that a little Taco Bell Mild sauce gave it a little boost, flavor-wise.
     I've been eating this combo for years, but recently, I've had an epiphany. I've been trying to add more veggies to my diet, so I've taken to buying bags of frozen veggies and heating them up to have with my sandwiches at work. Recently, I had a half a bag of corn in the fridge at work swo I thought I'd add it to my burrito dish. It may not look that appealing, but the flavor was outstanding. It added a sweetness to the dish that I didn't realize was missing. Now, when I bring the TJ Burritos to work, I make sure I have some corn in the freezer to top it off. What a combination!

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!

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