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!

10/14/16: Another picture from one of my walks through the neighborhood. This one is of some Halloween decorations that I saw in a window. It's obviously some window clings from a package, but I've never seen anything like this in the store of I would have bought it for the sheer genius of it. I mean, Frankenstein's Monster, Dracula, and the Wolfman are all common faces you might see in a Haloween display, but Bud Abbott and Lou Costello? (Click on the picture for a closer look.)

10/08/16: Today we celebrated the four year anniversary of the writers group that I run at the Tamale Hut Café. Because I think like this, I calculated a few statistics for the group. In four years, we’ve had 48 monthly meetings. We have 58 people on our mailing list. We’ve had 47 different attendees at our meetings, and we have critiqued 324 pieces! Besides myself, we have three members who have attended more than 22 meetings in a row, and except for a few people who only attended one or two meetings, there is only one attendee who has contributed a story to every meeting he attended.
     There were 11 people at today's meeting, so our fourth year is starting strong. We will also be the feature at the next Reading Series night at the THC on Oct. 22, where we will be presenting the results of a group project that we've been working on for the past several months. If anyone is interested in joining, check out our blog site and get yourself on the mailing list. We're having lots of fun.

10/07/16: Stephie and I were on our daily walk at about 9 A.M., piling up the steps on the ol' Fitbit, when we saw this little guy relaxing on someone's lawn. At first I thought it was someone's dog off his leash, but the more we looked, it seemed to us that it was a coyote. After a bit, he got up and walked away and we could clearly see it was a coyote. It's a little sad to see them in an urban area instead of in the woods somewhere, but I guess they have to rest somewhere.

09/30/16: Kisu would have turned 15 today. At least once a day, something reminds me that she's not with us any more. Seeing someone walking a dog. Looking behind the furniture and still seeing clumps of dog hair. Sitting quietly at my computer and thinking that I see some movement out of the corner of my eye like when she used to some into get me. Lying in bed, before I drift off to sleep, I imagine I hear tiny footfalls in the apartment somewhere. She was not a large dog, but her passing has left an enormous hole in our lives. I still think about her every day, but more so today. Happy Birthday, pumpkin.

09/21/16: Today, we went shopping at Target. Stephie had two gift cards (one for $50 and one for $7) so rather than go to our usual grocery store, we thought try the Target food section. We picked out some food items, then grabbed some cleaning supplies, and finally a bottle of wine. We hadn't been tallying up the prices, but on our way to the checkout, Stephie looked at the stuff in the cart, trying to gauge the total. We used to try to keep track, just for fun, but today we just threw stuff in the cart. When the total came up on the screen at check-out, the bill was $57.03. How did she do that?

09/04/16: We've been subscribers to Netflix since 2001. Even when they started the streaming service, we stuck with the DVDs by mail, because so few of the movies that I really want to see were available to stream. I've periodically checked, and never more than around 25% of our queue can be seen via streaming. (As of today, according to http://instantwatcher.com, only 6 of the 58 movies in our queue can be streamed.) Plus, I usually like watching the extras that come on the disks, although that's taken a hit in recent years with the disks manufactured specifically for Netflix that don't contain the extras, even though they menu options are still there. That's maddening.
     A few years ago we switched from 3 disks at a time to 2, to save a couple of bucks. We usually only watch one of the DVDs on any particular day, but today, we watched both we had (one my pick and one Stephie's pick) and both were terrific. My pick was When Marnie Was There, an animated film from Studio Ghibli, the people who brought us Spirited Away and one of my all-time favorites, My Neighbor Totoro. It's a beautifully-told story about a young girl spending a summer at a seaside town, and the friendship which develops between her and another girl, who may or may not be a ghost. It's not as "magical" as other Ghibli productions, but it was a great story.
     As much as I liked Marnie, I liked the other film even more. Stephie said she picked The Magic of Belle Isle simply because because Morgan Freeman was in it. Freeman plays an alcoholic writer who moves into a small town and interacts with its residents, most notably the young girl who lives next door, who wants to become a writer. I started smiling shortly after the movie began, and I don't think I stopped until it was over. It is a little corny in spots, and maybe a little predictable, but we loved it. After it finished, I looked it up on the 'net and found that it went straight to video (never a good sign, especially considering the stars and the director, Rob Reiner) and had lousy reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. I don't understand it, because I thought it was funny and charming, and told a terrific story. We highly recommend it. Oh, and it's available for streaming on Netflix! (Sadly, Marnie isn't.)

08/29/16: I am done with allmusic.com. I used to use the site to see what albums a particular artist had released, or to read the band bios or album reviews hosted there. Some of the reviews were not that good, which I guess you could say about any review site, but absent of anything else, they provided some information on what albums were better or worse in an artist's catalog.
     I guess I hadn't been on there in a while, and when I went there to look up something I was presented with a white box on a black screen notifying me that because of my use of an ad blocker, I would not be able to view their content. I had three choices: install some kind of browser extension, turn off my ad blocker, or pay for a subscription. Since I'm currently unemployed and I rarely use the site, a subscription was out of the question. I refuse to install the suggested browser extension, which I suspect will just open my system up to more advertising, so I figured fine, I'll disable my ad blocker.
     Pardon the all caps, but OH MY GOD! The first thing that happened was that the top half of the screen was replaced by an ad. A full half-page ad! I then went to look up the information that I needed and besides the upper-third ad, there were three identical ads on the same page, all shouting at me that I "didn't need a gun if I had this tactical flashlight." I quickly got the information I was looking for, turned my ad blocker back on and deleted the allmusic link from my bookmarks folder.
     I use an ad blocker (and Flashblock as well) not to deprive any web sites from any revenue they may get from ads, but to prevent the type of ads that interfere with what I'm trying to do, which is learn something or be entertained. In my opinion, ads that jump around the screen, expand to move the text I'm trying to read, play videos automatically, or overlay content on the site have no place in my browsing experience. I also object to the bait-and-switch type ads (like outbrain and taboola) that show the same thing over and over and that appear to be news stories but are actually links to an aggregating site with even more ads and may contain a link to the article I might want to read.
     I apologize to sites that have respectful ads and are just trying to make a buck, but you are too few and far between in my experience. Every so often I click on a link which has content that doesn't work right in my current configuration (Facebook videos don't work for me) but I figure that missing out on another cute dog video is a small price to pay for my piece of mind. By the way, if anyone knows of a NFL news aggregator similar to the one Yahoo used to offer, but doesn't REPEATEDLY prompt me to log into their Fantasy Football game, please let me know because I'm on the lookout for one.

08/28/16: The Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series last night was the release party for my latest book, The Sleep Detectives Go to Washington. I wanted to something special, like I did with the radio show last time, so I adapted a chapter or so of the new book as a script and bookended it with an announcer in the style of Frazier Thomas on Family Classics. Well, it's more than just the style. We recorded it so you can hear what I mean. Click over to my writing web site and listen for yourself. Then you can hop over to Amazon to buy the book! It's available in paperback and for your Kindle. And if you read it, please leave me a review on Amazon. The more reviews I have, the more people can find me there and maybe buy a book or two.

08/17/16: Back when my main music listening time consisted of popping a cassette in my car stereo, there were a few tapes I had that tended to say in the player for more than a few plays. I remember listening to Lou Reed's New Sensations album front to back many times in a row when it first came out. Likewise John Fogerty's Centerfield, Tina Turner's Private Dancer, Simon and Garfunkel's Live in Central Park, Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus, and the soundtrack to Rock 'n' Roll High School all benefited from the auto-reverse feature in the car deck, playing the tape over and over for weeks at a time
     The analog to that in these days of mobile devices and MP3 players are albums (because I still think of music in terms of albums) that stay on my player or phone, even as I rotate other music on and off. The foremost example is a 1999 Poi Dog Pondering concert I recorded off of WXRT. That was the first thing I loaded on my Archos Jukebox, as well as on several Nokia Internet Tablets and smartphones, and is still on my current phone as of today. There are also a couple of Captain Beefheart albums that I can't bring myself to delete.
     Lately I've been listening to a couple albums by a band called Love which seemed to have taken up residence on my phone. One is their classic album Forever Changes, which shows up on a number of "greatest albums of all time" lists. But the other is a greatest hits collection called Revisited. I got my copy of Forever Changes on CD a few years ago, but my copy of Revisited is on vinyl. I remember buying it many, many years ago at Rolling Stones, a huge north-side record store. I picked it up because I wanted to hear the original version of "Alone Again Or", a song I really liked as covered by UFO on their Lights Out album. I listened to the album a few times and while I liked the original take on "Alone Again Or", I was not that excited about the rest, and it soon wound up filed in my record collection.
     After I got a copy of Forever Changes, I thought I'd give the Revisited collection another try and found that I really liked most of the songs on there. There's a little late-'60s vibe to the music, but all of it is a little ... odd, I guess is the best way to describe it. Wikipedia says that the band mixed "psychedelia, folk, hard rock, blues, jazz, flamenco and orchestral pop" and it really has a unique sound. I've always had an affinity to late-'60s psychedelic music, and this is firmly in that vein, but there's other stuff going on, like the trumpet solo on "Alone Again Or". I really like it.
     I was listening to it today and the very first track, "My Little Red Book", got me curious. I looked it up on-line, ostensibly to find some of the lyrics that were a little unclear, and discovered that it was a cover and that the song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. I went to YouTube to try to find the original version (oddly, the reason I bought this album in the first place) and discovered lots of versions: Manfred Mann (the original), Burt Bacharach with Tony Middleton, The Standells, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Ted Nugent, and Toni Basil (although I wouldn't recommend clicking on that last one.) How odd that a song would be covered so many times, and by such a range of different performers. Check out a few and see what you think.
     And if you're in the mood for another exercise like this, check out YouTube for all the versions of "Alone Again Or". I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, because it is a great song.

08/16/16: Back when I was working, I did not have speakers for my computer. At home, I rarely have my speakers turned on. Since I essentially don't have audio, I don't watch many videos linked in news stories or blog posts. Part of it is also technical, since I run an ad blocker and Flash blocker to avoid things jumping around my screen when on the 'net and that confuses some pages containing videos. But mostly, it's because when I do try to watch a video I'm interested in, I typically have to sit through an ad or two, then a graphical/music introduction, then the reporter or blogger introduces themselves and welcomes me to their video, telling me what they're about to tell me and asking me to subscribe to their channel, all before giving me some information that I could have read in two paragraphs and moved on. Usually when I click on a link on Google News and it turns out that the link takes me to a video without any accompanying text, I just close the window, figuring that I didn't really need that information.
     Another problem is that the video is usually linked to YouTube, and you don't need me to tell you what a time suck that particular site can be. I frequently go to view a video demonstrating a feature of a program I'm using (something that I could easily learn in a few sentences of plain text) and wind up a half-hour later watching clips of exotic animals or people doing stupid things or music videos from the 1980s.
     But as much as I avoid videos, every once in a while I stumble across something that really catches my eye. For instance, I was directed to this video from a link on BoingBoing.net. I was a Hot Wheels fan when I was a kid, so I think that's why it appeals to me so much. I could put this on a loop and watch it all day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12Coi4_BVL4

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