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!
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
I'm proud of the fact that since I started this site in 2003, only a few months have passed without at least one post. You can see that at the list of monthly links at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes, though, I'm too busy (or too lazy) to write up what I want to say at the time I want to say it, so I make a note of it and write it up later, backdating the post to when I wanted to say it. But sometimes there are other reasons why I don't want to post something on the day it occurs. I'm writing this almost two months late, because I wasn't able to any earlier.
We lost our beloved Kisu today, a few months shy of her 15th birthday. She'd been having problems for a while, not so much physically but mentally. Her vet described it as doggy dementia or doggy Alzheimer's. I started to write up the details of recent weeks, but you don't need to know any of that. I'd prefer that everyone remembered her as the sweet, friendly dog that everyone knew and loved. I'll simply say that we had an incident this morning that indicated it was time.
I'd spoken to the vet a few weeks ago when he put her on some new medicine to try to make her comfortable, and at the time he told me that when we felt it was time, I only needed to call the office. This morning I called and made an appointment for the afternoon. Kisu was fine in the car, and behaved perfectly when we brought her out and to the back of the clinic. I like to think that she knew what was coming and was ready for it. The whole process took surprisingly little time to complete, and we were with her the entire way, talking to her and hugging her and loving her. Dr. Palmer and everyone at the Burr Ridge Veterinary Clinic in Darien was terrific as the always have been. They took great care of her throughout her life, and were wonderful for us at the end.
I've said that the day Cheyenne passed away was the worst day of my life. This was easily the second, only because Cheyenne's passing was so sudden and Kisu had been in decline for a while. We miss her terribly, and while I'm sure we'll adopt another dog eventually, she'll never be replaced in our hearts. Sleep well, pumpkin.
07/15/16: From the time I set my MythTV DVR up until a few years ago, our local Channel 7 was running a package of old black-and-white movies in the early hours of the weekend. I recorded many of the films, and while not all of them were gems, they were an interesting snapshot into the way Hollywood used to work. Before everyone had a TV in their home, there was a constant need for films to show at local movie theaters, and there were a lot of people who (presumably) made a living making films that never won awards and never were on critic's year-end best-of lists. That's the kind of fare that Channel 7 used to show.
I just watched one such "programmer," as some called them. You Can't Beat Love (1937) was about a playboy lawyer (Preston Foster) who runs for mayor of his town on a dare from the daughter of the incumbent, played by Joan Fontaine, and it was a hoot. I recognized Paul Guilfoyle (not the CSI guy) from the credits, who I'd seen as the Saint's sidekick in a few 1940s movies, among other roles. But at one point, the current chief of police tries to trap the lawyer in a love nest with what I assume was a local floozie, a round-faced blonde doing a weak Mae West impersonation. For a laugh, I looked her up on IMDB, expecting her to have only a few credits and a bio that says she was pigeonholed into those type of parts. You can imagine my surprise when I looked up Barbara Pepper and the banner photo on IMDB was a scene from Green Acres, a favorite of ours, on which she played Doris Ziffel! At the time of this movie, she was 22 and four years into a career which ultimately spanned 36 years, from a few uncredited chorus girl gigs in 1933-4 to an uncredited appearance in the Jerry Lewis feature Hook, Line and Sinker in 1969. Watching her I never would have guessed. (A side note: her Green Acres husband, Hank Patterson, had a similarly lengthy career, from uncredited appearances in a few 1939 westerns to a long stint on Gunsmoke, ending in 1975. While most of his IMDB credits are westerns, he was in the Beginning of the End (1957) which you all remember as the giant grasshoppers attacking Chicago. I recently saw him in an episode of the 87th Precinct TV show from 1961.)
07/04/16: Today's the fourth of July, not one of our favorite holidays. I've had an aversion to fireworks since I was a kid, when my parents were dead set against my brothers and I playing with explosives, no matter how small. I can't see what the problem would be. As I got older, I just saw anything but the best professional fireworks display as a colossal waste of money, and of time needed to clean up the debris afterward. Don't get me started about how fireworks are supposedly illegal in Illinois, yet the people with the biggest illicit fireworks shows seem to be off-duty cops.
But the real reason why I don't like the holiday these days is the way pets are affected. Cheyenne never really cared for the local explosions, but Kisu was petrified by the smallest pop from blocks away. We would be walking and hear a firecracker in the distance, and she would immediately turn around and head for home, where she would cower somewhere near us for the rest of the day. Even the Thundershirt, which helps out tremendously for thunderstorms, did nothing to calm her down. The last few years we used tranquilizers from the vet to get us through the day.
But we don't have to worry about that now, with Kisu having lost her hearing earlier this year. The revelers actually started a few days ago, and she doesn't hear anything. She's happily walking down the block as the lunatics on the next block set off firecracker after bottle rocket after what have you. We're sad that she can't hear us any more, but it's a blessing today. Happy Independence Day!
06/26/16: There's something that Kisu has always done that I don't understand. She would walk across a lawn, and for no apparent reason, she will turn her head and dive shoulder-first to the ground, winding up on her back, where she wiggles back and forth in the grass with her legs in the air. I've seen other dogs do as well, and I understand the rolling around on her back, but the diving part escapes me. I've always wondered what triggers it. Is there a certain spot of the lawn that looks more comfortable?
Now that Kisu's getting older, she's not as spry as when she was younger, so our walks are much shorter. Sometimes we just go once around the house then back in. But she did something today that I'd not seen before. I was taking the garbage out, so I took her with. We walked into the yard, and she paused, then turned her head and did her shoulder dive into the lawn. Then she just lay there. She didn't wiggle. She didn't flip over. She didn't even seem to fuss to get a comfortable spot. She just lay there.
I saw this and waited a minute for her to get up. When she didn't, I figured she would be good where she was, so I dropped the leash and walked around the garage to put the trash in the can. When I got back, she was still in the exact same position I left her. I got a little worried, so I bent over her, and saw that she was laying there with her eyes open, breathing lightly. She didn't look like she was in any distress. She just wasn't moving.
I figured she was comfortable, and I really didn't have much to do, so I sat down next to her. I sat and watched her for around ten minutes. She didn't move the whole time. I finally got up and picked up the leash, and when I did she got up as if nothing was wrong. And maybe nothing was. It was just odd.
06/12/16: Last weekend, we hauled out the new tent and set Stephie up at the Graue Mill Fine Art Festival. This weekend, I packed a bunch of my books and flyers in a plastic tote and drove downtown to the Printer's Row Lit Fest. This was the first time I had done this show (we had attended one many years ago) and I have to say it was great fun.
I'd never really considered going to one of these as an author, mostly because of the cost of getting a table, but I got an e-mail from the Illinois Woman's Press Association, offering a share of a table for much less than an individual table would cost. Stephie and I discussed it and she convinced me to do it. I booked a place under the group's tent, found parking through Spothero and stocked up on books and handouts.
The weekend was a big success in my mind. I didn't sell as many books as I'd liked, but I sold more than I'd hoped to. I handed out all of the flyers for the two e-book-only novellas, and most of the flyers advertising my novels, and I spoke to a bunch of people.
My favorite story was from Saturday afternoon. I was set up across from a Mexican restaurant that had outdoor seating. I was just finishing my pitch to a group of people when a man and woman came over and told me they were sitting there sipping their margaritas, listening to my spiel. I apologized for disrupting their meal, but they said they were entertained by me. The woman said, "I told my husband: There's a guy who loves what he does." We chatted for a bit and they bought two books!
That was exactly the type of response I was going for. I remember several times at recent Windy City Pulp and Paper Conventions when I stopped to talk to one of the authors at their table and wound up buying a book from them, simply because they were so enthusiastic about their works. I'm glad I was able to do the same.
06/05/16: We had problems with our canopy at the last few art shows that Stephie did last year, so even though I'm still looking for a job, we decided to put a little money into the art business and get a professional tent. This year's Graue Mill show was the first event with the new tent, and it's a beauty. Although the new one has the same footprint as the old one, the new one is taller, squarer, and has four walls, so that at the end of the day on Saturday, we just removed all the art and zipped it up! That made it so much easier to set up for Sunday business.
She also bought mesh side walls which allows her to hang artwork on the sides. With her old standing panels in the back, it makes for a much better display, as you can see in the picture here. My contribution, beyond the physical labor, was to give Stephie a template in Microsoft Publisher (because she's comfortable with that program) which included squares to simulate the two side walls and the back panel, and scaled images of all her artwork. She used it to decide which picture should go where. Then we just printed the layout and used it as a plan to hand the artwork.
After all these years, I think we're finally getting pretty good at this!
05/31/16: This was an strange Memorial Day. We went to my parent's house to spend the day with family. We started by getting a little take-out, some Chinese food from a place they had never ordered from before. Food was not too bad, but not real good, either. It seemed bland to me, which was a shame because I got the combo chow mein and there was a lot of meat in it, some nice big chunks of chicken, pork, and shrimp. I thought it just needed some spices.
Afterwards, we hauled out the Scrabble board and sat around the table to play. My family loves Scrabble, but I usually don't play because there are enough other people who seem to enjoy it more than I do. This time, though, I did play, and I couldn't believe my luck when I discovered that when my turn came, I was able to put down "minister" as my first word, using all seven of my tiles and one letter off of Stephie's first word. That gave me such a huge lead that I basically cruised to victory, even though my brother commented (rightly so) that I didn't really have any major words the rest of the game.
After the game, Stephie and I went home and planned to watch a little TV. We were sitting on the couch when I began to notice my breathing. That may sound odd, but if you think about it, how often do you really notice your breathing? After a while, I seemed that it was becoming a little hard to breathe, like someone was sitting on my chest. I tried to take a few deep breaths, hoping the feeling would pass, but when it didn't, I told Stephie about it and we decided to go to the emergency room. I didn't feel that I couldn't breathe, but I thought that if it got worse, I would rather it happen where I could have someone take a look at me.
Stephie dropped me off at the ER entrance and went to park the car, which is the opposite of what usually happened when we went there. I used to joke that I took Stephie to the ER so many times that we had our own parking spot. After waiting for a little bit, we got in to see the doctor. After checking my blood work, EKG, and the other vital signs they recorded, he determined that he didn't know what was wrong. His best guess was that it was an allergic reaction to something. We assumed that it was the Chinese food, since that was the only thing new I had eaten all day.
I started to feel better after he gave me some medicine, and they let me go after another EKG showed my heart was fine. The doctor told me that they used to automatically admit anyone who had symptoms like mine, but the new procedure was to do two EKGs a few hours apart, and as long as they were both normal, they felt it was safe to send the patient home. That meant I didn't have to spend the night, but it did mean that I had to wait a couple of hours for the second EKG to show I was okay, even though I was feeling fine by that point.
It was well after two A.M. before we got home. We immediately threw out the leftovers that we had brought home. Better safe than sorry.
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