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!

12/25/05: Happy Holidays to all! I feel a little funny saying that, because that's what all the "politically correct" people say when they don't want to offend anyone, but I like to say it because it's easier than saying "Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy New Year, Happy Brumalia, Happy Festivus, or whatever holiday you may celebrate".

We had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at Matt's parents' house, and one of the grab bag gifts we brought was the Finger Nose Hair trimmer that Frank got, and was happy to demo for us. Nothing says the holidays like gag gifts!

The best to everyone in the new year!

12/01/05: If you haven't heard about Emily the Stowaway Cat, you should click here to read the story. Not only is this a great animal story with a happy ending, but it's a perfect example of why you should always have ID tags on your pets. No way this kitty would have gotten home without them!

And while we're on the subject of animal news, Stephie says you should check out the panda cub at the U.S. National Zoo. She's been watching his progress on the Panda Cam since shortly after he was born, and he's getting bigger every day.

11/28/05: Today is the 25th anniversary of the first time I saw Frank Zappa live on stage. I had been a fan for a couple years, and this was my first opportunity to see him live. He was coming to town to play four shows over two nights at the Uptown Theater. Not having lots of disposable income at the time, I got tickets to the first and last shows. I was not disappointed.
    This was the tour where he was urging the female members of the audience to toss their underwear on the stage. They said they were collecting "Underwear of the World", and that at the end of the tour they would have the underwear made into a quilt, what he said would be a "kind of a scratch-and-sniff tour of America". (The quilt was on display in a casino in Atlantic City for a while, but seems to have been moved to a Hard Rock facility in Orlando.) The show was great, with a lot of audience participation, and lots of great music.
    A couple years later I was at a record show and was able to buy a cassette tape of that concert (as well as one I saw the next year.) Nowadays, you can go to some concerts and you can buy a copy of that show as you walk out the door, and of course you can find just about anything on the Internet, but back in the early '80s, to have a tape of a show you saw was amazing! I've since made CDs of those tapes, and I think I'll be listening to them tonight.

11/07/05: Kisu's obedience class instructor has some information about a local dog that is in need of a new home. Details can be found on his web page.

11/03/05: Stephie and Kisu went to a Halloween party yesterday, hosted by one of Kisu's obedience class classmates. Kisu's uncanny portrayal of a beagle won her a ribbon for Most Original Costume! Click here for more pictures from the party, including many of the dogs and some of the crazy people who dressed them up!

10/31/05: Happy Halloween to all you Super Saiyans out there. Be safe and don't eat all your candy today! Save some for tomorrow (or if you're like me, Easter).

10/31/05: More Halloween fun! Stephie and I dressed up as Spidey and Doc Ock back in 1989, well before even the first Spider-Man movie. My costume must have been especially effective, because we attended a party at my buddies' house, and his family still sometimes refers to me as "that Octopus guy".

10/29/05: A couple more pages went up today with pictures from our California trip, but unfortunately that technical problem from last week reappeared. If you're using Firefox (and you should) the pages will look fine, but Internet Explorer has a problem with some of them. You have to scroll to the right to see all the pictures, which is a hassle but not critical, but IE has a problem with CSS, which I'm trying to use for these pages, and it seems that text disappears at random when the page is displayed. If you scroll down and back up the text seems to magically reappear. I'm working on it, so bear with me. (Better yet, get Firefox!)

10/23/05: Had a couple technical problems with the web site in the last couple weeks, but now that they're basically solved, it's full speed ahead with the California pictures. Another page went up today, with a pretty cool family picture thanks to Chris.

Also, there's two new pictures and a couple updates on Stephie's Art Page.

10/02/05: The first of the our California pictures are up! Click the "California 2005" link in the menu bar at the left or click here to begin.

Many more to come...

09/30/05: Kisu turns 4 today. Happy Birthday, pumpkin! Now the only question is: McDonald's or Wendy's for dinner tonight?

09/25/05: We're home from California! Thanks to everyone who helped make this a really special trip. We'll be posting pictures and funny stories over the next days (and weeks, and probably months!) I took 439 pictures with the digital camera, and Stephie has almost 10 full rolls of film to have developed, so we have a lot of pictures to share.

09/15/05: A couple weeks ago, when we were coming home late in the evening, something in front of the house caught our eye. There was this big spider that had built a web between the tree and the bush next to our front stairs. I don't know how it spanned the gap, because I can't reach the two with my outstreached arms, but somehow this spider did.

We had a spider a couple weeks before that wanted to build a web in our front doorway. When I opened the door, the web covered the upper corner, where there was no way to get through without disturbing it. It reminded me of the Far Side cartoon where the spiders built a web at the base of a slide, and as the kid is about to slide down, the spider says something like "If we pull this off, we'll eat like kings!"

In both cases, we relocated the spiders to areas where their webs (hopefully) won't trap any humans. (Click the picture for a better view of the spider.)

08/28/05: The Summer Eclectic exhibit is over. Thanks to the other artists and to everyone who came out to see the art. Pictures of the exhibit can still be seen here.

Also, four new pieces have been added to Stephie's Art page. Go check them out now!

08/23/05: A bunch of art news today. The Summer Eclectic exhibit runs through August 26 at the LaGrange Art League. Pictures of the opening day of the exhibit are here. Also, there are two new oil paintings on Stephanie's Art Page so you should go check it out.

08/07/05: Stephanie and three other artists have an art exhibit coming up in a couple weeks. There is a reception on Sunday, August 21, 2005 from 2-6pm at the LaGrange Art League. Come out for "an afternoon of art, music and refreshments!" Click the picture of the postcard for more information or check the League's web site for directions. And if you can't make it for the reception, make sure you stop by some time during the week, since the art will remain on display through August 26th.

07/28/05: Judging by what we see on TV and in movies, most guys will run out to the fence if they see their neighbor come home with a new lawn tractor or power tool. I couldn't care less about that stuff. But when I saw my neighbor walking slowly through his yard, holding his open laptop in front of him like a pizza box, I told Stephie "Somebody just got wireless!" and had to go out to talk to him. Yeah, it's a sickness, I know.
    I did ask him if he used the security features on his new router, and he said yes, because he "didn't want to give anyone a free ride." I've put a couple articles about wireless security on my Safe Computing page. It turns out that there are a couple relatively simple things that you can do to keep all but the most determined bad guy off of your wireless system, and these articles should get you started. I'll add more as I run across them.
    By the way, I left my neighbor sitting in his yard with his laptop on his lap, and as I walked in the house, I heard his wife at the back door ask him "Are you going to eat out there?" Boy, does that sound familiar.

07/22/05: Happy Birthday, Jon! It's a significant one this year (although I won't say why) and in keeping with your wishes, your picture will not appear with this notice. Hope you have a great day!

07/11/05: They almost got me.

    I got an e-mail this morning, supposedly from eBay, telling me that there was some suspicious activity on my account. At first, I thought maybe it's just because I put a couple items up for sale yesterday, for the first time in three months, and they were trying to verify it was me. But then I thought maybe there was a problem. I wasn't going to click the link in the message, since I still have a high level of suspicion about things on the 'net, but I passed my mouse pointer over the provided link, and noticed, via the status bar at the bottom of the browser window, that the link shown on the message did not match what the status bar says was the actual link. It was close, sure, but not exact. I looked again, and the link was supposed to be a site at "ebay.com", but it was actually "ebay.com.xxxxx.us" (the "xxxxx" was NOT related to eBay). I forwarded the message to eBay, and they confirmed that it was bogus.
    A couple months ago, my buddy's sister fell for one of these so-called "phishing" messages (a term I actually hate) and I razzed her a bit for clicking on an e-mailed link when she admitted she should have known better, but I have to say, although I've gotten these many times in the past, this one looked so legit that I went to eBay's site to check out if there was a problem. Usually the link in the message says "ebay.com" but the status bar says "aksjdhlaskdjthlasjk.com" or something else obviously suspicious, but this one was darn close. Plus, it somehow made it through SBC's junk mail filter, which has caught all the other phony eBay messages I've received in the past. That added an air of legitimacy to the message. Fortunately, as I said, I'm highly suspicious when it comes to e-mail, and I noticed the problem before my account was compromised.
    But something just occurred to me. There's been a bug in Microsoft's browser (which I'm forced to use at work) that sometimes doesn't display the status bar at the bottom of the screen. Usually it's when you click File, New, Window, but sometimes the status bar doesn't show up when I launch Internet Explorer by itself. If that bar was not there, it wouldn't have been as obvious that the message was bogus. The only way to fix this is to root around in the registry, which I can't do on my work machine. I guess that's another reason to dump IE and use Firefox.
    So the moral of this story is: Pay Attention. Don't ever click a link that you get in an e-mail, even if you're fairly sure that it's legit. If you really need to go to that link, open a small Notepad session over your browser window and hand-type the link into Notepad, then copy and paste it into your browser's Address line. DON'T copy the link from the message because if your finger slips, it could register as a click. And if you use IE, make sure the status bar is on at all times. You can turn it on by clicking View, Status Bar on the menu. Better yet, use Firefox. I've got a link, along with some other safety-related info, on my Safe Computing page. I'm not a security expert, but I read a lot, and I have some links to programs I use.
    And if you get an e-mail that's supposed to be from eBay, forward it (with full headers) to spoof@ebay.com, and they will tell you if it's legit or not.

06/29/05: Happy Birthday, Rick! Another new driver on America's highways and byways. In the words of Sgt. Esterhaus: "Let's be careful out there."

06/12/05: Well, we went to see the new Star Wars yesterday.

I've been a Star Wars fan since May 30, 1977, when Uncle Tony took us to see the first in the series. (I still have the ticket!) I was a little upset that they ended The Empire Strikes Back without resolving the Han Solo issue, knowing that I'd have to wait three years to find out what happened to him. But I loved the rest of the movie and The Return of the Jedi as well. In fact, Stephie and I watch our laserdiscs of the original trilogy (without the Lucas-tampering of recent years, thank you very much!) about once a year, usually watching all three over the course of a weekend.

I was, however, severely disappointed by Episode 1, so much so that we didn't even see Episode 2 at the theater, but waited to rent the DVD. But Stephie wanted to see the new one at the show, and considering the positive reviews that it has been getting, I agreed. And I have to say, it should be seen on the big screen. This is one of the most visually stunning films I've seen in a long time. Too bad the story didn't do anything for me.

I don't know how much money they put into the CG effects, but it was money well spent. The opening scenes of the big space battle were breathtaking, and the movements of the robotic characters, particularly General Grievous, were amazing. But during one scene where Anakin and Palpatine were walking through a room, there were four huge lamps on four end tables, and I was thinking "I wonder if those were props they built or if they were computer-generated." Later, I found myself watching the way the doors closed as the ships were taking off instead of what the characters were doing, and I was watching the actors' interaction (or lack thereof) with the surroundings, trying to figure out what was real or CG. I didn't even do that during Sky Captain, which I knew was almost all CG.

Maybe if I remembered more of the last two (of which I remember almost nothing) I would have enjoyed this one more. Maybe I've outgrown this franchise. I dunno. I just hope that these "first" three episodes haven't soured me on the rest of the series.

Oh, and Stephie really liked it. So maybe it's just me.

06/01/05: Although summer doesn't officially start until June 21st, for most people Memorial Day is the start of the summer season. Some people equate the first of June with the start of summer. For us, the marker that tells us that it's summer is the annual Brandeis Used Book Sale, which starts next weekend at the Westfield Shoppingtown at Old Orchard mall in Skokie. Their web site doesn't seem to be up as I write this, but you can click the picture of the flyer here for more details.

05/06/05:      When Stephie was going through Aunt Lois' things, she found an unmarked videotape. She thought this was odd, since Aunt Lois didn't have a VCR that we knew of. (Well, she had one, but I don't think she ever took it out of the box, and probably gave it away, since it wasn't in the apartment when it was cleared out.) From the style of the tape box, I can tell that it was several years old, but we had no idea what was on it, nor why Aunt Lois would hang onto it, with no way to play it.
     So Stephie and I were sitting down to watch TV last week, and we figured we would see what was on the tape. I asked her if I should rewind it, since it was set about halfway through, but she said to just put it in. I popped it in and hit play.
     The tape was set to the beginning of an episode of the Jenny Jones show, which went off the air in 2003. Turns out that the topic of the show that day was reincarnation! When we realized that, we stopped the tape and just looked at each other. Granted, the show started out kind of joking about reincarnation, but considering that the reincarnation episode was on a tape that we got from the apartment of Stephie's recently-departed Aunt, who didn't own a VCR, we weren't laughing.
     We took the tape out and set it aside. One of these days, when we have a couple hours where we won't be interrupted, we're going to watch the whole tape to see what else is on there. Maybe there's a message of sorts on there.

04/17/05: Big news today. Stephie has won Second Place in the 13th Annual "Best of the Best" Fine Arts Exhibit at the Elmhurst Artist Guild Gallery in the Elmhurst Art Museum for her painting "Life Behind The Haze", pictured here. The judge commented that abstract is very difficult to do, and that it had beautiful colors and was "removed from life, but very lively".

Sponsored by the West Suburban Fine Arts Alliance, the exhibit featured 85 works by members of nine art guilds in the western suburbs. Only winners in the various local guild shows were allowed to exhibit, which means that Stephie's painting is truly the "Best of the Best". Congratulations!

(And I'm going to try to take a better picture of the painting, because it looks much better in real life than it does her on the web site.)

04/11/05: Computer Security has been an interest of mine from back in the days of floppy-disk-borne viruses (remember those?) and the Internet worm of 1988. So when Chris said Ricky's computer had become unusable because of pop-ups and other junk, I put together an e-mail with links to free or inexpensive programs that I either use or had read really good reviews, so he could try to resuscitate it. After a couple people at work asked me for the same list, I figured I'd put it here on our site for anyone who is interested.

I don't claim to be a security expert, just a well-read enthusiast, but I do know that if you take a couple simple precautions and pay attention to what you're doing when you're on the Internet, you can save yourself, and your favorite family tech-support person, a lot of aggravation. As I wrote on Stephanie's Computer Virus page, I'm just trying to do something as a Good Internet Citizen.

03/29/05: Happy Birthday, Jennie! And many, many more.

03/29/05: Happy Birthday, Laura! For once, we're not jealous of your California weather, because we're celebrating your birthday by having a 68-degree day! Hope you're having a great birthday.

03/23/05: Some bad news: we lost Aunt Lois last week. The funeral was today, and it was just beautiful. She would have loved it.

03/17/05: Happy St. Patrick's Day! Time to pull out your favorite Horslips album and give it a spin.

Me, I'm going to celebrate by ordering their BRAND-NEW ALBUM!!!

03/11/05: We don't go to the show as much as we'd like, and we don't have any movie cable channels, so we're usually pretty far behind in seeing new movies. We have been subscribers to Netflix for years, and find it incredibly convenient, but they have so many movies that we wind up with a mix of new and old movies on the list. Frequently we watch a movie, then look at the year it was made and remark "I didn't realize came out that long ago." We typically don't see films until they have been out a couple years. It's rare when we've seen any of the films in the running for Oscars.

But I looked at the current batch of movies from Netflix yesterday and noticed that the combined age of the three movies is 178 years! And the newest movie is almost older than me! The latest movies we have are "West Side Story" from 1961, "The Third Man" (the Criterion version) from 1949, and "Metropolis" (the Kino version!) from 1927. I think I'll have to bump some new releases up to the top of our Netflix queue!

03/05/05: I know it's been a while, but we finally have pictures from Stephanie's birthday party on-line, along with a little note from the birthday girl herself! Click the link in the menu bar on the left, or click here to check out the fun. And thanks again to everyone who came out for her special day.

02/25/05: Happy Birthday, Chris! As usual, your present is late, but it's on its way, honest! Hope you're having a great day!

02/15/05: Happy Birthday, Stephanie!

(For you out-of-towners, and anyone else who's curious, the party was a big success. She WAS surprised, and everything went off without a hitch. I'll be getting the pictures in a couple days, so I should have them up here by next weekend.)

02/15/05: Happy Birthday, Dad! You're still the greatest!

01/31/05: I am constantly amazed at the proliferation of hoax e-mails. You know the kind: Bill Gates is going to give you money, or frozen water bottles cause cancer. I'm not even talking about the ones trying to scam you, like the dead guy in Africa with the same last name as you with the large bank account, but messages that well-meaning friends send you, like the one warning about using cell phones at the gas pump (which was actually posted on the bulletin board as fact at my employer, a major petroleum company!) And don't get me started on those "send this to 20 of your friends" chain e-mails.

I understand that if you get an email about a missing child, you feel like you can't ignore it, on the off-chance that it may be legit. But when you plug some of the text into Google or Yahoo, and your search finds dozens of web sites with the same message, usually word-for-word, saying that it's been circulating on the 'net for years, the odds of the contents being true drop to almost nil. And it has the "Cry Wolf" effect, where something that is real will probably be ignored as another crackpot looking for attention.

That's why I keep a couple links in my browser's bookmarks for hoax sites. Snopes.com and Hoaxbusters contain hundreds of general purpose hoaxes, and Trend Micro, F-Secure, and Symantec have plenty of phony virus-related messages. I always check there first when I get something suspicious.

People nowadays are smart enough to use the Internet for lots of things. They should be smart enough to spot a fraud. Or at least skeptical enough to look it up.

01/05/05:     What a crummy way to start the New Year. I just found out that my favorite comic creator, Will Eisner, passed away Monday from complications after quadruple-bypass surgery. Recently (well, maybe not so recently) I mentioned here that I was going to write him a letter, to thank him for all the years of entertainment that he provided for me, but alas, I dawdled too long and now he's gone.
    My first contact with The Spirit, probably Eisner's most well-known creation, was in grammar school. Literally, in school. I was sitting in St. Pancratius' library, probably daydreaming, and my pal Wesley sits down next to me and pulls out a comic book. It wasn't like any comic book that I had ever seen. It was as big as a magazine, the cover looked a little like Famous Monsters (since all Warren magazines had a similar style), and there was no color in it, but it had this great picture on the cover with this big guy with a hat, gloves, and a mask...
    I was a little intimidated by it. I thought it was an "adult" comic, because it was Wesley's big brother's book, so of course it had an air of sophistication to it. Plus, I mentally grouped it with the other magazines they sold at the Music Box, which were off-limits to our little eyes for reasons that became apparent as I got older. I did flip through it a little, but the teacher came in and we had to put it away.
    Years later, after amassing quite a collection of The Spirit (and other Eisner works), I still think it's an "adult" comic, but not in the same way. The artwork and storytelling still stands head and shoulders over most, if not all, of the stuff on the comic racks before or since. I have read these stories over and over and over and I'm always finding something new to enjoy in them. I would heartily recommend any of them to anyone, young or old. And thanks to DC's current series of hardcovers, they're readily available. I'm buying them again in a form that should last me well into my years when I should have lots of time to re-read them.
    I have a couple signed books, and a couple prints signed by Mr. Eisner, but I bought them already signed. Unfortunately, I was never able to meet him in person. He was supposed to be at the last Comicon I went to, but he wasn't able to attend. I talked several times about writing him a letter to him, but I could never get started. I usually thought "He's probably heard from thousands of fans, some people more important than me, and I had nothing new to say, other than 'Thanks'" so I never wrote. That was stupid of me. I realize that he was in his late 80s, but I always hoped that I would be able to shake his hand and thank him personally for all the hours of joy he gave me over the years, but now I know I never will.

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