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!

12/25/13: We hope everyone had a great Christmas. We spent a quiet day at home, watching our favorite Christmas movie, Die Hard. I couldn't tell you how many times we've seen this, but it never gets old, and it's a favorite around here on the holidays.
     The picture here is from an episode of Burke's Law, a TV series from the early 60s, that we watched this week. The show was known for the large number of guest stars that appeared each week, some we recognize because of later shows they were on, such as a very young Barbara Eden in this episode. The scene here was fairly early in the show, when Capt. Burke goes into a Chinese restaurant looking for a woman and wanders into a back room where a dancer is entertaining the guests. The other guy in the picture approaches him and they trade proverbs before getting down to business. I didn't recognize the guy, but when he spoke, I got the impression that I should. So I did what I've unfortunately been doing a lot of lately. I reached for my phone and looked up the episode on IMDB. I hate the layout of their Android app, but I keep using it because of all the information they have.
     It turns out that I should have recognized him. The actor's name is James Shigeta, and while the name didn't mean much, his other credits did. He played Joseph Takagi in the original Die Hard, 24 years later! It turns out that he was a pretty popular actor around the time of this show. To quote John McClane, "Who knew?"

11/22/13: I've always had two memories that pop into my head at odd times. When I was little, I thought that they were my earliest childhood memories, but I've since discovered that one was impossible and was probably a dream, which makes me suspicious of the other.
     The first is of myself as a small child, hiding from my mother. It was like I was playing hide-and-seek with her. I remember hiding in a cabinet in the kitchen of the apartment that we lived in when I was born. Although I remember hiding in the cabinet, I also saw my mother standing in the kitchen looking for me, with the sun shining in the back door and reflecting off the linoleum floor. It was many years later that I happened to be in that apartment, which was across the street from the house I grew up in, and I saw that the cabinets were too small for even a toddler to hide in, so I assume the memory was really a dream and not something that happened. If that's the case, I can't tell when I would have had the dream, so I don't know how early a memory it was.
     The other memory is much more vivid, and it came back to me again today. I was again a toddler, and I walked out on the back porch to see my mother sitting in the rocking chair that my dad had built from a kit. It was a replica of the rocking chair that President Kennedy had, and it was a fixture in the house all my life as I grew up. The memory I have is my mother sitting there, crying. She seemed bigger than I normally remember her, and I walked up to her and asked her what was wrong, but I don't remember her answer.
     I've often wondered about that memory, and if it was true, unlike the other one, I suspect it was 50 years ago today. At the time, she would have been pregnant with my brother, and I just checked the weather forecast for Chicago for that day in 1963 and it was expected to be 60 degrees, which would be plenty warm enough to sit on the porch, which we didn't really use in the winter. I would've been two at the time, but is it possible that I do have a memory of the day that the President was killed?

11/18/13: Last Saturday, I was the featured reader at the Tamale Hut Cafe, where I've been participating as a open-mic reader for a couple of years now. As a special event, I converted a chapter from my latest book, The Sleep Detectives, into a script and we presented it in the style of an old-time radio show. You can see more details, and actually listen to the show, at my new web site Storiesbymatt.net. On there is information about all of my books, links to Amazon.com to purchase them in paperback or Kindle, and some links to a few short stories I've written. I plan to update it regularly with more of my writing escapades.

11/03/13: You know that Audi commercial that has all those people yelling at the woman trying to put diesel in her car. Where were they when Stephie accidentally put diesel in her Beetle, resulting in a not-insignificant car repair bill?

10/30/13: I have a bunch of things I wrote this month to post here, but I've been so busy this month that I just haven't made the time to put them up, so I'll be back-dating them. But I wanted to post pictures of the Halloween decorations one of our neighbors has on her front lawn. The guys coming out of the ground here are bad enough, but click the picture to see one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen for a decoration.

09/14/13: Stephie got to meet one of her favorite authors yesterday, as we drove out to Anderson's Bookstore in Naperville to get Sue Grafton's autograph on her new book.
      I can't tell you how many times I think of a band that I'd like to see, only to find out that they had just played locally a day or a week before. That's happened with a few authors, too. Last week I finished reading 'E' is for Evidence, and Stephie was in the middle of 'P' is for Peril, so Sunday I thought to check Sue's web site for any new activity. Not only was her next book, 'W' is for Wasted, coming out three days later, she was signing books in Naperville a few days after that. How about that for a happy coincidence?

09/13/13: You ever have one of those mechanical toys that were wound with a key, that had a fat metal spring inside? You know how when the spring started to wind down, the toy would just move slower and slower until it just stopped?

I don't know why, but that's exactly how I feel today.

Maybe I need a nap.

08/31/13: I spent some time today shopping with Stephie at Woodfield mall, and while she was looking at lotions and soaps in Crabtree & Evelyn, I was looking at their shaving products. They have a neat wooden bowl for holding shaving soap, and an assortment of brushes for applying lather. Having been a bearded man for nearly 15 years now, I have no use for any of this, but an odd thought occurred to me: I don't remember ever using a razor.
     I'm sure that I did, back when I first started to see little tiny hairs growing out of my face. Even into the late '90s, I was never so hirsute that I needed to shave more than a couple times a week, but I have absolutely no recollection of ever putting razor to face. My uncle gave me an electric razor pretty early on, and I took to it pretty quickly. I liked the fact that I didn't have to mess with shaving cream, and didn't even really have to pay attention while shaving, only a quick check at the end to make sure I got everything. These days, I don't know how I would manage the beard off anytime soon, but it struck me as odd that I don't remember ever shaving with a razor.

08/23/13: Back when I used to buy a lot of anime dvds, I would regularly read the old animeondvd.com web site (now part of mania.com and not nearly as good.) It had the best information about upcoming releases, and the guy who did the reviews seemed to have similar tastes to mine. I may be wrong, but my impression was that he was a stay at home dad with two young girls and shelves full of dvds, and he spent all his non-child-rearing time watching anime and writing about it. One day I read that he had been to a convention and friends were concerned about his health. His weight had ballooned, and they were concerned that he needed to make a change in his lifestyle. What he did was buy a treadmill, and between walking on it and other changes in his life, was able to get back in shape. One thing that I remember distinctly was when he hit his million step milestone. He had a picture on the site of a small gym shoe charm that he got from the group helping to get him into shape. At the time, I thought that was an unbelievable amount of steps.
      For the last few years at work, we've had to earn points to qualify for better health insurance, and one scheme this year is they would give us a FitBit pedometer. They announced that we could earn a big chunk of our points goal by walking a million steps before mid-December. I had used a pedometer before, to track my walking to and from the train and work, not to mention the frequent dog walks, but I never really paid much attention to total steps. I thought I might have a chance to hit the goal, but a million steps seemed an almost unattainable goal. I was wrong.
      I hit my million steps today, a little over four months after starting. I'm a little disappointed that I got no feedback for hitting that milestone. On the FitBit site, I got a "badge" for my first 10,000 step day, and another when I passed 250 miles, but nothing for 1M. (I did later get a badge for 500 miles walked. Cue the Proclaimers.) I guess I have a sense of accomplishment, plus that huge chunk of points towards insurance, so I'll have to be happy with that. And who knows? There's almost four more months before the mid-December deadline, so I might be able to hit 2M before then.

08/04/13: We just had the second of two consecutive Saturdays of Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series nights, and except for Stephie not going because she didn't feel well, they were a big success, in no small part because of the PA system that I rented for them from A Sound Education, a music store in my neighborhood. It was great to be able to hear all the readers, which was not always possible, and it was also great to read into a microphone, rather than worrying if my voice carried all the way to the back, especially when the people in the kitchen got loud. This week, I read the latest Sleep Detectives chapter, but last week I read something a little different. It was a story called Mirrors, and you can read it here.

07/29/13: Warning: this can be seen as one of those "get off my lawn, you kids" style rants.
      The main story in today's Arts section really hit home with me. The reporter was complaining about people chatting while performers are on stage, trying to entertain the crowd. Stephie and I have been seeing this type of behavior for years. The first time I noticed this phenomenon was at a Hothouse Flowers show at the House of Blues. We staked our spot near the back of the room, and noticed it was a little noisy during the opening act, one guy and his guitar, but figured the crowd would calm down for the headliner. We were thrilled when the band came on the stage carrying acoustic guitars to play an unplugged show, but were soon horrified to find that we could not hear the band because of all the chatter around us. Stephie took to yelling at people to shut up, but she got in return were dirty looks. A girl near us said "Well, this is a bar, you know." I replied, "Yes, it is. But do you you usually pay $35 cover charge to go to a bar to talk?" She just turned up her nose and went back to her conversation, completely ignoring the band.
      Come to think of it, the problem goes back even further. I used to be a big fan of Jimmy Buffett. Saw him several years in a row at the late, lamented Poplar Creek Music Theater. Soon after Stephie and I started dating, he was booked to play Tinley Park. (I think it was called the World at that time. What'ss it now, the First National Bank of the United States of America Savings and Loan Amphitheater?) He had Little Feat as an opening act, and I was a big fan of them as well. This might have been the first time they came through the area after reforming, and I was excited to see two of my faves on one bill. Unfortunately, the pavilion was sold out by the time I found out about it, but I figured that lawn seats would be the next best thing, right? Wrong.
      We arrived and planted ourselves where we had a decent view of the stage. There was some rowdiness in the crowd, but that was to be expected, I thought, because it was the lawn. The lights went down, Little Feat hit the stage, and we could barely hear them over the din of the crowd. There must have been maybe 10 people on the lawn trying to listen to the band. Everyone else was laughing and drinking and carrying on. We tried to get closer, but even at the front of the lawn we couldn't hear a thing.
      After Little Feat left the stage and the lights went up, the crowd got louder. It had rained that week, and the middle aisle turned to mud, which people used to slide down the lawn. It didn't get any better (or quieter) when Buffett's band hit the stage. We left in disgust after three or four songs. Haven't been to see him since.
      Since the Hothouse Flowers debacle, we've only been to House of Blues a few times. Each time we get there way early, plant ourselves arms reach from the stage, and stay there the whole time. This has served us well, but when I took Stephie to see Gino Vannelli, the songs were fine, but when he was talking between songs, we had a little trouble hearing him, even though we could practically touch the stage. I'd be hard pressed these days to go to a general admission concert because of this. It seems that when there is assigned seating, more people seem to want to listen to the music.
      The thing that upset me most about the Tribune article was the attitude of the people the reporter talked to about this issue, especially the one that said he was in the "talking section". What? And the other one who said "the band doesn't seem to mind". We went to Fitzgerald's once and saw Alejandro Escovedo open for Poi Dog Pondering, a benefit concert for one of the workers there. His set started with just him on acoustic guitar and Susan Voeltz from PDP on violin. The first song was amazing, but halfway through the second, it was getting hard to hear because of all the chatter. He stopped the song and addressed the crowd. "Look," he said, "I came here all the way from Texas to play this show. If you want to just stand there and talk, I'm just going to get back on the plane and go home." There was a stunned silence in the crowd, and a few of us applauded. He played the rest of the set and it was some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard played live. The crowd was mostly quiet, but started to get chatty near the end.
      Look, I know we're not going to the symphony, where they'll throw you out for opening a candy wrapper too loudly, but show some respect to the musicians, and the people who have paid (sometimes a lot of) money to see them and hear them play.

07/07/13: We had a lousy Fourth of July this year. Since it fell on Thursday, and I had to work on Friday, we decided that we were going to stay home: Stephie to paint and me to relax and maybe write. What we hadn't counted on was Kisu's increasing problem with loud noises. We've comforted her through some fairly violent thunderstorms recently, but the fireworks this year were horrible, beginning well before the first of the month. Even though we put the Thundershirt on her well before the first pop of the day, by mid-afternoon she was glued to my leg, and if I tried to get away from her, even just to go outside to clean the kitchen windows, she would start to panic. The shirt has been working well for storms, but it had little effect today.
     She was never really comfortable on the fourth, but then we usually would go to my parents' house for the day. Their neighborhood seemed in past years to be quieter than ours, and they have a family room downstairs where Kisu could go where very little noise would reach her sensitive ears. On top of staying home this year, it was a beautiful day so we had the windows open, and every bang would just make her jump, then sit and tremble.
     We have some sedatives that we got from the vet years ago, and we gave her one in the afternoon. It calmed her a little, but she didn't sleep. She would just look at us with this glazed look, and she would still be bothered by the loudest of the noises from outside. It wore off just as we were going to bed, after the bulk of the noises subsided. Unfortunately, some bozo must have found a spare pack, and blew them off one at a time, from about 11:30 P.M. until well after midnight. We just sat up with her until she stopped trembling.
     The day had started out great, with Kisu and I greeting our neighbors, who were out putting flags in everyone's lawn, as you can kind-of see in the picture here, but it ended badly, with Stephie and I getting very little sleep because of our little scaredy puppy. I think we'll need a new plan for next Independence Day.

06/16/13: Last Friday was a milestone at this site, and I've been so lazy here lately that I let it slip right by. June 14, 2013 was the tenth anniversary of the first post here at stephanieandmatt.com. As you can read here, the site started as my final project for my final class of my bachelor's degree, and has expanded from there. Since then I've had over 9500 people look at the home page, which I think is pretty good for what would be called a personal blog these days. Sure, I've expanded it with some other pages like picture galleries for Stephie's art and Kisu's pictures, but it's still just a place for me to write about what's on my mind at the time.
     I look back and there have been some lulls when I haven't posted much. Truth is, I'm in the middle of one right now. But it looks like May of 2010 was the only month in the last 10 years that I didn't post at least one article. I'm pretty proud of that.
     Not much major has changed in our personal lives since this site went live, though. Stephie and I still live in the same place, Kisu is still with us, we drive the same cars, and I work at basically the same job. There have been some changes, though, and I'm not thinking about how gray my beard has become in that time. Stephie has her own web site now, artbystephie.com, and she's done several outdoor art shows, selling a few of her original pieces and many mini-prints. I've self-published two books and am working to complete the third, and I'm currently the main instigator of a writing group in North Riverside. And there's that gray hair I mentioned.
     But time marches on, as they say, and I think the place needs sprucing up. I haven't done anything with the design of this site since January of '04, when I made a behind-the-scenes change so it's easier for me to post things. I don't plan any major changes to the design of the site, because I still like the way it looks, but I think I'm going to take down a few of the pages in the blue bar on the left, and maybe put up a couple of new ones. I think I need to have a semi-permanent page for my writing projects, and I need to update that Safe Computing page that I have neglected for the past couple of years. I'll probably take downt he 2007 Cicada page, because we should have another visit from them next year.
     So if you've been reading my drivel here for the last ten years, I thank you, and ask you to check back in a couple of weeks. The place won't look dramatically different, but I hope I'll have some more stuff for you to read. And as always, thanks for looking.

05/07/13: (Updated)I've signed up again for the Bowl-a-Thon at work on May 15, to benefit Junior Achievement. When they asked me to participate, I promised to stink up the lanes the same as I did last year, but they said they didn't care, so I'm in. Through the fundraising site they use, I've set up a page for secure, online donations. The format was set by the site, but there was a spot called "My Story" which, of course, I took some liberties with, as I did by using the picture of the guys lawn bowling that you see here. This is what I wrote:

I really had hit rock bottom.

Things had been bad, sure, but now, the wife and kids were gone. My health was failing, I couldn't keep a job. I just didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. I felt as though I was drifting aimlessly through life. Lost. Without purpose.

Then I discovered bowling.

Bowling gave me something to live for, something to strive for. The pursuit of the perfect game. The thrill of picking up that 7-10 split. The assortment of colorful footwear. Every chance I had, I was down at the lanes, working on my hook, my delivery, my straight ball. As my game improved, my outlook on life did, too. I held my head high. I got my swagger back.

And with all this exercise, I feel better physically. I find that my pants fit better. I have more energy. My right bicep is twice the size of my left, which makes my shirts fit funny, but with these awesome bowling shirts that I now wear exclusively, no one notices.

The game of bowling got me back in the game of life. And now it's time to give back, and I'm asking you to help.

It must have been effective because several people donated, including one of my co-workers who, after hearing me read it out loud said "I'd donate to that site!"

04/21/13: I was on the train, coming home from work the day after the big rain. I was reading, so I was not paying attention to where I was at, but I put the book away after we passed the Riverside station. I looked out the window and saw that we were in one of the forested areas along the tracks, and there was standing water around the trees. I figured that the Des Plaines river had overflowed its banks due to the massive rain we had the night before, and like I ususally do after a big rain, I tried to see where the usual banks were.
     As the train went over the bridge, I couldn't see the typical landmarks that marked the banks of the river. There was something there, but I didn't recognize it. Then I looked up and saw traffic lights straight ahead. I was not looking at the Des Plaines river, but was looking at First Avenue! The thing I didn't recognize was the very top of the guard rail just before the bridge.
     As ususal, I didn't have my camera handy, and by the time I did, the train had moved on. I couldn't find a picture of First Ave. on the 'net, but I found this picture on the Chicago Tribune web site. This was in Lisle, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what I saw.

03/31/13: Ten years ago today, our little family increased by one, as Kisu came to live with us, and she's been a bundle of joy ever since. Stephie is always saying how much Kisu makes her laugh.
     Case in point was yesterday. We were cleaning the apartment ahead of having everyone over for Easter. We moved everything out of the dining room so that we could use the carpet scrubber we rented from PetSmart. We had not planned to move everything back until today, so the dining room was empty all evening except for the piano. Earlier, Kisu and I were running around, and she was clearly having fun playing indoors without having to worry about running into the table (which she has done a few times.)
     After dinner, Stephie was watching TV and I was working on the computer, and when I went to get something to drink, I saw Kisu, sacked out right in the middle of the empty dining room. Something about that image made me laugh out loud. I took a picture, but it was much funnier in person. She just looked up at me, wondering what I was laughing about.
     Today we went to McDonalds for dinner, as is our custom on Kisu's birthday or adoption day, and she seemed to really enjoy her hamburger and fries. Happy Adoption Anniversary, princess. And don't worry, you can sleep wherever you want.

02/26/13: I was recently listening to an episode of The Book Cave, one of the many podcasts I subscribe to. It's not very well recorded, but I usually am so interested in its content that I struggle through the tinny sound and audio artifacting and other technical difficulties. The hosts are very enthusiastic about their subject matter, which is typically books, comics, pulps, movie serials, or old-time radio. All things near and dear to my heart.
      The guest on this particular show was one of the guys behind the resurrection of Captain Action, a short-lived action figure from the sixties. Captain Action was a G.I.Joe-sized action figure (the full-sized '60s Joe, not the tiny '80s version) that could become other characters from TV and comics. If you (or more likely your parents) had some spare cash laying around, you simply buy a costume and your Captain Action could become Batman or Spider-Man or the Green Hornet or Steve Canyon or Flash Gordon. Considering that all those characters were from different companies, I'm amazed that they got licenses to make all those costumes. To offer such a wide variety today would probably cost a fortune.
      So the guys on the podcast were talking about what they remember of the figure from its first incarnation. One of the hosts said that he still had his original Captain Action figure, in the original box, and the guest laughed and said something about how he must have "enjoyed the character just the right way." That struck me as wrong.
      The picture here is of Captain Action's hat. It's a hard chunk of rubber and is the only thing that's left of the Captain Action I had when I was a kid. (Truth to tell, this is a picture I found on the 'net. My CA cap is somewhere in storage, but if I find it, I'll replace this picture with a shot of mine.) I think the only costume I had for him at the time was Batman, but I remember him having many adventures, regardless of who he was dressed as.
      We played with that toy until all that was left of him was his hat. I think that was the right way to enjoy the character. I sometimes wish I knew what happened to the rest of him, but considering that one of our GI Joes was doomed to have his body cavity stuffed with cheese and buried in the snow in our back yard, I have to assume Captain Action met a similar fate. We were boys, after all.

01/28/13: I checked the weather forecast this morning, and to me this week looked like something of a roller-coaster ride. We had an ice storm on Sunday, and for Tuesday, they predict a high of 63F and thunderstorms. Wednesday we have a 50% chance of snow, but Thursday night should be a low of 3F with windchills dipping to -15F, and up to a high of 18 (windchill of -8F) on Friday. When I saw that, though, the first thing I thought of was the sequence of comic panels you see here.
     When we were kids, our parents would sometimes buy us Gold Key digest comics. We had little fat paperbacks featuring Woody Woodpecker, Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny, and the Road Runner, to name just a few. We also had Dennis the Menace and Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery. (Actually, I'm not sure how that one got through.) But the cream of the crop were the Walt Disney collections. We read those digests until they were practically falling apart. Even after our dog Sam chewed the corners and the covers did fall off, there was still some mighty fine entertainment in those yellowing, faded pages.
     One of my favorite stories in those digests was a Gyro Gearloose story called Monsterville. Gyro, if you don't know, was something of a crackpot inventor, and in this story, he set about to turn Duckburg into a futuristic city, with "built-in weather controls." As he was surveying his work, the sequence depicted here happened.
     I expect the announcement from the Weather Master of Chicago any time now.

01/19/13: I missed celebrating a major milestone last Sunday. Thirty-five years ago, on Friday, January 13, 1978, I entered the workforce as I began my first day at McDonalds. I think I only worked two hours, but I remember it went by very fast. I earned $5.30 that day. Before tax, of course.
     I spent almost three and a half years there, which was an eternity considering the turnover of the crew back then, but it was a great first job. What I got out of it was my first taste of independence, a sense of responsibility, a pretty good work ethic, one life-long friend, and lots of great memories.
     Many people used to ask me how I could still eat there after having worked there so long. They thought I'd be sick of the food. But even though the menu was relatively limited back then, I never tired of it. Even today, I stop at McDonalds now and again, to get a Big Mac or a regular hamburger. I see all the kids working behind the counter and in the back, preparing the food. The store operates quite a bit differently than it was when I worked there, with such a large menu and less food prepared ahead of the customer ordering it, and I wonder if it's still such a good first job. I'll bet it is.

Click a month or year to see all posts for that time:
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September  October  November  December  
June  July  August  September  October  November  December  

Show All Articles

Search all articles for:    

NOTE: this site was developed in nothing more than PHP, HTML, and JavaScript. While there are no ads, there are a couple pop-up windows with extra content. You may have problems viewing parts of this site if you are using any kind of pop-up blocker, such as Pop-Up Blocker. I recommend disabling the blocker while viewing Cheyenne's Pages, but make sure you turn it back on before you leave! And refresh the page there for more pictures!

This page has been viewed times since 7/31/2003. (Web Counter courtesy of digits.net).