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!

12/25/06: Oh, the heck with political correctness. Merry Christmas to everyone! Here's a picture of our little Charlie Brown tree. Stephie threw out our old tree stand last year, which served us well all these years despite getting pretty nasty looking as time went by, but when time came to buy a new stand, all the she saw were stands for your standard huge tree (at least huge compared to the ones we usually get). She just couldn't find one that would work for little trees like this guy. We tried the blanket routine (a la Linus) but finally my folks came through with a stand they weren't going to use this year, saving Christmas!

12/10/06: Today, we've revived a long-standing tradition that anyone who has read Cheyenne's Pages would probably know about. As you can see from the picture here, we took Kisu to see Santa Claus! She doesn't look really thrilled to be there (and neither does Santa for that matter) but I think that was more due to her recent aversion to slick tile floors. The last couple weeks at obedience class she has been hesitant to step off the mats onto the tile, where she has problems with traction. But today she behaved well, and so did Santa.
     And tonight I was able to use this really cool program that I installed a while back and really haven't spent any time with. When we got home from my parent's house, I noticed that there was a star or planet directly below the moon, and another one below and a little to the left. I immediately went inside and fired up the version of Stellarium that I installed several months ago, and it told me that the star below the moon was actually Saturn, and the other object was Regulus, which is apparently the brightest star in the constellation of Leo. Just another example of how computers can enhance your life. Stellarium is an open-source program, which means it's free for anyone to download and use, although it runs a little too slow to be useful on Stephie's computer. But if your system is up to it, you should check it out!

11/19/06: Hi. How have you been? I know it's been a long time since I've written, but I have been thinking about you. We've been real busy, but there's not one thing that's kept me from writing. Just a lot of little (and not so little) projects eating into our free time.
     We're all fine here. Stephie's been working on a few new art pieces, in between the administrative work she's been doing for the various art leagues she's involved in. You may have noticed that there are a few thumbnails of her pieces at the top of our home page. She asked me to do that so that anyone discovering our web site knows that there is art to see here. I've also added a piece to her page that she had given to a friend before I had a decent picture of it. And we should have some new photos of previous works now that I've bought a pretty decent digital camera.
     Kisu turned five at the end of September, and everyone at dog class sang "Happy Birthday" to her. She also recently attended the annual Halloween party, hosted by one of her classmates. It was held the week after Halloween, and like last year, it was a lot of fun. I had the new camera there and took some pictures, which I put up on her picture page. The results are decent, but I think I need to learn more about how to operate it to get the best results.
     I've been busy fooling around with video on the computer, which I'll write more about later, but I recently had a virus on my main system. It's weird, but I feel like I've had someone break into my house and do things, but I don't know what. Between that and work and some really quality shows on network TV this season, I've fallen behind in just about everything, including updating this site.
     I hope this message finds you well, and I hope it won't be so long before you hear from me again. I'm working on some fun stuff that I can't wait to tell you about, but with the holidays rapidly approaching, it will probably be tough to find the time. But I'll try to write more frequently.
     Yours, etc.

10/10/06: As many people do these days, we timeshift almost all our TV watching. Sometimes to simply postpone a show, sometimes to watch multiple-part storylines in one shot, but usually so that we can fast-forward through commercials. So it was a huge inconvenience when one of our workhorse VCRs (no DVR for us...yet) developed a problem where it would make a funny noise and then "crash". Once in a great while it would snag a tape, but most of the time it would just shut itself off, and when started up again, the counter would be at zero, as if it rebooted itself. I was beginning to worry, because if it died, I don't know if I could have replaced it. It seems all that you can get these days is a VCR/DVD combo, or some ultra-cheap no-brand box that would probably crumble under the type of use that we would put it through.
     Good thing Majer's Repair Service is still in Lombard. Scott repaired both of our previous VCRs at one time or another, as well as a few things for work when I was in the desktop support biz, and he was willing and able to fix the ailing unit quickly and for a fair price. And he's a nice guy, too. If you have any equipment that needs repair, keep him in mind. He doesn't have a web site beyond the above link from Yahoo Local, but you can reach him at 630-620-1021.

09/22/06: Sixteen is not a number that is usually recognized in society, not like multiples of five. Sure, you can usually get a drivers license at 16, and there have been some songs around the number ('Sixteen Candles", 'Sixteen Tons', 'Christine Sixteen', 'sixteen bottles of beer on the wall...') but people usually recognize and celebrate multiples of 5, whether it's years in business, years at a job, or issues of a magazine. Even those lists of traditional anniversary gifts frequently go from 1 to 15, then skip by fives: 20, 25, 30, etc. Modern lists are not much more help ("silver holloware"?)
     But a sixteen-year honeymoon is something that should be celebrated. In my case, it started on September 22, 1990, and has not ended yet. I guess that's what happens when you marry your best friend. And if I had to do it all over again, the only thing I would change is I wouldn't have waited four years to marry her!

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie!

09/19/06: Avast, ye swabs! Today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day! The day when all land lubbers can feel the pull o' the sea, though the nearest shore be thousands of leagues away. If yer be needin' a little help wit' the lingo, here's a little video ter help ye along. (Not to worry, it be work-safe.) Yo-ho!

08/30/06: Happy Birthday, R. Crumb. We're celebrating this year much like we do every year, with a quiet evening at home, featuring one of Crumb's favorite meals, accompanied with opening cards and (hopefully) presents. And then next weekend we'll be joining the rest of the family for the joint Crumb/Mom birthday celebration, going out to one of Crumb's favorite restaurants and probably having cake. When I was a kid, it was always tough looking forward to Crumb's birthday at the end of August, since it also signaled the end of summer and back-to-school time. But as I get older, without a new school year looming, it's neat that Crumb's birthday is usually followed by a three-day weekend. So Happy Birthday!

08/19/06: Because we have a world class zoo just a couple blocks away, every year our vehicle stickers always have a different animal on them. I wish I had a way of saving them from year to year, because we've had some pretty neat ones while we lived here. But this year they chose one of our favorites: a cool aardvark, complete with ants. And my sticker number is 10666, so I get to drive like a demon!

08/09/06: All the unbearably hot weather the past couple weeks reminds me of the story I like to call "The Day Snapple Saved Our Lives"
     It was 1995, a week or so after the big heat wave hit Chicago that killed all those people, and we were on vacation in Washington, D.C. Our impeccable timing meant that we were there at the tail end of what we just went through in Chicago. We also found that we really shouldn't have rented a car for the week, since the majority of the sites are best seen by shuttle, subway, or on foot. Except for trips to Baltimore and Monticello, the car stayed parked behind the hotel.
     We had a black duffel bag that we carried with us for most of the week. In it were maps, brochures, camera supplies, panchos and whatever we thought we would need. (Funny story about the panchos: at one point we got off the subway train and were approaching the long escalator that would take us to street level, and there was a large crowd around the bottom. As we reached the crowd, we saw that everyone was waiting because it was raining like mad above. "No problem" we thought and pulled out the ponchos we had carried with us all week, and triumphantly rode the escalator to the surface. What we found on the walk back to the hotel was that it wasn't such a good idea to wear heavy plastic panchos in a mid-summer downpour. We were almost as wet underneath from sweat as we would have been from walking in the rain. Fortunately that was the only rain we saw that week.)
     We had a list of things we wanted to see, and were working our way through it pretty well. One sunny day we decided to go see Arlington National Cemetery. We packed up our duffel bag, took the shuttle bus as far as we could, and walked over the bridge and down the long road to the cemetery. Near the entrance, there was parked a truck with a Snapple logo on the side, and there were several people handing out free bottles of Snapple from the back of the truck. We each got a bottle and put them in the duffel. We then entered the cemetery.
     We wandered around for a while, looking at all the major sites, like the Challenger monument, the Kennedy gravesites, and the Tomb of the Unknowns. It was a very moving and humbling experience being there. We then saw a sign pointing to another landmark, and we headed in that direction. We walked. And walked. And walked. Somewhere along the way, we lost not only the signs we were following, but our sense of direction as well. And the sun was beating down on us. And it was hot.
     Now there's a scene I know I've seen in several movies where the camera closes in on the protagonist walking across the desert. It then shows the sun, as the camera wavers back and forth. Then there's a tight close up on the sweat-drenched main character, looking uncomfortable and disoriented. That's exactly how we felt. We didn't know where we were (well, we were still in the cemetery) and we didn't know how to get out and we were starting to get thirsty, crabby and a little scared. Then, one of us remembered the Snapple that we got before we entered. We popped the caps and drank a little, and warm lemonade never tasted so good! It gave us the little refresher that we needed to go on. We went a little further, found a main path, and wound up at the exit, right by the Iwo Jima monument.
     When I sit and think about it, I don't think we were in any danger of dying there in the cemetery, but I remember thinking at the time that Snapple saved our lives.

07/05/06: Stephie has won a third-place ribbon for her new piece "Burst Of Color #2" at the LaGrange Art League. The judge said that he "enjoyed the flare and excitement of the piece." He called it "very lively and entertaining." We don't have a very good picture of it yet, but if you saw Stephie's one-person show in June, it's the picture that was in the front window. This is a shot from that show, which we will replace as soon as we get a better shot.

     Also, there are a couple new pieces on Stephie's Art Page. They may be familiar to you if you were at the one person show, but they're new here.

06/25/06: Stephanie's gallery show is only up until the end of the week, so if you want to see it, you'd better hurry. The gallery is open late on Thursday for those of you who have regular jobs!

Also, I've written up a review of the Zappa Plays Zappa show that we saw last week. Click here for my impressions.

06/11/06: It was a pretty good weekend. We had a nice crowd come out for Stephie's gallery reception on Saturday. You can see pictures of the exhibit, and some of the guests, by clicking here. And just because you couldn't make it to the gallery on Saturday doesn't mean that you missed out on the art. The display will be up until the end of June. Check out the LaGrange Art League site for hours and directions.
     And I went to the Brandeis book sale on Sunday. Every year I look at the pile of books I come home with (28 this year) to try to pick one treasure that stands out among the rest. The treasure this year was not one of the books, but a card I was handed on the way out. It seems that although this is the last year for Brandeis to put on the book sale, Little City Foundation in Palatine is going to try to carry on the tradition starting next year. The guy that was handing out the cards said that they are going to talk to the Old Orchard people about using the same site, and that some of the people that help out Brandeis have offerred to stay on and help next year. I tell ya, I was thrilled. One problem, he said, is that they can't get Brandeis' mailing list, which is why he was handing out the cards. So if you want to be on the mailing list for next year, or if you want to donate books, call 847-221-7856 or e-mail them at booksale@littlecity.org. And the Brandeis show runs until next weekend, with Saturday and Sunday being the bargain days.

06/08/06: We have a big weekend coming up. Saturday, June 10, is the reception for Stephie's big One Person art show at the LaGrange Art League. Details should be above or on her Art page. And if you can't make it to LaGrange on Saturday, you have until the end of the month to drop by the League and see her stuff. It's just going to be better on Saturday because we'll be there, and there will be refreshments and stuff...
     And also Saturday is the start of the big Brandeis Book Sale at the Westfield Old Orchard mall in Skokie. I've mentioned this before here, and told many friends about it, as something that I really look forward to every year, but it's going to be a little sad this year because they've announced that this will be the last one. I'm going on Sunday, because of the Art show, and being that it's the last one, I think I'm going to spend some extra time going through all the tables, just to make sure I don't miss any treasures, like the copy of Criswell Predicts that I picked up several years ago. Click the picture of the flyer here for more details of the sale.

05/18/06: At the other end of the floor in the office I work, there is a soda machine that has Cherry Coke, or Coca-Cola Cherry as it's now called. I don't drink a lot of pop at work, even though all the machines in the building give you a 12 oz. can for a quarter, but every once in a while I get a taste for a Cherry Coke, and the machine on my end of the building doesn't have it as a selection.
     There's another reason why I sometimes make the trek down there. There's something wrong with the machine, in that it occasionally dispenses two cans for one quarter! To be fair, it sometimes doesn't give you anything for your quarter, so I figure that I'm probably about even over the time I've worked here.
     So today, I had one quarter in my pocket, so I thought I'd take a chance. I put it in, pressed the button, and got nothing. Now, I'm not a gambling man, but I really had a taste for a Cherry Coke, so I pulled a dollar out of my wallet, fed it into the machine and pressed the button. This time, something dropped in the slot. I was disappointed when I saw that it was a plain old Coke Classic. But then I went for my change and found a dollar and a half in the tray! I guess I'm a winner this week.

05/08/06: I apologize in advance to the non-techies out there, but I got a new gadget last week, and so far, I'm thrilled with it so I had to share. If you're not interested, feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.
     I ordered a Hauppage MediaMVP device from Amazon.com after reading many positive reviews. It's basically a tiny diskless computer, like those thin-client devices that were all over the computer press a number of years ago. You plug it into your TV and network, and it will pull music, video and pictures off your computer and play them through the TV. I hoped it would let me watch video files from my computer on my TV without converting the files and burning to a DVD.
     The thing that impresses me the most is that it took all of five minutes to install and it worked the first time. After I opened the box, I installed the software on my main system, plugged the device into the TV and the network cable that is used by the MP3 Jukebox, and turned it on. It immediately found the PC running the software, and after I went back and told the software where to find the movies and music files, I was playing a movie file from my PC in the office on my TV in the front room. And it looked just fine. I could fast-forward, pause, rewind, everything! I had one problem where I was skipping around a show too much and the audio went out of sync, but other than that, it just works! Amazing! It's a little early for a whole-hearted recommendation, but at under $100, it's practically an impulse-buy!
     Stephie is hard at work getting ready for her one-woman show at the LaGrange Art League in June. While she's working hard to finish up a couple more pieces before it starts, she's also planning for the reception for the exhibit. We should have dates and times shortly.
     And Kisu's dog trainer, Dave Wieczorek, has a big event coming up in September, and he's asked me to work up a web site, since I've been helping him out with his site. It's pretty basic now, but he should be passing along more information fo me to add any day now. Check it out if you're interested!

04/20/06: Well. first the bad news. Stephie thought she was getting her braces off today, but apparently the orthodontist saw his shadow, because Stephie has six more weeks of braces.
     The good news today, though, is actually great news. Tickets went on sale today (actually, Internet pre-sales) for Zappa Plays Zappa at the Auditorium Theater on June 17, and thanks to the dubious ticketmaster.com, I scored tickets! This is the long-promised tour of Dweezil Zappa (and possibly Ahmet) playing his dad's music! According to the site: "This is the first official live concert event of Frank Zappa's Music since his untimely passing in 1993. Joining Dweezil on stage will be a hand-picked band of new, young musicians as well as some legendary Zappa alumni including Steve Vai, Terry Bozzio, and Napoleon Murphy Brock."
     Stephie never saw Frank live, as I have many times, so we're really looking forward to it! I was hoping to take her to see ProjectObject, a high-quality, nationally-touring tribute band that frequently has guest artists who had played with Zappa, but I think this might be the closest to the real thing as we're going to see since the artist left us. Get your tickets today!

04/08/06: Wow, how time flies. I've been busy with other projects, and my work schedule keeps changing, and somehow I've let almost a whole month slip without posting anything here.
     The TV-guide thing is coming along, and I'll probably write about that more when I'm done. I've installed Website Baker on our server, and I'm trying to set it up as an intranet portal. I used it to set up Kisu's trainer's site, and it's real easy to work with, whether you want something to work "out of the box" or you want to customize it to your personal needs. I'm trying to write a module to allow us access to our book database, as part of the big "home inventory" project.
    As I mentioned, I set up the WetnoseOBT site for Kisu's trainer, Dave, and I've been doing a bit of maintenance to the site. If you get a chance, check it out and let me know what you think.
     Stephie has two new art pieces completed. Go check them out on her art page. She's been very busy with her art-related volunteer work, and planning for her one-woman show, coming up in June at the LaGrange Art League. More about that as the date gets closer.
     And Kisu's been pretty busy, too, just being a dog! Walks have been getting longer with the improving weather, and she's been having a great time at her weekly obedience class. We have pictures from class on her pictures page.
     Finally, I know I never completed posting the pictures from out California trip. I promise to get that done as soon as possible!

03/09/06: I wrote once before about how I almost got tricked by one of those "phishing" e-mails that the criminals are now using to try to get your eBay or PayPal or other site logins, but I got the exact same message twice this week, so either someone has it in for me or there are more [insert you favorite plural expletive] out there using the same program. While this one looked a lot like your basic PayPal e-mail, it contained the following line that made me laugh: "If you choose to ignore our request, you leave us no choise but to temporaly suspend your account." Folks, spelling errors are one of the more obvious indicators that the message that claims to be from PayPal most likely isn't.
     I don't know if it's doing any good, but I always forward there (with full headers) to spoof@[whatever they claim to be].com. Maybe they'll be able to catch one or two of these idiots, although I'm not holding my breath.

03/06/06: I finally got the pictures from Sharon and Louis' Mardi Gras party up on Kisu's pictures page. Click here to check them out!

02/26/06: We didn't throw a birthday party for Stephie this year, but she got a really great present. She once mentioned to (Matt's) Dad that she would like to have a lazy susan for the dining room table, and Dad, being the amateur woodworker that he is, volunteered to make one for her. That was around four years ago. This year for her birthday, she got what he is calling a "dazy susan". Check it out here!

02/09/06: I've been trying to set up some kind of XMLTV-based TV guide system on my server at home, since none of the available paper TV guides are useful to me any more. I have the data download working, but I was looking for an easy way to display the information in a browser window. I would like to have it show a grid like you might get from Yahoo or Zap2It, but I also would like it to find things for me, like I understand a PVR will do. I haven't found anything that does everything I want it to do right out of the box (Whatson is pretty close) so it looks like I'll have to get off my lazy behind and write one myself.
     But I had a pleasant surprise this morning. I was checking out how Whatson displays a programs' detail, and above it on the screen there was a list of programs to pick from. I almost fell off my chair when I saw Floyd Uncorked listed. I clicked on it, and found out that our old buddy Keith Floyd is appearing weekday mornings on The Travel Channel!
     If you've never seen any of the various Floyd cooking shows, you don't know what you're missing. This is not your typical cooking show. Part food, part travelogue, with a bit of humor and a lot of drinking, the Floyd shows never fail to entertain Stephie and I. We watched him many years ago when he was on channel 11, but haven't seen much of him on TV since. One year I gave Stephie a tape of Floyd on Italy that I ordered from Amazon UK and had professionally (and expensively) converted to NTSC.
     You don't have to go through that trouble if you have the Travel Channel. Tomorrow (2/10) at 9AM CST they are showing the final two episodes of Floyd Uncorked, which we have as a boxed VHS tape. Next week they will be showing Far Flung Floyd, which I believe covers Asia, and they are following that with Floyd on Italy, which we can say from personal experience is very entertaining. I don't know if you'd necessarily want to make any of the dishes he shows you, since they probably would appeal more to the European palate, but the shows are a riot. Set up your favorite video time-shifting device today!

01/24/06: Does anyone remember Rubens Baby Factory? More to the point, does anyone remember the documentary that Channel 11 showed years ago where they traced the history of the Baby Factory and showed how the babies produced there contributed to society. Yes, it was a spoof, since they (probably) didn't actually make babies at the factory, but I remember it as being pretty funny, and I'd love to get my hands on a copy. I seem to remember it being shown on Image Union.
     Actually, there's a number of things I saw on good ol' WTTW that I'd love to see again. First and foremost is a 1978 Soundstage show featuring Martin Mull and Flo and Eddie. I know I saw it several times when it was on TV, but that was way before even VCRs were affordable. I have an old audio cassette with the show, taped off of WXRT as they stereo-simulcast the show back when TV was mono-only, but I'd pay RETAIL for a good copy of the show.
     I also would like to see some of the British comedies that they carried. Sure, Stephie bought me the complete Monty Python set, after it was shown on A&E, but where are the reruns of The Goodies, No, Honestly, Ripping Yarns, and a favorite in our household, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin? I wouldn't mind the odd episode of Dave Allen or The Two Ronnies, either. I should probably check the 'net for import DVDs.

01/03/06: Happy New Year to all of you. We spent New Year's Eve safely tucked in the corner of the couch, watching movies. After two features, Stephie was dozing off, so she said that I could watch whatever I wanted, since she would probably sleep through it..
    Being that it was New Year's Eve, I popped in "The Cocoanuts", the very first Marx Brothers movie and the first disc in the Marx Brothers box set I picked up last year. Channel 7 used to show the Marx Brothers on New Year's eve, so I thought it would be appropriate..
    I was a little disappointed at the quality of the print they used. It goes from razor-sharp image to "do I need to clean the screen?" fuzzy (sometimes in the same scene) but the movie itself, while not one of their classics, was still pretty funny. I was amazed at how much I remembered of the verbal gymnastics between Groucho and the other characters, and how little I remembered of the supposed "plot", which I think was really just thrown in to bridge the scenes between the Marx mayhem..
    There was one thing, though. There are a few things that I remember vividly from my childhood without knowing their origin. Snippets of music or lines of dialog are so deeply embedded in my personal zeitgeist that I can rattle them off practically verbatim, but many of them I have little recollection of the source. Sure, I can tell you where I heard about the Montgolfier brothers, or why I can still recite the preamble to the Constitution, but some things, like the phrase "I remember when tea dancing was the rage", just escape me. (Jon says it's from a commercial for a record collection.).
    So it's 11:30, 12/31/2005, Margaret Dumont is throwing an engagement party for her daughter to marry some grifter, and everyone shows up dressed like they're in a Zorro movie. The house detective drops by and is promptly relieved of his shirt. He starts yelling how "He wants his shirt!" and I almost fell off the couch as the Toreador song from Carmen is sung about a missing shirt. This goes through my head any time I hear the song, but I couldn't remember where I heard it. You can hear for yourself by clicking here. I love it when this happens..
    The only problem now is I watched the scene, then ran it back and watched it again, then played it for Stephie, then played it again to record the attached clip, and now it's stuck firmly in my head and I can't get rid of it. "I found my shirt. Thank God I found my shirt..."

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