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!

Merry Christmas to everyone! Here's a little buddy of ours to pass along his own special brand of Christmas cheer.

11/17/10: I have a good excuse this time as to why I haven't posted in a while. I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. It's a web site that offers a challenge to anyone foolish enough to accept: write a 50,000 word novel, from scratch, in the month of November. I ran across the concept last year, but too late to participate. Fortunately, this year something brought it to my attention in the last week of October. I mulled it over for a few days, then figured "What the heck!" and signed up. Each night since November 1, I've sat down at the keyboard and struggled to avoid the Web, solitaire, e-mail, and other distractions on and around my desk (yes, even Kisu!) in order to pound out something that I could be proud of, if not finish.
     So far I've accomplished just that. At this point, I'm just over 25,000 words, so I'm halfway to the goal. I have no idea if I'm halfway thought with my novel, because I have no idea where it's going. I also have no idea what I'm going to do with it once I'm done. Maybe I'll post some of it here. Maybe I'll try to get some copies printed up to inflict on family and friends. Hey, I just had a thought. I think I may know what everyone on my list is getting for Christmas this year!
     By the way, if I've set this up correctly, you should be able to click the graphic here and see my up-to-date word count.

11/29/10 Update: I Won! My novel's finished, at 50,339 words. Maybe I'll get to bed at a reasonable hour for the first time this month!

10/23/10: The other night I was taking Kisu out for the last time before going to bed, and she ran to the door and stopped, obviously looking at something outside. I looked through the window and there was this little black cat sitting at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at us. Kisu's tail was going but we just stared at each other for a bit, Kisu and I and the cat. I called for Stephie to come see but when I left the door, Kisu barked and the cat ran across the street. When Stephie got there, all we could see was this little black puff on the other lawn, apparently still looking at us. Something told me to go investigate, so I left Kisu and Stephie in the house and went across.
     I don't know what made me do that. Maybe it was that the cat didn't run away, but stopped as if she was waiting for me. (Since we've had two female dogs, I refer to all animals as "she" until proven otherwise.) I approached her and she backed off a bit, running to the bushes there but then looking back to me and purring. I tried calling to her with my best "animal soothing" voice, and she came out of the bushes and approached me. I made no movements that I thought would be threatening, talking to her all the while. She was not real big and was mostly black, with white front paws and back legs, white belly, and lots of white whiskers. (Later Googling turned up the term "tuxedo cat". The picture here was from Google, since I didn't have the presence of mind to grab my camera.) She approached me and I showed her the back of my hand, like I would with a dog. She sniffed it and rubbed her head against it, and started rolling over on the grass.
     I thought to myself "This is not a cat that normally lives on the street." She didn't seem afraid of me at all, as she kept rubbing up to my legs and letting me scratch her tummy, playfully batting at my hands with her white paws. I thought I should try to get her inside while we figure out what to do, so I tried to pick her up, hoping not to be bitten or clawed, but she let me do it. I didn't hold her very close, not wanting to scare her, but as I moved toward the street, she gracefully leapt/fell from my grasp and started playing on the lawn again.
     At this point, I wasn't sure what to do. I tried coaxing her as I would a dog, but she just looked at me and kept doing little somersaults on the lawn. I left her there and went back to Stephie (and an obviously upset Kisu, who wanted to be involved) to discuss the situation. Stephie said she would call the police for advice, and I went back to try to coax the cat to the front porch. I picked her up again and after a couple more jumps, was able to get her inside.
     The cat didn't seem upset about being indoors, but just checked out her surroundings. When I put her on the couch there, I could see she did have claws, and counted myself lucky I didn't get scratched when carrying her. She tried pawing the door open, but I held it shut. Stephie eventually came out and told me the police said we could hang onto her until the owners came looking, or we could bring her into the station. We were not concerned about Kisu, who got along famously with our friend's cat when they met, but thought because of our lack of accommodations, like a litter box for example, it would be best if we took her in. We got dressed and with Stephie clutching the little cat to her chest, we drove to the police station.
     The people there couldn't be nicer. They took our name and address, and where we found the cat, and finally an officer led us back to the garage where they have several cages set up. He opened the larger of the cages and the cat jumped out of Stephie's arms and into the cage, where she went and curled up in the corner, looking a little frightened. I could see from Stephie's face that this upset her a little, but we went back to the front desk to ask what was going to happen next. We were told that they would hold the cat overnight to see if the owner would call, but she would be moved to the Animal Welfare League the next day if not. We felt a little better about that, since that's where we took Cheyenne when we found her, and that's where we adopted Kisu from. We went home and after taking Kisu out, I went to bed, but that little kitty was on my mind.
     The next morning, as I took Kisu out before going to work, I paused to make sure there were no cats out there before opening the door. I expected to see a bunch of them out there, as if the cat world now would know there's an easy mark here, but nobody was there. I asked at the train station if anyone was missing a cat, but no one knew of any. That cute little kitty was in the back of my mind all day at work, and I spent some of my lunch searching missing animal web sites to no avail. Wen I got home I called the police station and was told the owner had called, and she was picked up that afternoon.
     I was relieved and, oddly enough, a little disappointed at this. I'm thrilled that she's home with her family, but I feel, much as I did when we found Cheyenne, that I had developed a bond with her, despite our short time together. I can't help thinking that when she was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for us to come out, that she picked our house because she knew there were people here who would help her, either to get home or to be safe. I know that's silly, but I'm one of those people who anthropomorphize animals. And while there was really no way we could have adopted her had her owner not shown up, we do have some friends who recently talked of adopting a cat, and it would have been great if that's how the story turned out. But she's apparently home safe, so the story had a happy ending.

10/02/10: People might not know this, but even though I have a good sense of humor, I'm not big on pranks. In fact, I actively dislike the whole April Fool's Day concept. I think that particular bias came from reading too many magazines which think it's humorous to print fake stories for the "April Fool's Issue", but then I wind up reading it months later and, well, feel like a fool for wasting my time reading it. And I don't see what's so funny about wrapping someone's cubicle in toilet paper, for instance. It's a waste of toilet paper and the unfortunate victim winds up having to clean it up.
     But there was this one time that I was involved in a prank at work that I thought was really funny. I wasn't the primary instigator, just the support behind the instigator. It involved a certain sound file, which I have been looking for in my backups for years, with the intention of using here as part of this story. I finally gave up trying to find it and recreated it. It wasn't that difficult.
     It was the late '90's and I was working with a pretty good bunch of people. They left me out of most of the pranks they liked to pull on each other, and we got along fine. They had more work than they could handle, so there was what seemed to be a constant stream of temporary workers coming through the department, some of whom were right out of college. One of them was this smart aleck young kid named Aziz Khan. (I don't mind using his real, full name here. I doubt he would ever read this, and it's important to the story.)
     He had been working there for a little while, and really didn't get along with the rest of the team. I seem to remember he had a smug attitude like he was better than the rest of us for some reason. I think his parents might have been doctors or something and maybe he thought doing PC support was beneath him. Anyway, he wasn't well liked around the office.
     I overheard one of the guys one day saying that they had a clip of William Shatner screaming "Khan!" from the second Star Trek movie, and wouldn't it be funny if they could find a clip from The Fifth Element, where one character yells "Aziz, Lights!". I think at the time I was the only one with Internet access, so I ran back to my desk and in no time found the clip he was looking for. Even in the early days of the Internet you could find stuff like that easily.
     I also downloaded the demo of a progrm called CoolEdit, which I had used at home to edit audio files (today I would have used Audacity) and gave the file and the program to my buddy, who in no time whipped up a sound file combining the two movie clips. I remember us laughing so hard as he played it over and over. He even had the phrase in the file twice, which somehow made it funnier. Fortunately, Aziz was at lunch, so he wasn't around to hear this. But one of the guys had an idea.
     There's a feature in Windows that allows you to attach a sound file to an action performed by the user or the system. Mostly it's used for setting certain sounds to play when a dialog box opens or on a system alert, but there's a whole list of events you an attach sounds to. We were using Windows 98 back then, and I think there may have been even more than current versions have. (I seem to remember mouse click or mouse movement or something mouse related being available.) And lucky for us, back then nobody locked their system when they went to lunch. So one of the guys went into Aziz's cubicle, put the file on his PC, and attached the sound to every possible event on the machine. So when he got back from lunch and tried to do anything, his computer shouted "Aziz KHAN! Aziz KHAN!".
     He moved his mouse, it played the file. He clicked the Start menu, it played the file. He tried to open the Control Panel to remove the settings, and everything he clicked, it played the file. He was cursing as he tried to undo the settings and we were falling over laughing.
     I think if he had any sense of humor at all, he would have had a laugh with us. As I told someone at the time, if I had a clip of Shatner yelling MY name, I'd certainly have it on MY computer. I thought it was pretty clever, and there was no permanent damage. In fact, it didn't take him that long to undo everything, but he was a pain in the butt and (I guess) wouldn't give us the satisfation of having a laugh with us. No matter, because he didn't work there much longer and we haven't seen him since.
     But I did recreate that file. Here it is:

09/22/10: "It was twenty years ago today..." is how the Beatles started their "Sgt. Pepper" album, and that has been going through my head today, as it was twenty years ago today that Stephie and I were married. I'm not a big fan of change, but some things have changed in my life since then: two apartments, five jobs, three cars, two dogs, two TVs, four VCRs, many PCs, more hair on my face, less hair on my head. But the one thing that'll never change my love for Stephie. I can't wait to see what the next twenty have in store for us. Happy Anniversary, Sweetie!

09/19/10: Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don't give a hoot,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We extort, we pilfer, we filch, and sack,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
Maraud and embezzle, and even high-jack,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We kindle and char, inflame and ignite,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
We burn up the city, we're really a fright,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.

We're rascals, scoundrels, villans, and knaves,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
We're devils and black sheep, really bad eggs,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.
We're beggars and blighters, ne'er-do-well cads,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
Aye, but we're loved by our mommies and dads,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.

Happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day, me 'earties! A round of grog for the sorry lot o' ya!

09/18/10: I don't know if any of you remember the bad old days of car audio, when the norm was an AM radio and a tinny-sounding speaker in the dashboard. That's all we had in the cars in which I first learned to drive, and in these days of HD and satellite radio, it's funny to think that when you drove under a bridge or a viaduct, the sound faded out and all you got was static until you came out the other side.
     Stephie went downtown on the train the other night and I drove down to pick her up. As usual, I didn't have a radio station playing but was listening to my mp3 player in the car, using an FM modulator so the sound comes through my car stereo. I tried several types years ago, but found that the in-line models, which plug into the radio and the antenna plugs into it, give you the best sound, usually as good or better than any radio station. Once in a while, I get static when I drive by something broadcasting a strong signal on a close-by frequency, like some of the local high schools who have radio stations that you can pick up for a couple blocks, but usually the sound is clear.
     But that night, as I got closer to downtown, the static got louder and louder, to a point where it was almost drowned out the program I was listening to. But then I got off the expressway and went into a tunnel, and the static cleared up, and the program was all I heard. As I exited the tunnel, the static came back. And it happened with every tunnel and overpass I went under. Exactly the opposite of the old AM reception.
     I thought it was pretty funny at the time.
     And you know what else is pretty funny? This picture of my nephew Rick from when we went to Disney Quest many years ago. Last year I put up Chris' picture from that trip and here's Rick's. I need to get mine up here some day.

08/28/10: I had a strange experience the other night I thought I'd share. I was checking my e-mail before going to bed, and while waiting for the screen to load, I took a look at the DualDisc of "Angel of Retribution" by Judas Priest that my brother gave me that day. As is the norm when I'm in front of the computer, my attention to the task at hand wandered and I started thinking about these DualDiscs, which if you don't know are single discs with CD information on one side and DVD information on the other. I remember there was a lot of press when they came out, primarily because of the incompatibility with many CD players, but I haven't seen much since.
     So I navigated to Google and searched for DualDisc. The first thing that came up was the dualdisc.com "official" web site. A quick look at the News section has the most recent item as being from May of 2005. I next went to the Wikipedia entry, and the text there also strangely doesn't mention anything beyond 2005. The list of releases there does not have dates of the releases, and although I don't recognise most of the artists on the list, nothing there seems current. The Wikipedia history shows that the article has been modified recently, but the text of the entry seems as though it was still 2005.
     And that's the feeling I got when I looked at some of the other articles on the Google list. I went through several pages of links and there's really nothing more recent than 2005. Maybe the format died back then, but I find it odd that I did not see one link to an article about its demise. Even the Wikipedia article about Laserdiscs has a section about the rise and fall of the technology. I had this odd feeling that I had stepped back in time. Or maybe I should have gone to bed earlier.

08/03/10: Happy Tie Tuesday, everybody! And The Doctor is right: bow ties are cool!

07/18/10: I think a main reason why I haven't posted here more freqently lately is that my MythTV installation is not functioning correctly. MythTV is the open-source DVR that we've been enjoying for over two years now without a major problem. A couple months ago our cable company pushed us to digital, which means that I can only record broadcast channels (CBS, NBC, etc.) with the built-in tuner card. This was not too big a problem through the end of the TV season, but now that the regular season is over, it seems everything I want to record is on USA or H&G or Discovery or other "expanded basic" channels that my MythTV box can't see.
     I do have a digital coverter box, which will translate the digital signal, and I bought the serial cable which is supposed to let MythTV change the channel, but I haven't been able to get the channel changing app to work. I even upgraded the OS on the box to the latest version of Debian Linux, which was not without its own challenges, but the driver still refuses to work. So for now the only way to get the shows we want to see is to record them on my desktop machine, then copy them to the MythTV box. This means that either my system is recording or I'm processing something I just recorded. This is not leaving much time for other important endeavors, such as finishing the mix CD that I've been "working on" since March, or getting the pictures from Stephie's art exhibit up on our site. My apologies to Stephie for that. I'm going to have another go at the IR control software this weekend, and maybe I can crack the problem. Immediately after that, I'm going to attack this pile of things I want to finish, like updating Stephie's art pages and finishing the story of our trip to Ireland last December.

06/08/10: It's time for another one of those anthology posts here, where I try to catch up on what's going on. We've been really busy, but I've not found the time (or been too lazy) to post anything. Sorry if a lot of this is really short notice, but a lot of it I just found out about.
     The biggest thing around here, and the thing that's been taking up most of our time lately, is Stephie's upcoming one-person art at the LaGrange Art League. The art is up now, so you can stop by and see it any time the gallery is open in June, but the reception is this Friday, June 11. Here's a flyer I made from the postcards she had sent out.
     I missed the early announcement of one of our traditions here because they did not send me a postcard about the Little City Book Sale, which usually signifies the start of summer for us. It occurred to me the middle of last week that I hadn't seen any mail about it, so I checked their web site and found that it was starting two days later (last Friday). Stephie and I went Saturday and had a great time. I didn't get as many books as I usually do, but I did get a couple things I had been looking for, and at least one that I wasn't. The sale runs through Sunday June 13, with the last Saturday and Sunday being bargain days. Click the link above for all the details.
     We're completely thrilled to let you know that one of our favorite restaurants is back, and better than ever. The new Via Bella opened a couple weeks ago, and Stephie and I went to check it out. She had one of her all-time favorite dishes, Chicken Oreganato, and said that it was as good, if not better, than she remembers it. We'll be going back.
     This is my last week working out in the suburbs for the foreseeable future, as my company is moving downtown. I'm looking forward to trading my 40 mile round-trip daily commute for a (hopefully) relaxing train ride and some extra exercise walking to the office. I'm a little nervous, though, because I haven't taken public transportation regularly since high school and even then I was rarely going at the same time two days in a row, and that doesn't work too well with trains. It'll be an adventure.
     And tonight Chris and I are going to see the restored Metropolis at the Music Box Theater. I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen this movie, but with a half hour of additional scenes, I expect this to be something special.
     That's all for now. The picture above is from the music shop around the corner from us. I wonder if this would have made us more eager to practice piano.

04/10/10: I was taking Kisu to obedience class this morning and had one of those moments where I thought "I wish I had my camera". I then realized that I had my brand new phone with me, and like most modern phones (but unlike my previous one), it has a camera built in. So I followed this person until we stopped at a light, so I could unlock the phone and snap this picture. You know, this "camera in a phone" might be a good idea after all!
     I assume that by having the sticker on their bumper, this person is trying to make a statement, but what is that statement? "Buy American, except for cars"? "Buy American-built products, even if they have a foreign name on it", in which case, what's the point? "Buy American, even if I don't"? "I'm patriotic because I have a 'Buy American' sticker on my foreign car"? And what lesson are we supposed to be learning? It's all so confusing to me.

03/24/10: I just finished reading "Make Room! Make Room!" by Harry Harrison, the basis for a sci-fi film I remember fondly from when I was a kid: "Soylent Green". I'm pretty sure I saw "Soylent Green" at the Brighton Theater, possibly as a re-release, as they did frequently in the days before cable TV and home video. SPOILER WARNING (if that's even necessary for a 37-year old film): Certain things I remember vividly from the movie: the overcrowded city, the oppressive heat, the dirt and garbage everywhere, the "furniture" that came with the luxury apartment, the "Computer Space" arcade game in the background, the "150 buck a jar strawberries", the government-assisted suicide facility, the shower scene, and of course, the startling revelation that "Soylent Green is people!"
     The funny thing is, according to the book, it's not. In the book, there's only one type of "soylent", a meat substitute made of soy beans and lentils, hence the name. Also, there was no concept of "furniture", no suicide facility, no Soylent corporation. The overpopulation, the stifling heat from the greenhouse effect and the scarcity of food and water are in there. In fact, that's really the point of the book. Set in the far-off year of 1999 (it was written in 1966) the book was a cautionary tale of what would happen if the population explosion was out of control and the human race consumed more resources faster than the environment could replace them. In the midst of this is the main character, a police detective, trying to solve a murder. It's a pretty bleak, but very entertaining, vision of a future which still could happen. For the movie they moved the date out to 2022, but it's still near enough to make you think.
     Harry Harrison is one of our favorite authors. Stephie and I have both read his West of Eden series and I think we have all the Stainless Steel Rat stories but the new one, so I figured I would enjoy the book, which I did. I need to watch the movie again, though, while the book is fresh in my mind. Harrison was not a big fan of the film, but in an interview, he said that they got the look of film right. He said what he, and most people he spoke to, took away from the film is "the feeling of horror of this world" as depicted on the screen. It's certainly not anywhere I'd like to live.

02/15/10: The 2010 Birthday Season has officially begun, with Stephie and Dad sharing their birthday again as they have for many years. This year I'm fortunate that my new job has given me a day off so I can stay home and celebrate with Stephie. They said there was also something about Presidents, but I know it's just so I can spend the day with my wife. Happy Birthday Sweetie, and Happy Birthday Dad.

02/10/10: Things have been kind of tough around here lately, as we are struggling with the loss of our one of our best friends, our upstairs neighbor Kevin, who passed away suddenly last week at the way-too-young age of 50 (or 32 in hex, which tickled him when I pointed that out). A talented musician and artist, Kevin was one of those guys who seemed to always be in a good mood, was always eager to offer assistance to a friend, and was just an all-around good guy. And Kisu loved him too, practically knocking him over in her attempt to lick his face when she saw him, which he didn't seem to mind at all. He lived upstairs from us for almost 15 years, and even though we didn't see him every day, or even every week, I think it's going to be real difficult for us knowing we'll never see him again. No more knocks at the door to drop off leftover pizza, or to show us a new tattoo he just gave himself, or to show us a new picture he just completed, or just to say "Hi". It's been almost a week and it still doesn't seem real.
     In my effort to make some sense of this, I've been looking him up on the 'net, just to see what's out there. He was a long-time member of Johnny Justice, a local cover band of some renown. They broke up late last year and their site is gone (although you can find it in the Wayback machine) but their MySpace page is still there, although it hasn't been updated in a while. From there, I found that Kevin actually had his own MySpace page at one point. I think what he wrote in the "About Me" was great, and pretty much sums up what we loved in his character. I'm sure he wouldn't mind me quoting him here:
It's really not at all about me, it's about every one around me. It's about treating people right. Even the ones that won't get or respect others! It's about helping and listening and sharing. Knowing when to shut up and when to quit cuz you, he or she jus done had enough. Its about painting what you see in your mind, with your eyes and your imagination. It's about playing what you feel and not just what's already been it's about variance flexibility and annoyiance. It's about lightening up because the world is too effin nuts as it is. It's about respect and manners and and and...it's about playing music, which is creating and thats artistic and that's truely productive. It's productive whether you hear it or see it alone or share it with others.
He loved his music, he loved his art, he loved his nieces, and we loved him. Rest In Peace, pal. You are sorely missed.

02/09/10: It's Tie Tuesday! This started back in December when I wore a suit and tie to work because I had a job interview. Someone asked me why I was wearing a tie, and I didn't want to mention the interview, so I replied "Because it's Tuesday!" And the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I have lots of ties in my closet going back to my Dominick's days (some too hideous to wear in public) and I rarely have an opportunity to wear most of them. So each Tuesday in December I wore one of my Christmas ties. I had such a good response, I've kept going into the new year. And it's catching on, too. Last week there was one other guy in the office wearing a tie on Tuesday, and today there is another. As I told someone last week, when it was just me it was an affectation, now it's a trend!

01/25/10: This is Boston, Kisu's pal from obedience class. She was rescued by her owner and is now a therapy and READ-certified pooch! She's in the running to be Top Dog on WCIU for January, and she has a pretty good chance of winning. Click here or click her picture to go to the WCIU site and place your vote. And unlike Chicago politics, you are allowed to vote more than once, but you can only vote once per day. Let's help Boston be Top Dog!

02/01/2010 Update: Boston won! Congratulations on being Top U Dog for January!

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