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!

12/13/11: I had been out doing a little Christmas shopping when I thought I would drive through KFC for a little snack. I don't think there's one by work, so it had been a while since I had chicken from there. Although I spotted the much maligned but extremely tasty Double Down sandwich on the menu board, I was just a little peckish, so I opted for an order of Popcorn Chicken. And when I got to the window and was asked about sauce, I went with barbecue.
      I stopped in the parking lot after paying to dig my snack out of the bag, and put the container of chicken down between the seat and the emergency brake handle so I could have easy access without holding it or worrying that it would spill all over the car, but what to do about the little bucket of sauce? To hold it while dipping would require two hands, so I couldn't do that while driving.
      I looked at my dashboard and I have a little drawer that they put in instead of an ash tray. I never could figure out what to use it for, but just then I realized that it was about the perfect size to hold my sauce container. As I opened the drawer and snuggled it in, a line from our favorite Christmas movie, "Die Hard", popped into my head. It was when John McClane was tying the fire hose around his waist and was about to jump off the top of the building when he mutters to himself (and I'm paraphrasing) "what the **** are you doing? This is bad idea.". I couldn't stop myself, even though I had visions of the cup popping out of the drawer and splashing sauce all over the dashboard.
      Amazingly, that didn't happen, and I was able to dip my chicken safely as I drove to my next stop. I guess Hans was right when he said, "It's Christmas, Theo. It's the time of miracles."

11/30/11: I did it! As I did last year, I completed the NaNoWriMo challenge a day early, but I was so tired last night that I didn't do the verification until today. But regardless if it was 29 or 30 days, 50,054 words (which is what it turned out to be) in one month is quite the accomplishment, if I do say so myself. And Stephie says she really liked reading it. Twice she said that I surprised her, which I think is high praise indeed. So now I think I'm done with writing for a little while.

At least until the rewriting begins!

11/25/11: Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We had a terrific one, with everyone coming over to enjoy the fabulous dinner Stephie slaved over, this after watching the Packers handily beat the Lions. The only problem was that I didn't have much time for writing. Fortunately I was still ahead from last week, so now I'm just about on track, with a three-day weekend ahead. The end is in sight!

11/22/11: I'm just about three-quarters of the way to my goal with 8 days to go, and I think I may just make it. I was a little worried I'd run out of story before then, but now I think I have enough story left without doing too much padding. Keep your fingers crossed!

11/20/11: Almost two-thirds of the way to my goal, and I'm still ahead of schedule, but I'm hitting a few rough patches. I find myself curiously less motivated than I was a week ago. I think I'm a little worried that my story will end before it hits 50,000 words, but I've just introduced another main character, and that plot tangent may be what I need to get to the finish line. I seem to be more into it than I was last year, possibly because I know I have it in me to finish. After all, I have Casco Cove to prove it.

11/15/11: Halfway through the month, and I'm more than halfway to my goal of 50,000 words. Woo-hoo! This is the first time since November 1 that I'm actually ahead of my cumulative target. The bad thing is I have to go back to work tomorrow, so I'm back to writing late in the evenings. But it's flowing pretty well, and the story is picking up speed!

11/08/11: I'm still about a day and a half behind, but I blame that on this cold I'm fighting. I've got a six day 'staycation' coming up, so by this time next week, I should be sitting pretty, well ahead of plan. At least I hope so.

11/03/11: It's November, and that means it's National Novel Writing Month. Here's my latest stats from the NaNoWriMo web site. I'll try to update this daily, so you can check back to watch my progress.

10/31/11: Google News had this headline today: Oct. 31: Jobs's Last Words and Accusations Rile Up Cain. I saw this and thought, "I wonder what's riling Herman Cain up, Jobs' last words, or some accusations he made in his last words." Then I thought, "The guy is dying and he's accusing a Republican nominee of something?" So I clicked on the link, and it took me a to the start of a slideshow with Steve Jobs' picture, and it took me a couple minutes to realize that Cain is not upset with Jobs. That's a completely different story, and there's a comma missing from the headline. Thanks for the confusion, MSNBC. And is "Jobs's" correct?

10/24/11: I'm doing it again! I've signed up for the NaNoWriMo challenge again this year. It was a lot of work, but I had such fun writing Casco Cove last year that I'm looking forward to trying pound out another 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I hope to be a little better prepared this year, so I'm spending the rest of this week doing a little research (I may even get a library card!) and trying to get my characters and plot a little better thought-out ahead of time. But the spirit of the challenge is not to start writing until the first of November, so a rough idea of my plot is all I'm working on. I'm hoping the style of this years book will be a little more like the action-adventure pulps that I so enjoy reading. I'm also going to try to link to the NaNoWriMo site so that I can share my daily word count with all of you. Wish me luck!

10/14/11: I've just had the strangest thing happen. I've been taking the train to work for over a year now, and I come and go from Union Station downtown. Today I went to the Ogilvie Station to go to the bank there, and afterwards, instead of crossing three busy streets to get to Union Station, I decided to enter at the Madison Street entrance. The Madison Street entrance looks like it would be an entrance to the station proper, but it's really just a couple flights of stairs that lead down to the train platforms. You then have to walk the three blocks underground to get to the main station. This is really handy when it rains, because that entrance is closer to the building where I work.
      I've taken this path before when I needed to stop at Ogilvie after work, so I knew what to expect. In fact, I've taken to pausing my mp3 player if I happen to be listening that day, because it's so loud down there when walking by the idling trains that I can't hear anything anyway. I took this route on Monday when Stephie sent me to the bank, neither of us remembering that the banks were closed on Columbus Day. That day, one of the trains was leaving as I was walking through, and for some reason it struck me just how big and powerful those engines really are. As I said, I've been commuting for over a year, but the train pushes the cars into the station in the morning, so the back-end of the train passes us at the stop near home, and we walk past that same end at Union Station. Likewise, we approach the train from the back in the evening, and I'm usually down the stairs before it leaves the stop at home, so I rarely find myself next to the engine.
      I know the passenger cars are just as big as the engine is, but they don't give off the noise and the heat that these engines do, and with all the windows in them, they could just be big buses, the kind I see just about every day on the street. Somehow, when that train passed me on Monday, I felt as if this was some big animal, slowly building up momentum to drag these big cars full of people down those narrow rails. I know I tend to anthromorphosize things, but I never thought of a train engine in this way before.
      Anyway, back to today. I went down the stairs and there were two trains, one on either side of the platform, idling and ready to leave. The doors were open on both sets of cars, so they were not moving yet, but I could almost feel the power as I walked by. Like I said, it was like two huge animals waiting to move. As I passed the one on my side, I had an almost overwhelming feeling like I wanted to reach out and touch it, like you would pat the side of an elephant or a whale. But before I could, I saw this guy walking in front of me reach out and pat the side of the engine! Here I thought I was weird for wanting to do that, but I guess I was not alone.
      I caught up with him and said "Excuse me." He turned and smiled. He was an little asian guy with short spiky gray hair. I asked him why he did that, pat the train, and told him I was about to do the same. He just laughed and mumbled something in broken english that I didn't catch with all the noise down there. He smiled again and walked away. As I said, strange.

10/06/11: I almost added my comments to a news story I read on the Internet today. I usually don't do that, and I should really stop even reading them, because they typically do little more than diminish my opinion of my fellow netizens, but sometimes I want to add my voice to the cacophony. Deep down, I know that posting comments on news articles will do no good other than get something off my chest, which is not a bad thing. Plus, I'd probably make some heinous spelling or grammar mistake.
      The story that raised my ire today was the news that ESPN had canned Hank Williams Jr. from its Monday Night Football telecasts. They had pulled his opening song from last week's game because of some comments he made on a TV morning show, in which he seemed to compare our current President with Hitler, just for playing golf with the leader of the opposing political party. Since then, ESPN announced that the ban was permanent, but Williams posted his own spin on his web site, writing "(ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE."
      I skimmed through the comments, and a number of them were complaining about the government restricting speech, and how the current administration is afraid of people speaking their minds. I actually went as far as to type a note in the little comment box below, something to the effect of "Here is yet another person who doesn't understand what the First Amendment is supposed to protect. I don't know why the government is being blamed for this. A guy says something stupid in public, his employer doesn't like it and cans him. Happens all the time. He may have a beef with ESPN or the NFL, but that's it."
      Fortunately, the site I was on (ABC news, I think) wanted me to create an account on their site just to leave my note, so I came to my senses and moved on. (Well, I obviously haven't moved on or you wouldn't be reading this.) At least it prevented me from becoming another buffoon posting random comments no one cares about on a news site. After all, that's what personal web sites are for!

09/27/11: We had a nice vacation last week. It started with the annual block party on our street. Last year I picked up a mini-keg of Newcastle Brown Ale and proceeded to finish a significant portion of it. This year I found a Breckenridge Brewery sampler 12-pack at our local liquor store. I discovered Breckenridge earlier this year when a guy who was planning to consume nothing but beer and water for Lent recommended their Pandora's Bock, which was outstanding but only available in the spring. I've since tried several of their beers and have enjoyed them all. The sampler had three bottles each of their Avalanche Ale and Vanilla Porter, which I've enjoyed before, and three each of their Oatmeal Stout and Lucky U IPA, which hadn't. They are still batting 1000 in my book, as the new two were excellent as well. I would recommend any of them to anyone looking for a tasty brew.
     Later in the week, we went out to dinner with my brother and his family. They took us to Chi Tung on 95th and Kedzie. We've been to other hibachi grill restaurants before, with all the utensil juggling and food tossing, and this one rates highly among them. These types of places are never inexpensive, but I think Chi Tung was a good value for the price. And the fried rice was out of this world! Recommended.
     Later in the week we piled in the car and took a trip up to Kenosha. In our haste to get out of the house, we forgot Kisu's leach, and while we're comfortable with her off-leash in the yard and to-and-from the car, we didn't want to walk her around Kenosha loose and risk tragedy. Fortunately, in the trunk I still had the coated wire that the car salesman gave us to walk Cheyenne around the neighborhood the night we found her, almost 18 years ago. I don't know what the people who saw us thought, but we walked all over and she was safe. While there, Stephie checked out some of the outlet stores, and we had a great lunch at the Brat Stop. Since we had Kisu with us, Stephie stayed outside at the picnic bench and I went in for the food. While waiting for our brats, I was browsing the gift store and spotted some New Glarus Bock beer, which they fortunately had at the bar. I sampled a bottle while waiting, and went back to buy a six-pack before we left. I'll have to see if that's available around here.
     Before heading home, we had to stop at the new Mars Cheese Castle, pictured here. They built this huge store behind the old one, and have really expanded their selections. We also stopped at Bobby Nelson's, which is a little store a block or so away from Mars. We were bummed to find that they don't carry pheasant pot pies any more, but we did pick up some sausages and other meats.
     We finished the week by attending the monthly reading series at the Tamale Hut Cafe in North Riverside. This is the third time we've been there, and the second time I read a new chapter from the current book I'm working on. (The first time I read a chapter from 'Casco Cove'.) I got a really good response from the audience and several people came up to me afterwards to encouraging me to continue. It's fun to have friends and family members read my stuff and give me positive feedback, but it's even more fun when total strangers do that! I'm looking forward to next month's reading on Oct 15.

08/28/11: The guardian.co.uk had an article last week titled "Are books dead, and can authors survive?". I certainly hope they're not dead, because I just published my first book, Casco Cove.
     You may recall that last November, I took the NaNoWriMo challenge: to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. As I mentioned in past postings here, I did complete it on time, and because of that, I was entitled to a free proof copy from a publisher with ties to Amazon.com. I asked Stephie to do some cover art, then asked Jon to proofread the thing for me (which turned out to be a little embarrassing, to be honest) and Chris did the book design and layout. I can't describe the feeling when I saw the package arrived in the mail, and then opening it up to see my book, real and in person. It was fun to write it, and even more fun to have some people read it, but the best part was working with Stephie, Jon and Chris to actually get the darned thing printed.
     I had a couple copies printed for family and friends, but if you're interested in getting a copy for yourself, you can order it from Amazon. Click here to go to the Amazon listing. (I know! I'm listed on Amazon. How cool is that?) Like most things there, it's available in paperback and also for the Kindle. If you like it, drop me a line. I'm interested in your comments, both positive and negative.

Today's video comes to us courtesy of WOOT! The topic of this video is something that has been kicking around in my head for some time now, but I hadn't decided on the best outlet to voice my displeasure. Thank goodness I have Ben, the Over-Literal Dermestid Beetle, to sound off on another of life's little annoyances.

07/20/11: approx 4:10pm CDT. Sometimes analog is better than digital:

I don't remember exactly where I was when my last car turned 100,000 miles, but I remember being on a side street where I could slow down and watch all the numbers slowly roll over. Digital just doesn't have that same effect. Blink, and you've missed it (unless you have a camera-phone handy!)

07/04/11: I hope all of you had a great Independence Day. We did, except for the fireworks. I've never been a big fan of fireworks, and I am even less so because of the way Kisu is freaked out by the noise. She's getting worse as she gets older, and now heavy thunderstorms bother her, too, but when the idiots in the neighborhood start with the fireworks weeks before the fourth, she just sits there and trembles. That part I cant wait until it's over.
     But before the noise started, we had a pretty nice day. We did something that brought back a very pleasant and a not-so-pleasant memory from my childhood. The picture you see here is the Farmers Insurance zeppelin, which is on a tour of the United States this summer. They claim it's one of only two zeppelins in the world right now, and it spent the last weekend based at the DuPage Airport in West Chicago. Stephie, Kisu and I tooka nice ride out there this afternoon to stand outside the fence and see it. And no, we were not the only one's there.
     It reminded me that when we were kids, my Mom and Dad would load us up in the station wagon and drive up and down Central Avenue over by Midway Airport whenever the Goodyear blimp was in town. Goodyear used Midway as a base, and usually had the blimp parked outside one of the hangars that backed up against Central. This was before airport security turned into the nightmare it is today, and all that was between the blimp and cars full of gawking kids was a couple hundred feet of pavement and an easily-see-through cyclone fence. As cool as it was to sometimes see it in the air, it was even cooler to see it on the ground, where you would have some perspective of how big it really is. It was such a simple thing to do (and my Mom points out "cheap, cheap!") but I remember it fondly.
     What I don't remember fondly, and my folks reminded me of yesterday, was the time they took us out to this same DuPage Airport for an air show. We can't remember the exact year, but I was probably 10 or 11, but they thought it would be a great idea to go and check out the planes. I don't remember much of the trip, just the impression that it was hot. And since it was an airport, of course there were no trees or anything to give us shade. In fact, my sense was that the planes didn't even cast a shadow on the ground because the sun was too bright! Apparently we were only there a couple minutes before we left to find something cool to drink.
     But the zeppelin was pretty cool today. It's supposed to make its way through here sometime in August. Maybe we'll go again and see if we can't get a little closer. In the meantime, if you click this picture, you'll see another one which includes people as a size reference.

06/19/11: Happy Father's Day to all you Dads out there. There was a bunch of activity this morning in and around the falcon nest that we have in the tree on the corner of our lot. I hope the falcon was celebrating Father's Day, too. If I see any indication of babies and can get a picture, I'll post it here.
      In the meantime, I want to tell you about an experience we had yesterday that's bothered me. While at a family function, we had an encounter with an individual who has political views which, to put it mildly, do not align with our own. We knew this when we sat down, and if we didn't, there were a few comments which would have given us a clue, such as when he was shown an app that someone had installed on their iPhone to retrieve real-time traffic information for her daily commute, he commented "Oh, ABC News? You mean 'Liberal Media.'"
      The converation was pleasant but innocuous during dinner, but afterwards, when some people left the table and started mingling, he somehow turned it political. We found ourselves on the receiving end of what I took to be a well-rehearsed (or at least recurrent) rant about things that were wrong in this state and in the country at large, complete with questionable "facts", blatant falsehoods, and lots of finger-counting of points. I'm not going to comment on anything said, because I really didn't try to refute most of what he said. There were a couple things I knew to be outright lies and I did voice an opinion on them, but it didn't slow him down. Mostly I just sat there and let him spew.
      Stephie and I talked about it on the way home, and even throughout the evening. There were a number of reasons why I didn't engage this individual, basically because I am a non-confrontational person. Also, I didn't have a stockpile of "facts" that I could draw upon to defend my position, if I even had a thought-out position on the topic at hand. Besides, I felt there was nothing I could say, especially in lieu of "facts" of my own, which would have changed this person's mind.
      And that's what's been bothering me since. I don't want to become one of those people who turn dinner conversation into rabid political discourse, but as I think about it, if everyone who thinks like me does what I did yesterday, sit there and not say anything, then the only opinion stated with be the one that I don't agree with. And if someone listening is undecided, they may be persuaded to that side. Which, in my opinion, would be a bad thing.

06/15/11: I saw this while I was running errands last weekend and had to take a picture. I was wondering how they use this trampoline without winding up in the tree. I thought that maybe they pull it out from under the tree to use it, but the lot that this house sits on is not that large, and they have many trees around. There's not a lot of room for a trampoline.
     This reminded me of a story a co-worker once told me. She was out in her yard one day and from the neighbor's garage, she heard what she described as "rattle-thump-'Ow'-rattle-thump-'Ow'-rattle...". She looked through the open door and saw a trampoline set up in the middle of the garage. The kid who lived there was bouncing on it (rattle), but he kept hitting his head on the roof of the garage (thump-"Ow"). She said she watched for a while but then had to just walk away.
     Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't get the "trampoline in the backyard" thing. My experience with trampolines was in high school, where you were not allowed on one unless the rest of the class stood around it as your "spotters." This was apparently to prevent you from getting overzealous and careening off into some of the other gym equipment. I secretly thought that we were not there to stop a fall as much as we were there to provide more cushioning for a hard landing, but when you were up there, it was comforting to know that the other guys were around.
     But in your yard, you're pretty much on your own. I've seen some trampolines with what looks like safety netting on poles circling the device, but that just looks goofy, like bouncing in a silo. Although it's better than the other memory I have of trampolines. Not a personal experience, but I remember seeing Fee Waybill of the Tubes on the Letterman show back when he was on NBC. He was talking about some of the stranger things he'd seen while touring across the country, and he spoke of a "trampoline park" he once saw in Phoenix. He said it was just rows and rows of trampolines and you would pay to bounce to your heart's content. The odd thing he noted was that the way it was designed, the trampolines were actually stretched over pits in the ground, rather than raised on stands as most people know, and the surrounding area was concrete, with no padding. If you happened to bounce off, all that was there was some nice soft concrete to break your fall. I can't understand why that idea didn't catch on.

05/08/11: Happy Mother's Day! I don't know if my subconscious is keeping an eye on the calendar, but this morning I dreamt that I was listening to some Frank Zappa, who famously played the Auditorium in Chicago on Mother's Day back in the early '70's (well before my first Zappa show). So while we were having breakfast, we listened to the first two You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore sets from the fabulous "road box" I finally found on eBay a couple years ago. "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow" had Stephie doubled-over in hysterics!

04/16/11: Every once in a while, I run across something on the 'net which surprises me, and reminds me of the breadth of information that is available there. Last week during my lunch hour, I was reading "Captain Hazzard: Citadel of Fear", a recent pulp story co-written by Ron Fortier, which I bought from him at last year's Windy City Pulp and Paperback convention. In it, the main characters are in a plane, following another plane containing a kidnapped scientist as it heads west from New Jersey. As they approach Chicago, one character mentions that they were going to overshoot Midway airport, which I guess in the '30s was the major airport here, and is told that they were actually going to land in LaGrange. This caught my attention because LaGrange is the next town over from where I live. They landed at "Stinson Field" and the story went on from there.
     When I got back to my desk, I was curious if there was any fact behind this, so I Googled air fields in LaGrange, and discovered this fascinating site with information about defunct airports. Sure enough, there actually was a Stinson Field in LaGrange in the '30s!
     I stopped to chat with Ron at this years' Windy City con, and in the course of the conversation asked him about this story element. He said that he knew that back in the '30s, it seemed that everyone was airplane-crazy, and that there were hundreds of little airfields all across the country. He knew he wanted to include that in his story, so he used the Internet to get some details, and picked Stinson Field from the information he found there. I told him that little touch made me appreciate the story more, and he said that's whay research is important, even when writing fiction. I'll have to remember that when I write my next story.

     The picture here is of a new neighbor of ours. I saw this guy on the ground a couple weeks ago when I took Kisu our for her morning tinkle. He picked up a twig, hopped to a branch, then to a nest he was apparently building high in a tree on the corner of our lot. We've since seen two of what we think are falcons sitting in the tree right in front of our house, but I haven't yet been able to get the two of them in one shot. We're hoping to have little baby falcons in the neighborhood soon.

03/30/11: We're celebrating Kisu today. That's her at last year's Highland Games. Eight years ago today, this adorable little furball moved in with us and took over the place. She could be the poster-pup for adopting a dog from a shelter. She was not a puppy when we adopted her, but we took a chance (well, she really picked us) and took her home and she shortly turned into our best friend. In my opinion, pure-breeds are fine if you're going to breed or show them, but adopting an "all-american shelter dog" is a win-win for everyone. Happy Adoption Day, pumpkin!

03/15/11: Yeah, I know I've been neglecting this site lately. It's not that I don't have anything to write about, but I've been busy with other things. A couple weeks ago, while working on a major software upgrade on my home computer, I broke my CPU. I mean, it just came out of the socket! Fortunately, a quick-thinking guy at the service counter at my local MicroCenter saved me some bucks and some time by suggesting that I just buy a new chip, rather than having them check out the old one. It's a older Pentium 4, so it was only $12, but they put it in and it works like a champ. I'm still fiddling with the software, but you don't want to hear about that. (As a side note, the quick-thinking guy's name was Mike Hunt, which I did a double-take on. If you've ever seen Porky's, you'll know why.)
     I'm also in what I hope to be my final rewrite on the novel I wrote back in November. As part of "winning" the NaNoWriMo challenge, I can get a free proof copy printed, so I want to get the text cleaned up, and Stephie is working on the cover art, so I soon might just have a printed copy of my book in my grubby mitts. I'm pretty excited about that. And I'm already thinking of writing a follow-up.
     Other than that, we're just dragging. I've not been sleeping well for some reason (maybe the change in weather has something to do with that) and Stephie has had some tests done because she's not feeling well. Now, Kisu seems to be having a problem with her back leg after she lays on it for a while. I think with Spring just around the corner, we'll get back to our regular long walks after dinner, and that will pick us back up.
     Thanks for checking in, and have a great St. Patrick's Day.

02/02/11: According to the Chicago Tribune, we've just been through the third largest winter storm in Chicago's history, at least in terms of snowfall. I obviously wasn't around for the 1930 storm, but I have some distinct memories of each of the other ones on the top five:
- The 1967 storm which dropped 23 inches of snow on the city is still number one. I have two memories of that one. The happy memory is of the gate we had on the side of the house. I'm not sure if I was tall enough yet to see over it, but I do remember the snow had drifted in the gangway then either packed or froze, so we were able to walk over the gate by climbing up one hill and sliding down the other. The unhappy memory was that my Grandmother died then, and I remember walking down the middle of usually very busy Kedzie Avenue to the funeral home, and there being almost no cars going by.
- The 1979 storm, which is now number five on the list, is memorable to me because the goofy high school I was going to was one of only two or three schools in the city which did not cancel classes, so I had to trudge to the bus and ride to school while most kids slept in. At least I had my pick of seats on the bus!
- The 1999 storm was memorable because it was just after the first of the year, and we had invited everyone I work with over for a post-New Year's party. The snow started before we went to the beer store, but we wound up with tons of food left. At least we didn't go hungry while we waited for the snow to melt. Oh, and I remember lots of shoveling.

It's a little early to tell what my memory of this year's storm will be, but I have a pretty good idea. I was at work yesterday when the snow started and I had every intention to stay until my normal time, when my boss suggested I leave early so I could cover the other guys as they left later. I grabbed my stuff and left the building at 1PM. The train was delayed, but I walked in the house at around 2:30, planning to work an hour or so and then sit and watch the snow fall. I unzipped my backpack and felt my heart drop to my feet as I realized that I had left my laptop at the office. Not only could I not cover the afternoon, I wouldn't be able to work from home today if the trains were not running.
     After cursing myself for a couple minutes (and calling a co-worker to confirm that the computer was still there) I changed to some comfortable warmer clothes and Stephie drove me to LaGrange, where I caught the 3:03 train back to the city. I had a plan. I figured I'd get in Union Station at around 3:45, the trip to the office would take five minutes each way, then I'd have plenty of time to catch the 4:48 (my normal train) back home, after which it's a block-and-a-half walk home. Should be home at my normal time. Piece of cake.
     The first flaw in my cunning plan appeared shortly after I got on the train, when it stopped between stations, and the voice on the loudspeaker announced that we were not going to move until they cleared a derailment from ahead on the tracks. Fine, I thought, I have plenty of time. I had my MP3 player, and I was amused watching the two guys in front of me polish off a twelve-pack of beer. We finally got going and reached the station just before 4PM.
     The next flaw shows up when we had trouble getting off the train platform, because the area in front of the doors was full of people waiting to get on the train we just left. I don't think I've seen so may people jammed in there, everyone looking around to make sure that the train they were being pushed towards was the one they really wanted. I was able to find my way up and out and once on the surface, I was able to quickly make my way to the office, where I told the stragglers that they better get going because it was rapidly turning nasty out there.
     I hurried back to the station, more due to the wind and cold than any sense of urgency, because I still had a half-hour before the 4:48 was due to leave. I slopped through the slush just inside the door, through the food court and down the escalator. The fatal flaw in my cunning plan manifested itself when I saw the board showing the stops lit up for the 4:48 train as I exited the escalator. I got to the door to see the train as it was pulling away from the platform. It was 4:20.
     Being a somewhat novice train commuter, I didn't know that when the weather was this bad, they sent out a train as soon as it was full. Had I not dawdled at the office, I might have made it. I wound up waiting for the 5:17 train, which with delays left me off at around 5:45, so I was home around 6. Then I could relax and watch the snow.
     Yeah, that's pretty much what I'll remember about the blizzard of 2011.

01/22/11: Random thoughts:
- My company is having its Christmas Party tonight, so I figure the Christmas season is not yet over, so I can get away with posting this picture of a nativity that I took a couple weeks ago in my neighborhood. I'm not sure if this is the "Christmas Spirit" or one of the "Ghosts of Christmas Past/Present/Future". Maybe he just took a wrong turn at Thanksgiving.
- I've been in a bit of a rut lately, which is why you haven't seen much from me recently. November was swallowed up with that novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo, then December was busy with the holidays (which were great this year, by the way) and now, I think it's the January doldrums. It seems like I get up and go to work when it's dark, get home from work when it's dark, watch some TV, then go to bed and start it all over again. Plus, I haven't been sleeping well. I used to hear about people getting into a funk when there are stretches without sunshine, and I never thought that would bother me, but maybe it is. Fortunately, we had some sun this week, so that's something.
- On a lighter note, Tie Tuesday continues. I've worn a tie to work every Tuesday since the beginning of December, 2009, and I don't think I've yet worn every tie in my collection. Granted, there are a few that really should stay in the back of the closet, but I'm going to have to go through them and show off some of the more ... interesting ties I've accumulated over the years.
- Tomorrow is the big game between the Bears and the Packers to see who goes to the Super Bowl. I'm rooting for the Packers, of course, but I just hope it's a good game, and that the winner goes on and stomps either the Jets or the Steelers.
- I've been keeping track of the books I've read since 1997, and last years total of 47 is the most I've ever read in one year. This is undoubtedly thanks to taking the train to work since June. It will be interesting to see how many I read this year, taking the train all year.
- I've started slow this year by taking three weeks to get through the uncut version of Stephen King's The Stand. This is only the second SK book I've read, and possibly the longest book (at 1141 pages) I've ever read cover-to-cover. Now that I'm done, though, I think I need to read something happy! (Now that I think of it, reading an enormous post-apocalyptic horror/fantasy novel may have contributing to my current funk.)

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