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!

12/28/12: Stan Lee turns 90 today! I often think of who I would like to meet in person, and I usually think of people who have left us, but Stan the Man is definitely someone I'd like to shake the hand of and thank for all the years of fine entertainment, not to mention the broadening of my vocabulary. Excelsior!

12/17/12: And here's your forecast for the week:

12/08/12: Just a quick update: I finished my latest novel (this year's NaNoWriMo story) at 11:37 this morning. Final count was 55,555 words. It actually was 55,554 after I typed "The End," but I went back and added one more word to make it an easy-to-remember 55,555.

I think I need a nap now.

12/01/12: I don't mean to brag ... okay, yes I do. I won the NaNoWriMo challenge again! But there's a difference this year, and that's the fact that the novel is not done yet. 50,241 words since the first of November and I still have some story to go. Stephie says that she really likes what I've done so far, and has given me some of her theories about how it's going to end, but I'm not telling her if she's right or not. She'll have to wait until I finish. I'm hoping that's going to be tomorrow, after which, I'm taking a little break from fiction writing.

Except, of course, for my annual review at work, which is due next week.

11/26/12: Almost there! I know how the book is going to end, and I don't know that I will get there by Friday, but I do know I will be at 50,000 words by Friday (maybe even Thursday,) and that's all that's required to "win" the NaNoWriMo challenge. I'm so confident I'm going to order my winner's t-shirt tomorrow!

11/23/12: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We had the family over, and Stephie made another amazing holiday meal. We all had a great time, and after everyone left, I got a chance to work on my novel some more. Looks like I may make my goal!

11/19/12: I had a fairly busy weekend. Saturday night was the last Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series event for the year, and my story was well received, even though it was significantly darker than my usual fare.
     Sunday, we got to see the Packers on TV, since the Bears are on Monday night this week, and then started to clean the apartment in advance of everyone coming over for dinner on Thursday.
     And between all that, I was able to make some pretty good progress on my novel, as you can see from the chart here. Although, looking at the chart, it seems that when it's calculating my "words per day to finish on time", they think that there are 31 days in November.

11/13/12: Last day of my November vacation, and I'm back on track, word count-wise. The story is flowing pretty well, and I like what I'm writing. Now all I have to do is keep up this pace for at least another 29,000 words. And in 17 days!

11/11/12: Still playing catch-up, but I'm getting there. The story is not flowing as easily as it did the last two times I did this, but I am still moving along. (I'm still working tonight, but I need to put my word count in before midnight or else it will look like I didn't do anything today. I already have one day of no activity this month. I can't afford another.)
     But I did have a pleasant surprise today, in that one of my local beer stores has received a supply of my current favorite brew, Breckenridge Pandora's Bock, which I wasn't expecting until after the first of the year since it's a seasonal item. I picked up a few, and expect it to fuel my noveling for the rest of the month.

11/08/12: As predicted, I've put myself in a hole, both with not writing at all yesterday because of watching the election results, and with a bit of writer's block today, but I expect to make up word count tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.

11/05/12: Falling a little behind today, and don't expect to do much writing tomorrow due to the election, but I'm not worried because I have a mini-vacation coming up starting later in the week, and I expect to catch up and get ahead, once we're past the election. Don't forget to vote!

11/01/12: That's right, I'm doing it again this year. Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. So like I did the last two Novembers, I will be trying to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. What am I, nuts? Yeah, maybe I am, but I always work better with a deadline, and this is a tough one. I know from experience that if I fall behind on this, it's not easy to catch up, so I'm going to try to not let that happen. I've taken a snapshot of the nifty chart that the NaNoWriMo site provides to help you keep track of your progress. I will try to update it daily, so you can see how well I'm doing. As usual, I'm starting out a little slow, but I finished the last two years in 29 days, so I'm not worried. Wish me luck!

10/30/12: Either Google needs to adjust their program which truncates headlines on their news page, or else there's a person in their office trying to put a different spin to stories. Check out this screencap. If you were the type of person who only reads headlines, who would you say that Joss Whedon is backing in the upcoming election? Based on the sentence below, I think some of the context was lost in the headline.

10/07/12: There was no Tamale Hut Reading Series event in August, so I was able to get ahead by a month, writing my story for September a month early. But when they announced the September date, it happened to fall on September 22nd, our 22nd wedding anniversary. I thought this was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I surprised Stephie by reading the story of our wedding day. Everyone who spoke to me afterwards said they really liked it so I've posted it here, complete with pictures! Hope you enjoy it.

09/27/12: Back in July, I was the featured reader at the Tamale Hut Reading Series in North Riverside, reading portions of my recent book, The Hidden Message, and my brother was there with his trusty camcorder, capturing a portion of my story. I've converted it to a Flash video and have posted it here for your enjoyment.

If you like what you hear, you can pick up the book from Amazon, in either paperback or Kindle format. Or if you'd like a copy signed by the author and the cover artist, send me an e-mail and we can work out how to get it to you. I even have a couple of copies left of my first book, Casco Cove, if you'd like signed copies of my full output to date.
     And if you do read it, would you please post a comment on the Amazon site? I've had offers from family members to write a review, but I figured it would look better if the first review wasn't from someone who worked on the book, or with the same last name as the author.

09/14/12: I used to read Yahoo News all the time, but I switched over to Google News because it seemed to me the quality of the stories they picked to feature has declined dramatically in the past few years. Google News is not as good as Yahoo News used to be (they frequently link to things behind paywalls, for instance) but overall I'm happy enough to not switch back just yet.
     But one thing I kept going back to was the Yahoo TV news page. For the longest time, it was the best place to find out what's going on with my favorite shows, to get information about other shows, and to just read industry stories. Now, though, it seems like it's all reality show news and other crap I don't care about. Plus, it seems like some stories linger there well beyond their expiry date. Case in point: this screenshot of the site, taken just this morning. Why is this still the top story chronologically on the page? Beyond the fact that it's nobody's business if Anderson Cooper is gay, the byline on this article is over two months ago! Is this still headline news? Was it ever?

08/18/12: It's been a hot and lazy summer, and after the excitement of getting the new book published and finally shaking this summer cold that has been lingering in my head for more than a week, I think it's time that I get back to doing something productive, starting with posting pictures and video from our Alaska trip in June.
     We arrived in Fairbanks on June 22, the longest day of the year. We arrived at 1AM, and saw the Midnight Sun firsthand. It was strange to walk outside the airport at that time and not see any streetlights on, because they were not needed. The sun was very near the horizon, giving the impression of twilight, but it never got darker than that. That night, Stephie went to bed at around 10:30 or so, and I stayed up to read. I was reading in the cabin until well after midnight, without having to turn on a light, as there was enough light outside to be able to read easily.

     I wanted to have some way of portraying that to everyone back home. I took the first video you see here with my camera, just to give you an idea of how bright it was at midnight, but I thought there might be a better way of showing this. I checked the Android market and found a program called LapseIt, which claimed to be able to create a time-lapse film. I set the phone in the window (since it was the best way I could find to stand it up) and told it to take one picture ever six seconds. Except for being unable to supress the camera shutter sound that the phone makes when it takes a picture, it worked great. Here's the resulting video, taken from 10:08pm on June 23 to about 8:42AM on June 24. You can clearly see that it never gets dark but it does dim a bit after midnight. Watch for the steam rising from the small lake on the left side of the picture around 2:30am, and then the sun actually rises again around 4:30am.

07/09/12: Hi! Yes, we survived the Alaska trip. I'm waiting for Stephie to get her film developed before I begin posting stuff here, but it's on its way. In the meantime ...

     My second book, The Hidden Message, is done, and is now available from Amazon.com in paperback, and the Kindle version will be available soon. I can't thank Jon, Chris, and Stephie (editor, designer, and cover artist respectively) enough for all the hard work they did to make me look good. The book really looks great.
     The other big news is related the book. I've mentioned in the past that Stephie and I have been attending the Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series once a month, and I've been having a lot of fun reading things that I wrote. Well, they had a cancellation for July, and have asked me to be the featured reader! And thanks to some expedited shipping, I will have copies for sale at the restaurant. So if you want to have some great tamales, tinga, and chili, and would like to hear me read from my latest book (and possibly buy an autographed copy,) come on out to the Tamale Hut on First Ave and Cermak in North Riverside on Saturday, July 14. The festivities start at 7 PM, but come early for some good food. And it's BYOB if you really want to make a night of it.
     And if pick up a copy (either at the Tamale Hut on Saturday or from Amazon) and read it, let me know what you think. Better yet, write a review of it for the Amazon page.

06/19/12: The other day, I was talking to someone at work, and the subject of story lengths came up: how long is a short story, how long is a novelette, that sort of thing. So I looked it up in the Internet, and in the Wikipedia article about word count, there was a link to the list of longest novels. I followed that link to find that the current Guinness World Record Holder for Longest Novel is In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, at an estimated 1.2 million words.
      When I saw that, the first thing that popped into my head was a men's choir singing "Proust in his first book wrote about, wrote about..." in a madrigal style. This, of course, is from the "All-England Summarize Proust Competition" skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus. At the same time, I also thought of the character in the "Fish License" skit, where also mentions Proust. (Favorite line: "Look, it's people like you what causes unrest.")
      I've mentioned in the past that knowledge sometimes comes from strange places. When I ran across a mention of the Montgolfier brothers on a web site, I knew who they were because they were characters in a segment on Monty Python. I remember the first time I was in Wild Oats (now Whole Foods) by my house and wandered by the cheese section, I recognized a lot of the types of cheese as mentioned in the "Cheese Shop" skit. And in my second book The Hidden Message (coming soon to Amazon), I had one of the characters talk about sitting in Philosophy class, as I did a few years back, and having Monty Python flashbacks because of all the references to philosophers that were liberally sprinkled through the episodes. I may not have known who the philosophers were, like I did not know what all the different cheeses tasted like, but when I saw it was Joseph Montgolfier's birthday, I thought, "That's the guy from Monty Python. I should look him up." And I did, and I found out a little about the early days of ballooning. I think that kind of inquisitiveness is priceless.
      One more thing about Proust. The Wikipedia article about "

05/19/12: So a couple months ago I got a new phone for work. I had been using a
Blackberry, and while it was a pretty good phone and was great for getting my work e-mail, it was awful for occasional web browsing. So much so that I ultimately only used it for checking the Weather Underground site, which for some reason popped up almost instantaneously, when even the plain Google home page would take forever. I wasn't necessarily looking to change, but they want to get rid of the Blackberry infrastructure that the company had to maintain for the dwindling number of Blackberry users, so they suggested I upgrade.
     So I was given a choice. I could get an iPhone or an Android. I know the press just fawns over the iPhone, but I didn't want to have to install iTunes, and I'm not a fan of a lot of how Apple operates, so I went with an Android phone, specifically a Motorola Photon. It was one of the only Android phones offered by Sprint which would work overseas, in case work ever sent me there, and it had more positive reviews than the others on the Sprint site, so I got one, and so far I love it. It's great as a phone, e-mail is good, the web is usable, and battery life is good.
     But it got me thinking. It doesn't have a hardware keyboard like the Blackberry did, but I've gotten pretty comfortable typing on the on-screen keyboard, so I figured it might be good for some of the fiction writing I've been trying. It's too small for editing anything longer than a sentence or two, but if I could, for instance, capture a few paragraphs on the train going to work, I could just clean it up when I'm at an actual computer. Stephie bought me a Netbook for my birthday last year so I could write on the veranda or sitting in the yard, but this would be even more convenient for jotting down ideas when they hit me.
     So I tried Google Docs. I'd heard good things about that for a while, it's free to use, and it's integrated in Android, so I write something in Docs on the phone, and I can retrieve it from any web browser. Turns out there are two problems with that. First, if you're in a dead zone with no Internet access, like when I took Stephie to DeKalb for her art demo last month, you can't access your documents. I sort of knew that, being that everything is in "the cloud." But I found that I could not even start working on a blank document without Internet access. Even worse that that, though, was when I was typing something on the train and my connection dropped for a couple minutes. It actually stopped me from typing, with a message that I could not work on that document any more because I had no Internet connection. I think I even lost a little of what I was working in. Not cool.      One of the things I really used on the Blackberry was the Notes feature. It automatically synced with the Notes section of Outlook at work, so if I typed something on the phone, it would automatically be in Outlook. That integration does not exist in the Android world, but there is Evernote. My buddy Dan has raved about Evernote, and I tried it on the Blackberry but quickly discarded it because of the atrocious Internet capability that it had. I once tried to create a note, but canceled it after it spun on the screen for five minutes. Now on Android I see what Dan was talking about. Creating a note was instantaneous, I could type what I want and it would be accesible from any web browser. Even better, if I was not connected to the Internet at the time, it would wait and make my updates when the connection was restored. And it was free to use. I even tried the Windows client, and it worked really well. Or so I thought.
     Last week I was working on the latest story for the Tamale Hut Reading Series that Stephie and I have been attending for the last year or so, and I was working on it on the Netbook. I finished for the night and shut down, but when I went to look at it on the train the next day, my last changes were not there. The only thing I could think is that there was some problem and it didn't sync with the server. It was only a couple paragraphs, and it was probably my own fault for not noticing, but I need something that works without me thinking about it. I'm spending too much time fooling around with the programs, when I should be writing.
     So now I'm trying DropBox. It's also free to use, I've heard good things over the years, and a guy at work swears by it, so I'm giving it a go. There's a folder on my hard drive and on my phone (and on my work machine, since my company says it's OK to install), and anything I put in one magically appears on the other. (Incidentally, if you want to try DropBox, use this link to sign up. You will get an extra 500MB added to the 2GB space they give you for free, and I'll have the same added to my account.) It's only been a couple days, but it seems like it might be just what I need to integrate all my writing environments.
     Well, almost. A while back, I decided to save all my documents in an RTF file format. Since I happily use LibreOffice at home and reluctantly use MS Word at work (and Chris used Quark to lay out Casco Cove), I thought RTF would be the best because it was cross-platform, and didn't have the security problems that the Word DOC format has. Unfortunately, QuickOffice, the default Android document editor, doesn't understand RTF, and it doesn't look like any of the other popular editors on Android do either. Rats!

04/30/12: I had a great time last weekend at the Windy City Pulp and Paperback convention at the Westin in Lombard. I've attended this annual show several years in a row now, and I seem to enjoy it more every year. It's big enough that it attracts vendors, publishers and writers from all over the country, but it's small enough that it's not too crowded. You can take your time browsing, or engage one of the vendors in a conversation and not feel hurried. I had nice conversations with people I've met in previous years, like Ron Fortier and Rob Davis of Airship 27, Wayne Reinagel of Knightraven Studios, and Ed Hulse from Blood 'n' Thunder magazine. I also met and had nice conversations with William Patrick Maynard, who was introduced to me as the new Sax Rohmer, and Gene Christie from Black Dog Books, among others.
      This years show featured Edgar Rice Burroughs and two of his most famous creations: Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars, and the film room at the con featured one Tarzan movie after another. I never really cared for Tarzan films when I was a kid, even though they were on TV most weekends back then, but I caught a few while there, and kind of enjoyed them. I'll have to look into them a little more.
      But the big revelation was on Thursday night, when the con organizers booked the theater next door for a private showing of the recent Disney John Carter film for con attendees. Many of my fellow attendees read the series when they were very young and have strong opinions of how the characters should look and act. I only read the first two books in the series for the first time a couple years ago, so it was somewhat easy for me to watch the movie without comparing it to what I remember of the story, and doing so, I had a great time. I thought the actors did a good job, the CG was realistic, the action was good. Like everyone, I had read the disappointing reviews when it first came out, and I now wonder what movie they saw because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was no Citizen Kane, but it was a great popcorn movie, and I'd highly recommend it. I will probably buy it on DVD when it comes out, which, considering the reception it got at the box office in the US, will probably be soon.

03/30/12: I know I've been neglecting this site lately, but I couldn't let today pass without posting a new picture of Kisu. Nine years ago today, she walked out of the shelter we found her at and walked right into our hearts. We celebrated by going to get her traditional adoption day meal: a small hamburger and some fries. We chopped it up and mixed it with some of her dry food, and she expertly picked all the people-food bits out of the bowl, leaving most of the dry food. Just like she does every year. Happy Adoption Day, pumpkin.

02/25/12: I'm used to spam e-mail, as we all are. I don't see it too much because the spam filters in place on my ISP and at my job do a pretty good job of catching it before it appears in my mailbox, but I know it's out there, because every once in a while something slips through. But for the most part, it's not as much of a day-to-day nuisance as it was in the early days of e-mail. You don't realize how many different spellings and mis-spellings of the work "penis" there are until you try to configure e-mail rules to block it.
      I am also used to junk mail, as we all are. The filter for that is not automatic, but for us is a large garbage can in the foyer of our building, where we can simply toss any unwanted mail, to be put out with the recycling every couple weeks. It's amazing how fast that can gets filled up.
      But this week, I got what might be my first junk mail spam, in the shape of the postcard shown here. It just so happens that there were a number of things I've recently ordered to be delivered here, so when I got a card offering to "schedule pickup", I briefly thought it might be one of those packages.
      But only briefly. When I thought about it for a second, the suspicion that I typically use with unsolicited e-mail kicked in, and I suspected fraud. Sure enough, when I Googled some of the details on the card, I found that this is indeed a scam. The first link on Google was for a mention on the Better Business Bureau web site of a complaint about this from over a year ago, and the tone of that article made me think it went back well before that.
      I've repeatedly used Google to verify the veracity of some e-mail messaged I've received, but I think this is the first time I've done that with a piece of physical mail. Just goes to show you can't be too careful.

01/16/12: As you can see from the heading above, Stephie has her artwork on display at the Tamale Hut Cafe, 8300 W. Cermak Rd. North Riverside, IL. The reception is this Saturday, Jan 21 from 7 to 10PM, but the artwork is up until the first week in April, so you have plenty of time to stop by and see it. And while you're there, try some tamales. They're awesome!

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