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!

12/15/14: We had no hot water this morning. I stood in the bathroom, thinking about an article I recently read on the Internet advocating cold showers, and I just couldn't do it. Call me a sissy if you must, but I couldn't bring myself to step under that freezing cold water. This was not like that vacation we spent with Cheyenne in that little cabin in Lake Geneva, which had a water heater tank that looked to hold maybe a gallon. At least that water was warm at the start, and if you shut the water off while you scrubbed, and you didn't dawdle while rinsing, there was just enough to get the soap off of you before it went cold. But this was ice cold from the get-go, and I just couldn't do it.

11/03/14: I can't remember what pointed me to this picture of a newsstand from 1942 (it was probably a pulp magazine-related site) but I liked it so much that it's now my wallpaper on my computer at work. The only problem is that I have trouble making out the desktop icons over all the magazine covers.
     But I don't mind, because it's an amazing picture. It's even more amazing when you consider that it was originally a black-and-white photo, and someone researched all the magazines depicted and painstakingly colored it! Check out the article for all the details. I know where I want to time-travel back to with a pocketful of dimes!

10/26/14: Many of you know that I'm a regular at the Tamale Hut Cafe Reading Series. Once a month on a Saturday evening, we have a featured reader, followed by as many open mic readers as we have people who want to get up and read. This month was a little different. With Halloween coming up next week, they decided to celebrate the season with an evening-long, Halloween-themed open mic. Everyone was encouraged to bring in their "best scary stories, poems, and dramatic works" to share with the group. Sounds great, right?
     This year, I've been focusing more on short stories than novels, both in consuming and creating. I've been listening to a number of short story podcasts, and one that I like a lot is Pseudopod, which features horror-themed stories. I figured I should be able to come up with a story for the reading series night. I had been thinking about it since the theme was announced, so a couple of weeks ago, I sat down at the computer to write a horror short story. I opened up my word processor, created a new file...
     And just sat there, staring at the blank screen. I started a couple of times, but before I got too far I erased what I wrote. I had a few idea, but I just couldn't get started. After about an hour, I thought I'd just work on something else, and let the Halloween story stew for a little longer. I opened the file to work on Stalking Stan Dixon, the latest story I'm serializing at the THC, and I quickly found that I couldn't do anything with that, either. I was completely blocked. I then shut the computer off and went to watch TV.
     A couple of days later, inspiration struck me as it usually does: when I was in the shower, getting ready to go to work. I held onto the idea until I was on the train to work, and typed a quick couple of paragraphs on my phone, then later that evening, when I got home from work, I sat down and the first draft flowed out as fast as I could type. The story came out pretty well, if I do say so myself. After I read it at the THC, Jenny said that I captured the feeling of the day pretty well. Read Into The Fog and see if you agree.

10/16/14: Last year, my brother mentioned that he was working on a personal project, using the on-line archive of the Chicago Tribune to compile a list of movies shown at the Brighton Theater when we were kids. The Brighton was a short walk from the house we grew up in, and in that pre-VCR, pre-DVD, pre-streaming age, we each spent many hours there, together or separately, enjoying the finest (and not-so-finest) that Hollywood had to offer. What we didn't realize at the time, and really not until the building had been torn down, was that the Brighton had a long history, not just as a neighborhood second-run house, but it was quite the movie palace, built by the prestigious firm of Levy & Klein for the Schoenstadt family, who ran many theaters on the south side of Chicago. I used a fictional relative of the Schoenstadts as a main character in my book The Opening of the Elysium, which, oddly enough, I haven't mentioned here before.

     This sounded like an interesting project to me, so I suggested that he put the file into Google Docs so that I could help out. I also had a link to the Trib archives through my local library, and while using it to research details for several of my books, I had taken some detours to check the movie listings for the Brighton. We set up the file, and I added columns for the Colony and Marquette, two other nearby theaters. Then it was just a matter of us spending our spare time poring over fuzzy scans of old newsprint and noting the titles that were listed for each theater.

     So last night I was up late, searching the archives, when I stumbled across the date of one of my fondest memories of the Brighton. I was looking for the first Friday in July, 1973, July 6,1973 to be precise, and discovered that was the date that "Battle for the Planet of the Apes" was released. It seems that they did occasionally get a first-run picture at the Brighton, and this was one of them. What makes this date so special was that on that date only, they showed all five Apes films in a row. What made it even more special was that we somehow talked our parents into letting us attend. By ourselves!

     I now wish I could remember some of the conversation that went into this scheme, but somehow we convinced them that it was a good idea to drop off three pre-teen boys at the theater in the afternoon, and leave them there all day. I remember getting there around 2, just before the first movie started, and I don't remember moving much over the ensuing 8 hours. We went for snacks a couple of times (I don't know if we had popcorn, but I do remember ice cream sandwiches) but I don't think I even went to the notoriously scary bathroom, which was in the basement of the building, reachable only by an impossibly steep set of stairs. Chris recalls that he "did venture into the Brighton bathroom that day, and I know for a fact that it was the first, last and only time I did so. And yeah, it WAS scary! "

     That's really all I have to report on the day. Nothing bad happened to us (it was the '70s after all) and our parents picked us up at 10, after the last movie. We were drained from all the Ape goodness, but excited that we attended our first movie marathon, although I don't remember knowing that term at the time. The only goofy thing about the entire day was that they showed the fifth movie first. Not only did that screw up the continuity of the series, but it also meant that the premiere showing of the one of the few first-run films the Brighton had in that stretch was at 2 in the afternoon. I wonder who was the knucklehead who planned that.

10/07/14: An interesting thing happened last weekend that I'd like to tell you about. Stephie was checking one of our credit card statements on-line Friday night and noticed something odd. As you can see from the screenshot here, we had a $1.09 charge on the card from someplace classified as a "HOME SUPPLY WAREHOUSE STORE" in "MID DORAVILLE US". This was suspicious in so many ways. First of all, neither of us remember making such a charge. I know it wasn't me, because I would never charge something for a dollar, at least not in person. Also, anyone who knows me knows that the likelihood of me patronizing a "HOME SUPPLY WAREHOUSE STORE" is slim to none. On top of that, the description of the vendor starts with "DO NOT USE THIS". Something funny was going on here.

     I tried calling the credit card company, but it was late on a Friday, and I was tired, and there was a long wait predicted on the call, probably because there were few people answering the calls, so I figured I'd call again the next morning. Before I logged off, though, I Googled some of the particulars and it seems that Doraville is in Georgia, a place neither Stephie nor I had been since we attended the Olympics in 1986. That means nothing in this global economy, though, as the charge could have been placed by phone or via the 'net.

     The next morning, I spoke to a very pleasant young woman at the credit card company and explained the situation. She said that the charge hasn't gone through yet (the "*Pending" on the line was an indication of that) and until it cleared, she said (or I think she said) that she would not have all the particulars of the transaction available to her. She did confirm, however, that the store in question was based in the Atlanta area, and that the physical card was not used in the transaction. We discussed it a bit and came to the decision that there was some kind of fraud going on here. I told her that I seem to remember one fo the TV news magazines recently doing a story about credit card fraud, and as an example, they sold some credit cards on the black market, then watched as the purchaser put through a small transaction to verify that the number was valid and active. We agreed that was what appeared to be happening here.

     We decided the best course of action would be to cancel the card and issue a new number for us. She asked me several times, probably to have me on record, to confirm that I suspected fraud in this case, and that cancelling the card is what I wanted to do. She also asked if I wanted them to express the replacement cards, which they did with no charge to me, since fraud was suspected. Finally, the suspicious charge would be removed from our account. I asked her why they would put through a charge for a business with the name "DO NOT USE THIS", and she said that the name there is only the human-readable part of the transaction, so it's irrelevant to the computer, and that if the vendor is not flagged to not use, any transactions would be processed. I'm just glad that the name was as it was, because that was the first red flag that Stephie saw.

     We soon got e-mail confirmation that the account was closed and the balance transferred over to the new account. The replacement cards arrived on Monday as expected, and we've not seen any evidence of any subsequent problems. Actually, there was one issue. We have this account as the default at a couple of web sites, one of which was eBay, for account I use for selling some of my crap, which I haven't done in years. Shortly after I changed the account there, Stephie noticed a one dollar charge pending for eBay, when I didn't do anything but change the number. A panicked call to eBay confirmed that the dollar charge was eBay's way of confirming that the number was valid, and that the charge would never be finalized, and sure enough, it disappeared in a few days.

     So the takeway from all of this is two-fold: first, keep an eye on your credit card statements. Stephie is not thrilled with the on-line portion of our banking and credit card accounts, but she agrees that it helped us catch this quickly, before any large charges were made. I'm pretty sure that we would ultimately not be accountable for any fraudulent charges, but I doubt that contesting a large charge would be as easy as contesting a charge of $1.09.

     The other thing to keep in mind is to keep a current list of all the places on-line that have your credit card number. I assembled our list the last time I had to update a card when the expiration date passed, and that list came in handy when we had to change each site that had the cancelled card. We don't have that many sites retaining our card information, but they are spread between two separate cards, and if I didn't have that list handy, we may not have changed all of them promptly, which may have resulted in a disruption of service if a site tried to use the cancelled account.

09/30/14: We now have a teenager in the house! Kisu turns 13 today, and as tradition dictates, we took her to McDonald's for her birthday dinner of a plain hamburger and some fries, which she consumed with little hesitation. She's been having a few health-related problems lately, but her appetite doesn't seem to be suffering at all. Happy Birthday, pumpkin!

09/22/14: Twenty-four years ago, I married my best friend. We didn't do it because we felt like we needed to. We didn't do it for the insurance, or for tax purposes. We didn't do it with the intention of starting a family. We did it because we loved each other and we wanted the world to know that we were committed to each other for the long haul. I don't see why everyone shouldn't have the opportunity to do the same. Happy Anniversary, Sweetie.

09/15/14: Last weekend was the opening of Stephie's art show at the Tamale Hut. She had a great turnout, a nice cross-section of friends, neighbors, and family members. We talked, we laughed, we drank beer and wine, we ate tamales, and Stephie sold some pieces. The art will be up until November 9, so if you're in the neighborhood, stop by and see it. If you can't make it, try to go on the 8th for the closing reception. There looks to be talking, laughing, beer and wine, etc.

09/13/14: It's funny how some songs take you back to a certain time in your life. It could be a fond (or not so fond) memory associated with that song, or it could be a memory of the first time you heard that particular song. For the latter, though, it would have to be a pretty great song.
     Last week I was in the car and Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits came on the radio. As happens every time I hear that song, especially in the car, it takes me right back to 1979. I'm driving down 47th street in my dad's dark blue Monaco, the one that looked like an undercover police car. It was late and I had just dropped my buddy Mike off at home, and I had on WLS, because at the time, my dad only had an AM radio, and that was the only station I could find that played any music at all. It may have been raining lightly, because the street lights seemed to brighten and fade as I drove under each one, sort of like a visual doppler effect. I remember I couldn't believe how good that song was, especially through that crappy single speaker in the dashboard, and even today, it's one of my favorites.
     And then today, we had Saturday Morning Flashback on the radio while we were puttering around the house, getting ready for my writers group meeting this afternoon, and Stephie's art opening tonight. It was 1983 on 'XRT, and they played the Police song Synchronicity II. That took me back to 1983. I was working one morning at Dominick's and one of the managers came in and asked me, "Hey, Matt. What's a 'Lemmy'?" Without missing a beat, I replied "He's the bass player for Mot

09/06/14: I forgot to write about the second staycation of the year, this one in the middle of August. I've written before about Sythian, an "American celtic-folk" band that we saw blow us away as opening act for Great Big Sea back in 2009. We'd planned to see them again, but they hadn't come through here in a while, so when I saw they were playing at Mayne Stage, I got tickets. The concert was fantastic! They played several songs from their new album, Jump At The Sun, as well as a bunch of tunes from their other albums, most of which we have. Plus, Mayne Stage is a great place to see a show. I would not hesitate to go back there. And you need to see Scythian play live. Trust me on that.
     A week before, Stephie told me that she found out that one of her favorite artists, Wassily Kandinsky, was being featured in a exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum, but the exhibit closed on Labor Day. I replied that coincidentally, I was home from work a couple days the following week, so the day after the Scythian concert, we dropped Kisu off at the kennel and drove up to Milwaukee. Stephie was thrilled by the art, and I found it to be very interesting as well. Kandinsky is credited with painting the first purely abstract works, and Stephie was right when she told me that I'd never seen anything like what he'd done. The exhibit was so interesting we went through it three times, then bought the book that documented the pieces. And I don't think I've seen Stephie so enthralled by anything since we were swimming with the dolphins in Florida!
     As the museum was closing, I was waiting for Stephie to get back from the restroom and asked the receptionist there if there was anything she could suggest for us to do, since if we left at that time, we would hit Friday rush hour traffic on the way home. She said there was a custard stand down the boardwalk on the lake, there were a number of bars and restaurants within walking distance, and she said, "See that white tent south of the museum? That's our Irish Fest." So Stephie and I put the book and t-shirt we bought in the car and walked down to the Irish Fest. We found that it typically costs $17 to get in, but the first hour and a half on Friday, admission was $5! We made it with 15 minutes to spare! So we spent the rest of Friday drinking beer, eating Irish food, and listening to Irish music. The only thing that would have made it better was if we stayed later than we did, we could have seen Scythian again, as they were headlining one of the stages. Unfortunately, they didn't come on stage until after 10, and we had been walking all day and were pretty pooped. Plus we still had the long drive home.
     The rest of the the long weekend was low-key, and it was topped off with a visit to the dermatologist that I'm sure you don't want to read about, but all-in-all, it was another successful staycation.

08/30/14: On August 30 each year, I usually celebrate R. Crumb's birthday, or Fred MacMurray's birthday, but this year's a little different. Today is my birthday. Tomorrow is my mom's birthday. To celebrate these two momentous occasions, I'm giving you a present: a free Kindle e-book of my first novel, Casco Cove! Just click the link to go to Amazon on Saturday or Sunday, August 30 & 31, 2014 and grab your free copy. And if you like it (or even if you just don't hate it), please leave me a review on Amazon. Happy Birthday to me!

08/07/14: I was browsing the TV listings on the 'net today and noticed the listing in the screenshot here for a show on channel 20. Unfortunately for me, one of the trains had a "pedestrian incident" on the way home, so I wound up sitting on the train for two hours and got home too late to see it. I wish I had, because I think we need more heroines in Chicago.

07/30/14: I had a nice staycation last weekend, and unlike most times when I take time off to do nothing, I didn't do nothing. I took the time because I was planning to go see Woman in the Moon at the Pickwick on Thursday, and knowing that it was a three-hour movie, I planned to take Friday off, so I extended it. I packed a lot of stuff into the six days:
  • Thursday, I finally pulled the trigger and bought myself a new computer. I was going back and forth over whether I should build or buy, and was leaning to building, since I built my last one and it was still running after almost 11 years. But the more I thought about it, I was looking forward to using it rather an looking forward to building it. I found what I thought was a good compromise in the PowerSpec line from MicroCenter. It's their house brand, and the machines are built from off-the-shelf parts, so I should be able to upgrade down the road if necessary, without being locked into one manufacturer's parts. And there was an added bonus that I hadn't expected. I wanted to install an SSD for the OS (Win7 and Linux Mint) since a guy at work said that the performance improvement was remarkable. I bought an SSD, and when I unpacked everything and went to install it, I found that there was a full Win7 install disk in the computer box, not just recovery media locked to the original hardware. That meant that I didn't have to move Windows from one drive to the other, and I could just install it fresh on the SSD. That worked like a charm, and I spent the rest of the weekend moving all my data over to the new computer. I couldn't be more pleased.
  • As mentioned, my brother and I went to see Woman in the Moon at the Silent Film Society of Chicago's Silent Summer Film Festival on Thursday. I wasn't planning to write a review of this film, but if you enjoyed Metropolis, you'll probably like this one. We're big fans of the earlier science-fiction masterpiece (I lost count of how many times I've seen it) and this one was made by the same writer/director team (Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang) as Metropolis. The three hours seemed to fly by. Also, the Pickwick in Park Ridge, where this year's festival is held, is a gorgeous classic movie theater, and seems to be well taken care-of.
  • Friday, Stephie and I went to Schaumburg. She needed to return some items, so I went along for the ride. We went to Ikea and Woodfield mall, and we both registered a lot of steps on our Fitbits. We even found a cabinet that will work for Stephie's studio, something we've been looking for for quite a while.
  • Saturday was the Tamale Hit Reading Series event for July. It was a light turnout, as the summer months tend to be, but all the open-mic readers were on the top of their game. The featured reader seemed to be a little nervous, but her story was interesting and we bought a copy. The highlight of the evening, though, was the first reader, Rod Piechowski, who read another story from his Randy Scuffle universe, and he had everyone falling off their chairs with laughter. His first collection is available at Amazon.com, and heartily recommend it.
  • Sunday we first went to my parents' house for a little birthday get-together for my brother. Everyone was able to attend and it was a great time.
  • Later that day, Stephie and I went to the Chicago Theater downtown to see John Fogerty. The show was terrific, and like the Pickwick, the theater was beautiful. As much as I'm thrilled to see one of these fine auditoriums restored and being used, even if it's not for movies, I'm a little saddened, because it makes me think of the hundreds of theaters that no longer exist, and the handful that are still standing but in dire need of repair. I didn't think about that during the show, though, as Fogerty pretty much rocked our socks off. I've never thought of myself as a CCR fan, but his Centerfield solo album was on constant repeat in my car tape player the year it came out. For an old geezer in a flannel shirt, he put on a high-energy show.
  • On Monday, we went to visit another friend from the Tamale Hut Reading Series. We cooked some burgers and corn on the grill and sat in the yeard, enjoying the summer weather. An extra added plus was that we got to bring Kisu with us.
  • We went to the Punch House on Tuesday evening to end the staycation. I don't listen to the radio much, prefering podcasts to broadcast, but a couple of weeks ago, I heard a song on 'XRT that I really liked. Turns out, "Come With Me Now" by the Kongos has been pretty popular for a while, showing up in movie trailers and (apparently) on some wrestling thing or another, but this was the first time I heard it. When I went to the 'XRT web site to find out information about the song, I saw that they were having a contest to see the band live. I never win these things, so I have long since stopped entering, but something told me I should so I did. A week later, I received an e-mail from 'XRT saying that we were going to see the Kongos! They did a short acoustic show in that intimate setting, and it was really great. What was even better was walking up to the door and saying "We're on the list!" Best of all, we were home in time for me to get enough sleep to go to work the next day.
Now this is the way to do a staycation! Sorry that some of the pictures are a little dark. The only thing missing was that I wanted to do some writing, but all my free time was taken up futzing with the new computer. I'm almost done reinstalling everything, and I only need to get the TV capture card configured to get me back to where I was.
     I have another long weekend coming up in August, after the Scythian show on the 14th. It's going to be tough to beat this past weekend, but I'm keen to try!

07/15/14: I hope your July is going better than ours is. Kisu didn't handle the fireworks on the fourth very well at all, even with the tranquilizer we gave her, and now she's hesitant about leaving the house at all, because some of the morons in the neighborhood apparently still have some ammunition. I finally get her outside when one of these mental midgets pops off a firecracker somewhere in the neighborhood, and she makes a beeline to the door. I think we're going to have to take her away next year.
     And as if that's not enough stress, in rapid succession we had my mom break her hip, my dad have a gall stone that required surgery, and Stephie's dad spend the night in the hospital because of spiking blood pressure. And I had to have a filling replaced with a crown. There's never a dull moment around here.
     On a more positive note, Stephie completed a commission that she got from her recent display at the Graue Mill, and she's hard at work on some new art for her upcoming two-month display at the Tamale Hut Cafe in September and October. This is one of her new pieces, a diptych called 'Cosmic Rumble'. I hope to have more information on that shortly.

06/22/14: We had a fun evening last night, and got home well after 1 A.M. We started out at Aliano's in Batavia, which has what Stephie says is the best gluten-free pasta she's ever had. All the food was terrific, and we had a table visit from Jonathan Kamm, a sleight of hand artist who did a few card tricks that I haven't a clue how they were done. I thought I was watching closely, but apparently I was not, because he did the same trick several times, the last few fairly slowly, and I still didn't see what he did.
     After dinner, we walked across the street to the Batavia Government Center, to see the Albright Theater Company's latest production, Love Rides The Rails. They describe it as an over-the-top campy melodrama, and it certainly was, allowing the cast to ham it up quite a bit to add even more laughs to the story. This is the second play we've seen at the Albright, and the second to have a former co-worker, Mark Dettman, in the cast. He was pretty good, and the show was great, so if you're in the Batavia area next weekend, it's worthwhile checking out.
     On the way home from the play, after we joined Mark for a post-performance cocktail, we stopped at Ballydoyle Irish Pub in Downers Grove to catch a performance of the Funky Monks, who bill themselves as "The Ultimate Red Hot Chili Peppers Experience." We enjoy the RHCP as much as anyone, but the real reason we stopped was because the bass player, Jeff Genualdi, is a current co-worker of mine. I've known about the band for some time, but we never seemed to make time to go see them, and I figured they probably wouldn't play anywhere closer to our house than there, so we really had to make an effort to go. And I'm glad we did, because they were great! The only problem was that I forgot our ear plugs, and my old ears can't handle the loud rock-and-roll like they used to. Still, the band was having fun, and so was the crowd. I'll have to catch them again.

06/08/14: Thursday night, I took Stephie curling. We've wanted to do that ever since there seemed to be a sudden interest in the sport two or three Olympics ago. We saw it on TV and were interested in giving it a try, but found that there was really only one curling club in the Chicago area, the aptly named Chicago Curling Club, and their season is October through March, so by the time we started to inquire, the season was almost over and they were all booked.
     This year, I thought I got started early by looking to book a curling class for Stephie for her birthday in February, but still no-go. I did put my name on the waiting list, in case any spots opened up. After her birthday passed, I forgot all about it.
     Then in late-March, I got an e-mail from the Chicago Curling Club that a group of curling enthusiasts were starting up a another club in the area, and were looking for people interested in giving it a try. The Windy City Curling Club operates out of an ice rink in Bolingbrook, which is much closer to us than the CCC facility up in Northbrook, so we signed up for a class. The only downside is that they are only there on Thursday evenings, and while I took Friday off this week, if we were to do this with any regularity, it will make for some difficult Friday mornings at work, since we didn't get home until well after midnight.
     And would we want to do it again? I don't know at this point. It was a lot of fun, but much, MUCH more difficult that it seems when you see it on TV. For one thing, it's really far from where you're standing to where the stone ends up. And when you see the people on TV do it, that sliding motion they use to launch the stone looks effortless. In reality, you need to coordinate your one foot sliding with almost no friction at all, your other leg pushing off to start your slide, and trying to support yourself on this plastic tube thing and not on the stone, then while you're doing all that, you need to aim the stone and make sure it has enough motion to get it to the other side of the rink. All the while, you're trying not to fall on your face doing that. I'm uncoordinated enough that I considered the night a success simply because I didn't faceplant on any of my shots. I didn't even care that my entire team didn't score one point.
     Big thanks to Jeff and Matt at the Windy City Curling Club for their patience with us. There were ten in the group and none of us had ever curled before, and I don't know how many will be going back, but there's a good chance that Stephie and I will.

05/30/14: I saw this picture outside of Whole Foods today. It makes me wonder what they feed the cheddar that we usually buy.

05/12/14: Hi, all. I have a bunch of stuff that I've been meaning to post here, like the pictures from our Washington, D.C. trip or my weekend at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention among other things. But I've been too busy (or too lazy, you pick) to do that. I promise to catch up soon.
     One thing I shouldn't have waited so long for is to tell you about the Bowl-a-Thon I'm participating in this Wednesday, May 14. Like last year, I wrote a little something silly for the donation page, inspired by this . If you'd like to kick in a buck or two for a good cause, please do but I'm really just posting this to amuse you. Check it out here: https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/MattBieniek/bp-city-bowl-a-thon.

03/24/14: So today, Stephie dragged took me shopping to Woodfield and the new Fashion Outlet mall in Rosemont. The only thing I got out of the deal was a lot of steps on my Fitbit and a soft pretzel with roasted garlic parmesian topping, but she got some clothes that she really needed.
     When we were leaving the Fashion Outlet, I knew we had to stop at one of the kiosks near the door to get our parking ticket validated, and pay if necessary. They offer two hours free parking, but I had not remembered what time we actually arrived, so as we were heading towards the door and Stephie handed me the ticket, I glanced at the timestamp to see if we made it. What I saw made me break into a run towards the kiosk, and for the first time that day, it was not in use. I quickly shoved the ticket in and the screen lit up and said "No Payment Necessary."
     I was grinning as Stephie caught up with me and asked how much we owed. I triumphantly showed her the ticket, which you can see here. We made it with one minute to spare. How's that for being a savvy shopper?

03/15/14: Sometimes I have the strangest things just pop into my head. Things I haven't thought about for years suddenly start swirling around in my brain. Frequently it's triggered by music, and results in a song stuck in my head that I can't get rid of it. Recently a friend was talking about a girl he had a date with in Kalamazoo, MI, as he put it "just like in Mr. Miller's song." Next thing I knew, I was walking around humming "I've Got a Girl in Kalamazoo" and I couldn't get rid of it. I read somewhere when you get an "earworm" like that, the best way to be rid of it is to listen to that song all the way to the end. It's supposed to give you some closure, I guess. So I went to YouTube and found this version, but it only made things worse. It wasn't until I saw the movie that this clip was from (Orchestra Wives from 1942) that I got the song out of my head. But I digress...
     Going back to strange things from my past, I was in the car this morning and the song "Bette Davis Eyes" came on the radio. The very first thing that I thought of was the line "she's got Marty Feldman Eyes!" I seem to remember that as a parody of BDE, but I'll bet I hadn't heard that in 20 years. I didn't even remember who recorded it, or where I would have heard it, but that's what came to mind.
     When I got home, I went to trusty Google, and found that "Marty Feldman Eyes" was recorded by Bruce "Baby-Man" Baum in 1981, and of course, there's a video on YouTube. It's actually not bad, as parodies go, but hardly something that I should remember more than 30 years later
     Marty Feldman, on the other hand, is worth remembering, although he, too, has been gone more than 30 years. Most people remember him as Igor ("No, it's pronounced "eye-gor.") in Young Frankenstein. I remember him as the star of The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, a summer replacement TV series on ABC in 1972. I remember it primarily because of the opening credits, which were done in a goofy animation style, the likes of which I had never seen before. It was a few years later, when I discovered Monty Python, that I learned that they were done by Terry Gilliam. I was probably one of the few people in America who first saw Monty Python on PBS in the mid '70s and said, "Hey, these cartoons look just like the Marty Feldman Comedy Machine."

02/14/14: There's a TV on at work that's right in my line of sight, and it's pretty distracting under normal circumstances, but leading up to Valentine's Day, there was a commercial that seemed to be on constantly which made it more distracting. You've probably seen it: the one where they tell you not to give your sweetie flowers or candy, but give her an enormous teddy bear. The commercial is full of clips of attractive women being thrilled when presented with a huge, floppy teddy bear. How could that go wrong?
     Well, one indication that this might not be a good idea is actually in the commercial itself. I couldn't find a copy of this year's version on the 'net, but click the picture here to see the 2012 version. Notice that every time you see any of these women after they were given the teddy bear, the guys are not in the picture. Think that means anything?

01/28/14: Suspicious character was spotted out walking his dog in sub-zero temperatures today. If you see him, don't be afraid. Offer him hot chocolate. He needs it.

01/13/14: So we were walking Kisu around the neighborhood tonight, an unusually warm night for January, and we caught a whiff of burgers on a grill. Stephie was planning salads for dinner, but being the bad influence I am, I suggested we go out for burgers. The scent in the air convinced her that it was a good idea.
     We got Kisu settled at home and went to our new favorite burger place, Back Alley Burger in LaGrange. They have great burgers, but they also have gluten-free buns, which is what Stephie needs for her diet. Also, the beef is grass-fed, not a big deal to me, but a must for her. After much deliberation, we ordered and found a table to wait for our food.
     I had my back to the counter, and I noticed Stephie watching the kids working in the kitchen. I asked her if she missed it, working in a kitchen. Not the hours or the hard work, but the fun you have when you're really busy and everyone is working in sync. She said that's what she misses, as well as the cast of characters she worked with.
     As the discussion went on, I started reminiscing about my time working in a kitchen, at my first job at McDonald's when I was in high school. I told her about how McDonald's had a standard way of cooking the burgers, and how we had to circumvent those procedures when a rush hit. I really have fond memories of that job, and just then, I realized that today was the anniversary of the day I started at McDonald's. The day I entered the work force. It was a Friday night, and I worked two hours on the Quarter-pounder grill. It was only later that I realized how lucky I was to start my first day on the grill. Most people started working fries or (god-forbid) cleaning the lobby, only to have to work their way up to the grill.
     Times sure have changed. That first day, there were only a few items on the McDonald's dinner menu. Hamburger, cheeseburger, Big Mac, quarter-pounder (with and without cheese), filet o' fish, fries and apple pies. That was it. Today, the variety is astounding. For example, today at BAB I had the bourbon bacon blackberry blue burger (1/2 lb beef on a buttery bun, blue cheese, bacon, blackberry bourbon jam, grilled onions, mustard, romaine), an order of cheese onion rings, and a chocolate coconut shake. Everything was delicious.
     Another thing that's different these days, too. As I thought about it, I realized that first day at McDonald's I earned $5.30, before tax. I don't think that would have paid for my shake today!

01/06/14: Kisu says, "I don't care if it's 12 below zero. You bought me this vest so I wanna go out!"

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