My wife and I are puzzle enthusiasts. Our son too. Believe it or not, most of the framed art on our walls is from glued completed puzzles. 😁

Lately, we’ve been searching our neighborhood for people who share our love for puzzles to see if we can set up some sort of an exchange or sharing group. So far, we received 3 puzzles from a neighbor who had them and didn’t want them. And another puzzle that we exchanged with another neighbor. We gave them one of the puzzles the other neighbor gave us after we finished it.

Below are puzzles that we are interested in sharing. If you’re close to the Morton Grove area and would like any of these puzzles, add a comment to this page. All we ask if that you have a puzzle to share in return, minimum of 500 pieces.

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OurPact vs. Apple’s Screen Time

To help keep our kids’ device use in check, we employed the use of a device-monitoring app called OurPact. This app allowed us to provide screen time allowances for our kids’ devices. It costs a mere $5/month and works very well, although the kids are never too happy with how long it takes to pause or un-pause their time.

Along comes Apple’s iOS 12 with Screen Time. Since there was no added cost for this, I decided to give it a try to remove OurPact… at least temporarily.

Here’s a high level comparison of the two:

  • OurPact is a subscription and cost $5/month.  / Apple’s Screen Time is free with iOS 12
  • OurPact allows parents to create multiple downtime schedules for their kids’ devices, such as bedtime, homework, school, dinner, etc… / Apple’s Screen Time has just 1 downtime schedule for each kid. If they have multiple devices, this schedule will apply to all of them
  • OurPact requires that you install device management software on each device in order to properly manage the device from the parental OurPact app. Apple’s Screen Time works based on Apple IDs so as long as the device remains logged in to the kids’ Apple ID, Screen Time will do its job.
  • OurPact allows parents to mark specific apps as ‘always on’ regardless of any set downtime schedule. / Apple’s Screen Time can do the same.
  • Apple’s Screen Time can set time limits for specific apps or app categories. / OurPact doesn’t have this level of granularity.
  • OurPact allows parents to set specific time allowances for each of the kids’ devices. Allowances can be different each day. Kids can pause or un-pause their time in order to use their device. / Apple’s Screen Time can set time limits as noted above, but does not provide kids the ability to pause this time, however the time limits only counts against the kid when they are actively using an app that has a time limit set.
  • Apple’s Screen Time allows kids to send requests to the parent asking for more time either for a specific app or app category. / OurPact doesn’t have this functionality.

We’ve only been using Apple’s Screen Time for 1 day, but so far I think it is slightly better than OurPact. More time is needed before we make a final decision on which management option to stick with. Stay tuned…

#OurPact #Apple #ScreenTime

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The Greg Spero Trio – Live!

I’ve heard Greg’s music many times; on CD, on my computer, on my iPhone, but never live. Well, that’s not completely true. I have heard Greg play at our Passover Seders, but that’s not the same. Saturday night I saw him and his trio at The Shed 1480 in Highland Park. It was amazing!


Being related has its perks as he saved me a seat in the front row. This is a very intimate setting so front row was almost like sitting with the band. Greg’s performance and his stage presence was inspiring. But I cannot fail to mention the other members of his band; Chuck Webb on bass, who I met briefly before the gig, and Zach Marks on drums. They too were spectacular.



I captured part of the performance of Raga via Hyperlapse just because I can. Click here to check it out.

I almost left at 10, but hen Greg said they were going to play their last song, a favorite of his by Herbie Hancock. I’m so glad I stayed. It was absolutely my favorite part of the show. Let me say this, many people have a desire to capture events to share with others and I’m usually one of those people, but during this final song my desire to capture was eclipsed by my desire to experience the magic that was the Greg Spero Trio. It was a very good choice.

If you ever have a chance to go to a Greg Spero performance, don’t miss it. You won’t be disappointed.


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Book #526 – First In The Aliomenti Saga


I found this book via Bookbub.

I liked the story description and it was free so I figured why not? I finished it today (9/4/14) and immediately bought book 2. I didn’t care how much, I just had to have it.

There is very little of this book I didn’t like. It is well paced with a good story and great characters. I was able to predict who some of the characters actually were, but that only made the story that much more enjoyable. I love stories that travel back and forth in time, but if the author fails to keep things straight, the story suffers. This author obviously took his time to make sure the story’s timeline was flawless.

My biggest problem was that when I wrote the review on Apple’s iBook store, there were only 5 stars. This deserved more.

Now, I simply can’t wait to start reading book 2.

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500 Books! – A Huge Milestone

I have unbelievably finished reading my 500th book since I started keeping track back in April of 1996 (See the entire list). Which book got the honor of being #500? Bloodline by Felix Francis, Dick Francis’ youngest son. I’ve always been a huge Dick Francis fan so it seemed only fitting to honor him and his son by reading one of the latest in a line of great horse related mysteries.

My parents have always loved reading especially my dad who would routinely come home from the library carrying four or five books. Back then I never knew how he could read them all before they were due. Of course, I know now. Reading several books at once is not unheard of for me.

So why a list? Back in April of 1996 I was offered my first job in the video post-production industry in downtown Chicago. It was also my first job in Chicago and the first time I would be commuting to work via public transportation. Specifically, the L. I figured that riding the L would give me a great opportunity to catch up on my reading. Prior to this job I was working in Highland Park so I drove to work, which left no chance of reading during the commute unless I had a death wish. I also figured that it would be kind of cool to keep a running list of the books I read if for no other purpose to see if I could keep it up. Well it’s been over 17 and a half years and I’ve added every single book to my list; hardback, paperback, audio book and ebook. Some were good, some were bad, and many were great. There were a few that I just couldn’t finish (two from Stephen King no less) and they are not part of the 500.

The past few years I have made every attempt to post each book online and give a shout out to the author, especially if I enjoyed the book. In some cases I even got a shout back, which I consider a tremendous honor. I’m extremely proud and a wee bit jealous of two friends whose books have made my list. They were great books and I wish one day to publish one of my own.

For those that are interested, here are some fun statistics.

  • Over 6400 days have passed since I started my list and I’m averaging a book about every 13 days.
  • Seven times I read books by the same author back-to-back-to-back. One of the times included the original Bourne Trilogy [thanks Pete].
  • I’ve read more than 10 books each from 14 different authors. That makes up more than half of my 500.
  • Ever since I’ve signed up with BookBub.com, my ebook total has hit 49.


Some of my favorite authors:


Number of Books Read

James Patterson


John Sandford


Michael Connelly


Stuart Woods


Lee Child


John Lescroart


Dick Francis/Felix Francis


William Bernhardt


James Grippando


Ridley Pearson


Harlan Coben


Jim Butcher


Which book will be my 501st? I have yet to decide, but I know it will be an ebook.

I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon so expect to read about my next 500 books sometime in 2031.

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Home Repair Project From Hell: We’re Almost There

Friday, March 29th marked the end of three weeks of home repair hell. The carpenter finished up the wet bar, attached the new soffit vent covers in the family room, fixed some minor plumbing issues and did a pretty decent job cleaning up. The plumbing crew returned to paint, yes paint, the laundry room wall as well as the entire office. By 6pm everyone had left and we were really just left with a little painting to do under the family room soffit (plumbers to return on 4/5 to do it), attach the vent cover and replace an outlet cover in the office plus a lot of dust to clean up in each room.

Next up is yet another contractor coming in on April 9th to replace some of the office’s waterproof floor tiles before that room and the family room can get carpeted on the 12th. So we still have some time before we can finally move our crap back downstairs. The end is definitely near.

Here’s a list of things done to date:
– carpets removed in two rooms
– wet bar removed
– wall behind washer/dryer torn down
– trench cut into floor of three rooms (power inadvertently cut in kitchen and dining room)
– power restored (plumbing co. picked up the tab)
– HVAC vents removed from the floor in two rooms
– new HVAC vents added overhead in two rooms
– new HVAC return added in family room (via crawl space)
– backup drain tiles added and tied into existing sump pump well
– new soffits built in office and family room
– wet bar rebuilt
– wall behind washer/dryer rebuilt
– laundry plumbing replaced and new dryer vent added
– sump pump well covered and sealed (as req’d by the inspector)
– office repainted
– wall behind washer/dryer repainted

A full before and after photo gallery will be posted after the carpet is installed. Stay tuned.

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Home Repair Project From Hell: Update

We are now two days into the third week of the project. HVAC was competed last week and passed final inspection. It is definitely much warmer downstairs now. The drain tiles portion of the plumbing was also completed last week including closing up all he trenches with cement. The laundry room still needed some plumbing work and that was done late Monday and early Tuesday (today). Once it was competed, the plumbing inspector showed Tuesday afternoon and much to my displeasure it wasn’t the same inspector as the previous two times. This proved to be a problem as the new guy flagged something that the first guy said was fine. I was not happy to hear that and I was not real friendly with him. Basically I said, “go ahead and fine me, I’m not doing any more repair work.” He explained that he doesn’t do any fining; he simply can’t approve the job. He did approved the sealing of the sump pump well, which the other inspector said we needed to do, but did not approve the plumbing issue he flagged. I explained this to the project foreman and he too wasn’t happy. He said he’d call the inspector and set things straight. Still waiting to hear how that turned out.

Carpentry has been moving along, but slowly. He did get us to a point last week where we were able to do laundry again. However, he has had some interruptions, unrelated to our project, that have slowed him down. The new soffits in the family room and office are basically done. And they look really good. A little drywall patching in the office is still needed as well as rebuilding the wet bar and finishing the wall behind the washer/dryer. Not sure how he is going to finish it all on Thursday.

We are also waiting for another company to show up to replace some of the waterproof tiles in the office, but they can’t come until April 12 that means no new carpet anywhere until that is competed. And that means we can’t move anything back until the carpet is installed. Boo.

So, we’ve definitely had a lot of snags and the lines of communication have not been the greatest with the foreman, but sooner than later this project from hell will be behind us.

New project pics coming soon…

The kids have been troopers during all this. Especially this week as it is their Spring Break. We have managed to get them out to a few activities like Glow-in-the-dark miniature golf, the local library, JumpZone and even an after dinner trip to DQ. Tomorrow we are giving the carpenter the day off so we can go down to Navy Pier and then maybe bowling in the afternoon.

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Home Repair Project From Hell

OK, this home repair project is officially a nightmare. Original goal was to trench the floor in three rooms, add new drain tiles, reroute the HVAC and then re-carpet two rooms. This was all due to the fact that we were getting water in our vent wells when it rained. This now appears to have been caused by a crack in the cement below the sliding glass doors in the family room.

Trenching took twice as long as expected when they realized the HVAC vent was a thick cement trough. Thicker than most highways cement. During their cutting they cut through electrical conduit, possibly in multiple places, and cut power to our kitchen, dining room and upstairs hallway.

Trenching in the office exposed a sewer line that the plumber is unable to tie in to so if the HVAC were to remain in the floor, we’d need a second sump pump, which we definitely don’t want. Instead we will reroute the HVAC overhead and encase it in a soffit. This will make it easier for the plumber to get one set of drain tiles to the existing sump well.

Meanwhile, we still need to figure out how to best fix the electrical as we still do not have power in our kitchen or dining room. Thankfully, our fridge is plugged in to an extension cord in the playroom.

Let’s not forget that we have a carpenter coming in to rebuild the wet bar, the wall behind the washer/dryer and now two soffits.

Friday will bring just about every contractor to the house. Hopefully, we’ll get power back. The HVAC and drain tile projects will also finally make some headway as huge chucks of cement and the old HVAC vents from two rooms were finally hauled away late Thursday afternoon.

Can’t wait to have our family room, office, laundry room, dining room and kitchen back to normal.

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My 2¢ on the Gun Debate

No_GunI’m not a proponent of guns, never have been. However I am a realist. Let me start by stating the obvious. Something I assume we can all agree on. For all the tragedies in the past years. A person with a gun (or guns) killed innocent people. The gun didn’t act alone nor did the person. It was a group effort.

That said, if we took an extreme measure and banned all guns and demanded that everyone turn in their gun, that wouldn’t solve the problem for many reasons. First, no one would agree to a complete ban and it would be a complete impossibility to expect all guns to be turned in. Now that’s an extreme that I know no one is actually suggesting. I’m just using it as an example. Making it harder for the average Joe or Jane to buy a gun may help, but again I don’t think that’s the real issue either. Someone who feels the misguided need to kill others will try to get their hands on a gun any way they can. Stricter laws won’t have much if any affect in this case. The person could steal a gun, obtain one illegally through some sort of black market or decide on a different weapon. Bottom line is that all these tragedies sucked for all involved. No one can question that. Would stricter gun laws have prevented any of them? Perhaps.

I think we may need to take a different approach and look to technological advances to make guns harder to use. This may sound silly and far fetched, but think about this. If the person involved in the Sandy Hook shootings couldn’t figure out how to actually use the guns due to some high-tech locking mechanism or biometric pass-code, maybe the outcome would have been different. Maybe not. Either way, as much as I deplore guns, I don’t think more gun-related laws are going to help.

Just my 2¢.

I also can’t disagree with Samuel L. Jackson who said, “I don’t think it’s about more gun control. I grew up in the South with guns everywhere and we never shot anyone. This [shooting] is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.”

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My Black Friday good deed of the day…

Laura and I took our daughter Hannah to the movies early today to see Wreck-It Ralph. We all enjoyed it, but this isn’t a review of the movie. When the movie was over, we left the semi-crowded theatre and headed for the bathrooms. I held their coats and while they were gone, I saw a winter hat in the distance that someone accidentally dropped on the ground. As I watched, a family of three walked toward the hat, looked down at it, stepped over it and then continued walking out of the theatre. A moment later, a father with his two sons walked toward the hat. He said “someone dropped their hat” to his sons. One son proceeded to step on it as the three walked towards the exit. I was half expecting someone to pick it up and bring it to Guest Services. That someone turned out to be me. I turned the hat in and afterwards I saw a lone father walk past me back towards the theatres. I had a hunch that this father was going back to the theatre I just left looking for his kid’s hat. When Laura and Hannah came out of the bathroom, I asked them to wait a moment as I wanted to see if this father would return. About 20 seconds later he did, empty handed, and I stopped him and asked if he was looking for a winter hat. He said he was and I happily told him that it was at the Guest Services desk. He thanked me, retrieved the no-longer-missing hat and went on his way. For me, I just smiled and felt good at my good deed that took just about no time and very little effort. I’d do it again and will teach my kids the same. You never know when it will be your hat that goes missing.

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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