Come Sail Away

Exciting weekend ahead.

Two nights ago, my phone rang. It was Rose, a girl in my youth group. She graciously offered My Intended and I two free tickets to see a concert with her and some other church friends. And so tonight, I am attending my first ever STYX concert. I'm awfully proud to say that. I think maybe I did my 30 Greatest Concert Moments list too soon.

Saturday and Sunday will be filled with much anxiety and ranting. I've been asked to preach at all three services at church. I am not sure they know what they've gotten themselves into. I was thinking about doing an interpretive dance as my sermon. But I guess I will fall back on Plan B: Fire and Brimstone.

New Year's Eve will be relaxing and informal with the Intended and some friends. And hopefully several movies. New Year's Day will also be laid back. The only plans I have are to help Doug V. pack up his last remaining possessions in Illinois to complete the move to Ohio. I considered stowing away in the truck. But that'd be a long drive without a potty.

For the most part, it should be a pretty relaxing weekend. I hope to get some down time. I've been cutting way back on committments and freelance lately. Partly because of upcoming things like wedding stuff and needing to sell my condo soon and other changes like that.

But I'm also just kinda done with the busyness. I'm sick of having commitments every night and every hour of the weekend. I'm tired of nagging assignments hanging over my head. And also, I just have this drive again to do some creative writing for the first time in a long time. I have these stories in my head that I want to get out. I've felt that way for a long time, but now it's at a fever pitch. I mean, I have no grand allusions. It's not like "The world must hear these stories before I am gone!" but, I just need that outlet. Come to think of it, I haven't done freetime, just-for-myself, fiction writing in about 4 years. I have a finished but only half-revised screenplay sitting around. I might reawaken that.

I just need to write. And dream. And imagine.

Quotes of the Week
"I think that's up near Schaumburg, right?" -My Uncle Bill after seeing my new "Mayor of Awesomeville" shirt.

"I'm fine. My nose is just overflowing with awesome and I had to get some of it out."-Barney on How I Met Your Mother trying to prove he didn't have a cold.

Christmas Top 6

I'm back from all the Egg Nog, chocolate and gifts of my Christmas holiday. I had a truly blessed long weekend with My Intended and our families. We got to spend time with her maid of honor, the future in-laws, my whole family and more. Here's some assorted highlights:

-The Coolest Gift Received: This is a toss up, because my loved ones were very generous. I got the first seasons of TV shows The Muppet Show and Mission:Impossible . I got M:I 3! I got a golf bag. I got what may be the coolest hoodie I've ever owned (and I am a connoisseur in fine hoodies). But when all the chips are down, I think the coolest gift was a T-shirt that my sister actually made just for me with iron-on letters. It says, "Mayor of Awesomeville." It's just amazing.

-Coolest Gift Given: I gave my brother a retro jersey of his favorite Sox: Carlton Fisk. Having him open it was actually better than getting anything.

-Most Sentimental Moment: Both families gave My Intended and I some neat Wedding-oriented stuff. My mom got us our toasting flutes and something special that will serve as a cookie-cake topper. But I knew those were coming, what floored me was a gift from the Mother-in-Law. She gave me a crystal mug that she'd bought for her now departed husband as a wedding gift. She handed it down as I am now "the man of the family." Wow. It's really a very special thing to me.

-Best Lesson: In a game of Scrabble with My Intended, I learned the painful lesson that "Beap" is not a word.

-Funniest moment: So my brother was leaving my parents' house. He said, "Hey thanks for the Fisk jersey." By instinct, I replied, "And thank YOU for the...." That's when I realized I had no idea what he and his wife had given me. I think I ended the sentence with mumbling and something like, "For being here..." After about 15 minutes of going through my gifts and interveiwing all of those present about what gift was form my brother, we all realized that it was still hidden from me in my parents' room. With Chad guiding me on the phone as if I was Jack Bauer being instructed by CTU to find a bomb, I walked back to find my new golf bag. Score.

-Most Surprising Gift: At my Parents' House, I got a small wrapped box that wasn't labeled. Inside was a note: "Dear Todd, I am sorry that I made you worry! I actually was NOT kidnapped. I went on to better my career. Not that I dond't like being with you, I actually miss you a lot. However, with my dream has always been to model. And I hope you can see from the included picture that I have a lot of talent! Miss you, Red Fez Monkey"

Whoa. That was a shock. After all this time spent searching for him and even sending his brother, Purple Fez Monkey, on an epic quest to find him, it turns out Red Fez is just starting a modeling career! Here's the framed pciture that was in the package from Red Fez. As you can see, he's stumbled into the high-pressure world of Cross-Stitch Modeling. Don't laugh. That's a hard job to stand still while someone knits your likeness. I'm proud of you, Red Fez. Wherever you are...


Merry Christmas.

For our magazine, LaTonya once wrote this story about how her Mom used to always let her drink only a little Egg Nog at a time. This always bothered her and so when she got to college, she got some Egg Nog and drank as much as she wanted. And then got sick.

I kinda thought the story was a little silly. I mean, it's just Egg Nog. But then today happened. I love Egg Nog. So, in an attempt to get into the Christmas spirit, I bought a carton last night. This morning, I had two big glasses on an empty stomach. And I'm feeling it. Ugh. You know how bad it is? Designer Alecia brought in big Christmas cookies and I can't eat one. Yah, you know it's bad when i turn down cookies. (But one is going into the Nativity Jar...)

But hey, tis the season.

I think that I'm just now starting to feel any degree of Christmasy (no thanks to that Egg Nog). I sat in my apartment yesterday morning with a blanket on, the tree lights on and sipping hot chocolate. It was quite quaint. I've been wrapping gifts like it's my job (it isn't.) And I've been spending a lot of time trying to guess what people have gotten me. I need to spend some time reading the biblical story of Christ's birth, too. That is what I really need to keep me in the right mindest. I've been thinking about watching The Passion of the Christ, actually. I know, I know: wrong season. But I watched it last year and it was really poignant for me as a real reminder of WHY Christmas matters.

As I've been thinking about Christmas this year, one of my favorite Christmas memories has kept surfacing. Being with my family has always been the real blessing of Christmas. The house is all decorated. Family is all together and a buzz. There's just this etheral quality about my memories of Christmas at home. There's just this closeness and love. I'm lucky in that way. But all through the first 20 or so years of my life, even the week leading up to the Christmas Eve and Day was always neat as all three kids would be home and excited. (And telling each other what we saw Mom hiding in the closet....)

Well, in the senior year of college, I took a trip to England that week before Christmas with my college roommate Gene. It was awesome to be walking down Cobblestone roads in Canterbury eating roasted chestnuts just days before Christmas. It was all so Dickens. But the neat part was that I arrived home on Christmas Eve. I got a limo home and walked intot he house as guests were arriving for our annual Christmas Eve meal. I felt like I was just dropped into the Christmas season--and it was great.

Well, Merry Christmas.

So, today I was reading the critical response to The Good Shepherd at RottenTomatoes.com. And I discovered my name there! I've gotten a review listed on RottenTomatoes.com! This seriously is a huge deal for me. I've been looking at RT reviews for YEARS. What a cool thing to see.

Well, it turns out that not only was I added to the RT.com stable but they've archived all of my reviews. It's funny to see them all here--and remember some I forgot about. Some star ratings I really regret (The Legend of Zorro didn't deserve 2 stars, it should have been like 1. And Sky Captain shouldn't have been 3.5. It should have been 2.5. Oh well.) And I'd completely forgotten about some reviews that I'm pretty proud of.


"You look like a russian girl." --An office lady here to a woman wearing a nice new outfit for the first time.

"I just hope I don't end up hating christmas because of this. And then like, turning from the faith." -Jill, about her office being filled with pine air fresheners.


Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

It is finished.

Early this morning, when it was still dark and rain fell into puddles, I hauled my ficas tree down the stairs, across the parking lot and then, unremorsefully, I tossed him into the dumpster. I then went behind the dumpster in the mud and dumped dirt out of the pot.

As I stepped through the mud in my shiny dress shoes, I realized how mob-like the scene was: It's dark, rainy, muddy. I was dressed up. And I was throwing a deceased foe in a dumpster.

The ficas sleeps with the fishes. Or the old garbage.

Something To Do To Avoid Work This Week:
Rollingstone.com has posted four days (so far) worth of this year's best re-cut movie trailers floating around the Internet. Thanks to the Gat for alerting me to this collection. I fell in love with this concept earlier in the year when I heard some film class' final project was to take a film and re-cut a trailer making it look like a totally different genre.

The first one I saw was The Shining re-spun as a touching feel-good film about a foster dad (posted here on Day 1) . That's up here, as is my new fave: "10 Things I Hate About Commandments (Day 3)." Man, I could watch this 10 Commandments parody over and over. "Now, the battle is on to see who can win the girl and rule the school!" It's the best one of these screwed-up trailers I've seen so far. Which are your favorites?


Wedding Wednesday

So, My Intended and I have spoken casually to a co-worker of mine about our cookie cake because her family has a bakery. Today, I got an e-mail from her about it and it is one of the funniest e-mails I perhaps have ever received. I love how randomly thoughts flitter into our heads. Here's how the e-mail went:

"Hi Todd.

While I was walking down the stairs I smelled french fries...which led me to thinking about how last night my mom wanted french fries (she usually despises them)...and she wanted them while at the bakery...while I was decorating cookies...which led me to thinking about the cookie cake for your wedding. :) "


Awesome Blog Entry

Was I ever in for a surprise this week at Aldi! They've changed the look of my Sweet Valley soda. Now, the Diet Cola is all blue and snazzy. No more white generic look. No, now it's gone all big time.

As I stood in the aisle and looked at this old friend now in an unfamiliar appearance, I went through a lot of emotions. And had many thoughts and realizations wash over me.

Thefirst thing I noticed with great displeasure was that I the cans no longer have the unattributed testimonial, "Great Tasting" on them. That was sad.

And then I realized that not only was the packaging different, so was the name. It wasn't just DIET COLA anymore. It is now Diet GT Cola.

After I realized the name was changed, I began to think, Hmm, what's the GT stand for?

And then it hit me. Yah, they named it Great Tasting Cola. This is priceless. I thought it was funny before when the box said the soda was great tasting, but now they've named it that? That's great.

I think all products should be named adjectives, like Cool shoes, Economic car, and Sharp-But-Not-Too-Sharp razors.

Sign #456 I Am Losing It
I actually apologized to my computer today. I hit the button to open the CD tray instead of eject the floppy disk like I meant to. Before I knew what I was doing, I said, "Sorry, I hit the wrong button."

Tis the Season to Sumo

After months of waiting, the gift giving is here! I love to give at Christmas, but I also love presents. I love to shake them. I love to try and figure out what they are. I just enjoy the unknown and the unwrapping. And I love to see what people give me--not in a materialistic way but to see what they think I'd enjoy. I love to find out what says, "Todd needs this" to my loved ones.

Well, the gift giving this Christmas started off with a bang. My friend Camerin definitely has a finely-tuned "Todd needs this" radar as she was at Barnes & Noble and found this: Sumo Smash! This is a re-packeaged toy from the 1980s that was in the same line as that wind-up bowling game where the ball would walk down the alley. In the Sumo edition, you set up the little ring, wind up the wrestlers and them go! The first to fall down or be knocked from the ring loses. This is one of the best gifts ever. It's portable (so when I travel I can have my sumo ring in one hand and my portable blankey in the other). It's fun. And it's sumo. What could be better?

Actually, Christmas is my favorite time of year for reasons that go far beyond presents (tho they are cool). There's Jesus, of course. And, I have two other favorite things: 1) Work at Christmas and 2) Family at Christmas.

Work at Christmas is my favorite 2 weeks of the year. There's lots of parties and food. But really what I like is that no one is here. That sounds rude. And maybe it is a little. But I like that there's only a few people in the office--especially between Christmas and New Year's--because I feel like I can get so much done. This year, I am concentrating on cleaning the office. Jill walked up today and caught me just standing in the middle of my office staring around at the walls. It may have looked like I wasn't working...but actually, I was planning a major attack on the clutter and a launch of a new look. Let's face it, when you have an office as cool as mine, a lot of work goes into it. I have a rep to maintain.

And like everyone, Christmastime is also special because the family gets together. This last weekend, I got to see my family and The Intended and I got a lot of time to just relax and bond with the fam. Most of all, I got some needed Nephew Time in. You see, he's almost 3 months old now, and it was time to start his lessons on the history of the White Sox. So, at my Grandma's 85th Birthday party, I walked him around because he was fussy. As we walked I told him all about the 2005 White Sox--who are lineup was, how we used no bullpen help in four games of the ALCS, and how we won the Series. He really learned a lot. And was very soothed.

Later that day, he was again fussy. I was holding him and I don't know too much about babies. But I knew his dad told me that he really likes music. He listens to Baby Bach all the time (as opposed to Baby Got Back), so I thought he needed some music to soothe him. I decided to hum. But I didn't know what to hum. So I fell back on what I know. I hummed, "Go Go Go White Sox." He quickly settled down.

So now, I should go. I have a busy day of hanging posters, figuring out where to put my pirate ship and staring at Landon's Christmas photo.


Master Detective, Part II

Yesterday, a friend of mine IMed me with a problem that I believe only I could solve. His one contact fell out and was lost. Working on his PC with only one contact was giving him a headache. "I need an eyepatch," he wrote. "And you're the only one I know who may have one here at the office."

The funny thing is: I do have an eye patch here at the office. And I love that he turned to me for such an odd request. That's faith in a friend, right there. And so, my friend worked until noon wearing a plastic eye patch with a skull and crossbones on it.

Everyone makes fun of my toystore office, but when people need somthing like an eye patch or turkey baster or a terribly out-of-date globe, where do they go? All eyes turn to me.


Master Detective, Part II

There I lay on the cement, in a pool of water, oil and blood. (The blood was mine. The water and oil weren't). I rolled over and looked at the warehouse in a blaze. I noticed that the landscaping was now burning.

"You ruined some perfectly good shrubs, you know," I reported to the vile man.

"You are a silly man," Will told me. He walked closer with his gun aimed at my scorched scalp.

"I'm sorry," I said. "It's not my fault though, you know. I'm just a character in a story."

"Indeed? Am I also?" Will questioned.

"Oh, yes."

"What kind of story is it?"

"A silly one," I said.

"Ah, of course," Will said while waving around that gun of his. "Well, anyway. Prepare to die."

"Okay," I said. And I started thinking about what I needed to do to adequately prepare.

But Will interrupted me. "It's funny," He blurted out.

"What is?"

"I can't bring myself to kill you now."

"Why not?" I asked, chewing on my fingernails.

"What if there are kids reading this?" He said. "Their parents wouldn't take kind to that."

"Good point."

"I'm sorry I shot you," Will apologized.

"Oh, that's okay. Happens all the time," I said as I stood up.

"What do you say we get out of here," Will said, tucking the gun in his belt. "And go for some tea and biscuits?"

"A simply wonderful idea, I do say!" I cringed as my leg ached. "I know this wonderful little cafe down the street."

"Superb," Will said pulling out his keys. "Oh. But let's take your car, mine is not in good condition, it seems."

"Sorry about that."

Will and I had a wonderful time at that café. I felt bad when I had to arrest him. THE END

Quotes of the Week
"I don't know. Those cookies kinda taste like that jar now." -Ted, after lamenting the retirement of The Cookie Drawer.

"I feel so much pressue. I feel like on Sunday I just have to sparkle." -Camerin

"We might be eating an ornament." -Matt, another youth group counselor, when we shared a processed cookie at a Christmas party.

"If I am starting a team, I want Reggie Bush. And I don't even know what game we're playing. I still want him." -John Madden

"I need a radio station that doesn't play the same songs over and over. I've been riding dirty and bringing sexy back for about an hour." -My sister

Master Detective, Part I

When I cleaned out that closet at home a few months ago, one of the old writings I found was a very self-referencial, Monty Python-esque short story called "Master Detective." This was not written in the "I Feed the Dog" era but probably when I was in high school or college--and obviously very very into Monty Python. I honestly do not recall writing this story at all. But it has my name on it. So at any rate, today I share Part One of "Master Detective." Come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion.


I leapt off the staircase onto the cracked cement floor. I pulled my gun from the holster on my side and began running toward the open bay doors of the warehouse.

With my partner dead, and my cover blown, I knew I was in trouble. As I ran, oil and dirt splashed against my shoes. I heard gunshots, hit the ground and rolled to the outside of the warehouse. This was not a good day.

A bullet ricocheted off of the inside of warehouse. I returned fire and struck the drug dealer dead. That was good. A shot came from behind me. This was not good. Being the agile man that I am, I pivoted, shot and dove—all at the same time--back into the warehouse for cover.

I sized up that the buyer was crouching behind his black car about 30 yards from the warehouse. Drug dealers and their buyers always have black cars. I don't know why, but they do. All undercover detectives have red cars. But not me. Mine is orange.

I fired toward the car. I took out the tires and the windows. Then I reloaded. No one ever reloads in the movies, but this wasn't a movie. So I did.

Then a very bad thing happened.

The buyer, whose name is Will, threw a lighted stick at the warehouse. I don’t know where that came from. But he had it and he threw it. Something in the warehouse caught on fire. I remained where I was, all the time firing on the man. Soon, the warehouse itself was on fire. I noticed a beam of wood above my head was on fire.

It didn't bother me. That is, it didn't bother me until I felt a pain on my skull.

My head was on fire. This was, also, not a good thing. I panicked. I ran towards the car swatting at my head.

"You stupid idiot," the buyer yelled. And then he shot me in the leg. This was not all together bad, because the force of my fall and the rushing wind as I fell put out the fire raging in my hair. But since I'd been shot, things weren't all that rosy.



The End of the Cookie Drawer

I am retiring The Cookie Drawer. (See Long Live The Cookie Drawer.)

I know, I know it seems crazy. It seems like I am giving in. It seems like I am going establishment. But after I ate that Chalupa I had in there...

Actually, I am not retiring The Cookie Drawer because of any health concern or even a sign of maturing that leads one to stop eating things out of their desk. Instead, I got myself a splendid White Elephant Gift yesterday that's changed the cookie game.

On Saturday, I went to my youth group Christmas Party and gave away a Todd Wall Decorating Kit--a Sportsmanship plaque I won in 1984 for basketball and a nice framed picture of me. I got back a '80s workout cassette, complete with a picture of a lady in leg warmers. So, I regifted it in the company White Elephant exchange yesterday and got....a beautiful nativity cookie jar. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are cartoonish figures with big balloon heads. The top is the star raining down beams of light that looks like a circus tent. And Jesus is naked save for one strategically placed blue piece of cloth. It's really a fine piece of kitsch. And to think, I basically traded a picture of me for a cookie jar. That's more than the Sox got for Freddy Garcia.

After it was originally unwrapped, the cookie jar was stolen a few times by people who chose it over opening a new gift. When I stole the jar, someone commented that my future wife may not be so keen about having it in the house. I scoffed, "House? This is screaming to be put in my office." And so it sits here on my desk, already full of cookies. I've created a nativity scene out of it by adding a stormtrooper shepherd, a dinosaur and a monkey. Just like the first Christmas.

Anyway, with this new Cookie Jar, which will not be put away during non-Christmas months, The Cookie Drawer is no longer needed. Goodbye, Cookie Drawer. Thanks for all the cookies.

The newest big development is that we purchased our wedding bands on Saturday. We found a perfect band to match the engagement ring. But then we started looking at my rings. I don't wear jewelry. I don't like it. I've never really wore a ring except for a class ring for about a year. So, I was kinda uncomfortable putting a ring on and had a hard time even figgering out what I like.

Also, I think I had one of those "moments" people talk about when getting ready for a big life change. It might be like when a woman first starts showing a pregnancy. Or when someone fills out the new address form before making a cross-country move. But as I stood in that store and slipped a ring on THAT finger, I kinda blacked out for a minute. I remember just staring at the ring on my finger. It looked weird. My Intended offered some thoughts on the particular ring and on some others in the tray--but I wasn't there yet. I wasn't even comprehending the choice of styles for mine. I was still getting over the fact that I'd be wearing one for the rest of my life.

And then I realized how cool of a day that it really was: This was a day we got to chose the symbols (and that's all they realy are) of committment and love. And so I got the least blingy ring I could find and decided that I'm gonna love having that on my finger.


The Trifecta!

Now, I don't know who did it--but, rumor has it that two handsome guys here at the office excuted an amazing prank attack this morning: A Hat Trick. Three birthdays. Three Offices. Three Pranks. One day.

Jill's birthday was a few weeks ago. Her office is near the men's restroom so it can smell pretty bad. So these pranksters helped her by bringing her the frangrance of a pine forest. There were strands of evergreen garland, a Christmas tree and about 10 pine car air fresheners. Ah, the fine smell of the pine forest... but those with offices near Jill's don't seem that impressed with the joke.

Val's birthday was last week. She got sheets and sheets of paper from the floor to ceiling forming a maze or succession of walls to impede her from getting in.

Emily's birthday was yesterday. She got over 700 Dixie cups all lined on her floor. Stapled together. And filled with water. How do you get to your computer when that happens? Beats me.

This blog (http://photos.doublem.us/v/pranks/ctipranks/), by another guy who has nothing to do with any of these mean pranks, now has pictures of all three attacks.


From Weird Al to America to Hawk Nelson

I saw this news story today. One show of the new TobyMac tour had to be cancelled. One friend asked me if it means declining popularity for Toby. I say no. I saw this show and it was packed. So I think it was the time of year and that area's weather. But also, ummm, maybe the problem was that they booked a Christian concert at a MOSQUE?

Anyway, that leads well into my latest Top 30 list to commemorate my 30th birthday in a few months. After seeing the TobyMac/Family Force 5/Hawk Nelson show last week, I thought I'd come up with my Top 30 Concert Moments. Here they are:

30. The Brick Suit. I will admit it: I went to a Chumbawamba concert. Yes, I did. And before you judge: They know how to entertain. They put on a great concert. They used a lot of costume changes and props--which is always a plus in my book. The best part was this one guy who came out in a suit that was printed like a brick wall. It was neato.

29. Sandman Drum Solo. When I was in high school I saw classic rock group America at the State Fair. I loved their set. On the song Sandman, they broke down to a really awesome drum solo that made me want to play the drums. Sure, I played them badly. But I played them.

28. Is that him? I've been to 3 or 4 Weird Al Yankovich concerts. And I am mucho proud of that fact. At one, my friend Eric and I were in the stands about an hour or more early. (We were THAT excited.) In one section of the stands there was this guy in a ballcap just sitting there alone. No one was around him AT ALL. Well, Eric and I kept commenting about how much the guy looked like Al. And then, a crowd all of a sudden started forming around him--and that's when we realized that Al goes into the seats before his shows and waits for people to notice him and signs autographs. It was a neat thing for a legend* like him to do.
*Really. Legend. Who else sings about the Amish?

27. Kevin Max's Arrogance. At one Cornerstone, former DC Talk member Kevin Max came out on stage in a purple robe, struted to the end of the long catwalk into the crowd and arrogantly handed the robe to a beautiful assistant. What made this a memorable moment was the instant exodus of people streaming from the concert. Hilarious.

26. Weird Al's costumes. In concert, the guy changes clothes about a gazillion times. He wears the pointy Madonna bra. He wears the fat suit. It's amazing and very entertaining. What adds to it is... Weird Al's incredible energy. It is shocking how crazy this man is. He puts one leg behind his head--and bounces around on the other leg. Let's see Elton John do that.

25. Hawk's Vests. At a Hawk Nelson show a couple years ago, the guys came out in pink sweater vests--and it's become a legend of fashion among my friends.

24. A Classic Backflip. Classic Crime seered itself into my mind because of a lead singer who does backflips. That is rock, man. That is rock.

23. A Chick Who Rocks. I remember first getting the CD of Benjamin Gate and being blwn away by their sound. When I saw them live, the very first song blew my mind because lead Singer Adrienne just went berserko. This little lady jumped and headbanged and threw everything she had into it. It was love at first sight...but then Jeremy Camp stole her from Benjamin Gate and me.

22. Emo Moment. I'd never really known what emo punk was before I discovered Further Seems Forever. I discovered them at about 2 a.m. at one year of Cornerstone. Jason was the lead singer then. And I walked up as he was hanging from a tent pole into the audience. The best way to describe it is to say he was emoting. Just completely and passionately leaning into his fans, belting his heart out, and singing--not to them, but with them. I saw the punk part the next day when Jason was late for a press conference because a 6-inch gash in his leg from a concert weeks before that he never had looked at was acting up.

21. Stryper. Really, that should be enough of a grand concert moment. I saw Stryper. But during the show, the guys passed out tiny Bibles to the crowd. They used to throw Bibles into the crowd at shows but now they just hand them to the first few rows to avoid injury and lawsuits no doubt. A slightly less-fortunate moment at that show was when the drummer, Robert Sweet, came onstage in the old yellow and black spandex just like they used to wear in the 80s. The only difference is that Robert is 20 years older.

20. Mosh With Love. At a punk concert a long time ago I saw my first Christian mosh pit. I loved that these guys would beat the heck out of each other...and then congratulate each other and hug. Beautiful.

19. Flags. Upon seeing all the different flags being held by their audience, Flatfoot 56 welcomed all the "Americans, Canadians, Chicagoans...and Pirates."

18. Toby Mac's Choreography. The best moment of any TobyMac show is when he and his two dancers/backup singers/acrobats join him to do some sweet dance moves. My favorite part is when they do a slow step walk toward the audience as they sing, "I'm a dead man walking..."

17. The Hill of Hands. The main stage at Cornerstone is set in a big natural bowl of a hill. At my first fest, Third Day led everyone in worship and everyone held hands and raised them high into the night. From down near the stage, I looked up to see just a massive sea of raised hands--and a ring of held hands around the hill's upper rim. This single show sold my on Christian music.

16. The Baby Powder. There was a hazy fog at my first Flatfoot 56 concert. Why? The band began a new "campaign on chaffing" by being well-supplied with baby powder.

15. The Solo Concert. One year, Third Day came to the area and no one else could go to the show. So I went by myself. I got a seat up in the rafters and just sat back and enjoyed. At the end of the set, they went into a worship set and I was so taken away in worship. It was a memorable experience as God met me there.

14. Buffalo Matt Theissen. At the first Relient K concert I went to, the band put a big plastic buffalo out on the catwalk in front of the stage. During the show, singer Matt Theissen rode it. And then surfed it through the crowd.

13. My First Vision of Family Force 5. Two years ago at the Gospel Music Week in Nashville, I went to the Gotee Records New Artist night. And my life would never be the same. All week, there'd been a buzz about Family Force 5--but I had no idea what to expect. Then, the band came out and completely tore the roof off the small club. I remember that I was most taken by Xanadu, the guy who is not in the band but just dances and hands instruments to the FF5 guys. Shake your tailfeather.

12. The End of Staple. This Summer I saw my final Staple concert at Cornerstone. They were amazing. I was close to the stage as they passionately played they set and said goodbye. The ultimate moment was when a guy from Cornerstone came up and said a prayer for the band as they now go on to new things. It was moving and powerful.

11. Jukebox of the Dead. My high school friend John had been trying for years to get me into this band of Wheaton College alums called the Deatholz. One Halloween, I finally listened and went to their Halloween show where they announced they appeared in zombie costumes and announced that "The Deathholz could not make it but we are The Jukebox of the Dead!" They played crazy versions of well know songs like Ring of Fire and Thriller. It was great.

10. Ouch. During a Cornerstone MxPx concert, Tom and Mike stood at opposite sides of the stage and threw their guitars high into the air to each other. They do it at every concert. But at this one, Tom's guitar smacked Mike in the head. Yowsers.

9. Puppet Show. On the Thrive Tour, The Newsboys had a projected video of a puppet show they'd play during the song John Woo. It featured a puppet of a dog and a puppet of a cat rocking out to the song. It could be the single funniest video I've ever seen.

8. "I'm Not Washing These Pants." At the MuteMath show, the lead singer left the stage to walk through the crowd. As he did, I looked back to see that he was standing right next to my friends Marc, Emily and Charissa. He even touched Charissa's leg as he leapt a wall and worked his way through the audience. Charissa hasn't washed those pants since. Ewww.

7. MC Hammer's Sound Check. In 1998, I went to my first Cornerstone and MC Hammer was playing the main stage one night. He only played his gospel stuff and not his "Hammer Don't Hurt Them" stuff. But I happened to be down by the main stage playing frisbee that afternoon while Hammer was doing his sound check. And he did "Too Legit." Oh yah.

6. Ouch II. At one concert, this young girl in front of me stood up on her boyfriend's shoulders to stage dive. The problem was that she dove forward instead of backward. Why's this a problem? Because she dove toward the backs of people's heads. They had no idea she was coming...and she fell flat to the floor. Surprisingly, she was fine. Perhaps not mentally.

5. Mosh Policing with Kutless. Every April, I go to Nashville's Gospel Music Week. One year, I went to this little basement club to see my favorite band at the time, Staple, play a show. I was toward the front of the crowd and a mosh pit started. I'm not into that so I stood on the outside edge of the craziness. I noticed behind me a scared mother and two little girls. And yet the craziness continued and the guys kept pushing into the crowd. To keep the moshing contained to a small area, I stood my ground and with two guys next to me maintained the border so that the people behind us wouldn't get trampled. After a minute or tow, I looked up to realize that the other tow guys standing on the edge pushing back the moshers were the guitarist and bassist for Kutless.

4. The unKeyboardist. The greatest moment of seeing Emery was to watch their keyboardist who does not play the keyboard. He just rocks against it repeatedly. And beats it. And yells. It takes something special to play the keyboard. It takes something more NOT to. Here's to you!

3. The Braveheart. At the very first Flatfoot 56 concert I saw, the crowd was rowdy. And the band got them rowdier. At one point, Flatfoot asked the crowd to split down the middle. The lead singer then instructed the fans to "face the crowd on the other side and pick one person out to run at. When I say, run at them and slam into them...with Christian love."

2. Mute Math's Destruction. Just recently I saw Mute Math at the Park West. They ended the show by breaking into a percussion frenzy of playing everything. Including stools. As they finished, they tore everything up--breaking lights and, for one guy, even producing blood. It was rad.

1. Pinata Surprise. At Cornerstone many years ago, Five Iron Frenzy sent 7 pinatas into the crowd. As they were being surfed around, the lead singer informed the crowd that 4 will filled with candy. 3 with Pork & Beans. One by one, the pinatas were swallowed into the crowd and you'd hear fists whacking on them and then...either joyous yells or disgusted groans as baked beans flew everywhere.


Back to Freezing. But I Have My Portable Blankey.

North Carolina is warmer than it is here. And there's no snow. Or booger-freezing air. I walked around without a coat. I didn't need gloves.

It was like heaven.

Chris, LaTonya and I left Thursday night from O'Hare to go to the Charlotte National Youth Workers' Convention. We left just hours before the blizzard began. We didn't see one flake of snow. And it was still warm enough to walk to the parking lot tram in only a hoodie.

But when we returned, I stood at the luggage pickup and put on almost every peice of clothing in my bag. My pajama pants became a scarf. My socks became my gloves. It's cold here.

We had some plane issues--but they weren't weather related. On Sunday night, we had a 7:50 EST flight out. It got bumped back to 8:15. And then 8:30. And then 9. I sat in a little airport bar and watched the Cowboys (and my fantasy runningback Marion Barber III) beat the Giants. When the game was over, I went to the screens to see what time we were now bumped back to. But our flight wasn't there. No sign of it at all. Strange.

I went to the gate. No airline rep was there. The gate was dark and shut down. A woman who looked like she'd been crying was slumped in a chair. I asked her if she was going to Chicago. "Was," she said. "They cancelled the flight." Ruh-Roh.

About 15 minutes later, a gate rep showed up and said that we'd all been transferred to a U.S. Airways flight at 10:45. Good times. Actually, it was a blessing. The little American Eagle flight we took into Charlotte was like a flying Greyhound--both in size and sturdiness of build. The wind beat that little tube around like it was nothing. So flying in a bigger U.S. Airways jet was well-appreciated. And we got sat in an exit row so we had all the leg room we wanted. Everything was coming up roses...until we landed and discovered we'd just gone from 55 degrees to 10. And so the PJ pants went around my face.

When I got home, there was a cardboard box at my door. From the return address, I saw that it was from Revell, the company that published my book. I wasn't sure what was in it. I thought it was maybe full of all the cash my book has made. Or, more likely, shredded up copies that didn't sell.

Inside, this box was one object. No card. No letter. No anything. Except for a blanket. The blanket is bright blue and rolls up and velcros together to make it a little bundle about one foot by 6 inches. When rolled up into the little bundle, one side of it has a handle to make it a handy traveling companion. Since there was no letter to explain it's arrival, I assumed that Revell just knew how cold I'd been for the last hour and thought I'd appreciate having a Portable Blanket I can carry with me. Or maybe they know that I am often in awkward situations where people say, "Hey, you aren't carrying a blanket with a handle do ya?"

I asked Camerin if she also got a Portable Blanket. She did, but hers had a Christmas card in the box with it so it wasn't quite as mysterious. With a Christmas card, it's a thought gift. Without, it's kinda creepy. I mean, who sends you random blankets. It's kinda like two weeks ago when I got an envelope at work. All that was in it: A turkey baster. True story.

Wedding Wednesday:
I had my first wedding dream last night.

I was at my wedding. It was being held outdoors. There were lots of people all lined up in white lawn chairs. There were lots of flowers and lattice-work. My Intended and I were not the only couple getting married. There were 5 couples all geting married in one ceremony--to save costs. I was at the back of the ceremony waiting my turn. My Intended was in a tent getting ready. I wouldn't see her until we approached the pastor in front of the sea of guests. Well, the first couple--some married friends of My Intended--got married. And then the second--some teacher friends of My Intended. The pastor was talking soooo much. It was taking forever. I even wandered off and played a video game. But then I came back and the third couple was still up there. After he finished with the third couple, the pastor announced that he was out of time and he'd finish next week.

My Intended came running up the aisle to me very sad. She was wearing a pink poofy dress. We were irrate and disbelieving that we weren't getting married. All of our friends and family were there. We'd paid for everything. The reception was ready to go.

And then I thought, "Well, since I'm not going on my honeymoon, I have a whole week free of plans!"


Random Thoughts. Random Day.

This has been a busy few days. Last night I returned to Sweet Home K3 to attend a concert. I realize that family members will read that and say, "You were back here?" Well, I kinda forgot to mention it. In fact, I have this old friend named Dave. Well Dave went to Lowes to get some stuff last night and ran into my brother. He told Chad that he was in town for a concert of Christian musicians ... and Chad said, "Oh yah, Todd likes those kind of groups."

Turns out, Dave got to the concert and one of the first things he sees? Me.

I got home about 12:30 and couldn't sleep. I was all riled up. I finally got to sleep and woke up early to get some work done because I actually left the office early to come talk to a high school journalism class and warn them about being a journalist. I'm now in the teacher's offices waiting for school to get out and I'm gonna work with the speech team's orignal comedy competitors.

Tomorrow afternoon, I leave for a convention of youth workers. I love this conference. This will be my 4th or 5th one. It's gotten to the point that I am a little burnt out on the conference...but I think I really need the recharge of my batteries. I am looking forward to it. And I will be in North Carolina for the first time. So, that's cool.


Long Live the Platypus

Several weeks ago, I was in an office staff meeting and Designer Alecia brought up a story I wrote for our Christian College Guide. The article was a goofy humor piece comparing animal traits to prospective college students. We titled it "Don't be a Platypus." (My contention in the article is that the platypus seems confused and unorganized.)

The problem, Alecia told me, was that she could find no good photos for purchase of a platypus. She was even dealing directly with the New Zealand park service but still: no luck getting a good, printable platypus photo. Weird. So, being the problem solver I am, I told Alecia I would draw her a picture of a platypus instead. So, I got out my marker and drew this delightful Platypus sketch (at right). You can tell he is confused by the big question mark. He's in a barrel because I don't know what a platypus' body looks like. He is however ready for a formal event.

Alecia thought my drawing was funny and we all had a good laugh. We changed the article title to not be Platypus-specific. And we hung the platypus up on a cubicle wall in the main hallway of our workarea for everyone to see. But then things went bad. That's when Marilyn saw the platypus. Marilyn, our administrative assistant, has a burning hot hatred for the platypus. She insults it anytime she can. She doesn't understand why I drew it. She doesn't like the way it is drawn. She wants it taken down. She doesn't like his tail. She doesn't understand why he's in a barrel or wearing a keen bowtie. She doesn't think a platypus would wear shoes. Hardly a week goes by in which Marilyn does not hurl comments about how much the drawing bothers her or ask why it is still up.

Well, with my artist's pride tattered, I got sweet vindication a couple weeks ago. Former designer Esther came to the office with her 1-year-old Lydia. Lydia loved the platypus. She giggled and pointed at it. She couldn't take her eyes off it. I pointed out to Marilyn how much Lydia liked it.

I don't think the platypus' sudden popularity really impressed Marilyn. Oh well.


Time to Give Thanks

Today, I am starting a new feature that is blatantly stolen from The Gat. As he was turning 30, he did a series of Top 30 lists. I plan to do one a week until The Blessed Occasion of My Birthday. Today's will be holiday-related and be the 30 Things I Am Thankful For Right Now. I decided to leave out the stuff that you expect. I am very thankful for my family, My Intended, My friends and Jesus. Those are givens. And then I just went from there.

30 Things I am Thankful For

30. Pants. Is there anything we take more for granted? Where would we be without pants? Half-naked that's what. I enjoy pants and I am not too proud to admit it. My favorite pants right now are my Hip Jeans. (Although a nice pair of pajama pants are never to be taken for granted.) But of all time, my faves would have to be a black pair of parachute pants that an older cousin passed down to me. I was so cool. About 10 years too late.

29. Drew Brees. Without him, my Fantasy Football season would be shot. His 4-week span of 300-plus yard games (and one topping 500) has carried my team into playoff contention despite losing both starting runningbacks to injury.

28. Rappers. Where else would we get phrases like "I'm like George Foreman, I'm selling so many grills," "I'm not a businessman, I am a business, man," "I am the king of Boogle. There is none higher. I get 11 points for the word Quagmire" and "Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week?" I'm not sure I'd know what to do with myself. Word to your mother.

27. That I'm not French.

26. Chocolate. Let's just call them as we see them, huh? Favorite foods deserve much thanks.

25. Taffy Apples

24. Peanut Butter

23. My Dreams. I just love that every morning I wake up to the joy of thinking about my internal amusement the night before. Last night, I was playing with action figures. I mean in my dream. Not in real life. Really.

22. Brian Urlacher. Let us all give thanks for 54 and the bounty he brings to us. Amen.

21. That I work with people who engage me in conversation like, "So, is it pronounced giblets or jiblets?"

20. My cool new Sketchers. They are like ultra-hip bowling shoes. They're the perfect combination of cool and comfort. They feel like wearing slippers. Oh yah.

19. Cars. Walking stinks.

18. The times when Blogspot lets me post picture. Because on days like today when it doesn't, I get very angry.

17. Dental Hygiene. Like photos on Blogspot, it's when you don't have it that you realize how wonderful it is. I am thankful for Dr. Sup and the art of flossing.

16. Robots "These are a few of my favorite things..."

15. Pirates

14. Monkeys.

13. Da Bears. The score of this year's Super Bowl? 63 - 3. If Ditka were involved, 103 -0.

12. TV. And not just my current shows like Lost, Heroes and Studio 60 but all the great TV that has has kept me entertained from The Muppet Show to MacGyver to Buffy to Firefly. Thanks for being my friend.

11. Movies. There's a reason I dream about robots and vampires. I watch too many movies. But without the creative outlet of movies, I'd be...well, I'd be about the same but without lots of nerdiness and weird dreams.

10. That my nephew Landon's name has so many nickname opportunities like L-Dubs and Lando.

9. Salt Creek Barbeque. I am so thankful to have this restaurant. If I were Popeye, it'd be my spinach.

8. Joe Crede. And I would like to be thankful for him as a White Sox NEXT year too, Kenny Williams.

7. Tadahito Iguchi. My plan to name my first born (Boy: Tadahito, Girl: Tadahita) after the 2nd baseman has already been shot down. But I'm told we can name the dog Tadahito.

6. Jermaine Dye. Perhaps the coolest baseball player? For sure one of the most underrated. The true Hero of Soxville.

5. Paul Konerko. I cannot hear Metallica's "Harvester of Sorrows" without getting a voluntary rush of excitement that he'll hit a dinger. And then I just realize I am sitting in my car. And it's November. Thank you Paulie. Just for being you.

4. Jim Thome. Is there any greater story than the evildoer who comes to the light? He's like our Anakin. Our apostle Paul. From Indian to Sox, Jim is our champion.

3. Ozzie Guillen. Thank you, Ozzie. Thank you so @#$% much for *&$#%@ *#$&!#.

2. The White Sox. Yah, I've listed several individuals. But this is that I'm thankful for the club as an entity. I think back on how my family and friends have bonded over this team for years and how it's just so great to have a common bond no matter what the ballclub actually does. But of course it is nice when they win, thus...

1. The 2005 White Sox. Yes, it is over. We are not champions any longer. But I shall forever be thankful that I have that joy in my heart. Of course, winning again would be cool too.

Where Have All The Zombies Gone?

After reading yesterday's Dream Log!, Marc came to me with a very important observation. He said, "You were helping Tony Blair. Why weren't you fighting him? What has happened to your dreams?" You know, I have not thought about this, but Marc is right. It's been a long time since I've had a fighting dream.

In my past, my dreams have featured me fighting vampires, robots, zombies, zombie gargoyles, alien meteorite zombies, SD6, The Others, Cubans (the people, not the cigars), friends who've been turned into vampires (sorry, Jill!), Nazis, and more.

But now? No fighting. I had a dream a few months ago where my brother and I were some kind of agents or cops, but we weren't really fighting anyone. And I didn't have my trademark weapons of a wooden bat or fire poker (Sorry again, Jill!). So, something has changed.

As Marc and I talked--and I later thumbed through my dream journal--I began to realize that my fighting dreams tapered off at about the exact time I began my relationship with My Intended. I'm not gonna get all mushy here, but as Marc said, there may be some coorelation here between my dream struggles and my singleness. Perhaps I was wrestling with some intangible demons that in my dreams became literal, tangible demons. This wouldn't be the first time that my state of singleness seeped into my dreams.

So how do I now explain doing eXtreme Sports with Tony Blair? I'm guessing late-night burritos.


Daniel Craig je dobrý. Daniel Craig je Bond.

A big first for me today: I got to see something I wrote translated into another language. So, if you've wanted to read my Casino Royale review while pretending you're in Slovakia, you're finally in luck!

PTOIT Special Feature: Dream Log!
To answer his critics, Tony Blair demonstrated his trust in U.S. President Bush by stepping off an airplane and riding a zipline to the ground. I watched the stunt on CNN and was impressed that he'd do that--but not really getting the connection between Bush and Xtreme sports. Then, I am on top of this huge black house with Blair. We are preparing his second stunt. He asks me to do it with him. So, we jump from the roof and land on this other house. All is fine until the shingles give way and we both begin sliding down the steep roof. Thinking quickly, Blair and I build this anchoring device as we slide. It's basically a metal stick. Blair throws it to me and I stick it in the roof and it catches us both. The metal device has a rope in it that we use to very gently lower ourselves to the ground. Even though it was a blundered stunt, everyone on the ground thinks it went as planned and cheer for us. My Intended's mom approaches. She's the Queen of England. She asks Blair and I which British Royal is our favorite.


See yah, sucka

Neal Cotts was traded from the White Sox yesterday. My sister is not happy at all. The worst part for her is not that he's no longer a Sox. Nor even that he's an arch-rival Cub. But that he apparently won't look as cute in Cubby blue. I, however, am just fine with his departure. The last time we traded with the Cubs we gave up some no-namer and got a young kid named Jon Garland. That worked out OK.

Anywho, I heard the Cotts news from my sister yesterday at noon. I was at a lunch meeting. When I left--and was walking down the street with my boss--I saw I had two voicemails from my sister. Just then, a man ran out of a shop and said, "Chris, Chris. I have a man here who knows you!" This guy was my boss' barber. And an old friend of Chris' just happened to be in the chair.

I followed Chris in to say hello. After the initial greetings, I backed against the wall to check my voicemail while this man told Chris how he was doing. I tried to be polite and still nod and gently smile as the man talked--even with my cell to my ear. In the first message, my sister was despondent about the deal. In the second, she was angry over how they were star-crossed lovers and he'd look less attractive in a Cubs uniform. This made me smile and giggle aloud.

That's when I looked up and realized that the man in the barber chair--who I was kinda pretending to listen to--was talking about his rough battle with cancer. And I'm here giggling.

This really hasn't been a good year for Cotts and I.

Quote of the Week
"Actually, they said they were interested in the house because of the well-kept lawn boy." -Doug V, after I teased him that people were interested in his house only because of the well-kept lawn (by yours truly).


Stream of Thought

10 Things Bugging Me Right Now:

10. Those Jeep commercials where the cars are mistaken for bugs. How did that idea come up in a meeting? "So, I think it would be appealing if our cars were disquised as insects. Everyone likes bugs. Pass the pipe."

9. I've lost Clinton Portis from my fantasy team due to injury. Just when I made a dramatic burst into playoff contention. Drat.

8. This head cold.

7. The Ten Commandments: The Musical. Actually, it's not really bugging me. But I wanted to work it in today. We got this mailed to us at work. I assumed it was somekind of parody or publicity stunt. But, no. It's real. It seems like something they'd do on The Simpsons. After all, they did Planet of the Apes: The Musical.

6. People who park here at work in spots that are not parking spots. Some people like to say I am a Parking Nazi, but I get here early and get a good spot. But then, people who arrive late for work get equally good spots by cheating and parking in places where there are no lines--or are actually marked as no parking. It's the justice of it all. We have rules and guidelines for a reason and you just can't park all willy-nilly. Today, it's parking wherever you want, tomorrow it's martial law.

5. That ad on the ChristianityToday.com site with a lawnchair-turned-wheelchair. It's a great ministry, it just looks funny.

4. This guy I met today who's fingernails were all well-trimmed except for both of his pinkies. Those nails were about an inch long. What's up with that? Is he a cage fighter?

3. That I can't come up with 10 real things that bug me. That must mean that things are going pretty welll.

2. The fact that people are starving in Africa, slavery still exists, children are kidnapped into the sex industry and I am sitting here complaining about bug-cars and parking spaces.

1. Those Bug-Jeeps again. If I wanted a car that looked like a bug, I'd look for a big green Praying Mantis one. Because it'd be scary.


I Thought They Smelled Bad on the Outside

Since everyone has been having so much fun with that lawnmower pic, I thought I'd jump in the game too. When Marc first did the ostrich photo, I'd been wanting to Photoshop myself onto a Tauntaun. (Yes, I am that big of a geek.) However, my laziness got the best of me until The Gat revived my enthusiasm for the idea by mentioning it in a comment.

My favorite part of this image is how ill-prepared I am for the elements. I may freeze before I reach the first marker, but I am so happy about it.

PTOIT Quotes of the Week
"Protein is good in your stomach, not on your mail." -LaTonya about why she wouldn't take her stack of mail while eating a hard-boiled egg.

"Thanks to a diet of nutritious sausage, Billy Dee Williams is ageless." An article on scifi.com.

*Special Apologies to Holly who had the best quote of the week last week and was snubbed from PTOIT inclusion. At the Sycamore Pumpkin Fest parade, Holly saw a Shriner in a mini-Pink Cadillac go-kart and made reference to sales promotions for Mary Kay ladies. It was wonderful...


I'm Too Sexy For The Focus

That's right, everyone. My career as a model is BOOMING. I've made my second appearance in Today's Christian in two issues. This time, you can almost make out my face! And I'm featured with Friend Kibibi. Having us both in the same photo is risky. That's just a lot of good looking for one page.

Speaking of photos, I need to build some suspense about tomorrow's blog post. Be sure to come back because we have the latest entry in the "Todd Riding Stuff" series.

Pop Culture Prophet
One thing that Former Boss Randy (Hey, Rando!) and I used to joke about was me being a Pop Culture Prophet. It came about because I kept having these nerdy dreams about movies and TV that would come true. I predicted Survivor winners more than once in my dreams. And before every Star Wars prequel came out, I'd have a dream about seeing it early. My reaction to the movies in these dreams was always an indicator of the movie's quality: The first two being disappointing and the third awesome.

My Pop Culture Prophet-ness continues.

From Putting the Odd in Todd (PTOIT) on May 5, 2006:

"I wanted to put this quote up on my blog so that when Britney and Kevin Federline divorce in 6 months I can act like I knew it. Kevin told Spin magazine, 'I ain't getting no divorce. I don't believe in that. Once you get married, you're in it for the fight.' Good luck, man."

I was off by two days. Two Days.

But you know, I don't really want to be all proud and snarky about it. It's just sad.

Day of Decision 2006

I wasn't going to vote yesterday. The political just doesn't rev me up all that much. But, I finally decided at the end of the day to go for it. I crammed my head with campaign info and did my part. As I was driving over to the polling place I thought that it'd be a lot easier if the U.S. did political elections like Dancing with the Stars or American Idol. If we could sit in our living rooms and just text in some votes, I bet voter turn-out would be higher. And Mario Lopez would be governor.

I also thought that I'd get into politics much more if there was a Fantasy Politics league. You could draft candidates and get points based on votes and such. Good times. In fact, I'd get much more involved in anything if it was put into a Fantasy Football-like format.

At my polling place yesterday, I got caught in some kind of electronic vs. paper debate between polling officials. I got my little card from this eldery polling official. She told me to walk to the end of the table to get my paper ballot. I guess I misunderstood what the woman meant. I walked to the end of the table but there were no ballots there--Just a younger woman who said, "Did you want to vote electronically?"

I said, "Sure, I don't care. Whatever."

And then, The Eldery Woman said, "Talk to the other lady to get your paper ballot."

Whenever I am doing something official--like voting--I just assume that those in charge know what they are talking about. I just assume there is a right way to do it and they will instruct me how. So, I decided that I must have to vote with the paper ballot for some reason. So, I say, "Oh, OK. I guess I will use the paper ballot."

At that point, the Young Woman says, "You can vote electronically. You wanted to do that?"

I wasn't sure really what was going on. I still really don't understand why I was being asked to chose. Or really what I was choosing between. But what resulted was about 8 election officials all campaigning for me to vote one way or the other--paper or electronically.

Honestly, I could care less how I voted. So, I kinda just started twitching and turning back and forth between the stack of paper ballots and the electronic booth. An Old Crabby Polling Official yelled, "Just make up your mind!"

On the verge of tears, I grabbed a paper ballot and hid in the little booth. As I was voting, I heard the Young Woman say, "I guess I'll just take down the electronic booth. No one is using it." Right then, a woman said she'd vote with it and everyone was very happy. Except the Pro-Paper side.


The Twinkie Factor

I am happy to announce that I did not die in my box.

In fact, I am now self-proclaiming myself as an expert of sleeping in cold weather in cardboard. (I would never claim to be THE leading expert because it's such a competitive field.) My box was nothing short of toasty. I went inside the box about midnight. I fell asleep in about ten minutes and slept straight through until 6:30. Not only was I warm, but I was quite cozy.

The box's strength was "The Twinkie Factor," as I like to call it. The box was wide but shallow. I taped pink home insulation to the inside walls. I slid my couch cushions inside. And then on either side of the cushions, I filled in the gaps with blankets. I slid into my sleeping bag on top of the cushions and locked the door with a screw and bolt. I then put a rolled-up sheet against the door. So basically, the box was stuffed with warm blankets and cushions--with me shoved into the middle. I was the twinkie's cream filling: Pasty, sweet and delightful. And very, very warm.

No, I couldn't move much in my Twinkie box. And when I woke Sunday morning, I slithered out much I was being born. But that's a small price to pay for staying warm in 35 degree weather.

(October 10, 2006)
I was running a marathon--inside a high school while it was in session. There were a lot of people in the halls and it made it difficult. At the rest stop in the cafeteria, I got a small cup of gatorade. But then, I couldn't figure out where the route was because there were so many hallways leaving the cafeteria and so much traffic. Finally, I just ran outside and around the building to find where I needed to be. When the marathon was over, I went to Cornerstone. And Michael Jackson was performing. I knew it was him by the white glove.


Putting Todd in a Box

Tomorrow night, I will be sleeping in a cardboard box. Outside. In the cold.

DuPage County is lucky enough to have an organization called Bridge Communities that helps homeless people get not just handouts but a means to climb out of their struggle. They get financial counseling, inroads to jobs, etc. Eventually, they are on their own feet again and even become homeowners. It's a neat program. Every year, Bridge's big fund and awareness drive is Sleepout for the Homeless. Our church participates. Three years ago, the youth group boys pointed out that the homeless do not have tents to sleep out in. And so, our tradition of sleeping in boxes was born.

I built my box last night. It's not quite done yet, but I am proud of it. It has a door with a seal and a pulley system that closes it tightly. It will have insulated walls (oh yah!). And a padded floor (couch cushions). I also plan on adding plastic to keep the dew from seeping in. This is serious business.

The first year we did this, I woke up in the middle of the night freezing. I was in one of those cocoon sleeping bags where you are supposed to sleep in a t-shirt and boxers because the bag uses your own body heat to warm you. Well, I don't like that strategy. I'd rather have lots and lots of blankets and clothes.

Laying in the box that night in just my underwear caused some inner-dialogue that I'm both amused by and ashamed of.

It was about 3 in the morning. It was freezing. I was in a box. And I knew I had youth group kids in boxes all around me. I thought:

"How cold can you get before you die? At what point does the human heart just stop? Could one of my kids be dead? They might be dying. I should go check. Wait. I'm in my underwear. I'd have to run out there in just a shirt and shorts. Or get dressed. It'd take awhile to get dressed. And be cold. I could stay here. I am sure they are fine. They're young. Their hearts are strong. I'll just stay here."

"Seventy percent of the world is covered by ocean. The other 30 percent is covered by the BEARS defense." -My sister.

"Am I a bad person if I don't love Lucy?" -Camerin, after watching an episode of I Love Lucy.

"Look at you all fuzzy! You look like a bear." -Fleener to a co-worker in a big sweater.

"I asked Mom how Landon's first Halloween was going and she said, 'He's the cutest trick-or-treater ever.' I asked Chad and he said, 'He won't stop screaming and he peed his pumpkin outfit.' " -My sister.

"It's only cool to pee in your pumpkin outfit when you're an infant. Now, not as cool." -My sister.

"Wait a minute. Whoa, there it was. I brought my sexy back. Oh. It's gone again." -Fleener



The Chicago Film Critics Association has released it's list of the 100 Scariest Movies of All Time. These aren't necessarily the best horror movies of all time-- but the films that have scared us the most. I got to vote for the list. So, I thought I'd share what I voted for and why:

1. The Shining - "I made the mistake of renting this for the first time while I was alone late at night on Halloween. With the lights off. I wigged myself out so much, I had to pause it and take a breather. When I restarted it, I was getting into it again when Gene and Jeff came home and scared the crap out of me. This movie didn't need special effects or neat camera tricks to scare you. Jack is scary enough."

2. The Blair Witch Project - "I saw it at Piper's Alley in Chicago. If you've never been there, one wall of the entrance hallway is covered in plastered handprints. As I was leaving, I saw the handprints and was freaked out. Blair Witch ends with the luckless college students trapped in a house covered with kids' handprints all over the walls. Eerie stuff. That final scene of the three characters in the basement has stayed with me ever since I first saw it. The subtle-touch and realistic terror stuck with me."

3. Session 9 - "I make groups of friends watch this one with me because it's just so eerie and haunting. What I love the most about it is that you don't even realize it is a scary movie until you are deep within the frightening story. It doesn't even hint at being scary for like 40 minutes. And then when it gets eerie, it goes all the way until you feel almost claustrophobic. Atmoshphere in a film is what creeps me out the most in movies--and accounts for why Blair Witch, Session 9, The Others, Fraility and many of the other movies that made my Top 25."

4. 28 Days Later - "Unlike many slick new horror films, the shooting style and modern effects are used effectively to make this gritty and raw film feel more ferocious. The movie drops you into a meat grinder in the first few minutes--and then things get worse. You can't help but feel the terror the characters feel."

5. Scream -"The scariest theater experience I've had. I was so tense, my stomach hurt. I kept looking behind me to make sure I wasn't going to get stabbed through the chair."

6. The Exorcism of Emily Rose - "The second scariest theater experience I've had. I was the only one in the theater and I literally got up at one point to walk around because I was so freaked out thinking about demons in the theatre. The reality of supernatural evil is what really got me while watching this one. This is a great but underappreciated film."

7. The Sixth Sense - "The red tent scene still gets me. And whenever I am in my condo brushing my teeth, I worry about someone passing behind me. So I keep the bathroom door closed."

8. Night of the Living Dead - "I have a thing with zombies. And I think the black-and-white rawness of this film makes it that much scarier. I think the slow-lurking of zombies (like Michael Myers and robots--see #10 and #21) is very scary."

9. The Silence of the Lambs - "That serial killer was one of the scariest dudes ever: 'Put the lotion in the basket!' And then, there's that infamous infared scene. Yowzers."

10. Halloween - "There's not much scarier in film than Michael Myers. Slowly. But. Constantly. Pursuing. You. In. The. Dark."

11. The Others
12. Fraility
13. Alien
14. The Evil Dead
15. Stir of Echoes
16. Duel
17. Child's Play
18. Psycho (the original)
19. The Omen (the original)
20. The Exorcist
21. The Terminator
22. Flatliners
23. Jacob's Ladder
24. Stephen King's It
25. The Stepford Wives (the original)


My Blue Light Special

LaTonya wanted to give me a stack of pennies yesterday. She needed two quarters for the vending machine and thought I'd do an exchange. But I wasn't interested. (In retrospect, maybe I should have because I could have given the pennies away for Halloween. )

Anyway, I didn't want 50 pennies. And LaTonya didn't want to be a quarter charity case, so I told her that maybe there was something I could buy from her office for 50 cents. I ended up getting a blue-colored light bulb. I've put it in my lamp this morning because I thought it would be festive for halloween. It's just kinda dim in here. Which I guess is scary. And kinda giving me a headache.

Today is a very special FUN WITH GOOGLE! To celebrate Halloween, I just typed in one search term into Google images to see what I would get. The word: "Costumes." I wasn't disappointed.

Photo #1: I've actually seen this guy online before. There's a whole site out there about the creation of this suit. I admire this kind of work for a Halloween costume. I'd build myself a robot suit too...but I'm too lazy.

Photo #2: So. Many. Jokes. This kid looks flush. haha. This costume is crappy. haha. Just down the drain.

Phot0 #3: This one is for a special segment of the PTOIT readership. You know who you are. But again, is it any wonder that robot costumes are so popular? We all love robots. And you know, I would build my own if I weren't so lazy. And were more lonely.


The Diet Geyser

I feel like I just had a 9-day weekend and I have that much time's worth of stories. Good times. My Intended and I got our engagement pictures taken. My family visited for the weekend. And the town of Sycamore celebrated Pumpkin Fest. There was much rejoicing.

Today, we only have time for one story from all that fun: My Intended and I were chasing around a friend's little boy (for fun--not to kidnap him or anything). We were frolicking in the leaves. He'd throw leaves on us and then run off. We'd do the same to him. To become more effective in the throwing of leaves, I set my open pop can in the grass. I went back to the leaf throwing. The boy took off running. My Intended gave chase. Being crafty, I went around the other way to cut him off. I was about 2 feet away from grabbing him when--KABOOSH--I stepped on the pop can just right so that it EXPLODED and shot like a Diet Geyser all over me. If I tried to step on a can just right to produce this effect, it would never happen. But somehow, the star aligned to form the perfect pressure to send the entire can of soda all over my legs, sweater and face.

The boy was stunned. And The Intended laughed harder than I've ever seen her laugh.

(Dated 10/11/2006)
My friend Jeff and I are watching LOST. Jeff tells me it's an action-packed episode but that we don't learn much about the island in it. He says that next week we'll learn who Henry Gale is. In the episode we're watching, Claire is in danger. Charlie swims to her rescue. Meanwhile, Henry Gale is taunting Jack and telling him that he's creating a new Sim City computer game. Keeping Jack hostage is helping him design the game.

Then, Jeff and I are walking on a deserted dirt road. We are sneaking up on The Other's camp. We also have R2-D2 with us. R2 helps us find a hidden motorcycle under some bushes. We think about riding the cycle into the camp to surprise the Others. But we decide to sneak in instead. We go into a house and snoop around. Jeff is in a back room when I see a group of Other women approaching. I shout to Jeff. He doesn't come so I sneak out the back door and run for my life. The back yard is huge and backs up onto a park. As I run, an Other woman stands on her back porch and ridicules me. She knows my name and threatens me. I get far from the house -- and am near some trees and a river. I hide and then carefully work my way along the edge of the river. I finally climb out from the trees to find myself inside a K-mart.


The Partaking

Something has really been missing around the office lately. And it is called, "Partaking."

A couple of years ago I began to buy the Aldi brand of Diet Cola and bring the cartons straight into work. When I took a can from the fridge in the IYF designers' fridge, I'd pop another in. Not long after, I offered our designer Fleener to partake in the Diet Colas as much as he wanted as well. And he did.

And so for a long time, Doug and I would partake in the Diet Cola. If he heard the fridge door opening he'd say, "Are you partaking?" Sometimes, I would only bring in one can from home. He'd catch me drinking it and ask as if I was cheating on him. "I cannot belive you are partaking without me," he'd say. "I thought it meant something."

You'll see on the right that the Diet Cola box says, "Great Tasting!" Doug and I decided that the slogan was a tad misrepresentative. We thought maybe it should be, "Not So Bad!" or "Good for What you Pay!" or "Eh."

But yet, this stuff is addicting. The Sweet Valley Diet Cola was our drug of choice. I'd say, "I can quit anytime." And finally, I've pretty much weened off it. It's not that I don't like it. I'm just out and too lazy to go to the store.

PTOIT Quotes of the Week

"Did you just kill a bunny?" -Sawyer, on LOST.

"I still dance in the aisles, Todd... you never stopped me." -My sister in an IM conversation about the cruel things that older brothers do to their sisters. And how the sisters are too storng to let it get to them. It was so sweet I cried.

"It's Of Mice and Men. You'd like it. Puppies get killed." -Sawyer, on LOST.

"What is this 'crown molding' Todd speaks of?" -Charissa, while we were painting Marc's house. I kept saying that we didn't have to worry about cutting around the ceiling because the crown molding would go there and somehow Charissa decided that menat that Crown Molding is like white-out for any place you mess up or don't want to paint.

"Oops. Get the crown molding." -Charissa


Sauerkraut: The Thing That Divides Us All

I don't often get my life threatened. Especially by mass groups of people. But yesterday was a special occasion.

It started off simply enough. I went downstairs to the lunchroom to heat up my lunch--leftover sausage and sauerkraut from the night before. I grew up having suppers of sausage and sauerkraut. It is yummy. I am German and we like such things.

Well, not everyone likes sauerkraut. As I was heating it up in the microwave, the comments started. People complained about the smell. But it was all in good fun so I finished and went back to my office two stories above the lunchroom.

About 25 minutes later, the phone rings. The head of the department that sits next to the lunchroom is on the other end. She is very upset. And she quite often scares me. So I am concerned as she begins in a very serious and mean tone, "On behalf of this entire department, I want you to know that if you ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER heat up Sauerkraut again, we will come for you. And we have torches and pitchforks."

Apparently not everyone likes sauerkraut.

Last week, Purple Fez Monkey set sail on the Santa Maria to find his lost brother Red Fez Monkey. Today, I got my first letter back from Purple Fez. It reads:

"Dearest Todd, I am sad to report that so far I have not learned anything of Red Fez's whereabouts. It's been a grueling first week and I find myself in a world I know not.

I chose to sail down the mighty Mississippi River. My adventure took a bad turn when I stopped for supplies. I met a man whom I asked, "Have you seen my brother, Red Fez Monkey?" He said, yes. In fact, he said he knew where he was. Very excited, I followed him. He said that in order to pull Red Fez from hiding, I had to go undercover. Before I knew it, I was dressed in a silly vest and dancing on the street as this man played what appeared to be an accordian. After about 7 hours, I realized that this man didn't know where Red Fez was but was merely a street performer trying to make change. I was too gullible.

However, there was a bright spot. A man watching me perform on the street took pity on me and said, "Your embarrassment touches my heart. I shall treat you to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!" He told me he'd take me to a great sporting event where cardinals fought tigers. I enjoy seeing competitions between animals (the great Phase 10 contests we fez monkeys used to have still warms my heart) so I agreed. I decided that I'd root for the cardinals because cardinals have never tried to eat monkeys. The same cannot be said for tigers.

When we arrived at the sporting arena, I did not see one cardinal or tiger. Instead, only humans. No offense to you, but humans are not as fun to watch as animals. Unless they are Gallagher. He is funny. Although it was no contest of beasts, I still enjoyed myself. I have included a photo of me at the series of the world. I hope you enjoy it.

I am back on the Santa Maria now. I feel tremendous guilt for both being misled by those who would keep me from my quest and for being distracted by my own selfish entertainment. No more. I now sail for the oceans. I will find Red Fez Monkey. I will.

Your Friend and Mine,
Purple Fez "


Onward and Upward!

The ante has been risen for reader-generated "Todd Riding Stuff" photos. Holy cow. This amazing image from Charissa casts me as a brave (but happy) knight leading a battle charge on my very angry dragon. I like thinking of this picture as a snapshot of the last moment before I soar off to war. I'm saying both goodbye and "Look! I'm riding a freakin' DRAGON! Isn't that cooool?"

So, last night I went to Dominick's. They just re-did the store so everything looks different. Well, in the produce section they now have an entire kiosk of olives. Seriously. It's this big, round salad-bar like station of nothing but olives. Green ones, black ones, spiced ones, stuffed ones, etc. My first reaction was to think this is uber-random. I mean, what's next? A whole bar of cucumbers? Or asparagus? But then, I saw that one of the trays of olives was full of Blue-Cheese Stuffed Olives. At that point, I decided this Olive Bar was wonderful and I bought a 1/4 pound. I fell right into the Dominicks' trap!


At right you will see R2-D2. This is one of my most prized possessions. He's a cooler they use in gas stations to sell individual pop bottles. He was used when the original triology was re-released into theaters.

R2 was given to me for my high school graduation by my aunt and uncle. They got him because Aunt Kathy worked as a gas station manager. Sometimes I use R2 to hold ice and drinks at parties. But usually he holds my blankets and spare pillows.

So why is R2 featured here under Wedding Wednesday? Well, when I marry My Intended and we move in together, we will have limited space. And some things that are a tad "nerdy" may not quite fit into the decor of a married couple. Camerin brought up to me one day that I should open up discussion among my friends what R2 could now be used for. Camerin suggested a birdbath in the back yard.

Truthfully I already have a place of honor in my office earmarked for R2. Nothing says "professionalism" like a 4-foot droid! But for fun's sake, what are some creative ways R2 could be used post-wedding? Ideas?


Meat and Potatoes

Yesterday a friend of mine said, "Have I told you my joke about Colonoscopies?" You know, it doesn't matter what the joke was because I was already laughing. That line on it's own is funny stuff. It just is.

So, Halloween is coming. I bought a big economy bag of Nerds in the event that someone may come trick-or-treating at my house for the first time since living there. Of course, the bag of Nerds is almost gone. So I may have to buy more. Or I could just give out nickels. Or maybe pictures of me. That's a good Trick-or-Treat haul right there.

My Halloween costume deliberations have gone through several cycles. I was going to attach one of those styrofoam planes to my torso and staple rubber snakes all over it to be Snakes on a Plane. Then I giggled about the absurdity of just going as a "potato," but I wasn't sure what that would look like. Then My Intended was going to be Cinderella. To go along with it, I thought about going as Gus Gus. Or her fairy godmother. Or the Fairy Godfather.

Now, she's not going as Cinderella. So we have a new idea for a couple costume. It's very simple. I'm all about the simple homemade costumes. As a kid I was a Ghostbuster, Benjamin Franklin and Ed Grimley. All homemade costumes. And you know you are one of the cool kids if you are dressing like Ben Franklin for Halloween.


Today, I searched Google Images with the random search terms "meat" and "suit." Here's what I found:

Photo 1: At first, I thought maybe George Foreman was wearing boxing gloves made of meat. But that is not regulation in boxing. So I think this picture came up because George Foreman is a Meat Suit.

Photo 2: That's a lotta meat.

Phot0 #3: Sometimes I wonder why stuff gets put on the Internet. Someone went to a lot of effort to Photoshop this man into wearing a suit of meat. Why? Who knows. I just hope that someday, some other blog is doing a "Fun with Google" segment and uses the search terms "monkey" and "Santa Maria" and finds this. Good luck figuring out why that'd be on the Internet.

Photo #4: It's hard to tell, but this may be a real suit of meat. I found this on the site of some art exposition. This is art, people. Art. This would be a good Halloween costume. Hmmmm.