It's the End. Grab your Tekla!

This week was the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. A co-worker came into our staff meeting on Wednesday and mentioned how she'd been reflecting on this horrible and sad nuclear accident. One thing it made her think about was what she'll do when a worldwide nuclear holocaust occurs and changes civilization as we know it. At this point, I had to speak up. I have a plan. And I want you to all know it so you can join me.

In college, my roommates Jeff, Adam and I would discuss our plans for when tragedy strikes and the handful of Earth's survivors are sent back to a primitive, tribal, every-man-for-himself, Mad-Max-kind-of world. Jeff, a native Nebraskan is headed back to Lincoln to set up residence in the massive Nebraska state capitol. And Adam is going to horde needed materials--like spoons--to become a wealthy baron. (Seriously, when the world is without spoons and all you have is canned foods and portable jello cups, all eyes will turn to Adam.)

I am not economically minded like Adam. And I am not going to try to traverse the nuclear wasteland of the Midwest just to get to Nebraska. I'm moving into the IKEA. Oh yes.

This is where I will establish a new society. Think about it. There are hundreds of already furnished rooms. You just need to add a wall to one side (or even just a partition perhaps) and you are set. We'll have all the building supplies (and fine cheap furniture) we need--and they all require only one tool. (Oh, and this is how I will be the ruler. I will destroy all of those little Ikea wrenches but one. You'll need me.)

We'll have swedish meatballs and other fine cuisine to last us months before we get our hunting party up and running. The IKEA I have in mind (in Schaumburg, Illinois) will also provide ample security. It's located in a commercial district with a lot of flat ground (parking lots) surrounding it. With sentries posted on the high roof, we will see Post-Apocalypse Pirates and Biker Gangs coming for miles. Another advantage: My IKEA Commune will sit right on major highways so that when we find an alternative fuel source, we can easily move about the landscape (and perhaps open up trade routes to the Nebraska contingent).

The one downside could be the way language will change in our new society. True, this will take a generation or two. But eventually, we will lose our fine English language be replaced by a strange cross between Scandavian and English (Engandavian? Scandlish?). It will sound something like this: "Have you seen my Mysa Moln? I swear I left it on my Kongsvig, but maybe it's in the Hemnes with the Gosa Krama."

PTOIT Quotes of the Week:

"I woke up one morning and the gods of rock & roll had
bestowed this mustache upon me; it's a soft boomerang of love."
-Jesse "Boots Electric" Hughes (right) of the band The Eagles of Death Metal talking to Entertainment Weekly about his mustache.

"It takes guts to be the rock & roll Tom Selleck. A 'stache is shaped like half of a Y. It says 'Yes!' I tell Jesse he's like Freddie Mercury's straight nephew."
- Josh Homme of the band The Eagles of Death Metal talking to Entertainment Weekly about Jesse's mustache.

"Do you think if you eat skunk, your farts smell worse?"
-My friend Josh, just because he's Josh.

"It's like I am wearing a napkin."
- My friend Marc, about his new linen shirt.

"It just goes to show you, you never know where you will find a little piece of Todd."
-Josh again, this time talking about finding an article I wrote posted up in some random church in Minnesota.


Sitting on Money

I got the truck back last night. The door is securely attached. The radio works. And, just in general, it runs better. The best news: It turned out to be about $250 less than the estimate. Whoo. I think it was my intimidating presence that made them know they couldn't mess with me. Okay, stop laughing.

But maybe I was a little surly because my free bag of Chai ran out. Ya, it has been a rough couple of days. Lots of shaking. Some sweating. Sure, I could go buy more (think how much Chai I could have bought with that $800 I spent on my truck!). But I am 1) short on expendable cash and 2) cheap. Wait, I shouldn't say cheap. No. I am fiscally careful.

Some of my fiscal consciousness is necessary because I have the double whammy of working as a 1) journalist for a 2) non-for-profit company. But my thriftiness is also a personality trait. On my second birthday, I got some cash in my birthday cards and mom and grandma tried to collect it. Oh no. I took those bills and I sat on them. Oh ya, try and get it now.

Seriously, I think this is why I don't smoke or do drugs. I just couldn't afford that or allow myself such excessive expenditures.


My Truck

I drive a 2000 pickup truck (see right). It's a good little vehicle. I've had very little trouble with it. But being 6 years old, it's time (or is past time) for some maintainence and various wear fixes. It all started when I noticed the molding on the door was apparently unsealing because I'd hear wind getting in and it'd leak during rains. But I put that off.

Then, the truck started stuttering a bit when I turned the key. So, I replaced the battery. This caused more problems. My truck has a TheftLock system that locks the radio if power is cut to it. Without the code, it means you can't use the radio at all. So I have been driving around with no radio for two weeks. Good times. But it did mean that I got to call lots of people back while driving here and there. So that's good.

I considered just getting a small battery-run radio to sit on the passenger seat instead of taking the truck in to be looked at--but I figured that the door needed to get looked at anyway. And after 80,000 miles it was time for a good check-up. Well, that was a very stupid idea. Now, I am sitting here with my truck in a shop getting approx. $1,000 of fixes. I need the transmission flushed (when the fluid is dark black instead of pink you know it's bad) and several other systems looked at and cleaned. And the door? Well, it wasn't the molding. It is falling off. I kinda should have seen that coming. It hasn't been closing well and does dip a bit when I open it...

So yah, this is all necessary. And I guess it's all really an investment in a good vehicle. But still. That's $1,000. With that much money, I could buy:

1 Used car
95 White Sox Upper Deck tickets
83 Previously Viewed DVDs
5,000 Wendy's Chicken Nuggets
77 Bobbleheads
1 Kid's U.S. Citzenship. Oh, nevermind.
Lots of good crime scene evidence
1667 3 Musketeer Candy Bars
62 T-shirts such as this
50 Raffle Tickets to win a White Sox World Series Ring
1 Ice Cream Sundae


The 14th Inning Man

I found this interesting. After Geoff Blum won that World Series game for the White Sox last year with a homer in the 14th inning, broadcaster Ed Farmer called him "The 14th Inning Man." Well, Geoff's with the Padres this season.

But I guess he is still the 14th Inning Man. He hadn't gotten a hit after that game-winning homerun until the 14th game of this season...in the 14th inning. He hit a single and then scored the winning run. I guess he does his thing well, but talk about a very narrow niche.


Chicken Popsicles and Lacey Underwear

On Saturday night, I hosted a bunch of people at The Estate for some fun, frivolity and food. It was a party for two friends: Rubino who was recently married and Doug who became a dad for the first time. If they were women, they would have been thrown showers. But because they are men, they got the manly equivalent: A Storm.

What makes a storm different? Well, the decorations included black streamers and lightning bolts (which are still hanging from my ceiling. I'll post when they actually get taken down. I'm betting it will be awhile). We also ate pizza from the delivery box and beverages straight from the can. Drinks were kept cold in a giant R2-D2 cooler. And the party was held a very long time after both events (Doug's daughter drove herself to the party). The only thing that would have made The Storm more manly would have been large quantities of meat. And perhaps some violence.

We also didn't play any Lady Games like at showers. Instead, we broke out the traditional games of The Estate: Scene-It and Pictionary. I want to share Saturday night's best Pictionary drawings. One great moment (with no photo to share for it) was when I was supposed to draw "Poultry." I drew a chicken and then drew what I meant to be a drumstick. But apparently, it wasn't very well done because Rubino saw it and guessed, "Chicken popsicle?"

So you may be asking, why is there no picture of that one? Well, because after Rubino's guess, I scratched it out to the point that it is now just a black splotch.

And now on to the drawings from Saturday that are still in existence. The first (at left) was drawn by Dale during an "All Play." One guess from our team was, "Oklahoma." But it is not Oklahoma. It is "Money."

The other great drawing from the night is below. It produced guesses of "Bee," "Mosquito," and "Dead Snowman."

After Marc crossed off this drawing (because of the Dead Snowman guess, I think), he made a second attempt that lost the candy cane headdress and gained a long black goatee. From that, we successfully guessed that it was a goat.

Both of these drawings have been entered into my Pictionary Hall of Fame, a collection proudly displayed on my fridge. Sadly, the Greatest Pictionary Drawing of All Time is no longer in the Hall of Fame. I am unsure where it went. But I can try to explain its greatness. During an "All Play," Charissa drew three stick figures. Two were the same size and a third, in the middle, was very short. I assumed this was a family. I guessed, "Parents" and "Baby." But then, Charissa gave the baby a gun. Well, that didn't help us guess the correct answer so Charissa started a new image. This one appeared to be an ocean liner, complete with the four smoke stacks on top.

It turns out that the word was "posse." The Stick Family was supposed to be a posse (with a very short leader) and the ocean liner was actually a dead possum lying with his four legs sticking straight in the air. Apparently, we were supposed to guess possum and then make the connection to "posse."

I thought I would share some of the other distinquished drawings of lore in the Hall of Fame:

You may be surprised that both of these drawings are from the same "All Play" round. But they are. You can tell from the top image (drawn by Holly) that this is a beaver because of her arrows denoting the buck teeth and flat tail. The bottom image by Gene, however, seems to be a sketching of the rare Beaver Turkey.

The next two are for the word "hiccup."

Yah, I can't even begin to explain either of those. I have no idea. But I can try and explain the next one because I drew it. Here it goes:

As you can plainly tell from the repeated circles and the arrow, the focus here is the stomach of this no-eyed, T-shirt-wearing bear. The word was "Tummy." But there are many mysteries here: Why do I assume bears like cookies? Why is he wearing a collared T-shirt? And why a bear at all? I don't know. But I think Winnie the Pooh is to blame. He is what I think of when I think of the word "Tummy" but now I am not sure why. I also am not sure why I gave this bear a belly button.

Speaking of strange connections, I guess that whenever my friend Josh thinks of "Lace" he somehow thinks of lacey underwear (and people with three arms): I'll end today's gallery tour with this picture from Becky, Charissa's old roommate:

As Becky was drawing this picture, our team guessed "Elephant", "Tusk", "Mammoth," etc... None of them were right. I looked over to the other team and saw they were drawing plant-like things. It turns out the word was "Ivy," not "Ivory."


"Todd has Dysentery."

Yesterday at about 10 a.m., I started not feeling well. It came on quickly. When I got to work, I was fine. I was having a good healthy morning, and then--BLAM--I felt blah, was coughing and had what I like to describe as a "foggy head".

At about this time, I was searching online and saw yet another story about the Mumps epidemic here in Illinois. So, I found a list of syptoms for Mumps. Fever? "Not sure. No thermometer." Headache? "Not really...oh wait... now that you mention it...." Then I started feeling my salivary glands. Granted, I am not really sure where those are, but I thought I felt some swelling in my neck. By 11, I was fairly convinced I had Mumps.

When I mentioned to my boss that I wasn't feeling well, he said, "Well, did you go take something?" This question seems logical. Sure, if you are not feeling well, then go take cough medicine, or aspirin, or sinus decongestant. But not me. Instead of medicating, the first thing I do when I feel ill is to begin diagnosing and speculating about my illness. Some may call this being a hypochondriac. I call it being proactive about my health.

My pursuit of self-diagnosis is aided by those home self-care books that list symptoms to help you figure out what you may have and when you should see a doctor. About a month ago, I had a burning sensation on the top of my scalp. I got out my handy book and read a lot about cancer and other skin diseases. It turns out that I just wasn't using a good shampoo.

During the burning scalp incident, I called my Mom and told her that I had my home self-care book out. I remember she just said, "Oh no." My sister Michelle has threatened to remove it from my house. But I just can't help it. Seeing all those symtoms and scary illnesses in black and white gets me quite afraid. I assume the worst. It's kinda like if you think about bugs really hard, you start "feeling" one crawling up your leg. Well for me it, I read about tubercolosis and spastic colon and start thinking, "Oh no, I kinda feel that..."

This leads me to kind of overexaggerate my illnesses. I've claimed to have mono (multiple times), malaria, scarlet fever, dysentery, and diptheria. My sister likes to say that I've had every disease on the Oregon Trail. And yes, maybe the hours upon hours spent on that game has colored my self-diagnosis a bit. But that makes my illnesses no less real.

My family counters this claim by saying that if I have had all of these diseases, I wouldn't still be around. I say that I just have a really good immune system. I can overcome mono with a good night's sleep and bounce back from malaria in a couple hours. A week tops. Let's see those Oregon Trail animated charaters do that.

Update: For a full chronicle of my medical history, please see the comments page for a wonderful post from RJCraig.


You're such a good reader! Yes you are!

This is Lydia. Lydia is a baby. And an adorable one at that. Because of that, she is a force to be reckoned with when she comes to your office. Yesterday, the productivity level of the second floor of our office dipped by 35.8 percent when Lydia came for the day with her mom, Esther.

As Esther got some work done, normally respectable professionals put on shows, talked in baby voices, pretended to be very entertained by simple toys and balls, and even made a stuffed warthog dance (yah, I'm basically describing me here). There is just something about babies that changes ya. There's something that doesn't let you just walk by without at least one glance, tickle or attempt to make them smile. I know this for a fact (hence the warthog dance--which did, yes, create many giggles).

For a little while, Lydia set up camp on a little playmat outside my door and I got to watch everyone walk by her and interact with her. It got me thinking about how we will give so much attention to babies, but pass by each other in the hall without a glance once we're grown up. Why doesn't anyone walk by my office and say, "You are so big, yes you are! You are doing so good! Yes you are!" Why don't people walk by me and try to make me smile with funny faces or tickles?

Hmmm, I am not advocating that. I'm just saying.


Requiem for a Chai Dream

It's been a long weekend. I've missed the office. I am so glad to be back. You may think I am being sarcastic. But I am not. I love my job. But that's not why I am glad to be back. I am glad to be back becuase my stash is here.

My stash? Well, let me explain. I have been hooked on a new drug: Chai Tea. You know how dealers always give you your first taste free? Well, when I was in Nashville, a coffee company gave me two free bags: one coffee, one something called Chai. When I tried to give them away (I don't drink coffee), my friend Doug F. said, "This one isn't Coffee. But I think you'd like it."

This comment began a downward spiral. Doug suggested Chai to me because I like tea and hot cocoa. Chai is like God himself took hot cocoa and tea and combined them with a sprinkling of heaven itself. And then, dumped half of the world's sugar into it.

I am so addicted to Chai now. When I was spooning it into my mug last Thursday, my hand was actually shaking in excitement and because it'd been about 16 hours since I'd had a fix. This morning, I got my hot water and turned to my shelf where I keep my Chai. The bag was gone. I freaked out. I assumed someone stole it. I was ready to knife someone.

It turns out I put it on the shelf below.

I am worried today because my first Chai bag is almost out. What will I then do? How will I support my habit? I am considering crime.


Lightning Round!

Today on PTOIT... I find I have lots of things to write about today. So I offer you a lightning round of issues:

Item: Today's Christian ran a recent excerpt from the book I co-wrote, The unGuide to Dating. The article was pulled from our chapter about the lack of committed, active single men in the church. In it, I say that while this apparent trend is bad for the whole dating equation (less men = more women without men), the far more important issue is the state of our faith. Why aren't men in church? What does this say aobut our faiths? And our churches?

The article seemed to have struck a chord. We've gotten a ton of letters about it. But of them all, this one is my favorite. A man wrote:

"Todd says that 'Each of us men needs to focus on strengthening our walks, finding a mentor and/or a protege, and becoming active in he local church.' Uhh, Todd perhaps you should also focus on FINDING A WIFE?"
Really? That would help strengthen my faith? That would get more men in the church? I think the best part of this e-mail is the notion that I haven't thought of that. "Wait a minute. A wife? Hmmm. Maybe I will start looking for one of those soon...Right after this episode of Deal or No Deal..."

Item: Here's an amazing British news story entitled, "Second World War Secret Weapon: The Lowly Prune." This is not news to me. I have always viewed the prune as a weapon. To my digestive tract.

Item: "The Dreamer" made a good point in the comments to yesterday's blog. She mentioned that being a White Sox fan this year means putting up with a lot of people saying, "You aren't the champs anymore. That was LAST year." I have faced this too and I think that is said due to a lack of understanding why I bring up the championship so much.

I know it doesn't mean anything for our chances this year. I know it doesn't make us any better than anyone else this season. I know it is in the past. But the point is: I still HAVE that. That can't be lost. No one can beat us enough that it goes away. No one can catch up and steal it. It is ours forever. And that gives me a comfort with my team I haven't before experienced. They could never win another game, and I have that. I am like the Virgin Mary--I will hold those memories and ponder them in my heart. Forever. (And somewhere Kanye is saying, "Forever-ever? Forever-ever? ")

Item: Not long ago, Doug and Marc and I were hanging out when they brought up reading "Pa-toyt." It took me a minute to realize that they were talking about this blog. Sure, I often call it PTOIT (Putting the Odd in Todd) but I hadn't heard it said aloud. I was like, "Huh. That sounds cool." But since then, I've had a new idea. I think that the proper pronunciation will now be the French version: "Puh-Twaa." Why? Becuase it is more pretentious and snooty.

Item: As I read this news story, I just feel bad for the other Jon Stewart. Here you get all excited because someone wants you to speak for their group and then, all of a sudden, not only do they cancel but they act like it's a big crisis that you are the one they signed. Hang tough, Other Jon Stewart. Hang tough.

Item: Happy Easter. May God use this holiday to bring you closer to him.

Special Feature: Quotes of the Week

"I think I liked you better when you just hit people with your stick." --Lost's Bernard to Mr. Eko.

"I like you the way you are." -Charlie to Mr. Eko.

"I don't have any crazy testimony stories where I shot a guy in Mexico or got a tattoo on my back." -Christian singer/songwriter Jadon Lavik

"Jamie Foxx used to live behind me. The sounds coming from his house were much different than the sounds coming out of mine. Ervery other night, I could hear a DJ from a party he was having. At my house, there was an ambulance siren and some kid chasing another kid with poop." -Ray Romano, in EW's Stupid Questions.

The White Sox Express: Slow Out of the Station?

I have noticed something intriguing this baseball season. And maybe it happens every year. Or maybe it is more noticable to me because I've never been the fan of a champion baseball team. But it seems to me that a lot of people are letting a few baseball games carry a lot of weight. I can't tell you how many people have asked me what is wrong with my White Sox. Or worried about our chances to repeat. Or complained about their own team so early on. Or gloated because there team has a better record than the defending champs. This seems odd to me. There have been 8 games.

Now, I am no scientist, but it doesn't make sense to me to project how the whole season will go based on less than ten games. I had a Detroit Tigers fan e-mailing me early this week with much gloating about his team sitting at 5-1. Well, that's great but I don't care how they are doing after 6 games. Talk to me after 162. Or even 60. Give me a better research sample here. I am betting the Tigers will not win 135 games this season (which is what their 5-1 pace indicated). In fact, going by only the current numbers, this is what we could all expect this year:

Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman getting 326 strikeouts.
Atlanta's Oscar Villarreal winning 60 games.
Cleveland winning 135 games
The Phillies winning 23 games.
Bronson Arroyo hitting more than 30 homeruns.
Jim Thome belting 100-plus homeruns (this one might actually happen...)

The thing about making too much of stats right now is that every team will have a 5-1 stretch this season. But because it comes in the first 6 games, we get excited? Every team will lose 4 of 6 games this season. But because a team starts the season with that run, it means a team is worthless? No. That's why I scoffed when the Chicago Sun-Times last weekend ran the headline "From First to Worse" about the Sox. After 6 games. And while I wasn't exactly pleased that the Royals beat the Sox twice already, I had to stop and think "Well, they are bound to get two wins from us this season...that may be it." (Of course, the other thought is that maybe the Royals are just THAT good...but, of course, that is just lunacy.)

You just can't tell from less than 25 games how a team will do because the baseball season is long and unpredicatble. In fact, National League Central fans may be worried right now about the three teams tied at 5-2. But I'd be worried about the Pirates. The last time they started 0-6, they won the World Series. The beautiful thing about baseball is that anything can happen.

So, am I saying that you can't tell anything from the first couple of weeks of the season? That nothing should bother you or excite you? Heck no. There are individual performances right now to take note of--either good or bad--and look for trends. For instance, Ozzie Guillen is playing two bench guys an awful lot already. That could be a worrisome precedent. Jim Thome is hitting a homer almost every game. That's exciting. And Scott Podesednick is looking to still be hurting. That could be bad. These are indicators to take note of.

But letting the Milwaukee Brewers and Detroit Tigers just play out the World Series now is not quite the way to go.


Sweaty Manhood

Last night, my friend Charissa and I caught the Tooth & Nail Tour at the Metro in Chicago. The standouts were of course the co-headliners Anberlin and Emery, but newcomer The Classic Crime was a pleasant surprise. Anberlin is much heavier live than on their albums--which Charissa and I agree is a good thing. They rocked--and had a great presence thanks to the lead singer's out of control hair and a fantastic light show. To me, they stole the show. It was one of those great sing-along rock events.

What Emery brought to the table was lots of screaming and a keyboardist who did not play the keyboard--but instead alternately did funky mime dances and beat himself upon the keyboard stands repeatedly and aggressively. He also screamed a lot. I maintain that not just anyone can scream in rock--but it takes a special voice and this guy had it. Well done, Dancing Pseudo-Keyboarder Guy. Well done.

The Classic Crime had a great sound, stage presence and most importantly, back flips. I am considering writing a thesis paper on the importance of gymnastics to good rock. That theory is still in development. But in the meantime, I will say the concert was good times and my ears are still buzzing.

One thing that defined the night was the energy, aggression, and well, stupidity, of being young. By the end of Emery, most of the floor had become a massive revovling and pulsating punk dance circle. Guys were throwing their bodies at each, pushing one another into crowds, dancing and shaking violently and being knocked to the ground. It was a classic punk rawk scene. But with a slight difference. Because a good portion of the crowd seemed to be Christian kids, the moshing would be followed by hugging and congratulations on good moves and hits.

Now, maybe I've read too much Eldridge but as I watched this last night, I for the first time saw this common concert scene as not just a dumb youth aggression thing--but as a desperate attempt to return to manhood. These guys had their shirts off, were beating their own bodies, were yelling and screaming. They were showing their vitality and energy. They were being aggressive and primal. They were letting the beats move them and control them. I felt like I was watching some ancient tribal ritual.

And as much as I tried to stop her, yes, it was Charissa who started it all.

Added note: If you go to that Anberlin link above, watch that statue head. Dang, that is freaky. Yet, I cannot avert my eyes...


Dream Log!

(This dream comes from April 5, 2005)
I'm in a large banquet room with strange orange decor. The room is filled with round tables at which many old men sit. It's a funeral or memorial service for the Pope. As I eat my meal, an older priest approaches me and asks me to do a reading in the service. I agree. When the meal is over, I am summoned to the lecturn and begin to read the book the priest hands me. That's when I realize that I don't know Polish. The whole reading is in Polish. I then wish I would have prepared more for the reading. Instead, I just start sounding out the words. I pretend that I know what I am saying. As I go, I begin to understand the words. In fact, the words turn to English as I instantly teach myself Polish.


The ABCs of GMA

I got back from Nashville on Wednesday. Why was I there? Well, I flew out last Sunday to attend Gospel Music Week (GMA) for work. GMA Week is when radio people, print journalists, music business folk and artists all descend on poor unsuspecting Nashville for networking, self-congratulations, schmoozing, and lots of barbeque and grits (and GRITS). The week is full of concerts, seminars and ends with the GMA Awards.

Because the magazine I work for is a teen publication, we do a lot with Christian bands. GMA is a chance for me to get all of my interviews done for the year. So here's the ABCs of my trip:

A - Acoustic sets by Third Day, Warren Barfield, Bebo Norman and Cindy Morgan in the big glass pyramid-thingy above highlighted my Sunday night.

B - Backstreet Boy! That's right, I can check off #476 on the Todd "Things to do Before Death" list because I met a Backstreet Boy. Brian Littrell was one of my interviews for the magazine.

C - Crowder--as in David Crowder (pictured on right)--rocked the annual Sunday Night Worship service alongside fellow worship leaders Charlie Hall and Chris Tomlin. His hair rocks everyday.

D - Dang, 26 letters is a lot to go through.

E- Elevator games. The highlight of GMA week is spotting Christian "celebrities". Because of this, my favorite part of the week is getting onto the very busy elevators and playing "Who Is In This Elevator?" This week, the best elevator ride was with the entire band Hawk Nelson and Chris Tomlin. At one point, Jason, the singer of Hawk, turned to Tomlin and sincerly said, "I'm sorry, who are you?" When Tomlin answered, Jason turned bright red and began bowing in honor.

F - Family Force 5. Saw them live again on Monday night. Look out for these guys. They are incredible. I first saw them last year at GMA. They blew away an unsuspecting crowd. This year, the line was around the block for them. And then the club emptied when they were done. They are my faves.

G - Good food. The good part of GMA? Lots of yummy food. The best part? It is free. I only paid for one meal I ate between Sunday and Wednesday. I also got to sample yummy things like froo-froo deserts and bagels and cream cheese with salmon on them. Of course, none of these treats quite live up to The Holy Chocolate Fountain of last year...

H - Hugging Hawk Nelson. If only I'd hugged a Backstreet Boy. That would have been #518 on the list.

I - Insulting Charlie Hall. It was an accident, but it probbaly sounded like I slandered poor Charlie Hall. I didn't realize I was interviewing him and when I saw it written down on a publicist's schedule sheet--and knowing I wasn't prepared--I let out a very loud groan that probably sounded like I didn't want to talk to him. The interview was great tho.

J - Jars of Clay played an acoustic show at a very small club with Leigh Nash of Sixpence None the Richer fame. It was too short but cool. Leigh's new solo stuff is very cool--and Jars is currently in the studio recording a rock album. Yes, rock. Oh, and they served free wine.

K - Krystal Meyers-less dinner. So Tuesday night at GMA is always a special treat. The Provident label group hosts a Media Appreciation dinner where all of us media sit at table with the various artists signed onto Provident. I sat at a table with reservation cards for Jars of Clay singer Dan Hasseltine and new Avril-like artist Krystal Meyers. Due to sound checks, Krystal never showed. So I drank her tea.

L- Leaving Early. I left on a very early flight Wednesday (and missing the GMA Awards) for a darn good reason--to get to the White Sox homegame and get my own World Series Trophy replica. We did lose, but you still can't take my trophy away.

M - Mandolin, Mandolin, Mandolin! Thanks to new recording artist Josh Bates, I saw my first ever concert of live Mandolin. That # 333 on the ole' list...

N - Nice way to start the day. On Monday morning, I ate breakfast with Rebecca St. James and Vicki Beeching. More free eggs.

O- Organ Donation. While interviewing The Afters, I got this exclusive glimpse into their relationship:

Marc: Matt got really sick and I volunteered to donate my kidney to him. So now he is walking around with one of my kidneys. And Josh now is actually having surgery tomorrow to give a quarter of his liver to him.

Brad: I transferred half of my stomach to Matt because he needed a stomach half.

Marc: This is actually a glass eye. Matt couldn't afford contacts anymore, so I gave him my eye.

p - Pushy managers. For the second year in a row, I had a band's manager dictate an interview. Publicists (who set up the interviews for me) hate this. This year, a manager told me, "You better keep this short. We don't have much time." I said, "Well, how long do I have?" He looked at me and said, "I'll tell you when you are done." Now, I am supposed to have 30 minutes with this artist and have questions to fill that time, so I say, "Could you tell me now so I have an idea?" And he did and we were OK from there.

Q - Quantity. I did about 20 interviews.

R - Robots, ninjas and pirates. These are things all boys love and the things that I discussed with Family Force 5 in my interview with them. That and the old PUSA "Peaches" video. If we would have talked about monkeys, then I could die peacefully.

S - Stormy nights. I have always liked storms. So sitting in the Glassy Pyramid (above) on stormy Sunday night watching the acoustic show was neat--you could see the rain splattering on the glass and the lightning filling the sky all around you. The only trouble was...

T- Tornados in the area. This is when being in a 3-story glass pryamid is no longer such a hot idea.

U- Univision. I have been noticing a lot of people with eyepatches lately. I guess it is not something easy to miss, but I spotted two different people wearing eyepatches at GMA. What's the odds of that? The thing is they weren't like white-medical-gauze-eyepatches. They were black-pirate-eyepatches. Weird. I am kind of afraid they are following me.

V- Very good 2006 albums already: Hawk Nelson, Warren Barfield, The Lonely Hearts, Pettidee, The Listening and Family Force 5.

W - Wow, I am finally almost done.

X- Xylophones. An actual topic on conversation with Dan Hasseltine of Jars of Clay. I can't remember why...

Y- Year's Best? New bands to look for this year: Family Force 5, DecembeRadio, Decypher Down, and Leeland. Good stuff.

Z- ZOEgirl. Not seen this year.