The Watering Hole

I walked into the men's restroom at work yesterday. There was a co-worker. In his stocking feet. With his shoes in the sink.

I said, "Shoes thirsty?"

"I'm watering them," he said. "I've had them since 6th grade. I just keep growing them to get bigger."

And then he left. He never tried to explain what he was doing--or even acknowledge that it was out of the ordinary.


Our magazine is running a Switchfoot contest. And I recieved a ton of entries last night. Upon further review, I realized that one of our dear teen readers entered multiple times.

Now, I can understand entering 5 to 10 times (even though it's against the rules). But she entered 126 times. 126.

Students of America: Please do your homework.

Wedding Wednesday
I'm not sayin', but I'm just sayin': This June.

Oh, and looking for the perfect wedding gift? Look no longer.


The Question.

An actual phone call between my brother and I:

Me: I have a question to ask you as my livestock expert.

Chad: Okay...

Me: It's a weird question.

Chad: Okay...

Me: Could a grown man fit inside of a horse?


Chad: Inside?

Me: Yah, like if he gutted it?

Chad: That is a weird question.

Me: I warned you. Would a horse be big enough?

Chad: What kind of horse?

Me: Well, not a Clydesdale. Like a normal riding horse. Like in Westerns.

Chad: My wife's family has a real big fat horse that someone could fit in easily. But a normal sized horse? I guess I could fit. But I am short.

Me: Let's say Pierce Brosnan. Could he fit in a horse?

Chad: How big is he?

Me: Average. Like 6 foot, 200 pounds?

Chad: It's possible. If you removed all the organs.

Me: Yah. But the ribcage would be a problem, I think.

Chad: Maybe, yah. It'd take a lot of work to prepare. How much time does he have to prepare the horse?

Me: I don't know. Awhile.

Chad: Yah, he could probably clean it up enough.

Me: So, if a movie featured Pierce Brosnan hiding in his dead horse...it wouldn't be completely preposterous?

Chad: That's a weird movie. Why is he in there?

Me: To surprise someone chasing him. He pops out and attacks.

Chad: Why would anyone walk up so close to a gutted horse that he can get attacked by a man hiding inside?

Me: Good question.

Chad: But possible? I'd say it'd be close. It's concievable.

Me: Hmm, so I guess it isn't as far-fetched as I thought.

Chad: I wouldn't say Myth Confirmed. But I'd say Myth Probable.

Me: You are my own personal myth buster. Nice.

Pass the Shrimp Dip and Meatballs.

Today is my Best Man Doug's birthday. (He's the Best Man in my wedding--it's not like a fulltime job position he holds. Although that'd be kinda cool. And as I think about it more, it is kinda like a lifelong post. My friend Gene's dad would always refer to his friend Stanley as his Best Man--and he was married like 50 years prior. Like Stanley, I hope Doug will also continue to just come by my house all the time as he's driving around town wearing earmuffs and mismatched socks. As my only model of a lifelong Best Man, I just figger that's what they do.)

Anyway, it would be hard for Doug to stop by when driving around town, because he lives in Ohio. But last night, our big friend group gathered for the first time in awhile for dinner and games. We called Doug and told him we were having a By-Phone-Suprise-Party for him. I don't think he suspected it.

The gathering was fun. We now have babies and toddlers in the group. It's fun to have the usual Pictionary games, jokes and food--with spitting up and lots of questions like, "What kind of noise does a cow make?" And that's just me; the babies also bring a whole new dimension to social outings. It was kinda funny to be playing pictionary and have to transfer babies around depending on who has to draw each turn.

Three more highlights:

1) My Intended and I arrived to find great interest in the food we brought. A few people were very excited to see what my "Shrimp Dip" was that was listed on the e-mailed food list. I really enjoyed everyone standing in the kitchen to watch the very detailed and careful preperation of my Shrip dip: 1) Slap a slab of Cream Cheese on Plate, 2) Dump Cocktail Sauce Over it, and 3) Throw on Shrimp. (Yes, I am throwing all capitilization rules out the window today because I find it funny to Randomly capitalize things.)

2) My first Birthday Present of 2007. Charissa got me a shirt that features a Bull with various Cuts of Beef listed and the slogan, "Meat is Neat." Too true. Too true. What no one knows is that my bag of shrimp leaked on the way of home. Now, my "Meat is Neat" shirt smells like shrimp. Surf and Turf, baby.

3) Charissa debuted her new animated Family Force 5 video. It is as excellent as advertised. You can see it here. Some advice: let it play through once without sound and then go back and watch it the second time it plays through. The first time it runs through is very slow and choppy. I think you will be able to guess my favorite part. Domo Arigato, Charissa.

(Date: 1/26/07)
My youth group's leader Jen is my teacher in some fractions class. She keeps quizing us without first teaching us. So I show up, and just getting quizzed--with no instruction on how to do fractions. Later, I am in a big kitchen with several people and we are all being tested on whether we can use a blender. Some guy places a blender in fornt of us and we have to see who can properly use it first.


My Movies of the Year

This week, I submitted my final votes for my company's 2006 Top 10 Films of the Year. How it works is that a panel of numerous critics make nominations. If a film gets more than 4 noms, it's on the final list from which we each pick 10 movies.

So, you never really get to vote for your actual favorite films--but your favorite films from the list of panel-chosen movies. With the announcement of the Oscar noms this weeks, I thought I would compile my actual ranked list of favorite films of the year. So here's yet another Todd's Top 30.

Todd's Favorite Top 30 Movies of 2006

30. The Devil Wears Prada - All hail the power of Stanley Tucci and Meryl Streep.

29. Superman Returns - Kate Bosworth? Bah. But other than that, I had little fault with the movie. Kevin Spacey can do anything. Anything.

28. Aquamarine - I know, it's a 12-year-old girl movie. I am a bit ashamed of how much I enjoy it. But it is the best film portrayal of 1 Corinthians 13 I have ever seen.

27. We Are Marshall - Some of the most creative football scenes ever filmed. One of my favorite unexpected comedic scenes of all time (i.e. the kid and the tree). And the Coolest Use of Drumline Cadence Ever.

27. Invincible - If only I could find myself playing for the White Sox. Dare to dream.

25. X-Men: The Last Stand - Probably my third favorite X-man movie honestly. But I still enjoyed a lot about it. Especially the kid who made people lose their powers around him. If only they'd stuck to more about him and the "cure" and less soap opera drama about Wolverine and Jean Grey.

24. Joyeux Noel - A fantastic little French movie about the World War I Christmas truce where German, Scottish and French troops put down their guns to celebrate the birth of Christ. You know it's good if I ranked this high a film made by the French.

23. World Trade Center - Nic Cage doesn't act like Nic Cage. And it's filmed with great balance and drama.

22. Half Nelson - Another little movie that has big payoff. Ryan Gosling is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this and rightfully so. He's amazing as a doped-up high school teacher caught in the act of getting high by a student...who sells drugs but doesn't use. Where it could have been cheesy and over the top, this story of redemption and darkness is handled gently and with a sense of realness.

21. The Prestige - Great acting, slick plot...but an ending that makes you go, ummm, did they just cheat in storytelling?

20. Letters from Iwo Jima - Best war movie since Private Ryan? Clint Eastwood tells the story of the Japanese troops told to fight for their country on a little island...and left there to die.

19. Wordplay - Best documentary of the year. A well-told story of crossword puzzles and the people who play them. You see people fighting it out at the Crossword puzzle championships, see how the puzzles are made and hear from puzzle fans like Jon Stewart.

18. The Nativity Story - A very solid re-telling of Christ's birth with a great emphasis on showing WHY the believers of the time so longed for a savior.

17. Thank You for Smoking - Dark and just plain wrong in many spots, this movie is great satire and some of the most clever dialogue of the year.

16. The Illusionist - Does Edward Norton not rock? Oh, he does. And so does this movie. Yah, you can see the twists coming but it's still such an enjoyable film.

15. Marie Antoinette- A great portrait of absurdity, royalty, youth, and the disattachment between rulers and their people. The movie is less of a story and more of an atmosphere. And it works.

14. Jet Li's Fearless - Probably the most overlooked movie of the year, Fearless has great action and also tells a great story of a man redeemed. It's not the cross-over marital arts classic that Crouching Tiger was, but a must-see if you like action films or sports stories with real story.

13. Akeelah and the Bee - Such an enchanting movie about a little girl from the inner city who tries to win a Spelling Bee. Wow. The best part is the gangster who helps her study.

12. The Pursuit of Happyness - This is the most stressful feel-good movie ever. Will Smith is sooo good, you care for him as if he's a relative as the world keeps crashing down. Again and again.

11. Apocalypto - A bloody and graphic action film...but a really good action film for those who can stomach it. It's an all out chase for survival.

10. Stranger than Fiction - So clever. So perceptive about the writing process. Will Farrell comes through big.

9. Mission: Impossible 3 - The first movie of 2006 I own, this is just fun. It's an adrenaline rush from the first minute. My favorite MI movie.

8. The Departed - A bloody and graphic crime drama, but worth it for the acting of Leo and the bunch.

7. Casino Royale - Best. Bond. Movie. Ever.

6. The Queen - What a character study. Of a real character.

5. United 93 - Hard to watch, but you can't turn your eyes away. So powerful. Must see.

4. Tsotsi - The best movie of the year that no one will see. This is a South African movie about a gangster who's life is changed when he sees true love...and not in the way you think.

3. Charlotte's Web - Seriously, see it. You know the story, but you haven't seen it this way. Completely enchanting. I cried like 7 times. It's one of the very few movies I'd give 4 stars in 2006.

2. Little Miss Sunshine - The funniest drama of the year. What the movie does best is acting. What it does second best is to showcase family dysfunction in a genuine and telling way...and still be fun.

1. Children of Men - Another dark and violent movie, but one to check out. It's such a well-made film and a great story about the world in 2027 when the entire world is infertile. Bonus: The best car chase ever with cars that don't run.

Quotes of the Week

"It's like they were just very Iowan. Like, 'Hi, we're corn fed and friendly!'" - My Intended, explaining characters in a dream.

These dang Europeans screwing up everything: flipping the date and month around, calling bathrooms water closets. And don't get me started on the metric system. Liters? Bah!" -Designer Doug

"Cuddle Me Please." -A spam e-mail subject line...from someone named Charles.

"On this side lies taut drama; on the other side lies a steep descent into Kim and Cougarville." -An EW column on 24.


The Chili With Too Much Garlic

On Saturday night, I joined a group from my church in serving at a homeless shelter. This program rotates from church to church. And once a month, a nearby church hosts guests over night and we bring and serve food.

Saturday was chili night at the homeless shelter. I volunteered, along with this woman Lori, to work the food line and dish out the chili. As we were preparing the food line, this man from our church explained there were three kinds of chili: regular chili, turkey chili and vegetarian chili. Lori took position to dish out the beef chili, and I said I would do the turkey and vegetarian chili.

I soon realized that the man who brought me the vegetarian and turkey chili was the cook of both. I realized this because he stood at the side of the food line and reacted every time someone chose to eat either one of his chilis. Now, you might think he'd say, "Good choice. I made that!" But no. Instead, he would try to talk people out of taking his chilis because he didn't feel they were good enough.

If a homeless guest asked for the turkey chili, he'd say, "Yah, you're gonna need to add a little salt to that. It's good, but some of the vegetable taste cooked off."

If someone chose vegetarian, he'd say, "There's a bit too much garlic in that one. It's good and hearty but it's very garlicy. I like garlic, but not that much."

He was kinda like a Overly Self-Critical Gourmet Chef serving a very sophisticated panel of judges. But you know, these people really weren't so much there to rate 4-star meals. They were hungry. They didn't care if you could only catch a slight hint of basil. They didn't care that it was a tad too garlicy. Some of these people hadn't eaten all day. They'd been sitting on park benches in 30 degree weather. They were happy it was hot. And that it was food.

Wedding Wednesday on Tuesday
So, all I have to say is that I am so glad that my wedding date is not in Febuary or October. Because if a playoff game of one of my teams landed on my wedding day, I would be in trouble.

Here are some interesting recent playoff-related stories:

Early Labor So Husband Can Watch Bears

Wedding Guests Cancel for Saints Game

Watch Saints Game at Bridal Show


Schizophrenic Sunday

Yesterday was a time of mixed emotions. A day of happiness and sorrow. I was torn and conflicted.

Being a Bears fan since birth, I was elated to see them trounce the Saints. Seeing them on the road to the Super Bowl for the first time since I was 8 is just awesome. I can't wait.

But as the fantasy football owner of Drew Brees and Deuce McCallister, I was forlorn. I'd be excited that the Bears D got a sack, but sad at the same time. I'd cheer when Brees threw a touchdown, and then feel bad. I was pratically schizophrenic. It was a tough day.

In the end, I lost the Super Bowl 70-57. I would have never believed you if you told me in September that the big point producers in our Fantasy Football Super Bowl would be Chicago Bears. I had two Bears on my team (Benson and Gould) and had wanted to draft Berrian but my opponent got him first. Althought I was unsure about starting both Benson and Gould, they were my two big producers after Brees (19 points). But still, they weren't enough to deflect the damage done of my opponent's two Bears: Thomas "I'll sit out a quarter but still rush for 123 yards and 2 TDS" Jones and Bernard "Circus Catch" Berrian.

As is my reaction to any loss or failure, I want to beat myself up for it. But honestly, there's not much I could have done differently. I went into the draft with Brees, McCallister and Harrison and drafted the rest of the guys. In hindsight, I could have dropped McCallister in favor of Reggie Bush or Joseph Addai. I could have not kept Harrison and used my first pick on Bernard Berrian and skipped Reggie Wayne in favor of Dallas Clark, but if there's studs on the table I am going to go with them. Never would I have expected studs like McCallister (who rushed for like 500 yards last week), Harrison (who had 145 yards and 2 TDs vs. the Patriots earlier this season) or Wayne to all let me down. But in hindsight, it seems that instead of drafting these usual frequent studs, I should have drafted Jeff Saturday, Logan Mankis and Dan Klecko. Yah, they're linemen...but at least they scored.

So, I don't have any regrets. I made it to the Super Bowl. And the better team won. In the off-season, I'll make some organizatonal changes and come back stronger. Heck, the Dallas coaching job just opened. If they hear about my managerial record, I might get the call.


The Monkey Writes!

When we last left Purple Fez Monkey, he had just left home to find his brother Red Fez Monkey, who disappeared from their home in my office. And now, a letter arives from the brave adventurer...

Dear Todd,

My journeys have taken me so far from home. I have seen so much.

I received your telegram about the news you received at Christmas. I am as surprised as you are that Red Fez got ahold of you. And more surprised that he's a cross stitch model. Still, I am more surprised that the cross-stitch artist left out his fez when making that picture. Weird.

Anyway, I am glad to hear that Red Fez is safe. But I will not end my quest. I want to see him and make sure he is OK. For all we know he could be kidnapped and forced to write what he did in your Christmas gift. We just don't know, Todd. And so I will continue my search.

When you last heard from me, I was in a land called Missouri. I sailed North on a great river to a Kingdom they call Iowa. I said to a man, "Is this heaven?" And he said, "No, this is Iowa." And then he said, "Whoa. Talking monkey!"

Anyway, I then continued to sail North. After many nights, I reached some great lakes and made my way to ocean. When I got the news from you I was in London (see me with Big Ben?).

I took all my London photos in black and white because they look more dramatic. The funniest thing happened in London. I met a man named H.G. who owned a time machine. Don't believe me? Look at this picture--it's me with the London Bridge in the 1800s! Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, upon hearing that Red Fez is now a model, I have chosen to return to the U.S. of A. I am told that many models come to New York. So here I am to find my brother. As I write this, I have just arrived to this great city. See me here at dawn standing on the Brooklyn Bridge?

Well, I will continue my journey. And I will find Red Fez.

Your Friend and Mine,
-Purple Fez Monkey

Quotes of the Week
''It was only about halfway through shooting Gideon's Daughter that my costar realized that I wasn't the science guy. I've disappointed a lot of small children over the years. When my daughter first started school they wanted to meet Bill Nye, the Science Guy until they actually realized I was the other Bill. I have never actually met him. I don't know if we resemble each other.'' - Bill Nighy, the actor. Not the science guy.

"OK, to be fair, the contest rules state that the Golden Nacho Awards are 'to honor the movies that moved us, inspired us, and made us think about God this year.' Maybe they were all thinking, 'Lord, please make this movie end now!' Technically, they were thinking about God in that moment" -Marc, about why people are voting for Eragon in our magazine's movie awards.

Matt and Charissa Update

We haven't heard from the Matt-Charissa Connection Campaign in a long time. The Matt-Charissa Connection Campaign was my effort to get my friend Charissa the chance to meet Matt Thiessen, singer of Relient K. There's not much to update actually. Matt and Charissa have yet to meet.

The Matt-Charissa Connection Campaign had comprised of photos showing how happy Matt and Charissa would be upon meeting. Unfortunately, no new photos have been produced. Instead, Charissa has created two short videos documenting her quest to meet Matt. I mentioned the first animated film a long time ago but I am not sure I ever mentioned the exciting sequel. 24 fans take note.

The only brand new development is that I mentioned the videos to a person who works closely with Relient K, but I've heard nothing back. They may be seeking a restraining order.

In related news, Charissa is actually working on a new animated movie. This one is about the band Family Force 5. I have seen some early previews and, folks, this is fantastic. Here's just a taste:


Put on Your Meat Pajamas. It's Time to Rock.

My Top 30 Band Names

I have very little musical talent, but I've always wanted a band. I don't want to be in a band to be famous or get the chicks--or even play music. Instead, my motivation was always very simple: to get to name the band and design the cover art. Seriously. That's the fun part. I remember being a high school freshman and wanting to name a band Quantum. I even had drawings of how it would look.

So, at work, Designer Doug and I have long kept a list of names we'd name a band if we had one. Here's my current favorite 30:

30. Trucktober! - This would be a really hard rockin' rockabilly band.
29. Pegleg Peggy
28. Soup or Samurai
27. Meat Spindle
26. Olives on my Mind
25. Diehard Dairy
24. Ground Chuck D
23. Baking in Boxers
22. Extorting the Monkey - The Future Mother-in-Law gave me this little plastic Monkey head that holds change. So when you press his cheeks to get coins, I like to say you are Extorting the Monkey.
21. Barfight Burrito - This one comes from Designer Doug. He likes alliteration and burritos.
20. Homemade Minions
19. Scottish & Sassy
18. Last Night's Taco
17. Atomic Asparagus
16. Celebrity Knifefight
15. Showers of Blech
14. Ghostlimb Gary - This one comes from Designer Doug. He likes alliteration and the idea of ghost limbs.
13. Camp for Cavemen
12. Kamikaze Kitchen
11. Zombie Monkey Love
10. Truckosaurus
9. Meat Pajamas
8. Moose Puppet
7. Spinning Meat Wheel
6. Government Cheese
5. Bowlful of Cowboys - I have an M&M candy dish in my office. To prevent me from eating way too many M&Ms, I've now filled it with plastic cowboys.
4. Cornelius Oregon and the Wafers - For our magazine, I once worked with a camp in a town called Cornelius, Oregon, and decided it would be the best stage name for me ever.
3. Naked For Peanut Butter - I've talked about this as a band name for a long time--ever since the famous Survivor incident.
2. Tickle-Me-Tony
1. Zombie Gargoyles & The Girl of my Dreams - The origin is best explained here.

The Intended and I are very formal people. Here are excerpts from e-mails this week concerning my attendance at her wedding showers:

From Me:
Todd's Official Shower Stance: I will do what my future bride would like me to do. If you'd like me to be at showers, I am there. If you don't care, then I will gladly take my leave and let you girls do your thing. And I am more than happy to show up at the end, help with clean up, say hello to the ladies and help bring home gifts.

From Her:
Official Shower Decree: I hereby claim Todd exempt from sitting with a bunch of goofy women while opening presents and getting high on sugary cake. This shall be upheld as long as he is able and available to help transport gifts from the aforementioned events.


Thank God for Cheesy Poofs And Buffy And Pirates...

I haven't been doing so hot on getting my devotions or Bible readings done lately. But this morning, I whipped out an old copy of Men of Integrity to do a devotion. As iIread, I found myself disagreeing with one small, unintentional message of the writing. But it led to some neat thoughts about God.

The idea was the devotion writer had once felt challenged by a speaker who suggested the congregation begin each day by thanking God for 25 things. I have no beef with this idea. Good stuff--all to often I focus on what I don't have, not what I do. To oftern, I get busy asking and not busy appreciating. I even did this today and it really made me praise God for the way he provides and realize yet again that God is worthy of praise regardless of what I have or what I think I need.

But then, I hit the part that got me thinking. The writer said, "I really tried to be sincere, but on some days I would get desperate and I would find myself thanking God for The Tonight Show or the Endangered Species Act or a good burp. "

Hmmmm. I guess the implied idea here that bugged me was that some things are worthy of being thanked for and others aren't. I've been known to lead group prayers with my friends and thank God for bowling or the White Sox or fondue. And you know, I mean those prayers serisouly. I think whatever we find joy in, whatever God uses to bring us closer to him or each other should be lifted up as worship.

Shouldn't God be acknowledged for giving some senator the love of nature to endorse the Endangered Species Act? Why should I thank God for my paycheck, but not for a movie that made me laugh really hard? Or the joy he allows me to find in silly things like watching baseball or managing a fantasy football team? If bowling allows my friends and I to enjoy one another, why not lift that up as a blessing? One of my pet peeves is people who burp loudly in public--but, hey, I know the joy and release that comes from a good one. Thank God invented that, huh? Otherwise, we might explode.

All truth is God's truth. All that is good comes from God. No, I don't think that God invented bowling or wrote The Tonight Show, but he invented the people who did. He wired me to want to see stories told via movies. He built me to like the joy and competition of being a sports fan. To enjoy these things is to be who he created me to be. So that's whay I will thank God for the using even the silly things in my life. That's why I will thank God for bean bag chairs, action figures and monkeys.


Good Morning, Jazz Bears!

I don't feel well this morning. And I blame the Bears.

I have a headache, my throat is scratchy, I can barely talk and my ears hurt. I kinda feel like I have a hangover. At first I thought it was the beginning of a cold. But now, I am prety sure it's because of the Bears.

Because the game was at noon, I decided to just go to Buffalo Wild Wings right after church to watch--that way I could watch the whole game on a good screen and still be at youth group on time. Since I live 30 minutes from church it didn't make sense to go home.

I had fun watching the game. Since I was by myself, I got a great seat at the bar in front of the jumbo screen. I had some tasty Spicy Garlic wings. The crowd was insane and into the game. I've never watched a football game in a bar, so it was a neat experience. However, there are unexpected health effects.

That room was without a doubt the loudest room I have ever been in. When Devin Hester made his ill-fated run back and when Robbie Gould kicked the game-winner, the bar was so loud, my ears still hurt. I've been to a lot of concerts--and stood close--but never have my ears been this affected my loudness. But I am not blameless in the contribution of noise. I yelled a lot. And so--along with the heavy fog of smoke hanging in the place--my throat is shot.

But hey, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. I am happy to take this pain for the team.

In related news, my office Fantasy Football Team won this weekend. That means that next week I will play in my first Fantasy Super Bowl ever. I am excited about it. I am dreading the draft though because there just aren't many sure-bet players right now because of tough defenses and offenses that spread the ball out.

I was at a junior high lock-in on Christmas Eve. We woke up on Christmas morning and I walked out into a hallway to see three young girls sneaking down the hallway. I asked them what they were doing. The oldest one, who was obviously the leader, turned to me and put her finger to her lips and motioned for me to follow. We sneaked down the hall and into a classroom where a young boy was alseep under a pile of blankets on a huge round cushion.

All the girls surrounded the sleeping boy. All at once, they jumped up and down and the leader yelled, "Good Morning, Jazz Puppy!"

The boy woke up. Calmly and slwoly he stood up, wearing a tux, and said to me: "Last week she made me be a Jazz Buffalo."

*Note: I have no idea what a Jazz Puppy or Jazz Buffalo is. I guess my subconscious made it up. But I think "Good Morning Jazz Puppy!" is my new catchphrase.


Adventures in Eating

Yesterday I did one of those things that after the fact are always classified under "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

As many of us know, I tend to be fiscally careful (read: cheap). I save money where I can. One of those places is on cereal. I am a big cereal eater (in that I eat a lot--not that I eat big cereals. I eat the normal size cereals like everyone else.) I eat cereal every morning. Often, I eat it for dinner. I love me some cereal. However, cereal can cost you an arm and a leg. Most cereals can cost about $4 for 13 ounces. And so I buy these knock-off brands that come in bags from Dominicks. There's quite a selection and they are all generic versions of real cereals: Apple Yos are Apple Jacks, Silly Circles and Fruit Loops, etc.

These bags sell for $4 for 32 ounces. And often they go on sale for $3. Great deal huh?

Well, yesterday the deal got better. I went to Dominicks because I needed more cereal and I needed cash. To my surprise I found that Dominicks has all of their generic bagged cereal on clearance-- for $2 a bag. $2 for 32 ounces! Two things went through my head: 1) Wow, that's a good price. I should get more than one bag. 2) If they are gonna carry this anymore, I need to stock up.

I started grabbing bags. And then I went to go get a cart. That should have been my first clue that things were getting out of hand.

I ended up with 11 bags. That 352 ounces of cereal. Yah, for only $22. But, it's still 352 ounces. At the time, it seemed like a good idea. And it is a good price. I will eat it all eventually. I do go through cereal very quickly. But now, I am thinking, "Can I eat it all before it goes bad?" But honestly, this stuff is so sugary, I am not sure it could go bad. It might outlast me.

The funny irony is that this morning, as I was preparing myself my first bowl of about 5,000 this purchase guarantees me, I opened the fridge. And yup, there was about a tablespoon of milk in the carton.

Maybe that will go on sale too so I can stock up.

So Much Meat
Speaking of spending money, The Intended and I went to The Melting Pot with her sister and two friends (shout out to loyal reader Megan!). That place is just an eating adventure. I love the fun and interactivity fondue brings to a night out. We had a lot of fun trying new things, stabbing each other with those little pitch forks and fishing lost potatoes out of the fondue pot.

But I have to admit--even though it wasn't my first time--I was so confused by the menu. I really didn't understand what we were ordering because everything had to be ordered for two. I didn't understand how the Intended and I were getting both lobster and steak. I kept trying to figure out, "Well, who gets the lobster? Who gets the steak? How does this work out?"

When it came, I finally understood. It's just a big plate of raw meat nuggets. The menu should say that: "For $70 you get a whole pile of assorted meats, for $80 dollars you get a bigger pile of assorted meats, and for $90 you get so much frickin assorted raw meat, you'll need a cart to get out." I'd understand that.

Quotes of the Week

"You don't watch The Office? I thought for sure you'd be into it. You could be ON The Office." --A co-worker. And I'm not so sure it's a compliment that she thinks I could be on the show.

"French women don't get fat." - A helpful spam e-mail.

"Now that James Brown is finally gone, I can now assume the position of Godfather of Soul. I'll have to change my business cards." - Designer Doug


Of Posses and Predators

You may have seen in the comments log the other day that Charissa wrote that she still has her famous Pictionary sketch of "Posse." I'd forgotten where it went to. But now I remember: Esther, Emily and I put it in a scrap book that was given to Charissa as a going away gift. (She of course then came back. So I think we should get our book back.)

Anyhoo, Charissa scanned it in and sent it over for everyone to enjoy. Here it is:

She drew the stick figures first. The size of them made us on her team think it was a family with a little baby. And then the gun threw us all off. And then, to try and get us to think "Poss...," she moved on to drawing a possum. However, we thought it was a steam ship. See the smoke stacks? Oh, and the thing poking out from under the porthole (or the eye, as it was meant to be) is it's tongue because he's playing dead.

The funny thing is, I remembered it as the "baby" holding the gun. Turns out, it's not the little one who's packing. I guess that's just revionist history. My memory just twisted the story around. It's kinda of like one really sad time in my history.

In high school, my friend John and I were really into the movie Predator. And in our little friend group, we'd constantly joke about lines and scenes. We'd act it out. We'd impersonate characters. We'd quote it. It was huge. Our big catchphrase was, "Billy, what are you doing?!?!?" yelled in a Schwarzenegger-like accent. It came from a scene where the soldiers' tracker, Billy, decides to face off with the predator and give his injured friends time to escape. As Billy waits for the predator, Arnold turns and yells at Billy. So, we would use the line all the time if we were in a hurry or we didn't understand what a friend was doing: "Billy! What are you doing???"

One night, we had a big Predator Party to show it to all the friends who'd never seen it. As we neared the scene, everyone gathered around. "Here it comes," John said. Billy leaves his squad and positions himself to fight the Predator on a bridge. He cuts himself with a knife so that the Predator will sense the blood. And then.... Arnold, on the path yards away, looks back and yells...

"Billy, Let's go."

Yah -- "Billy, what are you doing?" isn't even in the movie. John and I just convinced ourselves it was.

"Billy, Let's go" just isn't that good of a catch phrase.


Top 30 Baby Names

I realized three things last night:

1) That I should never burn grilled cheese. Why? Because of how cold it is, of course. Here's the connection: On Monday night I burnt one side of my grilled cheese. The smoke detector went off and all that. On Tuesday morning, the apartment still smelled like smoke, so I left the patio door open a crack. After all, it's been like 50 degrees out. Well, by the time I got home late last night, it was about 10 degrees in my apartment. Dang grilled cheese sandwich. The only consolation was that I had my blanket with a handle and my new ESPN fleece from Marc to keep me warm.

2) I am in a major weird dream cycle right now. Last night, I was in a cardboard house building contest. On my team were Brain Urlacher and Greg Jensen, my second cousin and college roommate. The best part was when we started losing and our strategy was to have Urlacher tackle other competitors.

3) I have totally dropped the ball on my TOP 30 lists to celebrate my birthday. I meant to do them weekly and well...30 is a lot to replicate every week. 30 is a lot. This whole thing is just making me feel older. But I pledge to make it happen.

So, without further ado, here we go:


I have no idea when I'll ever have kids, but I have always wanted to be a dad and always liked thinking of names. So here is my list of favorite names for babies:

30. Myto - This one comes from an old joke from my dad. Say it aloud with the ole' last name. hee hee.
29. Joy
28. Faith - It's true, it can indeed hurt.
27. Val - For a boy. I actually liked this name becaue of Val Kilmer during the Tombstone phase I went through.
26. Han
25. Cornelius
24. Obi Wan
23. Cocoa
22. Xander - Ok, I am serious about this one.
21. Obadiah - Hey, It's Biblical!
20. Angus - Did you know that in later seasons of MacGyver they revealed his first name was Angus? It's true.
19. French Fry - If Jeff can name his cat this, I think I can use it for a baby.
18. Ozzie
17. Sheriff - I like it because my baby would sound like an authority. It'd be even better if he/she became a sheriff.
16. Artemas - Hey, It's Biblical!
15. A.J. - I'd be naming my baby for A.J. Pierzynski, just like Marc did.
14. Illinois - Illinois? We named the dog Illinois... (or something like that.)
13. Scout - So that when I call him, I'd feel like a 1950s dad. "Hey, Scout!"
12. Lumberjack
11. Cinderella - It's unisex.
10. Kragon - This way he/she sounds like an alien villian.
9. Chewbacca
8. Turniphead - This LOST-inspired baby name was taken by Esther and Dale, until they for some reason changed their daughter's name to Lydia. So now, it is free for the taking.
7. Mayor - See #17.
6. Doc - This name came into favor during my Tombstone phase.
5. Boaz- Hey, it's biblical!
4. The Boy - It's unisex.
3. Salt Creek - I shouldn't need to explain why.
2. Gigantor - Think about the irony of a tiny baby name Gigantor. hee hee.
1. Todd Ahito - Of course in honor of Tadahito Iguchi of the White Sox. For a Girl: Tadahita


Beware Bird Flu!

Man, I had crazy dreams again last night. At one point I was trying to solve a mystery in a grocery store with Buffy and my Grandma. And then I was trying to get to Comiskey Park via a cab driven by two young Polish kids, but I was mugged by a midget. Really. Good times.

There's not much going on to relate today. I've been really cramming on movies because I have to nominate 15 best films and 15 most redeeming films by Friday for ChristianityTodayMovies.com. I've seen some good stuff recently.

Thanks to a mention by Mark Ahn on his blog, I saw Stranger than Fiction. Loved it. (And was delighted that it featured a lot of music by one of my fave bands, Spoon.) I saw World Trade Center and Sophie Scholl this weekend. I saw Apocolypto last night. All are good. WTC was better than I expected because Nic Cage didn't act like Nic Cage. And Oliver Stone didn't direct like Oliver Stone. Sophie Scholl is a little German movie about a girl who was arrested for running an underground anti-Hitler newsletter with her brother. It's sad and a little slowly paced, but very rewarding. Apocolypto is very good, but it's so graphic and violent. Yikes. Because of that, it's really hard to recommend to everyone. But it is very well-executed.

I draft for my second round of Fantasy Football playoffs today. UPDATE-- My team is:

QB Drew Brees, NO
RB Laurence Maroney, NE
RB Joseph Addai, IND
RB Deuce McCallister, NO
WR Marvin Harrison, IND
WR Antonio Gates, SD
WR Reggie Brown, PHI
K Adam Viniteri, IND

Now I have to decide if I want to play Addai vs. the #2 rush defense or Maroney (who splits carries) vs. the #6 rush defense. Life is full of tough choices.

I got two great e-mails yesterday. One was a press release:

Christian Community Not Prepared for Possible Bird Flu Panic

"Local churches and individual Christians have a tremendous potential to alleviant suffering if the avian influenza reaches pandemic levels, but right now most are sleeping. I'm afraid they will wake up too late to the threat," said ----------. He believes the Christian community is squandering valuable preparation time while they either ignore the issue or debate its validity.
If we all die from Bird Flu I will feel bad for giggling at the entire idea of the press release.

The other e-mail was from someone very upset about my negative review of the movie Eragon. He was mad that I said it was plot point -by-plot point a retread of the original Star Wars movie. He said, "If its soooo like Star Wars, where's Darth Sidius, Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, General Greivous, the droids and clones? I bet you haven't seen Star Wars!"

Of course, this letter writer has no idea of who I am, but that claim made me giggle since I read his e-mail while wearing Star Wars boxers and sitting in my nerdy office under a whole troop of Star Wars action figures, Pez dispensers and big R2-D2s.


The Circle of Life...And Pictionary

I love board games. On Friday, I got together with Marc, Emily and Charissa to play Charissa's new game based on LOST. It was basically a game where you moved around movable board peices to explore "the island" and tried to add as many new castawys to your group as you could. I ended up with 5, but most importantly, I got Mr. Eko. He's my favorite.

After everyone got bored of me whupping up on them in that game with my lethal Eko-Jin-Sun combination, we moved onto Pictionary. And what occured there was a wonderful coincidence.

First, some history: Pictionary is a big deal in our friend group. We play quite a bit and have many classic stories. The best is this: 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. She then went on to draw a Possum. The word was "Posse." Her drawing was so great, it became a shirt.

So on Friday, Marc and Charissa were playing against Marc and I. We were on an All-Play. Marc and Charissa were drawing. As we get set to draw, Charissa says to Emily, "Think hard on this one." After I say "Go!," Charissa begins to draw her Mom, Dad and baby all over again--and once again gives the baby a gun. And after only about 3 seconds Emily yells, "POSSE!"

Sure enough, by some odd chance, Charissa got the Posse card all over again. And used the failures of the past for a better present.

I was traveling with three guys from work: Marshall, Russ and Andy. We were at some convention in St. Louis and decided to go to a baseball game. (Where did this come from? Well, years ago I went to a Evangelical Press Association meeting with Marshall and one night we went to a Braves game. I also go to a conference with Russ and Andy every year.) At the game, the Cardinals were playing the Yankees. That Cardinals were winning. We were sitting near the top of the second tier when I noticed a little yellow stunt plane flying around the stadium doing tricks. I watched for awhile and was impressed but also worried becuse he was close to buildings everytime he did rolls and loops.

Suddenly, the pilot ejects from the plane and parachutes away. Meanwhile, the plane goes up for another loop and comes down on a section of seats across the field from me--right behind home plate. The plane doesn't hit people though, but lands on the overhung roof above them. It just kinda bounces off this roof harmlessly. I can't believe it, but I just get back into the game. But then I hear a loud creaking. I look up. And this big section of seats under that roof just tumbles backward out of the stadium. People are screaming and it's mayhem. (So where did this come from? Well, I watched World Trade Center last night.) The last thing I remember is watching a black-and-white movie of the stunt plane pilot parachuting into a lake.


There's no good title for this one

Yesterday, someone said to me this sentence: "I don't like Hot Chocolate. It's just gross." That statement just made no sense to my brain. I can't even really process that. To me, it is much like saying, "I can't stand air." Or "Freedom sucks." Or "Baby puppies are the worst things ever. Dang them baby puppies."

It's Hot Chocolate. It's chocolate. That is hot. I fail to see the problem.

This morning, Designer Doug bought new windshield wipers. He cut up the box and kept the name of the wipers: "Critical and Delicate Wipers." He then taped it up as a little sign above the toilet paper in the men's room. I laughed for about 10 minutes.

I broke down on Wednesday and bought Styx's "Mr. Roboto" on iTunes. I love that song. I've listened to it like a dozen times. In fact, on Wednesday I just listened over and over. It's so worth a dollar ... and giving up a dollar to that band who now turns its face upon their greatest creation. Oh, I'm gonna get angry again. The only thing that can calm me is to turn on "Mr. Roboto." ... Oh yah, there it is.

You really can't listen to the "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" refrain without dancing the robot. It's impossible. It's like a mystical power. I am doing the robot right now. Actually, it's funny because on Wednesday I had the song rolling almost constantly and two different dance parties broke out. One time, Designer Doug walked in and initiated the robot. We both danced together. And then, later, Latonya walked in and we both instinctivally--and on beat--started doing the robot at the same time while discussing new commercials we like.

Speaking of commercials, Camerin found this great Slate article about the "Commercials We Hate." The great lines include such dandies as:

About the VO5 commercials where two youths rebel with hair products:
"This VO5 commercial suggests we should just airdrop VO5 over North Korea, and then sit back and watch the freedom (and fauxhawks) bloom."

About Dominoes' Fudgems:
"It seems like a great idea to advertise a fudge brownie by first anthropomorphizing it, and then having it smear gucky brown goo over everyone who touches it."

About the Visa ad where the guy paying cash throws off the rhythmic orchestra of the cashier line:
"I'll pay for my sandwich any way I dang well please. Perhaps I'll haul out a bag of nickels. Maybe I'll sign over a check from Grandma. Whatchu gonna do about it, chump? "

About the shockingly violent VW commercials where conversations are cut off my horrible accidents:
"The whole campaign seems horribly misguided. The main effect is that whenever I see a VW these days, I reflexively duck and cover. Those things are always getting into violent accidents! "

"It makes you want to grow a mustache." --Designer Doug about listening to Styx.


How Penske is Stopping Vehicular Homicide

On Saturday, Marc and I went to the Penske Turck rental to pick up the truck that our friend Doug would be using to move out of Illinois. I've never driven a big truck and so Marc offered to. But since it wasn't that large, I decided I could handle it. And I did fine...except for one problem. Big trucks have really slippery floors!

Seriously, the floor on these Penske moving trucks is all plastic and some Helpful Penske Employee used about 4 bottles of Armor-All to shine it all up. Add to the slickness the fact that I was wearing my super-cool but low-on-the-traction faux-bowling shoes and you have a recipe for disaster (as opposed to a recipe for pie, which is yummy).

When I first pulled myself up into the truck, I put my feet down and went sliding across the cockpit. I was like Bambi learning to walk in there. I eventually learned to just keep my feet elevated and only touch pedal.

No wonder you have to have special licenses to drive big trucks. Dang.

The moving adventures didn't end there. On Monday, when loading up the Slick Penske Truck, I was returning back to the house from carrying out a load when I noticed a 6 or 7-year-old boy riding his bike down the sidewalk. His eyes caught mine and he yelled, "Pooh-pooh head!"

I was gonna run him over with the Penske truck, but I figgered that by the time I got my footing in there, he'd be long gone.

Domo Arigato For Nothing, Styx.

Friday night was the big Styx show. It was a fun time. But I still left angry.

My Intended and I went at the courtesy of one of my youth group kids, Rose. Her mom cleans the house of guitarist James Young, the last original band member still touring with Styx. (Current frontman Tommy Shaw is pretty much an original though--he joined the band in 1977 and was with the band on all of their huge hits except for '"Lady." The original bassist Chuck Panozzo also often joins the band in concert for a couple songs, as he did Friday.)

Anyway, Rose got tickets for three of us youth group counselors to go with her family. And as an extra bonus: meet-and-greet passes (above). After the show, we got to meet James Young and get autographs. I bet you don't have one of these:

The concert was enjoyable and I knew almost all of the songs they played. However, I am very upset with Styx. We are not on good terms right now. I even almost expressed my displeasure to JY himself. But I didn't want him to beat me up. The problem? They played "Come Sail Away." They Played "Renegade." They played "Lady." And they played a bunch of newer stuff no one knew. But what did they not play? The one song I really wanted to hear! That's right: NO "Mr. Roboto." Here's what Wikipedia says about "Mr. Roboto": "It is considered the most well-known Styx song among Generation Y." THE. MOST. WELL-KNOWN. But yet, they just don't play it? Bah. In fact, they went one notch worse than not playing it. They sang ONE LINE of it in a medley. Just to tease me, I am sure. "Oh sure, Todd, we COULD sing it. But we're only gonna do this much."

Domo arigato for nothing, Styx. You're dead to me!

Since I didn't have the chance to do the robot during "Mr. Roboto," I just pondered the whole notion of a popular 70s band still playing--but without most of the originals. It's an interesting concept that we've never really had in rock until this generation. The show was cheesy and goofy. It was almost self-parody at times. In fact, at one point, the theatrics and cheese reminded me of Spinal Tap. The guys would try to do choreographed steps and guitar plunges, but everytime someone would forget the step...or have to rush over from the wrong side of the stage at the last minute. It almost seemed like they'd never played together before. Rose said she counted 24 mistakes. She would know--this was her 4th Styx concert.

As an aside, Rose came to church this weekend to see me preach. When it was over, she told me my sermon was "better than a Styx concert." Oh yah.

Anyway, I never saw a band do so much to appease their crowd before. As My Intended said, "Has a band ever thrown out that many guitar picks to the audiences?" The answer is no. During one guitar solo, I swear James Young tossed out 6 picks. SIX. And that's no exageration. During one song break, the band went off stage and returned with armfulls of merch to toss to the fans. Audience interaction is great and many bands would sooner spit on their fans than bend over for them--but the amount of free stuff, posing and attention-getting was comparable to a older sibling trying to get mom's attention away from the baby. "Hey, look at me! I am playing the trumpet...while standing on my head!"

I'm sure this came out of the band's genuine appreciation for the fans. In fact, the fans of a band like this are a fickle brood. They seem to want their Styx...but their 1977 Styx. They don't want the band to be who the band wants to be...but the band they were. Everytime, Styx started playing a song that wasn't a radio classic, floods of people left for the bathrooms. It was intriguing.

Some of the attempts to entertain and appease the fans may also stem from some of the newer guys being like, "Dang, I am in Styx! I'm gonna eat it up!" Speaking of that, this concert confirmed my suspicion that the keyboardists of America have too little to do. At the Emery show, the keyboardist spent his time rocking the keyboard angrily. At this show, the replacement for Dennis DeYoung had way too much time on his hands. He took photos of the other band members. He stood on his head. He did a funny dance around the stage. He even had a rotating keyboard that he could spin around and dance with. I am writing the Keyboardist Union. These guys need more to do.
After the show, we didn't get to meet Styx singer Tommy Shaw or the rest of the band. I did want to see Tommy in person though to confirm something My Intended and I each indepedently noticed during the show: Tommy Shaw and David Spade may have been seperated at birth!

(December 30, 2006)
I was at the Styx concert, meeting James Young in front of the stage just like in real life. Only this time, Tommy Shaw and the rest of the band came out from backstage too. In fact, they came dancing in a congo line--in their underwear. And I thought, "Wow, backstage must be the place to be!"