Monday, October 31, 2005

A trashy proposal

This will no doubt surprise you, but I have an idea. Normally, I only get ideas during the ten seconds before I fall asleep, and then I can’t remember them in the morning, except for the vague feeling that they had something to do with tortilla chips. This time, though, I actually had one during the day.

Recently, as I walked to my car in a shopping center parking lot, I watched as a guy opened his car door, dumped a shopping bag full of trash onto the ground and drove away, leaving a pile of napkins, ketchup packets and wadded-up sandwich wrappers in his wake. That guy clearly was of the attitude that he’s Moe, everyone else is Curly, and doink! That was the sound of an eyeball gouge.

Sometimes, a muse can be found in the schmuckiest of people. For instance, as that guy drove away, I found myself musing, “Wouldn’t it be great if that guy had to eat all of the trash he just dumped?”

And that’s when it hit me. People should have to eat what they litter. The punishment perfectly matches the crime.

The only thing I’ll ever toss from a moving vehicle is an apple core, which I know is not cool, but I’m being honest. Okay, jeez, sometimes gum, too. Oh, and beer cans. And old tractor tires. But the point is that if you had to eat an apple core, it really wouldn’t be that big of deal. But the jerk who throws a bottle full of tobacco spit out the window, well, he gets to find out if chewing tobacco is any good as drinking tobacco.

Some people will probably say that this punishment is unworkable. “What if someone gets caught tossing a mattress?” you might ask. The fact of the matter is that people can eat anything. There’s a French guy who ate an entire airplane. Seriously – he ate a Cessna 150. It took him two years, but he did it. Google “Michel Lotito” if you think I’m blowing exhaust up your tailpipe.

The punishment would only last as long as it takes the offender to eat the litter -- you’d just have to sit there until you finished your plate, like I’ve been doing since 1986 with this plate of Brussels sprouts. I’ve been at the dinner table this whole time.

There is a precedent for this kind of idea. A while back, Jonathan Swift wrote the essay “A
Modest Proposal,” in which he proposed that poor people’s children should be fattened up and fed to the rich, in order to solve the most difficult and persistent problem of his time, which was a tremendous barbeque sauce surplus. They just didn’t have enough cows to put all of it on, so Swift said, “Hey, why not babies?” Many people thought Swift had written a brilliant satire, but that was only because they didn’t notice the tiny pieces of diaper stuck in his beard.

When Swift realized how much money he could rake in from the satire business, he decided to play along and pretend that he didn’t mean it literally. I also mean to be taken literally. I would spare you any attempts to score a really lame joke off of the fact that I mean to be taken litter-ally, but now it’s too late.

Haven’t we given “No Littering” signs enough of a chance? The $200 fine is obviously not scaring too many people. “No Littering” signs are as useless as whitening toothpaste, the numbers on baseball jerseys and humor columnists. What if the signs said something catchy like this instead: “LITTER: IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER.” It doesn’t quite rhyme, but I think it might in Latvian.

You can toss an email to Mike Todd at

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Stalk or shaft? You decide.

Here's another New Zealand pic:

I'm sure there is something funny about a plant with pretty scenery behind it, but danged if I can think of it right now.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Twenty-eight candles

Today is the day when I become a cradle robber again. For six months out of the year, I’m only two years older than my wife Kara. But from now until March 24, I’ll have three years on her. Three years is a long time to be alive before the other person is even born. Sure, it’s not so weird for a twenty-eight year-old and a twenty-five year-old to be married, but if you think of a three year-old dating a zero year-old, that’s just not right.

Kara’s very gracious about it, though. Here’s the birthday song she sang to me just minutes ago:

“You are so old, and I am so young!
Old, old, old, old, ohhhhhhh-ld.
Your hair is going gray, and you, um, cook like Bobby Flay.
Old, old, old, old, ohhhhhhh-ld.
And I’m so young.”

I expect the royalty checks from Kara’s birthday song to start rolling in any minute now. Listen for it the next time you’re in a restaurant that still makes its wait staff suffer through birthday serenades.

Her song does beg the question, though: “Who the heck is Bobby Flay?”

Answer: “He’s the guy on the cooking channel.” If I really do cook like Bobby Flay, then that guy must whip up a mean bowl of Corn Pops for dinner. I can’t imagine filling my own show with an entire half hour of just pouring milk.

When a buddy at work found out that today is my birthday, he asked me how long it’ll be before Kara and I get a minivan. What’s so wrong with minivans? I don’t think they deserve to be the butt of “old person” jokes. At least minivans are honest about what they are.

A minivan says, “Hi. I’ll carry groceries and kids for you.” An SUV says, “Hi. I’ll carry groceries and kids for you, but I’ll make it look like we’re driving through canyons and going on safaris, even though the only time you’ll actually take me off-road is when you cut a U-turn too wide, and one wheel goes on the grass for just a second, and you’ll smile to yourself and think, ‘That’s why I have an SUV – for moments just like these,’ even though a ‘72 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser station wagon with a shot suspension and bald tires could have done the same thing, and gotten 40% better gas mileage while doing it.”

So no, we don’t have immediate plans to buy a minivan, but we definitely won’t be sporting an SUV anytime soon, either. Besides, why would we get a minivan when we don’t even have kids yet? Those things are total dorkmobiles.

Anyway, I may be three years older than Kara now, but if we were on Saturn, we’d be almost the same age. Also, I’m only one-and-a-half elephant gestation periods older than her, which sounds like much less than three years, doesn’t it? While researching to find out how long an elephant’s gestation period is, I just found out that an opossum’s gestation period is only 12 days long. So I’m 90 opossum gestation periods older than Kara now. Man, I’m ancient.

Regardless, this has been quite a fine birthday, but I’ve found that turning twenty-eight is somewhat anti-climactic. It’s not really cool like turning 16 or 21. Sure, I can run for president in seven years (which I fully intend to do), but there’s nothing extra that I’m allowed to do just because I’m older. I think the government should pick random things and not let you have them until you turn a certain age. That would make every birthday special. “Hey, I’m forty-two, that means I can finally have teriyaki-flavored beef jerky!”

Haven’t gotten naturally selected yet, either? You can reach Mike Todd online at

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My eyes are up here, Buddy

Here's another Jeff Hofer pic from Guatemala:

No word yet on whether the feet on the left are or are not gellin'.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Getting fixed

My dad is the calmest person I’ve ever known. You can’t agitate the man. I should know; I was a teenager for seven years, and I was trying the entire time. I can’t remember Dad ever raising his voice in anger, though I do remember him making quite a racket when he ran into a yellow jacket nest with the lawnmower.

I think the reason my Dad never lost his cool with me was because I wasn’t a car engine. If I had been a car engine, I would have spent the better part of my formative years with Dad shining a light in my face and hollering. Dad is very handy at fixing cars, and he’s probably better at it than many professional mechanics, but I think the secret of his success is that he lubricates the inner-workings of his automobiles with expletives.

To illustrate, here’s one of those stories that’s been told in my family three-thousand times, changing slightly with each telling, but generally keeping the same punch line. In a couple years, this story will probably involve a blue ox and/or somebody riding a catfish down the Rio Grande.

When my sister Amy was a little girl, she wandered out into the garage, where my Dad was clanging around with his head inside the hood of our old blue station wagon. She had a little red toy hammer in her hand.

“Hi, Daddy!” Amy said. Dad put down his wrench and wiped his greasy hands on a rag.

“What brings you out here, little girl?” he asked her.

“I help Daddy!” she said, and she would have needed to have wrinkly puppies sleeping on her head to have been any cuter.

“Thanks, kiddo,” Dad said. “I could use some help.” A faint sound of wood creaking could be heard in the far corner of the garage; it was Norman Rockwell setting up his easel.

Then Amy started wildly swinging the hammer, yelling with each down stroke, “Dang! Dang! Dang! Dang!”

But she did not say dang. She said the first bad word you’re ever allowed to say in front of your parents, except she was at least ten years too young to be saying it, displaying at once her surprising knack for both mimicry and auto repair. Mr. Rockwell picked up his things and quickly exited the building. This is normally where the story ends, everyone has a good laugh and then Amy brings up the time I peed in the bathtub.

I mention all of the above only because, since becoming a homeowner, I have discovered that trying to fix things turns me from a mellow guy into a raving lunatic, and I’d like to blame it on genetics, rather than on me, of course. Perhaps I am turning into my dad. If you knew the man, you’d agree that that’s the best-case scenario. Regardless, Dad and I both have a special talent for swearing at inanimate objects, but when he swears at them, they listen.

I tried to replace the belt on our dryer last week, and at the low point of the evening, I found myself covered in sweat, froth and grime, waist-deep in large pieces of metal, hoarse from hollering at each of them, wondering how I was possibly going to retrieve each of the three screws I had dropped into an inaccessible chasm behind the tumbler. I put the dryer back together as best I could, but we can no longer run the thing safely. It makes such a screeching noise that it messes up whale migrations.

The good news is that Mom and Dad are coming to visit next weekend, and they promised me that they’d help me fix the old dryer or help me carry in a new one. I have a feeling that with the combined power of Dad’s vocabulary and mine, we’ll have the old one fixed up in no time.

Calm down! You can reach Mike Todd online at

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

No, no. I said CLIFF diving.

Here's the cliff Kara and I jumped off of in New Zealand. Do you see us up there?

Dude, if you looked, you're freakin' crazy. No way in hell.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

If the cleat fits

A friend and co-worker recently asked my wife Kara if she’d run the practices for her daughter’s soccer team -- this was quite an opportunity for Kara, as she gets to play with kids and teach them about soccer without having to bring any of them home afterwards. It’s like having your cake and not having to feed it or pay for its higher education, too. Usually, you have to have your own kids before you get drafted into coaching a soccer team, but not this time (Kara and I do not yet have any children who are not also ferrets).

The team had its second game last weekend, and I went to check it out because Kara wanted a driver and our chauffeur had the day off. I brought a book with me just to play it safe, but the game was so entertaining that I never cracked it open. I hadn’t been to a kids’ soccer game in almost twenty years, when I was playing (poorly) in them myself. When I was a soccer player, the two positions I knew about were “offense” and “bad at soccer.” I never played offense.

I don’t mean to talk down defense; it’s vitally important to the success of a soccer team. I played defense at least as well as, if not slightly better than, a small to medium-sized orange cone. My signature move was “pretend like you wanted to head the ball and just missed it.” I always had a hard time turning off my survival instincts. If your instincts don’t tell you to move out of the way when something is whizzing towards your head, you might want to reevaluate how much weight you lend to your instinct’s opinions.

Anyway, back to the game. This is the first season that the girls, who are ten and eleven years old, are playing on a regulation field, which is the size of, and I’m being conservative here, Rhode Island. At the very least, it looked like it should have had its own congressman. The girls were so little on that huge field, I felt like I was watching the game from a hot air balloon.

Once the game started, Kara was shooting up and down the sidelines, encouraging the kids and losing her voice. Parents shouted helpful advice, like, “Run!” and “Kick it!” There might be more strategies in soccer, but I think those two pretty much sum it up. The kids did their best to follow the advice, though any given kick had about a 10% chance of hitting the ball, a 10% chance of hitting pure air and an 80% chance of hitting shin.

My favorite moment from the game was this:

Father on the sidelines: “Rebecca! Are you supposed to be a midfielder or a striker?”

Rebecca (shrugging): “I forget.”

And I know kids are busy these days, but I was a little unsettled by a conversation I heard going on behind me. A mother was describing her week to another mother: “We’ve got soccer practice on Tuesdays, games on Saturdays, ballet on Mondays and Thursdays, piano and clarinet on Fridays, tennis practice Saturday afternoon, and in between bites of Lean Cuisine, we’re teaching her Portuguese.”

I decided right then that when I have a kid, I’m going to encourage him/her to become a world-class solitaire champion. Unless the legal driving age is lowered to nine so that children can drive themselves to practice, I don’t see any other way out.

When the ref blew the whistle to end the game, the final score was, of course, 0-0. This was partially due to the stellar defense exhibited by both teams, and partially due to the fact that 97% of all soccer games end in a 0-0 tie. In professional soccer, the tie is broken by which side had the least number of fans killed in the stands.

You can kick Mike Todd in the shins online at

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Like Egypt, but Guatemalier

Here's another Jeff Hofer special from Guatemala:

I have no idea how the magic floating orb in front of the camera is suspended there, so don't even ask.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The tank is half full

If you’re anything like me, you’ll wait until you’re in rural Pennsylvania at 11:30 on a Sunday night to run out of gas. Also, you’ll be too cheap to have a cell phone. And if you are strikingly, freakishly similar to me, you will have a ferret riding shotgun when it happens.

I used to think that “running out of gas” was just a myth propagated by the oil companies. When I was in college, I could drive around for weeks with the “Please feed me” warning light on. Sometimes, even when I’m not in the car, I still see a tiny orange gas pump out of the corner of my eye. I think the warning light seared itself into my retina, like the time when I was little and I didn’t knock on the bathroom door before I barged…wait a minute. How’d we get talking about that?

Anyway, I eventually became convinced that cars didn’t even run on gas. I mean, the only time I’d actually seen the gas coming out of the nozzle was, if I’m recalling correctly, in the movie Terminator, when the governor of California sprays gas all over the place and then lights it with a cigarette, which, as anyone who has ever smoked a cigarette while drenched in gasoline will tell you, is terrible for your health, unless you’re a cyborg.

I began to think that having a full tank of gas was really just a state of mind, like being cool (as cool people used to tell me, when they weren’t giving me wedgies). Or perhaps cars just ran off of their batteries, like the remote-control dune buggy I had when I was twelve, which took three days to charge so that I could play with it for ten minutes.

I found out the hard way, though, that automobiles do indeed require gasoline to operate. My ferret Chopper had accompanied me on a weekend trip to visit my then-girlfriend (now wife) Kara at college. Before the car sputtered and spat to a stop, he had been quietly sitting in his cage in the passenger’s seat, flipping through the radio stations. I’m no ferret whisperer, but I’m pretty sure he was trying to find an Alvin and the Chipmunks song.

You’d think that having a ferret with you would come in really handy when you’re stranded on the side of the road late at night. Oddly enough, he was not the least bit helpful. I just stood there beside the car, staring at the ferret, thinking that if I was MacGyver or the professor from Gilligan’s Island, I’d figure out how to make a cell phone out of him. It’s just as well that I never figured it out, though. I bet his peak-minute charges would have been ridiculous.

We had just passed a sign that indicated a gas station wasn’t too far down the road. I hated to leave the ferret behind; I considered stuffing the varmint into my shirt and jogging up to the gas station, but then I pictured the conversation I’d have with the clerk as Chopper ran laps around my torso.

“I ran out of gas a mile down the road. Do you have a gas can I can borrow?” I’d ask the clerk.

“Is there something crawling out of your stomach?” he’d reply, reaching for the big red button under the counter.

“Oh, that? No, no. I just have really bad indigestion.”

So I tucked Chopper into his little fleece sleeping bag inside his cage, and was back with a gas-can-toting tow truck driver in half an hour. He charged up my car’s battery for three days, and we were on our way.

After you recharge your batteries, you can reach Mike Todd online at