Monday, February 27, 2006

I’m a luger, baby

My wife Kara and I were both greatly not-at-all anticipating the start of the Winter Olympics this year. We just don’t catch Biathlon Fever like the Norwegians do, although we hear that Avian Biathlon Fever might be pretty big soon.

Regardless, we’ve found ourselves oddly drawn to the hodgepodge of eclectic sports that make up the Winter Games. It’s actually kind of fun to watch the events at the end of the day, pretending that the whole world hasn’t known the results for several hours, and trying to forget that we already heard the winners announced on the radio during the drive home. It’s entertainment enough just to watch Bob Costas drag out every event until the three minutes before the 11:00 news comes on.

The other night, Kara flicked on the TV and said, “Oh, look, figure skating’s on!” She said this with genuine enthusiasm, the same way I might say, “The doctor said I’m not allowed to shovel snow anymore! Here, let me show you where we keep the shovels.”

But her enthusiasm faded quickly. “Wait, never mind. It’s just ice dancing,” she announced.
We were soon to find out that ice dancing is just like figure skating, but with all the exciting parts removed -- nary a triple salchow to be found. If we were taking the SATs right now, we might even say figure skating : ice dancing :: kinda cool : pretty lame.

After a few minutes of watching the compulsory dance, in which every pair of skaters performed the exact same dance to the exact same music, Kara said, “It’s like watching the Nutcracker, but boring.” Actually, they should spice up ice dancing by having the skaters perform while wearing huge Nutcracker or Buzz Lightyear costumes; this would also help the skaters practice up for their post-Olympic Ice Capade careers.

We did finally realize why the ice dancing competition was getting so much air time, though: the female skater on the American team was really, really hot.

“Wow, she’s really hot.” Kara said. Then she turned to me and asked, “Isn’t she?”

Sensing a trap, I replied, “You’re hotter.”

Then I looked over at Kara. She had just applied what she calls a “deep-pore cleansing mask” to her face, which sounds like fancy stuff, but to me is indistinguishable from spackle. She looked like, and I mean this in the most flattering way possible, a damaged wall that Bob Vila has just prepped for a coat of Dry-Lock. Or maybe a little bit like Skeletor from the old He-Man cartoons.

“Well, maybe you’re not hotter right this second,” I clarified, “but usually you are.” With that comment, I dropped out of medal contention altogether.

What’s most striking about the Olympics is the staggering number of commercials. The Olympic coverage seems to cut to commercial about every three minutes, at which time the TV volume magically cranks up so loud that pictures start falling off the wall.

“These commercials sure are loud!” Kara yelled to me, pinned sideways to the wall by the amplitude of the sound waves.

“What? I can’t hear you!” I replied, the Visa commercial making my face ripple like James Bond’s when he was stuck in the G-force simulator.

If they want more people to watch those ads, they don’t need to crank up the volume. They just need to add some quality new events, like Olympic Snowball Fight. That would be awesome.

Perhaps they haven’t done it because Olympic Snowball Fight would probably end the same way every other snowball fight ends; somebody would make a watermelon-sized snowboulder and drop it on somebody else’s head, and then Olympic Snowball Fight would turn into Olympic Regular Fight. Still, that would be fun to watch, too.

You can do a synchronized triple axle/double toe loop with Mike Todd online at

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's Occasional Picture Wednesday!

With half an hour left before another Wednesday gets away, here's another Hofer picture:

Also, you should probably click on this.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Definitely not highbrow

My wife Kara has taught me so many things that I never would have figured out on my own. For instance, without her, I would still be sleepwalking my way through life, having absolutely no idea that eyebrow mousse even exists.

She enlightened me on our most recent trip to CVS – a store which, incidentally, will give you a free box of tampons or a bottle of Snapple if you can tell the cashier what the letters CVS stand for. Hint: not Clarinex’s Very ‘Spensive.

Kara walked right up to a lady who was stocking the shelves and said, “Excuse me, do you know if you carry brow mousse here?”

I admired her courage for doing that. Even if I could think of an earthly use for eyebrow mousse, and I wanted it more than I want everyone in a non-construction-related-industry who drives a Hummer H2 to develop at least a mild case of hemorrhoids, I’m pretty sure I’d give up if I couldn’t find it on my own.

“What’s that?” the lady asked.

“Um, eyebrow mousse. Like hair mousse, but for eyebrows,” Kara said, helpfully pointing to her brow region.

The lady stared at Kara, giving her the same look that my family gave Cousin Gene about fifteen years ago when he officially became the first person we’d ever heard utter the phrase “chill out.” We all stared at Gene, trying to figure out if we’d heard him correctly.

“Gene, that is absolutely the stupidest expression I have ever heard,” his sister Sherry said.

Though I agreed at the time, the phrase has still managed to work its way into my daily vocabulary. It’s just such a useful expression, perfect for the times when you’re driving along with your wife, and you discover, wedged between the seat and the emergency brake, an envelope that she asked you to drop in the mailbox three weeks ago.

The CVS lady called her manager over, who had not only heard of eyebrow mousse, but offered the friendly advice that, “Clear mascara does the trick just as well, and it sells for two bucks less.”

The fact that it is totally free to lick your finger and run it across your eyebrows didn’t occur to anyone there but me. Besides, the manager’s advice came highly recommended by her immaculate eyebrows.

“Oh, really? The brow mousse reviews I read online didn’t mention the clear mascara thing,” Kara said, which just goes to prove that there is absolutely nothing that can’t be found on the internet, except for a girl who wants to date my buddy Hambone.

So Kara bought the clear mascara, and we headed out to search for her car in the parking lot. Most of the year her car is black, but it spends the winters coated in a crunchy, salty shell, so it blends in perfectly against the snow banks.

Whenever the car gets this dirty, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my buddy Johnny when we were home over Christmas.

“When’s the last time you washed your car?” he asked me.

I thought about it for a minute. “The senior prom,” I said. “Good ol’ class of ’96. How about you?”

“I never have,” he said.

“You didn’t even wash it for the prom?” I asked.

“Nope. I’ve never washed a car in my life,” he said proudly. “Rain gets the job done pretty well for free.”

The salt on Kara’s car suggests otherwise. I’m considering parking it in my parents’ rhododendron so the deer will come lick it clean.

Also, you may want to double-check my math here, but I’m pretty sure that graduating high school in ’96 means that my ten-year high school reunion is coming up later this year. That thing better hurry up and happen so I can go bald already.

You can chill out with Mike Todd online at

Monday, February 13, 2006

Take it to the bank

At long last, my wife Kara and I finally decided to take that momentous step that all of our parents took so many years ago, the one that’s going to alter our lives from here on out, binding us in an unbreakable, eternal bond to the thing that we have created together. Yes, we’ve combined our bank accounts.

We decided to say “I do (authorize this person as a joint owner of this account)” after going out to our favorite Mexican place for dinner recently. The food there is so good that if I was Scrooge McDuck, I’d fill up the silo in my backyard with their salsa and swim around in it all day long.

Kara gets the shrimp burrito every time, and I always get the Oaxacan tacos. As I found out from the waitress who laughed at my inaugural attempt to pronounce the word, Oaxacan is pronounced like wa-HOCK-en, which to me sounds less like a place in Mexico and more like a sound a ninja makes when kicking someone in the face.

When the check came at the end of the meal, we both pretended not to see it, like we do with our ferret’s accidents in the living room, because the first one to acknowledge it has to do something about it. Eventually, I pointed at the check and said, “The waiter did an accident on our table. Who’s going to clean it up?”

When it comes time to decide who’s paying for dinner, Kara and I raise our fists above the table and settle things like adults. Here’s what it sounds like when adults settle things: “One, two, three, shoot…Ha! Paper beats rock.” One-potato-two-potato-three-potato-four is how kids settle arguments; rock, paper, scissors appeals to our refined adult sensibilities. She manages to beat me about 80% of the time – either I’m telegraphing my moves or she’s poked a hole in my “always rock” strategy.

Of course, a married couple shouldn’t even need to discuss who pays for what; we’re all playing for the same team. So we decided to go ahead and mash all of our accounts together. This is likely to benefit me the most, as I could use assistance with my financial management skills.
“Would you quit leaving wadded-up dollar bills all over the house?” she says to me. “One of these days I’m going to collect them all and go buy a Sex and the City DVD set.”

“But my little piles of change need company,” I reply. Leaving random nests of money strewn about the house turns every day into an Easter egg hunt.

“Why are you such a slob? Just stop leaving money all over the house.”

“Hey, when we got married, how many people did we become?” I ask. This is my favorite card to play when we’re fighting, because it makes her responsible for anything stupid that I’ve done.
She sizes me up. “Two.”

I look hurt. “How many?”

“One,” she says.

“That’s better,” I reply.

Then she says, “One person with a clean half and a slobby half.”

And of course she’s right, but I’m not the only one in the house with money issues. As we were about to go to sleep the other night, I looked over to see our ferret on the floor, skillfully making both a chew toy and a scratching post out of Kara’s leather purse. She glanced over at him gnawing on it, then went back to reading her book.

“Doesn’t it bother you that Chopper is eating your purse?” I asked.

“No, not really. I don’t use that one anymore.”

I remembered standing beside my wife as she purchased that purse less than a year before, and shedding a single tear when I saw the total on the register. I shouldn’t have been concerned at the price, though; that purse matches Chopper’s coat perfectly.

You can wad Mike Todd up and leave him on your coffee table online at

Monday, February 06, 2006

Truly sophomoric

An English professor at Penn State, who had written a few novels and several freelance magazine articles, told our class that for every seventy-five pages a person writes, there will probably be about one page worth keeping. Since I’ve been writing this column every week for a year now, I hope to hit upon that page sometime in the next twenty-three weeks or so.

With today’s edition of the newspaper, I’ve reached my goal of keeping “Just humor me” going for one whole year. True, if this column was a human, it wouldn’t even be eating solid foods yet. Or maybe it would. I don’t know. The point is, don’t leave your baby with me.

One year might not sound like such a long time to most people, but I had serious doubts coming into this that the column was going to survive for that long, mostly because I knew that I didn’t have fifty-two things to say. To illustrate, here is a list of the thoughts I have in an average day:

1. I’m tired.
2. I’m hungry.
3. I’m tired again.

Also, sometimes I think about how it would be a lot easier to be a vegetarian if more plants were made out of pepperoni. Not that I’ve ever tried to be a vegetarian. I wouldn’t last two days – my wife Kara calls me a “chlorophobe” because vegetables scare me, unless they’re fried and on a cheesesteak. But I have the utmost respect for vegetarians, except for the ones who eat chicken and fish and still insist on being called vegetarians, because trout isn’t a vegetable. Tilapia sounds like maybe it should be, but that still doesn’t count.

Anyway, I’ve found that it is quite possible to fill up this little part of the newspaper page week after week without actually saying anything at all. The trick of writing a newspaper column is to develop a strict regimen of doing something stupid each and every week. This is called “research.”

Last week, my wife Kara and I met up over our lunch breaks, and we ran to the Post Office to mail a package to our friends who just had a baby. To our amazement, there was nobody in line. A lunch-break Post Office with nobody in line is the holy grail of errand-running.

We quickly assembled the priority mail box, stuffed all the little baby presents into it and sealed it up, expecting a stampede through the door at any moment.

“What’s their address?” Kara asked, pen in hand.

“Dude, they live in like, Connecticut, right?” I said. She slumped over the box.

“You didn’t bring the address?”

“Baby, I’m researching,” I said.

Also, if you write a humor column, you can deduct from your taxes any expenses incurred while doing something stupid, because if you write about it later, that makes it a work-related expense. This helps ease the pain of your patio umbrella snapping in half because you left it open during a blizzard. So I hear, anyway.
I’ve also learned that it’s a columnist’s primary responsibility to discuss events that have wide-ranging significance, like how Kara stops shaving her legs in the winter, and how I dropped my car keys down a storm drain that one time. Universal stuff like that.

So now that I know what it’s like to write a column for a year, I think I’ll keep it up and see how it goes for a while longer. Thanks for reading, or, at the very least, for not mounting an angry letter-writing campaign to eject me from the paper. I hope you’ve found this column to be fun and not-at-all educational, like an IMAX movie, but cheaper, and hopefully less likely to make you nauseous.

You can offer Mike Todd some asparagus online at He won’t eat it, though.