Hotter Chocolate

So I tried this again.

This time I microwaved the milk first - alone - and then I added the powder - scoop by scoop - until it was perfectly mixed into the milk. Honestly, it wasn't great. The mug that exploded in the microwave last time tasted much sweeter, so I think that's the way to go from here on out.

Mostly though this was just an excuse to show off these ginourmous marshmallows. That's just one of them in there. One! I was actually hoping that the marshmallow would absorb all the hot chocolate and I could eat it like a delicious sponge, but unfortunately marshmallows are not very absorbent.

Hot Chocolate

The tree is trimmed. The lights are sparkling. I'm wearing a hoodie indoors because it's actually cold in Florida. That sounds like a perfect Christmas equation. The only thing missing is a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Let me explain!

The last time I brewed up a cup of the hot stuff, I warmed my milk in a pan on the stove before pouring in the chocolate mix. When I told my girlfriend this, she scoffed at my extensive routine and told me I should just microwave the mug with everything already in there. (Although now she claims she said to only microwave the milk in the mug.)

Well, this is what happened when I did just that.

Maybe I filled up the cup too high, but I like hot chocolate a lot! I'm going to place most of the blame on the marshmallows for expanding and causing the undissolved chocolate to capsize over the edge of the mug. We have the brand of hot chocolate that already has marshmallows in it because we're awesome and if there was a bag of marshmallows floating around, it would be devoured well before the thought of making hot chocolate would waft through anyone's mind.

While we're on the topic, one of my girlfriend's favorite stories that I've told her about my childhood involves hot chocolate.

One winter, my siblings and I were shoveling out from a recent snowstorm (or more likely building forts and having snowball fights). My grandmother had a pot of hot water boiling on the stove to fill our cups with hot chocolate as soon as we came in to get warm.

As I mentioned earlier, I love hot chocolate, and I was cold, so I had a few mugfuls. After a few sips of one particular drink, I noticed that this hot chocolate did not taste like the previous cups. It tasted bad. But, how could this be? We had just tested the stuff. We knew it was good.

Apparently so much hot chocolate had been consumed that my grandmother had stopped boiling new water and had simply poured in the hot water she had been using to cook broccoli.

And that is why I hate vegetables.

12 Days of Muppets

It's been a while.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and I'm sure there were other important events that transpired since my last blog; so I hope those were good, too!

I actually have several blogs that I have been meaning to post, but just like George Lucas adding more pixels to his Star Wars saga, I keep going back and tweaking things, prolonging the actual posting of said blogs. In an attempt to assure my internet friends that I am still alive, I decided to dig up one of my previous Christmas-themed projects and post that for, hopefully, an entirely new audience. This proved to be more trouble than I anticipated since my Flickr account had exceeded 200 photos and apparently once you reach 200 on a free account, your older photos dissapear from your photostream.

Twenty-five dollars later and I am the proud owner of a "pro" account. I guess since I am a pro now, that I will need to start charging for my pics. I'll set up a Paypal donation button later, but for now, please enjoy the 12 Days of Muppets as told by the Palisades Muppets action figures.

Gummy Face Returns

If you thought the Halloween Blogstravaganza was over, then you're dead wrong (and a little too presumptuous.)

If I had it my way, Halloween would be observed seven days later on November 7th. Not only would this allow for an extra week of celebrating, but it would also encourage more generosity as far as candy is concerned. At full price, you get one "fun size" Snickers, but if that same candy is on sale for 75% off, suddenly every house is pouring bite sized morsels into trick-or-treat bags as they prompt kids to "say when!"

It's something to think about.

Speaking of thinking - who remembers the Gummy Face from Walmart I wrote about way back in mid-September? I wasn't willing to pony up the $5 Walmart was asking for at the time, but now that everything in black and orange packaging only costs one-forth of what it originally sold for, I can't help myself!

This is how most people know the Gummy Face - safely hidden behind a layer of protective plastic. Before today, this was all I knew of the Gummy Face as well, but that has all changed. Follow me on my journey to center of the gummy earth as we dissect and devour the squishy knowledge within.

Shrunken Apple Heads

This year's Halloween countdown was not all I hoped it would be, but let's try to finish strong with tonight's entry: Shrunken Apple Heads!

Orange Snowballs

This is a Publix snowball. It is orange - for Halloween. Probably.

I know it looked more like a cheese ball in that first photo, but hopefully this shot will convince you that it is indeed a ball of frosting with a tiny cake center. I don't know if they have Publix grocery stores outside of Florida, but I know they don't have them up north where you can find actual snowballs. Stores only found in certain regions are interesting to me. We didn't have Target stores in New England for most of my life. If you can even call that living.

I feel ashamed even calling this a Halloween blog, so here's a sneak peek at a legit Halloween activity. The final product won't be ready for a few days still, but bonus points to anyone who can guess what we're doing.

Trick or Tree

While we are examining the messed up stuff going on outside my window, what the hell is wrong with this tree?

If your eyes are having troubling understanding what they're looking at, let me try to explain. One of the trees in a cluster seems to have birthed a devil spawn. It's like its pimple grew a pimple. I don't know how this happened or how long it took, but for a long time we thought it was some sort of bees nest, so we avoided it at all cost. If the other trees weren't there to suppress its growth, there's no telling how large the anomaly would have grown.

Has anyone witnessed a tree with this type of growth before? Although not nearly as interesting, my tree reminds me of the blogs from The Sneeze where they observed and eventually ate the brain-like fungus growing from a tree outside their home. I would offer to eat this, but it's hard and totally unappetizing. Plus I think the baby devil is maturing inside. Maybe I'll eat him when he's ready.

Horrors Outdoors

I was taking my dog to do his business when I noticed there was a dinosaur in the pond.

Go ahead and click that picture to enlarge it. Look at its head. It looks like someone peeled the flesh off a pterodactyl. What the hell is going on there?

Look at that wingspan! The beast was circling around small whales, tricking hippos into thinking the tips of its wings were all they had to worry about before snapping up entire schools of dolphins in its enormous beak. I thought I had seen the worst, but I wasn't prepared for what came next.

It peed! Have you ever seen a bird pee? It was like someone turned a fire truck's hose on full blast. It caused the entire continent of Pangaea to rise 16 millimeters. The power of the stream drilled a hole through the center of the earth to China.

I need to consult my bird identification book.

Hallo-meme Costumes - Antoine Dodson

I have never been a big fan of the bagged, all-in-one costumes. For me, it's not a real costume until you've made your first trip to the thrift store and poured your first bottle of RIT dye. With that in mind, I have decided to outline winning costume ideas that you couldn't buy from the store, even if you wanted to.

You may not have heard the term meme (pronounced like 'beam') before, but you know what an Internet meme is. Memes are those viral videos that your friends spam to all of their e-mail contacts. They're quick and dirty, but they're funny or disturbing and there's just something about them that makes you want to click 'forward'.

I will be detailing both new and classic memes and what it will take to recreate those looks for your own Halloween parties. Don't worry about any of the costumes being too obscure. The cool people at your party will recognize who you're supposed to be and those who don't will be too ashamed to ask.

Up first-

Antoine Dodson

Hide your kids, hide your wife! Antoine Dodson was interviewed by a local NBC affiliate after an alleged home invasion and attack on his sister. Antoine wagged his finger in the face of all would-be attackers as he verbally berated the attempted assailant for being so dumb and leaving his t-shirt behind (from which Antoine assures the television audience that he will be able to extract finger prints).

The footage from the newscast started to go viral on its own, but when Auto-Tune the News stepped in and set Antoine's words to music, the whole world was suddenly singing "hide your kids, hide your wife."

An Antoine Dodson costume will require a black a-shirt, a red bandanna and a bountiful afro wig. But dressing as Antoine is only half the battle. If you want to parade around your party proclaiming your guests are "so dumb" then you better have the attitude to back it up. Antoine is one charismatic individual. Despite the simplicity of this costume's physical requirements, Antoine Dodson may actually be one of the more difficult costumes to pull off.

Bedroom Intruder (original newscast)

Bed Intruder (auto-tuned version)

The Consignment Assignment (Another Man's Treasure?)

Our first (of many? annual? and last? ) Consignment Assignment has come to an end. If you haven't read part one of our saga: Consignment Assignment (One Man's Trash), I am legally obligated to suggest you do so. If you've already met you quota for blogs read for the day, allow me to summarize:

My girlfriend and I each took five bucks and went shopping at Thiftko, a second (at least; possibly third) hand store. The goal was to use that money to find items that would sell for the highest amount on eBay. I listed them last week and seven days later, we have a winner.

Before we begin the coronation, I wanted to take a look a where the auctions stood as of Monday night; approximately one day prior to the auctions' close.

Keep in mind that my items included the Peter Pan doll and the Dragon puppet. My girlfriend's game pieces were the Native American Bear and the Electronic Keep Safe Diary.

With just under twenty-four hours left to bid, not many people had exercised that right. Only the Dragon puppet (my item) had any bids at all. Now, obviously these numbers are not what we were hoping for. We all wanted bidding wars; buyers fighting tooth and nail; taking out second mortgages on their homes to afford the Keep Safe Diary with most of Dannielle's name written on the front. But entering the final day of bidding, it looked like we would be lucky if the items sold, let alone funded a Hawaiian vacation.

All hope wasn't lost, however. Commonly the majority of bidding on eBay will take place in the last few hours (if not seconds) of an auction. Bidding ahead of time doesn't do the potential buyer any favors. Early bidding gives other perspective buyers the time to scrape together more money to trump your current bid. Because it benefits buyers so much to bid at the last possible moment, developers have created programs that allow eBay users to bid at the absolute last opportunity. This practice is known as sniping and sellers hate it. Buyers who lose out to snipers also hate it. The only way to beat an eBay sniper is to place a maximum bid higher than any sniper is willing to pay. Sellers like that.

Views represent how many times your auction has been accessed. It doesn't necessarily indicate unique hits, however, so the same person could have refreshed the Keep Safe Diary page 14 times. He sounds very indecisive. Watchers is a somewhat better indication of potential bidding. In order to watch an auction, you have to be logged into your eBay account and add the auction to your watch list. The intention is that a watcher wants to keep track of the auction to eventually bid on it, but many times people will watch an auction for an item they intend to sell themselves. I do that a lot. Sellers hate that. There really should be separate watch (with intention to bid) and watch (just looking) options.

That's enough stalling. Let's see who took home the gold.

Halloween Horror Nights - Scare Package

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Rust covered irons and necks that have been bitten.
Halloween swag wrapped in blood covered burlap.
This is just some of my favorite crap.

Universal Orlando has received its share of fanfare in recent months surrounding the opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but starting this weekend, the Boy Who Lived takes a backseat to the living dead as Halloween Horror Nights kicks off its twentieth year of fright and fun.

Now though Halloween, Universal transforms a number of its attractions into some of the most impressive haunted houses a Halloween fanatic could ever hope for. Universal employs thousands of Team Members specifically trained to scare the daylights out of anyone brave enough to set foot through the turnstiles.

The cost of admission is comparable to a day pass to the park, but Universal makes sure its guests get their money worth. "Scareactors" roam the streets, invading your personal space and sending groups running and screaming to the next haunted house.

Horror Nights is a big deal in Central Florida. Ticket stands are erected in Publix grocery stores and the local media heads to the park for live reports. In an effort to spread the word, this year Universal sent out special "scare packages" to select individuals along with an invitation to the event. The parcel arrived in this "blood" coated wooden box that opens to reveal a double-X branding iron, signifying the twentieth year of Horror Nights.

Notice the faint hand print on the fabric? Nice touch.

As I have mentioned in the past, I love free stuff. I especially love free stuff that not everyone has access to. I'm not important enough for Universal to send me free promotional items, but luckily I have a friend who is. I'm going to make that my goal; become important enough that people send me free stuff. If anyone out there needs their product reviewed, send me a sample, I'll be kind.

Hip Bones - Greatest Skeleton Action Figures of All Time (Part 1 of TBD)

I have a bad habit of waiting too long to flip the pages on my DOMO wall calendar. I missed almost all of June this year. I blame my habitual calendar tardiness mostly on apathy; I don't actually use the calendar as a calendar; I just like the big pictures of DOMO. But maybe, just maybe, there is a small part of me who is desperately trying to slow the proverbial sands of time from falling through the hourglass.

Even though October is still more than a week out, I can feel Halloween slipping away. Soon I will be lamenting that I waited too long to put together a costume and I never found anywhere to go to wear said costume. From the corner of my eye, I can see Christmas lights and tinsel encroaching on the ghosts and goblins. Hold your reindeer, Santa, you can have all of November and December to be fat and merry. Let Halloween have its time in the spotlight.

This Halloween countdown needs a shot in the arm and if there's one thing that can inspire a blog more than a countdown, it's a countdown within a countdown - all Inception style, y'all. Thus, I present the Greatest Skeleton Action Figures of All Time countdown.

I won't set any limits on this countdown. It could theoretically continue until next Halloween. Unlike Frankenstein and the Mummy, skeletons are universally accepted all year round, so why limit what will undoubtedly be the greatest countdown in the history of countdowns?

That would be a bone-headed thing to do! (Yeaaaaaaaaaah!)

Bad-to-the-Bone Ghost (The Real Ghostbusters)
When Columbia Pictures released Ghostbusters in 1984, they were sued by Filmation, the company responsible for The Ghost Busters, a paranormal detective comedy series produced in 1975. The lawsuit was settled out of court and Columbia agreed to amend the name of its animated Ghostbuters adaptation to resolve any confusion between it and Filmation's Ghost Busters. Hence The Real Ghostbusters.

Unlike Mattel's current line of movie-based Ghostbusters, Kenner wasn't afraid of no ghosts. The Real Ghostbusters line included an entire sub-set of ghosts for the heroes to tangle with. Bad-to-the-Bone Ghost, H2Ghost and Bug-Eye Ghost joined the already established Stay Puft Marhsmellow Man and Slimer in the first series of ghouls. Bad-to-the-Bone Ghost was one of my favorite figures despite the obvious handicap of not being a ghost. He was larger than the human figures, so kids could trap the Ghostbusters inside his ribcage while the tortured figure's head stuck up through Bone Ghost's skull.

The origins of the specters in the Ghostbuster universe have always remained a mystery to me. Some were clearly the remnants of the dearly departed, but others appeared as if they were never human. From the waist up, you could assume Bone Ghost was the skeletal remains of an abnormally large human, but instead of legs, Bone Ghost stood on a crescent appendage resembling a fish tale. Was Bad-to-the-Bone Ghost a mermaid or did Hasbro's design team run out of steam before they could sculpt a proper set of legs?

Halloween Blogstravaganza - Gummy Face

Gummy Faces - bouncing here and there and all over the places - high adventure that's beyond normal paces - they are the Gummy Faces.

There, now you have the Adventures of Gummi Bears theme song stuck in your head. Enjoy humming that tune for the next three days. Once it's in, you can't get it out!

Speaking of getting things out, Walmart has finally started to roll out their Halloween selection. Finally. It's almost the third week of September! Even the curmudgeons who complain about stores putting out their holiday displays earlier and earlier every year were starting to wonder what the hold up was.

Whereas Target traditionally creates a theme or a set of characters to incorporate into much of their Halloween fare, Walmart tends to go the more generic route. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing. I'm not entirely thrilled with Target's little monsters motif this year, so Walmart's broader approach to the season may actually be more appealing.

Gummy candies have become huge in recent years; both in popularity and sheer size. Last year there were giant gummy frogs filled with goo that you could dissect with an included scalpel. This year there are faces. The frog was probably more appealing.

The Gummy Face is about the size of my hand; significantly smaller than a normal human face. That's a little disappointing, especially considering the Gummy Face is made up of a thin layer of gummy candy and is not an entire solid head as you might expect.

The face also looks disproving. He does not agree with the choices you have made. Maybe that's more incentive to eat him. I also would have liked it if they had drawn some eyebrows on Mr. Gummy Face. A mustache would have been great, too, but that's more of a personal preference. A gummy version of Wooly Willy with Nerds-like candy for the hair instead of magnet balls sounds like a cracker jack idea to me.

Somebody get me the number for Willy Wonka!

I didn't think to look at the nutritional information on the back of the box, but I bet the serving size is one face and really, that makes up for any of Gummy Face's downfalls.

Magic and mystery - a part of their history - along with the secret of Gummy Face juice - their legend is growing -  they take pride in knowing - they'll fight for what's right - in whatever they do!

The Consignment Assignment (One Man's Trash)

The Consignment Assignment (patent pending) is a fun game you can play at home with your friends and family. All you need is a couple bucks, a second-hand (or consignment) shop and a discerning eye for worth.

The rules are simple. First, set a predetermined allowance for your game. In my case, Thiftko was having a 50% off everything Labor Day sale, so I set our spending limit at $5, which would net us $10 worth of merchandise to play with.

Next, take your cash and spend it! You can buy as many or as few items as your budget will allow. The goal is to find items that you think are worth more than their thrift store price tags indicate.

Once you have your items, it's time to turn that trash into cash. List your items on eBay, starting each auction at the same amount. List low. You might think your haul is worth a lot, but it's up to the bidders to decide who's winning this round.

The winner is the individual whose combined auctions net the most profit.

The first item my girlfriend chose was an electronic "Keep Safe Diary". Unless you know the code, you can't access the diary's secret-laden innards. Fortunately for us, the code resets to A-B-C-D when you replace the batteries. Unfortunately once we got the diary open, we found a whole lot of nothing. There is an indentation where a pad of paper might have once been, but nothing more. Obviously I had hopes of finding a repeat of the little girl's journal I reviewed several weeks back, but since this is my girlfriend's game piece, maybe it's for the best that there are no added incentives.

We had been inside Thiftko for a good twenty minutes and the increasingly poor air quality was starting to have a negative effect on our well-being. I had two items, but my girlfriend only had the journal, so she decided to take a blind leap of faith and grabbed the closest item. She wound up with this tiny Native American Bear. A strong, if not desperate choice. People love bears and they respect Native Americans. With Thanksgiving just a scant few weeks away, I could see this cub being a big hit on the auction block.

As a side note, my girlfriend had been carrying around a painting for most of our time inside Thiftko. It looked like something the art teacher at your high school would hang on the walls by the auditorium before a school concert. It was more a gag item than a serious contender for the prize. I think once my girlfriend saw how furiously I was checking every shelf that she realized she better take this competition at least semi-seriously as well.

I'm admittedly nervous about my picks. I chose this three-headed dragon puppet based mostly on the fact that it still retained its original tag. Not only did it have its original tag, but there was an orange sticker on said tag that boasted a price of $19.99. I don't know who originally priced this puppet at twenty bucks, but if I could achieve a bid of anywhere near that price, I would have this contest all locked up.

In general, stuffed animals are not good choices for re-sale on eBay. However, puppets do marginally better than toys without holes you can stick your hands in.

Captain Hook and Peter Pan here are actually one item. When you see Hook, he's sitting on Peter. When you see Pan, he's sitting on the good Captain. The opposite figure is ingeniously hidden within that inconspicuous burlap sack on their butts.

If I lose this game, I will have no one to blame but myself. I chose two stuffed toys when I know that stuffed toys don't perform well on eBay. At least with the dragon, I can hold onto the hope that someone will want him because he looks new, but Captain Peter here looks like he was made for a school's craft fair. Their faces look like the puppets they taught us how to make in school by scrunching up cotton inside pantyhose. Other people were taught that, too, right?

No one is going to want this abomination. I don't even want it. I think the Thriftko fumes had started affecting me by this point. I was like an infant mesmerized by a game of peekaboo. Oh no, it's Captain Hook! Where's Peter Pan to save us? There is he! Now where's Hook? There he is!

I'm not feeling confident about this one.

Also, Peter looks more like Link from Zelda. Maybe I'll list this one under 'video games'.

I will probably list the auctions on Sunday. I heard somewhere once that auctions that end on Sundays perform better. I guess people have more time to surf the internet on lazy Sunday afternoons. I'll update this post at least once more with the results, but I'll probably post again once the auctions are live.

Place your bets in the comment section on who you think will win. Remember, my items are the 3-headed dragon and the Peter Pan/Captain Hook atrocity. My girlfriend's items are the electronic diary and the Native American bear.

Halloween Blogstravaganza - Truth Lies Six Feet Under

There are plenty of ghouls getting hitched this Halloween. This happy couple is just one example of the many matrimonial adornments I have already unearthed this season. You can find this pair hanging alongside the undead ensemble at Big Lots. At fifteen dollars each, they're not quite the great deal the ensemble is, but who can put a price tag on true love?

On a related note-

My girlfriend is somewhat of a compulsive liar; specifically in situations where the truth would suffice.

A couple years back, when my girlfriend and I were living up North, we planned a pilgrimage to Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween. The area is historic for the Salem witch trials and subsequent Salem witch burnings that took place around what is now present day Salem. Throughout October, scores of costumed out-of-towners swarm upon the normally sleepy town, but to be present on Halloween proper is to witness a special kind of spectacle.

When my girlfriend requested the day off from her job, she - for reasons known only to her - felt that going to Salem on Halloween wasn't a good enough excuse to miss work. (Keep in mind that, at no point, did anyone ask her why she was taking a day off.) Instead, she constructed an elaborate fib that had us attending a Halloween themed wedding in Salem. How romantic.

The lie itself was believable enough on its own (again, no one ever asked), but my girlfriend wanted proof (albeit fabricated) to back up her embellishment. She assumed that since we were attending a wedding, her co-workers would naturally bug her to see photos from the event (they didn't).

To accommodate her co-workers' hypothetical request, my girlfriend proceeded to print out photos she found on the internet of an actual Halloween-themed wedding. Not the wedding of anyone we know, mind you, but a Halloween-themed wedding none the less.

Their cake looked delicious!

Halloween Blogstravaganza - Subliminal Pac-Man

Pac-Man, as we know him, was originally intended to be named Puck Man in the United States, after "paku-paku", the Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound made by opening and closing one's mouth. However, the game's creators were concerned that the name "Puck Man" would be too easily vandalized. (Source: Scott Pilgrim vs the World)

Despite appearances to contrary, this is not Pac-Man; but "Inflatable Runaway Ghosts" are not fooling anyone. These three ghosts might as well be wearing name tags that read Blinky, Pinky and Inky (Clyde not seen here), because there is no way to objectionably look at this box art and not associate the characters with Pac-Man.

Even the font they chose for the "trick or treat" banner looks similar to the blocky "game over" you inevitably see after losing your last life.

Actually, upon closer examination, nowhere does it mention that the Pac-o-lantern is even included with this set. If Walmart expects me to pay 50-dollars for three gumdrop shaped, Pac-imposter ghosts, then they have another think coming.

Epilogue: I wasn't sure about the idiom I chose for that last sentence, so I googled what, I thought, was the actual phrase; "they have another thing coming." Apparently the correct expression is think, not thing, which I think is stupid. I also thought it was "wise tales" instead of "wives' tales".

Normally I could care less, but--dammit, that's another one!

Non Denominational October Holiday Blogstravaganza

Christmas may be the de facto holiday of choice for most, but tinsel and ribbon can't hold a candy corn-scented candle to giant inflatable jackolanterns and animatronic dancing skeletons. For that reason (and more) I have decided to dedicate the next 8-12 weeks of blog entries to celebrating the holiday that somehow makes me even more excited to shop at Target: Halloween!

Some may say that the first week of September is too early to start celebrating Halloween. But some people like Justin Bieber. You can't let the opinions of others direct your life. If you want to buy zombie wall hangings in September, then you go right ahead. Target, Walmart and Big Lots have your back.

Speaking of the latter, our first Halloween Blogtravaganza entry comes from the land of discount home furnishings; Big Lots. For me at least, Target has become the go-to store for devilish decor, but Big Lots have really stepped up their game this year.

This trio of hanging horrors are legitimately spooky. Most mainstream stores tend to cater to the silly or cute side of Halloween, but Big Lots is clearly going for the throat with their selection. I think the zombie in the middle is supposed to be screaming, but it looks more like he's belting out a powerful note in an all-living-dead opera.

These guys are about 12-inches tall from the tips of their rotting heads to the bottom of their flowing robes. Their arms are made of bendy wire, so you can pose them in all sorts of evil or embarrassing positions. They're only 5 bucks, so you should buy all three and keep the family together.

Pedo-Meter Reader

I love sending away for free stuff, but I don't think the feeling is mutual. I've recently had a string of really bad luck as it relates to mail-aways.

As you may remember, Sara Lee ran out of Buzz Lightyear lunch boxes before I could get mine; my Toy Story 3 Alien light and Hamm bank from Kellogg's have been lost in postal limbo for the past month; and M&M's never sent me the free bag of Pretzel M&M's they promised me on Facebook!

Today the mailman (who always double parks behind the three cars closest to the mailboxes) left me a small padded envelope in my mailbox. The envelope was sent from Nature's Bounty. That name didn't ring a bell, but the envelope was addressed to me (or current resident), so I knew it had to be important.

Inside was this tiny green digital clock.

Twenty-three o'clock? You certainly get what you pay for. Wait, maybe it's set to army time. Wait some more, there's a tiny piece of folded-up paper in the envelope as well.

Oh, now I see. According to this instructional pamphlet, this is actually a "Mini Pedo-Meter". Thanks for the intel, instructional pamphlet. You have served your purpose and can now be thrown away without a second thought.

From what I can gather, a Pedo-Meter measures the distance between you and the nearest pedo. Does that mean that my "Mini Pedo-Meter" will only measure mini-pedos? I suppose they are the sneakiest.

If this Pedo-Meter is to be believed, the nearest pedo is 38.251 somethings away. I hope that's miles. If they are any closer than that, aren't they required to tell us?

Update: I have been informed that a pedometer is primarily used to measure the steps you have taken.

I have to admit feeling somewhat silly now. I actually remembered that my girlfriend and I each purchased this pedometer a while back. They worked really well for about a year. Then the battery died and we were faced with making a decision between buying replacement batteries or never again knowing how many steps we have taken. Sometimes you are rewarded for procrastination.

I put the pedometer on my dog because I'm more interested in how many steps he takes in a day. Do I have to multiply the number by two because he has two sets of legs?

To Dell and Back

My previous blog was composed and posted from my wonderfully understanding girlfriend's laptop.

A little more than a week ago, my computer greeted me with the always unwelcome blue screen of death. I tried all the usual tricks to try and resuscitate it; I turned it off. I unplugged it. I dusted it. Nothing was working.

My extended service warranty had lapsed and Dell's normally helpful tech support could only do so much without treading on charge-me-by-the-minute territory. I was understandably pessimistic about the situation. I was stuck in a balancing act between wanting to have my computer back and an aversion to spending a lot of money. Between parts and labor, I wasn't sure if fixing the machine I've had since 2004 was financially the best option.

I finally conceded that I would lug my tower into Best Buy to see what the Geeks thought; but before that, I was going to give DIY tech support one more attempt. I ran a memory test and it failed right off the bat. I had already diagnosed one of my two hard drives as a paperweight and was still operating under the presumption that the problem was directly related to that.

I have two memory sticks installed in my machine that equal 1gig of memory. I removed one and tried the memory test again. Fail. I removed the other and replaced the first and ran the test one more time. Pass!  A big, green, triumphant pass!

From there on, things ran smoothly. I was able to install my OS and even updated from XP to Vista. My sound wasn't working at first, but I ran Windows updater and just like that we were in business. I'm down to one hard drive and more unfortunately only 500mbs of RAM, but the important thing is I fixed my computer I didn't have to pay nobody a dime.

Suck it, Geek Squad.

Amazon's Most Expensive Items

Hey big spender, the holiday gift giving season may be several months away, but if you plan on having any of these items under the tree come Holiday morning, then your broke ass will want to start saving now.

Are you under constant threat of lion attack? Then the Proporta Elephant Camouflage kit may be for you. Proporta uses their “Clear Blue Sky Disappearing Technology” to help you literally vanish into thin air, allowing you to “evade dangerous predators, tourists and boring guests at tea and bun parties”. It’s unclear if this elephant camouflage is an elephant shaped suit for expeditionists hoping to get an up close look at some nature or if this item is aimed at actual elephants who are looking for a little peace and quiet. You can find out yourself for a mere $1,484,423.95.

I don’t own Kindle and if Selected Nuclear Materials and Engineering’s $6,431.20 price tag is an indication of how much it costs to read books on a calculator, I think I will stick to paperbacks—or nothing, as the case my be.

The Ultrafin Stirrup is perfect for that aspiring OBGYN in your family. For only $8,426, little Johnny can get a leg up on the competition. Ultrafin’s reinforced rod and joint assembly and flexible boot allows the system to accommodate patients weighing upwards of 800 pounds; but that’s disgusting. The Ultrafin Stirrup is found in the Beauty section of Amazon alongside Osmo Essence’s Blinding Shine Illuminating Finisher, which can be yours for a reasonable $19,318 per 4.2 ounces.

Supposedly a diamond is a girl’s best friend, but for $685,380, this Certified Diamond better promise to be more than friends. The diamond is described as pear shaped, but it looks more like a tear to me, which is appropriate if the lady you give this to turns you down. Almost 700 thousand dollars may sound like a lot of money for something you’re buying from Amazon, but keep in mind that this item does qualify for free shipping.

Ordering food on-line has never sounded appetizing to me, but even I have to agree that this $8,020.32 Iranian Asetra 000 Caviar Malossol looks delicious. I think if I was paying more than 8 thousand dollars for a snack, I would be more inclined to lock it away in a safe rather than put it next to the mustard in the fridge. Luckily for hypothetical me, Amazon lists this $180,000 Traum Heirloom Safe. I would buy this safe, but I’m holding out for the temperature controlled version. Also, the combined value of everything I own is considerably less than the cost of the safe.

Wind up Bumble Boxing

In a previous blog, I compared shopping at Thriftko to dumpster diving. I originally intended that metaphor to describe my experience at Tuesday Morning, but after braving through what Thriftko has to offer, I can honestly say that Tuesday Morning might as well be Saks Fifth Avenue compared to Thriftko.

Tuesday Morning is a closeout retailer. They sell the stuff that other stores couldn’t. Each item inside a Tuesday Morning bears a sticker listing three prices: regular price, sale price and Tuesday Morning’s price. Everything sold at Tuesday Morning is severely discounted and they let you know it; both by price and the condition of their stores.

To be fair, not all Tuesday Mornings are created equal. You may very well encounter a location with orderly shelves and products in their correct aisle. However, you’re more likely to find the stores resemble a child’s play room, minus any sort of parental supervision. It’s sort of fun, though. It makes shopping like a treasure hunt.

Our definition of what constitutes treasure may vary, but I would gladly take a pirate’s chest full of today’s blopit (blog topic): Wind up Bumble Boxing!

“The ultimate 80’s wind ups are back for a boxing match you’ll never forget! Bumble Boxing combines knockout laughter with and old school punch. Who will be the next great boxing champ? Wind up your boxer and let the fight begin… it could go the distance, a full 12 rounds!”

That’s an exciting combination of words, but it doesn’t tell me much about who the bumble boxers are. Why should I care about one of them becoming champ? I don’t even know their names! If I can’t make a connection with these combatants then you can forget about this being a match I’ll never forget, because I won’t even remember it.

Since the text on the box does little to define the personality of our adversaries, it’s up to us to fill in these blank slates. Right off the bat, it’s impossible to ignore the family resemblance. They could be identical twins if it wasn’t for Blue’s pasty white skin. Perhaps he is the product of his mother’s lusty, Guinness-fueled romp with an alabaster skinned Irishman.

Blue (or “Lucky” because sports nicknames are often ironic and/or mean) was abandoned at an orphanage until the age of 12 when he was deemed “unadoptable”. Lucky scraped by on the pittance he collected for brawling in illegal street fights that made cock fighting look humane. Lucky would eventually scrounge together enough cash for a trip to America where he hoped to find his biological mother.

Red is Rocky Balboa.

Now that our bumble boxers have a back story, their bout for the championship will be all the more interesting.

A picture is worth a thousand words and one second of video is made up of 30 pictures (frames), so a three minute video is worth more than five million words. Rather than accelerate my inevitable arthritis, I made a video to illustrate just how great the bumble boxers are. I even scored the video to the music of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Disney Thieves must be EPCAUGHT

Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. For that reason, they prefer to perpetrate their pilferages under the cover of night and avoid stepping on cracks for fear of breaking their mothers’ backs.

Last Saturday night, my girlfriend and I caught a showing of Scott Pilgrim vs the World. In the film, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) must defeat Ramona Flowers’ seven evil exes if he has any hope of being with the girl of his dreams. Scott Pilgrim mixes video game culture with anime sensibilities and a quirky sense of humor that rewards the audience’s otherwise useless knowledge of pop culture.

We both liked the movie; however, our enjoyment was short-lived. When we returned to the car, we immediately realized something was askew. The pink Disney Princess antenna topper that normally adorned the rear of my girlfriend’s car was absent.

“The wind?”

“A bird?”

No. We both knew the truth. The topper had been stolen.

I checked around the car in an act of futility. Antenna toppers, Disney-themed ornaments in particular, are big business in Central Florida. Scanning the surrounding vehicles, I didn’t see a single topper floating above the autos. It was clear that we had been the victim of a roaming band of antenna topper burglars. Their bounty was ample that night.

The theft has made me appreciate my own car topper even more. Kermit has proudly sat atop my car for well over a year. His original vibrant green has faded and his decal is peeling, but I can’t imagine my car without his ever present smile.   

Does your car feature a topper upon its antenna? If so, do you worry about your topper being pillaged? What can we do to better protect our foamy friends? Register your answers in the comments section below.

Dear Diary... today I bought a little girl's journal

Thriftko is a consignment shop much like The Salvation Army store, except the money you spend doesn’t go to a good cause. Shopping at Thriftko is a lot like dumpster diving, except you are expected to pay for the trash you collect.

Second-hand stores like Thriftko are great for putting together Halloween costumes because of the variety of old clothes you can find at yard sale prices. Unfortunately, mostly because of all that ancient clothing, the air quality in these stores hovers dangerously around toxic levels. A Thriftko in my town recently moved into a new building, so it was the perfect time to peruse the refuse without inhaling 50 years worth of mothballs.

Whenever I encounter a yard sale or a flea market or a consignment shop, I’m always hopeful that I will stumble upon some long lost treasure that the experts on Antiques Roadshow will appraise at thousands of dollars. It hasn’t happened yet, but during this most recent trip, I did find something almost as good as treasure: a little girl’s journal!

I don’t know what inspired my girlfriend to pick up this pink spiral notebook, but we were both immediately thankful she did. I was under the impression that Thriftko acquires the lion’s share of their merchandise through donations, but now I think they are just taking people’s garbage. There are plenty of periodicals in the “literary” section at Thrikfto, but one would not expect to find a used diary amongst the John Grisham novels.

I left the store without the journal that day, but it has haunted me ever since and I knew that I must buy it and share its contents with the world. I went back today and—thank Jesus—it was still there. The price etched into its cover read 49 cents, but the cashier didn’t seem to notice and rang up a miscellaneous price of 69 cents. I wasn’t about to argue over 20 cents. I would have paid 100 cents for such a prize.

Gomez, Go!

Gomez is the—sometimes anthropomorphic—normally insectoid—mascot for Mezco Toyz [sic]; purveyor of action figure oddities and collectable curiosities. Gomez is also the inspiration for a 2008 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive that has managed to elude me for the past two years.

Sob Story 3

I blogged last month about the plethora of Toy Story 3 mail-in promotions and all the great stuff that was up for grabs, but sadly I must report that at least one of those offers has ended prematurely.

Sara Lee bread was offering a free Buzz Lightyear soft lunchbox with the purchase of 5 Sara Lee “Soft & Smooth” loaves of bread, buns or bagels. I mailed in my UPC codes weeks ago and have been checking my mailbox each day, eagerly anticipating the arrival of that squishable sandwich sack.

My pulse skipped a beat today when I spotted a piece of mail addressed from Sara Lee
herself; but my excitement quickly turned to dismay when I realized that a lunchbox could not fit inside a postcard, no matter how pliable it may be. No, as it turns out, I will be forced to brown bag it for a little while longer, at least.

The postcard thanked me for my recent participation in the Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Mealtime is Funtime offer, but regretted to inform me that due to the immense popularity of this free offer, distribution of all available Toy Story merchandise was depleted in record time. I can at least take some solace in knowing that I was part of a record. (I wonder if a representative from Guinness World Records was on hand to make it official). But it was not all bad news.

Sara Lee—the stand up lady that she is—won’t send us latecomers away empty handed. Because Sara Lee values me as a customer, I will be receiving an alternate Toy Story tin lunchbox of comparable market value (which was like $14.99). This may actually turn out to be good thing, because as cool as a light-up, soft lunchbox may be, a tin lunchbox is a classic and the odds of it including a matching thermos just went up 1000-percent.

The lunchbox was the main event of this mail-in promotion, but there was also the option to send away for a plate and cup set or a sectioned plate! The official Sara Lee Toy Story 3 promotion website now lists all items as out of stock, but one has to wonder if the less desirable dinnerware is actually gone forever. If you wish to try your luck, you can still print out the official order from, but don’t delay; who knows how long that link will remain active.

I ran a quick search on eBay to see if anyone had received their Toy Story lunchbox, but I only found one link with an item resembling the lunchbox from the photos. The auction ended without any bidders, so if you absolutely must have your light-up, soft Toy Story 3 lunchbox, it looks like you might be able to grab one for under ten bucks.

Top Five Anthropomorphic Mascots from the 80's with Futures so Bright, They had to Wear Sunglasses

The Energizer Bunny

Today this pink percussionist is synonymous with Energizer batteries, but did you know that the original Energizer Bunny commercial was actually a parody of a Duracell batteries campaign starring pink toy bunnies? Energizer mocked Duracell’s claim that Duracell batteries lasted longer because Duracell was only comparing the lifespan of their batteries to carbon batteries and not alkaline batteries like Energizer.

When Duracell allowed their trademark to expire on the pink bunny, Energizer swooped in and filed a trademark for their cottontail. You won’t see the Duracell bunnies stateside anymore, but those original pink battery bunnies can still be seen in Europe. However, much like the Johnny Cash cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt", most mistake the latter as preceding the former.

The original Energizer Bunny ad also predates the ubiquitous slogan “it keeps going… and going… and going” and instead proclaims “a word to the wise – Energize”. The current slogan is most appropriate, considering that, of the five mascots on this list, only the Energizer Bunny is still collecting checks as a mascot.

Carell Pulls Out

That's what she said. His publicist. What?

Steve Carell announced Monday that he is leaving his hit NBC comedy The Office at the conclusion of its next season. With less than 30 episodes left to wrap up the many loose ends in Michael Scott’s life, I decided to compile a list of things that need to happen before The Office, mostly likely, closes its doors for good.

Toy Story Mania

The merchandise for the first Toy Story film in 1995 was severely under produced. So much so that it was referenced in Toy Story 2. Tour Guide Barbie notes the blunder of short-sighted retailers failing to stock enough Buzz Lightyear toys for the holiday season. No such mistake was made this time. Toy Story 3 paraphernalia has dominated Toys R Us, Target, Walmart and grocery stores (editor’s note: grocery stores are like the food side of Walmart. Sorry for any confusion.) for several weeks now.

Almost every character in the film is represented in either plastic or plush, depending on their composition on screen. Perennial favorites Buzz and Woody are well represented, but even newcomers such as Buttercup and Lots-o-Huggin’ Bear can be found on store shelves. Some characters, like Dolly or Mr. Pricklepants, will require a bit of leg work to track down, but rest assured, they do exist, and more are likely on the way.

In addition to the stuff you have to straight up pay for, there is a great array of Toy Story collectibles that are only available through participating promotions. Sara Lee “Soft and Smooth” brand bread has a UPC redemption program that allows you to send in 5 UPC codes to receive a Buzz Lightyear soft lunchbox (a $14 value, according to the form). I’m much too old to tote my lunch around in a character lunchbox, but I guess I could use it to store my Pokemon cards or Hot Wheel cars.

Kellogg’s brand cereals also have a great Toy Story promotion that lets you choose your swag. Each of their participating cereals includes a code printed inside the box that represents one “Toy Story 3” point. With four points, you can score yourself an actual Hamm piggybank. For eight codes (the highest point value), you can send away for a USB powered Alien Desk Light (that’s much easier than trying to grab one from a claw machine). There are also options for a movie ticket, concession cash and a Mr. Potato Head t-shirt.

If you happen to have a box of Rice Krispies or Frosted Flakes sitting in your pantry and you don’t intend on sending away for any of the Toy Story 3 merchandise, I will happily accept the donation of any codes you may have to offer.

It’s been a while since I’ve mailed away for anything, so I was impressed to learn that neither Toy Story promotion requires a fee for shipping and/or handling. For the Kellogg’s deal, you don’t even have to buy a stamp. The entire transaction is done through their website. The only downside is that, according to the fine print on the website, I could find myself waiting 60-90 days to receive my loot. That seems like an unusually long delivery time, so I’m hoping a more accurate estimate is closer to 8-12 weeks. Stay tuned!

A Little Splice of Heaven

is the story of Clive (Adrien Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley), two rock-n-roll genetic scientists who spend their time splicing animal DNA together to create The Wuzzles. Their current work revolves around a pair of amorphous blobs named Fred and Ginger. The slugs hold the secret to an enzyme that will make money for the corporation backing Clive and Elsa’s genetic research, but the pair mostly exists to foreshadow events involving the other, shapelier creature.