I really hate to bring this up, because any conversation about this topic brings rage, judgment, snobbery, and people who say you're doing it wrong. That's a phrase that makes me want to punch them in the nose. Did I do that wrong? Let me try again.

But. Big Head Todd is dead. He lasted about . . . four months? Five? Hamilton Beach coffeemaker, doomed from the start - the LCD display panel had a few dodgy elements, and I could accept that as long as it worked. It said BOLD to indicate brew strength, but because of the LCD clunkiness I always saw BOLO. Be on the lookout - for coffee? Done and done, Todd.

I'm actually glad it died (like the coffee pot it replaced, it quit halfway through the brew cycle, as though it was overwhelmed with the futility of it all and saw no point to going on) partly because the interface annoyed me. Which is about as much of a First World Problem as you'll get. I know. But if you're going to have a robot that wakes itself up in the morning at a preset time, it should be easy to . . . preset the time. It was impossible. I gave up at some point, and the pot always showed the wrong time, which annoyed me to no end.

Look, Todd, we're all singing from the same page here, okay? The stove has the right time. The microwave has the right time. The clock on the radio has the right time. Play along. But it was always wrong, and I was annoyed every time I looked at it. A small element of disorder, made possible by bad design.

And it was big. Hence the name. I ordered the wrong one - instead of the standard-sized coffee maker, this one was 14 cups, in case I was having over several AA meetings simultaneously, and while it fit under the cupboard it was just large and bulbous.

"Huh," said the Giant Swede when he saw it. "Big Head Todd."

What a throwback reference. It was a band in the 80s, but the term somehow got appended to something, probably a coffeemaker one of us owned, a unit with an oversized top tank. I hadn't thought of that in years but know every morning when I made the coffee, I thought, I am drinking the Brew of Todd.

After Todd died I lived on Keurig for a while. The Keurig - which replaced a Keurig that died three weeks ago after a traumatic experience where I forced it to make six cups in a row, which was apparently beyond its abilities - had a different interface than its predecessor. Old and busted: saying Old and Busted. That said, Old and Busted: put in the capsule, add the water, press the button Max. New hotness: pour in the water, open the capsule container, wait for the water to gurgle into the tank, then add the capsule, then push the button Max. The BREW button lights up when you make coffee. The POWER button does not light up. Brilliant decision, that.

When I got the K-cups out of the small sealed container where they're kept I was reminded that the auxilliary storage closet off the kitchen had a wire rack for storing K-cups. I got that as part of a Christmas Gift to the family, when I introduced the whole Single-Cup Paradigm to wife and child. I'd bought a big box of flavored coffees, because they enjoy those atrocities, and the wire rack - three drawers - held all the hideous options. But eventually they realized that those things were horrible, and we just used the cups with soft paper cups instead of ghastly plastic, and the drawers were not restocked.

I'd better get rid of that shelf and free up valuable space, because if this interregnum twixt summer and fall is about anything, it's the imposition of a new ruthless regime of order and control. That's why the downstairs closet -

Oh, but that's tomorrow. So I got rid of the coffee drawers, and hey while I'm here let's see what else can go -

An hour later, everything's out of the closet, and I have discovered an emergency cache of batteries for the police-strength flashlights, and hence these must be arranged in order of expiration dates, and so on. Daughter's old art supplies: out. A million dry markers. Stickers. Craft kits. All that stuff that she used when she spent days and evenings in the family room, working on things, before she graduated to the private realm of her room. Out, out, all of it.

Except. Except for one small Curious George mini-lunchbox, which I bought for her before she was born.

Except. Except for the battered deck of UNO cards we used to while away the grey days.

I put those in the Curious George lunchbox.

Now the closet was clean and organized and SENSIBLE. Drawers for dog treats, a drawer for batteries and flashlights, a drawer for emergency medical supplies, a drawer for little-used cleaning supplies. It is a masterpiece. One closet, conquered.

How many times have I done this? Five? Six? Well, it's good now. Mark it off, forget it, no fear of fibbermcgee-style catastrophe when the door is opened.

Anyway. Man does not live by individual K-cup brewing sessions alone, so a replacement for Todd was necessary. It arrived. I plugged it in and tried to set the time. The numbers would not advance. I read the instructions. I pressed the buttons. The numbers would not advance. I despaired: it was broken already.

Then I realized there was a plastic tape over the numbers that had actual numbers on it. FOR SOME REASON. The numbers advanced and I set the time and all was well.

It's a Braun. It prefers a conical filter. Todd liked the flat-bottomed filters. So naturally I'd stocked up on those, and I have a thousand. But Todd's predecessor was a Conical Model, and I'd stocked up on those, too. Didn't throw them away when I switched to the new machine.

I knew. I knew.

So this is where people complain about coffee makers and insist you have to make French Press with beans you minced into dust on a giant stone wheel. Sorry. I love coffee, and I appreciate good coffee, but one of the boons of modern life is Coffee Without Inordinate Labor.

The replacement of the coffee maker isn't really the big story. There's something new in the kitchen. Something new and also old. It's probably wondering what happened. It's wondering why it was pressed back into active service. It's Mr. Toast, and that's the next part of the story.

Oh, you just can't wait, I'll bet.


The Rounders! Oh that funny horse. Keep doing that thing with the funny horse. It's funny.


Ben and Howdy are a couple of aging cowboys who bust broncos out of Sedona for Jim Ed Love, a slick operator if ever there was one. Sisters, Meg and Agatha, have their eyes on Ben and Howdy, but the boys aren't ready to settle down yet. They spend the winter in the high country corralling more than 100 stray cattle at $7 a head for Jim Ed. Most years, they blow their winter pay in one spring night at a Sedona bar, but this year, Ben and Howdy have a plan: to take an ornery roan that Ben has been unable to break and bet their bankroll that no cowboy at the Sedona rodeo can stay on the horse. What will they do if they win - marry the sisters or head for Tahiti?

We never found out; didn't last.





Government Agents vs. the Phantom Legion: it's all about shipping schedules.

The summary:

Great cliffhanger last week: an awl in the back, the grim rictus of pain and death! But it gets better:


Awesome. Well, guess where we go immediately afterwards:

Back to the boardroom, of course. Where the Phantom is one of the trucker execs, of course. One of the execs - Crandall - says he has a solution to keeping his trucks safe: armed guards.

No one ever thought of that before. After this, guess where we go?

Back to the Phantom's Lair - which, by the way, is the Metz Building. We see an exterior shot that says Metz Building. So he's probably on the tenant list. The Phantom says that Crandall's armed guard plan is bad for business, so they have to remove him. This means the pool of Trucking Executives Who Might Be the Phantom is reduced by one. Hurrah!

The Phantom says a Crandall will be killed in the simplest, most dependable fashion: with glass bulbs filled with poison. Well, Hal Duncan, our hero, hears the henchmen burst into Crandall's office, because Miss Roberts left the radio on. Good thing his car is right outside the studio with the boardroom set! Because here's there in about 10 seconds. And so:



And you can quote her on that! After a pretty good fight (hats on throughout, I needn't say) the big sneering hench, who's been knocked down twice, decides it's time for a grand gesture. A grand, stupid gesture.


Yeah. Well, the hench flee, because it's poison gas, but Hal throws the poison out the window and turns on the fan. Problem solved! And a perfectly good cliffhanger idea thrown out the window as well, so they'd better have something good for the finale this time.

The Phantom says, well okay that didn't work, let's just hijack one of the other trucks. With some remote control stuff.

They steal a truck off screen, and Hal says "they might have taken it to the Back Country," which is now our term for the interchangeable expanse of hills and scrawny trees in which one fourth of all serials take place. He finds the truck, and sees the hench installing a driverless control that will let them operate the truck without anyone at the wheel!




He interrupts the test, but is overrun, and we learn the dastardly plot: they're going to use the remote control driving device - the technologically sophisticated, advanted piece of Science - to drive the truck somewhere else and blow it up.


So Hal's unconscious in the cab - he can take 25 punches to the head and fight back, but one slammed door on his body and he's out cold. Until he wakes, and it's time for terror:


That's pretty good. This one's picking up!

Probably means it's time for a clip-show ep.

Wednesday already? The week is flying past. Still warm enough for drive-ins, so let's check in and see what's new at the concession stand. See you around.


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