498. Special Thanks

I owe a great debt of gratitude to the many people who have supported this blog over the years. Before it ends next week, I want to thank them. Today’s post is basically TMTF’s end credits. Don’t expect a post-credits scene teasing a sequel, though!

All right, I guess we should start by playing some credits music. Fortunately, YouTube has us covered. For maximum effect, I recommend playing the following video while you read the rest of this post. UPBEAT GUITAR IS GO.

(If the video ends before you finish reading this post, you can find another great credits song here on YouTube.)

I want to start by thanking everyone who contributed guest posts to this blog. It would take too long to thank each of these writers individually, yet I’m grateful for every post they contributed.

These wonderful writers shared their own stories, ideas, and perspectives, making TMTF far more nuanced and interesting than it would have been if only I had written it. Iroh, a character from my all-time favorite show, once said, “It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale.”

They don’t come much wiser than Iroh.

Thank you, guest writers, for lending my blog your wisdom.

I would be remiss not to give a shout out to Jon Acuff and Wes Molebash. Although I no longer follow their work, they were early inspirations for this blog; TMTF probably wouldn’t exist without them. A guest post I wrote for Mr. Acuff gave TMTF an early boost, and Mr. Molebash created one of this blog’s banners, so that’s cool.

This is a fairly accurate representation of my workspace.

Thanks, Jon and Wes. Stay hip.

I owe a huge thank-you to Kevin McCreary, YouTuber extraordinaire, who collaborated with me on a freakin’ rap battle to celebrate TMTF’s two hundredth post. He went so far beyond my timid request for a backing track that it still kinda blows my mind, and while my rapping wasn’t great, his music and mixing were perfect.

You rock, Kevin. Thanks.

I must also thank my other YouTube collaborators, DRWolf001 and Crowne PrinceThese video makers are phenomenally creative, and also wolves.

Wolves. Seriously, I don’t make up this stuff.

In a video animated by Crowne Prince, DRWolf and I discussed my experiences blogging, and the good doctor offered some advice. It was a terrific privilege to work with this unlikely pair, and I consider our video a high point for this blog.

Thank you, DRWolf and Crown Prince. Stay creative!

I must give a shout out to a couple of fellow bloggers. Amy Green inspires me with her faith, honesty, compassion, and profound thoughtfulness. Thomas Mark Zuniga taught me a thing or two about the value of transparency and vulnerability over keeping up appearances. They both wrote excellent guest posts for my blog. Heck, Tom even dropped by my home during his EPIC QUEST around the country a while back.

If I am very lucky, I may someday have a beard as nice as Tom’s.

Amy and Tom, thanks for using your gifts so faithfully, and for lending them to my blog.

When I decided to resurrect my dream project, the Lance Eliot saga, I really wanted some concept art for the characters. Sabina Kipa created some excellent character sketches, and when I recently wrote that her skills were matched by her patience and positivity, I meant it.

I love these concept sketches.

Thanks again, Sabina. Keep up the great work!

Last year, a Methodist pastor who read my blog invited me to speak at his church. I embarked upon an epic journey to Wisconsin, drinking inordinate amounts of coffee, and even passing through the tenth circle of hell, which some people call Chicago. The Reverend Kevin Niebuhr turned out to be the manliest Methodist I’ve ever met, and also a kind, geeky gentleman.

It was a great privilege to visit Rev Kev and meet his church family.

Thanks for everything, Rev Kev. God bless you, and if you haven’t already seen the new Star Wars movie, you totally should.

Around the time I started this blog, I watched an Internet cartoon series called Fred the Monkey. I enjoyed these Homestar Runner-esque cartoons about a monkey and his eccentric roommates. It was a surprise when, years later, their creator agreed to write a guest post for my blog—and a staggering shock when he became one of the most supportive and encouraging readers I’ve ever had.

JK Riki did more for TMTF than almost anyone. He wrote guest posts, edited images, created original art, shared insights and encouragements in the comments, and was generally awesome. Honestly, I might have abandoned TMTF a long time ago if JK hadn’t come along to support it.

I’m not sure I trust JK’s monkey around any of mine, though.

I honestly can’t thank you enough, JK. God bless you.

I owe my family thanks for their support, and for not smacking me when I rambled about my blog. My younger brother, John, gets bonus points for letting me share his many wonderful mispronunciations.

Thanks, guys. Stay fabulous.

I want to give extra-special thanks to my dad, who supported TMTF since before I even started it. He created much of its original artwork, including one of its magnificent banners.

From the beginning, I considered this picture one of the best things about my blog. My opinion hasn’t changed.

Besides drawing pictures for this blog, my dad proofread many posts, gave feedback, and offered endless encouragements. If I could thank only one person, it would be he.

Thanks, Pa. You’re a Stout Fella.

I must reluctantly offer thanks to my typewriter monkeys, from whom I will soon part ways: Sophia, Socrates, Plato, Hera, Penelope, Aristotle, Apollo, Euripides, Icarus, Athena, Phoebe, and Aquila.

My monkeys caused a lot of trouble, started countless fires, and didn’t actually help much, but I guess TMTF wouldn’t exist without them, so that’s something.

Thanks for working on the blog, guys. I’ll almost feel bad firing you after TMTF ends next week. Almost.

From the beginning, my philosophy for this blog has been represented by the letters S.D.G. These initials stand for Soli Deo gloriato God alone be glory. Neither I nor this blog have always followed this philosophy, but it’s a good one, and I stand by it.

Thank you, Father, for TMTF.

Finally, I want to give a round of thanks to this blog’s readers—in other words, to you.

I owe special thanks to readers who commented on blog posts, “Liked” them, or shared them on social media. I appreciate every bit of support. I must also give special thanks to everyone who celebrated Be Nice to Someone on the Internet Day over the years by, y’know, being nice to someone on the Internet. Thanks also to the generous readers who supported this blog’s charity fundraisers.

Writing this blog was quite a journey. I’m glad I didn’t make it alone.

Thanks for reading!

497. TMTF’s Top Ten Posts I’m Glad I Wrote

TMTF is almost done. Today seems like a good day to glance back at some of this blog’s better posts—and to squeeze in one last top ten list, of course. Top tens are my beat!

To paraphrase Strong Bad, “My blog posts are like my childrens. I love them all!”

Wait, no—that’s not right. I love some of my blog posts. Others are frankly pretty bad. Then there are a shining few that have a special place in my heart. These personal posts allowed me to discover something about myself, cope with life’s difficulties, or create something meaningful.

These are the posts I’m glad I wrote.

I’m about to get personal, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Posts I’m Glad I Wrote!

10. Goodbye, Beatrice

I always supposed that at some point I would grow up and stop having crushes on pretty girls, but I never did. (I think I may have I failed the whole growing-up thing.) One or two of my romantic crushes lasted for years and years, gathering many what-ifs and regrets. This post was my attempt to let them go. It was cathartic to write.

Like Dante, I wrote about my crush; unlike Dante, I wrote a quick blog post, not an epic poem of enduring brilliance.

I was reading Dante’s Inferno at the time. Dante’s lifelong crush on Beatrice mirrored my own situation, and I’m really satisfied with how this post tied together our stories.

9. The Infinity Manuscript

Little-known fact: Back in 2012, as my ill-fated novel ground slowly toward publication, I wrote a fantasy novella titled The Infinity Manuscript. (This was years before I knew of Marvel’s upcoming Infinity War movies; I wasn’t trying to steal their title, I swear!) This tale of loss and determination has its fair share of flaws, yet showcased some cool ideas and a plot twist of which I’m quite proud.

The Infinity Manuscript had a desert, maybe? Hey, I wrote it a long time ago!

I haven’t read The Infinity Manuscript in years, but remain fond of it. Who knows? I may resurrect the story someday and write it properly. Even if I don’t, The Infinity Manuscript brought me many hours of writing practice, along with some creative satisfaction.

8. Working on Self-Respect

Writing this post led me to discover an important and practical truth: Self-esteem is a feeling, but self-respect is a choice.

I choose to respect this guy. For some reason.

I have a fairly low opinion of myself. The past four or five years dealt my self-confidence some devastating blows: my career plans failed, my dream project failed, and my faith sometimes seems to be failing. This post reminded me that maintaining a sense of self-worth is not only possible, but worthwhile.

7. Lance Eliot Is Dead

Speaking of my dream project, this is the post in which I announced its failure. I declared Lance Eliot dead. The failure of my debut novel, The Trials of Lance Eliot, took away my incentive to work on its sequels. I was already committed to this blog, trapped in a toxic job situation, and struggling through a darker chapter of my life. I couldn’t keep writing Lance’s story, but felt guilty abandoning it.

It was hard to let this one go.

In the end, I let it go. This post represents one of the best decisions I ever made. Giving up Lance’s story took away a lot of stress and worry… and allowed me, years later, to resurrect it without the baggage of earlier failures. I don’t know whether I’ll ever finish the Lance Eliot saga, but thanks to this post, I’m free to try again from the beginning.

6. Jerks, Trolls and Other Hazards of the Internet

Not many people celebrate Be Nice to Someone on the Internet Day, and with good reason—I made it up on a whim. This annual event, held on March 4, encourages everyone to send an encouraging message to someone on the Internet.

I like to think that all Internet trolls are actually cave trolls with laptops.

An earlier post introduced the concept of Be Nice to Someone on the Internet Day, but this post inaugurated it properly and confirmed March 4 as its official date. Ever since, I’ve promoted and observed the event every year, and plan to continue doing so long after this blog is dust and ashes.

5. Adam’s Story: The Characters

Since resurrecting the Lance Eliot saga, all I’ve accomplished so far is some story planning—but good gosh, after this post, am I ever excited to start writing! Characters are my favorite element of storytelling. Reimagining Lance Eliot and other characters for my story project is easily the most fun I’ve had working on a story in years.

I can’t wait to write about this guy.

This post is extra-special thanks to terrific concept art from Sabina Kipa and JK Riki: artists whose skills were matched by their patience and positivity. When I write, it helps me to visualize scenes and characters, and this post’s character portraits have been helpful as I’ve worked on story planning.

4. An Evil Scientist Explains Band Names

I wanted to put a Geeky Wednesday post on this list, but it was hard to choose just one. For years, Geeky Wednesdays were my way of pointing at cool things and saying, “Look at this thing! Ain’t it cool?” These (typically) shorter, shallower posts bridged the gap between this blog’s “serious” posts on Mondays and Fridays. (I put “serious” in quotes because TMTF was hardly ever serious.)

Doofenshmirtz is my Patronus.

In the end, I chose the very first Geeky Wednesday post. It inaugurated one of this blog’s most enduring features, and I’m glad it did. Besides, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz is probably one of the greatest television characters of all time, and definitely one of the funniest.

3. I Believe

I wrote this post during a particularly rough week last month. A number of unrelated struggles and uncertainties troubled me deeply at the time. Quite by accident, I managed to weave them all together in a post that was not merely coherent, but among the best I have ever written.

This post was far more coherent than it had any right to be.

In the end, by some miracle of God, a post that should have been a train wreck became something structured, meaningful, and deeply cathartic to write. When I finished this post, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I consider it one of my best. It certainly helped me to write it.

2. Marching Home

This post is a eulogy for my late friend Nick. I was reluctant to put it on this list, fearing the list might cheapen it, but finally decided that it belongs here. This list is for posts I’m glad I wrote. I’m glad I wrote this one.

This scene still brings tears to my eyes.

When Nick passed away last year, I felt emotionally numb. Writing his eulogy helped me come to terms with his death, and allowed me to tell the story of our friendship. I tried to honor Nick’s memory by writing this post. Whether or not I succeeded, writing it helped me to grieve. Healing started here.

1. I Nearly Left My Faith Last Year

This was a surprisingly easy post to write, but hitting the Publish button took some nerve. After struggling with profound religious doubts for more than a year, I finally acknowledged them publicly. I told my story. Whether or not anyone listened, and however they replied, I felt calmer and lighter for telling it.

I haven’t given up yet, and neither has he.

Quite a number of people listened. They replied with compassion and understanding. I felt less alone. Of all the posts on this blog, this is the one I’m gladdest I wrote.

I’m glad I wrote these posts, and do you know what else? I’m glad people read them. Thanks for reading, guys. You are the best thing about this blog.

The Umbrella Warrior

Here are some thoughts on the video above.

  • That guy is so cool.
  • In fiction, umbrellas are occasionally reimagined as weapons. The Penguin, a villain from the Batman comics, uses an assortment of umbrellas containing firearms or hidden blades.
  • Seriously, though, that guy is so cool.
  • Umbrellas can secretly be deadly weapons, even in real life. Beware.
  • The guy in the video wields a pair of umbrellas in the manner of hook swords: weapons used in certain styles of Chinese martial arts. The tips of hook swords are curved. When hooked, both swords can be wielded one-handed in the manner of nunchaku. Avatar: The Last Airbender, one of my favorite shows, introduced me to hook swords.
  • Brooms and shirts on hangers also make great weapons, apparently. Who knew?

This brave warrior is truly an inspiration to us all.

456. TMTF’s Top Ten Dragons

A while back, TMTF ran a top ten list of hot guys in fiction—guys who are literally hot, I mean. As I made the list, I was strongly tempted to fill it with fire-breathing dragons. I eventually wrote about other fiery characters, saving the dragons for a future top ten list.

That time has come. Today is a day of dragons.

Well, I won’t let this introduction dragon—sorry; drag on—any longer. There’s no claws, um, cause for further delays. These dragons hail from tails, I mean, tales of all kinds, old and new. (Heck, am I ever ember-rassed—embarrassed, I mean—by these dragon puns. I thought they were clever, but the scales have fallen from my eyes… so to speak.)

Feel the heat, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Dragons!

Be ye warned: Here there be dragons, and also spoilers.

Before we begin, a quick note: I considered including Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwock on this list, but it’s clearly not a dragon. It’s a Jabberwock. There’s a difference… I think.

10. Elliott (Pete’s Dragon)


In this classic Disney film, Elliott is the dim-witted but well-meaning protector of Pete, an orphaned boy. Elliott communicates in good-natured grumbles, mumbles, and clicks. He can also turn invisible, which allows him to hide from grownups (and made less work for the film’s animators). Nearly everyone assumes Pete’s dragon is an imaginary friend, but that doesn’t stop him from being a faithful one. A remake of Pete’s Dragon will soon be released, but its oddly furry Elliott won’t replace the lovably derpy original.

9. Trogdor the Burninator (Homestar Runner)

Trogdor the Burninator

Have you ever wanted to draw a dragon? It’s easy! Just follow Strong Bad’s simple, step-by-step instructions—and witness the creation of a beloved Internet icon. Trogdor the Burninator began on a sheet of notebook paper as the letter S, followed by teeth, “spinities,” angry eyebrows, and a beefy arm “for good measure.” This silly sketch quickly spawned a cheesy death metal song and a couple of browser games, and went on to become one of the Internet’s most enduring memes. Strong Bad puts it well: “When the land is in ruin … only one guy will remain. My money’s on Trogdor.”

8. Ran and Shaw (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

Ran and Shaw

There are basically two types of dragons. The Western dragon, rooted in European folklore, is a fierce beast. The Eastern dragon, born of Asian mythologies, is nobler and wiser. These dragons are that second type. Ran and Shaw are godlike creatures who guard the secrets of firebending, an ancient martial art. They are silent and mysterious, helping only those who prove themselves worthy, and adding to the fascinating lore of my all-time favorite show.

7. Mushu (Disney’s Mulan)


I just declared Eastern dragons wise and noble, but Mushu is an exception to the rule. This tiny dragon is sent to aid the heroine of Disney’s Mulan by the spirits of her ancestors. (They meant to send a bigger dragon, but Mushu went instead.) This irreverent spitfire is full of bad ideas, but his heart is in the right place. Forget Malificent. In this story of war and loss, Mushu makes us laugh, and earns his place as Disney’s best dragon.

6. Spike (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic)

Spike the dragon

This young dragon is a dude in a world of candy-colored ponies, and he knows it. He survives as any self-respecting male does when surrounded by emotional females: he makes sarcastic remarks. Behind the snark is a kid who is in turn earnest, selfish, thoughtful, and insecure. In a couple of unexpectedly deep episodes, Spike comes to terms with his identity: neither a pony nor a typical dragon, belonging to neither group, yet finding acceptance in both. And did I mention his deadpan snark? Spike may not be the most consistent character ever written, but I like him.

5. Eustace Clarence Scrubb (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

Eustace the dragon

By the time the Dawn Treader, a ship battered by wind and waves, reaches the safety of a deserted island, Eustace Clarence Scrubb is sick of everything. This ill-tempered brat abandons his fellow passengers and goes for a long walk, which ends with a nap on a dragon’s abandoned treasure. He awakes, in the fine tradition of Gregor Samsa, transformed into a monstrous vermin—a dragon, actually. This outward change is horrifying, but prompts a positive inward transformation. As a dragon, Eustace finds his humanity, and eventually regains his human form in a scene that echoes the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ. Eustace may be only a temporary dragon, but he’s quite a good one.

4. Hungarian Horntail (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)

Hungarian Horntail

In the Harry Potter series, the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry is notable partly for training witches and wizards, but mostly for child endangerment. (A troll and a three-headed dog in the first book alone? Really?!) By the fourth book, Hogwarts has made child endangerment into a formal competition with the Tri-Wizard Tournament, in which teenagers face giant freakin’ dragons. (No wonder Harry Potter is controversial.) The spiked Hungarian Horntail is the deadliest of these, giving Trogdor some serious competition in the “spinities” department. I love how the various species of dragons in the Harry Potter books seem so believable, with different breeds having different countries of origin; the Hungarian Horntail is the coolest by far.

3. The Dragon (Beowulf)

We’re dipping into the classics here with the unnamed dragon from Beowulf, the Old English epic. (I recommend the poem; it’s fairly short, and modern-language translations are surprisingly readable.) After conquering a couple of frightful monsters, Beowulf finally meets his match in this dragon, and dies shortly after killing it. This beast made literary history. According to Wikipedia, it’s an early archetype of the Western dragon, establishing classic traits such as hoarding treasure and breathing fire. John Gardner’s novel Grendel adds its own interpretation of the Beowulf dragon, depicting it as a nihilistic philosopher. Huh.

2. Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon)


Toothless is basically my cat, but even more adorable. He can also fly and shoot concentrated blasts of explosive energy, which I’m pretty sure my cat can’t do. In the film How to Train Your Dragon, the Viking lad Hiccup defies his culture by refusing to kill this injured dragon. The dragon, which Hiccup names Toothless, rewards his compassion with fierce loyalty and adorable affection. In the original book, Toothless is actually kind of a jerk; this is a rare case in which the movie is way better than the book. Toothless is cuter than your average dragon, which makes him pretty much perfect.

1. Smaug (The Hobbit)

Smaug [alt]

Yes, Smaug is number one on this list. Of course he is. Inspired by the Beowulf dragon, Smaug is the ultimate example of his kind: cruel, vindictive, petty, vicious, powerful, and scary as all heck. After destroying an entire kingdom, he haunts the land for many long years. The entire story of The Hobbit builds up to Smaug, and it doesn’t end with him: Smaug’s death ignites a battle between three armies, which is interrupted by legions of goblins eager to claim the dragon’s hoard. Even in death, Smaug causes all kinds of horror, and I consider him the greatest dragon ever imagined.

Who is your favorite dragon? Fire away in the comments!

450. Adam Answers

As TMTF hits its last fifty-post milestone before the end, I want to pause a moment, thank everyone who has been a part of this blog’s journey, and declare my opinion that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie.

Empire Strikes Back

The greatness was strong with this one.

All right, with that out of the way, here are my answers to the questions submitted by readers for today’s Q&A. Here we go!

JK asks: In spite of your down-playing your abilities, I think your singing is quite lovely. Do you have any music related experience/training, or is it just natural know how? Play any instruments to go along with the vocals? Follow up, can we get another serenade while you’re at it?

Aw, thanks, JK! I sang in choir a couple of years in high school, and performed with a few worship teams over the years, but I’ve never taken lessons or anything.

I am a little proud of my vibrato: that wobble in the pitch of my singing voice. As a kid, I heard other singers perform the vibrato technique. I thought it was neat, so I trained myself to do it. Mine is a bit forced, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

The only instrument I’ve ever played is the bongo drum, for which I have no training whatsoever, and on which I performed with more enthusiasm than skill.


None of my typewriter monkeys play bongos, thank heaven. Imagine the racket!

I’ve thought about doing one or two more song covers, but for an amateur like me, they take a ton of trial and error. I’d rather spend my non-blogging free time relaxing! I did cover “Baba Yetu” karaoke-style a while back, though, singing over the original track. I’m really pleased with how that one turned out.

Sarah asks: How much time per week do you and your monkeys put into the blog? And how has that changed since you started the site? Of all the places you could have chosen to live, why Indiana?

Good questions! My time spent blogging varies wildly from week to week, and I don’t really keep track of it, but I estimate three to eight hours.

Depending on the kind of post I write, I might dash off it in an hour or slave away at it for three to five. Personal reflections and silly thoughts on random subjects are quicker and easier to write; serious treatises take tons of time and effort. Posts involving audio recording or image editing take extra time.

I’m probably spending less time on the blog these days than when I started, thanks to my decision long ago to publish a short, geeky commentary every Wednesday instead of another numbered post. The shorter mid-week updates require much less effort, and they let me share stuff I think is cool.

Your final question is a familiar one! When people ask me why I settled in Indiana after living overseas, I tell them, “It’s a really long story, but I’ll give you the really short version.”

Here’s that short answer: I live in the United States because, of all the countries in the world, it’s the only one for which I currently have the legal paperwork required for a job; I live in Indiana because, of the few roots I have in this country, most are here; and I live in the little town of Berne because, when I was looking for a job years ago, it had the only place that would hire me.

Berne ain’t a bad place to live.

I’m fond of Berne, but it really could use a movie theater, some mountains, a beach or two, a Japanese noodle stand, and a Starbucks. Ah, well. Nowhere is perfect, I guess.

JS asks: What about pants?

A most profound question. I cannot offer an answer worthy of it, for I am but a foolish mortal. How can I, or any of the humans who live their short lives upon this fading earth, match a question of such wisdom with an answer equally wise?

The word pants can be traced back through the English, French, and Italian languages to Pantalone, the character stereotype in commedia dell’arte, a form of performance art popular in sixteenth-century Italy. This stereotype, which caricatured Venetians, was named for Saint Pantaleon, a saint popular in Venice.

By following these tangled skeins of history and etymology, we trace pants to a legendary saint. Does its connection to an ancient martyr make pants the holiest of clothes?

Speaking of holey clothes, why do some stores sell torn jeans? Who actually buys pants that, as Dave Barry put it, appear to have been ripped to shreds by crazed wolverines? That’s another question for which I have no good answer.


Not that kind of wolverine, guys.

Returning to my reader’s question, a character in Avatar: The Last Airbender, my all-time favorite show, offers this unfathomable wisdom: “Pants are an illusion, and so is death.”

My own view on pants is that a gentleman shouldn’t leave home without them.

That concludes today’s Q&A post! I’m grateful to everyone who submitted questions; without you, this post would have been embarrassingly short. Thanks, guys.

With fifty posts left, TMTF is hitting the final stretch at last. I could say a lot, but I’ll save it for some other time. For now, I will only say this: Onward!

441. TMTF’s Top Ten Hot Guys in Fiction

Do you know what this blog needs? Hot guys. This blog needs more hot guys.

What? You think hot guys are an inappropriate subject for this blog? Oh, I disagree. I won’t discriminate against anyone for being totally smoking hot. I think this post is long overdue.

It’s a burning question: Who are the hottest guys in fiction? There are a lot of potential answers, so let’s warm up with a list of ten.

We’re turning up the heat, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Hot Guys in Fiction!

10. Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle)


This friendly fire demon is not only helpful and adorable, but also sounds exactly like Billy Crystal. (Wait, he’s actually voiced by Billy Crystal? Well.) Calcifer may not be the hottest guy on this list, but he’s certainly hot enough to fry eggs and bacon.

Cooking with Calcifer

That’s pretty hot, right?

9. Anger (Inside Out)

Anger (Inside Out)

This one is easy. I mean, the dude’s head is literally on fire.

Hot guy. No doubt about it. Great movie, too.

8. Mario (Super Mario Bros. series)

Fireball Mario

Mario isn’t always hot, but he occasionally throws fireballs. These whirling spheres of flame aren’t terribly large or threatening, except when they get out of hand. (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry.) When Mario cuts loose with the fireballs, things heat up pretty quickly.

Mario's Final Smash

Bowser is another hot character from the Super Mario Bros. series, but I chose Mario because this list has quite enough scaly fire-breathing monsters. Speaking of which….

7. Charizard (Pokémon)


Charizard is labeled a Fire-type Pokémon, and for good reason. His flaming tail is a life sign, like a pulse… but more likely to burn down buildings. Charizard also breathes fire.

Totally hot, man.

6. The Fury (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

The Fury

This crazy cosmonaut hails from my favorite Metal Gear Solid game as a member of the Cobra Unit: a team of supervillains working for a rogue Soviet colonel. The Fury is a pyromaniac through and through, packing a flamethrower and a jet pack—which, I can only assume, were standard issue for Soviet cosmonauts prior to the sixties.

When the Fury finally gives up the ghost, it’s with delusions, explosions, and surreal shrieking heads of fire. So hot.

5. The Guys in the Seventh Circle of Hell (Dante’s Inferno)

Seventh Circle of Hell

The circles of Dante’s hell offer various horrors, from violent winds to ceaseless whippings. It’s the seventh circle that most closely resembles the classic image of hell as a fiery place, with a river of boiling blood and flakes of fire drifting to the ground. “Thus was descending the eternal heat, whereby the sand was set on fire, like tinder beneath the steel.”

You can bet the sinners in hell’s seventh circle are pretty hot.

4. Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender)


In the fantasy world of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko is a firebender: a martial artist who redirects chi (spiritual energy) and unleashes it as fire. Firebending is awesome. It can be used to warm tea, heat bathwater, or do this:


Zuko is the show’s most dynamic firebender, learning from dragons and experimenting with advanced forms of his art. He never did learn to make a good cup of tea, but he’s still a really hot guy.

3. Hades (Disney’s Hercules)


At first glance, Hades looks like a shady uncle to Anger from Pixar’s Inside Out. Don’t be fooled. The smooth-talking god of the dead from Disney’s Hercules often loses his cool. (Pun intended. I’m still sorry.) When his temper flares (I’m so, so sorry), those flames rage out of control.

Yes, Hades is a hot guy… but he’s the master of the underworld, so what did you expect?

2. Smaug (The Hobbit)


Do I even need to explain this one? Smaug is a dragon. He breathes fire. Dragons breathe fire. Hot.

It would have been easy to fill this list with dragons, but I limited myself to one. I chose Smaug because, of all the dragons I considered, he hit the best blend of hotness and cultural significance. (Next time, Toothless. Next time.) Smaug is far from the only hot character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s books; Sauron is represented by a fiery eye, and Denethor was pretty hot right at the end of his life.

1. The Human Torch (Marvel comics)

The Human Torch

I don’t really have anything to say about the Human Torch, except that he’s literally on fire, burning at impossibly high temperatures that would reduce ordinary men to greasy little piles of soot.

I can think of no hotter guy in fiction.

Who are your favorite hot guys or gals in fiction? Fire away in the comments!

436. I’m Pretty Sure My Cat Is a Buddhist

I acquired a cat some time ago. She’s a sweetie, and apparently a devout Buddhist.


Pearl is the cutest Buddhist I know.

I have four reasons for thinking Pearl has chosen Buddhism as her way of life.

My cat practices meditation.

Pearly spends much of every day sitting on the windowsill, gazing serenely upon worldly things as earth and sky, lost in contemplation of the cosmic infinite. Meditation is an essential doctrine of Buddhism, and one the Pearl-cat practices faithfully.

At any rate, I’m pretty sure that’s what she’s doing. Why else would she spend so much time staring blankly out the window?

My cat practices yoga.

Yoga is another important expression of Buddhist belief. Given her mastery of the physical aspects of yoga—stretching, contortion, forms, and postures—I can only assume that Pearly has also mastered the discipline’s mental and spiritual aspects.

Cat yoga

This is a picture of another cat, not of Pearl. Out of respect for my cat’s devotion to her religious disciplines, I decided not to share photos of them on this blog.

The Pearl-cat frequently stretches, strikes graceful poses, or contorts her body with astonishing flexibility. I assume it’s all part of some esoteric yoga routine, albeit one that involves licking oneself.

My cat practices feng shui.

The ancient Chinese art of feng shui arranges a household to achieve an optimal flow of chi (spiritual energy) and harmonize with the surrounding environment.

This channeling of spiritual energy is a concept similar to bending in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the classic animated series… but much less likely to flood my home, tear it down, or set it on fire. (For that, I have my typewriter monkeys.)


So far, my cat has limited herself to feng shui. I sure hope she doesn’t get any other bright ideas for redirecting spiritual energy.

Feng shui owes more to Taoism than to Buddhism, yet related concepts appear in certain schools of Buddhist belief, so it’s not much of a stretch to suppose my cat dabbles in it.

Pearly frequently rearranges my apartment in mysterious ways: knocking over seashells on display, batting magnets off the refrigerator door, and trying to eat the Legend of Zelda poster over my bookcase, among other things. She also carries her toys (stuffed mice which my younger brother and I have named “the Plague Rats”) around the apartment, depositing them in unexpected places.

These baffling rearrangements of my living space have no better explanation. The Pearl-cat is apparently practicing feng shui to redirect my apartment’s spiritual energy. I suppose I should be grateful. After all, some people pay for this sort of thing.

My cat practices zen gardening.

Zen gardens are a form of artistic and spiritual expression at temples of Zen Buddhism. These pebbly works of art, crafted from scattered rocks and rippling gravel, are meant to suggest nature and help meditation.

Pearly’s zen garden is an ever-changing tapestry of sand, into which she etches designs whose meanings I can’t even begin to guess.

Zen garden

My cat’s zen garden isn’t quite this artistic, but I’m certain its scrapes and scratches represent some unfathomable meaning.

The Pearl-cat’s zen garden doubles as her litter box. Despite her lofty contemplations of spiritual things, she’s really quite pragmatic.

I’m not sure how to respond to my Buddhist cat. As a Christian, I feel I really ought to do something. Should I take her to church on Sunday? (My church might not appreciate that.) Should I give her a Bible? (I don’t think she can read.) I don’t know, guys.

If anyone is curious about the religious views of my typewriter monkeys, they’re a mixed bag. A few of my monkeys are Darwinists, appropriately enough. Another says he’s a Roman Catholic “like Daredevil and the Judge from The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which are not encouraging comparisons. At least one of my monkeys worships the Helix Fossil from Twitch Plays Pokémon. Now that my cat has embraced Buddhism, my blogging team has become even more diverse.

I may not agree with my cat’s religious beliefs, but at least she doesn’t worship the sun.

All things considered, it could be worse.

409. Looking Back, and Wanting to Set Stuff on Fire

New Year’s Eve is almost here. A new year lies ahead, full of promise and possibility. As this year draws to a close, we take down Christmas decorations, make resolutions, and burn effigies in the streets.

Burn, año viejo, burn!What? We don’t do that in America?

This country is no fun.

As a kid in Ecuador, one of my favorite holiday traditions was the burning of the año viejo, or old year. Every New Year’s Eve, families gather to burn their own año viejo: a crude effigy of a person stuffed with sawdust, fitted with a papier-mâché mask, and doused in something flammable. Popular likeness for año viejo masks include superheroes, cartoon characters, and (of course) politicians.

In addition to sawdust, some people stuff a few firecrackers into their año viejo. Such effigies do not go gentle into that good night. They go with roaring flames and an irregular series of bangs. Man, I miss Ecuador.

The burning of the año viejo is a beautiful tradition: a symbol of letting go of the past year’s troubles and failures. (It’s also fun for pyromaniacs.) My dad, ever the creative missionary, used an año viejo one New Year’s Eve to share a lesson from the book of Romans: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”

I’m sorry to say my little Indiana town probably won’t let me set fire to stuff on the streets, even as a cherished symbol of moving forward. Since I can’t burn an año viejo, I’ll have to settle for making some New Year’s resolutions. Before I do, however, I should probably review the old ones.

Here are my resolutions for 2015. Did I keep them? Before they go up in a metaphorical cloud of smoke, let’s find out.

I will be more intentional in keeping my New Year’s resolutions.

Yeah, no. As usual, I kept several of my New Year’s resolutions, but it was only by dint of trying generally to be a better person. I had to look up my old resolutions in order to write today’s blog post, which means I failed to keep this one.

I will work on my Spanish.

I kept this one, but not exactly on purpose. My plan was to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender in Spanish, which I definitely didn’t do. However, since starting work as a CNA in a nursing home earlier this year, I’ve spoken Spanish regularly with one of the residents. I declare this resolution sort of kept.

I will practice spinning an old broomstick.

I didn’t keep this one. My talent for twirling a broomstick like some sort of janitorial ninja went mostly unpracticed this year. Sometimes, when I spin my broomstick in the local park, Amish kids stare at me fixedly with blank expressions. It’s a little creepy. I wish I could find a more private place for stick-twirling.

I will have a more positive attitude.

I actually kept this one, thanks in no small part to my resignation from a horrible job. (It’s so much easier to think positively when you aren’t crushed every day by impossible expectations, thankless conditions, and toxic people.) So much changed this year: much of it for the better. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, but things seem a little more hopeful.

I will research career options.

I sort of kept this one, but not really. I researched the steps required to become a Certified Nursing Assistant—and promptly became one—but that isn’t exactly a step forward. It’s more like a step sideways. I also did a tiny bit of research into editing and did some preliminary editing for a friend’s manuscript… that counts, right?

I will value prayer more.

I… didn’t keep this one. I’m sorry to say I valued prayer less this year than in years past. I’m working on it.

What are my resolutions for 2016? That shall wait until next time!

Did you keep your resolutions this year? Let us know in the comments!

We did it, guys. WE DID IT! Operation Yuletide reached its fundraising goal thanks to the staggering generosity of a few awesome people! The fundraiser is still going, and it’s not too late to donate—every dollar helps, and there are rewards for donors! Check it out here!

386. Marching Home

TMTF will be taking a one-week break. The blog shall return on September 21.

A dear friend of mine recently passed away. I’ve mentioned him before on this blog, calling him Socrates, but today I’m going to call him Nick. His friends and family are devastated by his death, and I’m dealing with it in exactly the same way I deal with a lot of things—by writing about it.

I mentioned Nick in TMTF’s very first post; he was the friend who pretended to rip out and eat my still-beating heart every time we worked together. Nick and I met a few years before I started this blog. I was on a bus to Chicago when Nick, who was sitting in the seat behind mine, got my attention and said, “Okay, this is kind of a random question, but have you heard of a show called Avatar: The Last Airbender?”

Avatar - The Last Airbender

Nick and I were friends from that day onward.

I was starting my first semester at Bethel College in Indiana, and had just begun the nightmarish chapter I call my Thursday Afternoon of the Soul. It was about a year and a half of deep depression. That was a dark time, but there were flickers of light, and some of the brightest were the nights I spent watching Avatar: The Last Airbender with Nick and another dear friend, whom I’ll call Socrates. (I have to call someone Socrates.)

Although Nick and I had seen the show, Socrates had not. Nick and I took it upon ourselves to introduce Socrates to the epic adventure and captivating world of Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Seriously. If you haven’t already seen the show, you should. It’s a good one.) Starting at the beginning of our freshman year and ending on its final day, we watched the entire series together, averaging a couple of episodes every week.

It may sound silly or trivial, but those nights were gulps of sweet, fresh air in a year spent drowning in depression, anxiety, and loneliness. My best memories of that year are of those nights, which I called Avatar Evenings. Between episodes of the show, we munched junk food, discussed life, and laughed.

Nick, Socrates, and I hardly knew each other when we began watching the show. When we finished it, we were good friends.

Nick, pictured here choking Socrates. Good times.

Nick, here pictured choking Socrates. Good times.

Life went on. Our friendship endured through our college years. Nick, Socrates, and I were housemates for nearly as long as we attended college. We watched a couple of Pixar movies in theaters, and suffered through M. Night Shyamalan’s wretched film adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. (It was really bad; we left the theater laughing at its awfulness.) It was only in our final year that we began to drift apart.

I sporadically kept in touch with Nick. In fact, he suggested the book I’m currently reading; I won’t be able to pick it up again without thinking of him. We remained fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Our final conversation a few weeks ago was a short series of Facebook messages about the show’s sequel series.

Earlier this week, the news reached me that a health complication had taken Nick’s life.

Nick suffered from depression and existential anxiety, and in later life, from medical problems. Through all of it, he never gave up. He was honest, creative, and compassionate. I’m glad we were friends.

At the moment, I find myself even more thankful than usual for the dear friends God has given me. For all of my friends who are reading this, I have this to say: Thank you for being my friend. I wish I had told Nick how much I loved, admired, and appreciated him. I wish it were easier for me to say how much I love, admire, and appreciate every one of you.

On a less sentimental note, I will be taking a one-week break from this blog. My transition toward becoming a CNA at work has been stressful and a bit rough. I could use a little extra time to catch up with other things. Finally, after the tragic news about Nick, I’m not sure I have the heart right now for this blog’s usual geeky nonsense. TMTF shall return on September 21. There will be no posts until then.

I conclude with a song. No, really. It’s an odd, geeky way to say goodbye to a friend, but I think Nick would have approved.

There was a scene in Avatar: The Last Airbender that Nick and I loved, and discussed at length. It’s my favorite moment in the series. I’m not sure I shall ever be able to watch it again without remembering Nick and Socrates and our Avatar Evenings.

In this scene, a wise old man named Iroh bustles around town gathering items for a picnic. Everywhere he goes, he helps someone. When he sees a flower wilting, Iroh gives its owner advice on how to make it bloom. When a thug tries to rob him, Iroh disarms the man, makes him tea, and eventually convinces him to find a legitimate job.

And when Iroh passes a crying child, he calms the little one with a lullaby.

At the end of the day, Iroh sets up his picnic… as a memorial for his son, who died long before. “Happy birthday, my son,” says Iroh tearfully. “If only I could have helped you.”

Then Iroh sings that lullaby again. It was at this point, when we watched the series, that Nick and I held back tears of our own.

In much the same way Iroh brightened the lives of others, Nick brightened mine.

God rest your soul, Nick.

Leaves from the vine

Falling so slow

Like fragile, tiny shells

Drifting in the foam

Little soldier boy

Come marching home

Brave soldier boy

Comes marching home

364. Why Guest Posts Are Awesome

Update: This blog is finished, and no longer accepts guest posts. Thanks all the same!

As a blogger, I love guest posts and collaborations with creative people. In fact, over the years, I’ve pestered a number of people either to write posts for me or else to let me write posts for them.

Why is this? Well, hypothetical reader, I’m glad you asked. I’m not sure I’ve ever explained my love of creative collaborations, so here are six reasons why guest posts are awesome.

Guest posts offer a refreshing variety of styles and views.

My blog is written with a particular style from a specific perspective, and it probably gets old. Guest writers bring their own unique views, styles, and stories. As wise Uncle Iroh reminds us, “It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If you take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale.”


Uncle Iroh is an inexhaustible fount of wisdom. He also makes great tea.

Guest posts can explore subjects I can’t.

Following up on the first point, I must acknowledge that my experiences and expertise are limited. Guest writers offer more than just changes of view and style. They can discuss subjects about which I know nothing.

For example, I am an introvert, and I once wrote about it. It was impossible for me to explore extroversion, the opposite characteristic, but another blogger graciously shared her thoughts on it. Readers were able to explore both sides of the subject, even though I was qualified to discuss only one.

Guest posts work to the mutual advantage of bloggers.

When I write a post for another blog, not only do I reach a new audience, but I share that blog with my own audience via social media. This often works both ways. When I share guest posts, I introduce my readers to new writers, and those writers sometimes introduce my blog to their own readers. Guest posts are a kind of creative symbiosis.

Creative collaboration is symbiotic, like clownfish and anemones. Wait, this is a terrible metaphor. Never mind.

Creative collaboration is symbiotic, like clownfish and sea anemones. Wait, did I just compare blogging to clownfish? What is wrong with me?

Guest posts are posts I don’t have to write.

What’s not to like about that?

Guest posts are a privilege for me to write and share.

I’m honored that guest writers have considered this blog worth their time, effort, and creativity. In the same way, I’m honored that other bloggers have allowed my ramblings to invade their quiet corners of the Internet. Whether I write ’em or share ’em, I consider guest posts a privilege.

Guest posts strengthen a sense of community.

Neil Gaiman once observed that “writing is, like death, a lonely business.” Guest posts are a welcome respite from the solitary grind of blogging. They bring bloggers out of isolation and into a larger community of writers and readers.

If you ever feel like tossing a guest post in my general direction, or want a guest post for your own blog, please feel free to let me know!