I just love it when I am proven right. Even if the prediction takes 20 years to come true.

The ad on the Toto website promises that consumers are in for “an experience beyond words.”

They’re not kidding.

On the company’s website, it says that Toto Ltd’s Z Series Neorest toilet, offers the worlds first auto fragrance release system and stereo music system, providing different scents and music depending on the season of the year.

Did you get that, Ladies and Gentlemen? The Series Z is a toilet. A loo. A potty.

The Z series has a seat warmer that can be turned on and set to the desired temperature by, I kid you not, a remote control device.

As if we don’t already have enough remotes lying around on the coffee table. My worry would be that I might pull out the potty remote and confuse it with the one for my TV, or vice versa. That could result in a TV that unexpectedly goes directly to an All-Limbaugh network, or a toilet that produces its own crap.

You can’t make this stuff up, you know. There are rules.

The Toto is a pioneer of high-tech toilets with built-in bidets, very popular in Japan, and gaining ground here. Of course, their popularity is largely limited to those with tons of disposable income. Not surprising…they cost between $3,000 to nearly $6,000.

“The Z series features a pulsating massage spray, a power dryer, a “tornado wash” flush, and a lid that opens and closes automatically,” The BBC reports.

In 1988, when I first wrote about the Toto robopotty, I was skeptical.

I know, I sound like I’m anti-technology, but I’m not. When the Wright brothers were working on their airplane, people said “if man were meant to fly, God would have given him wings.”

I like gadgets as much as the next guy. But I don’t want them getting too personal. If man were meant to have his nether parts pampered by a flushable computer, ummmm. I dunno WHAT God would have had in mind.

Here’s what I wrote all those years ago: This device, sort of a W.C. married to a P.C., features a seat that is cleaned automatically between uses, preheated to a temperature that you tell the computer you prefer. But get this: once you have sat down and finished your business, you push a button and a little mechanical arm slips out from down there somewhere, washes your hindquarters, dries you with a blast of hot air…then touches you up with a touch of perfume-laden mist…

I worry what would happen, with age and moisture, if, deep in its little binary potty brain, it suffered the delusion that it was one of those violent computer games, where it must fight its enemy – that would be me and my perfumed fanny – to the death?

I’d sit down, do what I came to do, push the button, and WHAM! I’d be hanging from the shower rod while the porcelain pugilist waves its washer arm over its head, waiting for someone to hand it a trophy.

Well, that hasn’t happened to anybody, so far as I know.

But get this headline from the BBC news service:

Japan’s leading toilet manufacturer Toto is offering free repairs to 180,000 toilets after some of them caught fire.

The BBC reported that there have been three cases in which the device caught fire. A company spokeswoman said that no one has been injured so far.

“The fire would have been just under your buttocks,” she added, helpfully.

Toasted buns.

Well, the advertising promised an “experience beyond words.”

Printable ones, anyway.


© 2007 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.


NOTE: This column is basically a story I wrote in November for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, where I am more-or-less gainfully employed. I am developing this blog and wanted to put something out with photos, just to see how well it works. Thanks for your patience! Terry


The big black and white badge on my chest said “IYQ.” See, the idea is, people, usually kids, see the badge and read it, in the form of a question.


To which I reply “I like you, too!”

Clown humor is not subtle, but then, NOTHING about clowns is subtle. I look in the mirror. White-polka-dotted blue one-piece suit with collar in a rainbow explosion of posies. Curly blue wig. Orange and white hat. Bulbous red nose. Gigantic blue and white shoes. A sartorial earthquake.

Pickles the Clown

From one of the pom-pom buttons on the suit hangs a toy hamburger that laughs maniacally when you squeeze its bun. I only giggle when you squeeze mine.

Yep. It’s a clown. Pickles The Clown, to be precise. Looking back at me from the mirror.


The things I do for this job. On the other hand, I get to dress up as a clown and call it work. Life is good.

Sandi Smith, aka “Dot the Clown,” was going to call me Whopper, as a pun on my last name and my size; I am over 6 feet tall and weigh more than 300 pounds. But before I arrived at the Mid-Atlantic Clown Association at the New Cumberland Holiday Inn, Patriot-News photographer John Whitehead had convinced Sandi that she should call me Pickles, since I just finished six years working in the newspaper’s Dillsburg bureau.

Well, that’s the story I got. Maybe they were just gherkin my chain.

So, Hi, My Name is Pickles, and IYQ.

This is all Dot’s fault. When I first e-mailed her to tell her I wanted to cover the clown convention, she said something like “sure, come down, we’ll turn you into a clown.” Some of my editors thought that sounded redundant, but I agreed.

Besides, the convention started the day after then General Election, and I figured that, by then, I would need a change of pace.

Clowns are even funnier than politicians, are more fun to look at, and don’t take themselves so seriously.

Well, that’s not exactly right. Clowns, REAL clowns, are very serious about not being taken seriously. Some people don’t like clowns, but they must fill a need; clowns have been with us in one form or another since at least 1800 B.C.

The funny thing is, getting rigged out as Pickles was sort of like a Jekyll and Hyde thing, only in a good way. When the makeup and the silly clothes went on, whatever loose grip I had on my inner clown let go entirely.

As Pickles, I left the room where my wereclown transformation took place, worried that I was going to feel self-conscious. No need. For one thing, it is hard to feel out of place when you are just another clown in the crowd. Nearly 200 clowns attended the event, and most of them were rigged and running full bore. It was a little overwhelming.

For another thing, people kept walking up to me and asking if they could have their picture taken with me. The last time that happened, I had fallen asleep on the sand and tourists were snapping shots of what they thought was a beached whale.

I definitely felt…different. As folks snapped away, another clown, Trumpet told me to keep my hands up. “Always above the waist, always gesture. Look alive.” I did, and things cascaded from there. I couldn’t help myself. I caught myself walking with my giant shoes pointing left and right, which gave me a sort of penguin waddle, if you can imagine a polka-dot waddle. If you can, you’re spending too much time on Second Street.

Anyway, there I was, waddling around, hamming it up with Jimbo and Peachy Keene and Buster, Trumpet and Dot and Polka and thinking that this was a whole lot more fun than a staff meeting, and the clowns are funnier. I could get used to this.

Peachy Keene stood in the hallway, talking to several civilians. Peachy stands 6’6” on a short day, as this was. Normally when he has the ceiling space, he wears stilts that jack him up to 9 feet tall. He stands out. Not to mention up. He looked anything but scary, and had this trick of looking stern – I mean “clown stern,” which is not stern at all – and making his big red nose bob up and down like a manic apple. None of the children in the hallway fled in terror. It cracked me up every time I saw it.

Kids are sometimes put off by clowns. The photographer who worked the convention with me Saturday brought his little girl, Katie, along. She’s a wee thing, about three feet tall, and normally, as John says, a regular “jibber-jabber.”

She was very quiet at the convention. Katie watched as Sandi turned me from a reporter into a clown: greasepaint, blue wig, the whole shebang. After all that, she looked at me as though I was some odd insect. I have to say, though, that she looked at me the same way before the change, so maybe it’s me.

Sandi suggested that she could turn Katie into a clown and her clown name could be Jibber-Jabber. That idea didn’t fly, either.

Of course, who could blame her? How’d YOU like to be three feet tall and stuck in a room with a bunch of gigantic people who dressed funny and acted even funnier? Like dodging your way through confetti-colored dinosaurs.

But, I have to say, the hotel corridors had a good number of kids, and a lot of them seemed to be having fun. Not as much as their parents, mind you. I don’t know when I’ve seen so many silly grins or so many point-and-shoot cameras at one place. Members of the public taking photos of clowns, or having friends or even clowns to take pictures of them standing next to a clown. Clowns taking pictures of clowns.

There were so many clowns that normal people looked out of place and a little dull.

I think my favorite moment might have been when a woman who had read about the convention in the paper came up to me and asked if she could get her photo taken with Pickles.

“Um, I’m not really a clown, ma’am,” I said.

She looked at me. See the description above. Add a pair of gigantic baby-blue and white clown shoes.

“Yeah, right. You’re funny,” she said.

She got her picture.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

By T.W. Burger


Snicker me no doodles…gimme coffee.

Call me old-fashioned. Even boring. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Done? Good.

I confess that I am a coffee snob, but not one of those who will only order, I dunno, a half-caff, elderberry latte or some other horror.

What the hell happened to coffee? I mean a regular cuppa joe, java, whatever.

I attended a meeting the other night where the participants all received a ‘goody bag.’ I got one, too, which was nice. There were brochures for various businesses, a mug from a local bank, a coffee scoop and a free sample of ground coffee called “Snickerdoodle,” enough for a single pot.

I was immediately suspicious. Coffee is, to me, a very serious drink, sometimes ceremonial, even sacramental, sometimes gustatory, even medicinal, something to keep me from falling over in a dead stupor while writing about, say, some township’s tax ordinances, or sitting through a staff meeting. It pries me loose from the fogs of sleep in the morning, and bolsters my spirits during the day.

Coffee is not something one names “Snickerdoodle.”

Imagine a Catholic calling Pope Benedict XVI “Benny,” or, increasingly, as painful as calling George W. Bush “Mr. President.”

Anyway, I had to try it. Yesterday morning I opened up the little plastic baggie and dumped the little pile of Snickerdoodle into my coffee maker and stumbled off to get dressed while the machine coughed and gurgled.

After awhile, I sat in the living room, laptop at the ready for my morning ritual of email and scanning newspapers online, a steaming cuppa coffee at my side.

Excuse me: Make that a steaming mug of Snickerdoodle.

OK, imagine if somebody had decided to make a new type of Hershey’s Kisses, only instead of chocolate, had substituted roast beef. Nothing wrong with roast beef, you know. Just not in that context.

That’s what Snickerdoodle tasted like. Not like roast beef candy…but like something amiss, out of place. A gilded lily. A mistake. Not icky like, say, eating bugs, just not right.

Thank you, Mr. Gutenberg, but it’s time to say goodbye.

I admit to being a fuddy-duddy in some respects (note words on coffee above,) but yesterday on the long drive to work I had a sort of a mini-revelation. I’ve been writing a column more-or-less regularly for 27 years. Sorry, I’m not tired yet, but I have discovered a sort of stuck-in-a-rut quality to what I do. Mostly, it is due to my longtime partnership with Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg. Johannes, rest his soul, has been a great boon to me.

Somewhere just shy of 600 years ago, Mr. Gutenberg invented the printing press, a device that inarguably changed the world, and more or less made it a better place, with the possible exception of junk mail.

His gizmo, much refined, made newspapers possible, and newspapers have kept me employed for most of the years I have been at this.

But there’s the rub. Writing for newspapers tattoos into one’s DNA certain hard-to-quit habits, like deadlines.

For all those column-writing years, I have had one day or night a week when I wrote a column (well there was a time when it was six days or night a week, but that got old after a couple of years.) If I missed that date, I didn’t have a column that week. If I had an idea for another column and I’d already sent one off, I had to tuck that away for another week. Usually, when the time came, I’d forgotten what the idea was, or, worse, remembered the topic but couldn’t recall what my thinking had been on it.

Very frustrating.

Late in life, (yesterday morning) it occurred to me that I was behind the times. My newspaper still prints on a daily basis. But we also publish online, and breaking news appears there as we write it. The deadline as we used to know it is gone. News, for good or ill, is there as soon as we know about it, even if we don’t know much.

So, why am I still sitting here working as though I was still buddied up with Mr. Gutenberg? It has been two years since this column regularly appeared on newsprint, yet I have been writing as though there were a crew of ink-stained wretches standing around playing pocket pool while I finished my column.

So, from now on, Burger to Go will be a little bit like breaking news on-line…pretty much written and sent when I think of them. It’s likely to be a little choppy at first…old habits die hard…but I’m trying to keep up with the times.

And now, I’ve got to go break the news to Johannes. Maybe I should ease the news with a cup of coffee. Or maybe he’d prefer Snickerdoodle.

© 2007 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.