Hello Plog Readers,

This time I have a question for you.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

Now, many people, like the commercial, consider it an impossible task to determine this. They're biters, not lickers.

Personally, I always took it as a challenge. You know me: I'm into self-discipline (as long as no whips, etc are involved).

However, the ability to wait to get to the chewy, chocolate center is predicated on the belief that there is indeed a chewy, chocolate center at the end of the process.

And there is.

I'm telling you there is.

I know because I just taped some scenes you've been waiting for.

So, my friends, who are so impatient for that chewy, chocolate center: don't give up. Enjoy the ride - the sweet candy-coated-outside ride. (FOR CLUES, SEE PHOTOS AT stephennichols.net)

Well, what's been happening on the set lately? Mary Beth is hysterically funny. It's no surprise that Lucille Ball is her idol. When I arrive in the morning I check in at the makeup room and, almost always, the place is in uproarious laughter as she recounts some story in her very own MB way.

I could never tell it as well and I won't try, but suffice it to say that the most recent one was a tale of do-it-yourself bikini waxing gone bad.

As you know, we (Steve and Kayla) have been in the old Quarantine - the "aquarium," as Patch likes to call it. Mary Beth has been snoozing through most of it. On one take she kind of snorted and startled herself awake. She looked over at me and had that look of "Oh s***". She was afraid she had ruined the take, but fortunately no one noticed, except me since I occupy the adjoining bed.

And hey, how about that biotoxin-resistant patch?! Pretty nifty, huh?

Well, I decided to treat myself and take a mini movie-marathon break.

I saw two masterfully executed films two nights in a row. Babel was last evening and Little Children tonight. I feel compelled to write about these important films. First, Babel, which was written by Guillermo Arriaga and directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the team that brought us 21 Grams and Amores Perros.

Cate Blanchett is luminous as usual. She is on screen maybe 10 minutes and practically steals the movie. She is the soul of the four interwoven, intersecting stories occupying the canvas of the film. One gun affects these four groups of people in different parts of the world. What I love about Inarritu's films is how down-to-the-bone real he gets with his visual style and with the films' acting. He isn't afraid to allow his actors to appear as they would in these life and death situations physically unattractive, in some cases snot and dirt, messed-up hair and all. The stories cover people from four different cultures and countries. And it's amazing that every single actor is so good. There wasn't one weak performance or fake moment throughout. The end result is a discovery that we all share the same humanity. I think that is an important message, especially in our world today.

About Little Children, what can I say - Kate Winslet is definitely my favorite actress working today. She can do anything. And I have a new actor on my favorite-actor list: Patrick Wilson. Todd Field, the director, was very smart and/or lucky to get these two actors, because without their performances, I don't think I would have been as involved in the world his film creates. Narration is always tricky, but it works beautifully here, partly because of its literary roots.

Next up on my list of films to see is Volver by Pedro Almodovar. Almodovar is one of those filmmakers who have developed a singular vision and style. I love the lyrical quality of his pacing and the richness of his images. I can't wait to see it - and it doesn't hurt that Penelope Cruz is in practically every scene. LOVE me some Penelope.

Well, folks, I'm reading the posts and all I can say is the holiday season is coming and the presents are on their way. Be patient.

The Patchman

For more information, please log on to www.NBC.com/Days, www.daysofourlives.com or www.stephennichols.net