The Thanksgiving Quiz

Thanksgiving is on the horizon, and to get everyone ready for the cooking and the horde of family members who will complain about your food, question all of your hard work and then spend the whole day fighting like a pack of drunken honey badgers, I’ve put together this quiz. Answers at the bottom.

1. How do you know when the turkey is ready?
A. It reaches an internal temperature of 865 degrees.
B. The ice chunk in the body cavity finally melts.
C. You get tired of guests asking when it’s going to be ready so you just start carving it, even though the juices aren’t running clear.
D. You have a “hunch” or a “good feeling about it.”

2. At what time is it appropriate to open the first bottle of wine?
A. 5:15 a.m.
B. 5:30 a.m.
C. 5:45 a.m.
D. After the 52nd time your mother calls asking when she is supposed to come over.

3. What is the best way to defuse family tension at the dinner table?
A. Tap dance routine.
B. Faking appendicitis.
C. Blurting out as loud as you can: “IT WAS COL. MUSTARD IN THE PARLOR WITH THE PIPE!!!”
D. Demand that all family members submit to genetic testing to prove that you are related by blood.

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Big, dang TV time

There are moments in our lives when insights reveal themselves in special events and the world is never the same again. The birth of a child. A marriage. A devastating illness or injury. A milestone birthday. A career change.

Or when you realize your TV screen isn’t big enough.


Hurricane Irma did it for me. We were staying with friends — designated by the county as the official Thompson evacuation shelter — and I was watching The Weather Channel, mesmerized.

“That’s a big dang TV!” I told my friend. “I mean, it’s like a Jumbotron. I’m seriously concerned Irma might just roar out it and bowl me over. If I still have a house after this, I need a big dang TV, too!”

He just looked at me and said: “Yeah man, I think you do.”

Thank you, Hurricane Irma. You have helped me to see the light.

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Life in a Nutshell wins Florida Press Club award for commentary writing

Brian Thompson’s column won first place in the Florida Press Club’s 2017 Excellence in Journalism Competition in a category for commentary writing.

The Bradenton Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel were the other winners in the category. This is the 8th award the column has won from the Press Club since 2000.

Read the three columns submitted for the award:

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    Long live Halloween, said the dad with the stretched waistband

    At the last moment, Halloween was saved. My worst fears — that a pyramid-sized pile of candy wouldn’t materialize from my daughter’s well-worn trick-or-treating pumpkin — were allayed.

    Long live Halloween … the night when dads gorge themselves on the spoils of their children’s hard work.

    But this year, it wasn’t looking so good. My 11-year-old daughter had decided a week or so ago she wasn’t going to participate. No dressing up. No trick-or-treating with friends. No pyramid of sweetness for dear old dad. She would just give out candy at home … THAT WE HAD TO BUY!!!

    My daughter only eats about a third of her candy from Halloween: pink and red Starbursts, a scattering of Skittles, Whoppers and a few other sugar-laden, artificially-dyed brands. They have to meet her high standards, and not seem tampered with. (If a cat so much as looks at my child funny, she blacklists the house, quarantines the candy as “tampered with” and turns it over to me.)

    All that candy – Almond Joys, Snickers, Baby Ruths! – all become mine.

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    Mysteries of the kitchen

    I’ve been watching a lot of TV shows about mysteries: Mysteries of the unknown. Mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle. Mysteries of the weather. Mysteries concealed on satellite images. Mysteries of why we gain weight even though we SAY we don’t eat too much ice cream or drink too much beer.

    But while I’m hooked on finding explanations for all of these worldly and even cosmic curiosities, it has also made me wonder about why we can’t solve some mysteries closer to home. Like literally in my kitchen. Because there are big mysteries in there that defy explanation and evade all answers. So, I put together this “Mysteries of the Kitchen” list in hopes that one day we might find a way to explain them all (hopefully on TV!):

    • Why do Youtube videos make it seem like kitchen appliance repairs are so simple, raising my hopes and encouraging me to pop out a water dispenser panel on the fridge? But the guy in the video didn’t break two critical pieces of plastic when he did it, and then spend the rest of the afternoon Gorilla-gluing his fingers to his fridge. (Or maybe they just edited that part out?!?)

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    It’s 4-year-old party time … spark the chain reaction

    A nuclear chain reaction occurs when subatomic particles collide in spectacular fashion, causing the particles to change (they become generally grumpy, irritable and complain a lot) followed by additional reactions that release incredible energy … and burn your face off.

    The closest you should ever come to experiencing such an event is attending a 4-year-old boy’s birthday party. In this case, you will see a blast of white light, feel intense, overwhelming heat and find yourself balled up in a corner screaming, “Why, Lord, why?!?”

    This will inevitably prompt a curious 4-year-old to wander over and ask in the sweetest, most consoling voice: “Do you like Transformers? Because I like Transformers!”

    At this point, you will wish that your face HAD burned off.

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    Never trust your smart-phone

    It read like a horror movie: “How smart-phones hijack our minds.” That was the headline of a piece in the Wall Street Journal — an article that immediately got my attention, and caused me to curse my phone: “Aha! It was YOU who caused me to eat all those candy corn pumpkins!!! I TOLD my daughter I had nothing to do with it!”

    The article gave some pretty shocking statistics: We pull our phones out 80 times a day … our phones are actually making us less focused and sloppier … their mere presence makes us dumber and we’re willingly letting these devices “commandeer our brains” … if there is anything resembling candy corn in the house, they will force us to eat it. Stuff like that.

    Truth is, if aliens wanted to invade Earth, all they need to do is buy a bunch of iPhones and pass them out for a free on a street corner. “Keys to the planet for a free smartphone? Eh … sounds like a fairly good deal! Does it come with unlimited data?”

    We are willingly letting ourselves get hijacked.

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    Dumb dad seeks smarts

    I think I went to school. I think I learned some things there, but I can’t seem to remember what any of them are … or is it “were” … or maybe “be.” See?!? What has happened to my grasp of knowledge, and smart things.

    This all occurred to me while attending the open house at my daughter’s school. We were listening to a presentation by her science teacher. She was discussing videos the kids could watch at home. When she mentioned “Mythbusters,” I tuned in to hear: “… and parents can watch, too, brushing up on things like Newton’s law of conservation of energy.”

    Some of the parents chuckled at this. I did, too. But truth is I didn’t know Newton was in to recycling back then. In fact, I didn’t know they had batteries. Did they put them in a separate box from the plastics and the paper?

    I mean, I know I must have learned about this in the fancy, expensive private schools I attended. I’m also certain that if my parents read this column, they’ll realize it would have been cheaper and easier to just light all their money on fire.

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    Memories of the Indomitable Irma

    The phone call came from my mother the night before St. Augustine evacuated for Hurricane Irma: “Brian! I don’t have any dry cat food to leave Missy Daisy and Little Joe! I only bought wet food in cans! What was I thinking?!? They don’t know how to use the can opener yet!”

    I’m not sure where the mix-up occurred. The cats weren’t going with my mother when she left for the hotel. The stacks of cat food cans would be worthless. Even worse, when she finally realized this, there was no Friskies to be found anywhere. The kitty food shelves were bare.

    These was desperate straits!

    Now I was being dispatched on a secret commando mission to find cat food: “CVS HAS SOME! I JUST CALLED! REMEMBER … MISSY DAISY DOESN’T LIKE SEAFOOD … ONLY BEEF!!!” It sounded like something from a war movie. Some frantic soldier on the front line calling in artillery fire to keep the swarming enemy at bay.

    I pointed at my daughter: “You’re coming with me. I want sanity on my side.”

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    Hey Hurricane Irma, you left a tree on my house!

    “There’s a tree on my house.”

    If you ever say these words out loud, your ears will hear them, question what was just said, and spark an internal debate: “A tree on my house? Is that what I just said? No! There can’t be a tree on my house.”

    Only, yes. It IS a tree. And it’s leaning on my house. Look!

    There it was. A photo in a text from my neighbor. My neighbor, Forest, stays through all the storms. Even better, he sends me texts, photos and videos at all hours. This year during Hurricane Irma he even streamed live video from his upstairs porch.

    The news is always good. That’s what I was expecting when the texts came in the morning after the storm. But they showed damage on the street. A transformer dangling from a pole. A massive tree that took out power lines clear over to Riberia Street, two blocks away. Then I saw it. It was agonizingly slow to load, taxing the struggling cel network in the powerless neighborhood where my family had evacuated to. It was of a pink house — boy, that’s similar to mine! — with a big cedar tree parked against an upstairs porch.

    GASP! “There’s a TREE on my HOUSE!!!”

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