The Dark Side tries to spoil new ‘Star Wars’ for me

Must … resist … the … Dark … Side. It calls to me. Tempts me to read spoilers about “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” before I have a chance to see it.

“Brian! Just Google: ‘spoilers for new Star Wars movie.’ The Force will show you the way.”

No … must … resist ….

I messed up royally with the last installment. Read a few too many stories and learned about Han Solo’s death. Wait, a minute … you didn’t know that? I meant how he landed the Millennium Falcon in a yellow zone and Republic Parking Enforcement put a boot on it.

I don’t want to make the same mistake again. I don’t want to read too much, or accidentally scroll through something that gives away key plot points.

I have to resist for a few more days … until I can get my unenthusiastic family off the couch to go see it.

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Dial-it-in Christmas decorating

It may have been a world record for Christmas decorating. In fact, I think it took longer to get the boxes out of the attic than it did to get ornaments on the tree and the holiday nick-knacks dispersed about the house.

I’ve nearly foregone Christmas just so I wouldn’t have to drag those dang boxes down the rickety attic steps. Nothing is worse than hitting your head multiple times, stumbling over luggage and nearly toppling out of the opening, only to be told: “No! That’s a box of Thanksgiving stuff! We need Christmas!”

But once it was all down, decorating became a slapdash race this year. Even more so than previous years. At times, it looked more like net-casting or leaf-blowing than decorating.

Maybe it was the weather. It felt like 120 degrees outside as I strained in the sun to put Christmas light icicles around the front porch and not get impaled on the bougainvillea. My wife reported to her aunt in Long Island that it was a very Florida Christmas: “We’re all in shorts, the doors are open and we’ve got the AC running.”

Maybe that had something to do with the not-so-festive mood. The just-get-it-done approach. Like we were at the beach, not the North Pole.

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Lessons from Thanksgiving

It was a time to give thanks — to be mindful, take stock in all that we have and show gratitude. That is the meaning of Thanksgiving. But along with it, the holiday brings a lot of other lessons for us to learn and ponder. Lessons not quite as significant, but just as important.

Like how dogs would sooner be thrown into a pool of hot lava than go out in the rain. And if you’re in a hurry – because it’s Thanksgiving morning and there’s a turkey in the oven – they’ll fight you even more.

My brother and his family traveled north this year to visit my sister-in-law’s family. We took care of his dog, who I affectionately refer to as “Meat Chunk.” It’s because she resembles a side of beef. She runs around the house with my dog crashing into things, dislodging structural support walls and crushing toes.

Because my dog and his are like dueling tornadoes, Meat Chunk was going back to her house Thanksgiving morning. The rainy morning. The morning when everything was flooded. The morning I had a 15-second window that didn’t include time for scrambling around the car trying to get her out and yelling, “Damn you, Meat Chunk, it’s just a little rain!”

That got a few stares on the street.

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Memo for a Winter Spectacular

Memo to Dad
Subject: Upcoming performance of ‘The Winter Spectacular’

Because you are known NOT to pay attention, I am writing you this memo to go over important instructions for my performance of “The Winter Spectacular.” As you may recall, but probably don’t because you had that blank look on your face at dinner, “The Winter Spectacular” is when I dance and spin colored streamers to the delightful sounds of Christmas music. It is for select family members and takes place in the dining room. You remember now? All coming back to you?

Your role in the performance is very simple … which is why I’m worried. Whenever something is “simple” you either: 1) over-complicate it, or 2) don’t pay any attention. LIKE RIGHT NOW! Are you paying attention!?! Come on, stay with me.

OK, so here are some key things you must remember:

• The performance will last approximately 4 hours. There will be seven 20-minute intermissions, and an encore that should take a little over an hour depending on how long the applause goes on for.

• You are strictly forbidden from taking bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, breaks to complain about how long the show is or any mention of soccer matches on TV that you’re missing. We all know you’re DVR-ing them!

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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.

BLAMMO!

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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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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