25 Days of Thanks- Day 20

December 20, 2013

Thankful- Love Actually

Another quick one tonight.

Love Actually (IMDB Link) is a romantic comedy set in London with an ensemble cast full of recognizable faces.

Great quotes throughout the whole movie… “There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?”

Great musical moments including the best darn use of Good King Wenceslas that I’ve ever seen…

Emotional moments that tug at the heart-strings…

But where it really gets to me is the opening and closing scenes in the movie.  I’m not giving away any huge spoilers here but what the filmmakers did was send a crew to the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.  There, they simply taped people getting off their planes and excitedly greeting their loved ones.  From kids reuniting with their parents to old friends reconnecting, the scenes show unscripted joy and happiness.  Ordinary people, just getting off their flights, hugging it out with family and friends.

The quote used to start the movie… If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

This year, of all years, I couldn’t agree more.

Thanks for reading…


25 Days of Thanks- Day 19

December 19, 2013

Thankful- Sitting Under The Stars

The night air blows through the camp with a certain bite to it lessened briefly after it passed over the fire.

Shadows bounce around the trees as if they’re partners in a waltz.

The moon’s light casts a rippled white line on the lake pointing right at you.

Smoke billows up toward the sky accompanied by tiny fireworks of burnt embers.

Sitting back in your chair, with a beverage in your hand, you look up at the dome of dark blues and blacks punctuated by tiny white specs that seem to fade in and out.

Your mind harkens back to childhood where sometimes the only goal of the day was to connect the dots.

But then those astronomy classes come in handy as you draw the Big Dipper, Orion’s belt, and the Gemini twins.

I do enjoy a nice clear night under the stars.  My imagination takes over and sometimes the only thing I’m aware of is the sound the wood makes popping in the fire.

A few times I’ve been in amazing places where the stars outnumber the blades of grass on the ground.  And then there have been really special times where you can make out the Milky Way galaxy that we’re all floating through.   

I’m thankful for the little moments of looking up and just wondering what the heck might be going on out there in that crazy dark dome of a universe.

Thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 18

December 19, 2013

Thankful- J.C. Penney Catalog

Back before the internet, Amazon, and even email, toy information around the holidays came from one of four places:

1-  Friends
2- Commercials in between Ducktails
3- Begging your parents to take you to Toys R Us
4- The J.C. Penney Catalog

The J.C. Penney catalog was an amazing feat.  If you’ve never seen it, think of it as Amazon on paper.  Everything from tools, to office supplies, to jeans, to tires were in this thing.

But all that mattered to a young child were the 30-40 pages somewhere in the middle.

Flipping to these pages brought you face to face with the hottest things for the year.  The Star Wars playset in full color and setup with action figures having massive battles.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles driving their van through a mock-up of city streets with Leonardo hanging out the top ready for action.  Lego builds that would span two pages.  And yes, we’d point out the Barbie section to my sister so she could get her fix.

I know my parents worked very hard each year to provide us with a great Christmas and I thank them each year for what they do.

It must have been tough, as I’m sure it is for many parents and will be for me one day, to see the amazement and excitement as I flipped through pages but knowing that they couldn’t buy all the things I “wanted”.

I’m glad they showed restraint.  It was a valuable lesson that helps me everyday.

But I guess what I’m thankful for with these catalogs are the moments of imagination and wonder.  Let’s be honest…when you got the physical toys, it never really played out like it was shown in the pages.  Don’t get me wrong.  We did have fun with the toys.  I think that I just never said “thanks” for the imaginative moments.  The moments when you put the catalog down, went outside, grabbed a wiffle ball bat, and turned it into the lightsaber that will save the galaxy.

I don’t know if I’m saying this right but, I’m thankful for the imaginative moments just as much (if not more) than the hands on moments.  The J.C. Penney catalog helped, in a small way, encourage my imagination.

Thanks for reading…


25 Days of Thanks- Day 17

December 17, 2013

Thankful- A Fly Went By by Mike McClintock

I sat by the lake.
I looked at the sky.
And as I looked,
A fly went by.

And I was hooked.  These were the words that started my adventure into reading.

Now, sure, there were stories read to us at bedtime by my Mom and Dad (and even some stories that they made up that we still remember to this day.  Bert and Herbert were a family favorite).  Both of them are performers and had no problem putting in the right passion, inflection, and character into the story to keep us interested.

As we got older, their inflection turned to encouragement.  Encouragement for discovering this world of books on our own.

We stumbled along the way.  We’d pick out a book at the library that might have been a little too advanced.  Or maybe a word that had a bunch of letters that we thought shouldn’t exist being next to each other.  But they never let us give up.

For some reason though, I remember A Fly Went By was a personal mission for me to read.  I remember fingers underneath the words trying to sound them out.  I’d wonder if the pictures gave some sort of clue to what the heck was going on.  And little by little, page by page, I learned about why the fly went by the little kid just enjoying life on the side of the lake.

Little did I know my parent’s true intent…. they were starting my prep for the GREs.

All joking aside, I realize this wasn’t their intention.  But fast forward the video to 1:36.  Towards the end of those two pages, here’s the text:

The fly does not know that the frog is not mad.
The frog does not know that the cat is not bad.
The cat runs in fear of the dog, I can tell.
If I can stop him, then all will be well.

I’m in my early 30s and I needed a second to piece that all together.  During the GRE test that I took, there was a logic section.  Questions in this section included-  If George sits next to Mary and Bob sits next to Sue but Sue sits next to Mary and there’s only 5 chairs.  Where does Amy sit?

If you continue to read, it only gets worse:

The fly ran away
In fear of the frog
Who ran from the cat
Who ran from the dog
The dog ran away
In fear of the pig
Who ran from the cow
She was do big!
The cow ran away
From the fox, who ran
As fast as he could
In fear of the man
That man hear a thump
And away he ran!
It was just a sheep,
With an old tin can!


So to my parent’s masterplan of starting me early into the world of logic and reason, I say kudos.  Job well done.

I need some Tylenol.

Thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 16

December 17, 2013

Thankful- Diet Coke

I don’t ever drink Coffee.  It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s honestly that I’ve never really tried a good cup of coffee.  I know that my Dad shared some of his with us as kids but I just never got into it.

My vice is Diet Coke.  I freely admit that I enjoy it regularly.  It’s my caffeine fix.

Co-workers sent out wish lists for this year’s Secret Santa.  There’s included gift cards, gloves, pay raises.  On mine, three out of the five were Diet Coke.

There is a ton of information out there that says “Diet Coke doesn’t do harm to the body”.  And there are other sources that say, “Diet Coke is harmful to the body”.

But what it comes down to is that it might be time to stop being thankful for Diet Coke.  It’s time to stop gambling with this one and just stay out of the fight.  I got enough to deal with.

So, yes, soon enough… maybe after the holidays…. I’ll be more thankful for water, or seltzer, or maybe even coffee.  Do they make carbonated coffee?

Thanks for reading…



25 Days of Thanks- Day 15

December 15, 2013

Thankful- Split Checks

“So wait… who put in the $20.  Do you need change?  No, no.. you put in too much.  Who’s got change for a $20?”

“Spain!  You never carry cash on you!”

“Ok so you had the Hotter Than Hades Sandwich… plus the Diet Coke… plus part of the appetizer.  Oh… you didn’t eat the app.  You got a salad… That’s not on here.  Oh wait.. never mind.  Ok, but didn’t you have a mozz stick?”

“Who’s the math wiz of the group?”

“Hi.  I apologize in advance for the massive amount of instructions I’m about to give you.  There’s cash inside the bill holder thingy.  Then take $20 off the Hello Kitty card.  Then $24 off the Detroit Tigers card.  Then put the Tuna Melt, one soda, and the side of sriracha on the Don’t Mess With Texas card.  And then the rest on the Discover.  Oh, you don’t take Discover…. We’re going to need a few more minutes”

(I write this knowing full well that I have never been a waiter or waitress so I cannot provide that side of this “Thankfulness” tonight.  I can imagine that you all already have a ton of things to remember, and then on top of that, you have to remember who ordered what.  Not saying it’s always easy!)

Split checks solve a lot of the issues as the meal is winding down.  It solves a lot of the awkwardness as people try to figure out how much they owe.  And as a person who usually don’t carry too much cash, it solves that issue a lot of the time.

But I always forget to ask.

Thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 14

December 15, 2013

Thankful- QuizUp

Quick one tonight…

Trivia fan?  Check out the iOS app, QuizUp.  Tons of different categories from Disney to Wine.

Now this isn’t an app where you just answer the questions for fun.  Instead with this app, you actually play against someone from anywhere in the world.  Beat a guy in Singapore tonight in Lost (TV Show) trivia.

Check it out.  Add me if you want.  

Hope those in the Northeast are enjoying the snow!

Thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 13

December 13, 2013

Thankful- The Silence of Snow

Little known fact, I like walking outside when it’s snowing.  Particularly at night.

There’s a certain peacefulness when there’s a heavy snowfall.  Sounds become muted.  Light bounces off every snowflake and illuminates the little piece of world around it.  Tiny shadows hit the street as flakes pass by the street lamp.

You can barely hear the cars passing.  And your shoes make a crunching sound as you mark the first paths over the accumulated snow.

Looking up towards the sky make it seem like billions of stars surround you.

The best time for taking all of this in is after a good day and night of skiing.  The mountain has turned off all its lights yet you can still make out the trails, lifts, and the towers.  People are packing up to go home.  Kids are expending those last bits of energy before melting into their seats in the car.  A few people rummage around closing up the different offices and shops.  And your feet aren’t working 100% correctly due them being stuck in that constricting ski boot all day.

I never really knew why it was so silent when the snow was falling but just a few days ago, a conversation thread popped up on a site I visit that described what was happening.

Why does it seem that when it is snowing outside, it seems quieter?

(Please note that Reddit can be a dark place.  If you’re new to Reddit, please be careful where you click because one wrong click can lead you to a very dark and scary place.  Reddit isn’t all that bad!  There are cool threads for things happening at RPI or in Albany.  Just be careful.  Reddit is kinda like the China section at Macy’s.  There are lots of pretty things to look at but if you take a step in the wrong direction and break something, it will end very badly for you. )

I had no idea the science behind it related to sound waves and temperature.

We each have the little things we’re thankful for and this is just a small one I wanted to share with you.

Thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 12

December 12, 2013

Thankful- The Slapper

It’s not necessarily the most popular musical instrument, however it plays an integral part of one of the Christmas Holiday classics.  You might know it more from this song:

Around 1:07, the orchestra goes completely silent and all of a sudden you hear… WHACK.  The a few seconds later… WHACK.

It’s a split second where the percussionist is in control.  A split second where the conductor, the band, and the audience turns towards you and waits for that… WHACK.

If you’re just a second off, the whole piece is thrown off.  The band can’t wait for you!  You have to be on your game.

So there I am.  High School.  Hair perfectly coiffed but a little blown out from the marching band cymbals the song before.  Any time I crashed the two things together, a gust of wind would toss my hair in all different directions.  Videos of this still play in my house around the holidays.  Thank God my Dad hasn’t figured out YouTube.

Nervous as a son of a gun though.  I remember that our Band Director had a two sets of lights for the band and an additional set of lights just for the percussion area.

Whispers could be heard in our percussion section as the parents would send stares in our direction… “If our son or daughter screw up it’s all because you couldn’t get the darn beat right”

(In reality this didn’t happen.  The parents were always nice and supportive.  This is just my nightmares talking…)

I had two jobs during this song.

One, the sleigh bells.  Easy.  Ring ring ring ring pause ring ring ring.  Bring it down a little…. ring ring ring.

They were cake.

Two, the slapper.

Take a look again at the picture.  The spring on this thing adds an additional challenge.  This isn’t a manual instrument.  You need a physics degree to understand the right time to get your hand in motion so that Newton took over… and then you need some precise muscle control to know when to bring it back.  Start that a hair too soon or too late and all the audience hears is silence.  Silence.

But, if I remember correctly, it was spot on every time.  To the slapper, I say, “Thank You” for my brief solo during an awesome Christmas Song…. and for the lingering anxiety that I’m even feeling right now as I type this.

Thanks for reading…

25 Days of Thanks- Day 11

December 11, 2013

Thankful- Garageband

A question that comes up at random parts of a person’s life is, “Hey, you play any musical instruments?”

My response is, “Heck yea!  Been playing the drums since I’ve been 8.  I’m no Neil Peart, but I can get by…”

Them: “Why the drums Jeff?”

Me: “Because all my notes were on one line.”

I was never good at musical scales.  Sure there were the different tricks including FACE and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, but I had a tough time translating that from my eyes, to my brain, to my fingers, and then back again.  Give me a beat and I could make it happen.

But you can’t whip out a set of drums at a moments notice.  Someone with a guitar can bring that thing most places.  My drumset takes two, sometimes three people to lug around.

So I’ve started to expand.  Problem is that with a limited budget, I can’t spring for lessons.  I found out recently that there are lessons right in front of me already on my computer!

Garageband is an Apple program that is mostly used for basic recording of music.  One of the deeper parts of the program is that they provide some pretty cool lessons on how to play guitar and piano.  Heck, you can even skip the lessons and go right into learning a particular song.  Already downloaded John Legend’s Ordinary People to learn over a long weekend on piano.

Lots of free software and videos are out there if you want to give it a shot yourself.  YouTube has a wide variety of tutorial videos on the subject.  Garageband is easiest for me.

Over the summer, I tend to keep a football, basketball, baseball, and two sets of baseball gloves in my backseat for those “Just in case” moments.  Might be time to add the guitar to the mix!

Thanks for reading…