Showing my gratitude for various things because this seems like the best time of year to do so. I'm thankful for...

    Showing my gratitude for various things because this seems like the best time of year to do so. I'm thankful for...   

    • The NFL Red Zone channel, which is run by the NFL Network: Other than maybe donating $5 a month to sponsor a child in a Third World country, it's probably the best five bucks a month I've ever spent. Offered by Dish Network, subscribers to NFL Red Zone don't have to commit to the huge "NFL Sunday Ticket" package offered by DirecTV, and instead see the most exciting plays from each NFL game, and every single score.    

    I would suggest, though, that Red Zone studio host Chris Hanson stop treating the "Touchdown Montage" that ends each Sunday's broadcast – which, you may have guessed, includes slickly produced replays of every single touchdown scored in that day's NFL games – as if it's as important as the Zapruder film.   

    For some contractual reason, NFL Red Zone has to be off the air by 7 p.m. each Sunday, and if there are any overtime games that run long, on a couple occasions Red Zone has been unable to air the Touchdown Montage. Hanson apologizes profusely each time it happens, as if he's just ran over your dog.   

    • Heated leather seats: I'm sorry, I feel like a wimp writing this, but the heating elements went out at end of last winter in our truck and I figured it wasn't worth the cost to replace them. But now I know that the only thing worse than unheated leather seats in a vehicle in northern Minnesota might be the Minnesota Vikings' current quarterback situation. It's that bad.   

    • My Columbia winter coat: I've had it for 15 years and even after all that time there is not a single tear or rip on it, and every zipper works as smoothly as it did the first day I slipped it on. Late every year when it finally hits me that winter has set in once again and I'm freezing – like last week when it was below zero and I was outside for a while with a spring jacket on – I put on that Columbia coat and I'm not cold any longer. That thing's a beast!    

    Also, stitched across the neck in the back are the words “Powder Keg,” which must indicate the specific style of Columbia coat it is. I, however, like to think of it as a statement of my overall unpredictability for those behind me to see.   

    • Sarah Silverman: I just watched her latest one-woman comedy stand-up show on HBO – in front of an audience of 39 fortunate people in an intimate auditorium – and she is fearless. Incredibly crude, but fearless.   

    Speaking of fearless and HBO, add Bill Maher to this "thankful" list, too. The fact that the host of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" has never won a single Emmy relegates the Emmy Awards to joke status.   

    • For Brian Griffin, the 11-year-old beloved family dog on “The Family Guy” that show creator, writer and the actual voice of the character, Seth MacFarlane, decided to kill off in last Sunday’s episode by being run over by a reckless driver while setting up a hockey net in the middle of the street.   

    Brian was an unabashed liberal, a mediocre writer and, more than likely, an alcoholic. But even when he and the Griffin family’s youngest child, Stewie, were at their absolute grimmest and darkest, Brian usually came around to see the light.   

    The Griffin family has a new dog already, “Vinnie,” voiced by Tony Sirico, who played the ridiculously coifed Paulie “Walnuts” Gaultieri on the classic HBO mob series, “The Sopranos.”    

    MacFarlane and the show’s writing staff thought it would be “fun” to shake things up by killing off a major character, but I don’t know if I can get there.   

    Hopefully, Stewie finds a way to repair his time machine so he can revisit the past and get Brian out of the street in time.   

    • For my newfound flexibility, if not overall nonchalance, when it comes to getting our Christmas tree.    

    For many years, our family has cut down a fresh one at Rydell National Wildlife Refuge, which wants the non-native conifers gone. It takes around 1,500 lights to string all of those branches. Or, more specifically, for my wife to string the lights on all those branches.   

    But this year? Our sons have floated the idea of shaking things up with not just a flocked tree, but a pink flocked tree.   

    And, to their shock and maybe my wife’s, too, I’m all in.    

    When I was a kid, my friend’s family put up a pink flocked tree one Christmas, complete with pink lights. While I recall my embarrassed friend doing just about everything in his power to keep his friends from seeing his living room that December, it’s not like it scarred him for life. And our sons actually want one, so it’s all good, right?