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No whining. You've had a whole year to prepare. If you broke up into study groups as I suggested, you should have no trouble. If not, consider adding this to your New Year's resolution list, as long as you're thinking of it -- "In '99 I will start studying earlier for the big millennium exam next December." (But naturally I'll have to lower your grade if you do write that down, since, of course, the millennium doesn't begin until 2001. Or 1901, for those of you who still haven't gotten your Y2K thing fixed.)

Anyhoo, for next year, doyenne of the mailroom, Grandma Alice, has resolved to stop crying when we get crank postcards and to stop putting sweaters and booties on the bomb-sniffing dogs. For Christmas I got her the Popiel Pocket Emergency Medical Technician, the papercut edition. Ma Alice has promised to be better about checking in with her parole officer and to finally figure out how to get the Plymouth Duster she's built from scratch out of the basement. The elves are stuffing Ma's stocking with a quart-size bottle of Woolworth's Evening in Paris perfume. They bought a case or two before the chain shut down a few years ago. Pa Alice says he'll get to his resolutions sometime between the Pro Bowl and spring training. In return, we'll be Christmas shopping for him during the Memorial Day blowout sales. And the elves have resolved to stand up straighter in '99.

So sharpen your pencils, sit next to somebody smart, and see how much useful stuff you've learned this year.

1. C-gar of Shelter Island asked about ministerial protocol concerning the question, "If anyone knows any reason these two should not be joined in holy matrimony..." According to most padres, if someone jumps up and yells, "Hell, yes," what's their next move? (Circle the one preposterous enough to be correct.)

a. Call a time-out, escort the troublemaker to the curb

b. Shout, "Well, just as I suspected," then ask for all the details

c. Organize a fund-raising raffle for the wedding gifts

2. The Duck from San Diego went to a white-trash theme party at which the stripper poured the contents of a glow stick over her body. What were the potential risks involved?

a. Embarrassing rash from fluorescent dye

b. Night-flying insects mistake stripper for porch light

c. Off duty, stripper becomes good mugger target, since tip money glows in the dark

d. Foot injury when guest drops shotguns and/or bowling bags

3. Thanks to Robert on First Avenue, this year's fact(s) to add to our "Paranoids Amok in Tinseltown" files is(are):

a. Movie studios have long-term contracts with the premium TV channels

b. About one year post-multiplex, major films will be available on premium TV

c. The studios would rather not talk about this

d. The premiums are not allowed to talk about this

e. Matthew Alice's source agreed to testify only if he could appear in silhouette, wearing a John Gotti mask and Groucho glasses, doing his Richard Nixon voice, accompanied by his lawyer, publicist, and hairdresser

f. Hey, fool, this is Hollywood we're talking about. All of the above, natch.

4. Project Mickey Schmidt: For Ila Schmidt in Carlsbad, we put on our lab coats and discovered many things about cats, chlorine, and your weird pets.

a. (True or false) Many Alicelanders own cats that have a "drool, purr, space-out" brain center that can be stimulated by catnip, chlorine, Ben-Gay, asphalt, Life Savers, dirty T-shirts, Irish Spring soap, Mary Kay perfume, parsley, Raid, black olives, and carrots.

b. (True or false) Of the hours devoted to Project Mickey Schmidt: We are proud to say that never have so many worked so long to prove so little.

c. (Complete the analogy) Cat : catnip :: dog : 1. dog poop 2. cow chips 3. day-old dead-squirrel guts mashed on hot asphalt 4. all of the above

5. From Hillcrest came Matt Cardwell's inquiry. Nag champa incense...

a. Literally, in Hindi, means something like "ginger flower cobra breath"

b. Is less toxic than the tailpipe of a diesel bus going uphill

c. Smells better than Midnight Musk incense, the scent of a hooker in flames

d. Helps put the "Dead" in "Deadhead"

6. Essay Question (choose one): a. It's nearly impossible to sneak up on a rabbit when you're on foot. It's nearly impossible to avoid hitting a rabbit with your El Camino. Since roadkill supports scavenger animals and birds, explain how the automobile is more important than man in the great cycle of life.

b. According to Canadian researchers, a cow can drink 22 quarts of beer before it's too drunk to stand up. Explain how beer is more important than man in the great cycle of life.

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