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I think Christmas is over at the Alice house. We're never sure until the tree comes down and we shake all the deadbeat relatives out of the branches. But the gauge shows empty on the eggnog vat, so it's likely when they realized that everybody split.

The elves started shopping for Christmas last June some time. Every time they walked past a construction project, they'd pick up a cinder block and bring it home and wrap it. It took Grandma hours to open them all Christmas morning, but at least now she has everything she needs for that great backyard barbecue she had on her gift list. We're not sure she was planning to have to build it herself, but Grandma's pretty handy with a trowel and mortar.

The elves tried another rendition of the Nutcracker ballet. They do it every year. We all have to cram into the living room and eventually start covering our eyes when the mayhem ensues. This year the sugarplum fairies suffered a broken ankle and dislocated shoulder in a major pileup after too many pirouettes. The Nutcracker's costume caught fire, and Ma Alice had to pour the punchbowl on him. All in all, it went better than last year. And the traditional food fight at the dinner table was only half-hearted, probably because we didn't have enough sweet potatoes and gravy to make it really interesting. This year Grandma really thought ahead and covered the widows with sheets so we didn't end up with all the neighbors peering in like we usually do.

Pa Alice was the savviest gift-giver this year. Two weeks ago he gave all of us his head cold, so Christmas day he said he'd already done his part and we were lucky we got anything at all from him.

But now that the festivities are over, it's time to sum up the year to date. Let you see how much smarter you are now than you were 365 days ago. We're not a degree-granting institution, but if you score well, go ahead and draw up your own diploma from the Mathew Alice College of Critical Knowledge. So here's the quiz. I hope you broke up into study groups like I suggested.

1. In 2009 the feds are planning a big change in our TV viewing. Which of the following is/are true about this watershed event:

a. New legislation will ban further spin-offs of Law & Order (and also CSI, should they get it into their heads to fill in the spin-off gap).

b. Whatever it is, it will cost the consumer lots of money.

c. Whatever it is, the benefit to the consumer will not be obvious.

d. Whatever it is, the quality of programming will not be higher.

2. If you have anything in your house that is electrical, runs on batteries, or is made of china, plaster, glass, cheap wood, fake wood, plastic, or fabric, no matter what the label says (e.g.,"Irish lace," "Irish linen"), that thing was undoubtedly made in:

a. China

b. That really big country east of Russia

c. The country that invented kung pao chicken

d. The country that has the second largest population (after India)

3. According to state law GS68110, which of the following is absolutely prohibited:

a. Seersucker, sleeveless mini-length judges' robes for summer

b. Rolled tacos sold in twos or fours

c. The tooth fairy leaving anything less than folding cash

4. Ft. Knox is famous for its gold. If you open the vaults you'll find:

a. Tons of gold bars

b. Tons of gold dust

c. Or just tons of dust, maybe, since nobody's audited the gold in decades, and rumor has it the gold's all gone; and the government guys who know what's in there aren't talking

5. The loudest noise in recorded history was:

a. A volcano erupting

b. An atomic bomb explosion

c. Billy, the guy who does the commercials for Ka-boom floor cleaner

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