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Two thousand six will go down as the year Grandma went on strike for Christmas. Usually she's all wound up planning festive meals, looking for new shiny things to hang on the tree, negotiating bulk discounts on underwear and socks for the elves. The rest of us sit around the place recovering from another year of smartening up the population while Grandma's whizzing around the room with dust cloths and spray cans and tinsel and those ugly little Hummel figurines. Man, if you don't keep alert and pick your feet up off the floor when she comes through with the vacuum cleaner, she'll just bash right into you. She's relentless.

Our first clue that something was wrong this year was when she didn't unpack her Twelve Days of Christmas aprons. I remember as a little know-it-all starting to get really excited when Grandma had gotten down to the Five Golden Rings model. We knew there were presents just over the horizon. By Three Calling Birds, I would be having trouble sleeping. The partridge and the pear tree signaled that it was on. For years I believed that a stork brought babies, a partridge had something to do with Christmas presents.

But this year, at some point, we realized she hadn't even taken out the mixing bowls for her mincemeat pie. Every year we refuse to eat anything called mincemeat pie, but that doesn't stop her from making it. So Ma Alice took over pie duties this year, but since she didn't have the recipe, we were screwed. Ma did go out and buy meat, and every day she minced it a little more, hoping it would transform itself into a pie, but no luck. Grandma wasn't talking, so we were on our own.

At least the roof looks festive. Regular listeners already know that Pa Alice had decided to leave up the Santa and His Reindeer light display year round. Why take it down when he's just going to have to put it up again next year? Typical Pa Alice thinking. He's always vigilant for opportunities to conserve energy. "Living green," he calls it. Grandma uses other colorful phrases.

Every year the elves volunteer to handle anything that needs decorating that is low enough for them to reach. That's pretty much nothing, so they take off on their scooters and we don't see them again until the eggnog's ready on Christmas Eve. This year we got the egg part handled, but we never did find nog.

In spite of Grandma's strike, we've managed to put together our traditional New Year's gift to you Alicelanders, the year-end quiz, in which you realize how much wiser you are in December than you were last January. No, no, please don't thank us. It's our pleasure.

1. Because science long ago appropriated the name "meteorology" for the study of the weather, people who study meteors are forced to call themselves "meteoricists" and the study of meteors "meteorics." Therefore, Matthew Alice might be called a (A) facticist, (B) truthicist, (C) realiticist, (D) hotairicist.

2. Mom told you to wear clean underwear every day in case you're in an accident. But we investigated the doo-doo of death question, and now Matthew Alice recommends that everyone wear: (A) Depends, (B) porcelain jockeys, (C) Charmin boxers, (D) a maxi-pad thongs, (E) nothing.

3. Our longest investigation this year had to do with unique vehicles you'll see only on the streets of San Diego. These are: (A) Mars rovers, (B) the research elves on those little Shriners bikes, (C) Ma Alice's home-built quarter-scale Oscar Meyer Weiner cars, (D) motorcycle-powered bumper cars from amusement parks around the world.

4. From the Matthew Alice Do-It-Yourself Law Files, we got plenty of handy, fee-free tips. Which of the following will get you arrested, and which is a clever idea? (A) Go right ahead and make a citizen's arrest of anybody who is acting especially stupid, since acting like a jerk in a public place is a felony, and we all know the jerks of the world are just asking for it. (B) If you bump off your annoying neighbor in a rowboat 600 miles offshore, you're pretty much in the clear, arrest-wise. (C) Make a citizen's arrest of someone throwing his chewed-out gum on the sidewalk and the police will not laugh at you when they show up. If they show up. Well, actually, they won't show up.

5. We had a fun question about animals at play. We found out that: (A) the Association for the Study of Play is an association for the study of play, (B) Bugs don't have enough free time to play, (C) One scientist actually believed he could find examples of play behavior in octopuses, and by golly he did! (D) Even though the science guys claim to have observed play behavior in birds, reptiles, amphibians, and exotic mammals, they still aren't sure how to define "play."

6. The Ad Council is responsible for some of America's most memorable slogans. Which one is not an Ad Council creation: (A) A mind is a terrible thing to waste, (B) Loose lips sink ships, (C) Friends don't let friends drive drunk, (D) This is your brain on drugs, (E) Waaaaaazzzzuuuup?!

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