[Thanks to Laura Schultz, who reminds us that you have to act fast if you own Series EE Savings bonds you want to roll over into Series HH Retirement Bonds before the end of the year, when the rate, guaranteed for 10 years, drops from 4% to 1.5%. Click here to learn more, and be prepared to take a quick run down to your bank.]

Frist I was going to do a column called IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOTT LIKE CHRISTMAS but decided the last thing any of us want at this time of year is more politics.

Then I was going to do a column on what I wanted Santa to bring: peace on earth, good will to men and women, a free-range chicken in every pot, and Super TiVo just for me.

Super TiVo would apply to all of life, not just TV. You could pause (‘just give me a minute to think!’), fast forward through the boring stuff, slo-mo the good stuff, and remember every bit of it.

Santa brought me none of these things . . . although, in the peace department, Don Rumsfeld reassured me we could lick Iraq and North Korea simultaneously, if it came to that, while never losing our focus on Al-Qaeda. (According to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, a key CIA briefing the week before the Inauguration informed Bush and Cheney that Osama bin Laden’s network was a ‘tremendous’ and ‘immediate’ threat. Oh, well.)

I thought of getting a $4,000 40-inch flat screen TV – came this close to ordering one – and then took advantage of the 24-Hour Universal Cooling-Off Period (U-COP) to realize that, well, as gorgeous as it is (even switched off, it’s gorgeous), it would take up a lot more room than our perfectly adequate 19-inch Samsung. It would also require some setup, which might go easily, but, then again, given my thumbs, might not. Nor did it have a jack for the wireless SONY headphones we use when only one of us wants to watch. And the $269 Samsung has a VCR built in, so that when you pop in a tape, it knows and immediately begins playing. (We’re migrating to DVDs, but there are still a lot of tapes in the world.)

So I saved $4,000 ($7,000 pre-tax) and a potentially frustrating day of setup, and this argues pretty strongly for U-COP – not yet an official world law, but one you can nonetheless adopt unilaterally when considering any new purchase.

I yearn for a huge flat-screen TV. I know I will one day have such a TV. And that be the time I buy it, it will cost $2,500 less.

I saved even more by not buying a Segway, one of those old-fashioned hand lawn-mowers with a gyroscope that you stand on and use to deliver the mail instead of mow the lawn. My thinking here was that the first people to have these for personal use will be fairly shouting, ‘Look at me! I spent $5,000 on this! Mug me!’ Not to mention the strain on a person’s heart of not walking anywhere, nor the need to tell every child you pass on the street, ‘No, you can’t try it.’ (But please let me try it.)

Even without the flat TV or the Segway, I got some neat stuff, but more fun was what I gave – including $100 blank checks to each of our nieces and nephews, aged 7 to 14, which they fill in with the names of their favorites charities . . . a wi-fi card and router for Charles’s Thinkpad that should provide weeks and weeks of commercial-free music while on hold with technical support . . . and a gift subscription to Audible.com, which included an MP3 player and the recipient’s choice of 24 audible books – two a month.

On my own Audible dime, I spent four delightful hours Christmas night, after the hubbub, cleaning the kitchen listening to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Huge fun.

Now about the elves. I can’t say for sure when they spirited me away – it was clearly sometime the night of the 23rd or there would have been a column Christmas Eve. I have a foggy memory of their asking me to write wrap lyrics up at the North Pole, and an even foggier memory of persuading a group of Eskimos to stop eating reindeer and to microwave Boca Burgers instead. Three of the elves seemed to be moderate Republicans, the rest were too short to vote. I awoke to find myself at the matinee of ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ with Leonardo DiCaprio (great) followed by ‘The Gangs of New York,’ also with L. DiC., (we walked out) . . . and here I am, back at my post.


Geoff Wisner: ‘I probably won’t be the first to tell you that a Dromedary has one hump while a Bactrian camel has two. It’s easy to remember because a D has one hump, while a B has two.’

Kermit Halperin: ‘This year, on the twentieth of February at 8:02 P.M., the following occurred: 200220022002. It will be more than a thousand years before a similar date-palindrome is available.’

☞ And with Super TiVo, I just might be around to write about it.


There is no telling with these elves. I hope to see you reasonably early in the New Year, if not before. Have a great one. Wear your seat belts.


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