As usual, I hit home runs with every gift. My sister and her husband are huge Jeff Dunham fans. I got them a talking Peanut doll. My sister must have played with it for a half hour. Aces.
My parents called from Florida to say how much they loved the gifts. Daddy got Inception. He had heard of it, but he hadn't seen it. He wasn't sure he'd enjoy it, given that my tastes tend to be a little more...involved (he likes Adam Sandler movies, I could do without them). I told him to give it a chance, just like he gave the Star Trek movie a try last year and loved it. He did. He said it was awesome. One of these days, he's gonna have to know to listen to me. Mom's big gift, besides Yet Another Glass Knickknack For Her Collection, was Mamma Mia on DVD. I can't stand ABBA (my parents played it nearly continually when I was a kid, so I'm a real burnout case), but this wasn't about what I like, it's about what she likes. She loves it, although Daddy is a bit pissed because she's watched the movie at least twice and sings along with it. So maybe that's a split.
Mornblade and his lovely wife also loved what I got them, the Daria perfect collection. That was their gift to share. Mornblade got an ELO live in concert DVD and a Caf-Pow! travel cup. His wife, meanwhile, got Mad Science by Theodore Grey. Here's what you need to know -- it tells you how to make heavy water. She was looking through the book with an expression like me looking through an Italian cookbook. Now I know why Mornblade's favorite character in Stress Puppy is Holly -- she probably reminds him of his wife.
So, that's the giving end. Usually, I don't talk about the receiving end, but given the adventure the gang went through, I have to write it up here. Us Christmas pros have a technique we call "piggybacking". You have someone you want to give a gift to. You want to give them something they like, but you have no experience whatsoever and want to get them something worthwhile. So, using a bluff (it's for a friend, I just bought this what do you think?, etc.), you let them check it out, tell you where the bargains are, or if what you are getting is any good. I don't question my friends, so I don't realize i'm being piggybacked until it's all over.
I want an Android tablet. This is no secret. One day, an Augen Gentouch76 is spotted at Kmart. $160, right inside the price range (everyone pools their gift money for each person together so that not only are the options greater, but the gift is from everybody). The gang is excited. The search is over! Peter will love this!
Well, maybe not. Vera reminded them of the bullshit I went through with the Everex Cloudbook, the first Linux computer I ever found that wasn't actually Linux compatible. So, they grab one and hold onto the receipt. Vera then says to me that she got this Android tablet for work, but she's not sure it's working right for what she needs. Can I check it over for her?
It doesn't take long for me to dismiss the Augen as a rip-off. It's running unauthorized Android, so you have to sideload apps, two hour battery life (ON AN ARM?!? ARE YOU SHITTING ME?!?), the microSD card got jammed, it has a poorly responding resistance screen instead of a nice capacitance screen, and it got uncomfortably warm. I told her she should take it back. I wouldn't even be happy with it.
Well, that settled that for a while. Then, Jimmy spots an Archos Android tablet at Sears. They decide to try again, with Vera acting the part. Amazingly, it was even worse than the Augen. The sound driver not only wasn't tested, the sound chip hasn't been adequately researched yet. Sound was hit and miss, video was lousy, another resistance screen, lousy battery life...other than basic net surfing and reading e-books, horrible. She thanked me for helping her out and took it back.
By this point, they were starting to panic. They had basically figured there was no way this could go wrong, and here it was, flaming out so spectacularly, Lakehurst, NJ was noticing. We were supposed to exchange gifts real soon, and they had nothing.
Chester calls me up and says they are having trouble finding a gift for me. Do I have any suggestions? I say, yeah. You can't go wrong with video games with me. Or just get me some mermaid stuff.
A day later, I get a call from Jimmy. "Okay, where exactly did this mermaid thing come from?"
I don't know, I tell him. I have no idea how it started. I mean, it wasn't there last year, or I would have asked for mermaid stuff last year.
I tell him that we can still meet on our schedule night, I can wait.
Jimmy drops the hammer. "No. We're family, we celebrate together, and that's that."
They do manage to uncover some gifts for me, so off we go to gather just before Christmas. It's while the gifts are going around that the story of the Android tablet comes out. I apologize, I didn't mean to make it rough on them. They tell me not to apologize, at least they know I'll enjoy what I got, as opposed to the tablet, which would have driven me bonkers.
So, my gifts come around. What's my loot? First, they got me a gift certificate for boots and such when I get diving certified this summer. I'm guessing they know there's no way I'm not going to Jules' Undersea Lodge. Next, they got me this. This is, obviously, a Little Mermaid keyboard. It lights up and Ariel twitches her tail in time with the music. It is obviously not intended for grown-ups, but I don't care. I'm playing, as well as I'm able to, some of the jazzy tunes from Bonanza Bros. I draw the line at Christmas carols, though. I ain't torturing myself with that. They also got me this mermaid plushie here. 20". (Side note: one of the things Mornblade got me was the anime series Mermaid's Scar. So I had a very mermaid Christmas. Beats the hell out of fruit cake.)
That, however, wasn't the end of the aquatic theme from the gang. I've been wanting a new camera to replace my old digital camera. It's about twelve years old and uses floppy disks. Still works, but the batteries are getting harder to come by and it's just cumbersome. So the gang got me a new digital camera. This baby comes with a plastic housing that is waterproof up to 45 feet. Jules' Undersea Lodge is 30 feet under the water. Also takes video. They want pics. It can support an 8G memory card. They'll get pics, all right.
From Mornblade and his lovely wife, he got me the aforementioned Mermaid's Scar (what is it going to take to convince you people I don't have mermaids on the brain?), the Cinematic Titanic version of Terror On Tiki Island, and The Good The Bad And The Weird (I watched a few minutes of it, and it will wait until this weekend when I can really sit down and enjoy it, this thing is a hoot). He also got me a set of Neil Peart signature drum sticks, so now I can practice the Drum Solo Of Life (ring a bell if you got that reference).
So, I gave awesome presents, and I received awesome presents. Another great Christmas.