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22 December 2002

For those who are Star Trek afficionados, the title is self-explanatory. For those who aren't, the name comes from an episode of the original Star Trek called "A Piece of the Action." Kirk and Spock are being held captive by some 1920's style gangsters and to distract them, they make up a card game--Fizzbin--on the spot, making up the rules as they go along:

Fizzbin is purported to originate on the planet Beta Antares 4, and is played by dealing each player six cards (except the player on the dealer's right, who gets 7). A second card is turned up, except on Tuesdays. Two Jacks are a half-Fizzbin, but any player with three Jacks is said to have a "shralk," and is disqualified. There are a number of additional rules, and when Kirk asks Spock the odds of getting a Royal Fizzbin, Spock replies, "I have never computed them."

The thugs get so discombobulated that Kirk and Spock are able to overtake them and that leads to everything getting settled, yet again.

I felt like I was playing Fizzbin tonight--minus the machine guns and the pointy ears, that is.

Angel.JPG (37373 bytes)We went to Walt's office Christmas party, a smaller than usual, actually rather pleasant event (this said by someone who generally hates going to these things). There were only 9 of us and so it was a manageable group. It also included "Angel," a 13 year old English setter who adopted me. She followed me everywhere. She was the perfect companion. While all the others were discussing watersheds and drainage projects, I was happy to rub Angel's tummy, and she was happy to let me.

Years and years ago, the then-boss introduced the group to the Christmas gift game. At the time I'd never heard of it before, but now it seems to have swept across the country and is played by just about every office group in the world. You know the one--you find something in your house you're dying to get rid of, wrap it up pretty, bring it and add it to the stack of other cast-offs. Then you all sit in a circle, draw numbers. The first person chooses a gift from the pile and opens it. Everyone else, in turn gets to decide if they want to take another unwrapped package and open it, or if they want to steal the gift of someone who has already opened one. The trading can get hot and heavy and sometimes kinda funny. We've been doing this now for more years than I can count--and sometimes I get some of my own Christmas gifts (to give away) at the office Christmas party.

Only this year the host decided that we'd do things differently. Apparently he's an avid card player, so he decided we'd play Uno (a game he assured us was suited for anyone age 3 to 73). When you played a wild card, you got to get your gift or claim someone else's gift.

The problem was that only two of the group knew all the rules to the game, some of the rest of us had played it once or twice, but didn't remember how it was played, and a couple had never heard of it before. And besides, there are lots and lots of wild cards in the game, so it was inevitable that one person would play more than one wild card.

The rules flew fast and furious. How many times can you trade packages? Is there a time limit? What if you play two wild cards? And what do we do about the guy who refused to play at all, because there was a gift in the stack for him too? And then there was the time factor--do we continue playing while someone is opening a gift? Can you open a gift and then trade it if you don't like it?

Obviously the rules of the game had not been thoroughly thought out and we spent more time trying to decide what the rules were than actually playing the game. But in a sorta masochistic kinda way, it was more fun than it sounded like when it was first explained.

The white elephant gifts we brought were gifts I'd wrapped for the PFLAG party a week or so ago (at which we were supposed to play the same game). Since we never got to games at that party, I brought them home--and couldn't remember what they were, so I was as curious as everyone else to see the packages opened. It turned out that one of the gifts was something that one of our foreign students had sent to us a few years back that was totally impractical, for me, and I'd never really looked at it closely.  So I was very surprised when the recipient found a photo of us in it--a photo I'd never seen before, taken by a friend of the student, of the three of us. Now I feel embarrassed that I never thanked her for it!

And what white elephant did I bring home? A grey elephant. It's actually my very favorite white elephant gift out of all the years we've been going to these things. It's a picture of a little girl with her pet elephant. I recognized it immediately as the cover of a book called "Modoc," which I happen to have. I'd always loved the picture and now I have it all full size and framed. Now I just have to find a wall to hang it on.

Christmas Count-Down Continued: 

Yes, it's true. We have a Christmas tree. Decorated. And it's not even Christmas eve. Not only that but all the packages are wrapped and put under the tree. The home made things are made and wrapped. And mailed, those which needed mailing.

Not only that, but this afternoon I found the kitchen counter. I threw away things. I washed it off. I have space in the kitchen and it's not even Christmas Eve.

Quote of the Day

KIRK: Oh! Look what you've got - two jacks. You got a half-fizzbin already.
I need another jack?
No. If you got another jack, why you'd have a shralk.
THUG: A shralk?
KIRK: Yes, you'd be disqualified. No, what you need now is either a king and a deuce, except at night, of course, when you'd need a queen and a four.
THUG: Except at night.
KIRK: Right. Oh, look at that, you've got another jack! How lucky you are! How wonderful for you! Now if you didn't get another jack, if you had gotten a king, why then you'd get another card except when it's dark, when you'd have to give it back.
THUG: If it were dark on Tuesday.

Photo of the Day

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Ndangi (from Zaire) helps decorate
a gingerbread house - 1981



One Year Ago
Lost and Alone on Some Forgotten Highway
Perhaps some remember my difficulties trying to find 41st Avenue by the Sacramento Airport, where I ended up at the intersection of 41st and 41st and still didn't know where to go.

Two Years Ago
Mom's Christmas Crisis
The family has seen me go through it every year for years now. We just kind of factor it into the general planning. Bake cookies, get tree, decorate tree, mom goes nuts, cook turkey, call the family to dinner, etc.

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