Your first inkling that your Aunt Mimsy was coming to your Christmas party was when you saw her El Dorado pull up outside your house - and she brought her kids!
Unless you can come up with a gift that's better than a hastily-wrapped Whitman's Sampler containing seven missing pieces and one of your kid's action figures, you're going to feel pretty silly when you tell her how much your family is enjoying the Wii she gave you all.
But fret not: through the miracle of technology, you can get some pretty cool gifts in the time it takes to distract her with a few choruses of "Jingle Bells."
And we're not talking online gift certificates: all of these gifts are real things that the recipient can enjoy on Christmas Day. And just as importantly, they can create the convincing illusion that you put a lot of time and thought into it.
Good Gift For A Sibling Or Older Relative:
Duplicate a one-of-a-kind family photo. You had to throw a few elbows to get that photo-booth picture of your late grandparents, but it was worth it. It's the best picture of them, ever. But other family members will love to have a copy.
Just run to a nearby 24-hour drugstore. Many of them have self-serve photo kiosks that can copy, enhance, and print photos right on the spot. The best ones are by Kodak. And given that prescriptions are sort of just a sideline for drugstores these days, you can probably buy a picture frame as well and come home with a pre-wrapped gift, which you "left in the trunk of the car." (Try to get your spouse to cover for the fact that it took you 30 minutes to walk outside and retrieve it.)
Good Gift For An Older Relative:
An annual subscription to the New York Times online crossword. Every day, the world-class Times Crossword appears on NYTIMES.com. You can print a copy from your Web browser and fill it in the usual way, you can play it via the Web site, or you can download the puzzle to your PC or Mac and solve it with a free desktop app.
A year's membership is $40. Click here to sign up.
Good Gift For A Kid:
A subscription to Marvel Comics' online comic book library. A couple of months ago, Marvel put digital editions of thousands of their comics online. Type in "Iron Man" into the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited Web site and it'll return dozens of issues and stories spanning the 40-year history of the character. You can read the comics page-for-page, as they were originally published, right in any Web browser.
The subscription costs $60 a year or $5 a month. Click here to subscribe.