I really was going to run out this weekend and buy some amazing, albeit last-minute, gifts for the remaining nearest and dearest on my Christmas list, but then - well, look out the window.

I could have shopped online, but at this late date, I'd have to spring for the super-fast but expensive shipping to get the goods by Christmas Day, and I just can't click on that option. Not after securing free shipping on all my previously purchased gifts - if by free, you include all those times I spent an extra $35 just to save $7.95 in delivery charges.

So I turn to that last refuge of the empty-handed but well-intentioned gift-giver: the intangible present. You know, something from the heart, a gift that you might not be able to put in a box and wrap, but one that is all the more valuable.

For the Anne Arundel County Council: A backbone.

After months of finding every possible way to evade voting on rezoning Arundel Mills to allow slots, these elected officials surely won't be getting any Profile in Courage awards for Christmas.

First they wanted to wait for the state slots commission to act, which it did, granting a license to the developer who proposed the Mills casino. Then they had to wait for a member's heart palpitations to subside, which apparently they have - at least until the next scheduled vote. Then they had to replace a vacancy in their ranks, which they did last week, but only after taking 17 votes.

Maybe they should be allowed to open my present before Christmas - they've scheduled yet another vote Monday. Although, given the recent rumblings to put slots at Laurel Park instead, I see another avenue for evading the oh-so-scary Arundel Mills vote.

For married, but still dating, celebrities: A few rules.

For as many famous faces end up in tabloid hell these days for extracurricular romances, it's still shocking - that they're so easily busted, that is. Maybe in a world where the camera never blinks, no one will ever be able to get away with anything, but surely these celebs could manage some smarter sneaking around.

Some tips for these hapless cheaters:

Don't e-mail, voice-mail or snail-mail. And do you really need to be told to can the sexting?

Choose wisely: Someone who already was on a reality show - about bad boyfriends! - probably can't be counted on for discretion.

Get a disguise, or just don't go visiting the mistress and the baby you didn't have with her in a hotel in the middle of the night.

And for the women who would date these celebs: A grip.

Listen, dearies, you knew what you were getting into from the start, so don't come whining to the rest of us when it ends.

Please, I beg you, stop giving the kind of interviews Tiger Woods' multiple honeys have been lining up for lately. There was the one who seemed insulted that "all he wanted me for was sex," apparently expecting that superstar athletes pick up lingerie models because they want to debate the counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. Or the one who petulantly noted that she "didn't even get a birthday card" out of him, which is, of course, what you would expect from a guy who is so thoughtful that he starts an affair with you just months after he married someone else.

For Senators Ben Nelson, Olympia Snowe, et. al: A return to their previous and well-deserved obscurity.

Hopefully, there's some extra mental-health care included in the reform bill because I've just about gone crazy watching these momentarily important senators wallowing in the extra loving and generous concessions they're getting as the potential 60th vote.

Bribery of public officials is one thing - but now it's the public officials bribing other public officials. Plus, the bribers can't even count on getting what they paid the bribed for, only that the price will probably keep going up until the final vote.

Maybe there will be an after-Christmas sale on votes.

For Baltimore City: A break.

It's been nothing but trouble around here this year. The mayor was just on trial and convicted. If every ancient water main threatening to crack does so at the same time, we'll turn into the modern-day Atlantis. A primo site was razed, the zoning was fast-tracked and everyone basically bent over backward for a group of wannabe casino developers whose financing plan was no more reliable than picking the right Mega Millions numbers.

So what do you get a city that needs just about everything? I've come up with the one, perfect present: No jokes about gift cards.

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