Back in his comedy days, Al Franken of Saturday Night Live fame was known for his ability to draw a map of Americas 48 contiguous states and the Great Lakes in about two minutes.
Franken more or less swore off comedy when he became a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota in 2009. But he proved recently he can still draw a map.
Franken, the organizer of a yearly Secret Santa gift exchange among senators, drew Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., in this years swap and gave him a U.S. map – including Alaska and Hawaii – he had drawn from memory.
It included arrows and notes of geographic importance to Donnelly: You were born on Long Island! You went to Notre Dame!! (where you met Jill!!!) You represent Indiana!!
Senators had a $15 maximum on gifts. In a story broadcast by NPR, congressional correspondent Tamara Keith reported that Franken had been able to keep his cost to the price of a sheet of paper.
And then whatever the Sharpie cost, but I can amortize that over other maps, Franken told Keith.
Donnellys office said he gave a book about President John F. Kennedy to Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.
Gov. Mike Pence apparently took both sides in what some conservative Christians in recent years have been calling a war on Christmas.
These are the people who insist that greetings of merry Christmas are under attack from those who prefer the more secular happy holidays.
Pences office on Monday issued his seasons greetings to Hoosiers. The four-paragraph news release referred to Christmas six times, ending with Merry Christmas, Indiana.
But in an email from his campaign website, the Republican governor offered a family photo and five-paragraph message Monday in which Christmas was never mentioned. Instead, Pence referred three times to the holiday season and wished the recipient Happy Holidays from our family to yours.
Last week, we told you about some of the ideas fourth-graders had for Gov. Mike Pence on what they would do if they were running the state. When Pence visited Fort Wayne recently, he shared a few more of the things they wrote down:
Make a video-game school
Ban homework and make a lot of class pets
Go missing into the woods for an adventure
Pence said he put this one up on his refrigerator: Make a difference.
And this one, Pence said, was his personal favorite: Make Indiana awesome.
Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.