Tag Archives: gifts

The Snowman 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

Based on the rousing success (about seven people read it and based on amazon.com click-through rates, at least ten products were viewed) of last year’s Holiday Gift Guide, I humbly present the emergent, annual (almost), carefully researched and field tested Snowman Guide to Getting Gifts For Geeks Who Seem To Have Everything, But Need Something To Ooooh About.

Jewelry For A Cause. It’s jewelry with a purpose, for a social movement, and it’s beautifully crafted. My favorite is the Caliber Collection, cuff links and bracelets made from bullet casings and destroyed guns taken off the streets, leaving the serial numbers intact. Take the admonition to “beat swords into plowshares” and spur interesting conversation at work or a party. The Talisman collection is much more accessible price-wise, and could be a fun gift for that poker player in your life; the “In Gratitude” collection supports women in Uganda. Be good and look good. (About $250).

Schneider iPro Lens Kit. This is now my “go to” for concerts and just walking around new cities. Wide-angle, telephoto and macro lenses in a single carrying “tube” that slips into your pocket easily. (Yes, someone at a Phish show asked me what kind of pipe that was, and when I said it was for my iPhone, he said “Cool, a pipe for your phone”). Even if you eschew the phone-wielding crowd at shows (a camp to which I’m gravitating), it’s nice to be able to capture some landscape shots outdoors with a simple snap-on to the phone. There’s an iPhone 5S version and an iPhone 5 version and it appears you can get the lenses individually with just the snap-on case as well. For $200 it fits the intermediate point between a vanilla iPhone and a full-size DSLR body (Between $180 and $200).

Next year the Turn-I-Kit will be added, once it’s available through some retail/online channels. I got mine through the Kickstarter campaign, and while it’s still a bit rough to use, it is quite cool dangling your iPhone off the back of a 200mm f/2.8 lens.

Borrowlenses gift card. Let’s say the photo-nerd in your life won’t spring for that $5,000 piece of glass, but really wants to be able to get some high-quality shots on your next trip. Enter BorrowLenses, where you can rent a wide variety of photo gear for 3 days to a month. I’ve used this to get super telephoto lenses, or to audition gear before deciding what to buy (better to spend $180 on a weekend rental than be to annoyed with an $800 lens that isn’t quite as fast as you had hoped). Their gift certificates encourage experimentation, which is part of the fun of photography. ($100 for something reasonable, but gift cards in any amount).

Kiva gift card. Kiva is a microlending site – you make interest-free loans, $25 (or more) at a time, to the unbanked populations around the world. Whether it’s buying supplies for a bodega in Tanzania, or funding engine repair for a driver in South America, the aggregation of those $25 credits into $800-$5,000 short-term loans makes a difference. It’s not charity; it’s a continuous (over the course of tens of months) cycle of re-investment in people. I’ve given Kiva gift cards to people who seem to “have everything” and the reaction is usually quite positive. If the recipient wants to cash out after making one loan, at least you’ve made an epsilon economic improvement wrapped around a gift card. ($25 minimum, and a nice gift).

Patreon. It’s easy to be a patron of the arts when you have millions laying around. If you have single dollars lounging electronically, direct them to people who are creating art and get a “behind the scenes” view of the process. For $5/month (on average), you get previews, interesting Q&A, and in some cases not-quite-public art. Create a PayPal account, fill it up with gift money, then direct your giftee to use it to support the arts. I’m a huge fan of Jeph Jacques and while I’ve purchased a variety of books and t-shirts from him, I’m kind of full up in those patterns. Supporting his Patreon gives me a bit more of my daily-Jeph-dosing including forays into music and other things that make his slightly left of center mind tick. ($60 is $5 a month for a year)

53 tablet pencil. How quaint – a pencil. Yet if you express yourself in the Stern 14.6 point font on whiteboards enough, you know sometimes it’s just easier to draw. Now draw on your iPad, and share the images, and you have a whiteboard to go where you do your best thinking (yes, even in that room). I’m loving my Pencil by FiftyThree Digital Stylus since it “feels” like a pencil and has a variety of brushes (pencil, marker, paint) that’s somewhere in between drawing with a mouse and using a Wacom tablet. (About $50-70 depending upon finish)

Sonos Play:1. I outfitted the house with all Sonos gear this summer, and removed about 80 pounds (seriously!) of speakers, amplifiers, cables and mess. We have a SONOS PLAY:1 in the kitchen, and it makes breaking down cauliflower fun (recommended: Springsteen’s “Darkness On The Edge of Town”, it’s perfect for anything in the cabbage family). Most important, it’s changed the way I listen to and discover music. I’m hearing subtle details I’ve missed before (that high-end percussive theme on “Promised Land:” glockenspiel!) and I’m able to create loudness from just about any source on the ‘net – radio, streaming services, or the whole family music library I’ve loaded onto a NAS drive in the basement. (About $200 for a single Play:1)

John Scalzi autographed books. I have waxed, fawned, and exhibited the full spectrum of fanboy behaviors when it comes to John Scalzi. In addition to being a superb science fiction writer, he captures the zeitgeist of life in this decade with aplomb and poise. Each year, Scalzi offers personalized books for the holidays. Support a great writer, and a local bookstore. ($20 and up)

Live Music, Now. Give someone a StubHub gift certificate, so they can see the live music (or sporting event) of their choice. I’m noticing that the premium over face on most tickets on StubHub is retreating back to something resembling a fair spread, and in some cases no worse than the collection of insane fees you’d pay to Ticketmaster or Telecharge. (Any amount supports your favorite artists)

Live Musc, Then. Gift a year-long membership to Concert Vault and the recipient can stream access to the entire Bill Graham Presents catalog of classic shows, along with $5 pricing on downloads of those shows. Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead, Talking Heads, and a seasons’ worth of Yes shows — all in one place. Personally, for the prog rocker on your “nice” list (as opposed to “The Nice” on your rock list, or the nice on your Unix process, but I digress), the 12-10-74 Yes show is worth the entire subscription price. It’s one of the few recordings of the “Relayer” tour (now 40 — yes FORTY — years old) with Patrick Moraz on keyboards, and the “Sound Chaser” opening freaked out a lot of long time Yes fans. Now, of course, it’s classic, and for $40 you can relive the moment (stream it to your Sonos Play:1!)

The Snowman Shopping List: For The Person Who Has Everything

What do you get for the nerd who has everything, or at least claims that she (or he) has everything she (or he) needs? I’ve compiled this list based on recommendations for gifts for “that special doctor” (who loves photography), “that special boss” (for whom you feel weird getting a gift, but deserves some recognition), and “that special kid” for whom an iTunes gift card seems so last decade.

Here, then, is the Snowman Guide To Holiday Gift Giving For The Previously Well-Equipped:

BorrowLenses gift cards. If your gift recipient loves toys, cameras, and playing with new camera gear, BorrowLenses is the best way to indulge their photographic fetishes. No matter what the body type, photography style, or time zone, BorrowLenses will let you rent anything from a super telephoto to a very wide aperture fisheye lens. You can’t buy the kind of nerd cred that comes from lugging a 30-inch, 22 pound telephoto around, especially when it comes in its own piece of hard sided luggage.

Kiva Gift Cards Buy someone an Israel bond, and you spend $85 for them to get $100 in 10 years. Buy them $100 Kiva gift cards and they can have an immediate impact on 4 small businesses in any number of developing economies, right away. And then when those loans are paid back, they can loan the money out again and again. I’m a firm believer in direct action and small-scale, grass roots support, and Kiva delivers on both. Want a themed gift? Buy a copy of ” International Bank of Bob” and tuck the gift card note inside the front flap. It’s my new favorite for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs where I know the kid is getting a ton of monetary gifts, and for bosses who firmly believe in doing the right thing.

A Long Now Salon Membership. The Long Now Foundation is the brain child of Danny Hillis and Steward Brand, and is the realization of the ideas in “Clock Of The Long Now: Time And Responsibility.” If your gift recipient thinks about sustainability, long-term impacts, and would have been at home in a French salon, it’s worth $96.

Live music via StubHub. It’s unique, it makes the recipient feel less guilty about paying premium prices for pricey ducats, and there is no better way to support your favorite artists (and build some long-lasting memories) than to go see live music.

An eBay gift card, letting the recipient buy something they wouldn’t normally find. Like the self-antonym “Music You Can’t Hear On The Radio” show, it’s a way to buy things you can’t buy (at least in your local big box store). If you know someone who always wanted, say, a vintage Lite Brite or game of Operation!, eBay is the shopping destination and you can provide the currency.

Any of John Scalzi’s books, personalized for you. Scalzi is a sci-fi writer who is accessible by just about everybody. He’s funny. Scary funny. He’s prolific, generous with his time (via his blog) and he basically just does the right thing about just about every thing. For example, his signed books for the holiday support his local bookstore. So it’s taking his time and he’s making less per book that way but that’s kind of Scalzi in a nutshell. I frequently point to his Christmas stories because they make me cry. He always promotes independent artists’ work on his blog as the holidays approach. Pay it forward, and pay it back: support Scalzi because he is awesome and you should share in the awesomeness.