G^3: Geek Gift Guide

Every holiday season, it seems like every blog in existence publishes a gift guide, scrabbling for some extra hits from the hordes of Xmas-and-such shoppers flooding the internet. Well COUNT US IN! Here, in no particular order, are some carefully chosen items that I think would make fantastic gifts for the geeks on your list. We’re closing in on the last shopping week before Christmas, so you better get these, as they say, while the getting’s good.

Now, there are some pretty specific subcultures in vogue right now, like Doctor Who, Minecraft, Portal, Firefly, and most recently Hobbit stuff thanks to the new movie (out tomorrow OMG I’m so excited, but in the meantime you can always watch the classic animated one). Regardless of how startlingly well I fit into these categories, I’m staying away from them for the sake of post neutrality.

Here are some shortcuts to get you through:

camera nut DIYer movie buff chef tech guru
bibliophile geeklet caffeine addict criminal grad student
bejeweled one music lover gamer tl;dr

For the camera nut

Buying someone a camera is more likely than not a bad idea, but buying camera accessories is always a good thing. The Joby GorillaPod Hybrid will let your buddy securely attach his camera to pretty much whatever, letting him capture the perfect shot with minimal danger of bodily harm to himself. And that’s also a perfect segue to the next gift, the Gerber Tripod Multi-Tool, which will help your friend survive in the wild AND get perfectly crisp shots of that swarm of army ants coming to get him.

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For the DIYer

STOP. Before you go any further, check to see if they have a Pinterest account, because pinboards are nothing if not giant wishlists. If you’re still reading, World of Geekcraft looks like just about the perfect present for your crafty friend. 25 projects that may someday end up leading to a gift for you. ROI! If their DIY streak runs more Tim Taylor than Martha Stewart, the Dremel Variable Speed Rotary Tool Kit is the home handyman’s dream tool.

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For the movie/TV buff

I’m going to go ahead and assume your friend has been talking about one or two specific movies she can’t wait to come out for home viewing. Why not pre-order her favorite so she’ll have it at her door the day it’s released? Or maybe your friend is still stuck in the DVD age and you want to bring her into the future. You could get her a Blu-ray player, but no one wants to feel like they have to re-buy everything in HD, and everything’s moving to the cloud anyway. Perhaps a set-top box like the Roku 2 XD is where it’s at. My final recommendation is RiffTrax. Anyone who loved MST3K will love this, especially since it’s the same guys, but now they make fun of current movies rather than ancient B-films. To get you started, you should watch the entire Twilight Saga. Star Trek is also awesome, as is Independence Day.

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For the chef

Foodies are everywhere you look now, and while the term may be nearing the end of its buzzword life, I doubt people who like food are going anywhere. If you’ve never had a “flavor tripping” party, give some Miracle Frooties Tablets to the friend with the best kitchen and suggest they host one. Take one of these babies and suddenly you want to eat all the lemons you can find, and you may never look at hummus the same way again. If the chef likes to get creative in the kitchen, may I suggest Modernist Cuisine at Home by Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet. Sure, you could get the full 6-volume edition, but I’m trying to keep you in budget here. If that’s not their style, how about the Molecular Mixology Kit? You might even helpfully suggest yourself as a guinea pig for their mad scientist cocktails.

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For the tech guru

Chances are your techie people already have all the tech gear they want, as it’s likely they stood in line to be one of the first to have it. You should give them something special and from the heart, like a voucher for all the cookies they can eat if they promise to always help you fix your computer when it breaks. They’d probably do it anyway, but now you don’t have to feel like you’re abusing the friendship, because they’re working for cookies! In all likelihood, this person has an Amazon wishlist you can probably mine for information about what they might want, but in the absence of both wishlist access and the ability to make cookies, Popular Science is a great magazine that always has something in it that amazes me. You could also get them a Cocoon GRID-IT Organizer to help them keep all their little widgets and gadgets in their places.

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For the bibliophile

Buying books for your friends and family is getting tougher and tougher in the 21st century. Sure, you can grab a paperback at the nearest Borders (oh wait…), throw it in a gift bag and call it a day, but what if the recipient has gone Kindle-only and scorns paper books? What if they’re a nook person instead? Gifting e-books is pretty easy, but only if you know where to gift from, and don’t mind your book lover opening a piece of paper with a redemption code on it. It’s a terrible conundrum, and I’m sorry to say I don’t have the answer, you should probably just give them cash. Still, here are some books I recommend.

  • Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde. If the giftee likes well-written books and can get by without all 50 shades, Fforde is hilarious, and the series he has started with this novel promises to be excellent. Briefly, it’s set in a far future society where people are socially ranked by how much color they can see, Violets at the top, Greys at the bottom.
  • The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. An elegant blend of fantasy and romance in the Victorian era, with darkly subdued magic and gorgeous storytelling. Two young magicians, locked into a lifelong game of magical prowess, silently vie for victory in the tents of the dreamlike Cirque des Reves. When they fall in love, the game takes a dangerous turn.
  • Robopocalypse, by Daniel H. Wilson. Many would disagree with this suggestion, but I really enjoyed it. It’s not necessarily the most original story, but it’s a quick and fun read, and as you might surmise, it’s about a robot apocalypse.
On the flip-side, if you’ve got someone with so many books that they basically run a lending library out of their house, why not give them the Knock Knock Personal Library Kit so they can go all the way?

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For the geeklet

If you have children, it’s very likely that you have already delivered a long list of your little one’s desires to the North Pole for Santa’s consideration. It’s a little more difficult for the family and friends intending to buy gifts for the child, since they tend not to have the direct line to Mr. Claus shared by the parents. Every kid that I have known, myself included, finds one movie to latch onto with a vice-like grip. For my brother it was a long string of Tim Allen movies. There was The Santa Clause, then Jungle 2 Jungle, and on and on. The most tolerable one was the year of Galaxy Quest, but even that one starts to wear on you after a while. Why not introduce them to some Tim Burton? The Tim Burton Collection contains seven of his movies (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Batman Returns, Mars Attacks!, Corpse Bride and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory), and while I would trade Pee Wee or Corpse Bride for The Nightmare Before Christmas in a heartbeat, it’s a great collection of movies that you can introduce to your children as they become ready for them. If you happen to hate Tim Burton (it’s cool, we can still be friends), the Brave Ultimate Collector’s Edition will let you watch that excellent movie in whatever format you could possibly want, and has lots of bonus features as well.

If the kid is a little scientist-in-training, you could start them off with Introductory Calculus For Infants, or if they’re a bit older, Snap Circuits, heck even I kinda want that one! Finally, if you think you’re dealing with a little telepath and want to help them hone their talents, get them the Mindflex Duel Game so they can practice their Jedi skills.

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For the caffeine addict

It doesn’t matter if it’s bag, sachet or loose leaf; instant, drip or french press; or maybe it’s cold and fizzy that your geek goes for. Whatever the delivery system, caffeine is the nectar of the gods for geeks. What better gift for the jolt junkie than a new way to get their fix?

  • Tea:
    • Any hardcore tea drinker, if such a thing exists, will tell you that loose leaf is the way to go, but the old standard ball infuser is so boring. Why not spice it up a bit with a new infuser? Kikkerland makes some adorable ones, like this monkey and this robot. Then you have the silicone option to consider, including the the Ototo TeaSub and DCI’s Tea Rex.
    • Bagged tea devotees don’t have much in the way of gear to ogle over, but everyone knows that organization is the key to success. This Lipper International Bamboo Tea Storage Box is just the thing to solve the problem of the disorganized tea drawer.
  • Coffee:
    • I’m a coffee person, and some of the best cups I’ve had have come from the Aerobie AeroPress. It makes 1-2 shots of espresso-strength coffee at a time, which can then be watered down Americano-style to yield your full cup. Probably the best aspect of it is that the grind is almost immaterial. French presses and espresso makers require pretty specific grinds to function properly, but even the “boulders and dust” created by blade grinders does fine in here.
    • Speaking of grinders, I really love my Capresso conical burr grinder. I can grind for everything from the coarsest press pot filter to the finest Turkish coffee.
  • Everything else:
    • Everyone has spilled a full mug of coffee all over their keyboards before, so why not save your loved ones from ever having to worry about that ever again? The Contigo AutoSeal mug is vacuum-insulated and it opens via trigger so if you drop it, you won’t drip it. I have one of these, and while the lid can be a bit hard to clean it’s a fantastic travel mug.
    • What’s the one thing you need for any of this? Hot water. The Bonavita Digital Electric Kettle takes the guesswork or tedious measuring out of heating water for the perfect cup.
    • Maybe hot drinks aren’t your friend’s bag. Perhaps she’s a 5 Hour Energy fiend and she’s running low. Then again, you can combine Prolab Caffeine pills with any drink, which just streamlines the whole process!

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For the criminal

Hey, we’re not all saints, but no one should be left gift-less at the holidays. Maybe your loved one has some loot he needs to stash. Make sure he’s got some facial hair first (it’s gotta be believable), but I can think of no better place to hide contraband than in the Barbasol Can Safe. Shaving cream make you think too much of Nedry from Jurassic Park? How about the Embassy wall clock safe? Everyone’s got a clock, and how many people would think of checking behind a clock face?

Maybe your target isn’t a convicted criminal, but instead tends toward the mischievous side. The Mini Stealth TV Remote may be the product for you. Then again, while you’re being masochistic, why not go for the Annoy-a-tron 2.0? Just remember that if you ever start hearing random beeping, you’re probably not going crazy. Probably.

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For the grad student

Grad students do a lot of sitting behind computers, and that can be bad for their backs, eyes, and carpal tunnels. Tablets allow them to take their e-mail and research to the couch or the bed, relieving these problems. As tablets go, you still can’t go wrong with the Nexus 7 (as we discussed earlier). The recent refresh bumps the base model to 16GB and keeps the price at a cool $200, with the 32GB model going for $250, while $300 gets you 32GB plus an AT&T HSPA+ (4G) antenna. If you’re getting your geek a tablet, you probably ought to throw in a case, since these 7-inchers are oh-so-tossable. Here are the best-reviewed models on Amazon. For added comfort, you could consider the Renegade Concepts: LAP PRO, a pillow that holds tablets at a comfortable viewing angle, further relieving wrist strain that could be caused by sustained tablet-holding.

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For the bejeweled one

Jewelry: it’s the timeless gift of glint for your loved ones, but it can also sometimes be boring. Blue crystal, dangly rings, it’s all the same…or is it? If your geek likes to be frosted (yeah, I watched How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, what of it?), here are some ideas for excellent gifts of shiny things. Now I said I would stay away from niche topics, but this first item is these really cool Portal Inter-Spatial Earrings. I just couldn’t resist them. Next up, how about a watch? More specifically, the exquisitely-named Stainless Steel Material Elegant Design Blue Hybrid Touch Screen LED Watch, is beautiful. It’s like something out of Lord of the Rings, the reviews are pretty good and it’s only $14. Can’t pass that up. Finally, and this one maybe a bit out there, but everyone knows someone who loves dragons, maybe even enough to want the Alchemy Gothic Dragons Lure Earring. It’s only for the right ear though, so keep that in mind.

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For the music lover

We all know that nothing says “I love you, but barely know you” like an iTunes gift card, but sadly it’s still the best way to buy music for someone, since it’s almost impossible to know what they have and what they want. Here’s a category where making a personal gift really stands out. The mixtape is still a great gift to introduce a friend to new music and show that you care enough to take the time to craft it. Plus,  you can gift it in this Mix Tape 1GB USB Memory Stick to add that retro feel without burdening your friend with yet another CD.

If your music lover is a musician, you could go for the totally bizarre and give an Otamatone, the self-described “world’s cutest and weirdest musical instrument,” though annoyingest may be the best word to describe it. Another weird instrument is the Stylophone Retro Pocket Synth, which I have, so I can personally attest that it’s super annoying and also awesome.

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For the gamer

For many gamers, this section could be deemed unnecessary, just see the caffeine section and call it a day. Still, I feel the post would not be complete without it. At the risk of being lazy, ThinkGeek’s gamer interest section is chock full of gamer-related items that range from the very general to the very specific. If you’re in the market for a console, the newly-minted Wii U is as fresh as it gets. For the Xbox player, I can think of little better than a free year of Xbox LIVE 12 Month Gold Membership or a card loaded with a bunch of Microsoft Points. If you want to stay away from gift-card-esque items, consider the Cohesion XP 2.1 Gaming Chair with Audio, which will help prevent dangerous slumping while improving your gamer’s immersion by pumping the sound directly into his body.

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For the tl;dr

I get it. This post is really really long, and you’re impatient. I mean come on, there’s just a week left, you can’t be expected to read all this crap! Well, for you I have a special gift idea. All you need is a coin and a grocery bag. Step one, close your eyes and stick your arms straight out to either side. When both hands have found something, take a look at what you’ve got. Maybe it’s a pen and a roll of paper towels, or some milk and a hammer. Set them in front of you, this is where the coin comes in. Flip the coin, heads for the left present, tails for the right. Stick it in the grocery bag and BLAMMO! You’ve got yourself a bona fide present ready for giving. You’re so welcome.

In case none of these options appealed to you, never fear, since there’s plenty of excellent merchandise available at every price range at your neighborhood Amazon! Plus, if you use that link or any of the links up above, your purchase supports WickedGlitch! The thin trickle of money that comes in is like a cattle prod that keeps us writing. Thanks, and Happy Winter-een-mas!

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