Start planning now and help those near you understand what a geek really needs.
This holiday season, let's all get in touch with reality and quit pretending that we are someone we're not. If you have young children and you want to be Santa Claus, well fine. But everybody else needs to let the truth be told. You're a geek, OK? If you don't step up to the plate and admit it, how do you expect to get any geek gifts at Christmas?
As a geek, you probably work with geeky friends. The problem is people with whom you work aren't likely to buy you much of anything. Your friends at work may know your tastes even better than your own relatives, but they aren't likely to part with any cash this year to make you happy. If you want to get the good stuff at Christmas, you're going to need to lean on your family. In a recession, this could be perceived as pushy, rude, selfish, unreasonable, egotistical, or narcissistic. If you're not ready for that, there is an alternative, of course. Wait and see what everybody gets you, suffer the inevitable extreme disappointment, pout a little bit, and then go out and buy yourself what you wanted in the first place. But, since the big day hasn't happened yet, you still have a fighting chance of turning it all in your direction.
If you're a guy geek, likely as not you have a woman in your life who wants to buy you clothes. Her mission in life is to dress you up to look like the husband or boyfriend her parents wanted her to choose. She wants to show that you have other sides to you than the self-absorbed scientist you are and, in effect, prove in their eyes that you're really not a geek after all but a thoughtful, caring, emotional, sentimental, passionate mate who respects her, her family, and the values by which she was raised.
The trick here is to go along with her urge to remake you and let her buy you whatever she wants plus what you really want. And what is it that you want? Well what do you wear every day? T-shirts, of course. You want not just any T-shirt, mind you, but a supremely clever T-shirt that identifies you as a geek with a superior mind. May I suggest the Web site www.zazzle.com? Zazzle.com has a large selection of geek paraphernalia, including some great T-shirts.
Choose a "Nerds Rule" or "Bathroom Blogger" T-shirt (I think you can imagine where the blogger is sitting), a "Flash Me Flash Drive" T-shirt, or an "I Heart Nerds" T-shirt which shows not a heart-shaped graphic but a graphic of an actual heart—as in physiology. If your significant other wants to make it clear she likes you and she likes geeks, buy her a "Geek Magnet" T-shirt.
My favorite T-shirt, however, is "I write poetry in COBOL." For those who suspect they don't get enough exercise because they're glued to the computer terminal, there's the "Yeah, I've been outside, but the graphics aren't that great" T-shirt. And if you're a coder, and people are always nipping at your heels about the fact that things don't work right, you might want to get the, "It's not a bug; it's a feature" T-shirt. For the green geek, there's the Control + Save buttons featured above a picture of a whale. And for the women geeks, Zazzle has a good selection of T-shirts including a cute little strapless one that says, "Computer programmers don't byte."
OK, so enough with the clothing already (did I mention the site has dozens of neckties with various inappropriate comments spelled out in barcodes and other hard-to-decipher symbols?). Moving on to more seasonally appropriate gifts—and women as well as men always love to spend money on one-time-use holiday trinkets at Christmas—express how much delight you would feel if only you received a mug emblazoned with a green and red Christmas tree designed from ASCII characters. If your child looks up to you (or even if he is a huge disappointment), think about getting him or her a "Geek-in-Training" mug.
By the way, in order to receive one of these wonderful geek gifts (in my personal opinion, mind you) never ask your significant other to buy it for you. No, then it would not be her idea; it would be your idea, and she won't do it. What you might try is a little psychological back-door strategy. Tell her mother what it is that you would really like, and let her mother tell your honey. That way, mom gets to pretend she knows the big guy better than little miss Vanity Fair.
Anyway, on to the toys! Thinkgeek.com has a great selection of bizarre and humorous gifts for geeks. Aimed more at the younger geeks (but aren't we all young at heart?), this is a site that actually sells "spitballs." Even your baby sister could afford these at $3.99.
One of this year's more popular items is the Electronic Rock Guitar Shirt at $29.99. This is a shirt that allows you to keep your guitar with you at all times. That's because the shirt is the guitar. It even has a miniature amplifier to let 'em hear you down the block. The beauty of this instrument is that anybody can play it. That's because it has only one string! (And you thought Guitar Hero was easy!) I'm actually tempted get one of these myself.
You can play all major chords and you strum the instrument by waving the included magnetic pick over the strings…err…string. And if you haven't already seen this on YouTube, you might be a little late to the party because it's already been viewed more than a million times. Get your buddy the Electronic Drum Kit Shirt, and you can start a band.
This thinkgeek.com Web site even has the Personal Soundtrack Shirt. As seen on The Big Bang Theory, the Personal Soundtrack Shirt is designed to bridge the gap between the exciting lives of people we see on television and the boring lives we experience in real life. The only difference, according to scientists at thinkgeek.com, is that real life doesn't have background music.
Enter the Personal Soundtrack Shirt, a wearable audio solution featuring a working speaker embedded into the front of the shirt. Complete with a remote control, you can play music or sound effects appropriate for almost any occasion. Choose from a variety of sounds ranging from drum roll, to a cat-call whistle, and even a western showdown. After you get tired of these, you can play music from any portable audio player through the shirt speaker. Just connect the player to an input jack on the included battery box. (I once had a pair of Valentine's Day battery socks that played Lara's Theme from Doctor Zhivago. These actually made it onto a Valentine's TV newscast when I was discovered wearing them on a cruise ship in Florida during the holiday. Unfortunately, they died when I finally tried to wash them.)
The Personal Soundtrack Shirt won't cave in to such a fate since you remove the battery pack and Velcro-backed speaker before hand-washing. Perhaps you are more of a keyboard person? Then get the Personal Music Synthesizer Shirt—same idea but you play the keyboard integrated into the shirt.
Another cool toy for adults is the Buckyballs desk toy. This is a set of magnetic building spheres. Buckyballs are an addictive magnetic building toy that allows you to make sculptures, patterns, shapes—even jewelry. The 2009 Rolling Stone toy of the year, Buckyballs now come in three new distinctive styles including gold, silver, and black in addition to the original metallic. Buckyballs are powerful rare-earth magnetic balls–216 in each set–designed to satisfy a person's creative (read nervous) urges. With Buckyballs, even you can become an accomplished sculptor! Buckyballs are similar to The NeoCube, but Buckyballs are slightly larger, which may make them a little easier to manipulate. If your household is the only one on the block that doesn't have a set of these, you may need to rethink whether or not you're a true geek.
For a slightly more practical version of a similar toy, consider a set of Desk DOTS from Dynomighty Design. Desk DOTS are magnetic balls, a little larger than Buckyballs, that can actually help you clean up the clutter on your desk by grouping letters and papers.
Dynomighty has another cool product that is definitely geek friendly—the Bottle Cap Tripod. Say you're in a foreign country, and you hesitate to chase someone around who doesn't speak English trying to get them to take a photo of you with your family together. You could have carried a tripod, but instead you brought the lightweight Bottle Cap Tripod, an adapter that will screw into the base of a digital camera and comes with a plastic bottle cap attached. Assuming you're carrying around a water bottle, you just screw the bottle cap and camera onto the top of the water bottle, set it all down, and activate the camera's self timer. No playing charades with a stranger just to take your picture.
Dynomighty also has some very unusual wallets that I guarantee you won't see in your local 99 Cent Store (though the company does supply specialty stores across the U.S. and in other countries). Think of a wallet with a circuit board printed on the outside.
And finally, the gift to make all your friends jealous: the Do-It-Yourself Juice to Alcohol Kit. I often suspected those old people in the grocery store were buying the large bottles of juice for something other than their health—I just didn't know what it was! Apparently that little old lady was taking fruit juice home to make alcohol! She probably bought the Do-It-Yourself Juice to Alcohol Kit on thinkgeek.com. Sneaky little lady.
For a mere $9.99, you can make enough alcohol to keep the New Year's Eve party going for quite some time. You get six packets of Spike Your Juice yeast, one airlock, one rubber stopper, recipes, and a set of bottle labels. Put the yeast in a 64-ounce bottle of juice, pop on the airlock top, and the yeast begins to convert the drink's fructose into alcohol and carbonation. Within 48 hours, you have an alcoholic beverage with an alcohol content as high as 14 percent, according to the Web site. That's about three times as potent as Budweiser.
Getting your family behind that last geek gift idea probably won't be hard. They will figure out that they're all going to benefit, especially your under-age juice drinkers. But having them reach out and buy you a set of Buckyballs is going to take some persuasion. Plan ahead, print out the Web pages, leave them lying around, start chuckling loudly while sitting at the computer and announce that you "finally found something" you "really want." Being a geek has its rewards; it's just a matter of convincing other people to get in on the humor.