2010 GeekDad Holiday Gift Guide #1

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Pumpkins have been mulched, scary tombstones have been put back into storage; Halloween is over. That can mean only one thing! GeekDad’s annual Gift Guide extravaganza is back. Once again we’ll be featuring seven weekly guides chock full of geeky present ideas. And as always, if you don’t see anything you like, be sure to peruse previous years’ gift guides.


Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS
The Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS is the biggest and baddest Nerf blaster of the year, a rapid-firing colossus that is guaranteed to win any cubicle war. All types of Clip System magazines work well with the Stampede. Using the 6-shot clips found in most CS Nerf guns is silly, but fortunately you get three 18-shot clips with the Stampede. Plus, as you can see from the photo, the monster 35-dart drum from the Nerf Raider works as well! But you’ll have to buy that one separately. The Stampede packs a lot of accessories and the rail mounts to accommodate even more. My favorite attachment is the bipod/foregrip, which you can see in the photo with the bipod telescoped inside the handle. In addition, the Stampede’s tactical rails are compatible with all standard Nerf sights and lights.* Buy it on Amazon


Star Wars Force FX Lightsaber Replica (by Hasbro)
By far the most authentic and enjoyable light saber replica out there. The hilt is realistically detailed — though none of the buttons and indicators do anything, except for the power button. The removable blade is a durable plastic with a string of LEDs within that light up from the bottom up, reminiscent of a movie saber extending. Sound effects are excellent, with a motion sensor giving you authentic saber noises when you wave it around. Even better, a knock sensor knows when you’ve hit something, and gives you a saber-on-saber noise. Each blade comes with a display stand, and the Darth Maul saber also packs a connector so you can buy two weapons and… oh, you know.* Buy it on ThinkGeek


Lego Slave 1
Magnificent 573-brick recreation of Boba Fett’s ship, released for the 30th anniversary of the Empire Strikes Back. It’s a complicated, finicky build that will challenge even the most jaded builder, and it’ll look great on your bookshelf. The awesomest part of the set is the excellent minifig Boba Fett, the lizardman bounty hunter Bossk, and Episode V Han Solo who you can totally put into carbonate. Think of the scenes you could act out! Leia: “I love you, Han!” Han: “Yeah, dude, I totally know.” Boba Fett: “Awesome!” Buy it on ThinkGeek



Sneaky Uses Books
Sneaky Science Tricks, The Sneaky Book for Boys and The Sneaky Book for Girls are books filled with fun and often scientific projects for kids, or for parents and kids to do together. There is plenty of overlap between books, but each one is tailored to a specific audience. Sneaky Science Tricks teaches scientific principles to do cool tricks and activities. The Sneaky Book for Boys focuses more on boys’ natural tendency to want to be sneaky, detailing science projects and teaching about animals and how to be resourceful. The Sneaky Book for Girls also covers scientific principles, but additionally includes projects such as crafts, magic and spy stuff. Author Cy Tymony has written many other Sneaky books as well.


Ion Audio Tailgater
Mash a karaoke machine and an iPod/iPhone speaker together and you get the Tailgater, a portable 20-watt boom box great for parties, rec rooms, or nights out on the patio. But it’s slicker than merely a ghetto blaster. It packing an iPod dock/cgharger, twin mic/guitar inputs, audio-in, RCA-in, features 8 hours of built-in battery support. The case itself is solidly built, weighing in at 20 lbs. — tough enough to take any party. Best of all, it comes with a hand-held microphone for those excellently embarrassing karaoke sessions.* Buy it on Amazon


Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Cosmic Destruction
Spinoff video game to Cartoon Network’s kickass television series, in which young Ben Tennyson gains the ability to turn into powerful alien forms thanks to a premo alien gauntlet called the Ultimatrix. Conveniently, the gauntlet lets Ben evolve his powers and forms into even more powerful ones, mimicking the common “leveling up” game mechanic. Well, guess what? In Cosmic Destruction, you get to whupass on alien baddies and level up so you can face tougher foes. In addition, of course, to solving the requisite puzzles and challenges. Features all the voice actors of the series and the storyline was written by one of the show’s writers. Available for the Wii, DS, PSP, PS2, XBox 360 and PS3. Rated E10+.* Buy it on Amazon


Magic: The Gathering — Archenemy
The fact that Magic: The Gathering — the first and best trading card game like, ever — has survived nearly two decades is a testament to its enjoyable play and easily understood rules. That said, sometimes it’s fun to consume it in less open-ended fashion. Try Archenemy, a MtG variant that pits the all the players against one, the title villain who has access to larger-sized cards called schemes. At the beginning of the Archenemy’s turn, he or she turns a scheme card face up — this is called “setting a scheme in motion.” Usually the schemes benefit the villain, but not always!

Each scheme features funny wording, mimicking a stereotypical villain’s posturing and monologuing. Your Puny Minds Cannot Fathom lets the bad guy draw four cards, which could be pretty huge depending on the timing. Look Skyward and Despair gives the villain a red dragon creature that is immediately put on the battlefield — he doesn’t even have to pay mana. My Crushing Masterstroke is particularly wicked. When this scheme is played, you take control of the good guys’ creatures and turn them on their owners!

The rest of the Archenemy’s deck — and this is included in the set — is a standard Magic deck, so the bad guy is ready to play with no more than the usual deck-tailoring needed. His or her opponents can play with their own personal decks or can also use Archenemy decks and everyone can be out to get each other! Super fun and easy for n00bs. Buy it on Amazon


The Magicians: A Novel
TIME Magazine’s Lev Grossman injects a sizable serving of grit into urban fantasy with his novel The Magicians. Combining the whimsy of The Chronicles of Narnia, the prep school sensibilities of Harry Potter and his own deliciously warped literary swagger, the tale sees Brooklynite Quentin Coldwater through his education at Brakebills, New York’s elite magical college. Along the way he falls in love, parties to excess and discovers that the fictional land of Fillory – the setting of his favorite childhood book series – is just as real as his own sorcery. Though likely a bit too rough for the kiddies, The Magicians is a fine slice of contemporary fantasy literature sure to please the GeekSpouse. Those who can’t get enough of Quentin’s exploits will also be pleased to know that sequel The Magician King is due out in fall of 2011.


D&D Introductory Boxed Set
Hailing the classic D&D boxed sets that inspired countless gamers back in the day, the new D&D boxed set has the simple goal of getting n00bs interested in the game. The set consists of two booklets, one for players and one for Dungeon Masters, as well as dice, character sheets, power cards, a battle map and character tokens. The DM’s book presents like a more traditional basic rulebook but the player’s book downright fascinates me. You remember the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books? Well, that’s what the player’s book is. Give the book to a n00b and he or she can self-direct through a simple adventure and learn the basic terms and rules.* Buy it on Amazon


How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is a tremendous work of meta-fiction. The narrator, Charles Yu, is a time machine repairman, traveling through space-time to rescue people stranded in their worst memories, attempting to change the past. Charles’ own father is lost somewhere in quantum space-time, and Charles is trying to figure out where (and when) he went.

Yu (the author) has a gift for playing with the conventions of fiction—his characters live in a world of story, and Yu makes some tricky conceptual leaps with his book. But underneath this veneer of science fiction, HTLSIASFU is ultimately about a man and his father, and the emotional depths that Charles (the character) experiences are very real indeed. Full review on Geekdad. The book was also just named #2 on Amazon.com’s list of the ten best science-fiction / fantasy books of 2010.


Blood Caffeinated Energy Potion
The perfect accoutrement for costume partiers, LARPers, zombie flash-mobbers and gothic teens, this plastic pack of simulated blood tastes great — like punch, not hemoglobin — and is chock full of iron, protein, electrolytes and 80mg of caffeine. Wake up and shock your mama! Buy the Blood Caffeinated Energy Potion or the Zombie Blood Caffeinated Energy Potion on ThinkGeek.


DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle
This is a beautiful volume with original art on the slipcover and the bookcover. It’s exactly what it says, a year-by-year recounting the history of DC Comics with highlights from each year, from the obscure, such as the original More Fun comics to the famous, such as the introductions of Superman and the beginning of the Silver Age with the Barry Allen Flash. All years are included, up to 2009. While most comic geeks will have seen a good percentage of this material before, what makes this one a must buy are the two-page full-size reproductions of scenes from all eras of DC Comics. The retail price is $50. It would be worth it even at that price but most websites seem to have it listed at 20 and 30 percent off, which makes it a real bargain. Buy it on Amazon


Skate 3
Players of Skate 2 — both fans and detractors — will be pleased with the new version. The game features all-new levels, with nothing recycled. An improved physics engine makes absurdly unrealistic moves (e.g., 50′ airs) less common, and challenges you to master an expanded selection of tricks and terrain. Even besides game play there is tons to do: You can design your own board, design your own skate park (super fun!) and create a skateboard store complete with employees. So good, chances are you’ll still be playing 3 when 4 comes out. Available for XBox 360 and PS3.


Invizimals
Admittedly the PlayStation Portable has lost out to Nintendo’s robust DS line at nearly every turn since launch, but that doesn’t mean Sony’s portable doesn’t have its own unique charms. Chief among these is the newly released augmented reality game Invizimals. Taking a cue from the Pokémon series, this title encourages players to capture and train various species of fantastical creatures, but with its own twist. Thanks to the new PSP Camera peripheral, these delightfully animated beasties spring to life from your own real world environment. Though the narrative isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the acting, production values and inventive gameplay make it the perfect gift for the imaginative geekling in your life. Invizimalsis a must-have for current PSP owners, and there’s even a limited edition Invizimals PSP entertainment pack (which features a vibrant blue PSP-3000 system) available for gamers looking to adopt the system.*


Logitech Harmony One Universal Remote
For a long time, the dream of a truly useful universal remote control was just that: a dream. Most versions required looking up and manually entering codes for each component in your A/V system, and were clunky and badly designed. All that changed with the Harmony One – truly the “one remote to rule them all.” Setup via an application on your computer (the remote plugs in via USB) is intuitive, organizing settings by the activity you want to perform (watch cable TV, listen to your CD changer, play video games) and matching the devices and inputs as needed to achieve each activity. The application pulls codes from an online database, so your devices are sure to be listed. And the remote itself is sophisticated and sturdy. If there was ever going to be a way to de-clutter your coffee table and make it so anyone can access any feature on your home entertainment system, the Harmony One is it. Buy it on Amazon*


Iomega eGo Black Belt Portable Hard Drive Hard Drive
This excellent 1TB, 5400 RPM hard drive is not only the perfect portable drive, it’s great for desktop storage. When on the road, you don’t have to worry about dropping the device: Iomega claims the drive is shock resistant and able to withstand 84″ falls onto industrial carpeting. That, plus its small profile and 9.6oz weight make it a cinch to carry around. If you just want to leave it on your desk for backups, you’ll appreciate the drive’s small profile — it’s less than 6″ long by 3.75″ wide and less than an inch thick. My favorite feature is that it gets power from the data cable. Not having an AC wall wart reduces desktop clutter and further reinforces its convenience as a traveling drive. On the Mac edition there are two FW 800 ports (FW 800 to 400 cable included) as well as one USB 2.0 port, while the PC version features USB 3.0. Either way, daisy chaining is a given. Bonus extras include downloadable security software as well as a 3-year warranty.* Buy it on Amazon


Burton Fader Pack
The Burton Fader Pack is a neat new daypack from a company more commonly associated with snowboarding equipment. One of my gripes with kids’ backpacks is that they’re not made to last. These days, you’re lucky if they’ll survive a single school year. I’m pretty sure the Burton Fader Pack will hold up to the day-to-day chaos of a student’s life. It’s constructed from very realistic faux-leather as well as a 85/15 wool/nylon blend attributable to Burton’s collaboration with Johnson Woolen Mills of Vermont, known for their plaid wool stuff. The pack has tons of pockets and compartments, including a sleeve for a 13″ laptop. The inside is heavily padded. One of the best features for me was the full-zip back panel, allowing you to access your bag from both the front and the back — no more digging! Additionally, it includes an oughta-be-de-rigueur audio plug in the shoulder strap, so you can keep your MP3 player safely inside while listening to your tunes. Buy it on Zappos


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Video Game Soundtrack
The only thing better than enjoying Edgar Wright’s big screen adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s indie comic masterpiece Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is playing through the action yourself in the stellar retro-style beat-em-up Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game on your home console. Likewise, the only thing more aurally engaging than the film’s indie rock-heavy soundtrack is the game’s brilliantly realized music composed and performed by New York chip-punkers Anamanaguchi. All twenty-five tracks of its lo-fi goodness are available via both iTunes and the Amazon MP3 marketplace. (Because CDs are so passé.) Share it with your own unnaturally quaffed love interest!


LaCie iamaKey Flash Drive
This durable, metal-housed flash drive rocks my keychain. Not only is it essentially loseable, it’s tough enough to rattle around in my pocket all day long. After going through three flash drives in 9 months, I’ve been using this one for a year and it’s been perfect. Available in 32 GB, 16 GB, and smaller on Amazon.


It Crowd: Complete Forth Season
The IT Crowd must surely win the award for Geekiest sit-com of all time. It’s set in an IT department, and immortalised every Sysadmin’s favorite phrase, “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?”. The two main characters are a Geek and a Nerd – Roy, with a geeky T-Shirt everyday, and Moss with his glasses, lunchbox and Thermos flask. Their boss is Jen who doesn’t know a thing about IT and her boss, Douglas, doesn’t know much about anything.

The 4th series features Roy and Moss ‘entertaining’ Douglas’ corporate buddies with a night of RPG’ing (instead of booze and strippers), Jen convincing everyone she’s fluent in Italian, until her laptop (with its translator) is taken away, Douglas joining a cult called the “Spaceologists” and Moss giving birth to an iPhone. There’s also a region 2 box set of all 4 series which comes with a double-sided board game and a pop-out self-assemble d20!


Sigg Water Bottles
Sigg water bottles are lightweight, Swiss-made aluminum lined with BPA- and pthalate-free plastic. They come in various mixes of wide mouth and narrow mouth, 1.5, 1.0, 0.75, 0.6, and 0.4-liter capacities. They have a ton of different designs to choose from, or intriguingly, with Sigg Skins, you don’t need to rely on someone else’s design, you can create your own. Making a Sigg skin is easy, you can upload and then drag and drop artwork, and/or use Sigg’s art resources including images, type, and vector elements like lines, paint splotches, and circles. The interface is easy to learn and creating a fun design is a cinch. The skin alone costs $12.95 or you can buy it with a bottle for a modest discount. Buy them on Amazon

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