GeekDad Holiday Gift Guide #1

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As summer turns to blustery fall, a nip of frost in the air reminds us that a carbonite-like winter is on the way, and soon the holidays will be upon us. That’s right, 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.

Note that the individual entries are by Jenny Williams (JW), Nathan Barry (NB), Jonathan Liu (JL), Kathy Ceceri (KC), and myself (JB).


Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure

My kids range from 6 to almost 16 and they all love the game. It makes use of plastic figures to activate game characters. Simply place the figure on the Portal of Power (some sort of RFID reader) and he or she appears in the game! (The actual game story involves a convoluted mythology that totally fascinates my kids, if not me….)

Each figure has a unique code associated with it, letting you “own” that character, so you could go over to a friend’s house with your figure and bring the figure’s stats and experience with you. Even cooler, the figures are cross-platform so you could play on the Wii at your house, and use your figure on your friend’s PS3 or XBox.

The whole figure thing intrigues me. When a character in Skylander “dies” he or she really just gets tired, and you have to switch to another character for a while. As a result, you’ll want to buy more figures ($7.99 each) beyond the three that come with the core set. Of course, therein lies the path to profit for the company, but the characters are so well designed and creative, you get a lot of value for your eight bucks.

The Portal is kind of a battery hog so be sure to buy lots of extra AAs. On the upside, it paired without difficulty with our Wii, and the wireless signal between the two is strong enough to keep the Portal on the couch or a nearby table — it doesn’t have to be right next to the console.

Check out Anton Olsen’s great review or buy the Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure Starter Pack from Amazon. (JB)


XTG Technology Solar Portable Battery and Charger

Solar-powered cell phone charger? Yes, please. Now that I’ve finally moved up to a smartphone, I find myself running out of juice at the worst times and places. The XTG Technology Solar Portable Battery and Charger may be just what I need. Its built-in Lithium Ion battery can also be charged using the provided USB cable. Although the solar panel won’t charge your device fully, at less than $30 it will be great for times when there’s just no plug nearby. (KC)


Miracle Berry Tablets

Tablets made from the Miracle Berry, when dissolved on the tongue, will make sour foods taste sweet. Lemons, limes, grapefruit, rhubarb, and other fruits taste incredible. Just dissolve half a tablet on your tongue, and the proceed to enjoy your previously sour feast. Be sure to have all of your food prepared and at the ready before starting. (Remember that this sour food is still acidic, even if it tastes sweet, so don’t eat too much.) It’s really fun experience that kids and grown-ups can enjoy together. Keep a chart of what you liked best! (JW)


Feynman by Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick

This comic-book biography of Richard Feynman is well-researched and is a great way to learn a little about his life and his work. Ottaviani has been writing comics about science for years, and he does an excellent job of capturing Feynman’s voice and his enthusiasm for learning. It’s brilliant — just like Feynman himself. Read the full review or buy it from Amazon. (JL)


GForm Extreme Sleeve Laptop Case

Lately I’ve been using the G-Form Extreme Sleeve laptop case. I admit I was interested mainly because of the case’s cool appearance: the exterior looks tough, covered in rubber plates giving it a unique “Death Star” style that is likely to polarize viewers on whether it’s cool or too much — I’m firmly in the former camp! Whereas my wife hated and refuses to use it. (But then, she doesn’t like my Voltron skin either, so go figure.) The case protects your laptop and has a nice smooth inside as well. (JB)


Lego Queen Anne’s Revenge

Lego has been cranking out some amazing ships lately (Black Pearl or Imperial Flagship, anyone?) and they continue their run with the magnificent, 1,097-piece Queen Anne’s Revenge from the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The ship is opulently detailed, and comes with 10 minifigs (three are decorative skeletons), three cannons, and cool red sails. (JB)


Numbers League Card Game

Games that teach math are a great way for kids to reinforce their knowledge and have a great time. One math game that will keep you and your kids entertained and wanting to play over and over is Numbers League. Use simple and more advanced arithmetic along with your heroes and superheroes to defeat the villains. Decide whether you’d like to use a sidekick and/or a device, and then add up the values of the heroes to match the numerical value of a villain. Play by yourself or against opponents, and keep your city safe! (JW)


Holiday Yoda

Fully posable, not to mention super cute, “Holiday” (OK, let’s be honest here, it’s full-on Christmas) 12″ Yoda doll figure. Comes with a Santa-like belt, a cane, and a sack of presents for all the good younglings. Buy Holiday Yoda from Sideshow Collectibles. (JB)


Playmobil Christmas Sets

For the kids on your list, Playmobil Christmas Sets and Advent Calendars are a great option. Some assembly is required, but once they are set up, kids will enjoy playing with them all season. Be sure to get your advent calendar before December! (JW)


Nerf Vortex Blasters

This year’s Vortex line has ditched the orange foam darts for little green discs that fly farther. It’s a cool innovation that reduces jamming and offers a different dynamic than the darts. Nerf has come up with four blasters for the line, including the base-model Proton, the large pistol-shaped Vigilon, the pump-action and magazine-fed Praxis, and the big poppa of the line, the electrically-powered behemoth, the Nitron. Great for some furniture-friendly indoor play this winter. (JB)


Mimobot Flash Drives

The coolest flash drives on earth just got cooler. I love the double case for Han Solo in Carbonite Mimobot: the regular drive is pre-frozen, and you get an extra plastic case to go over it showing Han as a decoration! This outer case even has a key chain ring so you don’t have to keep Han in your pocket.

And who couldn’t love a flash drive featuring everyone’s favorite antihero, Emily the Strange? The Mimobot’s distinctive big ol’ head works well with the comic character’s dark locks, and the drive is less freaky looking than many.

For more options, check out the action on Mimoco.com! (JB)


Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar

One of the best things about the holiday season is the anticipation of the big day itself, and what better way to count down to it than with an advent calendar? Better still if it’s this LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar, with 8 minifigs (including Yoda in a Santa outfit), 15 tiny spaceships and droids, plus a little Christmas tree. The ships are quite incredible, given how few bricks are used to make each one – Slave 1, the Falcon, an X-wing and Tie-fighter are all there amongst others. Much better than a cheap little chocolate every morning. (NB)

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