2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Last Minute Shopping

Here we are, less than a week from Christmas but it’s not too late to finish your shopping. Here we give a few items that should arrive in time for the holiday. Prime shipping, gift cards, and Steam codes are your best bet for online shopping. Just don’t ask me to step inside a store in the next week. I’d sooner print out the soon-to-be-belated present and stuff it in an envelope as a sort of holiday I.O.U.


MicFlip Cable. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu
MicFlip Reversible Micro USB Cable
Suggested By: Jonathan H. Liu
Mfg: WinnerGear
Price: $19.99
Purchase: MicFlip Reversible Micro USB Cable

Every time you plug in your device, the cable seems to be flipped the wrong way, so you turn it over and try again. Well, you can say goodbye to that problem with the MicFlip cable. Both ends of the cable, the USB and the Micro USB, are designed to work in either orientation, so you can just plug it in and go. As an added bonus, the braided cable is nice and durable.


The final piece of the health tracking puzzle
Beddit 3 Sleep Tracker
Suggested By: Anthony Karcz
Mfg: Beddit
Price: $149
Purchase: Beddit 3 Sleep Tracker

I recommended the Beddit 2 for last year’s guide and I have no qualms about doing the same for the upgraded Beddit 3. Sleep is important to me. I know that I don’t get enough of it, so the bit that I do get, I want to analyze the stuffing out of. Beddit lets me do that. I had a few reliability issues with its predecessor, but months of testing the Beddit 3 have proven it to be utterly reliable. The upgraded Beddit 3 sensor is still only a centimeter thick, and slips between your sheets, the new sensor sleeve protecting the sensor and gripping the mattress so that you no longer have to worry about adhesive wearing off the sensor. Once it’s in place, all you have to do is download the Beddit app to your phone, pair the two, and go to bed.

Beddit automatically detects when you go to bed, then keeps track of your heart rate and respiration to determine when you’re in deep or light sleep (or awake), listens for when you’re snoring or when you have possible breathing episodes (an important factor in their upcoming sleep coaching offering), and then wakes you up with a Smart Alarm when you’re in the lightest part of sleep so that you get up refreshed rather than groggy. The app then gives you a sleep score and detailed charts so that you can see how well you slept, and what your night looked like. I never start my day without it. You can find out more about the tech on Beddit’s website, then grab yours at the Apple Store.


What? I have to have awesome chocolate while learning to be calmer and more focused? Fine. If I have to.
Headspace + Chocolate
Suggested By: Anthony Karcz
Mfg: Headspace
Price: $94
Purchase: Headspace + Chocolate

This time of the year, calm is at a premium. There are gifts to buy, houses to clean, productions to go see, parties to attend, liquor cabinets to secure from relatives—it all gets overwhelming really fast. So instead of another magazine subscription or gift card for that person you haven’t shopped for yet, why not give them the gift of mindfulness, calm, and, most importantly, chocolate? Headspace is a brilliant little app that offers daily 10 minute meditation sessions to help teach you how to meditate and find a little bit of peace in an otherwise hectic day. There are also hundreds of hours of specialized sessions, ranging from 1 minute to 10, for things like focus, anxiety, falling asleep, fear of flying, and a lot more. There’s even a Kids section of the app so that parents and children, from 5-12, can sit down and learn this important skill together. Annual subscriptions cost $95 (billed monthly); but if you act fast, you can get an annual subscription, plus a bar of one of the greatest chocolates I’ve ever tasted. Headspace has partnered with Askinoise, a small-batch chocolatier from Missouri, to offer an exclusive bar, plus a special chocolate meditation session. Even better, each bar comes with a code for a full year of Headspace (if only the chocolate would last as long, it’s ridiculously delicious). You can find details over on the Headspace website


ZAGG Power Amp 18
Power Amp 18 Portable Charger
Suggested By: Jamie Greene
Mfg: ZAGG
Price: $99.99
Purchase: Power Amp 18 Portable Charger

Thanks to Amazon Prime, pretty much anything can be a “last-minute” gift idea (thank goodness for procrastinators like me). Also, if you’re like me, you can never have too many battery packs for your mobile devices. Enter the Power Amp 18 (check our full review here), which is a step up and pretty much a must have for roadtrips and weekend adventures. 18000mAh of power streams out of three universal USB ports to deliver up to six charges for your devices. It also features an LED flashlight, lantern light, and flashing emergency beacon, making it a perfect accessory for overnight camping trips. At 1.5 pounds, it’s not ideal for long hikes or backpacking trips, but be sure to toss it in the car for most of your weekend adventures.


“You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.”
The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: CBS/Paramount
Price: $126.99
Purchase: The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series

Perhaps second only to our beloved Star Trek, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone is the seminal geek television series for generations of sci-fi/horror fans. Arriving just in time for Christmas, this latest Blu-ray collection brings together the entire 156-episode run in a phenomenal 24-disc boxed set. In addition to the overall impeccable audio and visual fidelity afforded by this Blu-ray transfer, The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series also boasts loads of extras. From interviews and commentary tracks by the cast and crew (and even The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree) to English-language subtitles to isolated music scores, The Complete Series delivers all the requisite supplementary content. However, in addition, it’s not afraid to break out the big guns for the more discriminating fans; new, exclusive content includes the unofficial pilot episode, “The Time Element,” an unaired alternate version of the iconic “Where Is Everybody?” including Serling’s network pitch, radio dramas, audio lectures, and much, much more. Together, this makes up nearly 75 hours of quality content that, while much of it is nearly 60 years old, still remains strikingly relevant today. [Review material provided by CBS Home Entertainment.]


Give ’em the finger! (No, wait–the OTHER finger.)
Dungeons & Dragons: Rock Paper Wizard
Suggested By: Z.
Mfg: WizKids
Price: $17.95
Purchase: Dungeons & Dragons: Rock Paper Wizard

I love Dungeons & Dragons, but it’s not always a game that’s easy to play. You need ample game time, adequate pre-planning, multiple willing participants, and lots and lots of specialized gear. Recently, however, WizKids has pared down D&D‘s arcane combat into a fun, simple, and perfectly accessible game of strategy, luck, and silly hand gestures in Rock Paper Wizard. Everything you need comes in a travel-friendly box, and if you’ve got 3-6 players and a half-hour of free time, you too can get your wizard battle on. Compete for your share of a fallen dragon’s hoard by casting spells symbolized by hand gestures shown on the cards from a central shared deck called the Spellbook. With three spell types–red for attacks, blue for defense and movement, and green, which directly affects players’ gold–things can get just the right kind of crazy as everyone chooses from the available spells, picks their spell’s target player, and casts simultaneously. Effects are resolved clockwise, starting with the current active player, and the competing wizards are pushed and pulled up and down the game board as directed by the icons on the corresponding spell cards. At the end of each round, gold is divvied up based on who’s closest to the hoard, and the first wizard to 25 gold pieces wins. Fun, frantic, and never boring, Rock Paper Wizard is the perfect way to liven up your next holiday party. [Review materials provided by WizKids.]


Christmas Days: Magical yet real.
Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson
Suggested By: Robin Brooks
Mfg: Grove Press
Price: $19.43
Purchase: Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson

I’ve struggled to find good books in 2016, but this book of Christmas thoughts captivated me throughout, reminding me of why I love the written word so much.

The book’s subtitle is 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days, and that’s exactly what it contains. I’ve read Winterson’s fiction and memoir before and Christmas Days is a happy meld of both, alternating between the two.
Most of the stories are in the grand Christmas tradition, often invoking ghosts, magic, or good will to all. One of the ghost stories, left me breathless in anticipation of what might be happening. All of the stories are a joy to read.
The memoir chapters focus on the author’s Christmas pasts; some from her austere, Pentecostal upbringing, others from more recently, such as Christmas with her Jewish wife, Susie Orbach. My two favorites include a tale of Christmases with the late, great Ruth Rendell, and ones spent at the literary hangout Shakespeare and Company, in Paris. Perhaps best of all each memoir chapter includes a mouth-watering but fairly simple festive recipe.
The book meditates on the meaning of Christmas in 2016, examining the history of the festival around the globe. Whilst never being overtly religious, the book has strong spiritual sense to it, which I particularly liked. Whatever you believe, Christmas Days is a book about human empathy and the importance of creating space for yourself and time for others.


From a pile of boxes, to a ridiculously comfortable bed!
Casper Mattress, Frame, & Foundation (and Sheets and Pillows)
Suggested By: Anthony Karcz
Mfg: Casper
Price: Varies
Purchase: Casper Mattress, Frame, & Foundation (and Sheets and Pillows)

If there’s one thing that absolutely everyone on your list needs, it’s sleep. Over the past couple of years, the market has seen a veritable tsunami of mail-order foam mattresses. I covered the Leesa mattress last year and, even though I’ve tried out mattresses since then that are exponentially more expensive, it’s remained my favorite. But one thing that I always wished was that Leesa had more options than just the mattress and a blanket. Casper understands that, when you’re buying a mattress online, you might need more than just the mattress. That’s why they offer everything you need to make your mattress into a bed, from the pillows and sheets, to the mattress protector, all the way down to the foundation and steel frame. The pillows are luxuriously squishy, the sheets crisp and smooth, and the mattress protector isn’t crinkly like some protectors (though it does make the bed sleep a bit hotter). As far as hardware goes – I was impressed with how the foundation and frame came together. Both are tool-less and fit together without fuss in less than 15 minutes (which is a lot more than I can say for some frames). As far as the Casper mattress itself? It sleeps a little firmer than my reliable Leesa; but is otherwise just as comfortable. It’s a much better mattress than you’d expect for under $1,000. The mattress ordering process is dead-simple and setup is as easy as unrolling a (very thick) sleeping bag. So give someone who needs a better night’s sleep a treat this holiday. Head over to the Casper website and use the code HOLIDAY75 to save $75 on your order.


Get Jiro and Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi
Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi
Suggested By: Anton
Mfg: Vertigo
Price: $15
Purchase: Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi

I’ve been a fan of Anthony Bourdain for a long time and when I read Get Jiro a couple years ago I realized just how versatile of an artist he is. Set in a strange dystopian future that reminds me in some small part of Snow Crash, but with food, Get Jiro is an intriguing tale of a former yakuza enforcer turned sushi chef. The follow-up story, Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi was released last year and is now available in paperback. While I have not yet read the second book, I have ordered it and feel confident recommending both as a great gift for someone who’s hard to shop for that loves comics, sushi, or gore.

Be careful when you order as Amazon has two pages for the new book and only one of them ships Prime and at a lower price.
Get Jiro (The First Book)
Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi

I am a maker of things and an aficionado of loud and heavy live music.