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Toys The Almighty Buck

Scientific American's Sci/Tech Gifts for 2003 240

Rick DeBay writes "Scientific American has come out with their Sci/Tech gift list for 2003. I think they did a good job, even the selections in the under $25 category are quite tasteful and dignified. And what Sophisticated Lady wouldn't be overjoyed at unwrapping a genuine Swarovski crystal accessory? My personal favorites fall in to those well-worn categories, 'Imprisoning Small Creatures for Amusement' and 'Getting Someone Else to Clean-Up.' The frog and shrimp farms fufill the first, and the domestically-challengeds' favorite Roomba the latter. Seriously, there is a mix of interesting gadgets, products that should never have been made, refugees from Sharper Image, and humorous geek stocking stuffers. It is unlikely that you could go wrong."
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Scientific American's Sci/Tech Gifts for 2003

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  • Lame (Score:1, Troll)

    by superdan2k ( 135614 )
    And what Sophisticated Lady wouldn't be overjoyed at unwrapping a genuine Swarovski crystal accessory?

    Howabout the one that no longer has PC PS2 connectors on their computer? (RTFA)

    My girlfriend is fairly sophisticated, but if I gave her that, she'd probably question my sexuality.
    • And what Sophisticated Lady wouldn't be overjoyed at unwrapping a genuine Swarovski crystal accessory?

      Howabout the one that no longer has PC PS2 connectors on their computer? (RTFA)

      My girlfriend is fairly sophisticated, but if I gave her that, she'd probably question my sexuality.

      I'd insist on buying a wireless version for the lady in my life.

      Not because of any superior ergonomic factors, but because Bluetooth would remove the risk of my beloved wrapping the cord around my throat and tightening.

      • Re:Lame (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        my beloved wrapping the cord around my throat and tightening.

        Hey, don't knock it before you try it!

  • Educate your family! (Score:3, Informative)

    by bartash ( 93498 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:24AM (#7520505)
    I am buying Beyond Fear [amazon.com] for lots of people this Christmas.
  • by Prince Vegeta SSJ4 ( 718736 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:25AM (#7520519)
    I had a "Shrimp Farm" almost three decades ago. But it had a much cooler name, This [discoverthis.com] was truly a great gift.
  • Dear Santa, (Score:3, Funny)

    by mikesab ( 652105 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:25AM (#7520521)
    I would like Windows .Net server for Christmas. And more ram.
    Your's Truly,
    Slashdot Website
  • Santa.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:27AM (#7520535)
    Santa, I want a smell-a-scope, and a bending unit, and a virtual Internet, and a pony, and a death clock, and... Oh wait, you want REAL geek gifts :-(

    Forterss of Insanity [homeunix.org]
    Blogzine [blogzine.net]
  • by Guano_Jim ( 157555 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:27AM (#7520536)
    Check out Heifer International. [heifer.org]

    For under $25 you can give a gift to a hungry family that will help them sustain themselves for a lifetime. You buy "shares" of animals that the organization then gives to the family.

    The gift recipient on your end ( mom, dad, sis, whoever) gets a card detailling your contribution in their name. Great stocking stuffers. Nothing says "I love you" like a share of water buffalo.

    • Instead of buying a feel-good card from some organization, I'd say your charity money could be utilized 100% if you just find a hungry family and buy them some food...
      • Hell's bells!!! (Score:3, Informative)

        by kiwimate ( 458274 )
        Now we've moved from not RTFA to not RTFP (post)! Did you understand the parent post? You donate to the organization, and your donation is used to buy a llama, a cow, a chicken, etc. If it's a chicken, for example, a poor family is able to raise chickens, get eggs, and generally be better off. It's nothing like those Christmas cards you buy from a charity organization -- the poster was saying you can donate in someone else's name and in return receive a nice "thank-you" type of card. You know? One of those
      • So organized charity is somehow wrong? Please. Besides, $25 goes much much farther in a 3rd world economy than in the United States, and "finding a hungry family" consumes resources in itself (comparable to "charity overhead", if you will).
      • Huh?

        This is a "teach a man to fish" outfit. They buy livestock -- chicks, pigs, ducks, llamas, whatever -- for poor people. Instead of getting a few meals, they become part of the local economy, becoming producers of meat, fur, eggs, milk, wool, etc.

        It's a better deal than just buying food.

        And nothing stops you from donating to Heifer (or similar outfits) AND donating to a local food bank.

        I did both this year.

        Stefan
      • by ObiWanKenblowme ( 718510 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @12:13PM (#7520967)
        It's like the old saying goes: Buy a family a dinner, they eat for a night. Buy a family a water buffalo, they all get trampled and have to be airlifted to the nearest trauma center.
    • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @01:20PM (#7521640) Homepage Journal
      Everybody's got a water buffalo.
      Yours is fast, but mine is slow.
      Oh, where do we get them, I don't know,
      But everybody's got a water buffalooooooooooooooo!

      I took my buffalo to the store.
      Got his head caught in the door.
      Spilled some lima beans on the floor.
      Oh, everybody's got a --

      Asparagus: Stop! Stop this instant! You can't say everybody's got a water buffalo when everyone does *not* have a water buffalo! We're going to get nasty letters in the mail saying, "Where's my water buffalo? Why don't I have a water buffalo?" and are you prepared to deal with that? I don't think so! Just stop being so silly!

      Narrator: This has been silly songs with Larry. Tune in next time to hear Larry sing ...

      Larry: Everybody's got a baby kangaroo.
      Yours is pink but mine is blue.
      Hers was small but --

      Asparagus: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
  • by Davak ( 526912 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:27AM (#7520537) Homepage
    Santa Slashdot:

    Please give me a Swiss Army PDA Phone with MP3, GPS, Wireless, and GameBoy emulation all in one. Oh, and please include the linux plug-in adapter as well.

    Davak

    PS. I've been a good little Karma Whore this year.

    • Please give me a Swiss Army PDA Phone with MP3, GPS, Wireless, and GameBoy emulation all in one. Oh, and please include the linux plug-in adapter as well.

      Somebody hasn't been here long... if it's not OGG people will cry. Not me though... I'm one of those silly AAC users.
  • Here's my list (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:28AM (#7520547)
    I'm pretty much a gadget geek. Here are some of the things that I want for Christmas:

    1) Job, so that I can buy these things for myself. Being laid off sucks.
    2) Something for my daughter, besides the bare necessities.
    3) Something for my wife. She works hard because I'm laid off.
    4) December's mortgage payment.
    5) November's property tax payment.
    6) One night of uninterrupted sleep.
    7) A two-month contract, just enough to get through December
    8) A month contract, just enough to get through November.
    9) A week contract, just enough to pay my phone and electric bill.
    10) All the above for my friend, who's worse off than I am.

    I stopped dreaming about dual Opterons about six months ago.
    • I'd just like to say that I sympathize with this guy, unlike most of you. Yeah, he should be out getting a job, or working a menial tech support, but you cannot be looking for a job 24x7.

      his post to me was nothing more than a wake-up call saying "hey shithead reading slashdot on company time, be thankful that you can even afford to get your girlfriend an ipod, things could be much worse."

    • Re:Here's my list (Score:2, Informative)

      sigh... I hear you, wish I could help. Perhaps the best Christmas gift for those with jobs to give right now is to help out people who are having a tough time financially.

      I do notice that there's a "Tech Jobs" link in the lower left hand corner of Slashdot. You've probably checked it, but I thought I'd point it out.

      Finally, I just wanted to suggest a link of my own for people to look at if they want to help out others. Shelter for Life [shelter.org] is doing a lot of work in Afghanistan to help people rebuild. The
    • I know you've been catching a lot of shit from people, but I thought it was a refeshing comment. Some people don't really have the time or the money to worry about crap.

      And though I'm fortunate enough to still have my job, I have plenty of friends who either only recently found jobs or who STILL can't find jobs.

      For all the people who think that just anyone can go get a McJob, think again. Being overqualified might just be worse than being underqualified--if you're underqualified, you can move up. A fri
  • by breon.halling ( 235909 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:29AM (#7520553)

    Might I suggest 120 laser pointers [slashdot.org]?

  • by mfago ( 514801 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:35AM (#7520612)
    ACME Klein Bottle [kleinbottle.com]!

    OTOH, they did say science lovers, not topology geeks...
  • *chuckle* thinkgeek sells it too...

    fugee indeed
  • I got this....

    "Error Occurred While Processing Request...
    The most likely cause of this problem is that the server is not currently running. Verify that the server is running and restart it if necessary. "

    We toasted it.
  • The choclate brain [anatomical.com] was cute. But the people at SciAm, as Maxwell Smart would have said, "Missed it by that much." There was a perfectly good choclate heart [anatomical.com] right there on the same site. Which gift would have more wow-factor? Especially left on your sweetie's doorstep in a little puddle of chocolate sauce?
  • Buy Nothing Day (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Stiletto ( 12066 )
    Why not instead participate in Buy Nothing Day [adbusters.org], instead of buying more useless stuff that nobody needs?
  • And what Sophisticated Lady wouldn't be overjoyed at unwrapping a genuine Swarovski crystal accessory?

    While it's interesting looking, I'd rather have a USB mouse that isn't round. I also wonder about how well that finish holds up. And the price is a bit steep for me.

  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:51AM (#7520759)
    What is with this trend? Wired devotes at least ten pages a month to hawking gadgets. Popular Science too. Now Scientific American? Guys - we already get the Sharper Image catalog in the mail whether we want it or not - please stick to reporting on science.
  • by ThePurpleBuffalo ( 111594 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:54AM (#7520788)
    I was in the mall last weekend. So was Santa. Yes, it seems that the christmas shopping season starts earlier every year. No, I no longer call it the "Christmas Season", it's now the "christmas shopping season".

    Now, I see christmas gift ideas... "stocking stuffers" on Slashdot.

    Yes, this is off topic.

    This year, I'm doing my best not to buy anything for the chirstmas shopping season. I don't need an excuse to purchase something for my significant other. I'm not about to spend $20 on little pieces of plastic that will be tired of within a few hours for my niece.

    For the past couple years, when people have asked what I wanted for Christmas/birthdays/other occasions, I have said "nothing". I have everything I *need*. I'm well educated, I have a job, and I'm in the process of getting back into physical shape. I also like to think that I have a good life and I'm happy. Do I need the latest games, toys, and distractions? No. If I needed it, I'd buy it myself.

    This frustrates a fair number of people. "What do you mean you don't want anything?!? I need to get you something!" No, you don't. Save your money. One day you may need it to visit a dying loved-one. One day, you may not have a job anymore.

    A friend and I have an understanding. I never buy anthing for him, he never buys anything for me. It's the only way that we don't feel like we stiffed each other. It's been working quite well for 6 years now.

    Anyway, I don't really have a point. Just a collection of ideas I wanted to share. How do you people feel about the chirtmas shopping season?

    Beware TPB
    • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @12:05PM (#7520892) Homepage Journal
      The best 'present' is just to have others around. Not buying gifts and stuff, but spending the whole day with the family and having fun.

      So instead of saying 'nothing', simply say 'just stop by on Christmas for a boardgame or some food'. That'll keep'm all happy :-)
    • by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @12:29PM (#7521112) Journal
      >For the past couple years, when people have asked what I wanted for Christmas/birthdays/other occasions, I have said "nothing".

      I used to say that. "Thank you, but I'm ok." now I just say "Pr0n. And not that crappy domestic stuff either."

      They stopped asking me what I want and just send a nice card.
    • by mugnyte ( 203225 ) * on Thursday November 20, 2003 @12:33PM (#7521147) Journal
      I can agree with you, and have tried to do similar with my family at time. However, there is a certain level of accomodation you must have for them when they've lived an entire life equating "giving a gift" with "expressing thanks/love/etc" during the holiday season. When I've run into these folks, I try to steeer them towards more and more practical ideas for gifts (mostly outdoorsy-type stuff since I like hiking). There is a limit for everything though, where you feel like you have "so much stuff" that getting more gifts defeats the purpose.

      This year, I've convinced people to make a donation to a charity of their choice in my name, then mail me a card or glossy about the charity as the gift. Seems like people are really into it too.

      mug
    • I applaud you. I have (mostly) managed to convince my wife and her mom that gifts are not necessary to demonstrate our affection for one another.

      I'm working on my family, slowly. I don't exchange gifts with any friends. I was under the impression that the point of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Christ. How that translates into hordes of people spending money they don't have on things nobody wants is beyond me.
    • People have been complaining for at least 50 years that christmas shopping season starts earlier every year. If that was true, it would be back in at least September by now. Truth is, it still starts in mid November, like it always has.

      The fact that people perceive it as starting earlier is pretty interesting. I read an article about it once, but I can't find it on the net in 5 minutes, so I'll just claim it emphatically for now!
    • I would dearly love it if *just for one day*, the entire nation could say "screw it" to capitalism and spend time with their families. Sadly, since my father is a pastor, he works both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, meaning we can't just spend one day at home together. How's *that* for backward?
    • All in all, what I get doesn't matter too much. I mean, I probably have one of the bigger budgets in the family, so without Xmas my money would have probably just gone to getting stuff I wanted anyways.

      However, Christmas is one of the few times my family (distributed around the province) generally all get together, and thus the only time we have to give everyone gifts. There's also a challenge in finding things that will be a geniunely nice surprise for those I'm shopping for.

      Yes, for the stores I'm sur
    • Now, I see christmas gift ideas... "stocking stuffers" on Slashdot.

      You've been reading Slashdot long enough you should remember that they do the Geek Gift Ideas [slashdot.org] every year. There's even a Christmas category [slashdot.org].

      Though I agree that the Xmas shopping season has gotten way out of hand. I only exchange gifts with close family, and I usually purchase those throughout the year when I see something I think they'd like, so a shopping season doesn't mean much for me.

      As a matter of fact, my church [anglicansonline.org] observes the season
    • I too think that I have everything I *need* so when people ask me what to get and wont take nothing for an answer I tell them I'd like:
      • Unlocked XP 2800 Barton with 400MHz FSB
      • a stick of PC3200 DDR with a CAS latency of at least 2 and SPD timings of 6-2-2.
      • epox nforce2 with raid and dual 3com nics
    • A friend and I have an understanding. I never buy anthing for him, he never buys anything for me.

      Heck, I have that "understanding" with 99.9999998% of the people on the planet!
    • Buy Nothing Day [adbusters.org] is an attempt to further spread the understanding you already have. You might like to check out the site and may be use their help/ideas to promote consumption abstinence.
  • I got the Rokenbok [rokenbok.com] starter set about two weeks ago, had so much fun with it got the "garage kit", ordered a few other parts on "special" from the website.

    Helluva fun product and something you can do with the kids as well...

    myke
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:57AM (#7520802)
    Waitress! I said 400 mL NOT 480 mL!!!
  • I haven't mustered up the nerve to actually drop $80 for one of these yet [kleinbottle.com], but they would definitely impress at parties!

  • a new web server.
  • NYT gift guide (Score:4, Informative)

    by bartash ( 93498 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @11:58AM (#7520820)
    The New York Times has an article on techie gifts [nytimes.com] too.
  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @12:09PM (#7520931) Homepage Journal
    This outfit sells an amazing variety of stuff, ranging from surplus crap to scientific instruments:

    http://www.sciplus.com/

    The item descriptions are a lot of fun to read as well.
  • Buy a DVD! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Pope ( 17780 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @12:12PM (#7520956)
    Look Around You [bbc.co.uk]

    For all those with a fondness for British humour, 80s TV shows, and jokes about the biggest number, this one's for you.

  • "Water powered?" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fiannaFailMan ( 702447 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @12:18PM (#7521011) Journal
    This sort of thing drives me crazy:
    Reduce, reuse, recycle, and run your car on water? Yes, you heard right! Welcome to the 21st century, where many believe that fuel cells, which produce only water as a byproduct, are the next wave of environmentally sound energy sources for motor vehicles.
    Why oh why oh why oh why can people not get it into their heads that fuel cells are a means of storing energy that has to come from some electrolysis process that will have its own by-products besides water? It's like people who talk about "steam power" when they really mean "coal power."

    Grrrrrrrr!

    • Electrolysis is powered by (duh) electricity. Basically, running power through two oppositely charged rods in water cases hydrogen to separate from oxygen. Thats really a dumbed down explaination, but it'll suffice and you already knew that anyway.

      Your point is "where does the electricity come from, and isn't that pollution the same or worse anyway?"

      There are non-polluting sources of electricity. Water (dams), wind, and (coming soon) wave power don't produce much power, but they're very clean.

      And don't f
    • by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )
      And why oh why can't you understand that that doesn't change the fact that fuel cells are still more environmentally sound, and still only produce water as a by-product? They're more environmentally sound because it centralizes power production, meaning it's generated at large scales, rather than all these mini powerplants we have now. And, funny enough, most power generation methods work more efficiently on larger scales. And more efficiency == more environmentally friendly.

      So, while yes, it's useful f
  • Wired did this recently and used up about half the magazine. This is not why I subscribe. I want long, informative articles on new trends, research, and innovative people; not a rehashing of the latest Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.
  • The woman in your life would really like one of these. [dynamism.com]

    • I have one. I quite like it.

      Aside from being a darn good mouse, it's also a striking piece of desktop sculpture/art.

      Despite what it says on the website, it is also compatible with Mac OS 8.5 through 9.2.2, even on older Macs with a USB port card in a PCI slot.

      For OS 8.5 and 8.6. you do need to download some extra software from Apple, Apple USB Card Support 1.4.1 and GameSprockets 1.7.5.

      Both can be found HERE [apple.com].

      And you really want to get USB Overdrive. Seriously, if you're on a Mac with USB and wa

  • Come on, how hard is it to come up with a list of cool gadgets that we would like to see lying under OUR christmas tree? That's the easy part! The hard part is to find all these NON-GEEK gifts for our non-geek friends or significant others...

    I, for one, have to torment myself every year in order to come up with something remotely thoughtful...

    What is the Slashdot crowd planning to get for the non-geek people in their lives?

  • A spammer (Score:3, Funny)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday November 20, 2003 @01:27PM (#7521707) Homepage Journal
    I want a spammer for Christmas.

    And some soundproofing foam.

    I already have the duct tape, the soldering iron, the needlenose pliers, and the wallplug ending in bare wires.

  • The amusement value for these would be better if they had more variety in diseases, but still, the Maladies selection isn't bad for gifts. A shame they don't come individually; I can think of a lot of people I could give ulcers to, but not too many I'd want to give Kissing Disease to...
  • Wired [wired.com] (note that they haven't released this article on the ent yet, and won't till Dec 1) had some decent gifts on theirs, including a ridiculously exciting child's DNA set wherein you can whip up and draw out the DNA of just about anything. It comes with dried peas or something, but I'm sure we could all be a bit more creative than that.

    Note to PKD fans: this site contains a slightly disconcerting article about the latest book to movie Paycheck, featuring Uma Thurman and Ben Affleck (or something).

  • When you take a telescope with a price that low, and subtract the cost of the electronics, you aren't leaving much to spend on quality optics. So you get a crappy view. Better to save your money for a 6" dobsonian reflector, or a good pair of binoculars. Or be prepared to spend a lot more money for a good computer-guided telescope.
    -aiabx
  • My kudos to Scientific American for this ground-breaking bit of science writing. GOd knows who would want to think about molecular biology or astrophysics when there's shopping to be done!

    Sigh... I remember when Scientific American actually carried articles about science rather than consumption. Nice meaty ones, too, with pictures of molecules and stars and everything. Of course, you can say the same thing about Communications of the ACM and IEEE Spectrum, too. Of course, that was back in the 60's &

  • If you want a real geek toy, then get a real live pinball machine from The Sharper Image:

    http://www.sharperimage.com/us/en/catalog/produc tv iew.jhtml?pid=56605000&pcatid=2&catid=201

    Only $4,995 for The Simpsons: Pinball Party!
  • by mackman ( 19286 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:11AM (#7526430)
    After reading the article I stopped by Brookstone and picked up one of the Eco-Spheres after work. It a little lackluster given the price, but it's really fascinating. 4 little 1/2 inch shrimps running around in a little glass sphere muching on green algae. They're supposed to live 2-5 years and there's a small change they will reproduce. Basically its the pet for people who can't even keep plants alive (yep, that's me).
  • Time to slashdot Cliff Stoll
    http://www.kleinbottle.com/ :-)

Egotist: A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. -- Ambrose Bierce

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