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iPod Touch

Christmas Gift Guide for Elementary School Aged Boys | 2014 Edition

Having raised Mark to the point where he is now in high school and with Oliver in Grade 1, I have some experience in Christmas shopping for school aged boys.  You can read my gift guide for teenagers here and my ideas for what to get a school aged boy below.  If you have any other suggestions or ideas, let me know in the comments.

LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack

LEGO Superheroes Batman: Man-Bat Attack

Includes Batman, Man-Bat and Night Wing (who used to be Robin).  You child will be saving Gotham non-stop with this set.

Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet

Fire HD Kids Edition Tablet

All-new Fire HD 6 or Fire HD 7 tablet—with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee

  • A real tablet, not a toy—A quad-core processor for great performance, a vivid HD display, front and rear-facing cameras, and Dolby Audio
  • Built for even the toughest kids—Enjoy the peace of mind with an unprecedented 2-year worry-free guarantee—if they break it, return it and we’ll replace it for free. No questions asked
  • Don’t worry about the bill—The Kids Edition includes a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited so kids get unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games—at no additional cost. Learn more
  • Starts in Amazon FreeTime—Built from the ground up for kids, the background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design. Kids can navigate visually to content based on characters or topics. Parents can exit Amazon FreeTime mode with a passcode
  • Best-in-class parental controls—Personalize screen time limits, set educational goals, and choose which titles kids can access from your own personal content collection
  • Take and edit photos in Amazon FreeTime—Snap photos within Amazon FreeTime mode using front and rear cameras. Fun editing tools lets kids explore their creative side by adding stickers, drawing on their pictures, and more
  • Kid-Proof Case—Durable, lightweight case to protect against drops and bumps caused by kids at play.

We gave Oliver Wendy’s old Kobo Vox tablet last year.  We tossed on some educational games, some apps, and he loves it.  We did the same with an old 2nd Gen iPod Touch that we loaded up with music.  He is careful and responsible with it.  With the Amazon Fire HD case and apps, it makes introducing your child to a computer even easier.

LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown

LEGO Super Heroes Daily Bugle Showdown

This time it is Spiderman saving The Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jamieson from certain doom.  The only question I have is, will Peter Parker get a picture of Spiderman.

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster

 

Nerf guns are all over our house.  There is nothing quite like wandering down into my basement and being ambushed by both my kids.  If you want to add to their arsenal of fun Nerf weapons that are good inside and out, consider the Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster.  Five bullets and lots of fun.

If you want to survive those ambushes, you may want to pick up one of these for yourself.

Franklin Sports Indoor 2-in-1 Goal Set

Franklin Sports Indoor 2-in-1 hockey set

There are a great gift.  Indoor hockey played on your knees has been a Canadian tradition for decades.  So has mothers complaining about having to patch the knees of pants.  Of course with them being sized or indoor use, they are perfect for when it is too cold to play outside.

Lincoln Logs Classic Edition Tin

Lincoln Logs Classic Edition Tin

The old classic is still around.  It includes 86 all wood pieces.

LEGO Super Heroes The Batcave

The Lego Batcave

If you don’t have your own Batcave, this is the second best thing.

Star Wars R2D2 Projection Alarm Clock

R2-D2 alarm clock

How cool is this.  An R2-D2 that projects the time onto the walls.  “Help me Obi-Wan, you are our only hope of waking up on time…”

LEGO Kids Star Wars Storm Trooper Mini-Figure Alarm Clock

Lego Star Wars Stormtrooper Alarm Clock

A great option for the kid who struggles to wake up is the Lego Star Wars Storm Trooper alarm clock.  Plus nothing helps you sleep well than knowing you are beside an elite trooper who lost a key battle to a bunch of Ewoks.

The stories of Obi-Wan Kenobi / Darth Vader / Luke Skywalker by Ryder Windham.

Star Wars: Life and Legend of Obi-Wan KenobiStar Wars: The Rise and Fall of Darth VaderThe Life of Luke Skywalker

Apple iPod Shuffle

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We passed down an iPod Shuffle to Oliver a couple of years ago.  It is small and easy for him to use.  Even the 2gb version is enough to load him up with music for the longest of roadtrips.  Combine it with these kid-friendly Batman Headphones and you have a gift that they will love as much as you love the silence.

Batman Kid-Safe Headphones

Batman Kid-Safe Headphones

Kid Safe headphones have a volume limiter meaning that your child will not be at risk of hearing damage.  Over the ear design also means that they won’t get headaches either.   It’s a great add on to the Kindle Fire for Kids or the iPod Shuffle.

XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule Speaker with Rechargeable Battery and Enhanced Bass+ Resonator

XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule Speaker with Rechargeable Battery and Enhanced Bass+ Resonator

Sometimes kids want to listen to their music out loud!  For those times, a portable, small, and rechargeable speaker that provides great sound is the way to go.    It provides great sound but won’t overpower your house.   The also have a modular “Buddy-Plug” Design: Integrated stowaway 3.5mm stereo audio jack plug and socket connects multiple XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule speakers together for maximum sound.  So if one isn’t getting the job done, you can keep adding speakers.  They are compatible with any device that has a headphone jack, so phones, iPods, or any MP3 player.

Risk: The Game of Global Domination

Risk: The Game of Global Domination

Despite the game being for players 10 and older, Oliver has been loving the game for a couple of years.   Instead of getting your child a game that only they will like for a year or two, why not start them playing some games the entire family can play for a lifetime?

Bachmann Trains Royal Gorge Ready-to-Run HO Train Scale Train Set

Royal Gorge H0 Model Train Set

Remember your first H0 model train set?  How about a set that is modelled after  Colorado’s oldest scenic line?  It combines rich history, spectacular views and stylish accommodations into a train that takes you on a 24-mile journey through the 1,000 Feet deep Royal Gorge. Passengers travel alongside the Arkansas River on a ribbon of rail for an up-close nature show deep in the canyon, observing bald eagles, blue heron, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and flora native to the gorge.

How much fun would any kid have opening this set on Christmas morning?

Hohner 1/2 Sized Classical Guitar

Hohner 1/2 Sized Classical Guitar

The Hohner HAG250P is a handcrafted classical guitar with an Agathis top back and sides. This wood match-up creates a crisp texture to the overall sound of the instrument. The smaller scale of this instrument (considered 1/2 sized) is specially designed with the younger player in mind and is highly recommended for the players that are starting between the ages of 5-9. This instrument also comes equipped with light gauge nylon strings for easier fingering as to not discourage the first time player.

Spy Gear for His Latest Adventure

Night Vision Googles

Night Vision Googles

Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools like a Micro Ear Light, Micro Listener, Micro Motion Alarm and Invisible Ink Pen on every surveillance mission

Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools

The coolest utility belt that doesn’t belong to Batman.

Spy Gear Walkie Talkies with a 2 mile range

Spy Gear Walkie Talkies with a 2 mile range

Because every great adventure needs a team and a two mile radius is very, very impressive.

Christmas Gift GuideIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

CSR Racing

I am not much of a gamer but I have been playing CSR Racing on my Mac lately.  It’s a simple drag racing game where you have beat “crews” to move up.  To do that you need to win some races where you win cash and then you have to upgrade your car.  Most cars need four levels of upgrades to win and there is a bit of skill involves in it as well.

The fun part of the game is that you can only race as long as you have gas and you can easily run out of gas.  To get more gas, you can pay but I am too cheap to do that or you can wait an hour to two hours for your tank can fill.  The game is free and they depend on people more impatient than cheap but for me it is great as I can play it for 10 minutes, be done and then pick it up later.  It’s like gaming designed for those of us with short attention spans.

As you can see, I started the game with a Mini Cooper S, moved to a Mustang GT, then a BMW M3 Coupe, and now a Corvette ZR1 (which is underpowered compared to the other cars in the tier and getting beat a lot).  And yes I seem to like the colour red.

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It’s a fun game to play and it’s free to try (and keep playing).  If you have a iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, you can play it on each either one of those devices.

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Husband / Father / Boyfriend (all of the men in your life) | 2012 Edition

It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible Christmas gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following.  I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and here it is.  Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below.  For the entire list of Christmas gift guides, click here.

Tablets

I bought Jordon an iPad last Christmas and has has loved it.  Now he is an Apple person (iPod, iPad, iPhone, and a MacBook) but not everyone is.  The good news is that there are some amazing tablets on the market for both Android, Apple, and even Blackberry users.

When you are looking for a tablet, make sure you understand how the person is going to use it.  I bought Jordon a 16gb iPad because Jordon is going to use it for some writing (using Pages, the occasional Keynote presentation) and surf the web.  He had no intention on putting his music on his iPad because he uses his iPod for that task.  If he was going to use it as a all-in-one machine, I would have gone out and got him a 64gb version.

Also, some have bought them with the idea that they will replace their laptop or computer.  They really don’t for most of our friends (although as I was typing this, Jordon points out that he has never seen Saskatoon City Councillor Charlie Clark use anything but his iPad and his Logitech keyboard/case).

Whatever your preference,  I have listed tablets from all operating systems below.

Google Nexus 10Android | Nexus 10 ($409) and Nexus 7 ($209) from Google.  Both offer world class speed and design and in a lot of ways are designed and produced to set the standard for Android devices running on tablets in the same way Google designed the Nexus phone to do for smartphones.

Android | Kindle Fire 8.9 ($299) and Kindle Fire HD($199)  Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire to mediocre reviews last year but has stepped up their game with the Kindle Fire 8.9 inch tablet and the Kindle Fire HD which offers retina level display on an Android device.  If you surf the web a lot, the Kindle Fire has the fastest wifi of any tablet out there.

kindle-fire-hd-89

iPad MiniApple | iPad ($499)) and iPad Mini ($329) | While more expensive then the Kindle Fire HD, it has the advantage of the most spectacular collection of apps out there.  Also it offers fantastic integration between your iPhone and Mac.  Like I said  before, Jordon has an iPad 2 and loves it.

Blackberry PlaybookBlackberry Playbook ($194 for a 32gb model) | I include this here because I know there is still a passionate community of Blackberry users out there.  It’s a good value for the price but it doesn’t have a lot of apps for it.  It’s one of those things that I would get for a guy who knew what he was getting and still really wanted.  When I asked Jordon, he said there are those out that that still live and die on Blackberry Messenger and it has that… kind of.  Maybe you should just get any Blackberry lovers on your list, a new phone.

Music

iPod Classic ($249) | iPod Nano ($149) | iPod Touch($299)

iPod ClassiciPod TouchiPod Nano

Depending on the person you are shopping for, they are going to have different demands on what they want out of a iPod or MP3 player.  Some people want all of their music at their fingertips all of the time, some want something to work out with, and some want to be connected to all of their apps while they are listening to their music.  Whatever kind of person you are shopping for, there is an iPod for them.

Sony WalkmanIf the person you are shopping for isn’t an Apple fan, look at a Sony Walkman ($110).  While the design and features look amazing, I am a little surprised it only comes in a 8 gb version, of which 1.25 gb is used by the software.  So if you are looking for a 6.75 gb MP3 player in a great design package and a good price, here it is.  It is slightly smaller than the Apple iPod Nano but has a lot of the same features.  While MP3 quality is lacking, with Sony you know you are getting something that is quality made and designed.

41mxVSz7SkLWhatever MP3 player you get, you will want to upgrade the headphones.  JVC’s Xplosive Xtreme ($17) headphones are much loved at an affordable price.  The series feature a bass port for outstanding bass reproduction, a durable rubber protector for impact protection and to help withstand heavy use, and a gold-plated 3.5mm stereo plug.  The Xplosive Xtreme also comes with a handy carrying case. 2.6mm-thick and robust 1.2m pure copper cable (Y-type) Special hard carrying case included S/M/L silicone ear-pieces included Gold-plated 3.5mm stereo straight plug iPod, iphone and iPad compatible.

If you aren’t sure the person you are shopping for would appreciate a MP3 player, why not pick up a Polaroid 8 gb MP3 player ($40)?  It may not have the features of the iPod or Walkman but it does offer a really good value and is expandable with a SDHC card.

iHome Rechargeable Mini Speakers ($45) | These are incredible speakers that provide a rich sound.  They have a carrying case which means that they get taken with us everywhere, just like our iPods.

iHome Rechargable Mini Speakers

They work great with our iPods, netbooks, and our portable DVD player.

Tivoli Model One ($149) | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it.  We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin.  It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends.  The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station.  Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio.  Different design but same classic look.

Office

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen ($38)

Cross Bailey Fountain Pen

Every guy needs a nice pen and this fountain pen is both affordable enough to give a nice gift but if high enough quality to last for decades.  If you aren’t sure the person on your list would appreciate a fountain pen, you won’t go wrong with a Parker IM rollerball pen($19).

Parker IM Rollerball Pen

Tabletop fountain ($49) | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in.  At The Lighthouse, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry.  A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit.  Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries.  It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.

Wrapped leather journalOf course he will need something to write down his profound thoughts in so why not give him a leather wrapped journal for Christmas?  Chapters/Indigo has an amazing one for $45.  While you are at it, check out this $15 5 inch globe.

Video and Camera

71cqBTpP-3L._AA1500_GoPro HD Hero 2 ($199) | Born from a passion to capture your love of life from your perspective, this camera is a feat of engineering. Wearable and gear mountable, waterproof to 197′ (60M) and boasting an immersive 170° wide-angle lens, the HD HERO2 has ushered in a new era of image capture. Professional quality 30 fps 1080p and 60 fps 720p video, combined with 11 megapixel still photo capture that has landed magazine covers.  It’s a great camera and a lot of fun for the entire family.    With this grab bag of mounts, you can hook it up to almost anything.

Sony Bloggie ($69) | Jordon has a Kodak Zi8 for years and has loved it.  We gave Lee a Flip camera a year ago and even Mark has one.  While you cell phone can record HD video, it doesn’t have the same kind of quality than a dedicated video camera gives you and it is a lot easier to deal with a SD card than trying to get a video off your iPhone.  If the guy you are shopping for is one that loves to take video, make sure you check this camera out.

Fuji Fine Pix XP50 ($150) | For years we have been fans of Fuji point and shoot cameras and the XP50 is no exception.   It’s waterproof to a depth of 5m and can capture both movies and still images underwater. The camera’s casing will withstand shocks or drops from a height of 1.5m, while cold environments are also no problem for this rough and ready device. The FinePix XP50 can withstand temperatures down to -10°C and dust is never a problem, with all the camera’s access points specially sealed for ultimate protection.

If the guy you are shopping for loves audio or is a podcaster, consider getting him a Blue Snowball ($60)or Yeti USB ($109) microphone.  Both provide amazing clear sound and are a significant upgrade over the internal microphone in a laptop.

Home

31531_lBlack and Decker Thermal Carafe Coffee Maker ($48) | Jordon is a coffee connoisseur and while the ultimate way to make a cup of coffee is with a French Press or a Aeropress coffee maker ($25), he doesn’t always have time.  For times when he needs 8 cups of coffee relatively quick and wants it to stay fresh for a while, there is this thermal coffee maker from Black and Decker.  With a stylish design and durable stainless steel carafe, this 8-cup coffeemaker is perfect for home, office or practically anywhere you want hot, fresh coffee at the touch of a button. All this, plus an easy-clean control panel and dishwasher-safe removable parts for effortless clean up.  The advantage of the carafe is that you won’t be stuck with hot burnt coffee in case you don’t get it off the maker in time.  The coffee will be as hot and fresh later as it is right now.

Atari Flashback ($50)| Over 75 Atari 2600 games all in one console.  Jordon laments the exclusion of Pac-Man but you can get Missile Command, Asteroids, and Combat all on console.  Let him relive his childhood at the same time making him a subject of mockery of any child in the family.

PlayStation 3 ($269) | Yes it’s a game console but it’s also a Blu-Ray and DVD player, a Netflix player (which works way better than the Wii), and allows the family to play online.  We use it all of the time to watch Netflix, movies, and also we still play a fair amount of games.  While it’s not something that we would ever consider essential to our family life, it’s hard to imagine doing without.

Leatherman Skelatool ($42) or the Gerber Suspension Multitool ($26) | Both are amazing multi-tools and life is just better for men when they know they have a great multi-tool within reach.  If the guy you are shopping for needs something even smaller, then check out the Cabela’s multi-tool.  A great tool in a small package.

While the guys I know aren’t big on jewellery, they do appreciate a nice watch.  If the guy you are shopping for loves a nice watch, check out the Timex Expedition Rugged Field Watch ($46), the Timex Expedition Digital/Analog watch ($44.96) or the rather classic Timex Atlantis 100 ($31).

Parrot AR Drone 2.0

Finally don’t forget probably the most wanted gift of the season, the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 ($300) The Parrot AR.Drone is the first quadricopter that can be controlled by a smartphone or tablet. By tilting your device, you control the direction of your AR.Drone, and by releasing it, the AR.Drone is instantly stabilized. Thanks to the AR.Drone’s autopilot feature, anyone can be an expert as the AR.Drone allows for an easy take-off and landing.  It’s about as amazing and as much found as it sounds.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

Christmas Gift Guide for Teenage Boys | 2012 Edition

A couple of weeks ago search results looking for Christmas gift ideas started to appear so I knew it was time to dust off the Christmas Gift Guides and start on 2012’s.  As usual, I start with the kids and move from there.  If you have any idea or feedback, let me know in the comments.

Shopping for a tween or a teenager is hard.  Amazon suggests MacBooks, they all want $600 iPhone and if you get it wrong, they will hate you forever.  Welcome to shopping for a teenager.  Here are some ideas that are cool, won’t break the bank, and may actually inspire them.

HTC Desire CI have long been a fan of Virgin Mobile prepaid for teens.  You can control their data, their minutes, and if something goes wrong and the phone is lost, you aren’t hit with a massive phone bill or contract.  Everyone wins.  The HTC Desire C ($149) has the newest version of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 5 megapixel camera, and a sound system that is by Beats by Dre.  It’s only $149 upfront and you can either put that on their no-contract plan or go prepaid.  It’s not a Samsung Galaxy III or a iPhone 5 but for someone that is 12 or 13 years old, they don’t need a better phone than you.  If  you really want to spoil the kid, you can get them some Beats by Dre headphones ($149) to go with it but a more fiscally sound and responsible choice may be these highly rated and fairly inexpensive JVC Xtreme-Xplosivs headphones ($14.99).

Kodak Playsport video cameraWhile Kodak has fallen on hard times, it still makes a great little compact camcorder in the Kodak Playsport ($80).  It’s shockproof, rustproof, and waterproof to a depth of 10 ft. Since it is designed to be used on the go, it has built-in image stabilization to smooth out the ride. It also has a share feature making it easy to get the video onto YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.  If you want more stability from a manufacturer, check out the Sony Bloggie camera (or the Sport model).  All are great options for your young aspiring filmmaker.

Of course they will need some adventures to film.  Geocaching is extremely popular all over the world and Magellan has created the eXplorist GC Waterproof Geocaching GPS ($119).  It easily connect to the Geocaching.com User Community and perform "Send to GPS," create and sync Pocket Queries, and upload Field Notes. Pre-loaded with the most popular geocaches in the world.  Additionally, the product comes packed with common outdoor GPS features, such as waypoint creation, a worldwide base map, active tracking, and trip odometer.

If they are a gamer, chances are that they have grown out their Nintendo DS.  If they have, check out the PS Vita ($249).  With any gaming system it is all about the games and I am pleasantly surprised the amount of good looking games there are out there for the PS Vita (compared to the PSP).  There is Assassin’s Creed III ($39), Madden 13 ($25), or FIFA 13 ($39)

2012-ipodnano-product-initialWhile my son would love an iPod Touch ($299), I am not sure if any child needs to be online 24/7.  There is a great alternative in the new iPod Nano ($149), especially if the child you are shopping for is extremely active (or you want them to be more active).  The redesigned iPod nano now has a larger, 2.5-inch Multi-Touch display. It plays music and has Genius playlists and FM radio.  It has enough memories to watch watch movies and widescreen videos on the bigger screen. The iPod Nano tracks your steps, your runs, and burned calories and syncs to the Nike+ website to challenge friends. And with built-in Bluetooth technology, you can wirelessly connect to speakers, headphones, or car stereos.  While you are at it, you can add some amazing iHome rechargeable mini speakers as well.

If your child is a skateboarder, you may want to consider a Tony Hawk skateboard deck and kit.  I know what you are thinking, "What’s Tony Hawk a skater back when I was a kid?" and the answer is yes and somehow he is still skating and he is still pretty awesome… if you consider a 900 degree turn on a skateboard awesome.

If you teen is planning to do something awesome like that, you may want to get them a GoPro camera ($169) and a headstrap to record the madness/injury.

Sometimes the best technology and gifts are some of the most basic.  Binocular prices have dropped while the optics are still great.  A pair of compact Bushnell binoculars ($30) are perfect for a hike, some urban exploring, and compact enough to toss in a bag.  If taken care of, they will last a lifetime.

Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War II:  A visual look at Canada during World Ward II.

Canada at War follows the developments and setbacks, wins and losses, of a nation learning to stand up for itself in the midst of the most difficult war of the 20th century.

In graphic-novel format, fully illustrated and in full colour, Canada at War shows the growth of a nation’s army, navy and air force through movingly depicted triumphs and tragedies. From the disheartening losses at Dieppe and Hong Kong through the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, it focuses on the human dimension of the key battles and decisions that ultimately swung the war in the Allies’ favour.

This poignant graphic account ends, after the victories of D-Day and Juno Beach and the liberation of Europe, with a final reckoning of the legacy these storied years have had on a country forged through war. Aimed at both adult and young adult readers, this very human history tells the stories behind some of this country’s most distinguishing military moments.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestions made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

My setup

I was asked a while ago about the gear I use around the office and at home.  Here it is in the nutshell.

I use a HP 6910p laptop running Windows Vista as my main machine now.  I use it at home and at work and keep my files sync’d using Windows Live Mesh.  I don’t use a mouse and while the computer has a trackpoint, I tend to use the touch pad for the first time in my life.    I tried to use ObjectDock because I really love the dock but it causes all sorts of problems for my applications so I just use a basic Windows setup.

I keep my music on my iPod.  When my office mate is in the office, I plug them into some Sony MDR-ZX100 headphones.  When she is gone, I tend to plug it into my iStereo dock.

Most of my writing is done in Libre Office.  I have a copy and a license of Microsoft Office but I am ready to give it up.  Libre Office hasn’t caused me any problems and it works for me.

My office rig is pretty basic.  It have a HP dc7800  It’s powered by a 3.00 Ghz Intel core duo and is hooked to a 32 inch display with 2 gigs of RAM.  Hooked up to a it is a cheap generic webcam and 5.1 channel surround sound speakers.  It runs Windows 7

I use Gimpshop. Picasa, MediaImpression, Libre Office, and Windows Live Writer and not a lot else

My desk is actually an old boardroom table that has been converted into a desk.  My office has seven chairs in it and I just grab whatever is closest to me.   Yesterday there were only five chairs in here but every time there is a meeting in here, people bring extra desk chairs.

My phone is a Samsung Galaxy Ace which goes with me everywhere and I have an iPad 2.  Despite seeing how well the Logitech keyboard works for some of Saskatoon’s city council, I went with the Apple Bluetooth keyboard that works really well.  I have Numbers and Keynote but I generally only use Pages and Evernote.

As for application.  My day starts and ends in Evernote, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Gmail.  Google Calendar, Evernote, and Google Contacts all sync with my phone, iPod Touch, and my iPad, and are available on my notebook and desktop.  Having a centralized place for all of my information is huge for me and really makes any device I am on work the same across all platforms.   I really need to use the cloud to store my iPod and iPad docs but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I tend not to use PowerPoint when I speak as I think speaking is a lost art but if I really need to, I use Libre Impress.  The only program that I really miss here is AbiWord which got buggy a couple of releases ago and hasn’t really gotten fixed.

So there you go, Android, Windows, and two different Apple devices.  It all seems to work.

Christmas Gift Guide: For Your Husband/Boyfriend/Men in Your Life | 2011 Edition

It’s Wendy again and I am pretty lucky as Jordon does all of the Christmas shopping in our family and over the years he has created some incredible gift guides for his website which have generated a loyal following.  I traditionally write the Gift Guide husbands/boyfriends/fathers and this year I get to kick off the festivities as mine will go first.  How cool is that?  Hopefully I don’t disappoint and as always if you have good ideas, leave them in the comments below.

Leatherman New Wave Multitool | Last year Lee went out and bought Jordon a nice multi-tool and he has used it every day since then.  It’s amazing how many times it has come in handy around the house or when we have been out driving or at the lake.  It’s been used to fix the car, perform first aid, cut down a tree, screw in more than one screw, and open many a package.  You really don’t realize how handy and indispensible they are until you don’t have one around.  We have picked up some less inexpensive ones over the years and we keep one in both of our car safety kits and also up at the cabin.  If the guy you are shopping for doesn’t have one, get him one.
($62 at Amazon.com)

iPod Touch | If the guy you are shopping for has an iPhone then don’t bother but if he has an Android or Blackberry powered phone, don’t buy into the hype that they can listen to music with it.  They can but you can’t use iTunes and it’s a big time drain on the battery.  Get them a 4th generation iPod Touch and let them put their videos and music on it.  For Jordon, his iPod has many of the same apps that his phone does, it means that he can grab it any time he needs it, even if his phone is out of reach or charging.  Plus no matter how easy people tell you it is to get music on your Android or Blackberry, iTunes makes it easier.  While it won’t replace your HD camcorder, there was been a lot of times when we have it with us and it takes excellent HD video.  Photos are generally grainy but the video is good to excellent.
(32gb for $279 at Amazon.com)

Seinheisser CX 500-B headphones | Whatever you do, upgrade his headphones. The Apple headphones may be iconic but they aren’t very comfortable. Instead try the CX 500’s which are high quality, noise-isolating ear-canal phones with a crisp, clear, bass driven stereo sound. They feature a volume control integrated in the cable and come with a new, unique type of ear adapter for an improved fit and an even better passive noise attenuation.
($30 at Amazon.com)

Kindle Fire/Kobo Vox | If a iPad is out of your price range and you don’t want a Blackberry Playbook (not many of us do), why not look at an Android powered Kindle Fire or if you are in Canada, check out the Kobo Vox.  They aren’t iPads but they are not $500 either.  They allow you to install apps, read books, watch some video, install apps surf the web, play Angry Birds, tweet, and check email easily.

Which one should get?  Amazon has a faster tablet while the Kobo Vox is available in Canada.  There have been some pretty annoying issues with the Kobo Vox as Kobo has a reputation of shipping before it it is ready.  They have however released five firmware updates which means that the Vox is getting better with each release.
(Both are $200 at Amazon.com or Chapters)

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson | Read the summary and tell me that the tech geek in your life won’t want to read this.  Plus, after he is done with it, you can read it.

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple’s hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

($18 at Amazon.com)

The Wire | Season 1 ($21)| Season 2 ($21.49) | Season 3 ($21.49) |Season 4 ($21.49) | Season 5 ($21.49) | Complete Series ($149) | If you haven’t seen The Wire, you are missing out on one of the best shows ever made for television.  It’s more than the acting and the writing, it’s the concept of dedicating an entire season to one story and crime and letting it unfold.  I have watched the entire series twice with Jordon and it gets better wit age.  I really is worth watching and owning.  It would be a fantastic gift to any man on your Christmas gift.
(All seasons available at Amazon.com by clicking on the season link)

Ken Burns: Prohibition |  Well let’s see you have Ken Burns telling the story of prohibition so you have gangsters, smugglers, corrupt cops, good cops, and a government that was comfortable actually poisoning alcohol to keep it from being consumed.  Yeah, this is going to be a good documentary series.
($19 at Amazon.com)

Mad Men | Jordon got into Mad Men last Christmas and while advertising isn’t my passion, I have come to really enjoy the series.  It’s also reassuring that someone, somewhere is making television worth watching again.
(Season 1 is $10.49 at Amazon.com. Seasons 2, 3, & 4)

Tivoli Model One | Old school AM/FM in a timelessly sleek design. I bought Jordon one a couple of years ago and he loves it.  We actually went and bought a second one for the cabin.  It gets great reception in the middle of nowhere and on a hot summer day when the Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing, it’s a great way to listen on the deck with all of your friends.  The Tivoli Model One has a rich, full sound thanks to sound pioneer Henry Kloss, and the radio has come to be a modern design must-have. This gift is perfect for a desk, in the kitchen- anywhere he can listen to the baseball game, CBC Radio One, or the oldies station.  Another tabletop option worth considering is the classic Sangean WR-11 radio.  Different design but same classic look.
(Tivoli Model One is $149 at Amazon.com | Seagean WR-11 is $80 at Amazon.com)

Wooden Pocket Knife | Jordon’s grandfather carried a wooden pocket knife with him his entire life.  Today while in Eddie Bauer he was surprised to see a great looking wooden pocket knife for sale.  Eleven functions in one beautifully crafted tool: scissors, fish scaler, hook remover, reamer with sewing eye, can opener, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener, flathead screwdriver, small blade, and large blade.
($15 at Eddie Bauer)

MI5 | I fell in love with this long running BBC series along with Jordon.  This is adult, post-watershed drama clearly inspired by the hard-hitting style of shows as 24 and The Sopranos.  I have never seen a show so willing to kill off major characters but the one that remains (Harry) pulls show all together.  It’s a lot of fun, action packed and even controversial.
(Season 1 is $22 at Amazon.com  Seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9)

Defend the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 by Christopher Andrew | I bought this book for Jordon tis summer and he really enjoyed it.  It’s not a light read as it is a scholarly history of MI5 but it is readable and incredibly interesting.  I found myself fascinated by some of the stories he would read from it as well as the personalities of the people behind the vaunted intelligence agency.  If you loved one is a fan of history, you can’t go wrong with this book.
($18.15 from Amazon.com)

Fuji Finepix XP20 | Jordon bought this camera this summer and loves it.  It’s waterproof and ruggedized design means that it goes everywhere with him, including the sometimes clear/sometimes murky waters of Last Mountain Lake.  It features 14 megapixels resolution with an impressive 5x wide zoom with dual image stabilization to shoot sharp image quality in any condition. The 2.7 inch LCD is clear and easy to see even in bright conditions and the bright LED lights the way in the dark. Also it is equipped with a strengthened glass lens cover providing outdoor protection. Other features include one touch underwater movie recording, Motion Panorama with automatic stitch, Face Detection, HD Video, and more.
($135 at Amazon.com)

The Power Broker by Robert Caro | Both the postman and myself got hernias when this book was delivered.  It is 1344 pages and a Pulitzer Prize winner about Robert Moses.  Who was Robert Moses?  Well he was the urban designer that changed the face of New York City and much of New England forever.  His car centric urban design probably influenced how we live more than anyone else.  He was feared, hated, and admired all at the same time.  Just as it’s a book about Moses, it’s a biography of New York City.  This book is coming out as a movie (or a long mini-series) next year.  Read the book first.
($16.50 at Amazon.com)

Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power | I haven’t read it yet but Jordon said it was the best book he read in 2010.   The book is about Sergio Vieira de Mello’s who was a Brazilian United Nations diplomat who worked for the UN for more than 34 years, earning respect and praise around the world for his efforts in the humanitarian and political programs of the UN.  He was killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq along with 20 other members of his staff on 19 August 2003 while working as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq.  While the book was quite compelling, it has also been made into a HBO movie.
($6.80 at Amazon.com)

Survivorman: The Complete Series | A couple of years ago Jordon was surfing the television and stumbled upon Les Stroud surviving a week in Alaska and all of us got hooked on the show.  We own all three seasons (Season 1, 2, 3) but you can get the entire series in one box from Less Stroud’s online store.  If you are interested in the cultures Stroud interacted with on the show, make sure you check out the complete series of Beyond Survival
($69 from Les Stroud.ca)

Tabletop fountain | It depends on the office environment that your husband works in.  At the Salvation Army Community Services, Jordon’s office was both too hot and too dry.  A tabletop fountain added some humidity into the air and cooled it down a bit.  Just make sure you get him a plug in version, not one that runs on batteries.  It’s one of those things that once the batteries run out, it never gets used again.
($37 from Amazon.com)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 | I never bought Jordon video games but he has made a sacred vow never to let Mark beat him at a game and so every once in a while Jordon takes a couple of days and beats a game.  This year he beat Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Battlefield: Bad Company, and Call of Duty: World at War and InFamous for the Playstation 3.  While he talks of the sacred vow, deep down he does it to escape and unwind.  If Jordon was creating this list, he would add Infamous 2 and Battlefield 3 to the list.  Depending on how old the game is, you can get them for a really good deal.
(Call of Duty is $59 at Amazon.com)

Kodak Zx5 Playsport | Jordon is a big fan of is Kodak Zi8 camera but Kodak isn’t making them any longer and has instead brought out the Zx5 Playsport.  It’s ruggedized, water proof (even has underwater white balance and shoots stunning video).  While we have a camcorder, you would be amazed at the amount of time we shot great video with our Kodak because we had it with us.
($109 at Amazon.com)

Creative Vado | The third generation of the Creative Vado may not be ruggedized but does have an external microphone port which means that with a lavalier or a shotgun microphone, you are going to get much better audio than you would with most standard camcorders.  Not only is the price right but along with Kodak Playsport, it offers up a wide variety of video options as well.
($79 at Amazon.com)

Note: If you are looking for some inexpensive video editing software, check out this list from PC World.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

37 trips around the sun

Lowepro Exchange Messenger Camera BagI turned 37 today.  Not much of a milestone but it was an enjoyable day.  I fell asleep on the sofa last night so I woke up early to the family and a really sore neck.  After some stretching and straining I got up and opened some presents.  Mark gave me a 70-210mm Sigma lens for my camera and a Lowepro Exchange Messenger camera bag while Oliver gave me a DSLR for Dummies book and a new camera strap.

Mini Riddell Denver Broncos helmetWendy gave me a mini Denver Broncos helmet, some new in ear headphones and some upgraded noise cancelling headphones while Hutch and Maggi got me an iTunes card so I could get some music.  The helmet made it’s way to my office and Oliver isn’t pleased.  He sees an Oliver sized helmet and doesn’t understand why there isn’t a football game breaking out.

While the Broncos helmet was pretty cool, our timing was odd with the negotiations breaking down between the owners and the players.  For NFL addicts around the world, it gives new meaning to the Day of Rage.

Keeping with the audio theme, Lee gave me a Best Buy gift card and I picked up some iHome Rechargeable Mini Speakers which will be making a trip to Toronto with me in a couple of weeks (as will the noise cancelling headphones).

To celebrate, the family took me out to Alexander’s Restaurant for supper with Michaela and Taylah.  Michaela decided that since we share three hugs a year (our birthdays and on Christmas), we must be family.  I am not so sure.  We just became Facebook friends last year.

Thanks to everyone who emailed, tweeted, and Facebooked today.  I appreciated them all.

Blackberry Curve Build Out

Blackberry Curve 8530 from Koodo MobileOn the 27th I went to Best Buy to take a look at DSLR’s on sale.  I didn’t see any DSLRs but while I was there, I saw that Koodo had dropped their price on Blackberry Curves to $150 and no contract.  I had thought about getting a LG Rumor 2 this year but after looking into it, we decided to get the Curve.  I had been quite happy with Virgin but I have had technical problems with my account for two years and it was getting worse.  While Virgin’s tech support and customer service staff have been really helpful, they still could not fix the problem so I finally decided to make the move.

Blackberry by RIMI took the phone home and started to set it up.  Here is how I put it together.

The first thing I did was get my Curve set up to our wifi connection in the house.  That wasn’t working that well.  Then I realized my router was about a billion years old (it was a 801b router) and it needed an upgrade.  Since my new router was on my desk, it was pretty easy to upgrade.  The Curve, my iPod Touch, and our notebook suddenly worked a lot faster.  I upgraded my old router’s firmware and will give it Computers for Kids and if they don’t want it, it can go to SARCAN.

Here is are the apps that made their way onto it over the last couple of days.

Utilities

Social Networks

  • foursquare app for the BlackberryFoursquare | It doesn’t yet use wifi but it allows you to check in and out all over the place.  It’s one of those apps that doesn’t make sense until you use it and then you love it.
  • Twitter | Umm, it’s one of the main reasons why I upgraded to a Blackberry.
  • Facebook (one the off chance for some reason I need to actually log in sometime… maybe in 2012)
  • Flickr | It’s an uploader that uploads my camera phone shots to Flickr.  It rather annoyingly resizes them but I’ll deal with that later.

News and Sports

Am I missing anything?  Let me know in the comments.

Christmas Around Here

I see that both Wendy and Mark have posted about Christmas so I thought I might as well.  I won’t describe the day as Wendy did a great job of doing that but I will ad in that it was a lot of fun to have friends and family around. 

For my gifts, Wendy and Lee went in and got me a new 32 gb iPod Touch.  My iPod Touch was a first generation one and I was quite excited to see the it finally shipping with both a camera and a video camera in it.  I don’t have a Blackberry or smartphone but this does a good job of letting me both work and play when I need to.  I bought iMovie, and a bunch of 99 cent EA games for it and I am good to go.  Wendy also gave me a massive Rambo type knife.  I am not sure what I will use it for but there is a small first aid and survival kit in the knife handle.  Now that’s a knife.

Wilson CFL footballMaggi gave me a Wilson CFL football.  I have an NFL football but when I am watching the Grey Cup, you really need a bigger ball to toss around.

Oliver gave me a Team Canada Hockey seat cover and steering wheel cover for Hank while Santa brought me a portable external hard drive for my netbook.  I have shot several hours of video for my documentary and I really need more hand drive space if I am going to get it done in 2011 (more on that in a later post).

Lee surprised me with a copy of The Pacific on Blu Ray which made no sense since we don’t have a Blu-Ray player.  Of course then Mark unwrapped a PS3 that had Madden 11 with it.  He also gave me a The Force Unleashed II and gave Mark Call of Duty: World at War.  According to Sony VP Kevin Butler, it only does everything.  As for our PS2, it will be donated to the Centre’s half-way house where I am sure someone will enjoy playing it in the lounge.  He also gave me a new multi-tool set and flashlight.

Speaking of Lee, he was babysitting the boys this summer and Wendy walked in and all three of them were watching Predator.  Seriously, he was letting a ten year old and a 2 year old watch Predator and both of them were a little nervous.  To prove he learned nothing, there was a copy of Predator in Blu-Ray under the tree for Mark and Oliver.  We all had a great laugh over that.

On Christmas Day we went to the Reimers for Christmas dinner.  Reimers gave me a nice set of binoculars for use up at the cabin.  With North America’s oldest bird sanctuary only a couple of miles north of the cabin, there are a lot of birds flying around.  They also gave me Settlers of Catan which sounds like an ideal way to spend an evening with friends.  Kristi helped make my Christmas tree a little more Riderish with some Saskatchewan Roughrider tree ornaments and a calendar of stupid quotes.  I have a whole year of mocking stupid people ahead of me.  The only thing that I didn’t like about the dinner was that Gloria won’t give me the recipe for an amazing green bean casserole she makes.  It’s a family secret I am told.

Shaving brush and soapI am not sure any of that was on my Christmas list but it made for a fun day.  The only two things that were on my MUST HAVE list were a new zippered wallet (I hate it when I drop my wallet and my cards fall out) and a shaving brush and shaving soap which were in my stocking.

Thanks everyone, it’s been a great couple of days.

David Pogue’s Tech Gift Guide for the Holidays

Christmas Gift Guide: Gift Ideas for your Husband / Father / Boyfriends (all of the men in your life) | 2010 Edition

It’s Wendy and I keep telling Jordon that he needs to stop leaving the password for his blog login laying around and he never listens to me.  As he said, “Bill Clinton lost the nuclear launch codes and nothing bad happened.”  Well what happened is that I am posting a gift guide for what to get the men in your life.  Hopefully this post meets the requirements of the JordonCooper.com Style Guide.

What do you give to someone who spends his day working in a non-profit and then comes home every night to take care of the boys?  I had Jordon give me a few suggestion which I combined with a few ideas of my own.

32 gb iPod Touch | Jordon being the geek that he is, bought a 1G iPod Touch as soon as they came out.  He has sat out the last two upgrades but now the iPod Touch has a new high resolution screen, camera, and Facetime.  Even I can see it’s time to upgrade and get him a new one.   The iPod Touch is a music player, gaming platform, video player, and a Personal Information Manager.  Jordon carries his with him each day.  If your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone, he will love one of these.

Sony PSP 3000 / PSP Go | Lee bought Jordon a PSP a couple of years ago and Jordon loves it.  While he was devastated that NCAA Football 11 or the Force Unleashed II are not being released for the PSP, there are still a bunch of good games to play and toss in as additional gifts.  Here are a couple of suggestions

Amazon Kindle with Wifi | Jordon loves books but he hates taking books back and forth to the cabin.  With the Kindle he can load it up, bring it to the lake, grab some more books if he needs to, and has them whether he goes.   The Kindle also works well with Instapaper, RSS feeds, and can access the web.  While it’s not a iPad, it’s not just a book reader either.  One of the things that pushed Jordon towards wanting a Kindle was it’s support for major newspapers like;

  1. The New York Times ($19.99/month)
  2. International Herald Tribune ($19.99/month)
  3. The Globe and Mail ($15.99/month)
  4. National Post ($14.99/month)
  5. The Washington Post ($23.99/month)
  6. The StarPhoenix ($13.99/month)
  7. USA Today ($23.99/month)
  8. Slate ($8.99/month)
  9. The Financial Times ($27.99/month)

There is also magazines like Time ($3/month), The Atlantic Monthly ($2.49), Foreign Policy ($3.49), among many others.  I am not the news junkie that Jordon is but I was surprised that you can’t get Macleans or Sports Illustrated yet.  Maybe down the road.

While it doesn’t have the feature set that the Kindle does, you may also be interested in Chapter’s Kobo book reader which also has a growing list of newspapers available to be subscribed to. $149 from Chapters/Indigo

5.1 Channel Surround Sound System | This one works with seven different audio sources (for those of you who need hook ups for your PS3, TV, Wii, stereo, computer and whatever geek devices they fancy).  If you have never watched a movie with 5.1 channel surround sound, you have no idea what you are missing.  It’s a gift everyone in the family with thank you for getting.  It even hooks up to an iPod and if you want to go old school, the radio.  $99.99 at XS Cargo or $183 at Amazon.com

The Wire | Season 1 ($30)| Season 2 ($30) | Season 3 ($30) | Season 4 ($30) | Season 5 ($30) | Complete Series ($105) | For Father’s Day we went out and bought Jordon a portable DVD player and Season One of The Wire and was blown away by how good the series is.  It is by far the greatest television show that I have ever watched on television and I was sad when it ended.  I could go on but Jason Kottke has devoted so much energy blogging The Wire over the last couple of years, I’ll send you there.  I’ll give you a warning though, this is not a series you will watch with anyone under the age of 16.  It is brutally violent, offensive language and the occasional sex scene.  If your significant other has already seen The Wire, check out this Re-Elect Clay Davis t-shirt. $22.

Battlestar Galactica | Season 1 ($36.49) | Season 2.5 ($33.49) | Razor ($11.49) | Season 3 ($37.99) | Season 4.5 ($34.99) | Complete Series ($140) | In case you were isolated from popular culture for the last couple of years, here is the story line of the incredibly popular science fiction series, Battlestar GalacticaBattlestar Galactica is set in a distant part of the galaxy, where a civilization of humans live on a series of planets known as the Twelve Colonies. In the past, the Colonies had been at war with a cybernetic race known as the Cylons. With the unwitting help of a human named Gaius Baltar, the Cylons launch a sudden sneak attack on the Colonies, laying waste to the planets and devastating their populations. The approximately 50,000 human survivors flee into space aboard any spacecraft they can reach. Of all the Colonial Fleet, the eponymous Battlestar Galactica appears to be the only military capital ship that survived the attack. Under the leadership of Colonial Fleet officer Commander William “Bill” Adama and President Laura Roslin, the Galactica and its crew take up the task of leading the small fugitive fleet of survivors into space in search of a fabled refuge known as Earth.

American Heritage Leather Duffle Bag by J.W. Hulme | In case you are looking for the greatest duffle bag ever made, your search is over.  The J.W. Hulme leather duffle bag is the Rolls Royce of carry-ons.   It’s the kind of bag that says, “I’m better than you and I am not afraid to talk about it”.  The bag is made out of distressed leather and then refined by buffing and antiquing each bag by hand which gives it it’s one in a kind look.  It’s only $899 and available at J.W. Hulme.  At that price, I would leave the price tag visible.  Now Jordon really wants one but we have a rule around here.  Any Christmas gifts that will cause us to choose between making our mortgage payment and being homeless will not be considered. Maybe next year, Jordon, maybe next year.

Sergio: One Man’s Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power | I haven’t read it yet but Jordon said it was the best book he read in 2010.   The book is about Sergio Vieira de Mello’s who was a Brazilian United Nations diplomat who worked for the UN for more than 34 years, earning respect and praise around the world for his efforts in the humanitarian and political programs of the UN.  He was killed in the Canal Hotel Bombing in Iraq along with 20 other members of his staff on 19 August 2003 while working as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq.  While the book was quite compelling, it has also been made into a HBO movie.  The book is $5.17 on Amazon.com and the DVD is available for $19.98 (in DVD-R format)

Homicide: A Year in the Killing Streets by David Simon | Another one of Jordon’s favourite books of 2010.  After falling in love with The Wire, Jordon went out and bought both of David Simon’s books, Homicide and The Corner.  David Simon, who was a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, spent four years on the police beat before taking a leave of absence to write this book. He had persuaded the Baltimore police department to allow him unlimited access to the city’s homicide unit for calendar year 1988, and throughout that year he shadowed one shift of detectives as they traveled from interrogations to autopsies, from crime scenes to hospital emergency rooms. Baltimore recorded 234 murders during the year Simon spent with the homicide unit. During the two years he spent writing Homicide, an additional 567 murders occurred.

The Pacific | The Pacific is an epic 10-part miniseries that delivers a realistic portrait of WWII’s Pacific Theatre as seen through the intertwined odysseys of three U.S. Marines – Robert Leckie, John Basilone and Eugene Sledge. The extraordinary experiences of these men and their fellow Marines take them from the first clash with the Japanese in the haunted jungles of Guadalcanal, through the impenetrable rain forests of Cape Gloucester, across the blasted coral strongholds of Peleliu, up the black sand terraces of Iwo Jima, through the killing fields of Okinawa, to the triumphant, yet uneasy, return home after V-J Day. The viewer will be immersed in combat through the intimate perspective of this diverse, relatable group of men pushed to the limit in battle both physically and psychologically against a relentless enemy unlike any encountered before. ($42.99 at Amazon.com)

Survivorman | Hand Made Fire Piston | A fire piston, sometimes called a fire syringe, is a device of ancient origin which is used to kindle fire. It uses the principle of the heating of a gas (in this case air) by its rapid compression to ignite a piece of tinder, which is then used to set light to kindling.  Jordon and Mark enjoy learning different fire making methods at the lake (which often fail and they default to matches). $80 from Les Stroud Productions.

Snowshoes and Solitude :: We are a big fan of the show Survivorman around the house but one of the questions I always have is how we he do if his isolation lasted longer than 7 days.  According to some friends who have seen the DVD, Snowshoes and Solitude goes a long way in answering that question and I am told it is worth watching and owning.  $19.99 from Les Stroud Productions

Sportcraft Taverner Bristle Dartboard | A tournament-quality, 18 inch bristle dartboard with traditional colors, a matte finish, steel wiring on the inside. Deluxe hinges complete the look of this stylish, entertaining wall piece.  It would look great hanging up at the cabin.  The best part about darts is that you don’t really have to be that great at it to have a great time playing it.

Kodak Zi8 or Kodak Playsport video camera | Jordon owns a Kodak Zi8 camera and we love it.  It has a microphone jack which means that you can easily add an external 1/8 microphone for even better sound.    It allows you to record High Definition video (1080p at 30 fps with 16:9 aspect ratio) and comes with some half-decent editing software. Zi8 is $119 from Amazon while the Playsport is $114 from Amazon.

Some recommended accessories for the Zi8

  • Shoe mount compatible with all pro & consumer video camcorders
  • Patent pending interlocking design
  • 600 lumens with built-in diffuser
  • Slim lightweight design
  • Safe to touch-does not get hot  $29 from Amazon

Adorama Heavy Duty L-bracket with 2 Standard Flash Shoe Mounts | Jordon has one of these and mounts either a miniature shotgun microphone and/or a video light on it.  For $9.99 from Amazon it’s a great addition to any one’s camera bag.  $9.99 for Amazon

Olympus PEN E-P1 12.3 MP Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko Digital Zoom Lens | The E-P1 is, essentially, an Olympus E-620 crowbarred into a compact, rangefinder-style body. Aside from the changes necessitated by the removal of the mirror and optical viewfinder – and a slight firmware upgrade (for new live view features, improved image processing) it is as fully fledged as any mid-range SLR but in a much more compact body.  $599 from Amazon

If you aren’t looking for a DSLR but want more control than a compact point and shoot, check out the Fujifilm s2000HD with 15x zoom.   After agonizing over which camera to purchase last year, Jordon bought one of these after reading countless reviews.

The FinePix S2000HD is a compact and lightweight 10-megapixel camera with a 15x optical zoom lens and HD movie recording/output. The FinePix S2000HD is the first Fujifilm model to offer full compatibility with HDTV systems for both stills and movies. In addition to true HD movies (at 1280 x 720 pixels) and widescreen stills (at 1920 x 1080), the FinePix S2000HD’s HD output allows the camera to display ultra-clear high-definition photographs and movies on an HDTV.  Other key S2000HD features include continuous shooting up to 13.5 frames per second at 3MP, Dual Image Stabilization for blur-free images, and extensive photographic control including 13 scene position settings.

While L.L. Bean doesn’t offer these in Canada, if they did, we would be getting one for the cabinIt’s a customized accent for your home or cottage, displaying the name of any US city or town, its state and its latitude and longitude. All you have to do is specify city/town and state, and they will be printed on the sign, along with the city’s coordinates.   It accommodates up to 14 characters, including spaces, for the town name and up to 14 for the state. Pine base. Indoor or outdoor use, sheltered location recommended. $29.95 from L.L. Bean

Ballpark Pens | If your husband is a fan of sports history like Jordon is, you will want to check out these great handmade pens made out of wood from historic stadiums like Yankee Stadium ($200), Fenway Park ($220), the Polo Grounds ($260 and I had to ask where it was), or Boston Garden ($140).

Maine Guide Rolling Duffle, Waxed-Canvas from L.L. Bean | Jordon hates cheap luggage.  It has no character, it doesn’t wear well and in the end it’s a waste of money.  If your loved one travels at all, you may want to consider a luggage upgrade and L.L. Bean has a great option.  Weather resistant, rugged and classic, this bag is made to go the distance, year after year, gaining character along the way. Crafted from rugged 22 oz. waxed-cotton canvas, a traditional and dependable favourite of sportsmen for generations. Leather trim and antiqued-brass hardware.  This convenient duffle is easy to pack and even easier to transport. It opens wide like a doctor’s bag for neat and organized packing. Interior straps and mesh pockets help secure gear. Twin front cargo pockets hold cell phone, keys and last-minute extras. Back document pocket keeps itinerary close at hand. Smooth-Glide in-line skate wheels and locking telescoping handle let you maneuver this bag easily through airports, lobbies and parking lots. End handles for easy lifting.  Available at L.L. Bean for $199

Kenton Sorenson Leather Natural Leather Dopp Kit | The Kenton Sorenson dopp kit is the perfect holiday gift. This dopp kit is hand made in Wisconsin using natural leather that will develop an amazing deep golden brown color with regular use. The kit has a simple leather wrap around tie closure that can also be used to keep the kit open while in use. $145 from Context

Jordon is a fan of fine watches and while some of them are totally unaffordable, this Paris Mechanical Pocket Watch from Charles Hubert is fantastic looking.  It’s a sleek, silver-tone update of a classic style which combines 17-jewel mechanical movement with a skeleton dial.  If you are shopping for a someone that appreciates a fine watch, this may be a great gift at an affordable price. It also comes with a fine gift box. $84 from Amazon

If you can find what you are looking for, make sure you check out one of the other 2010 Christmas Gift Guides

In case you are looking, here are the 2009 Gift Guides

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestion made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.

So apparently my iPod Touch isn’t the only one that is getting bloated with apps and firmware

E vs. ink

My friend Karen posted some thoughts on Twitter about ebooks and readers.

Been thinking about how e-books/Ipad exclude poorer readers. Continued…. Folks with literacy/soc. justice concerns should keep zines/broadsheet etc. in mind. If medium is message, cost of readers excludes many.

It would easy to dismiss Karen’s thoughts because of her history with paper but she has a good point.  A Sony Reader ranges in price from $240 in Futureshop ($179 online) to $149 at Wal-MartChapters is promoting a new reader for $149.00 which isn’t that bad except you realize that a) that is all you can do with it and b) I am buying it so I can buy new books.  I am paying $199 (or $259 if I am looking for a Kindle) so I can spend even more money to use it.

Most of our gadgets are like that.

In our household right now, we have:

  • 2 Sony PSPs and games are anywhere from $15 to $40
  • 3 iPods and songs are $.99 to $1.29 but we can use our own CDs to rip music.  Apps range from free to $4.
  • 1 PS2 and games are $10 and $25
  • 1 Nintendo Wii and games are from $20 to $60 (yet all have come from Lee).

So what’s the difference.  Well I don’t think you can compare Backyard Football or Call of Duty: Modern Warfare to books and education.  My quality of life is not reduced because I don’t have a PS3 at all but my quality of life is greatly reduced by lack of access to books and news media.  Low cost news media serves several important functions in our families life outside of the obvious.

While driving to the cabin a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in Watrous (at Pip’s Esso) for a snack and grabbed a copy of Popular Mechanics and tossed it the backseat for Mark to read on the way up there.  It opened up his mind to several things as he poured over both the articles and the ads.  How many times has all of our lives been enriched by someone doing something similar.  A lot of my spring reading was done by people wandering in to my office and tossing a book on my desk and saying, “you will like this”.  With publishers and their DRM restrictions, you can’t do that.  Even if Wendy and I both get Sony Readers, we can’t share a book.

Reader Store screen capture Everyone is touting Google Books as the answer.  Even Sony has a link to Google Books on the front of their Reader Store.  I have spent hours going through there looking for books to download.  Most of the books you can download in ePub format for free are in the public domain and therefore really cheap to get at Indigo/Chapters/used book store in paper.  Sadly even many of them are not available because of the edition they scanned it from has restrictions on use and you are left with a snippet of what is available.

So even if I do purchase it and really like it, how do I make sure Mark can read it other than giving him my reader.  Even if we bought a reader for him, I can’t transfer it to him there.  Everyone has been fawning over the new iPad app from Marvel and it is very cool but Cory Doctorow makes this point about the iPad but he could be talking about any ebook reader.

Marvel app for the iPad I mean, look at that Marvel app (just look at it). I was a comic-book kid, and I’m a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was — and is — huge, and vital. I can’t even count how many times I’ve gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I’d missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It’s part of a multigenerational tradition in my family — my mom’s father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).

So what does Marvel do to "enhance" its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney.

That’s what I am realizing that we are losing.  Books, comics, and papers are part of the social ties that bind people together in communities.  Around work, the Star Phoenix is a communal paper.  It is read together, digested together, shared, it’s flyers are passed around and deals discussed.  Also, it gets treated as exactly as what Karen is talking about.

Well, we aren’t going to turn back time and to be honest, many publishers are banking everything on the iPad to save them (anyone else find it an odd coincidence that the financially struggling New York Times is features so prominently in Apple advertising)  As I was thinking seriously about buying a ebook reader this week, I took a step back from the side of the cliff and asked myself if what I am losing more than what I was getting and I had to admit it was.  From a design and an engineering point of view, the iPad/Kindle is a great piece of technology and a lot of fun (and yes I know the iPad comparison isn’t fair as it isn’t really designed as a book reader but rather a tablet computer).  Is it good enough to stop supporting a local bookstore (although Indigo/Chapters made those pretty rare in Canada) or lose the social element of reading and learning as an entire community.

So in the end, I continue to support print magazines.  For the record, those include National Geographic, Explore Magazine, Mountain Bike Action, Sports Illustrated, The Atlantic Monthly and The Walrus via subscription or purchasing one monthly at McNally Robinson.  While I only read The Star Phoenix online, we do subscribe at home (where Mark reads it with me every evening) and at work.

Ping!

Ping! for iPod Touch and iPhone Wendy and I have become big fans of Ping! for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

My Blackberry loving friends love their Blackberry Messenger which allows for free real time messenging between Blackberry devices.  They love to taunt use Apple users with it.

Sadly the iPhone and iPod Touch has nothing like it… until now when I found Ping!, it’s a new app available for the iPhone and is the equivalent to the much-loved Blackberry Messenger. It is made by the creator who was  behind PushGmail, Ping! is a fast and free SMS like service that notifies the user of incoming messages even when his or her iPhone is inactive and it’s all for free.

If you have a iPod Touch or a iPhone, you can try out the free app.  There is a paid app which is only 99 cents.  I upgraded Wendy and I without even thinking about it.  I have lived through a lot of cutting edge services (GeoCities, Blogger, Twitter) going down and I expect there may be some bad days ahead for Ping! but you never know and  I hope for the best.  Until then, let’s enjoy the service, it looks like a fun and useful one.

If you feel like giving us a Ping!, you can find me at jordoncooper and Wendy at wendycooper (we aren’t exactly creative on the usernames).

Guest Post: Christmas Gift Ideas for the Brother In Law | 2009 Edition

This is Wendy and this is what happens when Jordon doesn’t log out of his weblog and leaves me unattended.  Since Jordon handles most of our Christmas shopping, I don’t have to spend as much time thinking about Christmas gifts as Jordon does.  By far the hardest person to shop for on our Christmas list is my brother in law Lee.  Since he is an important part of our family and our Christmas, a great uncle to the boys, and the only family we have, we don’t just go through the motions.  So in honor of Lee, here is a list of Christmas gifts for those that are hard to shop for and my contribution to this site’s Christmas Gift Ideas.

Here is Lee’s profile.

  • He has a PSP Go, PlayStation 3, and a Wii which in some ways gives one some variety in shopping for him for Christmas.
  • He has an apartment that looks like it should be in Apartment Therapy.  It’s almost intimidating buying anything for his apartment.  It’s actually intimidating to hang out in his apartment.  Of course living in an apartment means that he doesn’t have a lot of storage.
  • He drives an Acura sports car that is worth 20 times more than my car.
  • He works hard at Case New Holland in the city which means that he doesn’t have a lot of time for hobbies.

He is Jordon’s brother and an uncle to the boys which means that Lee is an expert shopper himself.  He is also a single male so he does things like single males do, when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out, he bought it that day so I guess it means that we aren’t getting that for him.

Star Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season One :: The Clone Wars movie was horrible but the series is actually pretty good.  Like a lot of animated movies, the series seems to be getting better with the second season but Season One of the Clone Wars is pretty good all by itself.

Air Hogs Dualing Helicopters :: Okay let’s do the math.  Remote control + Helicopters + a rather competitive family + the ability to shoot each other down + a big open field at the cabin = a pretty good Christmas gift.

Survive! by Les Stroud :: Since he a) often forgets his cell phone b) often has Mark and Oliver with him, knowledge of some basic survival skills would be quite useful.  If he wasn’t over watching the DVDs here, you could give him all three seasons of Survivorman on DVD.  You can order them from the Les Stroud Productions storeSeason 1 | Season 2 | Season 3.  We have all three DVDs and they are a lot of fun to watch.  You can also order them from Amazon as well.  Season 1 |Season 2 | Season 3.  In case you just want to see how Les Stroud survives in the American wilderness, you can order this DVD as well.

Bushnell BackTrack GPS :: Lee will never get lost again with the easiest to use personal location finder for around $50. Just mark the location and BackTrack will help him get back. He can use it at the mall and stadium parking lots, at the festival, the park, for travel or your next outdoor adventure.  Wired has a quick real world review and it looks like Cabela’s is one of the few places you can get it in Canada.

The War: An Intimate History by Ken Burns.  Jordon read this book this summer and thought it was amazing.  He spend hours reading the book but then went back and just soaked in the photos.  I don’t think there is such a thing as a good war. There are sometimes necessary wars. And I think one might say, “just” wars. I never questioned the necessity of that war. And I still do not question it. It was something that had to be done.  You can also give your favorite in-law the mini series on DVD as well

I can’t see Lee joining the competitive BBQ sub culture but in case he does, here are secrets for success as a professional griller.  Whether it’s chicken, ribs, butts or brisket, this cookbook has recipes, directives, insights and guidance on how to slow cook competition-quality meats. Better than any restaurant, these competition and backyard secrets will have beginning barbeque aficionados slow-cooking masterpieces in no time at all.  Even if he doesn’t turn pro, he will make life better for everyone this summer at the cabin.  There is also Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint.   Winners of the World Championship BBQ Cook-Off for six years in a row and with hundreds of other contest ribbons as well, nobody does barbecue better than Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama. Chris Lilly, executive chef of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q and great-grandson-in-law of Big Bob himself, now passes on the family secrets in this quintessential guide to barbecue.

Apple iPod Touch :: I have been pining for one since I started to play around with Jordon’s and it would make a great gift for Lee as well.  While Mr. Rider fan is at it, the first thing he can do is go and download the new Rider App for the iPod Touch.

MEC Camo Shoulder Bag :: Since Lee spends some time with us at the cabin, some cool luggage to toss in the back of the car with his gear and clothes are in order.  While he is travelling, some custom Saskatchewan Roughriders luggage tags might be a cool stocking stuffer.  If you are shopping for someone who does some hiking, don’t overlook the Maxpedition Vulture II backpack.

GPS :: While Jordon is always looking for a trail GPS, I was shocked to see how inexpensive car GPSs have become.

Well the truth is that we are done our Christmas shopping for Lee so my list is all speculation but I thought I would post it to contribute to Jordon’s Christmas Gift Guides and also to help some of you find a fun gift for the hard to shop for in your life.  If you have any thoughts, leave a comment below, e-mail me at wendycooper@gmail.com or check out my weblog.

Christmas Gift Ideas and Gift GuidesIf I missed anything or if my suggestions made you think I was absolutely crazy, let me know in the comments. You can access the current edition and previous years list of Christmas gift guides here.