Tag Archives: Nintendo DS

Christmas Gifts Guide: Gift Ideas For Your Wife / Girlfriend & the other women in your life | 2010 Edition

Shopping for Wendy has always been hard.  She never gives me any ideas and the ideas that she does give me are things that two days later she no longer wants.    For all of you who are married or dating someone who is hard to shop for, here is the list of Christmas gift suggestions for your wife or girlfriend.  You can thank me later.

Amazon’s Kindle | If your wife/girlfriend/mom is an avid reader, how about getting her a Kindle?  If you are undecided on whether or not you should be leaving paper for e-ink, check out this balanced review from a diehard book lover who fell in love with his Kindle.  The new version is smaller, lighter, has Wifi and a higher contrast screen.  One of the reasons it’s such a great gift is that your loved one doesn’t have to have it with them to still benefit from owning it.  Amazon has readers for the iPad, iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, WinPhone 7, Windows, and OS X. The killer feature here is Amazon’s multi-platform support.  You can start a book on your Kindle, pick up a couple of pages here and there on your phone, and sneak a couple more pages on your desktop computer on coffee break.  It even keeps track of what page you are on (across different machines and platforms).  The best book is the one that’s always with you.  It’s available at Amazon.com for $139.00.

Bose Wave Music System :: The famous Wave music system still sets the standard for quality audio and ease of use among one-piece, table top stereos. Its award-winning design adds a touch of distinction to almost any room. No wonder so many people use it as their main home entertainment system.  Numerous reviews speak of the Bose Wave’s clarity and amazing room filling sound.  If you are looking for the best all in one unit, this is the one you are looking for.  If you are thinking of adding the CD changer, you may want to check out the numerous negative reviews on Amazon.com before picking one up.   You can pick up the Bose Wave Music System at Amazon for $495.

Another interpretation of the all in one is the Cambridge Soundworks Radio 765i | As one Amazon reviewer described it…

Got rid of a DVD player, a VHS player (time to completely dump the format, at least for us), and an iPod speaker “donut” thing. Plugged in everything, connecting to our tube TV, & was very simple. Did a lot to make the whole area look much neater. Put in a Lion King DVD and was amazed at the sound (DVD sound is through the Soundworks, not the TV). You know in the movie theatre, when that THX Dolby piece comes up, the one that almost scares you by trying to stretch your ear muscles with high pitched and super-bass “strings”? It sounded JUST like it does in the theatre. My wife rushed in from the kitchen asking, “WHAT was that?”.  My daughter then played one of her Star Trek TNG DVDs and for the first time, we could hear the sub-woofer “whoosh” when the Enterprise goes by on the screen — never heard any of this before.

Find it at Amazon for $285.

Saddleback Leather Messenger Bag | While Wendy is a tomboy and hates most purses, she still needs to carry things with her.  The Saddleback Leather Messenger company has a bag that allows her to keep herself organized and allows her to keep both her tomboy and hipster potentials intact.  It comes with a 100 year warranty, made out of 100% Thick full grain boot leather, has no breakable parts, e.g. zippers, snaps etc. and converts quickly into a backpack.  It may be the perfect bag.  $347 from Saddleback Leather

While Wendy looks amazing, living in Saskatchewan can be a challenge.  Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar skin care products have a cult following and will help hydrate skin in even the driest climates.  This air-whipped, therapeutic moisturizer has been described by Philosophy founder Cristina Carlino as, “like pouring a glass of water into my skin.  That sounds unhealthy to me but apparently that is a good thing.

HP Mini 210 Netbook | It does a good job of running Windows 7 Basic, the HP Mini 210 lets you surf the web, stay connected, and be entertained wherever you go.  Take just what you need And leave the rest on your primary PC. At less than one inch thin and starting at just 2.69 pounds,  It comes with a 16:9 10.1″ diagonal BrightView Infinity display and nearly full-size keyboard.  $307 and available at Amazon or for $359 at Future Shop.

iPod Shuffle | It has 2 GB capacity for about 500 songs and you can play up to 15 hours on a single charge.  With a press of the VoiceOver button, you can hear the song’s title and artist, playlist menu, or battery status.  You can get one at Amazon for $50.

Sennheiser CX300-B In-Ear Stereo Headphone | While the iPod comes with Apple’s iconic headphones, you really will want to upgrade those to something with better sound quality and that feels better in your ears.  While not their top of the line headphones, they are a big upgrade over both the Apple headphones and most other in-ear headphones.  $25 and available at Amazon.

Belkin Dock with USB Wall Charger for iPod | If you have a stereo that you really like and don’t want to replace it with a Bose Wave or another stereo system, add an iPod dock to your system that allows easy playing of your music while charging it at the same time.  We have one at the cabin plugged into a compact stereo and it works great and makes sure all of our iPod’s are charged up for the drive home.

Wendy and I have been married for 13 years and I still hate buying things for the house without her feedback.  Despite that, I am going to go out on a limb and recommend the KNUBBIG lamp from IKEA.  It gives a room a soft mood light and since each is mouth blown glass; each lamp is unique. $18.99


Tetris Party for Nintendo DS
| I bought Wendy a Nintendo DS last year and she really enjoyed it.  Of course the definitive Nintendo game (going back to the Nintendo Gameboy) is probably Tetris and it will give your loved one something to do when you have parked yourself in front of NFL Redzone.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks | This game was suggested to me by several people who grew up playing Legend of Zelda and love the latest incarnation for the Nintendo DS.  It is an action/adventure game for the Nintendo DS and DSi that sets Link, the iconic hero of the Legend of Zelda series, on a daring new adventure. The game provides players with a new story, more puzzles, a new mode of transportation–by train–and a new companion in combat, the Phantom. Together these offer up new possibilities for problem-solving, adventure and fun to both long time and new fans of the franchise alike.

Brain Age and Brain Age 2 for the Nintendo DS | These two games were given to Wendy for her birthday and Christmas last year and she been frustrated by them all year.  Brain Age acts like a treadmill for the mind and helps you flex your mental muscles with quick activities that help keep your brain in shape. Brain Age is inspired by the research of Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, a prominent Japanese neuroscientist. His studies evaluated the impact of performing certain reading and mathematic exercises to help stimulate the brain.

Apple iPod Touch | I gave a 3G iPod Touch to Wendy last year for her birthday and she loved it.  While it was a great iPod Touch, the new version is even better. See friends while you talk to them with FaceTime. Shoot, edit, and share stunning HD video. Play games against friends, or unknown foes, with the new Game Center. And do it all on the Retina display–the highest-resolution screen on any mobile device. Available at Amazon.com for $223.

Samsung Link | Wendy has a horrible record with cell phones.  She leave it turned off, forgets to charge it, never takes it with her.  In other words I was playing for a pretty much useless cell phone.  After losing her cell phone this summer, I went out and bought her a Samsung Link/Samsung Freeform and she started to carry it with her, had it turned on, and used it all of the time.  The QWERTY keyboard makes it really easy to text and the 1.3 megapixel camera is fun to have along and grab photos of the boys or just take some photos while up at the lake.

Saskatchewan Roughriders Ladies Jersey | You can personalize the jersey with your choice of name and number. Using laser cut name and numbers system  the Riders can customize the jersey you’ve been wanting. This system is used in several NFL, NHL and MBL stadiums. Same fonts and colors used by the team. Includes name on back and numbers on front, back and sleeves. $149.99 and available at The Rider Store

Kodak EasyShare C180 10.2MP Digital Camera with 3x Optical Zoom and 2.4 inch LCD |  Chronicle your life with great pictures and videos you can easily upload online. The camera even locates faces automatically so you can focus on more important things — getting that smile. Plus, you can even take stunning HD formatted photos and view it on your HDTV.  $99 from Amazon.com or $59 from XS Cargo.

Holga Bent Corners 35mm Camera | If who you are shopping for is a photography fan, go old school and get her a modern Holga 35mm flash-less camera that takes the same vibrant-colored, dreamy high-contrast photos as the original, medium-format 120mm Holga – with totally dramatic vignetting and the ease of 35mm film that can be processed anywhere (the film size also means fully panoramic shots). Two shutter and aperture settings; uncoupled film advance and shutter (for multiple exposures in one frame!);manual zone focus with four distance settings.  Get it at Urban Outfitters for $48.

Magno Cube Wooden Radio | Hand-crafted in an Indonesian farming village, the Magno Cube is a 4 band FM/AM/SW1/SW2 radio receiver with a highly appealing mix of retro and modern styling.  Each wooden radio is made through an environmentally sustainable production process, which covers fair social standards for workers. The profits from the sale of the radios to the Design Museum Shop support the development of a plantation surrounding the production facility, including the ongoing education of 30 young people in handicraft and work skills. Only new growth plantation wood is used and for every tree that is used in production, a new one is planted. MP3 compatible. Each radio arrives with a wooden connecting cable to connect iPods and mp3 players directly to the radio, so it can be used as a speaker. £175.00 from Design Museum Shop.

Swiss Army Perfume for Her | As the Victorinox website puts it.

This fresh, floral and dazzling fragrance is for the active, contemporary women. She seeks stylishly natural, clean scent to carry her through the day. This unique blend of Lilly of the Valley, Peony and fizzy Ginger surrounds you in all of the glory of nature. It is the fragrance for the modern, spontaneous women with natural class.

Ork Posters | If you or the target of your affections lives in Toronto, Vancouver, Boston, Brooklyn,  Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle among others.  They are $22 a poster which makes them a pretty cool value.  Of course they don’t have one of either Brandon, Manitoba or Georgetown, Guyana which makes them pretty much useless for Wendy but maybe you will have some better luck.

If the person that you are shopping for is starting to take a look into the world of DSLRs and has outgrown her existing camera, check out Sony’s a320 camera.  It’s an entry level DSLR and is only $349 from Future Shop.  It’s Sony’s smallest and lightest Alpha DSLR camera.  It features a 10.2MP sensor, a large 2.7″ Clear Photo LCD, built-in SteadyShot inside image stabilization, and Creative Style settings that let you bring your shooting to the next level. This kit includes a versatile 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM zoom lens.  $349 from Future Shop.

I hesitate to post this because for the life of me I can’t see why one would need one but Wendy loves it.  It’s a Sunbeam Tea Drop Hot Tea Maker which accommodates both bagged and loose tea.   $58.95 from Amazon.  While it doesn’t steep the tea, it does give you a fair amount of control over the strength of tea.   If you are looking for a tea maker that does steep the tea, check out the Adagio Teas Electric 32-Ounce Tea Maker.  This maker does it all – heats water, steeps leaves, and keeps tea warm so you may enjoy it all day long. Variable timer and temperature control lets you adjust the strength of an infusion, ensuring a perfect cup of tea each time. Works well with all tea varieties.


Wenger® Women’s Battalion II Diver Swiss Watch
| Stylish enough for everyday professional wear, the Wenger Battalion II Diver stainless steel women’s watch is also rugged enough for extreme snow sports and scuba diving–thanks to its water resistance to 200 meters (660 feet). The mid-sized, round silver watch case is topped by a blue-plated unidirectional rotating bezel with elapsed time markings and a luminous marker at the zero position. The shimmery royal blue dial face is complemented by luminous markers and hands (with red seconds hand), small minute indexes around the outer edge, and a date window between 4 and 5 o’clock. Other features include a handsome triple-link stainless steel bracelet, knurled screw-down crown, classic Swiss Army insignia at 12 o’clock, a scratch-resistant mineral crystal, and precise Swiss quartz movement. $76 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.

A Trip to the Nintendo DS Emergency Room

Mark has been awfully quiet and sullen lately.  He finally confessed to Wendy that his Nintendo DS was acting up and he was really stressed over it.  The idea that a product only lasts a couple of years is a new one to Mark (I explained it to him today).  Now Mark is not a destructive kid.  He doesn’t break his toys and gets really upset the odd time it happens.  On top of this, it was a Christmas present from his Uncle Lee and it means a lot to him.

Red Nintendo DS Lite I didn’t know what was causing it and I wondered if it was dirt in the cartridge holder but after looking the problem up online, it is either a bad video connection or a broken touch screen and apparently this is a really common issue with Nintendo DS Lites’s.  I realized this last night after he had gone to bed (after we watched another episode of Ax Men together).  This morning, Wendy phoned around and found the price out on a replacement DS Lite but found out that Next Level Game Exchange will actually fix them. 

I talked to Mark about it and explained that I would replace his DS Lite if we couldn’t fix it and I could see the stress leave his body.  He was thrilled beyond belief with this solution and we will find out Monday was the damage will be.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box Wendy and I went into Next Level Game Exchange today to drop off the DS for repair.  We have bought stuff from them in the past and have had good experiences but it’s a little of the beaten path from where we live and so we don’t get over there as much as I should.  The guy behind the counter was quite pleasant to Wendy and I although after he found out that Wendy had a Nintendo DS, he mentioned a game she should get.  This repair could more costly than I thought…  The store did a good job of making me feel old.  Wendy saw some gaming shirts and we realized that not only would Mark not get any of the references, neither would many of the people she worked with. 

We did walk out of their with a PS2 game for Mark, a fake Wii controller filled with mints for Oliver (he loves the Wii and feels he hand waving is essential to the game) and some good news for Mark.  Next Level Game Exchange made some people in our household awfully happy today.

Christmas Eve Live Blog

6:15 a.m. :: I hate early mornings.

6:30 a.m. :: Mark is up and showered and ready to go to work with me this morning.  Rambling Dave just played Six White Boomers on C95.

7:10 a.m. :: Lineup at Tim Horton’s was too long so I skipped that place and went straight to work.  Stopped by the kitchen for breakfast with Mark.  Then to the Front Desk to shoot the breeze with the night staff.

7:20 a.m. :: Got some bad news from the Front Desk and had to ask Mark to leave the room.  So much for a stress free holiday.  There is always something dumb that happens over Christmas and I am hoping that is it.

7:40 a.m. :: Mark is drinking his first cup of coffee ever.  Black.  Never even made a face.  I have a feeling I will be in trouble when Wendy finds out about this.

8:00 a.m. :: Sitting in Sharon’s office (one of our budget management workers) trying to figure out why I am at work this morning.

8:30 a.m. :: Laurie asked Mark and I to process last minute hamper requests.  Three years ago on Christmas Eve I filled 14 hampers for people who had nothing on Christmas Eve.  I left work feeling really good about what we did.  On Boxing Day I found out that we had been ripped off by all 14 people.  All of them had gotten hampers.  I didn’t feel that bad about it.  I wasn’t the one lying and plus, it’s Christmas and I will never live it down.  I guess that is why Laurie asked Mark to help me out.  She knows that I won’t say no to anyone unless I have a good reason.

9:11 a.m. :: Answering back the 25 or so e-mails of people wanting to volunteer down at the Centre on Christmas Day.

10:20 a.m. :: Tim Horton’s run.  The Giant Tiger parking lot is packed.  Mark is drinking his second cup of coffee, this time a double/double on the recommendation of Debbie, one of our cooks.

10:40 a.m. :: I filled a couple of hampers.  The people appreciated it.  Not sure if they were telling the truth or not but I didn’t really care.  It’s Christmas Eve.

11:00 a.m. :: Laurie cut off hampers.  The Emergency After Hours staff has a bunch made up if anyone comes in on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

11:30 a.m. :: Mark is having his third cup of coffee and is talking loudly.  He also has five dollars as he was helping in the kitchen.  He is now carrying 81 Christmas gifts to the chapel where they will be put under a tree for the guys tomorrow.  Thanks to my awesome wife Wendy for helping wrap them.

12:00 p.m. :: The office is closed.  Only the kitchen and Front Desk staff remain.  Some other staff are tearing down the Christmas warehouse and bringing things back to the Centre.  Also, some officers are picking up Christmas kettles and bringing them to a place so they can counted in time for the bank to close.

1:00 p.m. :: So much for leaving early.  I am heading back home.  Safeway looks crazy.  I feel sorry for Wendy.

1:10 p.m. :: Our snow shovel is broken, someone has been in the house and there is a very large box in my living room.  Since there a) is no blood from being attacked from the dog b) there is a PSP Go on the table, I assume Lee was here.  It doesn’t explain the broken snow shovel.  Mark totally missed the five foot wide box in the living room and notices the PSP Go.  Observant kid I have.

2:00 p.m. :: Lee is here.  He broke our shovel and brought over a new ergonomic shovel.  He is pretty quiet about the large box though.

3:15 p.m. :: Lee suggests we go to Future Shop and get the new Family Guy movie.  I remind him that it is Christmas Eve and it will be crazy.  He goes, “that explains the time off and the gifts”.

4:20 p.m. :: I went by Safeway and it was absolutely nuts  Wendy can’t explain it as Safeway is always quiet after 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.  I buy some groceries and double check Wendy has bought turnips.  She still can’t understand how I eat them.

6:00 p.m. :: We order pizza from Papa John’s Pizza.  It’s the best pizza in Saskatoon.  It’s an hour wait which is fine as Wendy will be home in 30 minutes.

6:40 p.m. :: Wendy is home and said that Safeway was crazy from opening to 6:00 p.m.  She wasn’t impressed but was happy to get home.

6:41 p.m. :: Wendy, Lee, and Mark are all demanding we open gifts.  Oliver is more preoccupied with a box of Swiss Cheese Crackers.

LED Lantern 6:45 p.m. :: Stockings are open.  Wendy and I both got LED lanterns, Mark got a small dart board, all of us got the usual candies and toiletries.

7:15 p.m. :: Pizza is here, gifts are opened, the house is a big mess.  Here is the summary of gifts.

Oliver

Mark

  • MiJam Mixer from Oliver
  • iDog Dance from Maggi
  • A small aquarium from Santa
  • A play M1 Abrams Tank Set and a Campaigns of World WWII Day by Day by Chris Bishop from me.  I had wanted to get him a book explaining what happened in WWII and this did a pretty good job brining history to his reading level.
  • I Learned Kung Fu from a Bear Cub by Matt Jackson from Wendy.  Wendy met the author while he was at Indigo and he recommended this book for Mark and signed it as well.
  • PSP 3000 A PSP 3000 from Lee :: Lee bought himself a PSPGo a couple of months ago and gave him his old PSP 3000 with a plethora of games and movies.  Mark was thrilled, mostly because he can watch a couple of seasons of Family Guy anytime he wants.  He also found out he can use Twitter on it as well.
  • He got Trackmania and Tomb Raider for his Nintendo DS.
  • I gave him a Swiss Army knife.
  • Backyard Football 2009 and Medal of Honor Vanguard or his PS2. 
  • A carrying case for his Nintendo DS games and Nindendo DS from Wendy
  • A Coby Snapp Cam, SD card, case, and mini-tripod from Wendy and I. 

Wendy

Me

Lee

  • A Chicago Bears jacket.  I feel better about the gift now that the Bears now that Jay Cutler and the Bears are brutal this year.  If the Kyle Orton trade hadn’t have worked out for Denver the way it did, I would have had to take it back.  I like the Bears but I love the Broncos.
  • The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns.  I read this book at the cabin this fall and was amazed at how compelling of a read it was.
  • Airsoft Sig Sauer pistol.  We had one up at the cabin and we used it for target practice at the dump all summer long.  Technically it is a toy and it’s velocity is low enough (combined with the soft ammunition) that it isn’t going to be lethal, even on a small animal.  Mark and I did a test and the ammunition won’t penetrate a piece of paper at 5 feet.  It does however make a satisfying ping when you hit your target at the dump.
  • A Saskatchewan Roughriders sign :: I really want one of these for the cabin.

  • A new and improved multi-tool.

The Dogs

  • Both of the dogs got dog booties for all of us.  Right now Maggi is on the phone to the SPCA making a formal complaint.  Hutch has just decided never to go outside again.
  • Maggi and Hutch also got a variety to toys to chase and chew.

Now back to the big box.  Lee was quiet adamant that gifts would be opened in a certain order.  Finally it came to the gifts he got for us.  I was stunned to open a gift and see a Nintendo Wii.  He got us the Wii, Wii Play, Wii Sports Resort, Four controllers and nunchucks, and a charging station.  He tossed in a couple of games as well.  For me there was Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: Reflex and for Mark (and all of us), there was Super Mario Brothers.  Finally we opened the big box and there was a Sony Bravia 42 inch HDTV in it. 

Ok, it's not quite that big

We were shocked.  Lee just said that we helped him out during a tough time and he wanted to get this for us.  It is quite a gift.

Actually it looks more like this.

Sony Bravia 42" television

After all was said and done, we had to come to grips that we are a family of giant nerds.  Multiple game platforms now call our house home and it seems to be getting worse.  Most can be linked back to Lee.  Actually all of them except for Wendy’s Nintendo DS can be traced back to Lee.  So maybe Lee is the big nerd.

9:00 p.m. :: Lee and I get the old television out of the way and the new TV set up.  The Wii is installed and Mark is playing some Wii Sports.

10:00 p.m. :: The pizza is all gone, Lee has gone home, Mark and Oliver are in bed (Oliver spent the entire night trying to get to the Swiss Cheese Crackers, treating the pizza, his gifts, and the entire Christmas celebration as a plot to keep him away from his true love, that cracker box.  I watched a bit of the Aloha Hawaii Bowl but SMU was running away with it.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Wife (and mother of your kids) | 2009 Edition

Update: The 2010 editions of the Christmas Gift Guides for Your Wife / Girlfriend is now online.  Follow the link for more 2010 Christmas Gift Guides.

Wendy is the world’s hardest women to shop for and the suggestions from Amazon Gift Central just inspired sarcastic mocking comments.  Wendy asked me to put together a short gift guide for you clueless husbands out there who are like one guy I know who bought his wife a watch every Christmas for over a decade.  Of course there are the staples like jewelry, watches (unless you have done it every year for a decade), and more jewelry but if you are looking for something a little different, here is my list.

Of course before I get to the list, I need to tell you a story from Wendy.  Years ago she was working Christmas Eve at the Safeway on 8th and Cumberland.  In the morning it is really busy but by noon, it quiets down except for people running in for snacks for the road and people who have forgotten a few items.  Around 4:00 p.m. when the store was empty a guy comes in and desperately says, “Do you sell any jewelry that my wife would like?”.  Wendy was polite but wanted to suggest he just move out now as he is going to be in the dog house for a long, long time.

  • CBC Radio Retro Reporters Bag :: This has road tested for a year as I got it for Wendy last year and it is in still new condition.  Wendy uses it as a camera bag, diaper bag, road trip bag, and everyday running around town bag.  Made of durable cotton canvas with rugged adjustable strap. Small inside pocket. Two snap positions for smaller/larger contents.  Measures approximately 12″ high, 14″ wide and 3″ deep expanding to roughly 7″.  The only thing that Wendy didn’t like about the bag is that it snaps up and not zippers up.  That being said, she hasn’t lost anything out of it so it hasn’t been an issue and like I said, it stood up well.
  • iPod Touch :: Wendy never had any interest in having an iPod Touch until she started to play around with mine one night.  While the iPod Touch is pretty cool, she fell in love with the apps.  I like the idea that I can sync it up with Google Calendar and Google Contacts which means that Wendy and I are on the same page with our schedules and our phone books.  While we are a Yahoo! family, there is a great Yahoo! app in addition to great Dopplr, Flickr, Twitter, and other stuff that makes things like better. In addition to the practical apps, there are also some fun games that Mark loves when I am in meetings, waiting in the car while running errands or even heading to the lake.  It also has the amazing NFB app which allows you to download NFB videos and watch them later.  I can see it getting used a lot at the cabin.  While an iPhone is a great gift as well for the right person, not everyone wants to pay the extra for a Rogers/Fido/Telus/AT&T contract.  Regardless whether you get her an iPod Touch or a iPhone, she will be happy.
  • Nintendo DS Lite or Nintendo DSi :: I never really thought of this as a gift idea for Wendy but several women at work have one or want one.  When I brought it up to Wendy, she thought it was a great idea because of how easy it is for her to play against Mark and his Nintendo DS Lite which makes it into a great family gift.  Everyone is suggesting Brain Age but don’t forget the Namco Museum Classics.
  • I know Sarah Palin’s autobiography is a big seller right now but instead why not get her a book by someone that has actually accomplished something in life.  I recommend Madame Secretary by Madeleine Albright.  It’s a bit long but documents a fascinating time in American’s foreign policy where there was great achievements and big mistakes.
  • Don’t let the computer geeks in your life get all the cool toys, get her a Kodak Zi8 camcorder.  While at first glance all of these cameras are equal, Kodak’s Zi8 is really a step above in quality.  It has full HD 1080p video. You get sharper videos and less blur thanks to built-in image stabilization.  There are no cables to worry about–just swing out the USB arm to upload, share and charge.  You can share on Facebook and YouTube with ease–built-in software makes editing and uploading simple.  It is compatible with PC and MAC (Use with Apple iLife Suite of products) operating systems and is compatible with iTunes for syncing with Apple TV, iPhone and iPod Devices.  If you are looking for some other options, don’t forget the Flip Hino HD or the MoviePix HD (which I review here).  While it isn’t HD, I have grown to like the Coby Snapp camera.
  • Electric Fondue Set :: Wendy loves a good fondue (me not so much) but one of the problems is getting the heat settings correct with candles.  These electric fondue sets not only look cool but allow you to keep the chocolate/cheese melted without creating that wonderful burnt fondue smell.  If you want to stay old school, Jysk has a great 23 piece fondue set.
  • 10 Piece Chromium Frame Set :: If the person you are shopping for is a photographer, why not spoil her with his great 10 piece frame set.  Make sure you shell out and pay for her prints made as well.
  • Suddenly Sauna Foot Spa :: This comes from Bath and Body Works but it is a foot treatment that starts with disposable booties that slowly warm up when you add water to them.  Apparently women love them and they come with hand spas as well.
  • Wendy is legendary for taking my tools and never putting them back.  It drives me insane.  I have thought about booby trapping them but instead a better solution would be to get her a toolkit for herself starting with this designer toolbox.  Sadly you know that your tools will end up in here as well but at least they will be put away… someplace.
  • Sangean WR-11 AM/FM Table Top Radio :: CBC Radio and NPR sounds so much more profound coming from a wooden radio.  Speaking from personal experience, there is something about sitting around a radio on a hot summer day, sipping iced tea, while reading a good magazine.
  • While I am a fan of paper, have you thought of giving the gift of ebooks with a Amazon Kindle?  It’s only 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback.  It downloads books in Under 60 Seconds over the 3G Wireless network.  Despite that, you have no annual contracts, no monthly fees, and no hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots.  It’s battery can run for one week.  You still have to pay per download in Canada but at least we can get it here now.
  • If you don’t think they want a Kindle, how about Sony’s Digital Touch Reader? By supporting both industry standard formats, ePub and PDF, you can access books at Sony’s eBookstore, check out books from public libraries, access over 500,000 free public domain titles from Google, as well as sharing sites, online aggregators and personal publishers (Internet access is required).
  • Mark was given a copy of Planet Earth: The Complete Series by the Reimers for Christmas and he loves it.  Not only does Mark love it but so doWendy and I.  Its a series we will watch again and again and harkens back to the days of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom where the entire family gathered around the television to take in the sites and sounds of animals we came to learn a lot about.  It’s a great way to spend an evening of together as a family (if she isn’t tired of you by then)

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: Gift Ideas for Tween Boys | 2009 Edition

Well I don’t have a lot of experience in buying for tweens but Mark is officially one and I have put together a series of gift ideas that a nine year old boy would like.  A lot of friends have asked me what I was getting Mark and the kind of things he likes which is partly what this list is based on.  As a rule we spend about $100 on Mark for Christmas (gifts from me, Wendy, Oliver, Maggi and Santa Claus) and Lee spends a little bit more than that from him and Hutch so don’t think he is getting anywhere close to everything that is on this list. Since there are a couple of video games listed here, I’ll disclose that Mark has a Nintendo DS and we have a PS2 in the house so I won’t discuss many Wii, Xbox, PSP, or PS3 only games here.  You can find them at the links provided.

  • Backyard Baseball :: We have this game for Mark and he loves it.  We have a couple of sports games which has historically ignored in favor of the backyard version of the games.  The games are enjoyable enough to play that Wendy and I join in as well.  All of the Backyard games have simplified controls which is great for playing as a family.  Much taunting comes after you hit a homerun 186,000 miles or throw a zig zag ball. It limits the game play a bit but it makes it evens out the game play a bit for epic family series.
  • Backyard Football ::  Backyard Football 2009 offers 7 on 7 teams with wild arcade style power moves and comes loaded with current NFL Superstars as kids (at least one from every team). The game features new Pro Bowl and tournament modes, season play or single games, custom teams and players, un-lockables, and multiple levels. Outrageous game play and awesome power ups are mixed with authentic NFL action.  The cool thing about this version when you compare it to Madden is that Mark doesn’t have to know the intricacies of the Tampa-2 defense to win a game.

While you can get the Backyard series from Amazon.com, we picked up some of them at Wal-Mart for $10.00 a title.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days :: If you kid is like Mark, he has read the earlier books in this series already.  Mark is also at the age where the books of Jim Kjelgaard come alive.  You can find his classic trilogy, Big Red, Irish Red, and Outlaw Red on Amazon.com or at your local bookstore.
  • The New Way Things Work :: This is a classic book that has been re-released in an updated version.  A few items (parking meters and bicycle brakes) have disappeared into obsolescence, a few new ones have appeared (camcorders and airbags).  Either way I think it will fascinate a lot of growing minds.
  • Namco Museum for Nintendo DS :: Wow.  Pac-Man is back.  The game that defined my childhood can be mocked for it’s horrible graphics and dumb game play by my son.  Of course the plus side is that when we are at the lake and he has taken over my PSP, I have a game of his that I can play.  It also has a cooler two player mode than what we had a kid and now other DS players can hunt you down as the ghosts.  Maybe if Atari would have thought of this in the 80s, things would have turned out better for them.   Then again, the more I read about Atari’s history, a couple better games would not have saved them.
  • Aquarium :: We had aquariums growing up and Mark has had a great time with his pet goldfish and a beta.  Eventually it’s time for an upgrade and several pet shops and Wal-Mart have had small full features aquariums for under $20.  Just make sure you it has a pump and light.
  • Telescope and Binoculars :: Over the years we have bought Mark a beginner telescope and some binoculars for use up at the cabin and he has had a lot of fun using them.  The binoculars we bought for Mark were about $10 from XS Cargo and have been a lot of fun for him.  We have three pairs up at the lake and they get used for on hikes and for some bird watching.  They aren’t kids binoculars but aren’t anything that spectacular.  They serve two purposes at the lake, they are used for viewing from and for teaching Mark the importance of taking care of something (he did a great job).  The telescope we have up there is a pretty cheap one and not for serious viewing at all but on nights with a full moon, it does provide for some dramatic views.  Over the years I have bought Mark some cheap spy gear but within a couple of days, he wants the real stuff around.  Next year I hope to get him a compass and will do some map reading together.  I tend to be biased towards gifts that feed kids curiosity.
  • True Heroes Black Hawk Helicopter :: What can I say, Mark watches a lot of history channel and is starting to read some military history.  Some of my liberal friends like to chide me about Mark’s growing interest in all things military but we have had some cool and interesting discussions on Afghanistan, Iraq, and the ethics of military might.
  • Nintendo DS Internet Browser :: The Nintendo DS Lite Browser was co-developed by Nintendo and Opera and provides web browsing on the Nintendo DS Lite. The Opera browser software is stored on the Nintendo DS Lite cartridge, a memory expansion you can insert into the GBA slot.
  • Mark has all of the balls, bats, and gloves that he needs so I didn’t list anything here but I find that the strangest variations have become favorite toys.  Mark and I were in London Drugs last summer and I bought a Nerf Howler for a couple of dollars.  While he had lots of other football, this is the one that gets the use up at the lake.  Another thing that surprised me was that I bought Mark a cheap set of lacrosse sticks that have also been used again and again despite the difficulty in mastering them.
  • Mark was given a copy of Planet Earth: The Complete Series by the Reimers for Christmas and he loves it.  Not only does Mark love it but so do Wendy and I.  Its a series we will watch again and again and harkens back to the days of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom where the entire family gathered around the television to take in the sites and sounds of animals we came to learn a lot about.

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.

Future Shop

My brother Lee gave Mark a Nintendo DS for Christmas.  Mark had been working for me at the Centre helping with some odd jobs and had amassed some cash to save up for a DS (what a coincidence!).  With his DS taken care of and a glut of cash, he wanted to go out an buy Mario Party DS.  He has played it on the Wii at Lee’s place and on Christmas Eve, they were up late playing it so I knew what we were doing on Boxing Day.

Mario Party DS for the Nintendo DS We went to my top secret parking spot at Midtown Mall and ran into EB Games.  There were over 100 people lined up to get into the store.  I didn’t even entertain going in there and while Mark was sad, I promised we would check out some other places.  Wal-Mart was totally out of PSP games and almost out of Nintendo DS games and of course there was no Mario Party games.  We checked out another Wal-Mart and no luck there either.  As we were heading over to Lee’s last night, we went by Future Shop and to our shock, they had a copy that I grabbed for Mark.

After looking at DSLR’s and some other cameras (a Fujifilm S2000hd), we got into line.  Mike O left a great comment that mentioned the same experience in Fry’s a couple of years ago but with only one long line and multiple tills, the line moved briskly.  I don’t know if it is the season or if Future Shop does something right but it was the friendliest line I have ever seen.  The mother in front of us had gotten a DS as well from her teenage kids while some university students behind us were buying Guitar Hero World Tour.  Within a couple of minutes all of us were talking about technology and our purchases.  One of the guys was giving Mark Mario Party DS tips while another guy was rifling through the Coke machine to make sure all of our drinks were cold.

Future Shop Over the years there have been a lot of studies about how one line and many checkouts is quicker.  Of course many places don’t do this because psychologically people think many short lines is quicker.  My own experience is that in a longer line like at Future Shop, people are just resigned to waiting for a while and end up making the best of it by chatting with each other.  We were in line for only a couple of minutes but in the end all of us were in a lot better mood by the time we got to the tills and while the Future Shop employees were extremely pleasant, it had to make it easier on them when customers are in a good mood.

I know why stores like Safeway and Home Depot do it the other way but if Future Shop had that system, I doubt I would have even gone into the store if it was that busy.