Alchemical Thoughts

Holiday Post 2013: Shopping, gifts, and stuff edition

Posted on: December 20, 2013

(Crossposted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian.)


Santa Claus on sleigh pulled by Amazon drones

Deng Coy Miel, Cagle Cartoons, Singapore


We’ve almost made it to the end of 2013. At The Itinerant Librarian, that means it is time for our series of holiday posts where I scour the web to find all sorts of amusing things (well, a lot amusing just to me) and share them with my four readers. I am starting with the shopping post because it seems we have been on holiday shopping season pretty much since the summer. We can certainly say the merchants were already riling up people for Christmas season shopping before Halloween. That is definitely a sign that the economy is bad when the retailers keep pushing the Christmas season back hoping to get a few more suckers to spend a bit more money on a lot of stuff that they probably do not need. I have said it before, and I will say it again, Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving, not before Halloween. Anyhow, I am just one librarian.

For many folks, I am sure they are done with the shopping, but if you are still doing last minute stuff, I suppose if you pay more, you can get quick delivery if you shop online, or you can brave the stores filled with other procrastinators by now. Hey! It does not have to be procrastinators. Given the state of the economy, some of us do have to wait until a paycheck arrives so some shopping can be done, or the shopping is done in s staggered way (you get some things now, wait for the next check, get some more, you get the idea). Anyhow, if you need some ideas, maybe some of these links might help. That, or we can just laugh together and gaze in wonder at the things some people choose to spend money on.

So, without further ado, let’s see what kind of interesting and crazy stuff folks out there are suggesting for Christmas presents. As usual, the snark is mine.

But before we get to the gifts. . . .

Some advice and useful information

These links are for some tips, pieces of advice, and other information that I hope gift shoppers will find useful and informative. After all, I would not be a good librarian if I did not provide something constructive in addition to the entertainment.

  • Make sure you do your best to keep your personal information safe as you shop whether you shop in person or online. The linked post from also includes a link to a Homeland Security page with more tips for cybersecurity. In light of the recent Target fuck up where they basically let hackers waltz in and steal a lot of personal data from customers, we consumers need to be alert, informed and vigilant. In other words, we have to do the stuff that companies like Target should be doing on a routine basis. By the way, I am not saying we totally trust companies neither, but notice when one of these messes happens, their first advice is to check your bank statements, so on and be alert. Yea, the stuff they neglected to do themselves. Can we say irony?
  • Shopping online? In addition to the above, here are some things you want to know before you hit your favorite online retailer. This post from also features a link to the Consumer Action Handbook, which can be downloaded for free, and can give you information on how to “get help with consumer purchases, problems and complaints.”
  • And one more from A reminder that there is helpful information available if you are buying toys for children. This post features a link to a document of toy safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The U.S. government overall puts a lot of good information out. For me as a librarian, it is always a good source to use and share. Besides, it’s your tax dollars at work, so be informed.
  • Are you one of those people who just loves to use their smartphone for shopping? Via Dumb Little Man, here is a list of “12 Great Holiday Shopping Apps That Can Save You Time and Money.” A small issue is there are no links. You get the names of the apps, and it is up to you to look them up on your device whether it is Android or Apple. You may find something of interest here. If you do, feel free to come back, comment, and let us know.
  • Now, not everyone is able to afford the fine lavish gifts and presents we are about to highlight. Does that mean they are left out of the season of giving? Far from it. There are other ways in which you can give a little something to your fellow human beings as well as our furry friends. Also via Dumb Little Man, here are “10 Great Ways to Share Others Over the Holidays.” Because it should not be all about the size of your wallet or how much loot you get or give this holiday. The only tip I might have an issue with is the one about adopting a pet from a shelter. No, I am not say to not adopt from a shelter. Our two cats were adopted from a shelter. But I do have concerns with people who may bring a pet home over the holidays as a gift, only for the pet to be neglected or forgotten once the holiday has passed. Go adopt when you feel ready and able to make the commitment. Sure, it could be during this season, but if you are doing it just to put a cute puppy or other animal under a Christmas tree with a bow, you are probably doing it wrong. Overall, this article has some great suggestions to help you make this holiday season a bit brighter for others, especially others who might not be able to have a good season otherwise.


Gifts, presents, and things

Part of the reason I enjoy making this post is to see some of the crazy stuff people offer up for gifts. Some of them are just funny. Others are just ridiculous, and then  you have some where you need the budget of a couple of small nations to buy them.

Gifts for the manly man in your life

We always get the lists of gifts for men. Thing about these lists is that they can go either way at times. I am sure there are some outdoor enthusiast women out there, but apparently, unless you are so manly that women get pregnant from you just walking by, ladies can forget about some of these gifts. So, let’s have a peek at what is suggested for guys.

  • Esquire magazine naturally has something for the man who “spends a lot of time outside. With knives.”Actually, the list does feature one of those knife tools that claims to do almost everything. It’s so good that it is described as “the nuclear submarine of survival equipment, up to and including the stealth. . . . ” But does it make your chest hairs grow? From this list, you can also do things like adopt a sled dog.
  • Naturally, The Art of Manliness has their holiday guide up.


Do women get any gifts? 

I did scour for lists for women’s gifts, but I did not come across as many this year as last year. I am willing to grant I did not look in the right places, or maybe there weren’t as many.

  • I thought this was an interesting list. These are some “Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Feminist,” via The (Seattle) Stranger. According to the author, it “includes lots of good, reasonably-priced gifts for the progressive women in your life.”There are some practical things here, which I do not think a woman has to label herself as feminist to appreciate, but if she does, odds are good some of these would be welcomed. The list features books, some local interest items, and even suggestions if you prefer to give to charity.
  • Esquire of all places has a gift list for girls, and it is a list of stuff that is NOT pink. Leave it to a thoughtful father to come up with a list of stuff for a girl that “loves science, tech, movies, art, plants, robots, bikes, and Katniss Everdeen (who would never be caught in pink). . . . ” Let’s be honest, as the author writes, “her mom and her grandparents and aunts and uncles will buy her even more of that shit. And that’s fine.” You the father can be the thoughtful man in the life of your daughter and buy her something cool. I know. My daughter does not go for pink neither. When it came to Happy Meals, for instance, it was the boys’ option because it came with Hot Wheels in it; she could not care less about the pink mini Barbie or whatever other pink thing they forced girls to take. I am sure she too would love a high end bad ass compound bow.
  • Have a real bad ass, gun loving mama in your life? Maybe you could get her some bullet bracelets. Yea, they are made from real ammunition. She will be the talk of the town at the shooting range.  Via Boing Boing.
  • Ms. Magazine offers a nice article on empowering toys and dolls for girls, and it includes links to some places where to find them.
Geeky and/or gifts for writers and other literary types

This is where I put gifts for geeks, writers, and maybe even librarians. Not books. We will have a post for books later on this week. Some of the things here are the things I would definitely not mind getting.

  • Via The Advocate, some gift ideas for travelers. I was cool with some of the ideas until they suggested the hovercraft. It is not just any old hovercraft. This puppy “meets United States Coast Guard standards for reliable hovering over water. Comes with a hefty price tag and its own trailer. $58,000.” If you buy one of these for one of your friends, please contact us at this blog and let us know how do we get on your Christmas list. We’d like to be your friend.
  • Incredible Things has a list of gifts that are not for noobs. I thought the Star Trek TNG uniform hoodie was very neat.
  • Got a Doctor Who fan to shop for? Well, here are the “Top 10 Doctor Who Holiday Gifts.” Game of Thrones fan? Got you covered too. Both links via Buzzy Mag.
  • Need more ideas for the science fiction or fantasy fan? Kirkus Reviews has some ideas.
  • Need some ideas for a bookish teen or tween? We all know it can be hard to shop for young people, but Book Riot offers some nice suggestions to keep them reading.
  • If you have a writer, especially a fountain pen enthusiast, in your life, Ink Noveau has “4 Great Gift Ideas for Anyone New to the Fountain Pen Hobby.”
  • BuzzFeed has a list of gifts for the book and literature lovers in your life who already have plenty of books. Sure, another book is the easy option. Maybe one of these will do the trick instead this year.
  • Viva Snail Mail has a small list of suggestions for those who like stationery and/or sending and receiving correspondence. One suggestion is to get them a nice set of stamps. In the U.S., the USPS puts out stamps for just about any topic and interest. These days, they even make Harry Potter stamps.
  • I like journal books, and they certainly make a good gift if you ever want to get me anything. Now, whether for someone else or me, if you feel a bit more brave, you can attempt to make a handmade journal notebook. Via BuzzFeed.
  • The Millions has a list of gifts that they claim writers will actually use. One of the suggestions is a nice bathrobe. Read on to learn why. Item 7 on this list is certainly one I can agree upon: coffee, booze, and other stimulants. As they write, “find out what your friend likes to drink and buy a really nice version of that thing.” I’ll say it does not have to be alcohol. A nice coffee or tea, especially if you know they themselves might not spring for more than Folgers, would likely be welcomed.
  • Let’s not forget the film buffs. BuzzFeed has some ideas for film buffs. One thing is true: “about your averaged film buff: if they want a movie they will buy it for themselves.” I am not a big film buff, but I do like some films. I certainly prefer if you give me the cash or gift card and let me go pick out a movie or tv serial I like. So, get them some other nice things instead.
  • And finally for this segment, don’t think I forgot librarians. Hack Lib School has a librarian gift guide. Whether for a librarian or a library school students, odds are good you might find something for them here. Personally, I prefer to go with stuff that is not so obvious (for librarians), but many other librarians do like gifts that somehow reflect the profession.


Gifts for the pets

There is always going to be at least one list of suggestions for your pets. Hey, pets are family too, so give them some love too.

Food and Drink


  • The Advocate has a list of gifts for those who indulge that features food and drink items. Among things on the list you can make the Game of Thrones fan in your life happy with some beers inspired by the show (assuming they do drink). Your friend or family member a fan of Sons of Anarchy instead? Someone has made cigars inspired by the show. You are too lazy to bake cookies, or you just don’t have the time? As long as you got your credit card handy, you can find a company to send you a tin of cookies.
  • If you have a beer enthusiast or maybe a home brewer, then this list of “10 Crafty Gifts for the Beerologist on Your List” may have something for them. Via Wired.
  • Maybe you would prefer to make food and treats for your family and friends. BuzzFeed has a list, with links to recipes, of food gifts you can make and put in jars.
  • Now if you if you want to lay down some serious moolah and get someone some high end booze, has a “High-Roller Gift Guide 2013.” You won’t find any two-buck chuck here. These bottles are “for that truly special person in your life.” I have special people in my life, but they are not getting a $1600 bottle of Japanese whiskey from me.
The stuff I was not sure where to list it


  • Now, there are all sorts of wonderful gifts out there. Then there are those gifts. You know which ones I am talking about. The hideous or totally useless things some people insist on giving that you have to grit your teeth, smile, then hide it in a closet for it to never be seen again. So, with a little humor, here is a list of “25 Things No One Wants for Christmas,” via Holy Taco. Consider this a little PSA.  Actually, the bathrobe suggestion on the list could work if you happen to know the person does need one (that may require a bit of intimate knowledge though, so probably not the gift for your boss). Also, apparently writers use bathrobes (see link above).
  • Calendars. I do like nice calendars, and I try to put something nice in my office in the library every year. Need some calendar suggestions? Mental Floss has a list of “9 Odd and Awesome 2014 Calendars.” For the inked librarians and people who love them, there is a calendar of tattooed librarians. The post includes links to other calendars too.
  • As I said at the beginning of this post, some gift lists out there assume that you are so rich that you can light cigars with $100 bills. Via New York Magazine, they ask “How Rich Do These Magazine Editors Think We Are?” Some of these lists actually include items that are “price upon request.” As J.P. Morgan is attributed to have said, if you have to ask how much it costs, you cannot afford it. Now, if you want to go all out, you can give someone a Virgin Galactic Suborbital Spaceflight priced at a measly $250,000; this was suggested in Vogue magazine.
  • Subscription boxes seem to be gaining popularity. Those are the services where, for a subscription fee, they send you a box of stuff once a month. You can often pick for how long the service goes from a couple of months to a year. These days you can find a box for just about any interest out there. Prices do vary from about 20 bucks or so a month to at least a couple of hundred bucks depending on what you get. Via BuzzFeed, here is a list of 13 subscription boxes. For the article, people in the comments are suggesting other box services not listed, so a peek may be worth a look. For instance, for the geek in your life, a suggestion was Nerdblock. If this topic interests you, there is a whole website devoted to helping you find the right subscription box (
  • If you are just totally out of ideas, some canned air from around the world may be an option. Seriously, people do this? Looks to me like you are paying for a cute can. Via Incredible Things.
  • And if you got someone real specific or narrowly focused, Mental Floss has suggestions that are very specific.
  • Getting back to serious for a moment, GradHacker blog has a nice series of post on gifts for graduate students. If anyone needs good, solid, useful gifts, it is grad students. You can start with the post on personal gifts, then look over gifts in technology and gifts to help your grad be a bit more professional.  What I like about this series is that these are simple, practical gift ideas that not many people think of, yet graduate students can really use. Trust me. I was a graduate student once. I wish someone would have been thoughtful enough to give me some of the things mentioned when I was in grad school.
  • Finally for this segment, maybe you prefer to shop on the basis of values like products being fairly traded or maybe some profits going to help others. If that is the case, here is a list of “29 Online Gift Stores That Benefit Nonprofits.” Consider this a little help if you want to shop a bit more ethically. However, if you prefer to make a donation or maybe do something like donate a heifer (via Heifer International), here is a list to “19 Holiday Gift Programs.” Both links via Nonprofit Tech for Good blog.


The Adult Section

As usual, if this is not your thing, if you offend easily, you are religious, have issues, etc., then you can stop reading now. Otherwise, go right along.

  • Good Vibrations has put together their staff’s picks of best sex toys of 2013. The only issue I tend to have with sex toys (and I say this in general, not specific to any one retailer) is that if they are cheap, they are pretty much crap, and the really good ones tend to require the GNP of a small country. I understand the idea of “you get what you pay for” and making small investments, but often unless you are well heeled, good stuff is out of range for those of us of modest means who like to get freaky now and then. Yea, I know, first world problem I am sure some of you are saying. However, once in a while you do find something in a modest range. That aside, from this list, the magic wand would be the item I think the Better Half would appreciate adding to our small but well selected collection.
  • has a list of sex toys for couples. I always find it nice when you find things that can be shared. From this list, I admit I was amused by the Clone-A-Willy. This is. . . well, just click the link and read the post. On serious note, there are some nice items here, but let’s be honest, part of the fun of sex toys is finding the one that makes you giggle, maybe go, “really? people do that?” You’ve got to keep life interesting.
  • Need some advice on how to buy a sex toy for your loved one? Epiphora comes to the rescue with a sex toy gift-giving guide.

Thank you for reading. As always, comments (as long as they are well-behaved and civil) are welcome. Stay tuned this week as we continue our series of holiday posts. Plus, remember, if you choose to indulge, especially alcohol, please do so in moderation. Also, if you chose to drink, and you had a bit much, please do not drive. Get a ride. Call a cab (if you plan ahead, program one or two phone numbers of cab companies into your phone so you have them handy for later). Ask to crash on someone’s couch. Just do not become part of the holiday tragedy statistics. Let’s keep it all fun and safe.

Have a Merry Christmas and/or a Happy Holidays.

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