3 gift rules offer yuletide firewall
THE HOLIDAYS may be a joyous time of year, but make no mistake, there are rules, there are declarations and you have to pay attention.
You better not cry, you better not pout.
There are 12 days of Christmas -- not 11, not a baker's dozen -- 12.
And after getting an earful from the shepherd boy, does the king say to the people everywhere, "Excuse me, but if you're not too busy, would you mind praying for peace?" I don't think so.
So in the spirit of issuing Season of Giving edicts, here are three rules for picking tech gifts for the holidays:
Rule No. 1) Know your audience. Is the giftee fluent in tech, or is his idea of a modern time-saver a butter churn (actually, it does qualify as a wireless device).
If it's hard to distinguish between photos of your family reunion and those taken on a recent trip to Colonial Williamsburg, then try bridging the tech gap with your parents by ordering a coffee mug with a picture of their cat on it from cafepress. com. Digital Age workmanship, Bronze Age interface.
On the flipside, if you suspect your Secret Santa assignment is an out-of-your-league cyborg that will crush you like a tin can if your gift does not compute, then don't even try to translate its binary-code wish list. Just give it a prepaid gift card, a fruit basket or a quart of oil -- whatever keeps its CPU running.
Rule No. 2) Avoid schadenfreude gifting. Don't take joy from others' misery by giving them a gift that draws attention to it. If the 14,000-pound elephant in the room is your 400-pound brother, then don't get him an exercise monitoring device. If your sister is recently divorced, don't present her with a lifetime subscription to match.com. And if Uncle Joe's a big drinker, don't hand him a bottle opener that keeps a digital inventory of how many beers he's popped (BottleSpy -- engadget.com). It's a holiday get-together, not an intervention, even if the guest list would be exactly the same.
Rule No. 3) No directions required. For adults, Christmas is about quality time, not about applied learning. Sure, give kids some Legos and they'll happily remain in Research and Development until they're at least two inches taller. But don't give older loved ones gifts and then insist they take your crash course in computer science right there on the couch surrounded by wrapping paper and paparazzi.
Imagine someone showed up at your yuletide door with a Lear Jet with a bow on it and said, "It's yours! Get in, it's easy to fly. I'll show you how."
You'd probably say, "Wow, thanks, but I was sort of looking forward to having pecan pie and coffee with everyone else."
They're not ungrateful, they're intimidated.
With that in mind, the $70 RadioShark (griffintechnology.com) is ideal for people who already know their way around a computer and want to timeshift their favorite radio shows the way they tamed their television with TiVo.
The device, which looks like an albino shark fin, pulls AM and FM broadcasts out of the air and converts them to zeros and ones via a USB connection to your hard drive. Simple software then gives you the power to automatically record, pause and search for stations with the click of the mouse (wait, do sharks eat mice?).
Next week: Post-holiday gift exchange.