Ten weird, wild and extravagant gifts for Christmas

It's the thought that counts, but would you rather have the thought come with a canned ham, or with a laser that can be seen from space? Photo: Wicked Lasers

NATCHITOCHES, La., December 16, 2012 — Christmas is almost upon us and you need a gift for your best friend in the world. Have you done your Christmas shopping? Have you even started? No?

We should remember that it isn’t the gift, but the thought that counts. But we should also remember that a thought that’s attached to a very cool gift counts a lot more than a thought attached to a gallon-can of lima beans. Here for your consideration and in no particular order are some very cool gifts. Not all of them are expensive, either.

1. Imagine owning a laser so powerful and dangerous that it’s absolutely useless. Use it as a pointer and you risk blinding your audience. You can’t use it to play with the cats unless you want to set them on fire. You have to hide it from the kids. You might never ever be able to tell your spouse if you buy it for yourself.  Anything you do with it will either be dangerous or illegal.

Krypton laser from Wicked Lasers.

Krypton laser from Wicked Lasers.

Some people will see a laser like that as the equivalent of leaving fireworks strewn around the living room. I see it as pure awesomeness. And for $300 to $1,000, Wicked Lasers will sell it to you. $299.95 gets you a 100 mW+ green laser that looks so much like a light saber that George Lucas almost sued the company. Or it will buy a one-watt blue laser that will feel life fire under your skin and probably cause skin cancer. $999.95 gets you a one-watt green laser whose beam can be seen in daylight. With a range of 85 miles through air, it will actually punch through Earth’s atmosphere to be visible from orbit.

What are the uses for such a thing? I’ve proposed using it as a beacon if our car breaks down in the Australian Outback. My wife says “dream on.”

Whichever one you buy, Wicked Lasers makes a “Laser Saber” (we’re obviously skirting around litigious movie producers) attachment for the laser. For $99.95, it will actually allow the laser “blade” to gracefully extend from the handle (an illusion created with a polycarbonate tube containing a magnetic sphere) and then smoothly retract. Sound effects must be produced by the user. Eye protecting goggles are mandatory and provided with every laser.

2. Do you remember when you were a kid and your really cool science teacher brought mercury for you to play with? Those little silver droplets rolling around your palm were just neat, never mind that you’d be twice as smart today if the fumes hadn’t killed your brain cells.

You can stroll down memory lane (if you still have it) with a lump of gallium. A silvery metal (element 31 on the periodic chart), it melts in the heat of your hand. Then it looks just like mercury, and it’s just as fun. It’s absolutely useless unless you make laser diodes in your basement (you’ll need some arsenic for that), and if it gets on a formica countertop or in the carpet, you’ll never get it off again. It can stain your skin gray. But it doesn’t make toxic fumes, and there’s something just plain cool about metal that you can liquefy in your hand and cast on your kitchen counter. ($66.48 for 100 grams (about 3 ounces) from Amazon)

3. My kids love things that glow in the dark. How about transparent glow-in-the-dark shoes? Converse All Star Clear & Glow shoes sell at Journey’s in your local mall. They’re unisex in sizes up to a men’s 12. Like any cool gift, they’re not immediately practical (they’re a no-go with grade school uniforms and basketball teams), but they’re a lot of fun. ($69.99)

Converse glow-in-the-dark sneaker.

Converse glow-in-the-dark sneaker.

4. In preparation for the Apocalypse, some people are stockpiling food and ammunition. Have you considered instead buying a four-ton robot that you can ride in? When everyone else is scampering like rats across the post-apocalyptic landscape hunting for tins of duck-liver pate in the rubble, you can stride across the devastation in your Kuratas, a 13-foot diesel-powered machine with hydraulic arms, a bb gatling gun, and a missile launcher.

The Kuratas gun is activated by your smile, so you can blast away at the little people with a cheerful grin on your face. The missile launcher is just for fun, since the missiles are regrettably non-lethal. Its maximum speed is 10 km/hr, so you won’t so much be striding across the landscape as sauntering, but you’ll look wicked cool. And if shooting at your enemies doesn’t make you smile, imagine riding up to the gas station in this thing to fill your tank. The shock and awe on the faces of the other customers will be priceless. And at a basic list price of $1.4 million, you deserve all the shock and awe you can get.

5. Patio furniture

Domitalia's phantom patio chairs.

Domitalia’s phantom patio chairs.

wouldn’t be at the top of my wish list for Christmas, unless someone happened to give me Domitalia’s Illuminated Phantom Chairs. Ghostly glowing furniture? Forget the patio. I’d love a whole set around my dining table. I’d start throwing dinner parties in the dark. They start at $626.99 (corded) and go to $1164.99 (battery powered). 

6. Magnetic ferrofluid,” I say. “What?” you respond. “A fluid containing fine particles of paramagnetic material suspended in a liquid,” I say. Not magnetic itself, ferrofluid responds to magnetic fields (you should buy some good neodymium magnets to go with it), rising up in spikes and cones to follow magnetic field lines. It stains anything it touches, but it’s geekily cool. A two-ounce bottle (60 ml) costs $16.99. Two ounces is all you’ll need to see some very neat effects. A larger bottle is just a larger mess that you’ll eventually have to clean up. Did I say that it stains everything?

7. I have several sets of Buckyballs, Buckycubes, and Buckybars in my office. These are small neodymium magnets (spheres, cubes, and bars, naturally) that are fun to play with while you work. Form them into interesting patterns, pull them into strands, squish them together in your hands like tiny little worry beads.

Buckyballs.

Buckyballs.

You’d better buy them now, because in a few days (less than 90 hours, actually) you won’t be able to get them anymore. The Feds (the Consumer Products Safety Commission) decided that they were dangerous for small children, who might swallow them. Well of course; small children swallow anything. Only an idiot would give neodymium magnets to a child. These are grownup toys. The Feds, unmoved by logic or reason, moved to ban them. The company finally threw in the towel, and now they’re selling their inventory at clearance prices.

A set of 216 Buckyballs or Buckycubes costs $39.95. Take 30% off with the promocode FinalHours.

8.

The clock ring.

The clock ring.

As near as I can tell, the ring clock isn’t available yet for sale. Perhaps it shouldn’t be on this list, but the instant I saw the picture, it became an object of desire. I’ve told my wife that it’s the only thing I really, really want, and if she buys it for me the instant it becomes available, I’ll never ask for anything again. She also thinks it’s amazing and has promised to get it for me if it doesn’t cost too much. I expect that “too much” is precisely what it will cost.

9. Speaking of timepieces that cost too much, take a look at Harry Winston’s Opus 12 watch. In a limited edition of 120 and costing about $260,000, this isn’t in the same league as a Timex. For that price and that name, you don’t expect a watch that just has hour, minute and second hands sweeping their way around the dial, even in solid gold. What this watch does is something indescribable, an intricate ballet of a dozen pointers spinning in an elaborate pattern that only incidentally tells you the time. Be sure to watch this film of the Opus 12 in action. The time isn’t at all obvious with this watch, but watching it change, you won’t really care what time it is. A man who can afford this watch doesn’t need to know the time. Others will know it for him.

10. In a world full of look-alike polyurethane iPad cases, it’s hard to find something that really stands out. Leather is always nice, but it lacks the wow factor. So how about wood?

Luardi makes a wood iPad case that’s available at Brookstone for $179.99. It weights eight ounces and looks elegant. It doesn’t prop up your iPad the way some cases do. It merely protects it from scratches, smudges and bumps in high style. No one will think it came from Wal Mart.

These are gifts for your favorite geek, techie, or scientist trapped in an accountant’s body. They’re fun, mostly useless, possibly dangerous, or so extravegant that no sane person would ever buy them. In other words, they’re perfect gifts for grownups. Enjoy! 


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Jim Picht

James Picht is the Senior Editor for Communities Politics and teaches economics and Russian at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, La. After earning his doctorate in economics, he spent several years working in Moscow and the new independent states of the former Soviet Union for the U.S. government, the Asian Development Bank, and as a private contractor. He returned to Ukraine recently to teach principles of constitutional law and criminal procedure at several Ukrainian law schools for a USAID legal development project. He has been writing at the Communities since 2009.

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