Two Perfect Xmas Gifts, or I Promise I Don’t Own Stock

Not really all that atheism-related, here’s an idea I thought I’d toss at you:

We’re coming up on Krismas (named after that fictional character Kris Kringle, you understand), and I know some of us will be banging around in our heads trying to figure out what to get certain people on our lists.

I say there are two perfect gifts. Perfect in the sense that they’re always appreciated, no matter who the recipient is.

Perfect Gift #1 is masses of dark chocolate. Go to every store you shop in over the next few weeks and buy as many different types of dark chocolate as you can find. If you really look, you’ll find, oh, 35 different kinds of it. Put it all in a shoebox-sized box and wrap it. If you have a whole family to buy for, say an aunt and uncle and 5 cousins, this one is especially good, because each person can pick and choose.

(BTW, if the package has a cocoa percentage on it, shy away from anything over about 85%. The more potent stuff is just too bitter for most people.)

Perfect Gift #2 is a really good flashlight. Not one of those shitty plastic novelty items with all sorts of bells and whistles, but something that will last for years, always works, and is sturdy enough no amount of dropping will damage it. I’ve given them to kids, high school grads, fat old men, maiden aunties, 80-year-old grannies.

There’s been some chuckling from bystanders — “You gave a FLASHLIGHT to your GRANDMOTHER?? — but the person RECEIVING it has always liked it.

I usually buy the Mag-Lite. I think they’re the kind the cops use, and they come in everything from keychain-sized models to purse-sized, to glove-box sized, to big black fight-off-a-bear sized. And the new ones with the LED bulbs put out unbelievable amounts of light.

As to the idea of giving these to girlfriends, wives, female relatives, in a season where you’re supposed to look for something from the heart …

Say her car breaks down on the road at night, or there’s a noise out by the trash cans when she’s home alone, or she’s walking home from the neighborhood store in the evening, which gift is she going to appreciate more – that pretty, delicate, heart-warming gifty thing on the bookcase at home? Or a never-fail blindingly-bright flashlight? (And which are you going to be glad you bought her?)

In my experience, even moms see the beauty of this extremely practical gift. (And I’d bet you a fiver she doesn’t already have one.)

As to you girlfriends/wives giving a flashlight to your guy, I guarantee when he takes that 19-inch-long black metal club in his hand — that also happens to double as an eye-searing flashlight — he’s going to feel like a hairy-knuckled Neanderthal.

Also, on the non-Krismas gift giving front: When someone does an especially good job for you — say the plumber who comes in at midnight on a holiday, or the real estate agent who goes above and beyond, or the banker who actually weighs in on your side during financial troubles — especially if it’s someone you want to maintain a long-term relationship with, give them one of those hefty-sized Mag-Lites in appreciation. It’s a quirky and unexpected gift, one they’ll remember for years and years.

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  • geocatherder

    Great ideas, Hank!

  • pahapillon

    I love quirky gifts! Thanks for the tip, Hank.

  • Nentuaby

    Funnily enough, Maglites are one of my standby gifts too. :) They’re a seriously quality piece of kit.

    One word on ‘em, though– unless you ARE in fact buying the thing as a backup self-defense weapon, you probably don’t want anything bigger than the 3 D-cell club. They get heavy.

  • Andrew Hall

    I bought a few LED flashlights the other day for work, and they really do work well!

  • Nora

    Both great suggestions! We have flashlights stashed all over the house. When our grandson was about five, he loved playing with them. So that Christmas, we gave him a box full of flashlights in assorted sizes. He thought it was great. Come to think of it, that might have been the last time we impressed him with a gift.

  • Bruce Gorton

    A blow torch. You can never go wrong with getting someone a blow torch.

  • fastlane

    For #1, check out Chocolopolis in Seattle. One stop shopping for way more than 35 kinds of chocolate…dark or otherwise. =)

  • geocatherder

    Every September 23, I give my husband a package of 5 or 6 giant, dark chocolate bars for his birthday. He hoards them. I noticed him nibbling on one the other night. Seriously, very few things we can afford could make him happier.

    I do have one thing to add: my mother used to give a few friends genuine, well-made, Wisconsin “baby” Swiss cheese for Christmas. Alas, I have no idea where she ordered it from. It came in complete wheels, and she used to send me home with a good third of a wheel each Christmas eve. It was delicious. Go google it!!!

  • Trebuchet

    I saw a dark chocolate bar with BACON the other day. It sounded quite tempting but at around $10 for 2 or 3 ounces, I decided to give it a pass.

    For personal use, I’ve bought a number of the little red and blue aluminum 9-LED lights at Harbor Freight. I never have any luck getting them to work after the batteries die, but at $1.99 for two, with batteries, they’re still a great deal. Put out a ton of light, at least close up, and it’s far more even than regular bulbs.

  • Art

    For checking out that noise downstairs, or out in the barn, nothing works half as well as a 4-D-cell Mag light.

    For blindingly bright light take out the regular incandescent bulb and get a high-output krypton bulb. It eats batteries but the ability to inflict radiation burns at fifty feet combined with enough heft to cold-cock a rhino (I exaggerate) it is a great comfort and confidence builder at three AM.

    They are so effective as a club most police departments don’t allow their officers to carry them any more. The ability, ease of inflicting, grievous bodily damage, particularly to the head, is a negative for police but an asset for the lone bleary-eyed householder in the wee hours of the morning about to face down scary unknown.

    Hint from old timer police: Shine the light in their eyes but swing at their knees. Temporarily blinded is good but even a moderate strike to the knee buys you time to fight, flee, call 911, have a nice cup of tea. A stove in knee is very painful and debilitating but seldom fatal. A little too much enthusiasm hitting a person in the head brings on lots of paperwork.

    LED flashlights save on batteries. Camping I used to carry spare batteries. LED lights use so little power that I stopped carrying spares and just slip in a new set before heading out. LED bulbs are many times more reliable than the old ones so I stopped carrying spares of those also.

    Any flashlight that doesn’t already use them can benefit from using lithium batteries. They have about three times the power capacity and they don’t weaken much in cold temperatures. They are also about half as heavy and store up to ten years with no risk of electrolyte leakage that can damage a light. Down side is that they are about three times as expensive as alkaline cells. Rechargeable batteries are good but not in my ‘thump in the night’ flashlight.

    A good quality LED flashlight loaded with lithium batteries is so long lasting and reliable that one of the few issues is that you forget it needs batteries, stop checking and maintaining the light, and find it dead fifteen years later.

    The so-called ‘tactical’ lights are almost all overpriced, even on sale. There is seldom any need to spend more than $50 on a flashlight so a $125 model is mostly hype.

    Flashlights should have a simple switch that has only two settings: off and on. Dimmers, flashers, hi-low-medium settings, and multiple colors are mostly useless for every-day use.

  • Tom McCann

    I totally agree about chocolate and flashlights. I’ve never seen anyone be disappointed with either of these, assuming of course that you’ve picked high quality versions.

    On the chocolate idea, have any of you guys tried chocolate with added sea salt? Sounds horrible doesn’t it? You’d be wrong. It is the most wonderfully awesomely delicious thing on this earth (second only to Lindt chilli chocolate) and I curse the day that Lindt came out with it – means my chocolate consumption has gone up 10-fold.

    Also, can I recommend the wind-up torches that don’t need batteries. These are great. They’re cheap now and it means you never need environmentally-horrible expensive batteries. It also means that if you don’t use a flashlight very often then it will always work when you need it.

    • Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

      Lindt makes salty chocolate too? :O

      I have to get the generic store-brand (CVS) because of not having a name-brand version of it anywhere, and it’s AMAZING!

  • Lori

    Awesome idea, I’ve been hating the idea of getting my nephews more cheap crap. This year they’re getting flashlights!

  • Jim Baerg

    An LED headlamp has the advantage over a flashlight of illuminating what you are looking at while leaving both hands free.

    • mbj1

      Yes- I got one as a gift, and at first thought it would just make me look like a dork, but there have been a few times where it’s come in real handy, like looking at my video camera’s controls in the dark under an improvised “rain hood” of opaque plastic. Also, they work pretty well worn around the neck, too, and when people asked me what it was, I just said it was my shock collar that keeps me in the yard.

  • Reverend PJ

    Mmmmm, chocolate. I just ordered 20 Divine Dark Chocolate bars as gifts for family and friends. Our standard gift a bar of chocolate and a bottle of wine as all of our friends already have flashlights.

  • carolw

    One of nephews went through a flashlight phase when he was little so my parents got him a big lantern-style flashlight for Christmas that year. He was thrilled!

  • Niam Krawt

    Good ideas! My wife and I recently discovered dark chocolate with red chili pepper… Excellent for those who, like us, enjoy a little spice!

  • Aquaria

    (And I’d bet you a fiver she doesn’t already have one.)

    I had one that fit in my purse, but weighed enough that even dropping it on someone’s toe would shatter it.

    My husband took it from me for his work!

  • Aquaria

    This means i need to get one in pink. If it’s in pink, my husband wouldn’t touch it with a 200-foot pole.

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