Black Friday is just around the corner, and let’s just suppose that your idea of a good way to spend the morning after Thanksgiving does not include any of the following:
- Waking up at 4am to queue (I haven’t done that since the last time Pink Floyd went on tour).
- Receiving trampling injuries from someone more passionate about getting an X-Box than you are.
- Significantly increasing your chances of catching tuberculosis by breathing Walmart air.
The gift-giving season is upon us, though, and no matter how much you may want to avoid the insanity, commercialism, or communicability of it all, this is a wonderful time to show our love and appreciation to those who support and accompany us through life.
More than a few of Erica’s readers (who, for the most part, are female) have said something to the effect of “Nick reminds me of my husband/partner.” And so, inspired by this, I now offer The Homebrew Husband’s Guide to Shopping for Your Homebrew Husband, a collection of gift ideas for guys like me….male domestic geek types who split our time wrangling chickens and conference calls and who, at the of the day, want a good book and a pint of our own homebrew.
And this stuff. We also want this:
A French Press
Coffee is a wonderful place to put the ritual back into our lives. Notwithstanding the questionable ecology of such modern miracles as “pod” coffee machines, there are perks to taking a bit more time making your cuppa’. An individual French Press is the easiest way to bring some good coffee into the office and avoid the oxidized stuff in the never-cleaned urn. There is no nicer way to give yourself a minute or two of breaktime than carefully measuring, stirring, and pressing, all while thinking about the beverage you are about to enjoy, or the place you’d rather be (not the office).
A couple of years ago, Erica got me a great press/mug to take in to work. The thing even has a waterproof compartment in the bottom that can hold a “reserve” of grounds for an emergency cup. There are countless variations, as expressive of individuality as you want. Us homebrew husbands love our coffee and love to make it in an individualistic way.
Once upon a time people used to listen to the radio – to radio dramas. Everyone has heard of Orson Wells’ 1938 radio broadcast, but such stuff was a matter of typical family entertainment. In a way, the art form of audio drama has returned – through the audiobook. My family were early adopters and we’ve listening since cassette tape abridgements were the norm. The digital age has brought the convenience of downloading and the efficiency of compressed voice CODECs such that it is now possible to download the complete works of…well, pretty much whomever you’d like…and fit them into some sort of iThing smaller than a cigarette lighter.
I love reading, but sometimes I love the enjoyment of a well-read book even more: the added emphasis of a good narrator and the forced adherence to the author’s pacing add something. Audio books also turn what could be dead time – commuting, mowing the lawn, commuting, walking the dog, commuting, hitting the treadmill, commuting - and turn it into a chance to be entertained and educated. My dad, a high-school dropout who got his GED through the Marine Corps, is now one of the most well-read people I know, largely because he’s ploughed his way through every bestseller and literary classic in the Audible.com catalog while mowing the lawn or driving to and from work.
There is a sort of Luddite trend to these suggestions, which is perhaps ironic given that I’ve written most of this post on an iPad. But I prefer to think of myself as a guy who picks-and-chooses his technology. And one area where I roll low-tech is my gaming. I haven’t owned a video game console since 1998 and am as apt to kill time fiddling with homebrew recipe planning software as playing Angry Birds (which I do own, I’ll admit!). Honestly if I’m seeking gaming, I’d rather make it of the social kind – board games or card games. There are few situations that can’t be improved with a deck of playing cards (I keep one at my desk, in my car’s glove compartment, and in my backpack if I’m doing any traveling), particularly if augmented with a good book of games like Hoyle’s Rules of Games.
For a couple or a small group, there is a wonderful world of board games that goes well beyond Monopoly or Scrabble. Often called “German-style board games” these involve more complex play, even if the rules are simple, based on the emergent properties of the game itself. Innovative play structures, interesting pieces and play aids, and clever graphics add to the fun. One of our favorites, a great gateway game since it balances simple rules with engaging play, is Ticket To Ride. Another couple of classics are Settlers of Catan (the game that got us hooked), Carcasonne, and Agricola. Even among these four titles there is a range of complexity and time commitments, so think about your lifestyle, how much wine is typically consumed during a night, and your enjoyment of chance vs. individual strategy vs. social engagement.
Reading is good. I’m a word guy, so of course I’m going to suggest giving books. Rather than elaborating on why books make great gifts, let me suggest ten of my favorites (all of these actually exist in fantastic audio versions as well). In no particular order:
Quicksilver - The first volume in Neal Stephenson’s grand epic piece of historical science fiction…I don’t have time to tell you everything I think of this book!
The Confusion - Volume II…see above. FYI, Audible’s recording is fantastic but is broken into seven “books”…which can be a bit confusing.
The System of the World - Volume III…see above.
A Distant Mirror - Think times are tough, now? Well, okay, they are, but spend some time with the black death, the hundred years war, and the papal schism and things suddenly seem less bad.
The Fabric of the Cosmos - The best single-volume introduction to the cutting edge of modern physics and cosmology that I’ve yet seen.
The Drunkard’s Walk - A fantastic reality check into the role of randomness and the meaning of statistics – and I’ve referred to it in two posts already, so you know I like it!
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Simply the most charming, imaginative, and unique fantasy novel to come out in the past couple of decades.
On Food and Cooking - Effectively the science geek’s textbook to food…nothing contains as much information about the how/what/why of the culinary world.
The Pale Blue Eye - I’ve a fondness for historical mysteries but usually end up disappointed. This was a recent find that held good through the end, and a guest-starring role by Edgar Alan Poe doesn’t hurt.
At Home – A light and funny history of most everything related to domestic life, and how it got to be that way.
I’m putting together another an additional gift suggestion list for people who are, or are interested in becoming, homebrewers. So if you’re wondering where all the recommendations for the homebrewing gear and refractometer-type stuff are, that’s an upcoming post.
There it is: five simple gift ideas for the Male Domestic Geek. What is your partner hoping for this holiday season?