So, it is the night before the night before Christmas and you still have shopping to do. Do not panic — our editors have put their heads together and assembled a selection of interesting, affordable and sure to please gifts you can pick up at your local store or receive electronic delivery on.
Here in St. Louis, tracks from Bode’s 2008 Christmas album graced the radio waves last Christmas, but access to the CD was somewhat limited. This year, you can find the album on iTunes and AmazonMP3, and it would make a perfect gift for someone you know who appreciates hearing new takes on Christmas music.
A Cold December Night features Bode’s gentle, emotive voice backed by the Erin Bode Group’s interesting instrumentation. In addition to beautiful renditions of old favorites such as “the Holly and the Ivy,” “the Coventry Carol” and “In the Bleak Midwinter” that every aficionado of Christmas music ought to have in his or her collection, several Bode-penned originals such as “Skating” and “the Star’s Song” help to make the album irresistible. “The Star's Song,” especially, seems deserving of a place amongst the holiday standbys that play on the radio across the nation year after year (Native Language; 2008; $7.99 on AmazonMP3, $9.99 on iTunes, $18.99 direct from Bode’s site for a CD).
-Timothy R. Butler
How often have you needed to type something from a book, only to find that you must put it in awkward positions because there is no stand to hold it up and open? A good book stand should be welcomed by any computer user. They are also usually inexpensive, and the benefits are enormous.
When looking for a book stand/book holder, make sure that you are not buying a “decorative” one. The book stand we are looking for is not the book stand where one puts the family Bible. Ideally, the holder should be foldable, sturdy, lightweight, and should fit very well in a laptop case pocket.
The beard is making a comeback. At the same time, a lot of men now keep their hair very short. I do both. Over the years I have tested and used a lot of different implements for maintaining my own preferred hair length and distribution.
This year I purchased and used the Wahl 9876-2001 set. Wahl is a name almost legendary in hair clippers, the brand you usually see in barbershops. You will probably see this package prominently labeled “Lithium Ion” as a major selling point, a reference to the rechargeable battery. As you might expect, the battery does hold a long charge, and recharges quickly. The main body of the razor is much smaller than traditional electric clippers, and comes with several removable heads: standard beard trimmer, wider hair clippers, narrow clippers for smaller areas, and a dual foil shaver head. Also, the head mounting itself can be rotated. There are various spacing combs for both the beard and hair clipper heads, and a few other goodies, all of which rest in a small tray. Any of the heads will cut closer than standard hair clippers.
Online retailers vary, but Wahl charges $50 direct. It is good enough at that price, but I found it at Target on sale for about $35, which is really hard to beat (Wahl, $49.95 MSRP, www.wahl.com).
So, I know what you are thinking, “a stapler… for Christmas? People will know I procrastinated.” Au contraire! While your recipient may look at you a bit funny at first, make sure your friend opens the stapler and have a piece of paper or three handy for him or her try it on. The delight of using a stapler that is seemingly impossible to jam and effortlessly goes through multiple sheets of paper is pure bliss for anyone who shuffles paper much at all.
As such a person, the first time I encountered a PaperPro in the local office store, I must have looked like a crazed lunatic. This is a stapler that makes stapling a joy so that stapling is no longer that step one fears will screw up a document as it jams or fails to push the staples all the way through (Accentra, $25, www.paperpro.com).
-Timothy R. Butler
Don't believe in everything the computer industry says. Laptops bought in the last few years are still very good machines and desktops ought to fare at least as well. They can still offer you great computing power. Do you require teraflops of processing just to type a three page report on a word processor? Don’t forget that those netbooks people are rushing out to buy are likely much slower than your two or three year old full sized laptop, after all.
A great way to ensure that your friend's computer stays current is by giving upgrades. A multi-gigabyte RAM memory card should keep that 2007 laptop ready for demanding applications, without the need for a replacement and very affordable. You might also want to check better hard drives, but be aware that the upgrade process is not as simple as in RAM memory if the computer to be upgraded is a laptop, so check first if that is practically possible.