Happy Thanksgiving! Few things are more American than today’s feast of thanks, celebrating the abundance in our lives. Except maybe tomorrow’s Black Friday, the kickoff for the holiday gift shopping season.
I’ve put together a list of four ideas for outstanding gifts for that geek in your life, including one limited edition beauty that will be gone soon, one on sale for a short time, and a couple of others for good measure.
My favorite of the bunch is this hand-carved wood model of the XCOR Lynx spaceship. In progress from one of Mojave’s premier rocket shops, the Lynx is a suborbital rocket plane designed to take off and land from an ordinary runway and reach the 100 kilometer altitude marking the internationally accepted official boundary of space. Tickets are on sale for $95,000, but you can get a friend or family member in on the action for a mere $299 with one of these models. From the XCOR website: “Only 100 were made and there are still a few left! Many of these fine models were given to VIPs and investors, but we have a small number left over that we are offering to our fans and the general public.” xcor.com
Smart pen from Livescribe. This pen has revolutionized the way I take notes and do interviews. It records ambient sounds and indexes them with whatever you write in a special notebook. If I hear a particularly good quote, I simply mark a star in my notes. Then, when I want to transcribe it, I just tap the star for instant playback of that portion of the recording. Brilliant. The pen is not much fatter than an ordinary fountain pen. It’s lightweight, and works perfectly. Key to its widespread adoption by students and many other people who spend a lot of time taking notes is that it and the special dot paper are very affordable (you can even print the paper from a home printer). Now it’s even cheaper, at $99, with Livescribe’s Black Friday sale, on until Monday. livescribe.com
MacBook Air. Finally, Apple gets this one right, and I dare say it represents the future of laptop computing. Yeah, I know, a lot of people say the iPad is the future, but until someone invents a better way to input text than the plain old keyboard, iPad will never replace the laptop. And now you can get the light weight, durability, and some of the elegant design features of iPad in laptop form. The first MacBook Airs were a bank-busting $2,700, but now you can get one for a more reasonable $999. It’s an ax-shaped wedge of aluminum weighing under 3 pounds. The onboard solid state storage replaces a fragile hard drive in a move that every other manufacturer is sure to follow, eventually. apple.com
The Department of Mad Scientists. My latest book, now in paperback. Of course I’m biased, but I only write books I want to read. Sure it gives the facts and the numbers behind DARPA, America’s most successful innovation shop, but I crafted it to be a good read, too. My favorite story is the one about October 4, 1957, the day the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. America’s new Secretary of Defense just happened to be touring the only rocket shop in the country capable of launching a satellite of our own at the time. As you can imagine, all hell broke loose when the news reached Neil McElroy, Werner von Braun, and the other VIPs gathered for cocktails at the headquarters of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. The paperback edition lists for a paltry $14.99 and includes corrections from the hardback edition. michaelbelfiore.com