Holiday 2020 Gift Ideas

Useful gifts

1. A car jump starter (link)

  • Doubles as a high capacity power bank
  • I keep this in my car and have used it many times to give myself a jump without anyone’s help as well as used it to help other motorists. It’s a quicker, easier process than putting 2 cars nose to nose.

2. A 12v/120v power inflator. There are many types to choose from. I have this Bonaire model (link)

  • Set target tire pressure and hit ‘go’. It auto shuts off when the tire is filled. The best part — a digital gauge.
  • Comes with regular 120v power cord and the 12v that plugs into your car’s ashtray.
  • Comes with multiple needles for filling basketballs or bike tires.

Game Gifts

  • My recs from last year which I continue to enjoy (screenshot)
  • New additions to the collection worth highlighting:
    • Splendor (link)

      A terrific intro to card drafting games that is simple enough for a 6-yr-old but complex enough to satisfy 45 minutes of adult brain jockeying.

    • Hanabi (Link)

      A cooperative game in which everyone except you can see your cards. You must communicate to construct an arrangement of cards based on tacit logic and limited info. 2-5 players. Takes 15 or 20 minutes. It’s pretty popular so you can find it at Target or Walmart and it’s a lot of fun. Feels like a social mind-reading sudoku. It also reminded me of the Two Generals Problem visually presented by Sketchplanations. (Link)

    • For kids learning to count: Hoot Owl Hoot (Link)

      This game is intended to help kids learn to count. A friend of mine who took my rec to play this with his son added a good description of how it feels…”a good intro to backgammon basically”

  • Game book for kids riding the chess boom: How To Beat Your Dad In Chess (Link)

Gifts for Adults Including Yourself

  • AirBnB online experiences (Link)

    A socially-distant way to shake it up, learn something new, and support hustlers who have made major audibles to their small businesses this year. Close friends have raved about a tequila and mezcal cocktail mixing experience they did with a Mexican bar. The owners tell you what you will need beforehand. Makes a great date idea or small group event.

  • Booze
    • “Demonslayer” sake (Link)
      This $50 bottle household mainstay is smooth junmai daiginjo available at Whole Foods.
    • Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey (Link)
      This is an inexpensive bottle which I’ve been mixing with tea and oatmilk for a cozy fireside treat at home.
  • A thought on helping others

    Many people have suffered deeply this year. Even if they have been spared a direct blow from Covid, disruption in social patterns has meant isolation for countless people. In addition, 2020 accelerated the widening spread of tech-forward businesses over service jobs. Throw in a boom in financial assets across the board from bonds to stocks to crypto to gold and the gap between haves and have nots doesn’t relent.

    If you count yourself amongst the fortunate, this is a good year to do the thing you have been meaning to do one day: donate an amount that makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s a cause. Perhaps a person or a group you know who could need the help. Sponsor lessons for a kid who is struggling with distance learning or who can no longer take piano lessons.

    If you get stuck in the “I’ll do this once I research the highest impact place to give” mode of thinking, then you are making perfect the enemy of the good. It’s ok to not mastermind everything. 90% certainty is way past the optimal threshold to make most decisions including this one. Do something good, impulsively. You will help someone else and you will help yourself.

    To help you along consider my simple rule of giving:

    When a friend is raising money for charity always give


    If you are like many other people with good intentions but little free time, you aren’t hanging out in the comments section of effective altruism blogs splitting hairs about which charities are maximizing return per dollar. Some people may even use this as an excuse. “I haven’t done the homework, so I’m not ready to give”. Guess what aspiring philanthropist? You’re not going to do the homework.

    Instead, trust that your friends have done the work since they are putting the effort to raise money. By offering you a chance to give, they are actually doing you a favor. You get to act instead of just meaning to do good. Even if you accidentally give to, over the course of your life you will have maximized area under the curve.

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