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What should I buy my brother for his birthday?
October 9, 2011 11:33 PM   Subscribe

What should I buy my brother for his birthday? I have a brother who's impossible to buy gifts for, and it's his birthday soon. I know the following things about him: He's a computer programmer and website designer. He loves Apple products, The Simpsons, Futurama, and XKCD. His heroes are people like Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and Dawkins style atheists/rationalists. He's a non-smoker and non-drinker. He's asked us not to get him a gift, but he's still my brother and I'd like suggestions for something more thoughtful than an iTunes gift card. My budget is pretty low, and he handles all his own tech shopping. Suggestions for quirky, fun or interesting gifts would be appreciated.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn to Technology (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do you live nearby, or plan on visiting any time soon? If so, I'd suggest taking him out for dinner instead of buying a trinket.
posted by decathecting at 11:40 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think I'll get him either a Map of the Internet or Map of Online Communities shirt, assuming XKCD ships to Australia.

Do you live nearby, or plan on visiting any time soon? If so, I'd suggest taking him out for dinner instead of buying a trinket.

This is a great idea.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:41 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


This place has some interesting stuff.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:41 PM on October 9, 2011


He sounds similar to my friends and I - if he lives in the US you might be able to find something on Think Geek, like some of the wooden puzzles or such.
posted by jacalata at 11:42 PM on October 9, 2011


What are his reasons for not wanting a gift? Maybe he's anti-consumerist. Maybe he doesn't want any more trinkets because he has no room for them. Maybe he knows your budget is limited and doesn't want to stretch it. Maybe it's all of these, or something else.

Figure that out, and then you can pick the gift that makes sense-- an experience instead of an object, something handmade instead of something purchased, or maybe you have a skill you can teach him.
posted by nat at 11:43 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you for all your advice. I just ordered the Map of the Internet poster. Apologies for wasting your time.

What are his reasons for not wanting a gift? Maybe he's anti-consumerist. Maybe he doesn't want any more trinkets because he has no room for them. Maybe he knows your budget is limited and doesn't want to stretch it. Maybe it's all of these, or something else.

I think he just likes to think of himself as self-sufficient, and he seems happy with what he has. It's not that he's anti-consumerist. Its more that his interests seem pretty technical.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:46 PM on October 9, 2011


As decathecting pointed out, I think you should give an "experience gift." That is, spend the day with him doing something fun that he likes.

If he is similar to me, he has very particular ideas and notions about what material items he wants. You are probably better off spending time with him.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 11:48 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]



As decathecting pointed out, I think you should give an "experience gift." That is, spend the day with him doing something fun that he likes.

If he is similar to me, he has very particular ideas and notions about what material items he wants. You are probably better off spending time with him.


I will try and do this too! We used to play lots of N64 as kids. Maybe I could take him to the arcade.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:58 PM on October 9, 2011


If he used to play a specific arcade game, find one and park him in front of it with a roll or two of quarters. Bonus points if he didn't know it was still around. Come back a couple hours later with some lunch.

(if i could find that one dinosaur fighting game i can't remember the name of, i'd blow a stupid amount of quarters on it. never did beat it...)
posted by Heretical at 1:44 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does he have his own place? Buy him a jalapeno plant. They grow like mad and in weeks you have amazing jalapenos. Everybody loves those! It gives him something to potter around with and care for, and takes him away from the computer now and then.
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:51 AM on October 10, 2011


Plus: jalapenos!
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:52 AM on October 10, 2011


Or edamame plant(s)!
posted by jitterbug perfume at 1:59 AM on October 10, 2011


Buy him a metafilter subscription, he ticks all the boxes.
posted by joannemullen at 2:20 AM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]


Wait, try this page - they have shittons of awesome, semi-geeky sometimes, usually super fun and super functional gifts! They specialize in helping with exactly what you describe! I hope it serves you well (I suspect it will, but look for things on the less expensive end, it can get pretty expensive on there, but there is plenty of non-expensive stuff as well.)
posted by jitterbug perfume at 2:21 AM on October 10, 2011


Make him a card-- if you don't draw or paint, then collage, or do your own xkcd-style cartoon. On the inside, write all the things that make him a great brother.
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:40 AM on October 10, 2011


When I ask people not to buy me a gift I want them not to buy me a gift.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:56 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


This guy sounds a lot like me, except for the programmer part. I ask people not to buy me gifts because I really don't want them. Usually it's something that I won't end up using, and then I feel guilty about that, until I end up giving it away, at which point I feel guilty about that too.

A metafilter subscription sound like a nice idea, and going out to dinner does as well.
posted by Slinga at 4:02 AM on October 10, 2011


Maybe an Arduino starter kit would interest him.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:46 AM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter subscription will not break the bank, also taking him out if nearby, sending him food if he is not. Everyone likes to eat. We recently got a gift from my son from Grandma's Chicken Soup
www.Grandmaschickensoup.com
that was really delicious and tasted just like homemade. I would recommend it as a good gift for anyone.
posted by mermayd at 4:56 AM on October 10, 2011


Wooden Drummer Kit.

My kids & I built the guitarist too. We're hoping they come up with a bass player so we can busk for change in the basement by the washing machine.
posted by bricksNmortar at 5:30 AM on October 10, 2011


If you can't be with him, send him a care package full of delicious goodies! I have a friend with similar views on birthdays. He would just throw extra stuff in the garbage, but he'd eat any food you got him.
posted by 200burritos at 5:58 AM on October 10, 2011


Your brother sounds a lot like me, and I frequently go through these Zen/minimalism type phases where, really, any thing is just going to annoy me. When I'm feeling like this, I'm trying to get rid of all my stuff, not accumulate more.

> He's asked us not to get him a gift

I'd respect that.

However, an "experience" gift, as others suggest above, would be fun. What are your hobbies or what kind of skills do you have? A "half day together" where you teach him the ropes might be kind of fun. For my last birthday present my sister got two canvases and a bunch of acrylic paints and we spent several hours together painting. It was so fun! While the end product (a crappy painting of my hamster) is technically a "thing" I'm thrilled to have it, and it's hanging happily on my wall right now.
posted by losvedir at 7:53 AM on October 10, 2011


Make a donation in his name to a cause that he cares about, or that you know he'll appreciate. No matter the reason that he doesn't want a "gift," this is a good opportunity to show him that you care about him and that you take seriously the things that he cares about.

I'm a no-gifts-please person, as gifts of any variety just creep me out. I don't understand it. I can't quantify it. And while I know there are exceptions (if someone made a donation, experience gifts like folks upthread are suggesting, etc.), mostly I'd just rather not get into the whole thing with folks so I just stick with the "please, let's just skip the gift part." That said, I do appreciate it when people know me well enough to work around my quirky gift thing, and figure out how to do something nice for me that doesn't push my buttons. There are a couple folks in my life who are great at this. It's additional work beyond the whole "difficult to buy for." But the added effort is greatly appreciated.
posted by jph at 10:19 AM on October 10, 2011


(if i could find that one dinosaur fighting game i can't remember the name of, i'd blow a stupid amount of quarters on it. never did beat it...)

Primal Rage?

Nobody's said this, but if anyone has similar people I got him LEGO last year and he enjoyed it.

I've got 4 months until Christmas to plan the 'experience gift'. I just realized he does lots of that sort of thing with his girlfriend - skydiving, running, etc. Any geek friendly ideas?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:06 PM on October 10, 2011


Normally I just comp people tickets but he dosen't really like live music or clubbing.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 2:06 PM on October 10, 2011


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