50th birthdayfilter:
April 19, 2021 6:23 AM   Subscribe

What to buy for the person who really is impossible to buy for.

Asking for a friend, who is looking for a 50th birthday gift for her brother. He’s the youngest of four and (I can attest) at his best can be charming, funny, sensitive, knowledgeable, hard working. He is also clinically depressed, with a tendency to do things that interest him to the point of obsession, and is an anti-social hermit, saved by his dog.

He’s into maths and economics, computer-y things (particularly overclocking and tweaking to get the most out of the RAM), and has played online games obsessively. His current obsession is bitcoin. He lives in a seaport, and in his younger days was a good windsurfer and snowboarder.

His sister is looking for a gift for his 50th birthday – maybe an online subscription to a digital platform that might interest him, or a physical gift he might enjoy, but which wouldn’t involve him having to have too much human interaction. And hopefully something he’s not likely to become (too) obsessive about.

Any suggestions, hivemind?

(Dog tax, of said dog)
posted by essexjan to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Doggie DNA test? Not useful, per se, but an interesting discussion point at the dog park. Or dog hermitage!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:30 AM on April 19, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: How about a subscription box for his dog? There are a few different companies that do this (my dog loves getting his BarkBox), or you might be able to find a local (to him) pet store that will put together a curated box for his dog once a month.

Also, that lovely dog might enjoy agility training. You could see if there's a facility near him and get him a gift certificate for agility classes.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 6:35 AM on April 19, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Are any of his obsessions with book series, movies, TV shows, bands/music? Maybe a signed copy of a first edition, or album, or some other kind of memorabilia that he'd enjoy having around? Collectors editions or something? A nicely framed piece of art relating to something he really loves?
posted by jzb at 6:40 AM on April 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Does he likes snacks from around the world? Universal yums.

Does he like physical puzzles or sculptures?

As for doggie DNA, if you go that route, I recommend Embark. If you want to see what results look like, here's mine.
posted by dobbs at 6:42 AM on April 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Princeton Companion to Mathematics is a great resource if you like maths - parts of it are quite accessible to the mathematically inclined layperson, parts of it probably need a graduate degree to get anything out of, but as a book to dip into to survey modern mathematics its excellent.
posted by crocomancer at 7:09 AM on April 19, 2021

Best answer: A folding Bluetooth keyboard for his phone. That has been the most successful present I've given to impossible-to-buy-for family members.
posted by Peach at 7:31 AM on April 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Look into a hardware wallet for his cryptocurrency if he doesn't already have one.
posted by mezzanayne at 7:38 AM on April 19, 2021

Best answer: This may be far off base, but perhaps old-timey computer-y things? I'm not sure what your budget is, but some '80s computers and the earliest calculators are around one or two hundred USD on ebay. (I got a working Sharp EL-8, one of the first portable calculators, as a gift ten years ago. I treasure it. I don't think there's anything obsessive one can do with it except clean it.)

Edit: cute dog!
posted by eotvos at 8:07 AM on April 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Poke around Shapeways and buy him a Klein bottle in a comfortable price range, plus a gift card.
posted by yarntheory at 8:32 AM on April 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some nice-quality tools? If you're taking computers apart on a regular basis (guess what I've been doing this morning), it's useful to have a really good set of screwdrivers in various sizes, decent cutters, the fancy pliers for removing stripped screws, etc.
posted by offog at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A subscription to The New Yorker, Scientific American, or Smithsonian, paper edition. All have wide-ranging stories, depth, and the paper editions are so full of content that it really works to have paper. People who are into computer hardware and are fussy will mostly want specific stuff, so it's hard to buy gifts specific to their interests. Also, if a subscription gift works out, it's easy to continue giving it. I gave NYer to someone who said they thought happily of me every time they got it, and it's weekly. In the UK, Nature or New Scientist? not sure if there's an analog to New Yorker.

LLBean sells a dog collar with the name and phone # woven in, which is an excellent gift for any dog.

Is he someone who could use a nice new shirt? sounds like he might not love shopping, and printed tshirts are almost an extended version of a birthday card - lively, fun, but not a huge commitment.
posted by theora55 at 9:01 AM on April 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is there a possibility of getting 50-sometings that will arrive one at a time?

I don't know what it could be, but it's fun.
posted by mightshould at 10:40 AM on April 19, 2021

Best answer: How about a donation to a charitable cause? If he likes video games something like ablegamers might be up his street.
posted by Braeburn at 1:52 PM on April 19, 2021

Best answer: If I were him, I would love to receive this slightly geeky Stirling Engine Model.
posted by schrodycat at 6:06 PM on April 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A way to broaden his interests might be a subscription to Masterclass.
posted by foxtongue at 12:09 PM on April 20, 2021

Best answer: Something whimsical, dog-related:

posted by grateful at 1:43 PM on April 20, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. My friend asked me to thank you all for her answers, all of which she thought were great and were things she'd not thought of. In the end, she went with a snack box subscription for the next year.
posted by essexjan at 1:47 AM on May 9, 2021

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