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December 2, 2002

My Christmas No-Way-In-Hell Fantasy List

Disturbingly, there is less than a month until Christmas. It's disturbing because my wife and I are way behind on our shopping. Luckily, we're going into this month prepared with a list of gifts for the majority of the people on our list, so we'll have an absolute minimum of desperately running around the mall hoping to God to find something that someone on our list would like. I'm sure there'll be a little bit of that - after all, we're only human, and what would the holiday season be without at least one evening of panicked shopping?

Part of the problem is that as adults, making a Christmas wish list is altogether uncommon. Every year my wife and I ask our parents what they'd like for Christmas. If we're lucky we'll get an answer. When we do, the items (or item) are usually fairly vanilla - like my father asking for more classical music CDs. Come on! That's not a list, that's an item! With only this one clue with which to go shopping, we have to rely on our gut feelings about what certain people would like, instead of just getting them something off of their list that they've asked for. No wonder parents are hard to buy for.

I'll admit that I'm starting to do the same thing. My wish list this year is... well, almost embarrassing. For at least the third year running, I've asked for clothing. This year is a new low, as I've requested a brand new cache of both socks and underwear. Sure, I could buy them for myself, but I'm too cheap to buy the $10 underwear that's comfortable and lasts for years, so I usually end up with stuff that balls up and disintegrates after a year or so. I've also asked for Home Depot gift certificates. No, there isn't a power tool that I have my eye on - I actually want to purchase lumber and drywall to begin the process of finishing my basement, including a big shelf-lined storage room. Exciting, huh?

The most exciting item in recent memory that I received was my Palm IIIxe that my wife gave me three years ago. What made it a really great gift was the fact that it was not on my list. I had apparently made so many references to my friends and co-workers getting or having Palms that she couldn't take it anymore and purchased one for me. It was a huge surprise, and a great gift. What made it even more perfect for me was the fact that it was not only cool, but also utilitarian. I'm really quite a freak in that respect, in that if I can actually get some use out of a gift, I enjoy it that much more. Strange.

Putting my finely-honed holiday wish list banality aside for a moment, there is a wish list I have that I'll never present to anybody, simply because I know the gifts are either outrageous, impractical, or simply greedy. For your reading pleasure I will disclose what is on this list.

  1. Sony PlayStation 2. Your first reaction is going to be "Hey, what's wrong with that gift?" This is probably one of only two gifts on this list that has a fighting chance at making into my living room. It's not only a game console (and a great one at that) but also a DVD player, something I want to get eventually anyways. Throw in the fact that WalMart is now just about giving them away at less than $200 Canadian (no, I'm not kidding) and it has great under-the-tree potential. However, my wife and I realize that we watch too much TV as it is. If we were to bring a game console into our home, we would very quickly become even more potato-like in our habits. For the good of our social well being and ability to actually talk to each other, we're nixing a PS2 for now.

  2. Apple iMac. This would be the second item that has a fighting chance of becoming reality. Sadly, Apples are not exactly the commodity items that PCs are, and the prices reflect that. My wife and I have agreed, however, than a new (or even used) Apple computer is going to be the next piece of computing equipment we purchase. For the longest time I assumed that due to my profession that I would need to have a PC at home, simply for compatibility's sake. I've now realized that I never take work home, and even if I did I would not have the software at home that I do at work, and thereby compatibility isn't an issue. With Apple's new operating system, that is even less of an issue. Either way you slice it, we're both sick and tired of fighting with my stupid beige box piece of crap, and want something that will work for us. Watch for me in Apple's next "Switch" commercial.

  3. Cycle Genius CG-24 Recumbent Bicycle. If you've been following my exploits of late, you'll remember that I've started cycling to work. Just about every day for the past 4 weeks I've pedaled 24.8 km to work and back, using the bike I purchased in university. While the bike is serving me well, despite the initial problematic posterior, it's not exactly the best bike around. It's had a good life, and... ah, balls to that - my ass deserves a sweeter ride, that's all. A recumbent bicycle is much more ass-friendly than a conventional bike, and the Cycle Genius is one of two entry-level recumbents that are under $1000. It's a lot to pay for a bicycle, but if you consider that it's the vehicle in which I drive 125 km a week, don't I deserve something that works well? I could go more exotic and feature-rich and get into the $3-5K recumbents, but I'd be quite happy with a starter recumbent. Finding one under the tree would be a lot easier than my current plan of building my own, too.

  4. Plasma Screen Television. When my daughter was learning to walk, she'd cruise her way around the living room in front of the TV. One day she found the power button, and for a period of about a month her favourite game was to turn it on and of f and on and off over and over and over and over again. Now, the power button acts funny, and it's hard to turn on or off. Add to the fact that this TV was a foundling and that every six months or so a loud snap comes from the back of it, and I say it's time for a new TV. Sure, a 28" or 32" would suit our existing TV cabinet nicely, but this is my fantasy list, remember? I recently saw a plasma screen TV on display, and I must say it's one sweet looking piece of technology. It would be the perfect place to watch DVDs and play my PS2.

  5. Corbin Motors Sparrow II. I've had a thing for electric vehicles for a while now. Before I started cycling to work I was even working on my own design. Why build your own when Corbin Motors has been producing a one-person pure electric vehicle for well over a year now? Especially when they're already tooling up for the second generation? You may have seen a picture of a Corbin Motors Sparrow in one of a number of places. It's been in a few movies, been on a number of TV shows, and has been a media curiosity ever since it was conceived. Well, with 80 km of range on a single charge and a top speed of a freeway-friendly 120km/h, I want one. Unlike the original Model T, the Sparrow comes in a boggling array of colours to suit any personality. While the Sparrow is good, I'll wait for the Sparrow II to come out. The teething problems of the Sparrow aside, the II is going to be a much more refined machine. I can't wait.

  6. 35'x120' Parcel of Suburban Residential Land. Yes, land. Along with a bevy of other interests, I've become enamoured with straw bale house construction. In fact, there's a 2 1/2 day course available in Orangeville, Ontario that teaches you the basics of straw bale construction. This course may actually be a present to me this coming Christmas, so I'll eventually need to put my knowledge to use through the building of my own house. Most straw bale houses I hear about are built by people who have a huge parcel of land out in the middle of nowhere. Convenient, maybe, but hardly useful to us folk that live in more crowded/civilized areas. I want my land to be suburban, to prove once and for all that straw bale houses aren't the realm of the eco-freak hermit. I'd settle for reclaimed suburban land, so long as the soil isn't contaminated or has been filled with construction debris.

  7. Honda CR-V Hybrid. This is going to be the hardest gift of all to get. It's not the cost that's prohibitive, but the availability. See, Honda has not yet produced a hybrid CR-V. I heard a rumour that such a vehicle was likely about a year and a half back, and had high hopes that it would come true with the unveiling of the redesigned 2nd generation CR-V. I was disappointed. I still have hopes that it will someday be a reality, and to that end I'm going to keep the CR-V Hybrid on my fantasy wish list. After all, if Honda really thinks it has a market for a 360 hp luxury hybrid in its Acura division, I've gotta believe that more bread-and-butter hybrids are on their way.

  8. BattleBots' Golden Nut. This would be a gift I would cherish for a long time. It would also take a long time to get, I figure. I've had an unhealthy admiration for combat robotics for a while now, and have a few designs simmering in the back of my skull. The way I see it, the ultimate gift would be to fund me in my pursuit of robotic gladiatorial glory. With sufficient funding, becoming a BattleBot competitor could be a full-time occupation. I'd have to design, construct, and test my creations in the off-season and prepare for combat in the months leading up to the actual event. I may be lucky and come up with a great design the first year or two that sees me win the coveted Golden Nut, but likely it'll take years of trial and tribulation to get a design that can dish it as well as take it, and develop the necessary building, designing, and driving skills to get me there. It would be the gift that keeps on giving.

  9. My Own X Prize Entry. If you haven't heard of the X Prize, you owe it to yourself to check it out online at Simply put, it's a US$10M award to the first team to commercially offer space tourist flights that are repeatable within 2 weeks of each other. There are at least two Canadian entries I know about, which would be cool to join. But the real fun would be having my very own entry, don't you think? Personally, I like the space plane idea best, and would like to pilot it myself to the edge of space and beyond. What would be cooler than watching the sky turn black in the middle of the day, coming back from space and having lunch with your crew? That would simply rock, methinks. I'm sure I could snag a surplus fighter jet that would be a good platform from which to build. Maybe NASA has retired some of its X-series aircraft. Yeah.

  10. A full head of hair. Enough said. Surprisingly, this is probably one of the least outrageous items on this list. After all, hair transplant surgery is commonplace - all I really need is the thousands of dollars needed to go have someone "reseed my lawn", so to speak.
So, there you have it. I'm sure if I stayed here and kept thinking, I could really extend this list. Once you get into the Think Big groove, it's easy to keep going. Alas, my time is better spent trying to get our house ready for the holidays, so for now I'll just be thankful for what I have, and hope for that really comfortable underwear I want.


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