It doesn't have to be Christmas, but that's the holiday I happen to be shopping for.
Every year I struggle with this problem. I need to find a gift for my father-in-law, and I need it to communicate "You are a neglectful father/grandfather and you are also an ungrateful, unpleasant, self-absorbed pinehole---but your bad behavior doesn't negate my thoughtful gesture, and I'm going to BE thoughtful in This Season Of Giving whether you like it or not, dammit." It's complicated.
It should also be a NICE present. It's tempting to send him fake vomit or an aluminum bedpan or a 20-pound package of gummi frogs---but a bad gift reflects badly on the giver not the givee (or "recipient," WHATEVER), and I don't want to be put in a bad light when I'm being so sweet and generous.
Here are some ideas we've used in the past, in case you have a similar person to buy for this year:
1. Subscription to Consumer Reports magazine. It's a smart, useful magazine, and it costs $26 for the first subscription (12 issues) and $18 for each additional subscription, which is handy if you have more than one pinehole on your list. We also like to give The Skeptical Inquirer, which is $20/year (6 issues--which is good because each one takes about 2 months to get through).
2. Potentially interesting books that flatter his intelligence: Harmonograph or any from that series; or once we got him a book about the history/use of the abacus, and it came with a small abacus
3. Puzzle books that flatter his intelligence and give him something to do with all his empty hours now that he's turned his back on his family: The Puzzlemaster Presents is a good one (we got him volume 1 last year, and volume 2 this year), and I myself would like a copy of this Sudoku book that's spiral-bound so you don't have to curl the pages and break the binding
4. Tavern puzzles, which are challenging and also very cool-looking; I've ordered several times from BrainPuzzles.com for Paul, too, and can recommend both the site and the puzzles
5. Books that indulge his navel-gazing tendencies, such as The Book of Myself: An Autobiography in 201 Questions or List Your Self: Listmaking as the Way to Self-Discovery, which are pretty fun books (I got a second copy of each for myself. WHAT? I have a CUTE NAVEL.)
6. A nice fleecy throw blanket---this year I got him this Pinzon one, because it's the Gold Box item today and was only $10 (down from an alleged $40). Bonus: a throw takes up a lot of space and so makes a bigger-and-better-looking gift than, say, two books.
Summer sleep-away camp supplies - I am in a TIZZ about Elizabeth going to Girl Scouts camp this summer. I’m GLAD she’s going, and I’m glad she WANTS to go, but it’s a week and this is the f...