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On the first day of Christmas, my true love used statistical analysis

Submitted by on Monday, 15 December 2008 2 Comments

The New York Times headline last week gave me hope for the holidays: Use statistical analysis to buy presents, it said.

I love statistics, and I love databases. My little geeky heart skipped a beat at the thought of being able to key in details about a recipient and have the search return the perfect gift.

So I navigated to the Spotfire Holiday Gift Finder, thinking it would let Dad find something for a bookworm-baseball fan recovering clothes horse who seldom wears jewelry, is allergic to most perfume, can’t quit baking and doesn’t need anything for Christmas other than the chance to go to the bathroom alone once a week.

Wrong answer.

Instead, it lets you search four categories — apparel, jewelry, tools and electronics — by price.

The first three are non-starters for me, so I gave electronics a try.

Most of the $1,000 plus items are televisions, and that might be a nice gift if I’d had time since the alleged end of the Iraq war to watch television other than presidential debates and “Avatar.”

So I decided Dad should shop for me in the $50 to $99 range — not an extravagant price in this economy, but not one that screams “this is a Christmas Eve panic purchase of the only thing I could grab before Wal-Mart closed.”

Disclaimer: My husband has never actually done that — he has his sister take care of it well before Dec. 24. I can’t say the same for one brother and one brother-in-law. You know who you are.

Yamaha Digital Drums: Anyone who spent $99.99 on this as a gift for me would not live to see Boxing Day. The two small humans in this house are quite skilled at producing head-pounding noises without electronic assistance.

Tiger Hotwater Dispenser-Kettle: At $89.21, this gift is closer to my ballpark. Except monitors start going off if I’m more than two inches from my coffee cup, and I doubt something incapable of brewing French Roast would do in a true medical emergency. I do give them credit for ending the price in .21 instead of .99. That’s different enough to catch your attention.

Franklin Speaking Spelling Bee: For $86.24, I could be in constant electronic touch with my deepest neurosis — spelling. A competition mode would let me relive the eighth-grade spelling bee, which was my most spectacular teen-age failure until I went stag to my senior prom. I could download additional games from the company’s Web site, but I didn’t check to see if “name that adolescent hang-up” is available. And what’s with price tags ending in the 20s? Did someone do a study I missed?

SVAT Electronics Global Talking Translator: At $39.92, this might come in handy if I ever left the county. Since only four of the 12 languages featured are spoken where I live, though, I’d return this one for a gift certificate for socks.

And, finally, my absolute favorite, the Platronics Voyager 510 Bluetooth Headset, price slashed from $99.95 to $48.51. That must mean an upgrade’s either just been released or is imminent. It’s for the true multi-tasker who needs to switch among mobile phone, PDA or laptop on the fly, plus it lets you roam up to 33 feet from the device and still answer.

This would bring rack and ruin to my world. It took me years after getting a cell phone to work up a repertoire of plausible excuses for missing calls, though California’s dialing-while-driving ban helped tremendously. “Sorry! I was in the car without my Bluetooth.” Folks are probably starting to get suspicious now that I no longer commute.

The Voyager thingy would finish me off by letting the truly insistent or chronically annoying find multiple ways to insistently annoy me around the clock. Unless I’m 33 feet away. Ditching the device in the landfill would definitely take it 33 feet away.

Looks like my sister-in-law still is going to have some work to do this year.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Genevieve said:

    OHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, how I wish there was one that you described early on. I’m very fortunate that my husband keeps a mental tab of all the things I exclaimed on over the years — he ALWAYS knows the absolute perfect gift to get. I mean ALWAYS. Even if I haven’t mentioned it in five years. He’s just that good.

    On the other hand, I’m reallllllllllly bad at gift giving for him. When I say bad, I’m a horrible wife. I really suck at it. He’s always grateful. He’s very sweet about it. Only twice in 17 years have I done a good job at this without his input. Once a 24k gold plated CD of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall.” (Early 90s) More recently a Master Replica light saber — I forget which one. Boy, was my oldest son envious. The way Jimmy’s face lit up — priceless.

    Now, if someone could build the database you mentioned …

  • Debra said:

    I should have kept quiet about that database. It could have been a business opportunity for us.

    That gold-plated “The Wall” sounds great, and funny you should mention it. I got Dad a standard copy of “The Wall,” non-gold-plated division, our first Christmas. He got me a desk chair, and that might have been the last time he was listening.

    I have hope for the next generation, though. Big Guy, despite proclaiming his hatred for Thomas, picked out the PERFECT Thomas toy for Boots’ birthday. And Boots, while we were on our pajama mission last week, eyed a window display and said, “Mommy, I wish I could get you a nice new girly-girl shirt.” Which is SO not me, but it’s the thought that counts.

    The kids have potential!