You know, for years now, I've had just a terrible time making out Christmas lists.
The fact is, I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where if I really want something, I'm usually able to just go out and get it. If it's more expensive than what a single trip to the store armed with a credit card can obtain, then it's probably something I don't really need. (High-end gaming desktop machines do not fall into that category, no matter what my family might suggest.) So, it's rather difficult to come up with a list of things for friends and family to buy for me, particularly since impulse control is... well... almost entirely lacking in my case.
One year, I just said, "Make a charitable donation in my name to your favorite charity." I thought this was a nice solution, but it didn't go over incredibly well, probably because my family likes to see the whole "wow, thanks!" while we're all sitting underneath the tree. I ended up with the usual range of CDs, books, games, and so on. Now, mind you, I didn't return any of those things, but still, I felt vaguely guilty at my rampant consumerism when it's apparent with just a glance through any world-facing publication that there's a lot of people who could've used that money to survive for the year on what one CD cost.
I just figured out what I want for Christmas.
Those few of you who are non-geeks may not have heard of the "One Laptop Per Child" project: it's a charitable group that has created a (relatively) inexpensive laptop designed for use by underprivileged children to help close the gap between the technology "haves" and "have-nots". Now, in of itself, this is a Good Thing, but for a limited time, the foundation is sweetening the pot significantly:
From now through December 31, 2007, OLPC is offering a Give One Get One program in the United States and Canada. This is the first time the revolutionary XO laptop has been made available to the general public. For a donation of $399, one XO laptop will be sent to empower a child in a developing nation and one will be sent to the child in your life in recognition of your contribution. Up to $200 of your donation may be tax-deductible (your $399 donation minus the fair market value of the XO laptop you will be receiving).
For all U.S. donors who participate in the Give One Get One program, T-Mobile is offering one year of complimentary HotSpot access.
If you participate in Give One Get One today, you will receive your XO laptop(s) in early 2008. Your donated laptop will reach a child in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Mongolia or Rwanda in the same early 2008 timeframe.
Aside from the fact that the T-Mobile access is a useful thing for a guy who's one the road close to 75% of his life, and aside from the fact that my family can take the "get one" laptop and give it to my 8-year-old as a starter laptop (or take it down to the local women's shelter and give it to a child there who probably would otherwise never set fingers on a working computer keyboard), the simple fact is, it's a nifty little gadget. Granted, I'm not going to give up my MacBookPro anytime soon over it, but it's got enough functionality to access wireless networks, and provides a Smalltalk-based environment and Python-based environment in which people can learn to program, and what's not to like about that?
I think I've been a good boy this year, but there are others in the world who've been better than me in circumstances that I can't even begin to imagine. So please, this year, make a donation to the One Laptop Per Child initiative, in either my name or yours.
Thanks, from both myself and someone neither of us has met yet,