Anyway, some of the discussion (and I'm too lazy to go through the entire thread of blogs on it) claimed that there are some things that make a good gift to give (from an economists point of view). One thought is to get something the person doesn't know is out there, so part of the gift is overcoming the informational asymmetry and/or effort of researching the gift. Or, there might be a gift that has a higher marginal benefit to the receiver than marginal cost to the giver.
So, following the economists' view of what makes a good gift, here are a couple of things I got for Christmas that seem to match the criteria.
1. tickets to Illinois basketball. These fit the criteria because it is an instance of the marginal benefit to me (and my wife) being greater than the marginal cost to the person who gave it, since he is a season ticket holder. Plus, it's a late-evening game on a weeknight, and he has to work the next day, so he might have been thinking of selling them anyway. He also got us a gift card for a restaurant a block away from Assembly Hall, which was a cornfield when Jane & I attended. Great gift, Patrick!
2. a compact digital video camera. I had no idea they made them this small, let alone know that they made consumer versions that shoot in HD. This gift has the added bonus of having a positive externality to the giver - Grandma and grandpa get to see videos of their grandson on YouTube from a thousand miles away. Thank you, Mom & Dad!
3. accessories for said digital video camera. Obviously I did not know what sort of video camera I might be getting (mom & dad hinted that they might get it for us), so we wouldn't have known to get a small case for it. Plus I had no idea about the flexible "gorilla" tripods, so I wouldn't have thought to get one of those. Thanks, Linda & Jim.
And, of course, all of the gifts for the baby are great. he gets to look cute, and we probably wouldn't splurge on cute outfits if we were doing all of the buying, so that of course is a nice thing. Thanks everybody!