Icebreaker, the eco-conscious performance wear company from New Zealand have really outdone themselves for their FW10 line. Taking some risks and focusing on their outerwear line, which I feel has been neglected in the past, they are set to launch three new pieces each for men and women. Blurring the lines between technical clothing and high-fashion, the team managed to blend pure merino wool into pieces that are appropriate for any occasion. Starting at $300 for the Jetter (M) and Odyssey (W) and topping at $400 for the Boulder Hood (M; shown). The latter is wind-resistant, has an adjustable hood, two-way center zip, zippered front hand pockets and an internal stash pocket. The whole collection is made form Icebreaker’s Realfleece material and will be launched on the site on September 1st.
Over the course of the next three Fridays, Rapha will be screening three exciting films created by Ridley Scott Associates to highlight the Rapha Club Jersey’s from the Summer 2010 line. The first movie (Throw of the Dice) focuses on professional bike racer and three time Paris–Roubaix winner Johan Museeuw. The second and third focus on Sean Kelly (another pro-racer) and legendary framebuilder Dario Pegoretti. It’s amazing to see what the world of cycling looks like through the eyes of a Hollywood film maker. Each film, available for only 24 hours on the website, tells an intimately focused story of these three men, each a legend in their own right.
Picture by OfficeSupplyGeek
As a young professional, I am already interested in the finer things in life (food, watches, etc), so it was not a stretch to reconsider the pen I was using. I have a legal pad or a Moleskin with me at all times and am constantly taking notes in meetings for work or at various non-profit events I participate in. My attraction to pens is that there is so much variety; so much too choose from and so much to learn. And because of this variety, it’s a relatively inexpensive hobby. You can buy a very good pen for $60 (not too bad if you write with one all day long) but you can also buy a nice one for $1.50.
Initially, I did not touch fountain pens because I was intimidated by them but last week I took the plunge and ordered a 3 oz bottle of Air-Man Blue-Black ink produced by Noodler’s, a New England based ink company started by Nathan Tardiff. Fearing the fountain pen was being abandoned by ink companies, Tardiff started Noodler’s Ink as a way to save the market and offer options to users. The company (the last American ink company, as far as I know), produces small batches of inks in a variety of options, to fit all needs. They have a range of bulletproof inks which are waterproof and fraud-proof, a highlighter line, and even invisible ink. Of course you can go with just standard ink in a variety of colors.
Along with my bottle of ink ($13), I added a piston fill fountain pen to my cart, their newest item. The $14 pen looks like a slightly nicer one you might find at an office supply store but performs wonderfully as a beginner’s fountain pen. The nib size is fine-medium which is perfectly smooth, as fine as you need it to be, and not scratchy in the least. The fill system is intuitive and quick and the window makes it easy to see when you need a refill.
Last year, Michael Lewis found himself traveling quite frequently from New Jersey to Santa Barbara, CA. You see, as the Director of Product Development for a tech company that was being acquired by a west coast SAS company, trips to California’s central coast were becoming a commonplace occurrence. During this time he discovered two things – how beautiful SB is and how frustrating and annoying packing and carrying toiletries was becoming. Even a person like Lewis who was becoming well-versed in FTA rules and regulations would face the occasional mishap – a dopp kit full of shampoo from a bad packing job, a missing razor due to simply forgetting, or missing toiletries altogether because his checked in bags were arriving on a different plane half a day later.
After the acquisition was complete, Lewis quit his job, sold his car, and moved to SB to start Suite Arrival. The company provides a service to fill a very particular, and in my opinion, needed niche. Before you embark on your trip, you simply visit their website and choose among dozens of items, ranging from body wash to sunscreen, anything you might need for your time away from home. All the most popular brands are represented and Suite Arrival adds new partners all the time. On a recent visit, I noticed they now carry premium label Billy Jealousy and even offer snacks and gum now. Currently, Suite Arrival operates in the continental US and delivers straight to your hotel so the package is ready for you when you check-in. Concerned about strict hotel policies, I asked SA if they ever had any issues with delivery and Lewis assured me they have always been able to work it out. He also let me in on a few things they have up their sleeves – city guides relevant to the city you are visiting, additions to the partners list, and even a pilot program for international service. Personally, I am waiting for the last item to be checked off as I am traveling to Montreal next month.
At the risk of possibly alienating it’s original laid back and casual customer base, Converse has gained tremendous credibility in high(er) end streetwear in recent years through its well planned and executed collaborations. The most recent pairing has the Nike owned company working with one of Japan’s eminent designers, Number (N)ine. Takahiro Miyashita’s label is no longer (as of last month), which makes this hoorah even more important. Luckily, the rethinking of the Chuck Taylor All Star and One Star models, as well as the Odessa trainer later this year, are an impressive homage to the classic models Miyashita grew up with– featuring premium deer skin with asymmetrical lacing, the designs scream originality and elegance at the same time. The shoes drop March 13th at select retailers. We love them! Via Hypebeast
I own a number of packs for a variety of pursuits and they all have hydration support. What this usually means is a compartment for a bladder and on the higher end packs, elastic bands for tube routing. That’s really the extent of the “advanced” features when it comes to hydration packs – until now. Osprey, a name synonymous with high-end technical packs, has recently introduced their Hydraulics line and their engineers have come up with some really unique features that make so much sense, it makes you wonder why nobody thought of them earlier. The Raptor is geared towards mountain bikers and comes in four sizes, all the way down to a minimalistic 6 liters. It touts a dedicated tool pocket, blinker light attachment, reflective graphics among its features. The Manta is their answer to a modern daypack and the one I am most excited about. Three sizes (20, 25, 30L) means anything from a full day outing to a light overnight. It boasts a built in raincover and trekking pole attachment among its lengthy feature list.
What really sets this series apart are the best-in-class innovations. First is the bladder, which was developed by Nalgene. The stiff back allows you to easily slide it into a pack even when loaded. It provides support that molds along your back and you can refill it even when the pack is full. It also is designed to prevent barreling while creating positive water pressure. Another feature I really like is the magnetic attachment for the bite-valve. Great innovations by Osprey, check it out.
I love love love technical gear, especially jackets. Many might find this surprising since I’ve lived in California my whole life and our idea of a storm here is probably a walk in the park on the East coast. Regardless, we’ve been dealing with about 3 weeks of rainstorms here and since I like staying dry and hate carrying an umbrella, I knew I needed a jacket. In the past, i used to get big bulky jackets you’d see in the catalogs of companies the likes of REI and Patagonia, but this year I had a revelation. Since I am such a big fan of layering, why would I opt for a bulky jacket, knowing I’d likely get too hot in the car or office? Instead I went on a search for the a lightweight (maybe even packable) jacket with good water repelling properties and a hood.
I found the grail with the Outdoor Research Fanatic jacket. It weighs just 11 oz and uses Pertext Shield Fabric. I don’t know the difference between it and eVent or Goretex but I do know water beads up right away on contact. The shell is very slim fitting, so don’t expect to wear anything thicker than a hoody underneath. The wrists and waists are both slim, hugging your body, keeping heat and moisture out. The hood is full coverage, but remember to wait until you put it on before fully zipping up. That’s another thing I like – the front goes up a little higher than your chin so you are snug. I’ve been known to go out in a storm with just a long sleeve baselayer or tshirt underneath and this shell on the outside. It’s the perfect accessory and with it’s trivial size and weight, you won’t have to think twice about packing it.
By now you’re probably inundated by news of the Nexus One, an HTC built phone that many dubbed the Google Phone. The Mountain View company stayed true to their word and while they did not manufacture the phone, it is clear they had a heavy hand in its design. The phone is the only one current running the latest and greatest (2.1) Android build and boasts an impressive hardware suite: 1Ghz Snapdragon processor, 11.5mm thick, 5MP camera with LED flash, 3.7-inch WVGA AMOLED display, 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM, 4GB microSD in-box expandable to 32GB.
Many people were looking at this phone as being a game changer, an iPhone destroyer, even after they looked at the specs and saw the leaked videos and images. In the past 10 or so years there have only been two really important phones – the Motorola RAZR and the iPhone became king (2007). I feel like Google never set out to destroy the iPhone overnight. After all, in order to do so, a phone would have to be as revolutionary as the iPhone was three years ago. Clearly this is not the case. With the Nexus One, Google is trying to disrupt the market by giving users more options.
Note: My review will be of the phone as a standalone unit. For clarification, my last phone was an iPhone 3G and I don’t have experience with the Droid. I may make some comparisons but, for example, when I say the phone has good call quality, I am not saying the iPhone does not.
The phone is both thinner and lighter than the iPhone but not by any meaningful amount. The corners are curved and smooth, unlike the sharp corners of the Droid and the back has a type of smooth plastic that is matte instead of shiny and slick like the iPhone. It is slightly grippy and resists fingerprints quite well. The front has four “buttons” which are actually just touch sensitive areas of the display linked to back, menu, home, and search. Each of these buttons also have alternative commands if you press-hold them. There’s also a trackball/button on the center bottom. There is absolutely no application or part of the OS that requires the use of the trackball though it is fully supported. One really good use of the trackball is to place the cursor on a specific location in the middle of a long string (think URL with an argument), something I found impossible to do with the iPhone’s press-hold zoom cursor. Also, the trackball glows in slow, spaced-out intervals as a visual notification. The bottom has 3 contacts (for docks and possibly future accessories) and a micro USB for mounting the device as a data drive. Remember, the point of Android is to avoid desktop sync tools. Everything is done over the cloud. The only reason you’d connect up to a computer is to transfer files. I am glad they are using a micro USB rather than a proprietary connector. The phone feels good in the hand and comfortable against your face when talking.
The 5MP camera has both autofocus and an LED flash. I have never been impressed by a cell phone’s picture quality and this is no different. It’s an OK camera and the flash often blows out the center with a gradual reduction in brightness as you move away from the center of the frame. This is not unlike other cameras with flash but still an annoyance. I found the picture quality to be good but not great. I still carry a real digital camera if I want to get good shots.
The noise cancellation is particularly helpful but it’s really a subjective measurement. I found my call quality to be better than the iPhone but maybe my phone calls have recently been in different environments. I have tested it in some noisy situations and it fared well but I didn’t have an iPhone with me to do an A/B test.
Battery life for me started out pretty bad. I was getting about 12 hours of usage before it got dangerously low. However, by disabling live wallpapers and perhaps as a result of a few weeks of charge cycles, I am getting about 15 hours now before the battery reaches 20%.
Where the Nexus One really shines is the operating system and user experience. It has complete integration with the Google cloud, and in fact can support multiple Google accounts, giving you the ability to sync your contacts, mail, and calendar or some combination of the three. It also integrates with Facebook and Google Voice. What I really like is the single point of contact feature. On the iPhone if I wanted to send someone a Facebook message, there’s an app for that. Then if I wanted to look up their address, I’d have to find them in contacts. With the Nexus One, John Doe has a single contact and from it I can call him (via phone or GV), text (again, phone or GV), launch his Faceobok profile, navigate to his address, etc. If you don’t have photos for your contacts, it’ll automatically grab it from their Facebook profile and if your friends entered, for example, a work address in Facebook that they never gave you, it’ll show up too.
I spoke about the Google Voice integration but it bears repeating. You can setup your phone to make all outgoing calls using Voice or if you wanted it could use it only on international calls or prompt you each time. GV gives you free text messaging, voicemail transcription and archiving and the application works beautifully. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no push for GV so there may be up to a 5 minute delay for SMS though there’s an easy workaround for that – simply have GV email you.
My email experience on the Nexus One is substantially better than the iPhone. First off, there is no native Gmail push on the iPhone. You can setup a sync scenario using Exchange but the iPhone only supports one Exchange server so those of us with jobs will have to decide between syncing work or play. On the Nexus One, you can have multiple Gmail accounts and Exchange and they are all push. The Gmail application mimics the website quite well, offering all major functionality. One thing I did not like is there is no calendar syncing for Exchange. Hopefully this gets added at a later date.
Applications on the Nexus One are not limited by 1×1 icons and if installed, they are not required to be displayed on one of the home screens. On the iPhone if you have an app, it must take up real estate on a screen. The Nexus One has an applications icon which loads up all your apps and allows you to quickly scroll through them vertically, in a 3D cube like system. Of course, if there’s anything you use frequently, you can place it on one of the five home screens. In addition, there are modules, folders, and shortcuts that can be placed on the screens and they can be any shape. You can have a weather module that is 2 rows by 2 columns or one that shows you Facebook updates that’s 4×2. The shortcuts and folders are really interesting. For example, you can set a navigation shortcut (icon) that automatically routes your current location to your house. Or you can setup a folder that shows your Pandora stations.
Android supports background applications, which when coming from an iPhone, is such a godsend. I don’t think I realized what I was missing or how annoyed I was until I experienced multitasking on the Nexus One. Apps also have access to the notification area on the top which keeps track of events for you. Notifications are not a focus grabbing pop-up and are quite unobtrusive. For example, when I get new mail, there’s a tiny Gmail icon that appears on top. Each application has settings which allow you to tweak or completely disable notifications, if you please.
In addition to Google Voice, both search and text fields support voice as well. You can use speech-to-text in any text field including SMS and email, and you can use voice commands such as “Call Josh.” I’ve had problems with these features, however, since it has to send your data to the Google servers. If you happen to be using a slow data connection or there’s an issue with you route, you’ll get an error. Also, since no training is involved, the results are not always 100% correct, but they have always been pretty spot on. As a phone, the Nexus One works well. In the last few months, I’ve dropped half of my calls on the iPhone. I also was experiencing a phenomenon where the OS would actually crash if I received a call while using an application, thus preventing me from ever answering. I have had no such issues with the Nexus One and in case you are curious, I am using EDGE on AT&T right now.
The Nexus One is a wonderful phone but not without flaws. Some programs force quit (crash) on startup and I have had the phone freeze twice and it was quite frustrating (and scary) to get it to restart. There is never lag from the processor when starting applications but flipping quickly between home screens sometimes showed some hesitation. Some web pages were slow to load (but not anything like what Engadget’s “demo” showed). And before I forget, there is no multitouch. The hardware and software support it but I guess Google doesn’t feel like violating patents. Personally, as a former iPhone user, I found myself missing multitouch for about 3 days then I got over it. It’s really not a big deal. You can still double tap to fit to screen when reading articles and I have not had any issues with the keyboard. In fact, I am typing quite fast now using a beta version of Swype (which further points to the open nature of Android). My last concern is Android has about one-fifth the apps as the iPhone and even when there are two versions for the same application, the iPhone one is usually better. In my Google News feed today, I came across at least three new apps announced that would be exclusive to iPhone. That kind of stings. But so far, I have not found myself really missing any functionality due to a lack of apps. I do wish the Facebook app would improve and Mint would deliver an app soon, though.
What do I think of the Nexus One? I clearly like it and find it to be a better phone than the iPhone (which I sold a few days after receiving the Google phone). However, I don’t think it’s significantly better or the type of game-changer that many critics were unfairly claiming it should be. If you were ready to sign a new contract and were deciding on a phone, it’d be between the iPhone and Nexus One (or Droid). Before this quarter, there was only one choice. In a year’s time the Android OS has come from the abysmal G1 to I consider a worthy adversary to the iPhone and it’s exciting to know it can only get better.
As you read this, Google is holding a press conference at their Mountain View headquarters to announce the Nexus One, a phone that many feel is the first true arrival of what the Android OS was meant to be. The device, built by HTC, features a 3.7-inch AMOLED display, 1 ghz processor, 5 MP camera with LED flash, 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM, 4GB microSD (upgradeable to 32GB), 3G (T-Mobile only, Edge on AT&T), and is slightly thinner and lighter than the iPhone. It is running Android 2.1, a release that is exclusive (for now) to the Nexus One. Many people are approaching this device expecting it to be an iPhone killer. The problem is it does not have to be. It simply needs to disrupt the market and it certainly will. Putting hardware aside for a moment (what’s there to talk about? read the specs), the user experience is what really drives this device. For those looking for your next smart phone, moving away from the iPhone or Blackberry, give the Nexus One a look. It won’t usurp the iPhone’s throne but it certainly will challenge its dominance.
With films like Avatar demonstrating next-generation special effects, there is something so innately appealing and mesmerizing about using old (traditional) basic materials in new an innovative ways. Take this motion reel video which takes a simple concept we all remember from our childhood (flip books) and turns it into an unpredictable moving animation. The flips come fast from every direction and I get a headache even thinking of how many times the artist must have rehearsed the order to get such a fluid execution. The short video follows a parkour athlete as he moves through a cityscape and is paired nicely with an upbeat soundtrack. Check it out and I dare you to play it only once.