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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 Phone

Although this is typically a blog about fashion related subjects, I figured I'd divert a bit into a different realm.  This time I want to talk technology and my great experience thus far with the new Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 Phone.  First, I should clarify that I am in no way being paid or forced to write this by Bill Gates holding a gun to my head while Steve Ballmer shoots the video, but just felt like it was worth my time.

I originally graduated from a dumb phone to a smart phone a while back when I upgraded to an Apple iPhone 4.  I believe this was the climax of AAPL.  Steve Jobs was still at the helm with his ridiculous business and marketing acumen attracting the masses to his products.  Aside from the initial antenna glitches which made the first batch of the phone famous, it was a sturdy piece of technology that lent much credibility to the prowess and quality of Apple and its designs.

However, with the passing of Jobs an era came to an end.  Although, in my opinion the train hasn't halted completely.  The steam that kept it chugging at almost 4g speeds was entirely fueled by Job's creative genius.  Now that train, although at 4g speeds, is consistently slowing down as its reserve steam left over by the former company's leader wanes.  As of late, other trains in adjacent tracks pick up speed and one that is apparently blazing by the Apple train is the Samsung Bullet train.  I firmly believe Samsung will soon take over that top spot and sit at the throne of the technology sector for some time.  Their products are very resilient and unlike apple, they are always innovating.  They are not stuck to a business model of releasing new technology once or twice per year with specifications that are semi-obsolete come launch time.  This is clearly being played out right before our eyes via each respective company's individual share prices.

In order to quickly summarize the aforementioned, AAPL's steam is failing with the iPhone 5.  Production output from their manufacturers had to be decreased due to lower demand for these units.  The phone itself is a solid piece of technology, and this is by no means an article to bash Apple's abilities, but just to point out facts of current market trends.  For their sake, I hope that their new phones and models are a bit different than what they have been putting out as of late.  Luckily, they still have a lead on the tablet market, but who knows how long this will last.  It is a shame that they've had to engage in monopolistic actions with regard to patent acquisitions and other nefarious means, effectively cornering the IP market.

Not only has Samsung been doing very well for itself, other lesser known brands have been reinvigorated and reinventing themselves in this ultra competitive mobile technology market.  With the release of the newer and more stable platform of the Windows 8 operating system for cell-phones, a new player has entered the market that carries with it a heavy footprint.  Microsoft, even though it is now considered a monolithic entity from the popularization of desktops in the mid to late 90s, is trying to destroy that stigma and advance forth as a big player in this ever more dynamic market.

Nokia partnered with Microsoft and has come out recently with some very respectable options and models. I won't go through the veritable cornucopia of other models and options because I want to focus here on one phone.  The Nokia Lumia 920.

I decided to put down the apple cart and pick up the 8-ball and run with it.  After being severely disappointed with the specs and upgrades announced for the iPhone 5, I made my decision to switch to something brand new.  I had used Android before as well, but wasn't entirely sold on it.  After all, each OS has their pros and cons, but I wanted to also be an early adopter.  Therefore, I plunged into the small niche percentile of Windows 8 users.

Fast forward to a few months of ownership and I must say that I am very pleased with it.  The phone is solid, the hardware is great, the camera is of superb quality, and Windows 8 OS is very respectable.  Sure, as any new product has its certain shortcomings, so does this one.  I won't outline them for the sake of not turning this into a finely combed technology article, so I'll stick to my exclusive experience and leave the rest for Engadget and Gizmodo, respectively.

The system is smooth, the UI is beautiful, the colors are crisp, the live-tile is still a technology in its youth, but I believe that once it reaches adulthood, it will be a revolutionary way of viewing a listing of applications on your mobile screen and PC as well.  This truly gives the phone's screen a hitherto never before seen life.  The operating system is showing you current updates without notifications like the others do.  Instead of a cemetery with application tombs spread around and arranged in neat folders akin to app-catacombs, Windows 8 with live-tile technology raises those corpses from their dead icon app caskets and allows their spirit to live on by showing what their inner essence is projecting outward.  Granted still at its infancy and paradoxically at geriatric speeds, once cemented and coded for ultimate use, this will be an amazing method of losing oneself in a screen that is just teeming with life, looking like an overhead shot of Pudong during business hours with information exchanges just zooming past each tile.

Anyway, I'm done waxing poetic here with regard to its UI.  Moving on to the available apps, this is one of the key factors where much is left to be desired.  I do miss Pandora, Instagram, and other key applications which have become a staple in almost every smart phone user's screen.  However, not to be left behind, many of the big name apps are starting to recognize that Windows 8 is here to stay and is trying to become a big player as well.  These application businesses know that the source funding this product is one of behemoth-like proportions.  Ergo, they are quickly developing their own versions that support Windows 8.

I will list below some key-apps that come to mind that are fun, educational, and entertaining that I highly recommend be downloaded by new users or those that aren't aware of them yet.  Aside from Twitter (which some third party twitter apps actually perform better), Facebook and Foursquare (same issue), there are others that really stand out:

-Metrotube - An amazing app that makes YouTube surfing a great experience.  The layout is super user friendly and its features outshine those of the standard YouTube app.

-Bloomberg - For those like me that get their daily high from checking current market prices, this app looks about 10x better than it does on Apple's OS and android.  It is extremely dynamic and animated and easy to navigate as well.  Live Tile allows for its main headlines to be projected on its icon skin on the main screen.

-Flixter - Also a great version that is better than its other OS counterparts is available for Windows 8.  Live Tile allows new releases (movies) to be displayed on the home icon on the main screen.  The layout is easy to use and fun to navigate through as well.

-WeatherFlow - Putting the standard weather channel app to shame, this is hands down the best app for weather that I have seen in the Windows 8 market thus far.  Accurate forecasts are provided for any location around the globe and can be set as the lock screen background which will also display a picture in accordance with the state that the current weather presents itself, e.g; cloudy - cloudy background, sunny - sunshine as wallpaper, etc...

-Cocktail Flow - A beautiful app for those aspiring mixologists.  This displays a large inventory of a variety of drinks that one can make at home, along with colorful pictures of ingredients, and pictures uploaded from users that have tried their hand at putting together some of these tasty concoctions.  This app will definitely put a damper on that 6 month AA chip you were aiming for; downloader beware.

-Baconit - If you enjoy the shenanigans at reddit, then this app is for you.  A great layout that if it was any more user friendly it would be your BFF.  Feeds upload very fast and smoothly, you can navigate through the maze of posts without needing a guide or a map.  This is pure entertainment.  One down-side is that it has no live tile functionality, but considering some of the NSFW content from reddit, it may make sense to not enable this tool.

-Fantasia Painter - This is like having your own mobile version of photoshop.  The learning curve is a bit tight, but once past it, it is a straight road leading to a post-air brushed better looking you.

-StarChart - Another beautiful app that will make anyone want to become a pseudo astronomer.  As you calibrate it, the star chart map appears and surrounds you in a virtual space that makes the user feel like a dim white dwarf in the middle of grandiosity.  A definite astronogasm.

That about sums up the brief selection of apps I wanted to outline here.  The one downside is that most of them are not free, although some have a free option available with ads.  

Overall, the Lumia 920 is a great phone and the Windows 8 Mobile platform is going to be a solid player in this market.  I could be wrong, but this type of technology is not one to pass up, their live-tile niche is a one leg up on the aesthetics game that tends to speak louder than specs for most users looking for the cosmetic table top appeal instead of what is under the hood.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Colors bring joy to life.  This is clearly experienced when one lives in a world of gray carpeted cubicle walls, gray carpeted floors, and bare white walls while hunched over a desk under some fluorescent lighting.  This lack of color, this environmental stagnation is the arbiter of depression, introversion, and the utter inability to motivate oneself past the bare minimum to meet expectations.

Once out of this dreadful scenario reminiscent of sensations experienced during the gray winters in Eastern Europe, and stepping outside into the world, its green fields, and people going about their hurried little nuclei of life, colorful cars, colorful buildings, blue skies, clouds of white, and I think to myself, what won-well, you get the point.  Your attitude immediately gets better.  The sun's rays of light refill your inner drive's gas tank.

The black and white of the world connotes the introductory example, and when colors are brought into the equation all of a sudden a sense of wanting to live and experience the joys existence has to offer explode in front of our very senses as the chains of that 9-5 train are torn asunder by the desire to explore strange new worlds...To seek out new life; new civilizations...To boldly go-...yes.

How does all of this relate to fashion; well it's simple.  The aforementioned is an example of how black and white typically means something standard, conventional, within the norm, in-the-box, and usually worn at funerals.  This is not to say that this combination does not have its place in our wardrobes.  It definitely does. After all, a well-fitted tuxedo with a nice black bow tie will look exquisite, a black suit is a basic piece of many in the professional world, a black sports coat over a nice white OCBD makes for a great casual ensemble, black shoes are the staple and foundation of many men's footwear.  I could go on with sundry examples, but I don't want to stray too far from the idea I'm trying to convey here.

Introduce some colors into your life's closet.  Sure, outdoor activities are great to lift one's spirits, but does that black suit and tie really blend in with that beautiful sunny blue sky and mirror-like crystal clear lake scenario?  I submit that it does not.  Therefore, in this age of endless options, it is time to spice up the pantry of your fashion sense with new colorful herbs and ingredients.  This isn't to say that clown uniforms are in vogue, but that there are many underrated colors that have hitherto not enjoyed the monopoly that others have in your life's wardrobe palette.

Colors will reinvigorate your own style, attract more compliments (if the pieces are well put together of course), and restore a new equilibrium to the axis in which your closet rotates.  There are several options available in almost all articles of clothing.  Let's however focus on three key ones and an extremely under appreciated one.

The roots of any outfit are the pants, literally, and figuratively speaking since they are what links us to our feet which are held to the earth by a naturally occurring force labeled as gravity by human science.  Ergo, this cornerstone article is an important one and can serve as the basis for the rest of your color combination.  A great casual pair of pants are Chinos which nowadays are available in myriad colorful selections.  These are produced in very bright and bold colors such as yellow, pink, light blue, orange, white, and also in strong colors like red, cobalt blue, burgundy  green, among others.  Most of these colors with the exception of white of course, will pair well with a white OCBD shirt.  This will set you apart from the rest of the gentlemen that are too shy to express their inner richness outwardly in what they wear by keeping it toned down and conservative with their gray, black, or denim.  Considering it is winter time, instead of Chinos, this style can be applied to corduroy pants.  One caveat to note is that the quieter colors should be reserved for cooler weather.

Shirts are another area where many don't seem to venture out of the norm.  However, there is hope as colorful shirts seem to be much more prevalent than colorful pants.  The colors may also not only be solid, but a patterned combination such as a tattersall, gingham, striped, or plaid shirt.  One definite style to avoid are shirts with graphics on them and any other outlandish features that make the inside of the collar and cuff look like a pattern reminiscent of a circus tent.  Instead, although certainly appreciated by Barnum & Bailey, keep your selection within the norm of patterns.  Also, ensure that the shirts themselves are not a color which glistens or reflects light like many found on the bodies of middle aged men hitting on college girls at bars and clubs.  Please, no platinum shirts.  A more toned down, but light version of a yellow (pale-yellow) or a mint green would be perfect choices to wear during the day.  Light blues are great as well in any pattern.  One of my favorite patterns is gingham.  There seems to be no color in gingham that does not work.

Sweaters are the other integral piece of cold weather fashion and layering them on right will be like the icing on that style cake.  They are available in a variety of styles and materials just like most pieces of clothing.  However, I prefer to limit the choices to v-necks, cardigans, and crew necks.  Patterns in my opinion are a no go here and solids are the best option.  Argyle sweaters just reek of country club shenanigans and Carlton Banks.  Fair Isle patterns do have their place, but one must err on the side of caution so as to not revive the previous statement made about Barnum & Bailey.  Certain Fair Isle sweaters look great and have just the right combination of color as well, others in the meantime look like the result of a unicorn throwing up a less colorful rainbow on a shirt that is then sown together by a seamstress with an advanced case of Parkinson's during and earthquake.  Also, beware of the colors of the shirt to be worn under the sweater.  Blue on blue may work depending on the shading, but don't over do it and end up looking like a radioactive Oreo cookie.

Lastly, the one underrated item which welcomes all types of fashion shenanigans when it comes to the freedom it enjoys when boasting sundry ridiculous patterns and colors, are socks.  They are downplayed too much by a majority of men.  However, it can make one stand out that much more (refer to my previous blog post here).  Typically, the socks are an extension of the pants (see here), but outside of the black with something resembling black argument, the socks can wander off into the tired and over used reference in this article; Barnum & Bailey.  In other words, those polka dotted, rainbow striped, Fair Isle patterned socks say to its observer: "I'm a professional, but when the time calls for it, deep down, I know how to rock."

One big thing to remember about the pants, the sweaters, and the shirts are that they all should be worn with confidence and pulled off well with a great fit.  No billowy shirts under a one-size too large yellow sweater unless you want to look like a certain sesame street character.  Also, for my MC Hammer fans out there, your pants should always have a straight or slimmer fit.  In conclusion, remember to bring some flavor and colors into your packet of lifesavers when it comes to clothing.  After all, can you imagine how much less Wrigley would profit from their famous candy if they were all just gray, black, and white?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sartorial Suspension

Albert Thurston's Advertisement
Suspenders (or Braces in your Majesty's Kingdom) reigned supreme for quite some time, they have been around for approximately 300 years.  However, its modern version did not come about until 1822 when Albert Thurston created it.  Back then in  the 19th and early 20th centuries the high cut of gentlemen's trousers made the use of belts rather impractical.  As World War I approached and men became accustomed to uniforms worn with belts, the popularity once enjoyed by suspenders would never see the light of day again.  A short revival occurred in the 1940s, but it quickly became clear that belts had won the battle of sartorial suspension.

WWI enthusiasts boasting authentic British Military Uniforms
I submit that from my online travels in the world of fashion, from flipping through many catalogs, and participating in online forums that suspenders are now in fact making a small come back to the forefront once more.  Nevertheless, it is doubtful that they will overtake the belt's popularity.  This is easily deduced from the fact that most pants do not come equipped with suspender buttons.  It is quite a shame since it does not offer the consumer the choice of going out belt-less either.  There is a work around that can turn anyone's pants into a 'dock' for suspenders.  Below are three necessary items in order to achieve the aforementioned:

1.  A pair of nice trousers/pants
2.  Suspender Buttons
3.  A tailor/alterations

Note:  One can avoid needing a tailor's hands to add buttons to their pants by using something along the lines of what they offer at Hank's Clothing.

Voila, this alone will enable one to have a nice suspender finally attached to their modern pair of pants.  Suspender buttons can be acquired at local shops that carry arts and crafts type of merchandise where seamstresses shop, and they may also be found online by doing a quick Google search.  Even though 'clip-on' suspenders exist that hook onto the pants, the preferred and most distinguished look would be to adhere to what has been the old and tried gentleman method.


The pros of suspenders are that they may create the appearance of being taller as they typically lengthen the legs and shorten the torso and make the torso seem a bit wider than normal from a purely aesthetic perspective.  Another thing would be that once worn, going back to a pair of pants with a belt may feel a bit constricting as your body all of a sudden became used to what seemed to be a more natural flow and less restrictive movement in the waist and overall in general.  One con is that wearing suspenders all day long may also cause one's shoulders to tire after sometime due to the consistent pressure applied, but since we are all manly men, this comment only concerns the wimps out there.  You can also choose to only wear suspenders for specific events, moments, and such to avoid the above.

The Modern look of a suspender is very eye-catching and it will definitely set one apart from the rest of the boring male crowd wearing the same old belt/pants/tucked in OCBD combination.  Suspenders are an essential part of a tuxedo in my opinion and can also be worn casually in many circumstances.  Just be careful not to end up looking like a young protege of Larry King, and instead try and strut around like a Gordon Gekko who isn't greedy for more money, but rather confident in his own appearance.