24 4 / 2014
Simplism Retina Macbook Pro Leather Sleeve
I previously wrote about cool, yet affordabe Macbook Pro accessories from CD-R King, but for the times when you need to carry your Macbook in style, consider Simplism. It’s a Japanese manufacturer of gadget accessories and one of their products is this leather sleeve for the Retina Macbook Pro.
It’s classy, elegant and understated, and it also comes in different colors. I like how it can also be used as a good-looking all-purpose document holder.
I actually got this leather sleeve from local Apple retailer Beyond the Box when I first bought my Macbook. They had a promo last Chinese New Year wherein customers who buy from them get a prize and I won a gift certificate which I used to purchase this.
Some more pics:
This particular sleeve costs Php 1495 at Beyond the Box.
22 4 / 2014
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Spoiler Free) Mini-Review
This movie reaped so much praise from critics and audiences alike to a level that could not avoid my attention. This is the first feature that I’ve watched from director Wes Anderson, but I was already aware of his movies’ highly distinctive style and vibe. At first I was unsure if this type of movie would appeal to me, but after watching it, now I understand what the hype was all about.
The most appealing thing about this movie is this monster cast. Here's a larger version of the picture if it's too small to see. The cast of highly likeable actors took on this ensemble of wonderful characters and pretty much made the movie for me. As the movie unfolded, I was anticipating which star would cameo next in the film.
The responsibility of leading this film rests on the capable shoulders of Ralph Fiennes. As the charming hotel manager who possesses a wonderful way with words, he steals every scene he is in with his charm and wit. The already wonderful script id made even more impactful with his amazing delivery. As his character, Gustav would always say, ‘Very good!’ I’d go even as far as to say we may have our first contender for this year’s awards for Best Comedic Actor.
Aside from the screenplay and cast, there are numerous other aspects where this film excels, specifically in the technicals. The gorgeous sets, costumes and makeup should very well make this film a contender in the technical categories come awards season. You won’t find a hair out of place, or a fraying thread anywhere. Visually, everything is immaculate.
My favorite, though, is the cinematography. The decision to shoot every frame as mostly symmetrical served as the best metaphor for this movie’s raison d’etre: it is a rose-tinted nostalgia piece meant to show that pre-WW Europe was an immaculate place that valued the arts, culture and humanities. The different aspect ratios used in the movie to signify different eras in history further proves this point. Europe’s golden age, in the standard 4:3 ratio, was shown as intimate, warm and welcoming, as opposed to scenes in a modern setting at 16:9 and wider, as looking more barren and empty. Wes Anderson’s attention to detail certainly leave a good impression.
What comes in this section are just some general nitpicks, as I didn’t really find anything bad to dislike in this film at all.
As with true ensemble films, characterization suffers when the attention is divided evenly among the support cast. Characters quickly become caricatures that serve as props or plot devices, and this was the case here. Even though everyone in the cast looked like they were having the time of their lives, no one character truly shined and that is a shame with the amount of talent involved.
Aside from that, viewers may not really connect with Wes Anderson’s unique and meticulously curated filmmaking style. I would describe this film as a whimsical and fantastical murder mystery, with characters acting cartoonish in some scenes but the dark subject matter is still taken seriously.
It’s really hard not to like this movie. It’s weird, it’s fancy, it’s unique — it’s completely a breath of fresh air. There’s no other movie like it and it really is hard to describe without you seeing it for yourself. Scene after scene of wonderful visuals and glorious actors come out fast like a multi-course meal and you barely have enough time to catch a breath, but when it’s all over, you’d realize this movie didn’t even breach the 2 hour mark. This is a master class in pacing and directing. Wes Anderson has proven to me that he deserves all the hype and praise for this glorious film.
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17 4 / 2014
What I’m Doing During the Long Weekend
I’m a late bloomer. Ever since I’ve had my Macbook Pro, I’ve been trying to use it for gaming. Fortunately, DOTA 2 is free to play from Steam so it’s what I’ve been using to test this Macbook’s gaming prowess. The experience has been good — I’ve yet to experience any major issues — but DOTA 2 doesn’t really have high requirements anyway.
I used to be a frequent DOTA player back in high school almost 8 years ago, and I was happy to see that not a lot has changed, but everything was improved upon. What used to be an addicting game has now even become more addictive.
My main hero before was an archer named Drow Ranger, so naturally she was also my first pick in DOTA 2. I’ve been semi-successful so far, if you ask me.
Also, I just realized how clever the DOTA 2 logo is. Two camps on opposite sides separated diagonally by the river. Witty.
Please add me on Steam if you want to play with me: mariow08
15 4 / 2014
Consider Basic T-Shirts
When it comes to comfort, nothing really beats a t-shirt and jeans worn casually, but lately, I’ve been gravitating towards basic tees. There’s something about keeping things simple and minimalist that is appealing to me. They’re the most reliable base when you’re building an outfit, and on their own you’re also sure they’ll look good. Simple, safe and reliable, but never boring - basics are cool.
Both of these tees come from Hong Kong brand Giordano. Personally, their basic tees have the best fit and best quality to price ratio, so I’ve already bought several from them in different colors.
08 4 / 2014
The School of Satchel Weekend Bag/Holdall Review
As someone who is hauling so much stuff to work everyday, I needed a bag that was roomier than the one I was using (a Herschel Little America Backpack) and would fit everything I could throw in it. I wanted to move away from using backpacks since they still have that youthful image that, to me, looks more and more awkward in the corporate world the older you get. This meant that the only options I had left would be a holdall or a huge tote bag, and in the end, I decided to go with the former. The School of Satchel is a local brand that is gaining popularity due to their trendy satchel offerings. However, they do offer non-satchel bags and my eye was drawn to this particular item.
Since it was on sale (a steal at Php 2499 down from 5500), I decided to buy one. It seemed so risky to me at the time as this was the first time I’ll be buying something without physically inspecting the item first since they didn’t have a physical shop, only online, and since they also needed me to verify my identity by asking for scans of my IDs and credit card.
The package arrived at my address exactly three days after my purchase through courier XEND. I really like how it came in a reusable knapsack bearing the S.O.S logo.
Here’s the product description:
Unisex. 18 x 8 x 11in (LxWxH) Made of weather proof material and top grain leather suitable for work, travel to the gym. Interior is lined with suede and has pockets for your essentials. Also features an outside compartment to store your camera or sunnies!
I’ve been using this bag for a couple of weeks now and here are some observations. The bag is really good-looking and is made from a navy canvas and top-grain leather that go well together. The bag feels like it has two layers to it and gives me the impression that it is padded, although not heavily so. A detachable shoulder strap is also included in case you want to sling it over your shoulder.
The bag is roomy and has a lot of inside compartments and zips. I’m able to fit my gym shoes and clothes in, as well as overshoes and an umbrella in case of any weather emergencies. Aside from that, I’m able to fit in my water bottle and lunch box with room to spare. It would serve well as travel luggage for a short trip of a few days.
The bottom is made of leather and has 5 metal legs attached to keep it elevated when it is placed down.
I am surprised to see, though, that despite the product description, the interior is in fact not lined with suede, but with a material that feels like cotton instead. Although the lining is not exactly bad, it does feel like false advertising.
Another observation is that the bag’s frame wiring/piping could use a bit of a strengthening. As it is now, it is not enough to hold the bag’s shape if its not filled in, and even if it is indeed full, it still cannot maintain the bag’s shape.
The last area of improvement would be in the fastening — it could use some higher quality zippers. Just basing on the picture below of the side compartment, you could see that it doesn’t inspire much confidence with regards to lasting years and years.
To get a better idea of the size of this thing, here are some fit pics of me with the bag.
Would I recommend this bag? Definitely. With the sale price, it is a steal, but the original price is a bit on the expensive side and I am not sure if it would be worth it — a Filson this is not, but that is to be expected. From my experience with it, it is a good bag, both aesthetically and functionally, but it remains to be seen how well it holds up after a few months.
03 4 / 2014
31 3 / 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Spoiler Free) Movie Review
Marvel Studios starts their 2014 movie calendar with a bang thanks to the Q1 release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Arguably, the first movie, Captain America: The First Avenger was one of the weakest ones of the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so there is no way to go but up. Surprisingly, CA:TWS not only surpasses the quality of the first but it firmly establishes itself as the best one of the MCU Phase 2 so far. Compared to the polarising Iron Man 3 and the inconsequential fluff that was Thor: The Dark World, CA:TWS is a breath of fresh air. The Marvel Studios movies have been growing increasingly similar in vibe, tone and direction and while CA:TWS is not exactly cut from a different cloth, it still manages to be different.
CA:TWS’s screenplay is adapted from the story The Winter Soldier from the comic series Captain America, vol 5, which ran from 2005-2009 and is also, in my opinion, a modern comic masterpiece. The movie’s script was already at an advantage. Although it’s not an exact adaptation, the essential elements have been adapted successfully. The air of mystery and intrigue running throughout the whole movie was really well-done.
Basically, the plot is about how SHIELD has been infiltrated by a terrorist organisation named HYDRA, who are hell-bent on taking over the world to establish a New World Order where they are in charge. They’ve planted agents within SHIELD in all levels and I like how the movie played with the theme of deceit and distrust as the paranoia surrounding Captain America with regards to who he could trust felt really organic. I can’t really explain further without spoiling much, but I’ll just say that this movie is the one that really moves the narrative of the MCU forward. It’s not just a story that concerns Captain America, unlike Thor 2 or Iron Man 3, but it is one that tells a story about the whole shared movie universe. This one should definitely not be missed.
Another success is the really sharp characterization and dialogue. As a man out of time and still adjusting to his new surroundings, Captain America sounds like an earnest and optimistic man from the 40s shifting to modern-day cynicism. Black Widow’s starring role in this movie is also a good thing as both she and Captain America have so much good chemistry. I hope they keep working together in all the future movies as their relationship is so fun to watch and develop.
The introduction of the movie’s villain, the Winter Soldier, could have used some improvements, though. His back story and origin is a bit campy. Although they’ve faithfully adapted the character from the comics, I was unsure if it would translate well into the movies and my fears were proven right. His character and his motivation was one of the weakest points of the movie’s script.
Another difference from the previous MCU movies is how the directors stepped back from all the CGI spectacle and focused on creating wonderful set pieces and high-adrenaline action. This makes sense since unlike Iron Man’s high tech world or Thor’s otherworldly fantasy dimensions, Captain America’s world is firmly grounded in realism. The movie is full of exciting car chases, well-choreographed fight sequences and lots of explosions – an action movie fan’s dream. As usual for MCU movies, Disney pulled out all the stops as every scene is full of high quality production and fancy-looking visual effects.
The one gripe I have about the film is a holdover from the last movie. Although it has improved quite a bit, Captain America’s costumes still leave a lot to be desired. The plasticky sheen is still present in the modern day costume even though they’ve recolored it in a darker shade than the one used in the Avengers.
Marvel Studios continues their hot streak of securing the best casts in the superhero genre. Captain America, Black Widow, Nick Fury, Maria Hill and the Falcon’s actors are all perfect fits. They look and feel like their respective characters from the comics. An observation I have, though, is that Scarlett Johansson plays Black Widow so much lighter than the source character. Although it’s not necessarily bad, the difference is still noticeable. Black Widow from the comics is a dark and brooding master spy and assassin, but here she is like a mini Spider-Man, serving as the main source of comic relief.
Still, as I’ve already mentioned, the cast’s chemistry is excellent. The standout for me is Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce. As one of the greatest living actors today, he gave justice to his role and his screen presence is undeniable. Marvel was extremely lucky in securing his casting as he raised the profile of this cast immensely.
Apart from the campy villain, CA:TWS doesn’t really feel like a superhero movie, and this is a good thing. Ever since the superhero genre has become massively popular, there have been so many cliches and tropes that already feel stale in the genre and this movie is a breath of fresh air in that regard. This movie was marketed as a political thriller first with superhero elements and they have succeeded.
You know a superhero movie has succeeded if it makes you excited for its eventual sequel/s. If you’re a fan of Marvel Studios movies, or even superhero movies in general, this one should definitely not be missed.
27 3 / 2014
Uniqlo Haul - MA-1 Jacket (Military Blouson)
Bomber jackets are the huge trend of 2013 and is pretty much carrying over to 2014 as well, so it makes sense that Uniqlo has already offered their take on the MA-1 military jacket silhouette. This is a bit of a late post since they’ve been selling this since last year and is already out of stock now in their stores.
It’s a nice jacket with a lot of pockets and the material is water-resistant, plus it has two layers to provide extra warmth. It’s not really for outdoor use during this spring/summer season since you’ll easily cook to death in this temperature.
Predictably, I got the navy one to add to my ever growing navy wardrobe.
*Uniqlo Haul is a series where I post all the new stuff I buy from the wonderful sacred ground I call Uniqlo.
25 3 / 2014
Club Nintendo 3DS Free Pokemon X/Y Promo
If you have yet to get a Nintendo 3DS and are a big fan of Pokemon and other Nintendo games such as Super Mario and Donkey Kong, now is the perfect time to consider getting one. Club Nintendo is running a really awesome promo to get either Pokemon X/Y digitally for free. Basically, all you need is to purchase and register a US 3DS machine (either the 2DS, the original 3DS or the 3DS XL) plus either one of these games (US versions only) to Club Nintendo:
- Animal Crossing: New Leaf
- Super Mario 3D Land
- Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins
- Yoshi’s New Island
- Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D
- Mario Kart 7
Once all of them have been registered, you’ll get a download code for your choice of either Pokemon X or Y for redemption on the 3DS eShop. The promo runs until March 31, 2014 only, so you better act on it soon. Check out the instructions for this promo here.
As for me, even though I bought my system last year, I didn’t register it yet on Club Nintendo as I was waiting for a promo like this to happen. I already own Pokemon X physically, though, so getting the digital version should allow me to make a few bucks by selling it. As for the game I chose from this promo (all of the choices are good, IMO), it is Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D!
Another game joins my backlog. :/
20 3 / 2014
18 3 / 2014
CD-R King Accessories for the Retina Macbook Pro 2013
So you already spent a mini-fortune on your brand spanking new Macbook, and you’re looking at the accessories you need to keep it nice and pristine? Fortunately, local Filipino brand CDR-King is here to provide some low cost but still effective accessories for your brand new laptop.
First, you gotta keep your oily fingers from your keyboard keys to keep them from fading. The best way is to use a keyboard protector, and CDR-King has them for only Php 50. Yes you read that right. 50 pesos for a nice fitting keyboard protector specifically made for a Macbook. (Product Code: TM-1127)
It comes in a multitude of colors but I picked the yellow one. It is a perfect fit! Although, the keyboard looks to have been designed for an earlier Macbook model as some of the function keys have outdated icons and the power key is still the CD-ROM eject key. In any case, the thing still works and is a steal for that very low price.
The next essential is the laptop sleeve. The Macbook Pro is made out of shiny aluminum and like all metals, I imagine that they scratch easily, that’s why you have to keep them protected at all times, especially when storing them. This one is a simple and very utilitarian sleeve that is cheap and useful. At Php 180, it keeps the Macbook Pro safe and secure. Since it is meant for laptops up to 13.3 inches, the 13 inch Macbook Pro isn’t going to be a snug fit, especially due to the thickness. Thankfully the zippers are strong so you don’t need to worry about anything falling out. (Product Code: DS-SC-21)
13 3 / 2014
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11 3 / 2014
The Most Versatile Color for Your Wardrobe (Part One)
If you take one look at my wardrobe, you’ll notice that the majority of the colours are various shades of blue, grey and white with most of the items falling under indigo and most usually navy. This is because I am a huge fan of navy clothing. Navy is a colour that is pretty much guaranteed to go with almost all skin tones and complexions, and it also goes together with almost all colours in your wardrobe. This versatility is the reason why I loaded up on a lot of navy clothing over the past few years. Here are some of those items. I haven’t even catalogued all of them yet.
This is one of my most favorite pieces in my wardrobe. A navy blazer is one of the most frequent items you can find in those ‘essentials’ list and for good reason. If you ever need to dress up for a more formal (but still casual) vibe, just put on your navy blazer and instantly upgrade your look.
Shawl collar cardigans are pretty cool, and could also serve the same purpose as a blazer, but it ranks lower overall in formality.
Denim jackets are also some of my favorite items. They go with everything, although doing double denim (denim top and bottom) is always a risky move. This is more indigo than navy, though.
Aside from outerwear, I also have navy shirts and t-shirts such as this gingham check button down shirt.
Navy basics are also a staple in any wardrobe. The blue piping in the collar, sleeves and hemline of this long sleeved t-shirt keeps it from getting too boring.
This particular varsity jacket is actually custom-made for a dance performance that I participated in, but I’ve since adopted it as part of my wardrobe since it does look very classic (aside from those huge-ass letters).
I have much more navy clothing so I’ll probably be posting a part two somewhere down the line.
06 3 / 2014
Retina Macbook Pro Late 2013 Review
I’ve been using the 13 inch Retina Macbook Pro (Late 2013) for weeks now and it has been ample time to cobble up a short review. I’ve previously posted an unboxing of this device with some initial impressions and I still maintain a positive reception for this laptop (exceedingly so, I might add). This is my first laptop from Apple and also my first time using Mac OS X. I’ve been a lifelong Windows desktop user and the transition hasn’t been exactly the smoothest. I’ll explain some more about what I like and what I don’t like in this post.
As for the specs (and what they mean for the end user experience):
- 13-inch 2560×1600 screen (that Retina screen resolution is so good — this is the first time I don’t see any pixels on my laptop!)
- Intel Core i5 Haswell 2.4GHz dual-core processor (super fast processor that can handle everything I can throw at it, epic battery life that lasts 9+ hours on a single charge)
- Intel Iris 5100 GPU (the best possible integrated GPU means I can play high end games with mid-high settings)
- 8GB DDR3 RAM (I can switch between many applications and browsers with many open tabs without any hint of lag)
- 256GB SSD (Ditto — my boot time is around 10 seconds, and waking it up from sleep takes 1 second)
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports (Super fast transfer speeds)
- Thunderbolt (I haven’t seen the value of this port yet)
- 1080p Facetime camera (Really clear webcam chats even in low light)
- WiFi 802.11 a/c (Faster wifi)
- Bluetooth 4.0 (Faster Bluetooth)
- Mac OS X Mavericks (Free OS updates)
- Everything about this laptop screams quality. From the build quality, to the performance, to the screen, to the keyboard, to the trackpad — it’s really hard to find any faults.
- The main highlight of this laptop is the wonderful screen. It’s even in the name. The really high resolution packed into the 13 inch display is so dense that seeing individual pixels is almost impossible at normal viewing angles. The brightness is wonderful and I have no trouble seeing it in direct sunlight.
- I really like how thin and light this laptop is. With a thickness of less than 1 inch (0.7 to be exact) and weighing less than 2 KG (1.5 to be exact), you’ll hardly feel it if you decide to travel with it. Sore backs and shoulders should now be a thing of the past.
- Performance is excellent. I’ve never encountered any slowdown or lag at all. Rebooting takes almost 10 seconds and it even wakes up from sleep, just the way it was, before I even finish opening the lid! Hell, Adobe Photoshop CS6 opens completely in three seconds! That’s how fast this laptop is.
- The keyboard and trackpad are so good, especially the trackpad. I’ve been using the mouse for so very long that the innovation and progress the trackpad has experienced completely flew by me, but this trackpad is amazing. The gestures always work and the user experience is so nice.
- The battery life on this is insane. Of course, coming from laptops that barely reach the three hour mark, I’m easily impressed. Still, I estimate that with my regular usage (80% brightness, wifi, Chrome browser with many tabs open, iTunes music, some Photoshop and the occasional game from Steam), I get around 7+ hours of battery life. If I strip it down to the bare minimum like light browsing, it shoots up to 10+ hours. Either way, I reach for the charger only every other day or so.
- Mac OS X is a polished OS and is a very capable replacement for Windows. I’ve never felt like I needed to switch back to Windows at all! The free bundled iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand) and iWork (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) software is a deal-sweetener too.
- The laptop never gets extremely hot, nor do the fans get extremely noisy. Not when rendering 1080p video in Adobe Premiere, not even while playing Dota 2 on Steam on high settings. I’ve yet to encounter any unsettling heat or noise from this device. Of course, I’m not an extreme power user so I dont really cover that many use cases.
- Everything is just so pretty. From the aluminum that feels so nice to the touch, to the impressively sturdy hinge, to the clean and precise lines, everything looks and feels so fancy.
- As always with Apple products, you feel safe purchasing them due to the good reputation of their after sales service. Every Macbook gets a one year warranty period that is honoured internationally.
- The most annoying thing about this is the flimsy white Magsafe 2 power adaptor. While the magnet attaches to the laptop firmly, the white thin wire seems so fragile in contrast. This wire feels the same as the white lightning connectors that are bundled with Apple’s iPhones and iPods, and I’ve seen to many of those things with bent and broken ends. Not to mention the white color gets some discoloration after months of use. I’m not a fan.
- One of the biggest things holding me back from purchasing this was its lack of upgradeability. DIY upgrades for RAM, battery or SSD storage voids the warranty and aren’t officially supported by service centers. This is the reason why the model I bought was the better version of the base model – I figured that this configuration should last me a long time.
- Mac OS X and Windows 8 are very different systems and there is some learning curve involved. There are some things that OS X does better, and there are some things that Windows does better, but overall I don’t feel that there is any major deal-breaker in between the two OSes (aside from application and game availability). The learning curve is probably different for each use though, so some people may quickly pick up on it, but others may struggle.
- Some of the peculiarities Windows switchers may encounter are mostly in the keyboard. The Windows key is gone, naturally, but so are the home and end buttons as well as page up and page down. The purpose of the ctrl, alt and fn buttons have also been made more confusing by the introduction of the Mac-only option and command buttons.
- While the high resolution screen is a huge plus, it only ever looks good if the content or graphics are optimized for it. Otherwise, everything looks fuzzy or blurred. This will definitely spoil you – once you go retina, you can’t go back.
- While the two USB 3.0 ports do seem conservative, the biggest omission for me is the lack of an Ethernet plug. Connecting to the internet is Wi-Fi only. This is a shame since Ethernet technology is still very relevant up to today.
- Finally, the most glaring negative about this device is the very expensive price. Although, the phrase ‘You get what you pay for’ is very applicable.
Would I recommend this laptop to others? Definitely. The biggest concern is the sky-high price though. Either way, Apple has many customers and fans so most people should already know that with the high price comes high quality. Although DIY PC evangelists would scoff at such a high price for a relatively middling machine, the retina Macbook Pro achieves the perfect balance of portability, performance, features and aesthetics.
04 3 / 2014
Beyond the Box - #BeyondTheBag Contest Submission
Local Apple store Beyond the Box recently held a competition titled Beyond the Bag. Applicants were encouraged to send in a design for a paper bag with the following theme, “We provide amazing gadgets, you create amazing things.” Even though I’m not a designer by trade, I thought it would be a fun project to try, and so I went and created a really meta depiction of the theme.
In the first panel, we see a man walking into a Beyond the Box store in the second panel. In the next panel, the BTB store has provided him with amazing gadgets, and what he does in the next panel is creating amazing things. I thought it was cute and very literal interpretation of the theme. Here is a mockup of how it would have looked like.
Unfortunately, my entry didn’t get picked. Here are the winners as shown on their Instagram account.
All the winning designs look very nice and are very well-made, but I do have one observation though. The first and third place entries are illustrations of amazing things within the box, not beyond.