The Smart Watch: Luxury Gadget or Technological Revolution?

smartwatches1Since 2012, news of new smartwatches, connected watches, feed magazine articles and other blogs dedicated to new technologies. From Samsung’s Galaxy Gear to the awaited Apple iWatch through the Sony smartwatch, these smart watches arouse the curiosity of more than one and attract more tech savvy. This generalized craze urge to lift the veil on these technological jewels to discover the potential that they pose and the place they occupy in the rich universe of connected objects. Verdict. The Smartwatch: the watch that can do it all… or almost

Traditionally a simple watch only serves to show the time. Even the most elaborate of them offer only basic functions such as a stopwatch, a tachometer and a compass. However, the incredible smartphone breakthrough in recent years has allowed to rethink the concept of the watch by broadening the scope of what’s possible. With a Bluetooth or NFC connection to a smartphone, connected watches are full of functions transforming the simple watch in a real station to control one’s smartphone without holding it in hands.

Synchronized with the contacts of your smartphone, a smart watch allows you to view the log of calls, respond to different telephone calls and offers the possibility of making calls, with or without Bluetooth headset depending on the model. With a smartwatch on your wrist, you can check your e-mail, your box mails, your calendars or even more, to control your Media Player without having to pull the phone in your pocket. And as for any recent innovation, social networks have their share. All connected watches marketed so far allow you to receive notifications from your favorite social networks, on receiving a like for example, a tweet, post, comment or any other actions. Some models are equipped with cameras built to take photos or to make short videos. A feature that would certainly delight the fans of selfies. And even in offline mode, a smart watch does not disappoint. Some features are available without internet access such as reading mails and of course time, date display and digital alarm.

smartwatches2So what’s going to happen with the traditional watch industry? Pretty much all the watch types existing on the market at this moment are bound to see disruption. Whether jewelry watches, or accessory watches, or sports or tactical watches, there’s no place to hide from the assault of the smartwatch. I can actually see more disruption in the jewelry and dress watches market more than in the outdoor/tough watch area. To be honest I don’t see a good G-Shock watch easily replaced by a rather sensitive smartwatch, even though the latter can do all the functions of a G-Shock. I must confess I’m a G-Shock fan, with quite a few items in my possession. I am however a fan of smartphones and tech in general as well, and maybe I can see myself wearing a smartwatch in casual or work moments where I’d wear a G-Shock otherwise. Not so much in specialized settings like the outdoors, or when working on my car. So I guess we’ll see how things go.

Architourism in Spain

architourism

Let me introduce you to a new term: architourism. If you’re curious, here’s some good explanation on the term: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/architourism.

Whenever we speak of traveling to sightsee monuments, we usually mention ancient churches, Gothic cathedrals, walls, medieval remains, and other antique buildings. But during the last years, there is more evident, every time, the profusion of buildings constructed in the 20th century, which will make us say: wow!

Buildings that were designed, for example, by Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry or Renzo Piano, that’s to mention three particular cases of prestigious architects who have made of many Spanish cities an icon of the 20th century architecture. I do not want to leave my dearest friend Gaudí out, who has already left samples in Barcelona, and in other areas of Spain, from the very beginnings of the 20th century, of a style which is considered to be more modernist than notable.

Until this century most of the guided visits were made to monuments which belong to other times, such as Gothic cathedrals or buildings with a great historical value. Today the value of the 20th -century architecture has let us speak about modern architecture tourism.

As an interjection, make sure to be well equipped with a good backpack while touring around Spain. I had my 5.11 Rush from rangermade. If you’re looking for another type of backpack, like those stylish-looking ones, you can also find some good reviews on their best hiking daypack page.

This concept of tourism of the 20th-century architecture, which in some places as I have read is called as Architourism, is quite recent. Precisely, when the Conference on Architecture as a Tourist Destination in 2002 took place in the University of Columbia, it was already spoken about something known as the Bilbao Effect.

The Bilbao Effect was created by Frank Gehry with the design of his Guggenheim Museum. It was something curious to observe how many people were coming to Bilbao only to see this building, something unthinkable until a few years ago. The Guggenheim managed to turn itself Bilbao into a first-class tourist destination. How amazing

The Falles of Valencia

Falles at Valencia

Falles at Valencia

After the carnivals, the second most important festivals in Spain are the Falles (torches), a Valencian traditional festival that took place from March 15th to 19th and it is a festivity with a deep-rooted tradition in the city of Valencia and different towns of the Valencian Country. At present, this festivity has turned into a very important tourist attraction.

These are celebrated to praise St. Joseph, and that’s why in Valencia they are known traditionally as the Festes de Sant Josep, patron saint of the carpenters. This festivity is of great national interest, and was declared as a festival of international tourist interest.

Its origins are really simple, a simple burning of garbage obtained from the workshops. But the Valencian people’s creativity has been gathering all the typical features of their culture and history.

The “ninots” (Valencian term for puppets or dolls) are made by cork and they represent the main personages of the year with satirical tones. Then these figures are exhibited in the main squares and later they are burned. By burning them, people think that either the problems or the evil are eliminated; also in this festivity several aspects that define a culture fuse together: fire, music, gunpowder, streets, and the buñuelo (a typical meal that can be bought in street stands distributed all over the city known in English as fritter).

The best fallers that make these statuesque works are rewarded every year.

In addition to the burning of the falles, the gunpowder is also present, along with the mascletá and the despertá where great pyrotechnic spectacles took place.

Getting myself a laptop backpack

I usually do not use laptop bags. They reduce a lot of my freedom of movement (cannot use both hands if I wanted, for example), I feel like they’re a bad fit, etc. So I always wear a laptop backpack.
A year ago I got a backpack at my friend Patrick’s recommendation, who works at Walmart. It cost me about $30 and still survives, although it started to fall apart after some 6 months (a handle’s almost torn).
Tactical backpack
A month ago however, I was just at the point of dumping my raggy backpack when I was approached by Bill Croft from Rangermade.us and he gave me the opportunity to test a backpack from 5.11, a tactical backpack from all things. But you know what? I totally liked it.
Rangermade is about tactical military gear. They have a page with detailed reviews to determine the best tactical backpack at http://www.rangermade.us/the-best-tactical-backpack-in-2014/
I chose the RUSH 12, which seemed the best for what I wanted. A pocket where I can keep the laptop safely and also add more stuff besides it, if necessary. And it passed the test with flying colors, that I can tell.
In more detail -
The cool:

  • It has Kevlar material (as I said yesterday, it’s really cool in the everyday situations that you walk among bullets :P );
  • has a section in the back for your laptop, that opens separately (the previous backpack had the pocket in the main compartment which was a little out of hand);
  • looks very good (red on the inside it’s even more interesting);
  • has a lot of pockets (it is also a disadvantage, see below);
  • the inside space is large enough to fit running shoes and sports equipment or a sweatshirt and a jacket;
  • After two weeks I had no problems to throw my backpack with the laptop in it in the trunk of the car or on the floor at the airport. The backpack is solid, and it shows. In addition, I dragged it against a wall (unintentionally, of course:D) and it still resisted (did not tear, no nothing).

The not-so-cool:

  • too many pockets: should have seen my panic in the airport when I no longer found my passport because I had forgotten in which pocket I’d put it;
  • relatively large (not really, though) and squarish (it’s the inner structure that makes it so safe for a laptop and also makes it rigid);
  • heavy, for the same reasons. If you have an 8 pound laptop, add the 4 pounds of the backpack and you won’t not enjoy the weight all that much. My laptop is a 5-pounder, so it’s ok.
  • It’s kinda expensive. $150, that’s not little money for a backpack.
Yes, it looks very good. Yes, it’s solid. No, it’s not cheap. You’ll find cheaper at Walmart, but not as good, I’ll tell you this from experience.

Life: Recipe – Ravioli With Homemade Sauce & Bruschetta

ravioli

Sometimes when I can’t find a recipe that I want I just say oh well and make my own! I bought some lovely ravioli at Whole Foods the other day but I wanted to jazz it up with some sauce. I knew I wanted to incorporate the leeks, celery and asparagus that I had. And so a sauce was born!

  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 5 stalks of asparagus
  • 2 leeks (cleaned and trimmed)
  • 8 tbsp of butter
  • 4 tbsp of flour
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • S&P
Start out by chopping up all of the greens. But unlike in my photo try and keep the celery and asparagus separate since that is what you will cook first (it takes longer than leeks). Next heat half the butter in a large pan and begin cooking the celery and asparagus. Once that begins to soften up add the leeks and season.
Once you notice that all the veggies are cooked (after about 8 to 10 minutes) create a roux in a separate pan. Next add the heavy whipping cream and turn down the heat to medium low. Once the cream has warmed up begin adding the roux little by little until you create the thickness of a sauce. By this time your ravioli should be done too so you can serve!
This really is such an easy and quick meal – a keeper! I also made some bruschetta according to this fabulous recipe!
I didn’t have oven dried tomatoes but believe me it was still delicious!
This is a great meal to make on a night when you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen!

Life: Something New Thursday – An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty was one of my Christmas gifts. I started reading it on our flight back home to California. I continued reading it into the new year. Then halfway through life got in the way and it started to collect dust on my reading table. Finally this past weekend I picked it up again – determined to finally finish it. I’m so glad I did.

The reading of a good book should be similar to the experience of making a good friend – things start out slow and pick up pace as you get to know and love the person more. This was true of this novel. Initially I had a difficult time grasping and bonding with the characters but the deeper I got into the book the more I came to understand and appreciate them for their varied personalities. And by the end I wished I could continue to endlessly trace their lives.

I also appreciated the in depth description of the art world. Although I’ve always loved and appreciated art I had never known all the work that goes on behind the scenes at art galleries and museums. Also interesting to learn was the influence that collectors have on art trends and how they often determine value.

But most important was one recurring theme throughout the book – time defines quality and value of art. Towards the end of the book the narrator says this: “It was impossible to know if this new art was good, because mostly, good art had been defined by its endurance over time.” It took a good nights sleep and some early morning ruminations for me to fully grasp what Martin was trying to say by this; art imitates life. Just as with art, one’s life cannot be judged until a significant passing of time.

When we meet the characters in the book they are young, full of hope and promise and reckless. Weren’t we all when we were young? Whether we’re ready or not we’re forced to make life altering decisions constantly that will affect the future “me.” Yet we don’t know the future “me” and most often than not that person will be someone quite different from the now “me.” Still there is no way to know whether that decision was right or wrong, no way to judge. Only time will tell. And ultimately it does. We go through life and the years march on, we make mistakes, we gain and lose, some of us get bitter and others still never lose that hope.

Ultimately it’s those choices we make, the consequences of those choices and how we react to the consequences that build our character over time. Like brushstrokes on a canvas every decision, big or small, paints our self portrait. Let’s vow to make our self portrait shine and glow with happiness, kindness, gratitude and wisdom!

I’m grateful to Steve Martin for taking me on this breathtaking journey through the art world and the lives of these fascinating characters. But most of all I’m grateful to him for making me see life a little differently. Only the best books do that.

I’m coming home baby

I’m so excited to finally share a secret we’ve been keeping for some time… we’re moving back home!! And we’re over the moon about it! We can’t wait to go back to our favorite city, four distinct seasons, our families, snow on Christmas and all the wonderful things that come with living on the East Coast.

I’ve lived in many places over the course of my life (3 continents, 3 countries, 7 cities) and I know the signs of when a place is right for you and when it isn’t. Just like when I met Kevin and instantly knew he was the only one for me I usually get that feeling with places I move to. And just like with Kevin falling in love with DC was easy, effortless. I knew, almost at once, that this was the city for me. And although we’ve had fun here in California this past year it just never quite fit.

We have some exciting dreams for this new chapter in our life and we can’t wait to see where this journey takes us. As Oprah said on her last episode “Your life is speaking to you. What is it saying?” This idea was born from some whispers we started hearing a couple months ago, then those whispers got louder and louder, until we knew, for sure, that this was the right thing for us. It’s not going to be easy, not everyone will understand but sometimes… you just have to go with your gut.

I’ll be doing nothing but packing boxes for the next week so feel free to email me!

And in the immortal words of the great B.I.G. “California: A nice place to visit.”