Another 10 Golden Rules for the Modern Man

10. Be conscious about coffee breath.

9. Smell good, but mildly so.
8. Do at least once a week: go to church, exercise, drive a manual tranny car.
7. Be loyal to quality, not brand.
Be loyal to quality, not brand.

Be loyal to quality, not brand.

6. Shed old clothes like a snake sheds old skin; be a Samaritan and donate what you don’t need.
5. Diversify: own several brands of shirts, jeans, shoes, watches, cars.
4. Unsure of what car to buy? Get anything better than your country’s taxi and you’re all set.
3. Embrace patina: leather wrinkles, watches scratch, tarnishes on your car’s paint job will buff out.
2. Make your boss look good, more so if it is yourself.
1. Do not scrimp on underwear.

New Year’s Resolutions 2013

It’s that time of the year again, and without further rambling, here are mine:
1. 1080p AVCHD video – my aging Sony NEX-3 only captures only 720p mp4 and I’m beginning to see that the output is anything but satisfactory. It’s about time I made clearer home videos. Of course this requires professional editing software like Final Cut Pro and a new camera which can be anything from a Nikon D600, a Sony NEX-5R or a Sony RX100. Whatever I choose, I will most likely report in this blog.
The Sony NEX-5R is capable of 1080p AVCHD video.

The Sony NEX-5R is capable of 1080p AVCHD video.

2. Retina Display – I’m still using the 1st generation iPad. It’s now as slow as molasses and ready to die (although its battery life is surprisingly like new!). Maybe this year is the time for a new tablet. The iPad Mini is half-hearted. The New iPad is what I want.

3. 1080p movies – up until very recently, I download movies in 720p to save hard drive space. I thought that the difference of 720p and 1080p was negligible especially with the smallish 40-inch plasma screen in my bedroom. I was clearly mistaken. For 2013, it’s 1080p movies all the way…
4. Apple Lossless encoding – again, in an effort to save space, I traditionally ripped my CDs to 256kbps AAC. That meant maltreating my ears. This year, I’d rather have less high-res music on my iPhone than have more music with crappy quality.
5. A 36,000 vph watch – yes, watches have resolution too! Theoretically, movements that beat faster are more accurate. Most mechanical watches beat at 28,800vph (vibrations per hour). God willing, I may be able to cough up funds to own a 36,000vph Zenith El Primero, or Grand Seiko Hi-Beat.
Zenith Original 1969 38mm with an El Primero movement beating at 10Hz or 36,000 vibrations per hour (vph)

Zenith Original 1969 38mm with an El Primero movement beating at 10Hz or 36,000vph

6. Explore 96khz, 24 bit audio – I may be going well ahead of myself on this one. I will certainly not adopt this better-than-CD audio bit rate this year as it seems to be still at its infancy, but I will definitely start researching on it. Today, the music format exists and there’s a gizmo designed to decode and play them, but I’ll let this one bake in the oven a little longer. Maybe next year it’ll be piping hot and ready to be consumed…
Well there you have it, a true geek’s set of New Year’s “Resolutions”. I hope you get the pun by now, else I cannot consider you a true nerd. Postscript: if you were hoping to read about 4k video, that’s reserved for resolutions a few years down the road!
Happy New Year Geeks!  

A G-Shock for Every Man

Every guy should own a Casio G-Shock, that cheap, digital and plastic (generally speaking), sometimes colorful and always tough as nails line of watches. It’s like a two piece suit, a television, sneakers, or a pair of blue jeans: every man should have at least one (not to mention survive with only one). It has an all important place in a man’s wardrobe (or watch collection): for those weekends slacking-out or when you want to rough it up–two things us guys can’t get enough of.

If you don’t have a G-Shock, shame on you! But you’re reading this so you’re a step in the right direction. There are hundreds of G-Shock models out there, and Casio churns out about a dozen new models every month. So if you’re going to own one, which would it be? Allow me to suggest: the GW-5000-1JF. Currently, it’s the one and only G-Shock I own, and the only G-Shock I’ll ever need.

Casio G-Shock GW-5000

Casio G-Shock GW-5000

DLC coated screw in case back etched with "MADE IN JAPAN"

Deep gloss: DLC coated screw in case back etched with “MADE IN JAPAN”

Why this one? Here are the reasons:

1. A spartan, no-frills model with a utilitarian tool watch aura, based on the form and construction of the first G-Shock ever released in the market: the DW-5000C, launched April 1983. No other G-Shock taps as deeply into its history and heritage.

2. Correctly proportioned, in contrast to most other G-Shocks with gargantuan heads. Guaranteed to please even the most conservative.

3. It’s one of the few remaining models that’s Made in Japan. Quality abounds.

4. It has a resin strap that’s softer and of higher quality than “regular” G-Shocks (translation: more comfortable on the wrist).

5. This G-Shock is made of metal (with a steel case and a DLC coated screw in case back) giving it even more toughness and reassuring heft.

6. Rare. While not a numbered model, it’s produced in very limited quantities. For the longest time, its supply cannot meet demand. A plus for watch snobs.

7. It is more likely to survive a Zombie apocalypse more than you can. It is also the perfect wristwatch for Doomsday Preppers.

Another wrist shot.

Quick wrist check taken with an iPhone 4s. Notice the perfect size, even for a small 6.5″ wrist like mine.

Don’t trust me? You’d better. Do a web search and you’ll discover G-Shock loving Netizens raving over this grail model.

Convinced? Don’t hit the mall yet as this watch is quite elusive. Your best bet is to get it online. And while you’re waiting for the FedEx guy to drop your new GW-5000, feel free to enjoy more photos below. By the way, G-Shock is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary.

The watch is packaged with an outer cardboard box.

The watch is packaged with an outer cardboard box.

Tourist warranty card. I bought mine at Yodobashi Camera, Osaka Japan.

Tourist warranty card. I bought mine at Yodobashi Camera, Osaka Japan.

Rolled up manual and filled up warranty card.

Rolled up manual and filled up warranty card.

The pleather watch box with pleather inner lining and pleather pillow attempts to convey the watch is special. Something different compared to the tin can and foam of lesser G-Shocks. Notice the tatami mat of the Ryokan I was staying in--the watch in the country where it was born.

The pleather watch box with pleather inner lining and pleather pillow attempts to convey the watch is special. Something different compared to the tin can and foam of lesser G-Shocks. Notice the tatami mat in the background? The watch in its home country.

Photo while synching with the radio time signal. Signal level was quite strong (L3) at Universal Studios Osaka.

This is a Multiband 6 model. Photo taken while synching with the radio time signal. Signal level was very strong (L3) at Universal Studios Osaka.

Another wrist shot, on world time mode while I was on vacation in the East Coast

Another wrist shot, on world time mode while I was on vacation in the East Coast

Happy holidays!

The Php500 Performance Mod for Your Car


Yup, you read right, and yes, you’re looking at the correct photo of it. So how will a can of emergency puncture repair improve your car’s performance? Well, what I’m recommending here is to stash one of these in your car and get rid of your spare tire.

The spare tire, jack and related tools weighs at least 30 pounds combined, which is practically useless weight that your car carries around for each and every mile you drive it. Getting rid of the extra weight improves your car’s power-to-weight ratio (how much weight is carried per horsepower). This simple and cheap modification will help improve your car’s responsiveness, efficiency and acceleration. And it’s most noticeable with compact cars.

And you get a couple of bonuses with this “mod”: 1) improved fuel efficiency as your car’s engine has less weight to pull around and 2) convenience when you get a flat because you don’t have to change a flat tire, just pump the content of this can to the punctured tire and drive home!

Sony 30mm f/3.5 E-mount Macro Lens Initial Impressions

Because of my recent full blown addiction to watches, I decided to invest in a macro lens to better take close up photos of them. The Sony NEX-3 is the only digital camera I own right now and I figure I’d stick to it (or at least the NEX system) for a while so getting another lens is ok. Besides, at US$299, the Sony SEL30M35 30mm f/3.5 is prolly the cheapest macro lens in the market today.

This is an “initial impressions” review since I’ve only had the lens for less than two months. First, a size comparison to the kit lens:

The kit lens is on the left and the Sony SEL30M35 macro lens is on the right. As you can see the macro lens is just a few mm shorter, so no real advantages with regard to portability.

Disclaimer before I go into how the SEL30M35 performs: this is the first time in my life that I’ve worked with a macro lens. Prior to getting the macro I’ve only worked with standard zooms and 50mm primes, and I must say that handling a macro is an entirely new ballgame.

I’ve observed that as I get closer to the subject, the depth of field gets a lot shallower. If I want more of the subject to be in focus, I’d have to stop down, and that’ll lead to slower shutter speeds and or higher ISO. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the Sony 30mm macro does not have image stabilization. All this factored in, it would really be a challenge to shoot macro handheld using only indoor lighting. Shooting small things like watch dials and getting enough of it in focus would mean using f/5.6 at the very least. That would mean going outdoors (in the shade at the very least) so that with the stronger light you can work with small apertures and decent shutter speed and ISO (i.e. 1/60 and 400 respectively).

And yes, to the pros out there reading this, I know what you’re thinking: that I’m so ghetto and that I should get myself a lightbox and a real macro lens. Well, maybe I am ghetto, but this Sony macro lens serves its purpose.

AF speed in macro shooting is slow, especially when the available light dims down. I often found the lens hunting…and missing. The shutter blades are noisy too when focusing, adding insult to injury. Here’s a few macro image samples taken with the lens:

Note: This ice cream cup is smaller than a coffee cup.

Looks like a wall clock, but it's really a wristwatch.

A not so close-up shot. Notice that at f/5.6, only a thin sliver (the song list) is in focus.

My apologies if this review does not include regular (non-macro) shooting, as I haven’t done it substantially with the lens. However, my initial observations is that this macro lens is softer than the kit lens, especially when wide open. Sorry no sample pics to prove it. I did try to shoot a video clip with the lens and true to the specifications, the lens doesn’t make a sound when it refocuses! On video mode the AF is very slow and deliberate, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s artistic even, as compared to the focus hunting that the kit lens does that’s amateurish and nauseating especially when watching the clip on an HDTV.

Well, that’s it for now. Hope to do a follow on review and a recommendation when I spend more time with the lens.

It’s a TAG but it’s Not a Watch

One of the fun things about going to Hong Kong is that the watch boutiques there offer more than just watches. Novelties such as watch branded cologne (Omega Aqua Terra), cufflinks and leather goods can be found here which are nowhere to be had in Manila. I thought of sharing my impulse buy from a recent trip to the watch mecca.

TAG Heuer box

The sales person from the Tsim Sha Tsui Tag Heuer boutique said that this item is available in selected boutiques only, hence a rarity in its own right.

Inside the box

It’s finely made, I might add. The size is adjustable and the clasp snaps tightly into place. Yes, just like a leather strapped watch, but worn more loosely. Although I’ve never been a bracelet kind of guy, I thought of trying this out for relaxed weekends as a substitute to wearing a watch. (Gasp! Did I really say that?!)

Beauty is in the details

Bracelet clasp

Bracelet clasp details

Under the bracelet

There’s another version featuring dark brown aged leather with white stitching, and Monaco stripes of baby blue and orange on the steel. The boutique also offers belts and wallets.

If I may add, the photos of the bracelet are actually experimental shots of the Sony E mount 30mm f/3.5 MACRO lens for NEX cameras.

My Seiko T-Shirt (and the Wallet Stigma)

It’s truly a joy to discover unique stuff for sale on the Internet. On the great cloud you will find items that are otherwise unobtainable in shopping malls. Case in point is my most recent online purchase:

This Seiko t-shirt was being sold by a guy at the Watchuseek forums. He had this shirt produced in limited quantities and for $36 paid thru Paypal, he will ship one from his home in Canada to your doorstep. The shirt isn’t event an authorized merchandise from Seiko, so imagine the rarity of this one. I wouldn’t worry about bumping into someone who wears the same shirt and that sure beats wearing something from Giordano.

Printed on the shirt is Seiko Prospex. Prospex is a word play on pro specs–professional specifications. It is a Japanese market only brand of mid-priced to high end (but still relatively affordable) watches, mostly certified for use in diving (hence a diving logo on the left sleeve).

But one might ask, what’s the big deal about Seiko? Well, it’s true that the interest in this watch brand is something very niche. Even a typical watch lover (i.e. those primarily interested in Swiss luxury brands) is unlikely to appreciate. It’s for a rare breed of WIS that worships a Japanese company that manufactures great quality and robust products, not to mention a HUGE contributor to the history of horology.

With a tear in my eye, I just have to add that Seiko is a tarnished brand in the Philippines. The world recognizes it as a maker of dependable people’s watches, but the filipinus ignoramus species has associated it with cheap, tacky wallets made by a local manufacturer who stole the venerable brand and stamped it on their products. And so the uninformed Pinoy “knows” that the watch company is one and the same as the wallet company, when in fact they have no connection whatsoever. What a stigma. In the local setting, forget about the Seiko watch cachet.

But then again, Seiko isn’t about cachet, rather it’s about honest value:  what-you-see-is-what-you-get and what-you-get-is-what-you-pay-for. That’s my kind of watch.

On that note, I bid everyone Happy Holidays and a great oh-twelve ahead!