Let Your Clothes Inspire Your Home Decor – Turn This Outfit Into a Room

Over the years, I’ve realized that most of my home décor is inspired by my wardrobe. For instance, when I went through a very cultural phase,  I found myself wearing batik prints tops and Indian pashminas.  As a result, I have a lot of African masks and Indian printing blocks hanging on the walls in my apartment.

Now, I’m dressing a bit more preppy and wear more neutral tones, but I try to add a little hint of color in my accessories. So naturally, I want my home to reflect my current taste.

Here’s a picture of one of my favorite outfits that will serve as the inspiration for decorating my living room.

My Closet: My New Interior Designer

The chocolate brown blazer pictured above is the perfect  color for a new brown sofa. Additionally, it will be easy to mix and match more vibrant colors with this hue if I feel the need to change up the look of my living room again.

My gray jeans are versatile, comfortable and soft. Since I love them so much, I’m looking for a stylish grey rug that shares similar qualities. I’m thinking a darker gray is a nice compliment to the chocolate sofa, and (don’t judge me for this) it will also hide any spills that occur between carpet cleanings.

I bought this silk polka-dot scarf I’m wearing in the photo a few years ago and I love it. The unique mix of navy blue, red, and brown make this easy to wear with almost any outfit in my closet. I can use any one of the colors in the scarf to add a pop of brightness to my brown and gray living room décor.

Aviators: More than Just a Pair of Shades

The gold-rimmed aviators are my pride and joy – they’re classic and I wear them everywhere. They serve as a reminder to find gold-plated picture frames, or gold-colored accessories like this timeless gold vase. I also love that it brings some class to my living space.

As fashion trends evolve, so will my living room decor. But, I’ll keep the classic couch and rug and swap out the accessories as my fickle fashion sense changes. Let’s just hope I don’t revisit my 80s neon-color phase.

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74 Years of the Golden Great Bridge

Stretching from the strategically placed trees of the Presidio to the emerald headlands of Marin, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge has been gracefully helping North Bay commuters get to work for 74 years this week

But that’s just the bridge’s day job.

Attracting tourists from around the world, the Golden Gate’s sublime blend of engineering and design proudly represents a progressive innovation that’s uniquely Californian. A feat so rarely replicated, it stands as a permanent testament to the society that realized it.

Attempting to describe the sheer beauty of the bridge in this blog seems a little silly. Many of the 20th century’s finest artists, photographers and film makers have attempted to capture its ever-changing magic, but still today, something brilliant about the bridge remains a mystery.

Even Hollywood has struggled to build a more stunning backdrop than the Golden Gate Bridge. Alfred Hitchcock used the bridge’s mystery in the 50s, Dirty Harry defended it in the 70s, and in the 80s it even helped an elderly James Bond defeat a frighteningly blonde Christopher Walken.

Whatever it is that accurately defines the effortless style of the Golden Gate Bridge, it may never be equaled. So if you’re in the Bay Area this Memorial Day weekend, take a trip across the enduring monument and experience a mile and half of freeway that’s hard to get bored of and impossible to forget.

Just as Nextag is your bridge to finding great bargains, the Golden Gate Bridge is celebrating 74 years of connecting people and products. Happy Birthday, Bridge!

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Video Games are Changing, and With Them The World

I theorize that within our lifetimes, the world as we know it will be a video game. How is that possible? Keep reading.

Exhibit A: L.A. Noire

In case they don’t have billboards where you live, L.A. Noire is the latest from the Rockstar company that brought you the Grand Theft Auto games. You play a 1940′s police detective navigating a city filled with vice and corruption, similar to an interactive Maltese Falcon or L.A. Confidential.

As fully realized virtual worlds go, LA Noire is a robust and convincing step forward. It features a highly realistic facsimile of 1947 Los Angeles created using aerial photography from the period. The script is 2,200 pages, far less than the mistakenly reported 22,000 pages, but still as long as two seasons of a TV series. It’s also breaking down walls in our categorization of media; it was the first video game ever to be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, even though it is not a film.

Using MotionScan Technology

L.A. Noire’s core innovation involves a new technology called MotionScan, in which thirty-two cameras are used to record an actor’s face from all angles. The result is a level of communication through computer animated facial expression that was never before possible. It works so well that a major portion of the gameplay involves you interrogating suspects. Only you can determine who is lying and who is telling the truth, by watching their faces and using your own human intuition. Some academics even believe L.A. Noire could help people with Asperger’s Syndrome, because the game is such an accurate simulator of human facial communication that it could be used as a training grounds for those social skills.

Can you spot the real John Noble? (Credit: image from lanoire.wikia.com)

Now imagine if the nearly human characters of L.A. Noire existed not on your television, but beside you wherever you’re reading this. Science fiction you say? Nope, we can do this today.

Exhibit B: Sony SmartAR

The AR in Sony SmartAR stands for “augmented reality.” Go ahead and get familiar with this term now; you’ll be hearing it a lot soon. With AR, you will look around in the real world and actually see computer-generated input. Not sure what I mean? Let me show you.

This video shows a recent Sony SmartAR demo. Skip to 2:45 to see virtual water gush from an actual cup. Skip to 4:40 to see birds circle overhead and the ceiling open. It’s crazy.

At first this will be on your phone, then your glasses, then it’ll just be there. In any given situation, all the information you could want will be hovering right there before you. You’ll look at a street full of restaurants and see menus and reviews floating before you.

In The Matrix of the actual future, sinister machines won’t keep us in pods for use as batteries (that never made sense). But we will roam freely in an artificial world emblazoned upon the surface of today’s.

Now pair this with L.A. Noire’s technology and design, and at the furthest level you don’t have much need for physical locations anymore. Why bother with brick and mortar stores when a few AR triggers and realistic automatons will do?

But no one wants that you say? It’s too different, even too creepy? Maybe for you and me, but probably not for the best adapters among us.

Exhibit C: The plasticity of the infant mind

Kevin Kelly, fun tech guy and co-founder of Wired, recently related this story on his blog. His friend’s very young toddler became adept with the iPad. Almost before she could walk, she was able to use apps and perform involved tasks. When this child saw an actual photo on a table, she went up to it and tried to do an unpinch motion on it, as you would do to make a photo larger on an iPad. When that didn’t work, she looked at her dad and said “broken.”

To give you a feel of what this looks like, here is a video of a baby using an iPad.

As anyone using their children as tech support knows, kids are built to learn and don’t need to read the instructions. Now imagine these iPad savvy toddlers growing up in an AR world. Of course people and places and things will appear before them whenever they wish. They won’t think twice about it, they won’t know any different. You’ll try to explain the inefficient and tedious world of today, what the internet was before it was everywhere, what it meant to look something up, or get lost, or “wait”, and they’ll ask you why your world was always broken. It will be hard for them to even imagine your strange un-augmented earth.

Case Closed

And that’s the future, a big video game. The world will be Tlon, or 1947 Los Angeles, or whatever world you like. You may even be able to simulate the world of 2011 and play the historical game L.A Noire on a 2D screen, if you’re feeling retro.

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5 Items that Make Summer Travel as Easy as Pie

I love spring time for one reason: it gets me closer to summer. Sure, April showers bring May flowers, but they last too long and make my hair frizzy. Summer is my time to fly, baby.

For some reason, summer makes me feel like I have the world in my hands. The couple to the left must be feeling the same way – I should call them. In the summertime, I feel like I can do anything, be anyone and go anywhere on a whim. Ever feel like that? Whether it be a last minute weekend flight or a spontaneous road trip, there’s no better time to do it than when the sun is out.

Oh Traveling, I Love You & Loathe You at the Same Time

The only problem I have with traveling is that sometimes, preparing for it and actually doing it is just plain annoying. When you’re flying, ever notice it’s always the little things that send you into a panic while en route? You forget your ID, your boarding pass disappears from your jeans pocket, you realize you’re barefoot in the security line at the last minute (holy foot fungus, Batman) there’s nowhere to plug in your cell phone charger, you’re bored on the plane…DOH! If you’re road trippin’ it, you can run out of gas, run out of snacks and generally run out of patience while sitting 6 inches away from your travel buddy. Even the coolest travel companion can force you to mentally go to your “happy place.”

Say Goodbye to the Travel “Ahhhhs!”

Ok, since I’m all about positivity in life, I’m gonna turn this frown upside down. All of these annoyances are usually worth it when you arrive at your destination, whether it’s a weekend music festival, a visit with an old friend, a camping trip or a honeymoon in Greece — but I’m here to tell you that these annoyances are avoidable!

Let’s take a look at 5 items that will make summer travel as easy as pie.

1) Piel Hanging Passport Holder

You don’t need to be traveling internationally to stay organized. I’m telling you, forget your purse, forget your jeans pocket and forget everything else when it comes to keeping your ID, your baggage tags, your itinerary, and your boarding pass together. I know you want to look cool with your cute Coach wallet, but no one cares what you look like if you’re making them late while you frantically dig in your purse. Throw your necessary tickets and ID in this and wear it around your neck. Sure, you might look like a tourist, but you won’t be getting dirty looks for holding up the line, slowpoke!

2) Unisex Disposable Ankle Socks

Ok, I’m not even that big of a germaphobe – I taught 1st grade, so I couldn’t be. But I can’t help but cringe when I’m in the security line and I realize my open toed Guess heels were a bad decision. Sure, they totally make my outfit, but wearing them totally makes me go barefoot through the metal detector. Yikes! I just can’t do it Captain – I don’t have the power! Who knows who decided not to shower for a few days pre-airport. I can’t risk the fungus amungus by going barefoot. What I can risk is sporting these unisex disposable socks. All you gotta do is throw them on, walk through the metal detector, grab your stuff, and throw them out. You still get to showcase your airplane fashion, without getting the heebie geebies.

3) Multi-function Battery Charger

So you finally arrive at your gate, beaming from your organizational skills and your fungus-free footsies, only to realize that your phone is dead. Doh! Now you can’t text your friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, mom or dad to let them know you got there safely and all is good. Well, just charge your phone. Hmmm, well you don’t really want to sit on the floor, and all the outlets are taken anyway. No worries! Just grab your freshly charged battery out of this wall charger and you’re good to go. No cords, no charging, no waiting. Trust me on this one — once you buy one of these, you will NEVER go back to a charger with any sort of cord. The time you save by always having a fresh battery ready to pop in your phone is darn near amazing. And you won’t ever forget it because you will become obsessed with it, like I am. Seriously, I dream about this thing.

4) High Road Entertainment Organizer

If you happen to be road-tripping it, good for you. There’s nothin’ like some good tunes, a little wind in your hair and the open road to clear your mind. But let’s keep in mind that during this road trip, you need the essentials at your fingertips. This road trip organizer has 8 pockets for all your goodies. For your iPod, your cell phone, your Kindle, your snacks, your itineraries, your receipts….anything you need within reaching distance. It hangs from the headrest so you have more room to stretch, too. You can even put snack wrappers in there, cuz if you’re like me, you’re OCD when you’re driving. If I can see the trash, I must pull over immediately. Like my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Beeson said, “a cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.” Same applies to a cluttered car. I need to have a clear mind to have deep road trip conversations with my travel buddies. I need as many stories as possible to embarrass them at their future weddings. Cuz that’s what good friends do.

5) Google Latitude on Your Phone

If you’re one car in a road trip caravan, it’s always good to keep tabs on each other. If you leave at different times but want to make sure your buddies are safe and sound, install Google Latitude on both of your phones and you’ll be good to go. You can see your friends’ location and watch their cute little faces move as they drive toward your destination. You can’t track anyone without their permission, so the stalker factor is a non-issue. It’s super fun to see if your friends actually left on time, too. They’ll forget they agreed to share locations with you, so you can bust them for oversleeping….glorious.

As you can see, the typical travel annoyances we all must face can easily be avoided with these 5 simple and affordable items. And Google Latitude is free! Can’t complain about that. In the words of Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I– I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.”

I’m willing to bet that after he took the road less traveled, he looked for his buddy on Google Latitude. I’m just sayin’.

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Hey, Students! Buy a Windows 7 Laptop, Get a Free Xbox 360 from Microsoft

What’s better, getting a free Xbox with a new PC or an iPod Touch with a MacBook? With the new school year around the corner and graduations underway, Microsoft is offering high school and college students a free Xbox 360 4 GB Console with the purchase of a Windows 7 laptop priced $699 and above. While an Xbox might be counterproductive to your studies, it’s certainly an attractive perk if you’re looking to buy a new Windows 7 laptop.

How the Deal Works

In order to leverage this deal, you must have a Student ID or .edu email address to meet the eligibility requirement. Students enrolled in an accredited high school, 2-year, or 4-year institution are eligible for this offer. According to Microsoft, the offer is available now, but end dates vary by retailer, so we recommend shopping earlier – rather than later. Additionally, the free Xbox promotion is only valid in the United States, Canada, and France.

Where to Buy

Did you know there are Microsoft Retail Stores in the United States? While they’re certainly outnumbered by Apple retail locations, the Microsoft Store is one of the participating retailers. You’ll more likely be closer to Best Buy, which is also taking part in the deal. Be sure to bring your official Student ID and/or .EDU email address for verification.

But, who actually shops in retail stores these days? Microsoft has partnered with Dell.com and HP.com to offer the deal to qualified students. Be sure to check with your retailer before purchasing your Windows 7 Laptop, because terms vary by store. With the wide selection of laptops available, you’ll surely be the coolest techie on your dorm’s floor. Just keep your roommates mitts off of your free Xbox 360 4 GB console.

What’s the Better Deal?

Apple hasn’t publicly launched it’s Back to School promotion, which gives students an entry-level iPod Touch with the purchase of select MacBook Pro models. For the sake of comparison, let’s say they continue the tradition for 2011. The Xbox 360 4 GB console and Apple iPod Touch 8 GB normally cost $199 and $229 respectively. But, the “cheapest” MacBook starts at $999, whereas the Microsoft promotion starts with laptops $699 and above. Technically you get a bigger “bang” for your buck with the Microsoft promotion, given you don’t buy a $2,000 Windows PC on steroids. But then again, more people have use for an iPod Touch than they do an Xbox 360 console. And quite frankly, iPods continue to have strong resale value. Hit up the comments and let us know what you think about the deal, and whose side you’re taking: Ben the PC guy or Mac Daddy.

Top Three Windows 7 Laptops for Students and Recent Grads

Are you a recent graduate with a wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket? While the collegiate financial advisor in me says save your money for $1 drink nights and some fun nights on the town, perhaps buying a laptop is the more sensible option. C’mon, we all know you’ll use the laptop more for Pandora and watching hilarious YouTube videos than you will homework, anyway.

1) Dell Inspiron 14r – If you need a basic computer that lets you do your homework and have some fun doing it, the Dell Inspiron 14r is a solid choice. It balances portability with a solid feature set that pleases most non-techies. But future video editors, creative designers, and photographers better look elsewhere, because the laptop isn’t built for resource intensive tasks.

2) Samsung Series 9 – If you plan on carrying your laptop to class, you’ll definitely appreciate the Samsung Series 9’s Duralumin, which as its name implies, is super lightweight and rugged. Plus, it boots up in 3 seconds because it uses a 128 GB solid state hard drive for maximum flexibility. With an Intel Core i5 Processor, this stylish laptop doesn’t sacrifice speed for its good looks, either.

3) HP Pavilion dv7t – If you’re looking for an affordable desktop replacement you can bring home with you on breaks, the HP Pavilion dv7t is a viable option. Despite this big boy’s hefty weight and size, it certainly packs a punch. A better-than-HD 17-inch screen, regular HDMI port, and optional Blu-ray drive, are amongst the laptop’s most media-friendly features. Oh, and don’t forget HP’s accidental damage plan, so if you spill beer – oops I mean coffee – on your keyboard, it isn’t the end of the world.

Don’t Forget a Case

You’ll need something to tote your laptop in when you go to college, right? Save more than 50 percent on a new laptop bag through NexTag Deals. For a limited time, get a $40 eBags.com gift certificate for only $15. Better hurry though, a deal like this won’t last long.

NexTag is not affiliated with the Microsoft Free Xbox 360 4 GB Console or Apple Back to School promotions. Any opinions expressed in this article are of the author and does not represent NexTag’s views or opinions.

Posted in Hottest Gadgets of 2011 | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

7 Best Movie Soundtracks … Ever

I’m not the biggest movie fan in the world. It likely has way more to do with my painstakingly short attention span than the actual movies themselves. After all, Gigli was able to keep me wide eyed and bushy tailed for its full 121 minutes of pure glory, a confession that categorizes my movie reviewing skills as “highly questionable,” at best. Eh, so much for my lifelong goal of one day being an honorary member of the Oscar committee. This blog post being the only obstacle preventing that dream from becoming a reality, of course, in similar fashion to basic geography being the only factor keeping me and James Franco apart.

Moving on …

So although movies aren’t typically thrilling enough to keep me on my toes, a lot of movie soundtracks most definitely have the ability to keep those little toes of mine a-tappin’. (How’d ya like that transition? Pretty sweet, eh?)

So here I give to you, my dear, sweet friends, the seven best movie soundtracks of all time. Okay, not really of all time as in the best selling or most popular, but all time as in Nicole’s seven favorite movie soundtracks … of all time.

7. The Graduate

soundtrackEveryone who loves Simon & Garfunkel put your hands up. Now, all of you who secretly love Simon & Garfunkel, but think it’s uncool to admit you love Simon & Garfunkel, put your hands up. Ah, just as I suspected — everyone. Hello! Who doesn’t love singing along to “Mrs. Robinson”? And who doesn’t love the twisted storyline that inspired it?

6. Garden State

soundtrackRumor has it Zack Braff wanted music to play such an integral role in his writer/directorial debut, he actually wrote the soundtrack right into the script. What a talented guy that J.D. is.

This soundtrack includes classics by Lionel Ritchie and Simon & Garfunkel, as well as, at the time, new-to-the-scene groups like The Shins, Coldplay and Iron & Wine, who covered The Postal Services’ “Such Great Heights.” In essence, the Garden State soundtrack was one of the first movie scores to make indie music, well, cool.

5. Almost Famous

soundtrackHow could I not include a soundtrack that involves Bowie, Cat Stevens, Zeppelin, The Who, Elton John and, yet again, Simon & Garfunkel? I’m kinda starting to think I have a bit of a Simon & Garfunkel obsession I never knew about. Regardless, this is a super fun-tastic soundtrack. Although my word of its awesomeness should most definitely be all the validation you need, maybe learning this album won the Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media in 2001 will help persuade you to agree that this is, indeed, one of the best soundtracks ever.

4. American Graffiti

soundtrackBy my previous picks, it’s not yet obvious how much of a late ‘50s/early ‘60s pop fan I am. But it’s about to get real obvious, real quick. Budget constraints left no money for the development of a proper movie score for American Graffiti, so George Lucas just went ahead and handpicked songs he felt helped tell the story. Well guess what George, ya done good.

This soundtrack has every song you’d expect to find blasting from a jukebox inside a diner along Route 66. Every song – from Buddy Holly’s “That’ll be the Day” to The Big Boppers’ “Chantilly Lace” and The Monotones’ “Book of Love” – defines that era as much as vinyl booths, neon signs and root beer floats.

3. Top Gun

soundtrackOkay, now some of you – probably many of you – will wholeheartedly make fun of me for this pick. But listen, it’s got The Righteous Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Kenny Loggins, Cheap Trick AND Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” – only one of the greatest love songs EVER. You don’t think so? Well, I feel really sorry for you because it’s obvious you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’. And that’s really sad.

But ultimately what gets this soundtrack on my best of the best list, as defined by me, is its inclusion of my favorite song of all time – “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” And the scene in the movie in which it plays – on Maverick and Charlie’s first date, at her house, on the back porch, when he talks about his mom and dad – ah it totally gets me every time … every time, I tell ya.

2. Hard Day’s Night

I don’t really need to explain myself here. It’s an entire album full of nothing but John, Paul, Ringo and George. Enough said.

1. Dirty Dancing

soundtrackIt’s got everything. Seriously. The Ronettes, Mickey & Sylvia, The Shirelles, my man Otis Redding (twice!), Frankie Valli, The Contours, and even Patrick Swayze wanted a slice of this delicious soundtrack pie, pairing with Wendy Fraser for “She’s Like the Wind.” And Dirty Dancing produced probably one of the most well known, iconic movie hits ever — “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”

Listen, nobody puts Baby in the corner. Nobody.

-nicole-

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Find Beautiful Bedding Without Going Broke

One of the best ways to update your bedroom décor is to buy new bedding. You can change the look of your entire bedroom with a new duvet, bed sheets or even adding colorful accent pillows. But, these items can be costly. In fact, I’m looking for new bedding right now and the few stores I’ve visited didn’t have bedding under $250. I swore I would not pay over $200 for the entire purchase.

Just as I was getting ready to throw in the towel on this redecorating project, I remembered I can always buy these items online at discounted prices. So, I went back to the brick and mortar stores, made a mental note of the color and patterns I wanted for my bedding, and scribbled down the product names. Then, I high-tailed it home to see if I could find similar products at better deals.

Here’s a look at the bedding I coveted, and the bedding I got without breaking my budget:

1) Find the Right Sheets

I’ve had my eye on these West Elm Dot Print Sheets for quite some time. But, I’m not in a position to buy $99 sheets. Yes, they’re beautiful and from one of my favorite home décor retailers, but I needed something a little bit cheaper.  I found these super-cute Dot Sheets from Domestications. These are great because they’re much cheaper ($47 for king-size pillow cases and sheets), and I can choose from a lot more colors.

2) Discover Your Duvet Cover

I like the idea of a crisp, white duvet cover that also has some unique details. Once, again I was entranced by West Elm and their White Organic Pin Tuck Duvet Cover. It’s perfect, but it’s also a bit out of my price range at $119. Then I saw this Grey Gardens Duvet cover from CB2. Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s also on sale for $79.99. With this purchase, I had money left over to buy a bright, fun accent pillow.

3) Pick Your Accent Pillows

Since I have a little dough left, I decided to punch up the black and white color palette with some vibrant and fun accent pillows. My plan was to not go over my $50 limit for the pillow; but I really, really wanted these Red 22-inch Paris Decorative Pillows – they’re $46.99.  So, just this once, I’m going to succumb and get the pillows I want.

Now, I’m just eagerly awaiting these purchases to reach my home. But in the meantime, I’m going around bragging about how much money I saved by doing a little comparison shopping.

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App-solutely Fabulous: Five Mobile Applications that Change the Way We Live

In recent years the growth of mobile gadgets has enabled us to access the joys of the Internet from practically anywhere. This new method of surfing the world’s foremost communication highway seems to have sent the world’s programmers into a head-spin of creativity and opportunity. However, with new apps emerging on a daily basis, it becomes increasingly difficult to find the truly inspirational mobile apps among the endless stream of old ideas, regurgitated onto a new platform.

Below I have highlighted the current apps that I feel have a shot at making a difference.

Yelp

The Web’s foremost purveyor of customer reviews has done itself proud with a fun, slick and very useful mobile app. Sporting a simple design and a clever adaptation of Yelp’s services, the Yelp app has managed something very few apps have achieved. In my humble opinion, the Yelp app is better than their website. The service it provides is much more suited to the mobile platform and virtually indispensible on a night out in a new town. With tools like “Check-Ins,” “Nearby” and my personal favorite “Monacle,” that allows you to literally look for places “through” your smart phone, Yelp have proven that they understand their service beyond a simple web page.

Pandora

Ever since Pandora crept out of the Internet, millions of music-loving office workers around the globe switched from their local radio broadcasts to their own personalized stations that played the music they liked along with new tracks that matched the listeners’ tastes. However, as good as this service was, Pandora’s mobile application is truly a game changer. Having your favorite music stations travel with you wherever you go, without the incessant interruptions of an annoyingly upbeat DJ, not only makes life that little bit better, but it also poses the classic technology question – “How did we manage before Pandora?” It’s difficult to figure out how traditional radio will compete with this perfectly personalized format. I wish them luck.

Facebook

Okay, stop rolling your eyes. We all know about Facebook (don’t we?) and all of us with a smartphone have probably downloaded the social behemoth’s mobile application. But, what is surprising about the world’s biggest website, is how well it’s adapted itself to the mobile arena. In many ways it’s the natural home for the site. After all, being social is pretty difficult when surfing the Web – despite what many lonely people think. Communicating with your friends through status updates makes much more sense when you’re out and about and it adds a lot to the “Update Status” option. Our Facebook status updates, prior to the mobile app, should have all read – “Sitting in front of a computer.”

Netflix

When Netflix started delivering movies to your mailbox, everybody loved it (except Blockbuster). When they began streaming movies and TV shows through their website, everybody loved it (except Blockbuster). And when they put their entire service onto a mobile app, everyone loved it (except Steven Spielberg). Watching a spectacular Hollywood movie on a tiny smartphone screen may send chills through the celluloid hearts of film makers, but when you have a long, boring commute on a packed train, there’s nothing more comforting than a wide selection of films and TV shows in your pocket. The only weird thing is, Netflix members can’t update their film list through the app. Hopefully, this will be remedied in their next release.

Dealforce

This fun social shopping app could easily fall into the busy “deal app” market and be overlooked. However, its intelligent and progressive take on how users find and share local deals makes it the first real shopping app that benefits both shoppers and merchants equally. With a game-changing twist on the current batch of mobile shopping initiatives, Dealforce allows shoppers to easily enter any deal they find while out shopping. This inspired twist could have incredible results for local merchants and shopping communities. By cunningly side-stepping the big business dominance of deal distribution, Dealforce allows smaller merchants a chance to advertise their daily specials to a captive local market, for free. If e-commerce has taken any business from local community merchants, then Dealforce is the app to bring it all back.

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Enjoy Southern Culinary Comfort at The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival – or Bring the South Home

Attention foodies and Southern transplants who miss the South! Your taste buds will be happy to hear that the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival starts tomorrow, May 19th, and runs through Sunday May 22nd.

According to the official website, The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is:

“The nation’s first culinary weekend that will unite leaders of their craft – barbecue pitmasters, award-winning chefs and mixologists, Master Sommeliers, fry cooks and local growers – in the spirit of celebrating the rich food and beverage traditions of the South.”

Sounds pretty darn tasty to me. You gotta love it when people who are passionate about their culinary crafts come together for 4 days to showcase their talents. Come on, you know foodies and wine buffs can eat, drink and party like rock stars. And by the way, I love the word mixologist.

Random stranger: “So, what do you do?”

You: “I’m a mixologist, which means I’m a master bartender. In other words, I’m the Jedi master of every bar you walk into, homeslice. Any other questions?”

And that’s how it’s done.

Tickets to The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

The festival is packed with events, which include tasting seminars, cooking demonstrations, panel discussions, street carts and a connoisseur lounge, all of which can be experienced by purchasing one of 8 different ticket packages:

  • Dinners & Events: $50-$150
  • Tasting Tents & Street Carts: $75
  • Foodsters: $150
  • Day Pass for Friday, Saturday or Sunday: $225
  • 3-Day Pass: $500
  • VIP (Sold Out, Doh!): $1,000
  • Connoisseur Day Pass: $1,000
  • Connoisseur 3-Day Pass: $2,500

Can’t Spend Your Rent Money on a Food Festival?

It’s cool, I can’t either. But that doesn’t mean we can’t dream of one day attending this festival of finger-lickin’ good deliciousness. I’ve made a plan for people like you and me — people who want to go to expensive culinary festivals but just can’t swing it right now. Follow these steps…and meet me in Atlanta exactly 1 year from now:

  1. Start your training early with a subscription Taste of the South Magazine
  2. Set aside a chunk of change every month for your “Awesome Food Festivals” fund
  3. Stock up your kitchen with Paula Deen Cookware (she’s a Georgia peach)
  4. Dazzle a bachelor or bachelorette with your amazing cooking skills
  5. Using the money you hid under your mattress every month, buy the Connoisseur 3-Day pass (buy your new husband or wife one too)
  6. Borrow Ludacris’ jet & fly to Atlanta (you met him at the airport & became instant friends)
  7. Dazzle the culinary experts with your knowledge when you’re there – all your botched attempts to cook at home will actually make you a culinary genius

Just think….with a year of Southern culinary cooking under your belt, there’s nothing you can’t do. Fried chicken? Already simmering. Buscuits and gravy? Already smothered. Waffles and grits? Already drizzled. Cornbread? Already fluffy. You just gotta take the first step and get the right kitchen tools to help you grab that southern cooking bull by the horns. And if the first step doesn’t involve a plane ticket and an expensive culinary festival ticket, then it should involve these southern cooking essentials:

  1. A deep fryer
  2. A grill
  3. A cast iron pot
  4. A set of awesome knives

And last but certainly not least, an “I’m aging like Fine Wine” cooking apron. Cuz if it’s me in the kitchen, I might be 76 before I actually learn how to turn on the stove.

Ya’ll have fun cookin’ now, ya  hear?

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Make Up Your Mind, Google!

After the Google I/O Developer Conference last week, it’s clear Google can’t make up its mind. The first keynote speaker addressed their Android mobile platform, whereas the next day was spent in the cloud with Chrome OS. From a strategic standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to have two separate operating systems that essentially split the company in half. Android already has fragmentation issues, so the question looms, can the company really support two full-fledged platforms?

Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst for Forrester Research, doesn’t think so. Epps told CNN that Google should consider investing their resources to perfect Android before rolling out another platform. I agree. Google Android is already making its way to select netbook-like environments thanks to the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, which has a keyboard dock that converts the tablet into a fully functional netbook. Similar accessories exist for the Acer Iconia A500, too.

What is Chrome OS?

If you’ve used Google’s Chrome web browser, well, you’ve experienced Chrome OS to a certain degree. Simply put, it’s a browser. Yep, you heard me. Chrome OS is a “fancy” web browser that has a dedicated Web App Store. You can even play Angry Birds from the comfort of your browser. If you’re a bit confused, it’s okay, because I don’t understand it either. As you would imagine, all of the data in Chrome OS is theoretically stored in the cloud. Where did they get that term anyway? Partly because saying “in some data center in the middle of nowhere” doesn’t sound as cool.

Google “Reinvents” The Netbook

While Google has many plans for Chrome OS, the first wave of devices is going to be netbooks – or as Google calls them, Chromebooks. As you’d imagine, these are pretty lightweight computers, meant for basic web surfing – because that’s about all you can do with it. And for those who say wait, what about Google apps, I still call that surfing the web. You’re not going to pound out a manuscript or crunch sensitive corporate data in Google Docs. Granted, there are a lot of things you can do with their Apps platform, but it’s still noticeably in its early stages.

Doesn’t Google know netbooks are so 2009? Tablets like the Apple iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, and Samsung Galaxy Tab continue to cannibalize the netbook market. Even as a devout techie, I have a Dell Mini 1012 collecting dust in my drawer. You actually notice the netbook’s 10-inch screen, whereas you don’t notice it as much on a tablet, because you’re “up close and personal” with it, so to speak. To make my point, I’d rather use my iPhone 4 than a netbook to check email or surf the web. Take that, Dell.

A Privacy Nightmare is Looming

Do people really keep that much data on the cloud? Don’t fool yourself, any data stored somewhere other than your computer, mobile phone, or other storage device is susceptible to attack. For example, if Google Apps were to go down for a couple hours, businesses wouldn’t have access to their core documents, emails, or contacts. At least with Microsoft BPOS or Exchange the data is stored locally. And imagine having important, confidential docs “exposed” to the public, revealing your inner most trade secrets! The likelihood of that happening on a secured corporate network is far lower. Bottom line: the more data we store in the cloud, the more risks we take.

Would You Buy a Chromebook?

Nothing Google said about the newly founded Chromebook sounded remotely exciting. At its core, Chrome OS is just an embellished web browser. At least with a regular netbook I can install traditional applications and configure the security policy of my choice. Personally, I think Google’s pricing is also too expensive for a “web browser” — $28/month for businesses and $20/month for students.

I’m not completely anti-Chrome. I can see how Chromebooks appeal to students, families on a budget, public institutions, and cost-strapped mobile workforces whose books go month-to-month. But for the average modern-day consumer, the Chrome OS doesn’t offer enough power. It’s a major red flag for me when Android feels like more of an “operating system” than Chrome OS. With Android, you can install apps, play games, watch movies, use widgets, and much more. I can’t say the same for Chrome. The major problem with Chrome is that it feels like a web browser, not an OS. Heck, as much as I hated Windows Mobile 5/6, it has more power than Chrome.

The Best Solution

Apple-Macbook-AIRIf you want a thin, small netbook like the aforementioned Chromebook, you’re better off with an 11-inch Macbook Air. Why? Because it turns on within seconds and has more processing power and versatility than the Chrome OS ever will. Plus, with MobileMe and iTunes Home Sharing, data automatically syncs with your devices.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent NexTag’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Posted in Hottest Gadgets of 2011 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment