04/17/2014

We Listened and Delivered: iOS is Now Faster

If you’ve been using our apps in the past two months, you may have noticed that sometimes it took a few seconds to load products, add something to your cart, or make a purchase. This is a direct result of more people using our iOS and Android apps ⎯ not a bad thing in and of itself, except when it begins to affect the overall speed and quality of your experience. 

You may have also noticed that we’re in the process of changing the overall aesthetics of our brand.

What this meant for the mobile team was clear: we needed to speed things up and simplify the experience. And we’ve started doing exactly that. Starting with our iPhone app, we’re updating both the overall design as well as improving on the speed of our mobile apps. 

The iPhone app is now noticeably faster; and as some of you will gradually notice in the next few weeks, we’ve also revamped our entire interface.

Here’s a sneak peek at the new iOS app interface (note that this is a work in progress; not everyone will see the new design right away):

New Frank & Oak iPhone App

In the next few weeks, we’ll be working on making the Android and iPad apps slicker and faster as well – stay tuned…

Our whole team has been very energized by making the mobile experience better for you! If you haven’t checked them out, you can find our apps here.

As always, don’t hesitate to send us feedback and comments on our apps to memberservices@frankandoak.com

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/15/2014

Three Future Gadgets That Are (Almost) Here Now

A gadget can radically change your life. Sometimes you don’t know which gadget, or when it’s going to happen. But all of a sudden you’re in a new technology paradigm: enjoying a completely novel way of doing everything  all thanks to that little thing with the blinky lights.  

If you remotely fit the above description, it’s a very exciting time to be an electronics geek. Thanks to wearable technology, 3D printing, and other marvels of the digital age, everyone from Kickstarter to CES is awash with remarkable new devices that are just waiting to change our lives for the better. 

Here are our three future tech picks for 2014:

Gramofon: Modern Cloud Jukebox

Hold your horses. Gramofon is not available on the market yet. But when it is, You’ll have a WiFi router that lets you directly and collectively stream music off your phone through your sound system. There are two things that make Gramofon really exciting: 1) Gramofon allows multiple simultaneous connections, so you can collaborate and co-DJ with your friends; 2) Music streams directly from Gramofon (not your phone), so you can freely move about without worrying about losing the connection. 

Gramofon

Sony’s Ultra Short Throw Projector

We may be in love. Remember photomural wallpaper from the 1980s? The Short Throw Projector considerably ups the ante on projecting landscapes, trippy art, games, movies… whatever you like, large and bold, on any wall. Comprised of speakers, a projection unit and a cabinet, the projector casts a 147-inch image against the wall immediately next to it.  And, um, Sony claims that it has four times the resolution of HD. Sigh. 

Sony Ultra Short Throw Projector

Ninja Sphere: Next Generation Control of Your Environment

While many of us still live with barely efficient baseboard heaters and other antiquated technology, there is hope for the perpetually domestically challenged. Still incubating in Kickstarter, the Ninja Sphere sits there looking all demure while it monitors your home’s temperature, devices, pets, and valuables. It will remotely notify you if anything changes. And it lets you turn off lights, adjust heat, and perform other small miracles remotely using your smartphone. It’s new gadget best friend material. And it’s a ninja.

Ninja Sphere

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/15/2014

Two-Wheeled Future? The Shift Away From Car Culture

It would seem that North America’s love affair with the car is coming to an end. There is mounting evidence that younger North Americans are resisting the allure of car culture. Fewer of them have driver’s licenses. They are buying significantly fewer cars (30% less in 2012 than in 2007). They are driving fewer miles.

Beater Bike by Je Kemp

Meanwhile, bicycle use in North American cities has increased dramatically over the last decade. From 2000 to 2009, the number of commuter cyclists in the US doubled. Cities that measure the volume of bicycle traffic, such as Montreal, have been seeing dramatic increases in volumes over the last few years. Montreal’s bicycle counters have registered annual traffic increases between 30% and 70% between 2007 and 2012.

There are a number of factors that are likely to be contributing to younger North Americans’ drift away from the car and the growing popularity of the bicycle. The most basic one may be economics. Younger North Americans face a more challenging economic environment than their parents did at their age. Steady, highly paid jobs are harder to come by. Higher housing costs are gobbling up a greater share of whatever income North Americans earn. There is less disposable income available to buy a car, not to mention run it on ever more expensive fuel.

Photo by Porro Pesukarhu

Another major factor is that younger North Americans are gravitating towards cities. In denser, more congested core areas of cities, traffic crawls slowly and car parking spaces can be tricky to find. In other words, driving is a lot less convenient. The bicycle becomes an appealing option because it offers the flexible, on demand mobility of a car, but at a tiny fraction of the cost and with little difference in speed—in some cases, a possible advantage in speed.

Now that cities have started investing more in bicycle infrastructure, setting up bicycle sharing systems and pushing separated cycle tracks through downtown areas, the appeal of the bicycle will doubtless continue to grow. Perhaps a mainstream urban bicycle culture will eventually emerge?

Bicycle Crossing Sign by Richard Drdul

There are many signs already pointing in this direction. The most notable sign is that cycling has entered the political discourse in many major cities. In the lead up to recent elections in cities across the continent—New York, Montreal, Chicago, to name but a few—candidates laid out and debated cycling policies. Coverage of cycling issues in the media has exploded.

Another clear sign of the emergence of a new bicycle culture is the changing image of the urban cyclist. The stereotype of the nerdy, Lycra- and Gortex-wearing cyclist on hybrid bike is fading. It’s being replaced by images such as that of the tattooed hipster on a fixed gear bike or that of a smartly dressed, young professional on an elegant, upright European city bike.

Nonetheless, as it stands today, bicycles account for no more than one or two percent of all trips taken in most North American cities. There is a nascent urban bicycle culture, but it has still has a long away to go.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/10/2014

Retrofutures 2: Trendy But Wrong

Hugo Gernsback is remembered for having founded the modern era of science fiction by publishing Amazing Stories, the first pulp SF magazine. He also wrote fiction, including his 1925 novel Ralph 124C 41+, a book chock full of wild predictions and terrible writing. 

For example, in a bizarre scene set in a “scientific restaurant,” Ralph and his date enjoy a meal of liquefied food sucked from tubes. Diners “did not have to use knife and fork,” Gernsback tells us. “Eating had become a pleasure.”

Amazing Stories

Gernsback clearly thought eating traditional food was a tiresome chore, and unhealthy as well. He wasn’t alone. Lots of early science fiction stories predict that we would all be happier swallowing “food pills” instead of food. In the 1930 movie musical Just Imagine, the people of 1980 even take liquor pills to get drunk.

Why were these ideas so popular? Was the quality of the food in the early 20th Century so generally bad that millions yearned for the day when they would never again have to cook and eat meals? It’s hard to understand what made this obviously silly idea seem so interesting and futuristic.

Food Pills

Food pills, numbers instead of surnames, zeppelins moored to skyscrapers: these were trendy ideas in the 1920’s and ‘30’s. At the time they seemed nifty, innovative, exciting — even though they never made any sense.

Every era has its trendy-but-crazy futures. In the 1950’s it was flying cars and personal jet packs.  From the 1950’s into the ‘60’s people were excited by telepathy and other ‘psi’ powers, cities covered by glass domes, and giant moon bases that would have bankrupted a dozen countries.

Zeppelin and Skyscraper

In the 1970’s science fiction embraced even more gigantic constructs: ring-shaped worlds that encircled stars, and Dyson Spheres that enclosed suns (so as to make use of their entire energy output). These worlds could not be built except with impossible materials, but they were nifty anyway.

Which brings up the question: what trendy-but-daft ideas about the future do we find in today’s science fiction?

Perhaps the trendiest concept in the past two decades has been ‘The Singularity’. Named by Vernor Vinge, The Singularity is a time when the rate of technological advancement suddenly shoots up nearly to infinity. Artificial Intelligences create their own successors, giving birth to digital gods, while humans plugged into computers are transformed into post-human immortals. Meanwhile the tiny robots of nanotechnology convert all the matter in the solar system into computers  because everyone now lives in virtual realities, as in The Matrix.

Blue pill or red pill?

Ask computer geeks to envision a Utopia, and this is what you get. In his 2005 Singularity-themed novel Accelerando, Charles Stross called this vision “the Rapture of the nerds.”

Read how science fiction writers got it right in the first instalment of our Retrofutures Series.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/09/2014

MAKING A MARK: Ville Marie Candles

The maker movement has sparked dozens of extraordinary success stories. While each story is distinct, all owe their success to a magical combination of sweat, inspiration, and the awesome power of the Internet.

We spoke to  Olivier Charland and Valérie Darveau, who combined their passions and talents to build a homegrown business. The result? Ville Marie – purveyors of organic soy wax candles.

Ville Marie Candles

Oliver and Valérie knew they wanted to collaborate on a small business, but were still looking for the right product and plan. Inspiration came during a trip to Chicago. ”We kept seeing small boutiques filled with lots of nice candles and we were inspired. We thought, we can do it. Why not?” said Olivier.

When they returned home they found a local store that sold the essential materials to make candles and soaps and started to experiment. The first batch wasn’t exactly a success. “We saw fast that we can’t just pour some ingredients in – it’s more complicated than that,” they explained, finishing one another’s thoughts.

But after experimenting and using old-fashioned trial and error and a little research, Oliver and Valérie figured out the chemistry together. This, along with buying better ingredients from wholesalers, made for rich scents like Citrus & Ginger and Black Spruce.  

Though the business side of their creative efforts is new to both of them (he’s a graphic designer, she’s a writer) they are learning together every day. 

“When we tell people that we’re making candles, they are thinking about the strong, smelly potpourri kind their grandmother has. We wanted to make a product that’s more natural,” explained Valérie.

As for the name, Olivier told us that as the scents are not necessarily masculine or feminine, the name Ville Marie is inclusive and inspired more by a candle’s light than smell. “We wanted something about light and people.” 

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/07/2014

Joshua Harker: 3D Printing the Unmakeable

As kids we built all kinds of incredible things with LEGO - rocket ships, secret lairs, and elaborate alternate worlds. With 3D printing, the next generation will not only be able to print their own LEGO, but design and create the ideas of their wildest dreams from the comfort of home. 

Some of the people doing the most exciting work in the field are artists who’ve jumped wholeheartedly into 3D printing. Joshua Harker is a multimedia artist who is not only 3D printing pioneer; he has actively pushed the boundaries of what is possible in the medium. 

Joshua Harker: Anatomica Filigre

Though he has been working with software and 3D printed art for years, Harker achieved internet notoriety when his minutely stylized Crania Anatomica Filigre became one of Kickstarter’s highest backed art projects.

Harker craves to make the unmakeable – working at the outer boundaries of what’s possible. His early Tangle series of sculptures sought to push the boundaries of what 3D printers were conceptually and physically capable of making. 

Harker’s work uses digital and electronic tools to create work that’s fluid and organic in a way that wouldn’t have been possible prior to some of these new forms of technology. Feathers, bone, and sometimes flesh come out in a way that’s incredibly vivid. 

Joshua Harker: Quixotic Divinity

Because of incredible advancements in 3D printing technology, more and more things that were previously unmakeable are now within the artist’s realm of possibility. 

3D printing has brought about the democratization of high art. Anyone can buy a Josh Harker sculpture; they’re affordable, come in a multitude of sizes, and it’s easy to print off new sculptures to meet a growing demand. Accessible 3D printed art is prevalent in online communities such as Thingiverse, where artists and makers share one another’s designs and remotely collaborate on projects across continents.

Get ready. 3D printing is about to explode. While Make: Magazine has been popularizing 3D printing for years, more recently, libraries have started devoting space and time to creating maker spaces and teaching classes on 3D printing. The future isn’t always somewhere else. It can be can be happening in your neighborhood, your library, or your home.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/03/2014

The Emergence Issue Playlist | Pomo x Frank & Oak

Pomo is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist and producer originally from Port Moody, BC and now living in Montreal. Drawing from a wide variety of influences, Pomo has been heavily involved in music and its creation his whole life. Pomo is part of the HW&W roster out of LA alongside Kaytranada, Ta-Ku, Stwo and many more, and has been getting heavy recognition from the likes of Disclosure, Gramatik, Bondax, Noisey and many other blogs and artists.

Tracklist:

  • FSB - Путешествие 
  • Darius - Espoir 
  • Dave Hollister - Keep Lovin You (Kartell Edit) 
  • Vanilla - Suede 
  • Sade - Nothing Can Come Between Us (Pomo Edit) 
  • Amp Fiddler - Hold On (Daniel Crawford Remix) 
  • Bernard Wright - Just Chillin Out (Kartell Edit) 
  • Pharrell - Gush 
  • The Weeknd - Wanderlust (Snakehips Remix) 
  • Aluna George - Kaleidoscope Love (Kaytranada Edition) 
  • Change - Hold Tight (Late Nite Tuff Guy Edit) 
  • Pomo - So Fine 
  • Pomo - Work It Out 
  • Dorsia - Ghana (HNNY Remix) 
  • Médéric & Le Croquant - LWND 
  • Delakeyz - Show Me How To Fly 
  • IAMNOBODI - Reaction (Ft. JMSN) 
  • Eduard Artemiev - Meeting On The Milky Way 
  • Mikos Da Gawd - Shake (Ft. Tele Fresco) 
  • Pomo - Vibrator 
  • Mr. Carmack - Simpler 
  • Wave Racer - Streamers 
  • SCNTST - Wavez Change 
  • Earth Wind & Fire - All About Love (Outro)

Check out Pomo on Soundcloud:

@pomobeats

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/02/2014

MAKING A MARK: Crafting an Overnight Success

The maker movement has sparked dozens of extraordinary success stories. While each story is distinct, all owe their success to a magical combination of sweat, inspiration, and the awesome power of the Internet. 

Maker Jesse Herbert has the rare distinction of having one of his first products go viral, before he’d even made more than one.

Founder of Oopsmark, Herbert’s bicycle wine rack exploded around the blogosphere  going from a posted photo of one wine rack he’d made, to being covered in Wired and The New York Times.

Jesse Herbert

We spoke with Jesse in his workshop, filled with tools of the trade and the intoxicating smell of leather.

One of your best known products is the bicycle wine rack, how did you come up with the idea for that?

Someone sent me a picture of a six pack holder for beer on a bicycle. I thought it was a bad idea – a little too wide and the six pack would just be bouncing around. With carbonated drinks, it didn’t seem like a good idea at all. Then I thought: wine would be perfect. So I made a prototype of it, took a picture of it, and put it online on Etsy. I sent it to a design blog. They published it a week later and it went viral that day.

Bicycle Wine Rack

What kind of feedback have you received since starting to sell the bicycle wine rack?

All kinds of things. My favorite is: “this makes me want to get a bike.” I think it’s fun to support cycling by making it fun and sexy. 

Reducing consumption and improving sustainability are fundamental to Oopsmark. Where do you see the future going along those lines?

I’ve been hosting these scrap parties, which is about that. They’re the start of a larger project: taking my scraps and bringing in people and getting them to make stuff out of it. If we create a venue for my scraps that turns them into a product, then we’ve recycled that stream of waste forever. 

I think a lot of manufacturers should be doing that kind of thing, thinking how to best use their scrap and turn it into new things.

Oopsmark leatherwork

Your main products actually derive from scrap materials, so you’re making your own mini-Oopsmark within your own company.

Yeah, exactly. It’s fun to work in the cycling industry. Cycling is just beneficial anyway. Due to the sustainability aspect, my products have all shifted in that direction.

The drive for products for me is really just something I want for myself. I’m not trying to make a business. Really I’m trying to make an engine that monetizes anything that I want to make. 

That sounds like a good balance between business and life. Is the ability to make whatever your want to make part of the key philosophy of your business?

If you want to be creative and make a living doing it, if you start with the creativity and monetize that, you can have future gains from present moments instead of future gains from current pain. 

Under the current model, you work hard and hate your life. And one day when you retire, it’s going to be awesome. Short term pain for long term gain – there’s a lot to be said for that. But I like the idea of future gains from present moments.

I like problems that I can relate to; for me it’s about solving a problem. If it’s not a problem for me then I have trouble investing myself in that process. I get inspired by customizing my life, by making things that I don’t see out there. That’s why I have that drive and passion: because people are looking for something and they can’t find it.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/01/2014

Retrofutures: Getting it Right

Novels set in the near future have a singular problem: the futures they describe can quickly become obsolete. What at first seemed so cutting-edge and futuristic can soon start to seem outdated, overtaken by real-world events. 

And the Changes to Come by Derrick Bostrom

This can happen very very quickly: in 1989 Norman Spinrad wrote Russian Spring, a novel in which the Soviet Union abandons communism. By the time the book was published in 1991, the Berlin Wall had come down and the Soviet Union was months away from falling apart. 

Is such a book still science fiction? Certainly, though it’s now an “alternate history” story, of a sort. No longer future fiction, it has become a “retrofuture”: a tomorrow that perhaps once seemed inevitable, but is now frankly implausible. With each passing day such a book becomes less believable and ever slightly more ludicrous, even silly.

Of course science fiction authors don’t actually write about the future — not the “real” future. They aren’t psychic prognosticators. Instead they write about our current concerns for the future. And nothing is more emblematic of an era than its hopes, dreams, and fears for the era yet to come.

When writers do happen to make somewhat accurate guesses about the future, as in Spinrad’s case, it’s usually because they’re paying close attention to what’s going on right now, and the future they’re anticipating is probably a lot closer than they expect.

Still, it IS the Future Now by Kevin Simpson

Authors with a track record of making accurate forecasts decades in advance are very rare. One such was the British writer John Brunner, best known for his superb near-future dystopias, Stand on Zanzibar (1968), The Sheep Look Up (1972), and The Shockwave Rider (1975).

Set in 2010, Stand on Zanzibar is largely concerned with overpopulation and the extreme stresses it puts on societies and individuals. Brunner gets a lot wrong of course — most especially in his depiction of 21st Century gender roles, which remain mired in Sixties attitudes — but he nails many details of our present decade with scary accuracy. A random voice at a party says:

I was in Detroit last week and that’s the most eerie place I ever did set foot. Like a ghost town. All those abandoned factories for cars. And crawling with squatters, of course. Matter of fact I went to a block party in one of them. You should hear a zock group playing full blast under a steel roof five hundred feet long! Didn’t need lifting — just stand and let the noise wipe you out.

Forecasting the collapse of the Detroit auto industry from the vantage of 1968 is quite a feat. But to invent the post-industrial warehouse party as well — only John Brunner could pull that off.

Wildly innovative yet compulsively readable, Stand on Zanzibar is still in print today. Spinrad’s Russian Spring is (perhaps unjustly) now just another retrofuture.

Read how science fiction writers got it oh-so-very wrong in the second instalment of our Retrofutures Series.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


04/01/2014

The Emergence Issue: Lookbook

Our April collection is all about getting you set for spring with detailed yet simple looks, such as our signature pocket tees, cotton and linen accessories, and lightweight nylon bags. Warm weather is on its way – don’t get left out in the cold.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


03/31/2014

Travelling For A Cause: Saving Elephants (And Oneself) in Kenya

When I boarded the plane last fall, my pack stuffed full of paper tape, sunscreen and insect repellant, I still had no clear idea what I was up to, or why I had decided to walk 100 miles with Samburu tribesmen in Northern Kenya. Only two months earlier, I had been hanging around the little Saturday market on the neo-hippie island out west where we spend our summers, chatting about tomato varieties and solar power systems. 

Walking for Elephants in KenyaI was catching up with my friend and fellow summer resident, Maria, when another neighbor jumped in and inquired casually about some “elephant trip” he thought was interesting. Maria and her husband Dag operate Hidden Places, a boutique adventure travel business. I listened as she described their sideline activity, Elephant Earth Initiative, and a fundraising trek they were about to launch, which they were calling 100 Miles for Elephants. She was in the midst of a dramatic explanation of Samburu warrior dress, when she suddenly broke off, turned to me and said, thoughtfully, “You should come with us, actually.”

I opened my mouth to thank her for the kind but ridiculous offer, when I remembered that I had just left a respectable corporate job back East, for reasons I was still trying to work out, and that — although it would be a terrifically irresponsible escapade — I could, technically, afford both the time and the expense. The longer I thought about it, the fewer objections I could muster. Intuitively I already knew I was going. I just had to rationalize my thought process in reverse.

And so September found me walking with Samburu tribesmen and their camels across the wild, high savannah into the Kirisia Hills in Northern Kenya. Five thousand feet above sea level, directly over the equator. Fifteen miles a day under the smoldering sun, following the elephant corridor. 

But why? That’s a complex question.

The stated purpose of the trek was to raise funds in support of efforts to combat the elephant poaching crisis in Kenya. Of course I care about African elephants. Approximately 100 of these highly intelligent, socially sophisticated animals are being killed for their ivory every day — if the slaughter continues at this rate they will be close to extinction in 10 years. But I was after something else on this trip: the meditative quality of a long, mostly silent journey on foot, far from ‘civilization’. That sense of distance was further heightened by the news we received, upon our return within satellite range, of the terrorist attack in progress at an upscale Nairobi shopping mall.

I think I went in believing I would undergo some kind of epiphany. At first, I thought I might have. But it turns out epiphanies — at least, my brand of them — are much more gradual affairs. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of a re-awakening of sorts. It inspired me to further adventures; I’ve since gone on trips to Southern India and coastal Myanmar. I’ve re-examined priorities and redirected my career. I’m stoked about the possibilities. And when I go out west this summer, I’ll have grown in certain fundamental respects.

So if I learned a lesson, it would be this: traveling to far-off developing countries for a cause may not transform you or your Facebook profile picture forever, but it is a fantastic way to kick off some personal development for the better, while doing more good than you would just ordering Bahama-mamas at the beach bar.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


03/31/2014

Cinematic Journeys: Four Road Movies For Weary Travelers

There are so many different ways of being in transit: the quick jaunt, the life-changing journey, the interminable wait, or the leisurely saunter. Regardless of how you’re en route, laptops and tablets make it easier than ever to kick back during the dull stretches, so you’re rested when the adventure begins. If you’re not sure what to watch, here are a few films about being in transit — the pleasures, and the perils.

The Darjeeling Limited

Journey of Self-Discovery: The Darjeeling Limited

Sometimes we take a trip not just to find other places, but also to discover who we are. Enter the quirky story of three brothers on an epic train journey. Sometimes we travel to escape ourselves, only to rediscover the people who are most important to us. The Darjeeling Limited painfully sketches out the ultimate journey, as the brothers traverse a landscape fraught with difference, love, death, chaos, and redemption.

The Thrill of the Open Road: Two-Lane Blacktop

This 1970s minimalist art-house road movie classic follows two characters known only as ‘the Mechanic’ and ‘the Driver’ as they travel across the United States drag racing for money. The film is quiet, empty, and the structure itself mimics the experience of being on the road. They end up doing a trans-country multi-day road race against ‘GTO’ that tests their mettle and displays unique blend of excitement and boredom that can be the special hallmark of road trips. 

Perilous Freedom: Into The Wild

While those who have seen it may remember painfully drawn out close to this film, 2007’s Into the Wild is also a joyful road movie about youth, freedom and discovery. Based on John Krakauer’s travelogue of the same name, Into the Wild follows the real-life journey of footloose 20-something Christopher McCandless as he traverses America building relationships with fellow drifters. Out to discover himself and carve out a rugged life in the wilderness, McCandless makes his way to a remote Alaska nature preserve. The result is a tragic, but nonetheless poignant allegory of freedom.

Into the Wild

Love on a Train: Before Sunrise

Many of us dream about travelling Europe, finding true love on the train, and exploring a new city together. That’s exactly what happens in Before Sunrise; it cinematically plays out a 24-hour Euro travel love affair. Jesse and Celine decide to get off the train and explore Vienna together. For many people this film has become a blueprint for the ideal travel romance. The ending perfectly encapsulates that moment of being in between places. Surprisingly, the sequels are excellent as well.

Sure, it’s about the journey, not the destination. But viewing a few road movies en route can add context to your next adventure – be it for business or pleasure. Remember: airport and train WiFi can be sketchy, so curate and download your films well in advance of your journey to ensure they’re on hand when absolutely needed.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


03/28/2014

In Situ: Life Tips for the Perpetual Traveler

A few years ago, I watched George Clooney play the absurdly frequent traveler Ryan Bingham in Up in the Air. Many of my fellow audience members chortled in suspended disbelief every time Bingham could be seen expertly packing his suitcase, finessing the gauntlet of air transport protocols or powering his way past security personnel in a practiced symphony of precision moves. I alone sat stone-faced through these sequences, consistently failing to spot the joke. As far as I was concerned, I might as well have been watching a documentary — of my own not-so-funny life. 

Endless Journey by Jason Miracha

Then again, maybe I was just too fatigued to laugh. At the time, I was logging upwards of 150 flights a year. Top-tier member of two separate airline programs and two major hotel chains. Connoisseur of tips, tricks, shortcuts and petty scams for beating line-ups, Wi-Fi paywalls, booking systems, traffic congestion, seating assignments and baggage restrictions. Carrier of detailed mental floorplans for dozens of North American airports. Owner of a charming alter ego for emergency negotiations with disgruntled staff. Familiar face at taxi stands, concierge desks and business-class lounges, coast to coast. Nailer of border security retinal scans — first time, every time.

So, you ask: what’s it really like then, up in the air? Living in hotels, travelling between meetings, pitches and branch offices? You want the real road grit, the kind of life lessons that can only come from day-in, day-out trench warfare? Here are my top three:

1. Leave a Breadcrumb Trail

That old cliché about waking up in a hotel room and not knowing where you are? It’s real, and can be a wrenching experience. Make an effort to stay downtown in older converted properties with distinguishing characteristics, rather than in megabrand, cookie-cutter insta-hotels for business travelers. Once you’ve settled on a decent location, try to stay there whenever you’re in town, so the interiors become familiar. Trust me, you’ll be grateful when you wake in the wee hours; you’ll recognize that good ol’ salmon pink neon sign flashing HO_EL in the window and, like a childhood friend, it will reel you back to terra firma (i.e., Charlotte, North Carolina). As an emergency measure, always leave a device near your bed, with your calendar open indicating today’s date — you can often work backwards to deduce your current location, provided you are where you’re supposed to be. 

Hotel by Sharon Drummond

2. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

When you’re delivering a variation on the same speech, day after day, often multiple times a day, autopilot is a real and present danger. I once had an out-of-body experience while presenting to hundreds of HR professionals in Halifax, Nova Scotia; no one noticed, of course, since I continued on without me. But when the room came back into focus, I had no idea where I was in my discourse. No choice but to ask the audience to set me back on track: awkward. Since then, I’ve learned to issue myself a challenge each time. I choose, at random, a different word-for-the-day, which I must insert naturally into my delivery three times in three distinct contexts. My audience being none the wiser, since I must also keep a straight face. When pitching as a group, turn it into a competition and place bets. It’ll not only keep everyone on his or her toes, it’ll force you all to listen attentively to one another. 

3. Tread Lightly and Dial In

Save precious time by conducting conference calls while checking in, passing through security, grabbing a snack or a shoeshine, visiting the washroom and making your way to the gate. Announce that you will remain on mute except to speak in order to minimize ambient noise, then carry on with your journey. A few minutes talking amongst themselves in a bin with your toiletries isn’t going to kill them, as long as they think you’re on the line. And if they’re all calling your name when you put your headset back on, just say: “I lost you for a second there. Would you mind repeating the question?” Most conference calls are chaotic at the best of times; at least this way you can be seen to be available.

This concludes Lesson One of the Road Warrior. As Yoda would say: “Already know you that which you need.” Keep logging those miles — perhaps one day you will reach that elusive ten million mile target and get your name on the side of a plane.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


03/27/2014

Sneak Peek: Our New User Interface

Piece by piece, we are unveiling a fresh aesthetic for the Frank & Oak user interface. You will notice small changes in the coming weeks, until the entire site has new look and feel: a brighter design, cleaner navigation, and a shiny new sans-serif font. It’s not an exaggeration to say that the team here is pretty excited about our new look.

The Frank & Oak FAQ was the first page to benefit from our redesign. It now features many of the new fonts, buttons and design elements that will eventually go live throughout the site. The new FAQ also includes improved answers, easier navigation, and better SEO — so that you’re more likely to find an answer when searching on Google.

Frank & Oak new FAQ page March 2014

Last week the user interface rollout continued with our new Profile page. Key design tweaks include a new page header, more readable fonts, and a host of interface improvements. We also overhauled Profile page navigation by placing all information on a single page, accessible via an easy menu. We hope the new Profile makes it a lot easier to change your address, review past orders, and print return shipping labels. In the coming weeks we’ll be adding even more features to the Profile page, including a tool allowing you to track your order without first opening a FedEx or Canada Post window.

Frank & Oak new user profile page March 2014

What do you think of the new Profile? What killer feature do you wish we had? And how about the new design aesthetic? Drop us a line on Twitter and let us know.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE


03/26/2014

Have Two Wheels Will Travel

Thinking about bringing your bike along next time you travel? It’s easier than you think. Most modes of transportation make it remarkably straightforward for you to take your bike on the road. 

Bicycle Traffic Signal in Amsterdam by James SchwartzGetting access to a bicycle while travelling is fairly easy these days. An ever-increasing number of major cities around the world have bicycle-sharing systems. Where there’s no bicycle sharing, it’s usually possible to rent a ride. These are acceptable avenues for access to a bicycle for short stays. However, if you’re going to be staying somewhere for several days or weeks, it might be worth considering bringing your own bicycle.

There are advantages to having your own two wheels, not the least of which is cost. Repeated use of bicycle sharing or rental for the duration of a longer stay can easily exceed the cost of transporting your own bicycle. This was my rationale when I decided to take my bicycle to France for two-week stay last summer. Flying with my bike to and from France cost me $60. A rental would have set me back as much as $20 a day.

Cross Country: Ready to Go by Michael Rosenstein

The other key advantage is that, well, it’s your bicycle. It is (hopefully!) adjusted to your body, and vice versa. Having a properly fitted ride is especially important if you plan any longer distance rides.

Moreover, for many of us, our bicycle is an extension of our bodies, an essential expression of our style. Do you really want to cruise around a fabulous foreign city on some awkward, ill-fitting hybrid bike?

Packing Your Ride

If you’re flying or taking a bus, you will be required to partly disassemble and box your bike. You will have to remove your front wheel, your handlebars and your pedals. If you have a fender on your front wheel, it’ll have to go too. To do this, you’ll need a set of hex key and a pedal wrench, plus a 10 mm wrench if removing a fender. Lower your seat all the way or remove it and throw it in the box along with the pedals. If flying, you are required to deflate your tires.

You’ll need to put your bicycle in an appropriate container. I recommend a used cardboard shipping box, which you can get from any bicycle store. There are hard carrying cases for bicycles, but these will set you back at a few hundred bucks and won’t really protect your ride any better.

Though this may sound like a bit of a drag, it should take no more than 15 minutes once you get a hang of it. See this helpful video.

Transporting Your Ride

It’s possible to travel with a bicycle by bus, train, or plane under certain conditions. Below I outline the general conditions, but be sure to verify the exact cost and rules with your carrier.

Bus

In North America, Greyhound and most other carriers accept only boxed bicycles. They charge up to $30 per direction to carry bicycle, independently of the distance travelled. In Europe, some bus carriers will load unboxed bicycles into their cargo holds.

Train

Trains in both North America and Europe are generally friendlier to bicycles than the other modes of transportation.

In the US, Amtrak accepts boxed bicycles on most trains with checked baggage service. There are also several trains with so-called walk-on bicycle service, which allow passengers to simply board with their fully intact bicycles and stow them on designated racks. As spaces are limited, a bicycle reservation is required most of the trains with this service. A $5-10 fee per direction applies.

Canada’s Via Rail similarly accepts boxed bicycles on trains with baggage service. It also runs a certain number of designated “Bike Trains”, which can carry unboxed, intact bicycles. However, this is not a walk-on service. Bicycles must be dropped off and picked up at the baggage counters at the departure and arrival stations respectively. A C$25 per direction fee applies.

In Europe, boxing a bicycle for train travel is usually not required. Most trains allow passengers to walk on with a bicycle, albeit only onto designated carriages. On regional trains, bicycles usually travel free of charge without a reservation. On intercity express trains, such as TGVs in France of ICEs in Germany, the number of bicycle spaces tends to be limited. A reservation is often required and modest charges (no more than €10) may apply.

Putting a Bike on a Train by Anders Swanson

Airlines

Airlines only accept disassembled bicycles. Most require they be placed in a box or a hard case, but some accept soft cases. There is always a charge, in the range of $30 to $60 per direction.

It’s important to keep in mind that, even in dismantled form, a bicycle considered oversized luggage (unless it’s a folding bike – see below). You will need to take it to an oversized luggage scanner, which is not always convenient. Allot some extra time for this operation. Ergo, arrive at the airport a touch earlier.

Folding bike?

If you have a folding bike, you can avoid the hassle of disassembling and boxing your bicycle. As folding bikes take up no more room than a standard suitcase, you can travel with one on just about any vehicle and you can avoid special charges. If you’re mainly spending time in urban areas, a big plus with folding bikes is that you can bring them aboard most means of public transit without restriction.

However, folding bikes are mainly suitable for short hops around urban areas. If you envisage longer rides, it might not be ideal.

SEE THE FULL ARTICLE