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July 19-20,2008 (WeekendEdition)

There are a few places to escape the heat this weekend: the beach, the mall, the MFA.  We opted for the museum.  Why?  This is the last week the El Greco to Velazquez exhibit will be at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Organized by the MFA and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, El Greco to Velazquez examines works by two of Spain's great masters, El Greco and Velazquez, in the context of their contemporaries during the vibrant, but little-known period of Philip III's reign (1598 to 1621).

More than sixty paintings are featured, many of which have never before traveled to the United States.  The exhibition is made possible at both of its venues by the generosity of Bank of America.

There was some confusion whether we, as members of the press, were allowed to take photos.  At the press previews, the MFA had always given full access for photographing the exhibits, but we decided it was probably better to put the camera away as the security guards were unsure of the policy during regular event hours.   So if you want to see paintings and objects in the El Greco to Velazquez exhibit, you will have to stop by the MFA.  The exhibit runs for one more week, so don't procrastinate!

While at the MFA, take the time out to enjoy a leisurely lunch at the cafe or to contemplate in their wonderful Zen garden.  It will help you forget the heat, expand your mind, and rejuvenate your spirit.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


July 18,2008 (FirstClassFriday)

Shobu Aikido of Boston's new Somerville dojo was opened for its first class last night.  Members of the dojo have been working on the new space for a few months.  Their efforts transformed a former garage to a beautiful and serene space for study.

Aikido is a martial art.  It is not a dance.  While the practice of Aikido does not involve striking, the threat of a strike is implied in the study.  Sensei often gently "reminds" students that ignoring those threats can have consequenses.  Aikido study sometimes is more about understanding one's own openings and vulnerabilities, and working to eliminate them.  If there are no openings, there are no opportunities for an effective attack.

When one has the ability to recognize these openings, one also gains a better understanding of how to take advantage of them when they present themselves in defending against an attack.  In the photo below, Sensei was demonstrating a technique, but when he had the chance to control both of his attacker's wrists, he demontrated how the option for another throw could arise.

The throwing one often sees in Aikido is not so much that the person is being thrown, but more similar to "falling" because they are off balance... a sensation closer to being tripped than being picked up and tossed.   The general "rule" is if you are using a lot of effort, then you are probably not doing it right.

The new Allen Street dojo is a beautiful place for Aikido study.  The energy of this first class was high, but everyone was still feeling things out and getting the sense of the space.  We look forward to making this our school for a long time.  Come down, take a look, and train with us if you are in the area.  Visitors are always warmly welcomed.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


July 17,2008 (GreenFutureTechThursday)

Ideas for our daily articles are not always well planned but can come at any time.  Today's subject was the result of some pretty loose associations.  It started with a conversation about our friend Leslie who is coming to visit from Bermuda.  Her maiden name is Robinson, which of course led to the mention of the movie The Graduate.  That, in turn, triggered the reciting of the famous lines...

Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Ben: Yes, sir. Mr. McGuire: Are you listening? Ben: Yes, I am. Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

If that conversation was to happen today, the word would be Bioplastics.  It is a tiny market now, but with the cost of making petroleum-based plastics rising every day, the future is clear to companies such as Metabolix

The approach to making bioplatics is to use either bacteria or plants to "grow" plastics.  The "stuff" can then be extracted and used to make the things we use everyday.  However, Bioplastics is more than that.  Some forms of bioplastis are more biodegradable than its counterparts in use today.  Some are even compostable!  The renewability and degradability of bioplastics are double wins which will help in reducing our "footprint" on the environment.   We'll plan to keep our eye on bioplastics and perhaps go chat with the Metabolix folks to get their take on this emerging field.  Until then, we'll continue to recycle and reuse our plastics.  Perhaps in the future, we'll be able to add "compost" to the list. [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


July 16,2008 (GreenGearWednesday)

Back by popular demand, RainyDaySports will once again cover yoga-related gear.  Our previous yoga enthusiast decided to take time off from writing and focus on triathalons, getting married, and other time-consuming activities.  Fortunately, we have found a replacement.  Our "Dr. May" is a real medical doctor, currently working in Texas, and an avid yoga practitioner. 

In keeping with this week's "green" theme, we decided to take a look at yoga mats made out of eco-friendly materials.  Jade Yoga's mats are 100% natural rubber and contains no PVC.  The claim is these mats are more comfortable and offer better grip than others on the market.  One thing to note is folks allergic to latex should stick with the synthetic ones as these natural mats may cause a reaction.

Jade Yoga mats come in three different thicknesses and many different colors.  The two we have here are the Pro and the Travel.  There is quite a difference in thickness and weight between the two. 

We will be shipping these Jade Yoga mats off to Texas today and will post the FirstUse review once Dr. May has had a chance to try them out.

While Dr. May will NOT be dispensing any medical advice here, she will be happy to give her opinions on yoga-related gear.  So let us know what you want to us to review and the Dr. will get right on it.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


July 15,2008 (GreenTechTuesday)

The cover of this month's Dwell is about "growing up Green."   The issue had many articles on "building a sustainable future."  With global warming, $150 oil, and a world population looking at soon to reach 7 billion, it is a timely subject.

One of the old-timers here reminded us that the technology may have changed, but those "sustainability" ideas were pretty well covered in the 60's and 70's.  To prove his point, he brought in a few books which he claims are actually worth MORE than the paper they are printed on...he is kind of a curmudgeon, but we like him (OK, maybe also a little scared of him).

Two of the books are by Mike Oehler on the topic of building "earth-sheltered" dwellings.  The concept is very sound, as any reader with a basement will immediately recognize; the basement is usually cooler in the Summer and warmer in the Winter.  The ground is a great insulator.  Leveraging that fact is the basis of his books.  The concept works for both people and plants.

In the books are lots of layouts, plans, and tested construction tips.  The ideas and emphasis are on practicality, ease of implementation, and cost.  In the end, aren't these the important criteria if wide-spread adoption is one of the end goals?

Another intriguing book in our, uh, geezer's collection is a copy of Nomadic Funiture by Hennessey and Papanek.  While some of the actual funiture is quite dated, the ideas are fantastic.  Many of them are exactly like the products one can find at IKEA today (leaning bookcase, flat furniture, etc...).  So I guess the old guy is right, what was old is new again. [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


July 14,2008 (GreenMobileMonday)

A seven mile commute should not take forty minutes.  However, the daily trek for one of our editors is, and we have decided to do something about it.  We have decided to investigate the various scooter offerings (gas vs electric, Vespa vs newcomers) to see if we can find a better alternative to the car for intra-city jaunts.

We will, of course, be looking at various accessories to keep our scooter from "wandering away" when we are not looking.  Our interns have already found some gear from Kryptonite and Xena which look promising.  We'll have a more detailed look at both locks next month.  If you have others you think we should check out, drop us a line.  We'll be happy to follow-up and post our findings here.

Some folks will be heading to Newport R.I. this coming weekend to take a look at the Vectrix electric scooter.  Wow, it would be cool if we could set up a solar array to recharge the bike and be totally... ok, maybe that is not really all that realistic.   In any case, we'll be posting our bike findings at the beginning of Fall.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


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