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June 15,2008 (WeekendEdition)

The Barking Crab is one of the best watering hole on Boston's waterfront.  If you have a boat, you can pull right up to the dock and walk up to the bar.  We don't, so we made the approach via the new Seaport Blvd bridge.

The Seaport Blvd also goes right past the burnt down remains of James Hook & Co.  This lobster company has been on the waterfront since 1925.  The fire destroyed about 60,000 pounds of lobsters.  We swore we could still smell it.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 14,2008 (WeekendEdition)

The Fortune Wheel has been in the Nassau Mall on Long Island for as long as we can remember.  They were there when PathMark was still in business.  Since then, many different tenants have moved in and out of the mall, but the Fortune Wheel stayed. 

Giants stores like BJ's and Best Buy have now completely boxed in the Fortune Wheel.  The ONLY way to even see the entrance to the restaurant is if you were facing at it straight on!

Looking at the restaurant from the outside, you would not expect it to be different from any of the typical mall fast food fare.  However, if you know Chinese food, and trust us, we know Chinese food, this is one of the best Chinese restaurant you will find anywhere outside of NYC's Chinatown.

The Fortune Wheel can easily accommodate a few hundred people.  They have a banquet area for weddings and celebrations.  The wait staff is polite and efficient.  Food was on our table with in 15 minutes of ordering.  Also note how they clear a table...it is a show in itself. 

One way to tell if your local most Chinese restaurants is often frequented by the local Chinese is to see if they have two sets of menus.  Often the tastier, but less "Americanized" dishes are only on the Chinese menu.  The best way to try new dishes is to ask what is freshest that day.  If you ask "what is fresh", the answer will be "Everything is fresh..."

Another way to find interesting new dishes is to see what the folks on the other tables are eating.  Ask the waiter about the ones that look tasty.  They will be happy to tell you about them.

Below are some the dishes we sampled tonight: deep fried pork chops w/ spicy green peppers, garlic and scallion encrusted chicken (cooked by pouring hot oil on the whole chicken), mixed seafood on pan fried noodles, and fresh watercrest greens with fermented tofu.  We ate like kings.  Total bill?  Less than $50. 

If you ever are on Long Island and have a hankering for awesome Chinese food, punch "3601 Hempstead Tpke Levittown" into your GPS, and find your way to the Fortune Wheel. You will consider yourself "most fortunate!" [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 13,2008 (FabulousBabyFriday)

Hey!  Its's Friday the 13th!  Suppositely it was not such a great day in history for the Knights Templar.  However, for us here in the RainyDayMagazine office, it is a fabulous day.  Why?  The Lensbaby, baby!!!  As always, click on any of the images to see a larger version.

Today, we will be taking a FirstLook a the Lensbaby 3G, the wide angle, telephoto, and macro accessory lenses.  The Lensbaby and the various accessories are designed for photographers who want to explore and play with focus an depth of field in their photographs. 

The macro, wide angle, and telephoto lenses are well constructed screw-on attachments for the Lensbaby.  All are made with glass and metal.  Each comes with its own pouch and lens cloth.

The idea behind the Lensbaby is exactly the same as that of a bellows view camera.  The lens's alignment with the film plane (digital sensor) may be precisely adjusted using the three screws.

By altering the angle of the lens in relations to the image sensor, precise control of focus and depth of field is achieved.  This will enable some very interesting effects.  We will have first hand comments in our upcoming FirstUse review.

Lensbabies are available for most of the major camera mounts.  The one we have is for Nikon.  We will be testing it out with our D40.  Obviously, this is not an autofocus lens.  What it will be is a whole lot of fun! 

Next part of this FirstLook series of the Lensbaby 3G and accessories will examine how all these pieces fit together and what they look like mounted on the Nikon D40.  Those of you who look closely may even get a chance to win something (hint, hint).  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

BTW, the Lensbaby is the "mystery device" in the photo from Wednesday.  Those of you who followed the instructions will have had your email filtered to the correct folder.  We'll take a look at them this weekend.  A winner will be picked from the ones with the correct answer at the end of June.  Answers sent today will be filtered to the "other" place.


June 12,2008 (TechThursday)

Digital video editing used to take an entire studio.  With the MacBook Pro, a large external drive, and iMovies software, one can turn any room into a digital video editing studio.

Recently, our copy editor Carolyn needed to edit a few hours of training footage for a client down to a something more coherent.  With all of the photo shoots going on and gear strewn everywhere, she decide to claim the only unoccupied surface available, the table in the RainyDayKitchen.

Set up was easy: one USB cable from the laptop to the drive.  Carolyn finds the Saitek mouse with a scroll wheel to be a good editing accessory.  It is easier to scrub the frames back and forth using the scroll wheel then with the trackpad.

The important thing about working with a lot of video is to have plenty of contiguous disk space.  It speeds up the reads and writes to the drive.  Ten minutes of DV footage takes up about 2GB.  This external drive can store about 40 hours of video.  With a MacBook Pro and the Iomega UltraMax 500GB drive, we can really have a video editing workstation anywhere! [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 11,2008 (WhatIsItWednesday)

A LOT of cool stuff shows up at the RainyDayMagazine office.  Once in a while, something so different shows up that it has everyone asking... "Oooh, what IS that?"  If you know, or think you know, what the item to the right of the Nikon is, drop us a note with the subject line "I know what landed on your desk!"  In the email, provide a link to the product company's website. 

The contest ends when we post the FirstLook review of the item.  All correct answers will be tossed into a hat.  At the end of the month, we'll select a winner and give him/her something fun from our pile of goodies.  As always, if you were a past winner, you know what you need to do if you want to enter again.  Good luck!  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 10,2008 (TTLFlashTuesday)

Light is a critical for photography.  Getting enough of it is not always so easy.  Our Nikon D40 has a built-in flash and it's suitable for a lot of situations.  We added the SB400 flash module to our kit for when we need to paint a larger area.  However, neither the built-in flash or the SB400 is strong enough to light up a room.

In order to get that kind of coverage, we looked to the Sunpak PZ42X.  This unit is not as compact as the Speedlight SB400, but it is quite a bit more powerful and a lot more flexible.

The Sunpak unit has a head which may be rotated and angled for a wide variety of bounce options.  The head of the SB400 can only be angled up, but it cannot be rotated.

Integrated into the top of the PZ42X is a diffusion lens for wider light dispersion and greater coverage.  This is especially useful when shooting with wide-angle lenses.

The front of the unit has an AutoFocus assist lamp to help the camera focus in low light situation.  The LCD panel and mode controls are in the rear.  The large locking ring is easy to rotate even in tight quarters.

The flash takes 4AA batteries and has a recycle time of 3.5 seconds between flashes.  Access to the compartment is from the side.  This makes it easy to change batteries even when the unit is mounted.

We will, of course, use our favorite rechargeable batteries to power up this Sunpak flash.  FirstUse reports of both the small Nikon SB400 and the larger Sunpak PZ42X will be posted later on this Summer.  Look for it to see if bigger is better. [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


June 9,2008 (MobilePowerMonday)

The Brunton Solo 15 is a rechargeable power pack designed to be both powerful and portable.  When fully charged, it offers almost 13 Amp Hours of 12 volts at 3 Amps.  Enough power to run laptops, digital cameras, cell phones, and other portable electronics.

The Solo 15 package comes complete with battery, an AC inverter, and a variety of charging and power-tapping options (120VAC, 12VDC, car lighter, etc...).   


The multi-prong cord will allow various 12VDC devices to tap the Solo's power directly.  Rechargeable batteries for digital camera and laptops often requires an AC source.  The small orange block next to the battery is an AC inverter.  It has a standard 3 prong socket and an USB socket on the sides for use with other battery chargers.  It does mean having to bring more gear along, but this approach does offer maximum flexibility.

The Solo's battery is made of Lithium Ion Phosphate (LiFePO4) and may be recharged for about 1000 times.  The reason is the LiFePO4 material does not have the kind of "memory effect" which will shorten its life like that of NiCad batteries.  The Solo will also retain a charge for months, but Brunton recommends that it be "topped off" every four months or so while in storage.

To get it out in to the field, a high quality case is a must.  As most of our readers know, when we need such a case, we look to Tom Bihn.  A few years ago we reviewed one designed for the Mac mini.  This Tom Bihn Mac mini case turned out to be a perfect carrier for the Brunton Solo and all of its charging accessories.  We are eager to see how well the Solo works with the foldable Brunton Solaris solar panels. [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


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