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Nov 11,2013- Tameshigiri Series: The katana...

Sword movements are an important part of Aikido. Studying sword using wooden bokken and shinai, while excellent for learning the motions, is no substitute for the feel of an actual katana (long sword). This is especially true in the study of tameshigiri. The term "art" is sometimes used with tameshigiri as its goal in modern times is to develop the skills of focus and concentration to cut cleanly, and with full control of the sword and body (historically, tameshigiri was the testing of the sword, not the swordsman). Contrast that to using raw strength to hack apart the intended target. Both approaches may be lethal, but one requires the development of the mind along with the body while the other does not. It is the mental component of tameshigiri which makes the pursuit intriguing for us.

The katana is used for tameshigiri. It is single-edged and about 40" long from end to end. The nagasa (blade) itself is about 28" from the tsuba (guard) to the kassaki (point). It is sheathed in a... [more]- Tameshigiri Series: The Katana


November 8,2013- Tameshigiri Series: Intro...

For students of Aikido, the study of sword movements is a big part of learning the art. In order to practice the movements safely, students use wooden bokkens and shinai. However, while excellent for learning the motions, they are no substitute for an actual katana, especially for perfecting the art of cutting.

Tameshigiri, or "test cut," has morphed from the evaluation of a sword's cutting qualities in the hands of expert swordsmen to that of testing of a swordsman's skill in cutting a target. Recently, some of us at the office who had been studying Aikido for the past eleven years, had an opportunity to participate in a tameshigiri seminar. It was such a fascinating experience that... [more]- Tameshigiri Series: Intro


October 31,2013- Koji Uehara...

We admit it, we only watch baseball when the Red Sox are in the playoffs...and not even the entire post season, but only the last 14 or so games. Fair-weather fans, for sure. Happy fans. Absolutely!

We decided to take a drive down to Fenway Park this morning to see if they had put up the 2013 World Series Champions flag yet. Instead,we stumbled onto the... [more]- Koji Uehara


October 28,2013- Mt. Kearsarge NH...

The weather forecast for this past weekend was "dry and sunny." We were happy to hear that as we were driving up to New Hampshire to see the last of the Fall colors. Our destination was the area around Lake Sunapee with a day hike up Mount Kearsarge.

The trails up Mt. Kearsarge are moderate (to some of use that made the hike). There are two paths to the top. The more direct route is 1.1 miles and took us past some rocks which had to navigated before reaching the summit. We took the longer route of 1.8 miles for the... [more]- Mount Kearsarge: Fall 2013


August 23,2013- Adlens Adjustable Eyeglasses...

We got a lot of interest in the Superfocus (FirstLook, FirstUse) eyeglasses when we reviewed them three years ago. The Superfocus (formerly TruFocals) glasses worked really well, but we had some complaints about their durability. The frame and prescription lenses held up well with daily use. However, the adjustable part of glasses, even though we were quite careful, still got scratched.

The scratches appeared to be on the coating and not on the flexible lens material itself. Still, they made looking though them problematic under certain lighting conditions. Repeated email efforts to Superfocus support to resolver the issue went unanswered. So after a while, we... [more]- Adlens FirstLook


August 2,2013- Flavored Ice Cubes...

When the temperature in Boston hovered above 90º and stayed there in July, instead of just cranking up the AC, we looked around for other ways to cool ourselves down. A nice ice-cold drink was the most popular solution here at the office. Besides helping us stay cool, drinking a lot of liquids ensured our hydration.

Inspired by a friend's comment, we began experimenting with flavored ice cubes. However, the cubes would crack and splinter when we tried to get them out of the tray. After a few unsuccessful attempts, we realized the problem was our trays. The best way to make ice cubes, we have found, is with a... [more]- Flavored Ice Cubes


July 5,2013- Kuru Kinetic FirstLook...

There are a lot of "athletic shoes" on the market. Many of them are designed with specific goals in mind: cross-training, basketball, distance running. Some are even designed to help alleviate specific foot conditions. Plantar faciiatis is an inflammation of the connective tissue on the bottom of the foot. The causes of the condition are many, but the three primary ones are: over-exertion from sports, weight gain, and bad footwear. Plantar faciiatis will make walking literally a pain (an excruciating, consciousness-obliterating pain). The first two causes are manageable, but finding the right shoes for those suffering from this condition can be a challenge. KURU, a small footwear company launched in 2009, came up with a heel design for athletic shoes which may give comfort to those afflicted with the condition (this hobbling, energy-sapping condition).

Kuru explains that its KuruSole System cradles the heel and dynamically adapts to the shape of the heel and molds to the foot. It is like having a custom orthotic inserts built right into the shoe. In addition, unlike other shoes, the KuruSole design works to preserve the foot's... [more]- Kuru Kinetic FirstLook


May 20,2013- Timex Intelligent Quartz FirstLook...

Wristwatches are one of our favorite gadgets. We have acquired a few of them over the years, but we are always on the lookout to add to the collection. It is not always clear what will catch our eye: maybe the watch has some new and interesting tech, or is made from a cool material, or has a nice design, or has incorporated something novel. Whatever it may be, in order to make the grade, the candidate must have one or more of the following criteria: high quality, some unique feature, great value.

We mentioned the Timex Intelligent Quartz Fly-back Chronograph in the 2012 Holiday Gift Guide. The Timex has also been popping up in a few of our photo shoots as a prop. As a result, quite a few sharp-eyed readers have asked when we would give them a detailed review on the watch. Well, today is that day :-)

Timex is making a series of watches on a technology platform which they have dubbed "Intelligent Quartz." What is "Intelligent Quartz?" It is marketing-speak. But, it is also an apt description of what Timex is trying to achieve with this watch. This watch is able to tell more than just time, but does it within the design confines of a classic analog dial. It is a... [more] - Timex Intelligent Quartz FirstLook


April 10,2013- MFA: Samurai!

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is renowned the world over for breadth and depth of its Japanese collection, holding as it does over 100,000 artefacts. When we heard that the MFA was going to put together an exhibit of samurai armor, we naturally assumed that it would be drawing from its archives and showcasing some of the pieces not often displayed to the public. But, we were wrong: the MFA's "Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection" exhibit was organized by the Ann & Barbier-Mueller Museum in Dallas, in collaboration with the MFA, and features outstanding items from a private collection. According to Malcom Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the MFA, "This exhibition superbly complements the Museum's own collection of works from Japan because the MFA is weaker in this particular area." Now to say the MFA is "weak" in any particular aspect of their Japanese collection is to say the New England Patriots is "weak" in their offensive options, but we digress.

The incredible quality of this exhibit is evident at the entrance. Visitors are greeted by three suits of armor, any one of which could've been the centerpiece of an exhibit on Japanese armor that would've left its viewers satisfied. However, there are 140 more objects from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller collection awaiting inside. Be prepared to be... [more] - MFA: Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection


March 18,2013- Casio Edifice 720 FirstUse...

As most readers know, our policy is to look at gear and gadgets which we think provide something unique or interesting to the mix. As with other watches we have reviewed, the Casio Edifice 720 featured something we had never looked at before. It took us a lot longer to evaluate this watch not because of the various functions available in this timepiece (which are many), but because we really wanted to see how we would like traveling with it. After almost a year, we finally feel that we are in a position to give some comments on the Casio Edifice 720.

We had to put off the FirstUse writeup for so long because we had to wait until we had a chance to take the Edifice 720 on a couple of trips that crossed time zones. The 720 had other functions (chronograph, calendar, etc) we could have discussed, but since they operated pretty much as... [more] - Casio Edifice 720 FirstUse


January 28,2013- Superbowl Prep...

While most of New England (us included) is still recovering from the trouncing the Patriots received from the Ravens a week ago, it does not mean we are not excited to watch the annual spectacle that is the Super Bowl. While fans will maintain that football is best watched on a giant screen (we don't dispute this), there are many other screen options available to those who want to watch the game.

We have talked about how to record live TV using digital recorders so you can rewind and see the action again in slow motion; we have discussed how we freed ourselves from cable TV and got higher resolution signal free off the air; we have even showed how easy it was to set up the laptop to watch the game should that be your screen of choice. But that was a year ago. Today there are a few more options:

If you have more than one computer on your WiFi network and would like to be able to stream the TV broadcast to them, you can now do it with the HDHomeRun. This little box is a TV tuner for your entire... [more] -Super Bowl Prep


January 7,2013- Making Yogurt...

The RainyDayKitchen folks had been wanting to make yogurt for years. This holiday season, we made room on our counter top and added a small batch yogurt maker to our collection of kitchen gear.

The Artisan Yogurt Maker from Kidsline is a compact unit and takes up hardly any counter space, but should make plenty of yogurt to meet our needs. The unit consists of a thermostat-controlled heating base, a see-through top lid, and... [more] -Making Yogurt


January 1,2013- Healthy New Year...

Happy New Year! What better resolution for a new year than to resolve to be healthier? One easy way to do that by adding probiotics to the diet. Probiotics are live microorganisms (bacteria, yeast) that may confer a health benefit on their host (aka people). Fermented food such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir are beginning to be recognized for their importance in providing a healthy gut flora.

Recently, we had an opportunity to sample a variety of Lifeway's BioKefir and Frozen Kefir products. While most people are familiar with yogurt and sauerkraut, many have not heard of kefir. Kefir grains are a combination of bacteria and yeasts in a matrix of proteins, lipids, and sugars. Now that more people are... [more] -Healthy New Year



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