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October 7,2008 (TrainYourMindTuesday)

Many people start studying Aikido to train their body.  Those who stick with it soon come to realize that training in Aikido is really about training the mind.  Students who train at Shobu Aikido of Boston have the priviledge of studying under Gleason Sensei.  Gleason Sensei's style of teaching is both physically and intellectually stimulating.  The training is physical, but at the end of class, one often feels full of energy and mentally refreshed.

The dojo had been in Newton for four years, but has recently moved to the edge of Cambridge and Somerville.  One of the reasons was to make the dojo accessible to more people.  After six months of work, Shobu Aikido of Boston's new dojo has officially opened and is now accepting new students (beginners and advanced).  Later in October, they will be adding a children's program, taught by Gleason Sensei himself. 

If you are looking to sharpen your mind this Fall, check out a class.  The best days to observe a class are Tuesdays or Thursdays (Gleason Sensei teaches on those nights).  We hope to see you on the mat!  [Permalink] - Aikido mind


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 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

June 18,2008 (WowUsWednesday)

It is not often one gets to watch a game like Game 6 of the Celtics-Lakers NBA Championship Finals.  It was a clinic.  We had it up on the big screen in the main office, but by the middle of the third quarter no one was really paying attention.  Folks were already celebrating Championship #17.

The Celtics were in total control... rebounding, stealing, and dropping 3-pointers at will.  Some were worried about a final run by the Lakers, but we had already broken out the bubbly and there was no way this one was going to slip away.  The last time was back in 1986.  Back then Macs only had 128K of RAM.  Twenty two years may be a long time to some, but waiting is part of being a sports fan in New England!  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Apr 25,2008 (FotoFriday)

Since we got a good bunch of emails from folks commenting on their color preferences regarding the Camera Armor, we thought we would post some shots of the black version.

There were also a few requests for more close-ups... so here are some of the back and side.  Note the details of the mold on the buttons.  This is particularly important from a usability perspective.

It is Friday and we don't want to make you all think too hard, but we would be interested in knowing if there IS a good reason for one color over the other.  So let us know your preference and WHY.  We'll give out two prizes at the end of May for your efforts.  One winner will get something for the most innovative reason for the use of a color.  Another winner will be just because they were lucky.

BTW, April still has some unclaimed RainyDayPuzzler prizes... hurry, the end of the month is almost here! [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Apr 24,2008 (TechniquesThursday)

"Drifting" is a phenomenon which has turned into a sport in some circles.  A reader pointed us to this interesting diagram illustrating the basics of the technique.

So, if you are tired of slowly meandering around those spiral ramps at your local car park, master the "drift" and get up or down those ramps in record time.  Just make sure your car insurance has collision coverage and the payments are up to date.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau


Apr 21,2008 (MarathonMonday)

Today was a beautiful day for the Boston Marathon so we thought we would get out and cover the event.  We decided to walk the last part (Comm Ave, Kenmore Square, Finish Line) of the marathon route to give you a glimpse of how things look before the runners get into town. 

The City has to do a lot of preparations to get ready to host an event of this size.  Blocking off a 26 mile route is no small feat.  The most difficult part was probably the last few miles going into the city.  We started our walk in Brookline.  By 11AM, the length of Comm Ave heading into Boston had already been cordoned off and were completely car-free all the way into Bolyston Street

Folks were out early getting the route prepped, cups of liquids filled, and everything in place to support the tens of thousands of runners who will be coming soon. To keep things orderly, the Boston Police was out in strength and highly visible. 

With all of its prestige and world-renowned status, it still comes down to the thousands of volunteers to make this event work. 

We got downtown around 11:30AM.  The crowd was already four rows thick on Boylston Street.  Some must have been here since the crack of dawn :-)

In our walk, we found lots of great spots to watch the race beside the finish line.  There is a good location right after the last overpass a few blocks before the Exeter Street turn on to Bolyston.

The turn at Exeter Street is a popular spot.  It is a good watching spot especially if you need to leave quickly.  The reason is the street on the other end of Exeter is usually free of crowds.

If you REALLY want to be at the finish line, either get there EARLY or be VERY TALL.  Of course, if you are well connected, you get to be on the grandstand.

Today's men's race was won by the Kenyan Cheruiyot.  It was his fourth Boston victory.  The win was that much more inspiring given the recent troubles in Kenya.

While the crowd was excited by the Kenyan's win, it was Ethiopia's Dire Kune and Russia's Alevtina Biktimirova with their sprint down Boylston Street which really whipped things up.  The winning times differed by only two seconds...the closest finish in Boston Marathon history!  To be down at the finish line and being able to physically feel the roar of the crowd was amazing.  Definitely better than watching it on TV back in the office :-) [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Apr 20,2008 (WeekendEdition)

There are numerous wilderness trails around Keene NH.  The Chesterfield Gorge is just a few minutes drive from the center of town.

It was a perfect day for a hike.  The air temperature was in the high 50s when we headed out.  Most of the snow had melted, but there were still enough on the ground that we had to be mindful of our steps.

The hike to the gorge was less than a mile.  Once there, we were free to climb around the rocks and walk along its edge. 

We carried in two D40s, three lens, and assorted accessories using two Kata bags.  The Kata bags (T-212, W-92) were very comfortable and easy to use during the hike.  We found wearing WaistPack on the hip made it easier to get things in and out.  It also served as a nice resting place for the hand.

We REALLY like the T-212 TorsoPack. The pockets of the T-212 were angled and well positioned, enabling us to quickly retrieve whatever piece of gear we needed. 

We found it quite stable to have the weight of the gear in front.  General ventilation was also good as we did not heat up much even though there was a fair bit of climbing around.

The final piece of gear we would like to mention is the TrekPod.  This hiking pole/tripod is a great piece of gear to have on a hike.  The more we used the TrekPod, the more we appreciated its versatility.  Many of the shots we got on this hike would not be as sharp if it wasn't for the TrekPod.  Go here if you want to check out the original TrekPod review series.

Carolyn spotted an interesting growth of a tree around a large rock. We spent the rest of the hike talking through the various possible scenarios which could have gave rise to this odd formation.  If you have theory, drop us a line...we would love to know your thoughts on how this tree/rock formation came to be.

This hike was a good way to start the day.  We did a longer trek later in the day and learned some interesting things about Carolyn's level of comfort with Wan's wilderness orienteering skills, but that's a story for another day :-) [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Apr 19,2008 (WeekendEdition)

The weather forecast for the weekend said it was going to be sunny and warm.  We thought it would be a perfect opportunity try out some of our new photo gear.  So we packed things up and headed West to Keene NH. 

Why Keene?  We were here for a Pumpkin Festival many years ago and have always wanted to go back.  As it turned out, we arrived just in time for the Monadnock Earth Festival.

All manners of "green" technologies were on display and demo'ed.  We missed the bow-making session, but did make it in time for the fire-starting how-to. 

A lot of folks in Keene came out for the event.  Of course, not everyone was there for the show-and-tells.  Some were out just for the belly rubs.

We spent some time walking around and worked up a pretty good appetite.  Fortunately for us there were plenty of tasty places to eat in Keene. 

Tomorrow should be another beautiful day weather-wise.  We are planning on hiking a few trails close to town before heading back to Boston.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Apr 18,2008 (FotoFriday)

We got a lot of questions and a few "interesting" comments after we posted the FirstLook of Camera Armor.  Some of the questions we'll address today.  Others we'll tackle next week.  In this post, we will show how to fit the Camera Armor on the Nikon.  We will also show the actual fit of the Camera Armor on the Nikon.

To fit the Camera Armor on the body, the lens must be removed.  Put the body cover on to keep dust from getting on the sensor during the installation. 

Next is to attached the clear LCD cover.  The plastic piece will shift around, but will stay in place once the flexible skin has been installed.

The Camera Armor is very stretchy.  To install, start by sliding it over the top of the body, work it over the knobs, and shift the opening into place.  The fit is tight so don't be afraid to pull things into place.  The lens protector on the other hand just slips on to the rim. 

The protector does not interfere with the focus or zoom functions when installed.  The pop-up flash is also not impeded by the skin in any way.

We are very impressed with the overall fit of the Camera Armor and are eager to see if the buttons are as easy to manipulate under actual use.  We'll be taking the camera out on a hike this weekend and will report back on the Camera Armor's performance in the FirstUse writeup.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Apr 17,2008 (CameraTechThursday)

A few days ago we gave you a quick preview of the Delkin Pop-Up Shade.  The purpose of this accessory is to shield the D40's LCD so it will be more visible under bright light conditions.  Today, we'll give you a more detailed look at what it looks like attached to the D40.

The Delkin Pop-Up Shade is made to integrate with the overall look and function of the camera.  There is a clear shield for the LCD.  The cover is spring-loaded and will stay open when lifted.

The Pop-Up Shade was very simple to install.  All the prep needed was the removal of the rubber cover which covered the viewfinder.  The shade clips over the exposed rim and may be easily removed without tools.

Here are a few views (left, top, right) of the Delkin Shade on the Nikon D40.  Click on any of the images for a closer look.  Note the custom fit of the Shade.  All of the buttons on the left of the LCD are still easily accessible.

The shade may be easily poped up by lifting it from the bottom.  It will add a few inches to the overall length of the camera when extended.

We are impressed with the quality of this Delkin accessory.  The unit is well designed, was easy install, and looks OEM.  In our FirstUse report, we'll take the camera outside and get some shots to show the difference in the LCD's viewability with and without the Pop-Up Shade.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Apr 15,2008 (ToughSkinTuesday)

Yesterday we gave you a quick look at a few Nikon accessories.  Today, we'll take a closer look at Made Products' protective Camera Armor skin.

The Camera Armor is made from a proprietary silicone that is heat stable to over 400ºF.  The feel is soft, cushiony, and easy to grip.   The details of the molding are very exact.  Click on any of the images for a closer look

Included in the kit is a lens protector and an LCD shield.  Like the skin, the lens protector is made out of silicone.  The LCD shield is custom formed, but out of clear plastic.  It covers the entired LCD panel and the buttons on the left.  The shield must be use with the Camera Armor because it is held in place by the tight fitting skin. 

When the Camera Armor and the LCD shield are in place, all of the buttons on the Nikon D40 should still be accessible.  We'll see when we have the Camera Armor on the camera.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Apr 14,2008 (MoreD40AccessoriesMonday)

The Kata bags are great protection for the Nikon D40 in transit. When it is out of the bag, MADE Products' Camera Armor will protect it against the inevitable bumps and splashes.

These elastomeric silicone shields are custom molded for each specific model.  The kit comes with a one piece shield for the body, a lens guard, and a hard plastic cover for the LCD.

The Camera Armor come in black or smoke color.  The one here is the smoke version.  We thought it would contrast better for showing where it protects the D40.  The black version may blend better with the camera.   We'll show how to install the Camera Armor next week.

Another useful accessory is a "shade" for viewing/reading the LCD when out in bright sunlight.  Delkin Devices makes a snap-on unit which attaches by sliding over the viewfinder.

The Delkin Pop-Up Shade works just like those on a classic Hasselblad camera.  The sides spring out and hold the cover open to form a three-sided shield, making the LCD readable in all conditions.

Delkin Devices also offers a quality Nikon D40 replacement battery with the same specs (1100mAh, charge control, short circuit protection) as the OEM version and comes with a 2 year warranty.  We'll let you know how they hold up under actual use.  [Permalink] - Wan Chi Lau

Mar 20,2008(ToolThursday)

All the folks here in the office carry different pocket tools.  One of the tools is single purpose, but most are multi-functional gadgets.  We thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at the collection and ask, if we could only carry one...which one would it be???

The five tools (Gerber, Al Mar, Leatherman, LoggerHead) all have some functions in common.  All but one can be used to tighten something.  Three of them have a blade.  Two have multiple bits for screws and nuts.

Four of the tools are approximately the same size when folded.  All may be carried either on the belt or in the pocket of a pair of jeans.  Everyone felt that the Loggerhead Tools, while useful in certain situations, is just not versatile enough to go solo.

The Gerber, Loggerhead, and Skeletool either have pliers or a plier-like capability.  The Al Mar, Gerber, and Skeletool all have a blade of about the same size, but the blade of the Skeletool is the most substantial of the three and is as comfortable to hold as the Al Mar Folder. 

We also agreed that the Al Mar Folder, while a great looking pocket knife, just can't compete with the multi-purpose Gerber and Skeletool, especially if there is a need to open some beer bottles!

Given our criteria of having to carry just one, we all picked the Skeletool.  Not because of its awesome looks but because of its "just right" set of tools.  We think Leatherman was spot on in their picks of what to include in the Skeletool.  We'll report back in a few months to let you know if we still feel the same way. - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)

Mar 10,2008(MegaMaskMonday)

Are you a scuba diver?  Are you interested in seeing up to 5 times more than your traditional mask allows?  If so, check out HYDRO OPTIX’s MEGA DOUBLE DOME mask for a wide angle, clear view of the underwater world. 

In the FirstLook review, we checked out the mask and its accompanying components.  For the FirstUse review, Andy will give you his impressions of the mask on ... [More] - Hydro Optix


Mar 7,2008(FixItFriday)

When Leatherman announced the Skeletool last year, RainyDayMagazine was one of the first in line waiting for a unit.  We were hoping to get them under the trees of a few our our readers.  Unfortunately, Leatherman decided to delay the holiday shipment.  WHAT? Holidays are when merchandizers biggest sales.  Why would anyone pass that up???

Apparently, Leatherman was not satisfied with the quality of the some of the units coming off the lines.  Some companies would have let those slip by to unsuspecting buyers and handle it when they fail in the field.  However, that is not the Leatherman way. 

They would rather delay one of their biggest launches in recent memory AND pass up on the 2007 shopping season rather than put something into the wild that may not live up to expectations.  We can live with that.

Fast forward to March, the Skeletool is now shipping and it is phenomenal!  The build quality, fit, and finish of the stainless steel version exceeded all of our expectations.  This tool will feel right at home on display at MOMA or tucked in the glove compartment of a 20 year old pickup truck.

The Leatherman Skeletool is a minimalist's multi-tool.  It has a pair of plier, a blade, wire cutters, bit driver, and a bottle opener.  It is made of aluminium and stainless steel.  Weight have been strategically removed from the structural components such that strength has not been compromised.  It also made the tool look totally awesome.

This Skeletool feels great and looks great.  We can't wait to put it to work!  The FirstUse review will be in a few weeks.  Something tells us Leatherman better crank up its production line because we expect dealers will be have a hard time keep these in stock.  If you want to get your hands on one, you better get your order in today. - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)

Mar 4,2008(HarnessTechTuesday)

There are a variety of ways (jacket, packs, knapsack) to carry the gear we use everyday.  This harness system from Civilian Lab may be the most unique amongst all of the methods we have reviewed to date. 

If you need to have easy access to lots of different gadgets, there is a Civilian Lab system which will suit your needs.  If you want a system which is adaptable, Civilian Lab has a harnessing mode (chest, belt, thigh, etc...) which can accommodate the situation.

The construction and materials used are both very high quality.  All of the external storage compartments have velcro closures for secure containment while still enabling quick access to the gear.  The flaps are padded to give the contents bump protection.

The inside of the bags have even more pockets, slots, and openings for holding pens, probes, or whatever.  The design is such that the contents are secure but accessible, a very important feature in bags for active users.

There are multiple ways to strap on these Civilian Lab harness bags.  For extended use or when carrying a lot of weight, padded shoulder straps may be added to the harness to distribute the load.

Some here are wondering just how much gear can be loaded into this harness system.  You'll see when we fill it up and take it out for a FirstUse test in the Spring. - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)

Mar 2,2008(WeekendEdition)

180s are well known for their innovative winter gear for active folks.  We have reviewed a few of their offerings (ExoLite, Training gloves, Mortise sunglasses) in the past.

This year, 180s introduced a line of gear to make it easier for those who want to take their digital devices with them when they venture outside during Winter.  The Tec Stretch ear warmers with integrated speakers are such an example.

The elastic spine can accommodate most heads. The Tec Stretch is fleece-lined and super comfortable.  The speakers are flat, well integrated, and cannot be felt when worn. 

The socket end of the supplied extension cord attaches to the speakers via a plug on the edge of left side of the ear muff.  The plug goes into the standard mini-plug socket of the iPod or MP3 player.

Boston was supposed to get about 6" of the white stuff this weekend.  We were excited because we had planned to take this new piece of 180s gear out for some FirstUse testing.  It didn't snow and the forecast for the upcoming week is somewhere in the 50º...are you kidding me???  We'll send the interns out and get these 180s TechStretch tested once some decent New England weather rolls back into town. - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)

Jan 17,2008(TastyThursday)

For readers fortunate enough to be in the Boston area on Jan 26, Shobu Aikido of Boston is having a Sake Tasting Fundraiser at their dojo!

There will be lots of great Aikido demos, good live music, and a wonderful gathering of fantastic energy.  RainyDayMagazine will be there.  We hope you will come and party with us at the event! - Wan Chi Lau (permalink)





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