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April 22,2014- NYIAS...

We were in New York last week for the International Auto Show. For those who don't know, the NYIAS has been going on since 1900! For more than a hundred year, folks have gathered in NYC to see the latest in auto tech and to get a peak at future offerings. We started attending the show about ten years ago when we added the RainyDayGarage section to RainyDayMagazine.

While still in the mid-forties, there were definitely signs of Spring. Don't remember why we skipped the NYIAS last year, but we wanted to go this year because of Apple's announcement of CarPlay. We wanted to take a survey of the state-of-the-art, in-car interfaces that a number of vendors were showing this year and to... [more]- New York International Auto Show

 

April 21,2014- Lighting The Lanterns...

Old North Church. One of the first houses of worship in Boston. Built in the North End when the North End was the center of the town; when it was downtown, as it were.

This is the church to which belongs the steeple where two lanterns were hung on the night of April 18, 1775 to indicate to Mr. Revere and Mr. Dawes that indeed the British were coming, and that they were coming by sea.

The hanging of those lanterns—for less than a minute—was a brave and possibly illegal thing to do, as it was the light that lit the fires under the colonialists' arses to rise up and say (colonially speaking) "We're mad as hell and... [more]- Lighting The Lanterns by Carolyn Donovan

 

April 14,2014- EXO Labs Camera Stand..

We don't collect rocks, but we do have a large rock collection, and a rather well-organized one at that. Here are some of the boxes from the collection. They are categorized by criteria such as hardness, crystalline structure, florescence, etc. How we came to have such a collection is a story for another day. Suffice to say, having the collection is an excellent excuse to justify our desire to review gear for looking at rocks...and other things :-)

There are many tools one can use to examine features of geological samples. Old-school magnifying glasses work pretty well: no batteries needed; very portable. Of course, the ability to... [more]- EXO Labs: Camera Stand

 

April 7,2014- MFA: Return of The Dragon

The Dragon and Clouds (1763), by the eccentric Japanese artist Soga Shohaku (1730-1781), has returned to the Museum of Fine Arts after touring Japan as part of an exhibition of Japanese masterpieces. The 35-foot-long work depicts a dragon swooping down through whirls of clouds and swishing its scaly tail in rich shades of ink. The work, comprised of eight paintings on sliding doors (fusuma), underwent a major conservation treatment spanning five years and involving five conservators.

Anne Nishimura Morse, William and Helen Pounds Senior Curator of Japanese Art at the MFA, was kind enough to give RainyDayMagazine a tour last week of the exhibit. Besides telling us about Soga Shohaku's "colorful" background as an artist, Ms. Morse also went into detail about the... [more]- MFA: Return Of The Dragon

 

March 31,2014- Potting Bench Assembly...

With the Nor'easter over and Spring on its way, the RainyDayGarden folks thought they would celebrate by putting together the Gardener's Supply Company potting bench that had been in pieces in the front office. The assembly directions looked simple enough:

  • Attach drawer handles (2)
  • Attach leg panels (2)
  • Attach bottom shelf (1)

Most folks should have no problems putting this table together, but as we did put one together, we thought we would pass along some tips to make the process as foolproof as possible.

There are a few things to check before starting: make sure all the screws (12 long ones, 4 short ones) are accounted for; and gather the needed tools. In the bag which held the screws, we found two hex keys (same size) and a small phillips head screwdriver. The hex key is for the long screws and the phillips head driver is for the short screws. If you have an electric screwdriver, we would recommend using it for the short screws as... [more]- Potting Bench Assembly

 

March 28,2014- Forks Over Knives ...

The RainyDayKitchen folks have enthusiastically feasted on all manners of meat and have loved every bite (except, of course, the vegetarian). However, a recent viewing of the documentary Forks Over Knives may have put an end to their carnivorous activity. At the very least, it gave everyone pause to reconsider the source of their protein. After discussing our reactions to the thought-provoking Forks Over Knives movie, we decided we wanted to read more about The China Study. The China Study was heavily referenced in the documentary and we wanted to better understand both the results and their implications on weight and health.

What is The China Study? It started with the Cancer Atlas Survey. In the early 70s, China initiated a nationwide survey to collect information about cancer. The survey involved 2400 counties and 880 million (96%) of the population. To date, that was still the most ambitious biomedical research project ever attempted. The result was literally a set of maps detailing the presence and absence of certain types of cancer in China. It clearly illustrated geographically that some cancers were... [more]- Forks Over Knives

 

March 21,2014- Potting Bench FirstLook...

Yesterday was the Spring Equinox, so it was only fitting that we opened the big box from Gardener's Supply Company which has been sitting in the front office. We are always eager to get the RainyDayGarden going every Spring. This year's winter felt especially long. We were not sure if it was because of the long stretches of below-freezing days or the above average amount of snow. Either way, we decided that the best way to get us out of our Winter funk was to thing up some DIY projects for the RainyDayGarden.

One project we had been ruminating on was building a potting bench to use outside. We wanted something functional, low maintenance, and that would last for years. In looking around for ideas we happened upon this bench on the Gardener's site. The size and style were exactly what we were looking for. After some deliberation we decided that instead of building a copy of the... [more]- Potting Bench FirstLook

 

March 17,2014- Fire Cider ...

Those who know us know that we are not ones who are into home remedies (well, one of us is, the rest of us just let her talk). While we do not dismiss folk medicine as hokum (we do acknowledge that a number of today's pharmaceuticals have herbal roots), we do put more stock in understanding the mechanism of action more than just anecdotal evidence. However, we were intrigued by a bottle of Fire Cider one of our editors brought into the office. She was taking it to help with her cough. She was willing to share it with the few of us who were under the same affliction (she's nice that way).

The spicy apple cider vinegar concoction was rather tasty and surprisingly, did help in suppressing our coughs. Unfortunately, the small bottle did not last very long. Instead of "coughing" up $15 bucks for another bottle, we thought we would... [more]- Fire Cider

 

March 10,2014- Cullmann Flexx...

When setting up the Cactus LV5 for our FirstUse review, we looked at tripods we thought might be suitable to pair with its laser trigger. We have a lot of tripod options in our studio, and chose the Cullmann Flexx system—which we showcased in our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide—for the assignment.

The Cullman Flexx Touring set is the most portable of the five different configurations available, and what we'll be using with the Cactus LV5. There are a lot of pieces to this set. We will look at them individually and... [more]- Cullmann Flexx FirstLook

 

March 3,2014- Cactus LV5 Laser Trigger...

We first looked at laser triggers last Summer. These devices have enabled photographers to bring us into a world that moves too fast for our eyes to see. The basic mechanism behind them will either fire a flash or trip the camera's shutter to freeze the action when the laser beam is broken. After perusing those photos, we knew we had to try a series of photo projects based on these devices.

Originally, we were going to go the DIY route first, but then realized it made more sense to start with a commercial laser system and get familiar with the technique BEFORE rolling our own device. After some research, we found the perfect laser trigger to help us venture into the high-speed world.

Cactus has been making a name for itself in photo accessories ever since it came onto the market. The Cactus LV5 laser trigger is one of their newer offerings. The Cactus LV5 is a feature-rich yet very affordable system that give photographers the ability to sync-fire flashes and... [more]- Cactus LV5 Laser Trigger FirstLook

 

February 27,2014- Sport SC500 CloserLook...

Last week we took a FirstLook at the BlackVue's Sport SC500 action-cam. Today, because of requests from some very eager readers, we are going to take a CloserLook rundown of the the various mode and features of this little device.

BlackVue Sport SC500 is small and lightweight, clocking in at 55 x 44.2 x 37 mm and 73 g. Its functions are managed by three control buttons: shutter (top), WiFi (left upper), Power/Mode (left lower). The speaker is next to the shutter on the top and the microphone is under the Power button on the left. The two ports (USB, HDMI) and the microSD slot are on the right, covered by a lid (not connected and we expect, easily lost). The mode indicators are in the... [more]- Blackvue Sport SC500 CloserLook

 

February 21,2014- BlackVue Sport SC500...

Head-mounted camcorders let us experience stunts from the lunatic's daredevil's point of view. Footage captured by these cameras have put us in the middle of some of the most amazing actions imaginable. However, there was a time (2004) when we had to cobble together our own kit out of pieces from a lot of different sources (StickyPod, AdventureCam). A decade later, companies such as GoPro, with their tiny, waterproof, and ruggedized digital video cameras, have made it easy for anyone to capture live action when risking life and limb(s). Other video camera companies have taken notice of this exploding niche market and have started to introduce their own version of the "action cam."

Blackvue, the same company which produce the awesome line of vehicle recorders, has introduced the BlackVue Sport SC500 action camcorder. Blackvue recognizes that while these cameras have traditionally been the staples of action-junkies, there are many other less "limb-risking" situations where it would be great to... [more]- Blackvue Sport SC500 FirstLook

 

February 12,2014- Eagle Festival...

A Bald Eagle in Boston. Snowy owls on Plum Island. While it is the Year of the Horse according to the Chinese calendar it has been the Year of the Birds for us. Last Saturday, we had the opportunity to attend the Merrimack River Eagle Festival in Newburyport. The annual event celebrates the seasonal return of bald eagles to the Merrimack River area. It was an opportunity to observe bald eagles in their habitat and learn more about these majestic creatures.

The organizers for the Eagle Festival had marked out viewing spots along the river. Folks may go to the sites at their own pace, but the way to go is to sign up for the "eagle tour." The tour was free and lasted an hour and a half. The two naturalists on the bus (Candace and Jim in our case) helped spot the... [more]- Merrimack River Eagle Festival

 

February 7,2014- EXO Labs Custom Case...

As most readers know, we love to take our gear out into the wild. When we first saw the Exo Labs' Focus camera kit, we recognized that it was a very cool piece of tech. We also realized that the Focus was primarily designed for indoor/lab use. Of course, that is not how we roll. We started looking at options on how to take the "show on the road." Today, we want to show how we configured an S3 watertight case to protect the Exo Labs Focus camera and its various accessories for when we do take it out and about.

S3 is a maker of rugged, watertight cases for a variety of applications. We took a FirstLook of their cases last Spring as part of the write-up on X100S accessories. For this project, we needed a case large enough to house the following:

  • Focus camera module w/cable
  • Three lenses (microscope, telescope, variable-focus)
  • Two adapter rings
  • AC power adapter
  • Calibration card
  • GorillaPod
  • Camera mount

The size which appears to fit our needs best is their T6500 model. The case is about 12"x9"x6", weighs a little less than 5lbs, and is made from high-impact ABS. It should have enough room for... [more]- EXO Labs: Focus Custom Case

 

February 5,2014- EXO Labs FirstUse...

We posted a FirstLook of the Exo Labs' Focus camera kit for the iPad last November. Exo Labs conceived the camera to "... engage students and inspire the next generation of scientists... (by connecting to) iPads and microscopes." Judging by the success stories in the education space, they are certainly making great headway. However, we think they may have tapped into something more.

After the FirstLook posts, comments and questions from RainyDayScience readers were expected, but we were somewhat surprised by the number of inquiries from our general audience. The most-asked question regarding the Exo Labs Focus was about its stand-alone capabilities. Apparently, there is a sizable population interested in using the camera for... [more]- EXO Labs: Pad Microscope/Telescope camera FirstUse

 

January 31,2014- iPin Laser Pointer...

When we were told about the iPin laser accessory for the iPhone, we chuckled at first because we had already passed on a few other such implementations. The ones we had seen were awkward dongles hanging off the power connector or the headphone jack. We were planning on passing on the iPin as well, but decided to take a chance. Well, we are glad we did! The iPin is not your father's laser pointer.

The iPin is an accessory that Q would have designed for 007 (with steel-bar-cutting power output, of course). This laser pointer looks like the mini plug of the typical set of earbuds. Like earbuds, it will fit into the microphone jack and draw power directly from the... [more]- iPin Laser Pointer

 

January 27,2014- Roolen Breath Humidifier...

Humidifiers are great for adding moisture to dry Winter air. We run our humidifier from November until April. The added moisture makes the room feel warmer, breathing easier, and virtually eliminates the static shocks so common to this time of the year. Unfortunately, humidifiers are...not the most attractive of devices. We put up with them because we value the function over the form. However, we secretly wished for a unit which was attractive, quiet, and simple to operate. With the Roolen BREATH, it appears that our wish has been granted.

The Roolen BREATH is a "smart ultrasonic humidifier." It has the following specs:

  • Humidifying Capacity 400sq.ft / 28m2
  • Noise < 25db
  • Available Colors Black, White
  • Weight 1.1KG
  • Dimensions 20x20x26 cm
  • Rating Voltage 100-240v Frequency 50/60hz Power 20W
  • Water Tank Capacity 3.15 L
  • Low / High / Auto Mode
  • Run Time 24 hrs / 12 hrs / 24+ hrs

The Roolen BREATH humidifier is about as simple to operate as a light switch. There is one button and... [more]- Roolen BREATH Humidifier FirstLook

January 24,2014- Covercraft Boxster Cover...

We live in the city. and like most city-dwellers, we do not have a garage. While we don't have to park it on the street, our car is exposed to the elements all year long. To keep weather damage to a minimum, we have always have it under an all-weather car cover when it's parked in the driveway. Having a cover for the car not only protects the exterior,, it also prevents UV-damage to the dash, seats, and the interior.

After thirteen years, we have gone through a total of three covers. The first one was an indoor cover. It did not fare well when asked to stand up the the ice and snow. We abandoned it after two seasons. The second and third covers were the all-weather silver covers from Porsche. The silvery material kept the car cool in the Summer and the snow off in the Winter. Also, we like them because... [more]- Covercraft Boxster Cover

 

January 20,2014- Vanguard Digiscope Setup...

A spotting scope is a great piece of equipment for birders. We had a taste of how well it works when we brought one with us on our Snowy Owl outing to Plum Island. The one lament we had with the scope was that we could not share what we saw when looking through it. Well, apparently that is not exactly true. There is a means by which we CAN share what we see through the spotting scope. The technique is called digiscoping.

The guy who is credited with coming up with the technique is Malaysian birdwatcher by the name of Lawrence Poh. He came upon the idea in 1999 and has been perfecting it ever since. The idea of digiscoping is pretty elegant: point a camera at the eyepiece of the telescope and take a photo of the image as seen by the eye. However, digiscoping only became practical with the advent of small digital cameras, which provide the ability to... [more]- Vanguard Digiscope Setup

 

January 17,2014- Vanguard Spotting Scope...

We got a bunch of emails asking about the spotting scope we used on our New Year's Day Snowy Owls outing on Plum Island. Readers searching for a write-up on the scope on RainyDayMagazine came up empty because we had NOT done a review of the unit prior to taking it out into the field. Today, we will remedy the situation by providing a FirstLook on Vanguard Endeavor HD65A Spotting Scope.

Compact and powerful, spotting scopes let users locate targets at extreme distances that may be difficult to see clearly with binoculars. The Vanguard Endeavor HD65A spotting scope is a compact telescope designed for situations where magnifications beyond those of... [more]- Vanguard Spotting Scope FirstLook

 

January 13,2014- MOS: Our Global Kitchen

Food is the one thing that everyone on this planet relates to. It cuts across time, culture, and geographic/social/political boundaries. "Food" means different things to different people, but where the food we eat comes from is often nowhere near where we eat it. The Museum of Science's latest exhibit, Our Global Kitchen: Food, Nature, Culture, explores how a complex and intricate food system brings what we eat from the fields to our dinner tables.

Developed by the American Museum of Natural History, Our Global Kitchen is all about food: how it evolved, how it is grown, how it is consumed, etc. It is a fascinating exhibit, very well put together, with lot of interactive stuff for everyone to, well, interact with. The exhibit has sections exploring our relationships with food: growing, transporting, cooking, eating, celebrating. Trends are illustrated, issues are raised, questions are... [more]- MOS: Our Global Kitchen

 

January 10,2014- Snowy Owls on Plum Island...

Now that a Bald Eagle in Boston is no longer news, how about seeing a Snowy Owls on Plum Island? A Snowy Owl sighting is somewhat more likely than glimpsing a Bald Eagle in the city, but it still requires some effort. Our friends Candy and Andy invited us to join them on a trek out to Plum Island to see the Snowy Owls, which have come south in search of some, uh, snacks.

The day was brisk, but we were well-layered and prepared for the cold/wind. Still, with the temperatures in the low teens, the hand-warmers that Candy passed out saved the day! We managed to spot three of the birds at different locations, but... [more]- Snowy Eagle on Plum Island

 

January 6,2014- Bird Cottages Update...

When we first hung the set of bird cottages out in the RainyDayGarden, a few readers had inquired whether we were concern regarding their ability to withstand the elements. The reason for the questions was because there were some comments posted on Gardener's Supply Company's site regarding the item's quality. We read them and had considered sealing the cottages with polyurethane before putting them outside. Instead, we left them as is and decided to see how they would fare. After having left them out in all kinds of weather, we thought it was time to share our observations (in reverse chronological order).

Winter: December 2013/ January 2014

We have had three snow storms in December and we just got another foot of the white stuff last week. The first one was a dusting, but the second and third storms dropped over 12" of the white stuff. They were good opportunities for some photos of snow covered... [more]- Bird Cottages Update

 

January 3,2014- Bald Eagle sighting...

A Bald Eagle in Boston? The prospect seemed rather unlikely. After all, this is not Idaho. So when our intrepid copyeditor came back to the office after her morning walk around Jamaica Pond claiming that she had seen a "Bald Eagle," we were like, "Riiiight." However, Carolyn does know her common finches from her yellow nuthatches, so we decided to pack up some equipment and head to the Pond the next morning to see whether she has been spiking her morning cup of joe again or what.

As it turns out, Carolyn was right! There IS a Bald Eagle hanging out at Jamaica Pond, and it is a beauty. We spotted it surveying the area from the upright tree on the Pond's teeny tiny island. It was quite an... [more]- Bald Eagle At Jamaica Pond

 

January 1,2014- Happy New Year...

The first day of the New Year is always a special day, symbolically anyway. We had a pretty awesome 2013 and are really looking forward to 2014. What made 2013 extremely enjoyable was that we spent less time in the office and more time out in the field. Our goal for this 2014 is to do even more of the same. What better way to both wrap up 2013 and to kick off 2014 than to stop by the MFA during the Holidays to have lunch and take in the John Singer Sargent watercolors?

We have dined at the MFA numerous times, but had not yet eaten in the New American Cafe located in the recently opened, glass-enclosed Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard. The high ceilings and airy space made the dining experience both comfortable and relaxing. We found both the food tasty and service efficient. The Cafe's menu includes hot and... [more]- Happy New Year!

 

 

 
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