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September 15,2014- BackToSchool Gear...

Summer is coming to a close. Most students are already back at school. Those who start later will be joining them by the end of the month. Many will be bringing with them new laptops, tablets, and other tools to make learning easier. We have put together a collection of accessories which may help them be more efficient, more effective, or just more enjoyable.

Curating this BackToSchool list is always a difficult task. The easier approach would be to offer up a huge list and be done with it. While our marketing folks would love that, you readers have told us the reason you stop by so often is because we DO make the effort to narrow down the choices to those which we think are worthy, novel, and more importantly, useful. Toward that end, we have looked at a mind-numbing number of possibilities and have selected about dozen items which we feel warrant mentioning. Here is the list:

Laptops are pretty much standard equipment for today's students. However, tablets are making a strong showing in many BackToSchool lists. Some see them as companions to laptops, other think of them as... [more] - BackToSchool Gear

 

September 11, 2014- The Memorial...

When we were in NYC this Summer, we stopped by the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial and paid our respects to two friends lost on that day: Anna Allison (N-2) and Aram Iskenderian (N-47).

Some of us worked with Anna when they were at Millennium Pharmaceuticals and others knew Aram from... [more] - September 11: The Memorial

 

September 8,2014- Design Home 2014...

The crew at RainyDayMagazine recently stopped by this year's Boston Magazine Design Home for a tour. Said home is the just-built domicile of our friends Tom and Natalie Treat. When Tom and Natalie decided to leave the city for more rural surroundings, they saw it as an opportunity to put some of their environmentally conscious desires into practice.

"There are many ways to live more energy efficiently," says Natalie. "We want to be living proof that it can be done successfully, and show how it can affect community initiatives and overall policy." She adds, "We want our home to be a lab where people can learn from what we've implemented."

After an unsuccessful search for an existing house which met their requirements, they decided to start from scratch and build something which satisfied their sustainable, net-zero-footprint goals, at a relatively affordable price. As things would have it, Tom and Natalie's plans meshed with Boston Magazine's goal for their tenth Design Home project, a net zero-energy house.

Each year's Boston Magazine Design Home is built in a different location in New England, and this year it can be found north of Boston in beautiful Salisbury, MA. This project reflects the current trend of... [more] -Design Home 2014

 

September 5,2014- Fujifilm X100S ITW...

We have had our hands on the Fujifilm X100S for almost a year and a half, and during that time this remarkable point-and-shoot camera has completely charmed its way into our hearts. Although SLRs and DSLRs are the workhorses, we have always had a soft spot for point-and-shoot cameras for street and travel photography. We are drawn to the simplicity of point-and-shoots (PnS). You point, compose, and press a button. How much more basic can taking a photo get? In the film days, our first PnS was the Olympus Pen, followed by the Olympus Stylus, and when things went digital, the Canon Digital Elph and the Nikon P7000. All of those cameras were fun, but none of them could be our ONLY camera when we traveled. Why? None of them had all of the capabilities to allay our fear of "missing THE shot"...until now.

In order to actually GET a good travel photo, a lot has to happen. Composition is critical and should be the photographer's main task. However, when analyzing the scene, one must also determine the optimal aperture/shutter speed/ASA combination, adjust the focus, all before pressing the shutter button. Ideally, a good PnS camera is able to off-load all of that (or as much the photographer is willing to let the camera handle) between the time its shutter button is touched and fully pressed. Oh yeah, it then needs to reset quickly and be ready for the next shot. After using the Fujifilm X100S for over 10,000 shots, we can say the camera does all of that perfectly AND... [more] -Fujifilm X100S InTheWild

 

Septermber 1,2014- WORX Garden Tools...

We introduced RainyDayGarden readers to WORX when we looked at the JawSaw (FirstLook, FirstUse, Maintenance) a few years back. Every so often, someone asks us about WORX's other items. This month, we are goint to take a closer look at two WORX garden tools which we think are especially suited to urban garderners: the WORX Air Multi-purpose Blower/Sweeper/Cleaner and the WORX GT 2.0 Grass Trimmer/Edger and Mini-mower. We will also be giving them a FirstUse workout as part of our annual RainyDayGarden Fall Cleanup.

Unlike our suburban counterparts, we urban gardeners have less need of heavy-duty versions blowers, trimmers, and mowers. Tools that are portable, have multiple duties, and do not require a lot of storage room are more suitable for our smaller gardens and yards. The WORX Air is a multi-purpose blower created to make small garden and workshop cleanups a... [more] -WORX Garden Tools FirstLook

 

Aug 1-31,2014- On Vacation...

The RainyDayCrew will be on vacation for the month of August. We will see you all back here when school starts! [Permalink] - On Vacation

 

July 31,2014- BirdCam Pro InTheWild...

The BirdCam and BirdCam Pros from Wingscapes are weather-proof wildlife cameras/videocams. Both cameras have been set up in various sections of the RainyDayGarden for almost a year. Some readers have asked how these wildlife cams have fared and what we managed to capture with them.

Of all the BirdCams setups, the one which yielded the most interesting shots was at the 2nd-story window feeder. This is because we could vary the bird feed we put out (and thus change who visited it) and easily make adjustments to the BirdCam (because it was inside). Also with this particular setup, we can hear the birds at the feeder and so have an idea when "interesting" things might have been captured :-) The one requirement with the 2nd-story installation is... [more] - BirdCam and BirdCam Pro InTheWild

 

July 21,2014- Patrón Tasting Event...

Some of us RainyDayKitchen folks were at a Patron tequila tasting event recently. We learned how Patrón makes their incredibly clean tasting tequila. They source their agave in Mexico from trusted growers. They use both roller mill and natural stone Tahona wheel for crushing the agave. Patrón distill their tequila in small batches using copper pot stills. When they increase production, Patrón add more stills instead of increasing the size of the still in order to retain their unique flavor, aroma, and taste! Patrón does this because to them, the tequila comes first.

Here are some other "Patrón facts" we picked up at the event:

  • Only three ingredients are needed to make tequila: Agave, yeast, water.
  • Patrón is handcrafted and distilled in the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico.
  • Patrón tequila is 100% pure Weber blue agave.
  • Patrón was formed in 1988 and has only a bit over 100 employees today.

We also learned about, and more importantly sampled, the various kinds of tequila in the Patron line. Starting from the back (below) and going from left to right: Silver, Reposado, Anejo, Platinum, Gran Piedra ($400/bottle), Gran Burdeos ($600/bottle). Clearly we had a... [more] - Patrón Tequila Tasting Event

 

July 18,2014- DIY: Tanto...

While cleaning up the office, we came upon a tanto blank we had purchased many years ago but had forgotten. It has been a while since we built a knife. In fact, the last one was as some twenty years ago. That one had a simple sheath and handle, because back then, access to fancy fittings were not readily available like they are now. Today, nicely cast fittings may be had on EBay at great prices. We decided to make a knife from our recently-discovered blank.

We found a nice set of fittings (guard, end cap, and handle decorations) which we thought would pair nicely with the blade. The pattern is a reproduction of an antique one and made for a... [more] - DIY: The Tanto

 

July 7,2014- Folded Steel Katana...

The Japanese katana, or sword, was a weapon that was perfected during centuries of, let us say, direct testing in the unforgiving fields of battle. The traditional Japanese sword-making process was surrounded by ritual and ceremony, in keeping with the importance that both maker and user placed on the sword. Swordsmiths would examine blades from samurai returning from battle to learn how their "product" performed. It was through this type of trial and error that the Japanese perfected the techniques for creating the type of steel which gave the katana its almost mythical qualities: the ability to hold a keen edge AND to not shatter when striking something hard.

The world has learned a lot about making quality steel since katanas were last used in battle. Today's factory-produced high-carbon and tool steels (such as 1060, 1095, and T-10) have been successfully used by many US sword makers (including Dave Goldberg, Walter Sorrells, and Barry Dawson) to create functional, traditional, and Japanese-inspired katanas. Hand-forged katana is a labor intensive endeavor. It is one of the reasons why such katanas typically start at a few thousand dollars and go up from there.

The last few years has seen an explosion of Japanese-style katanas coming out of China. Prices for such items start at about $50 and top out at just under $1000. Sword forums lit up with discussions regarding these new entrants as buyers discovered that they were not (all) cheap "wall hangers," but quality swords at sometimes unbelievable prices. What is the story?

When we started the Tameshigiri Series last year, we kicked around the possibility of reviewing Chinese-made katanas. After some back and forth over the scope of exactly what we would do in such reviews, we have decided to go ahead with the project. Over the next year, we are going to review swords from different Chinese smiths in these ranges: $150-$350, $350-$600, $600-$1000. We will compare the fit and finish of these blades, the quality of their fittings, and how they feel when used in actual tameshigiri. To keep things interesting, we will not... [more] - Tameshigiri Series :Folded Steel Katana

 

July 1,2014- MFA: Magna Carta

Everyone has heard of Magna Carta, but few have had the privilege of seeing the 800-year-old document in person. Magna Carta, written in 1215, is the foundation of much what most have come to agree as how society should behave today, governed by the rule of law instead of by the arbitrary decrees and whims of a ruler. How amazing is that? In any case, one of the four surviving copies, which normally resides at Lincoln Cathedral, will be on display at the MFA between July 2nd and September 1st, 2014.

On Monday, the crew from RainyDayMagazine was on hand to see the unveiling of the opening of Magna Carta: Cornerstone of Liberty. The exhibit was, of course, timed to coincide with the... [more] - MFA: Magna Carta

 

June 30,2014- Ceramic Cookware...

We have done a bit of research on induction cooking and know that it is cool. However, in order to test the cooktop we got last August, we had to be able to cook in something that was induction-ready. The stainless steel cookware set we have is not magnetic, which means none of the pots and pans will work with the cooktop. The RainyDayKitchen folks had been look for an excuse to get some new cookware, and this was it. But what to get??? Whatever we end up with, it will be an intersection of high-tech and the everyday. After all, that is what we are about at RainyDayMagazine!

The search languished for a while until one of the interns had an inspiration: ceramics. We love our ceramic knives and were aware that a few companies were making non-stick cookware from ceramic materials. Intrigued, we did more research. Turns out, the advantages of a ceramic non-stick coating over the more traditional... [more] - Ceramic Cookware FirstLook

 

June 23,2014- RDG Spring Summary...

Now that Summer has officially started, we want to do a quick look back at how Spring went in the RainyDayGarden.

April: Because of the long Winter, the plants got going a bit later this year, and we have photographic proof. The photo on the left taken on April 12th of last year. The on the right was taken on April 15 of this year. Side-by-side, it is easy to see that things this year were a few weeks behind last year. Oh yeah, it also snowed on the 16th :-)

When the April plants finally got going, their blooms were a welcome sight. We are not sure if it was because of the delay, but the plants all seemed to bloom at the same time. We also noticed fewer... [more] - RDG Spring Summary

 

June 17,2014- Leap Motion FirstThoughts...

A little more than a year ago we wrote a piece on the upcoming release of a device which we thought would make a huge impact on the state of natural user interfaces for the general market. The Leap Motion controller went on sale at Best Buy at the end of July 2013. Unfortunately for Leap Motion the controller was not useful for anything other than the most primitive of interactions, and even then, its effectiveness was highly questionable.

We thought about writing an article on the Leap Motion controller at the time, but held off because there were already a slew of reviews (MIT Tech Review, Gizmodo, Amazon, etc) on its disappointing performance. We had nothing new to add and did not feel the need to pile on. So was the Leap Motion gadget DOA? Far from it.

The problem back then with the Leap Motion was not with the controller. The hardware was ready. The issue was the software released with the device, while stable, was clearly in the alpha state in terms of functionality. It showed the device's tantalizing potential, but even if one was willing to put up with its... [more] - Leap Motion FirstThoughts

 

June 10,2014- First Grill ...

The RainyDayKitchen folks hosted the 2014 FirstGrill event last weekend. The weather was perfect, the four grills were running nonstop, and we ate way more food than we thought possible. A big reason for it maybe because we had marinated the meats with Famous Dave's marinates and rubs :-)

Famous Dave's are known for their sauces and rubs. We went with the BBQ Variety HOT Pack as it contained a nice sampling of ones we most wanted to taste:

  • Famous Dave's Rib Rub 5.5 ounces
  • Famous Dave's Country Roast Chicken Seasoning 5.25 ounces
  • Famous Dave's Devil's Spit Sauce 19 ounces
  • Famous Dave's Hot & Sassy Sauce 20 ounces
  • Famous Dave's Pork Marinade 12 ounces
  • Famous Dave's Beef Marinade 12 ounces
  • Famous Dave's Signature Spicy Pickle Spears 24 ounces (Note: not in photo as we had ate them all!)

When we BBQ, we typically use sauces to flavor the meats, but we have recently got turned on to rubs. Of course, for FirstGrill, we did both. Still, we find that rubs work especially well on juicier parts such as... [more] - FirstGrill 2014

June 3,2014- First Grill Sponsors...

Our FirstLook of the items from our FirstGrill sponsors was posted yesterday. Today, we will take a closer look at the following sponsor items:

Most backyard grillers are familiar with the myriad ways to light charcoal: lighter fluid, electric starter, chimney. While lighter fluid can make lighting a big pile of charcoal easy, it can create an (exceedingly) unpleasant chemical taste on the food. An electric starter requires that the grill be within range of an outdoor electric outlet. The best way (and our personal favorite) is a charcoal chimney and some newspaper. The chimney creates a column for the charcoal, concentrates the heat, and allows the rising hot air to pull fresh air in from the bottom to fuel the burning of the briquettes. But the chimney isn't good for starting piles larger than what it can hold.

The Bison Company took the principles from various fire-starting methods and created a portable, air-driven fire lighter they call the Airlighter. This device creates a jet of 4-inch flame that quickly ignites a pile of charcoal or wood. Once the fire has started, switch over to "blower" mods, which forces air into the unit to keep the fire burning and spreading the flames throughout the pile. Of course, the Airlighter is not just a great way to light BBQs, it should work well with... [more] - FirstGrill 2014: Sponsors CloserLook

 

June 2,2014- First Grill Sponsors...

The annual FirstGrill is coming up and RainyDayKitchen has been busy getting ready for the event. We will have four grills going (a Weber, a Coleman, a Thermos, and a TEC), a variety of interesting things to cook up, and a large collection of prizes to give away. In years past we ran contests so guests could win prizes from FirstGrill sponsors. However, we found that the contest took time away from the eating, so this year we are instead having a drawing for the FirstGrill sponsor items. Hopefully, this will give everyone more time for licking BBQ sauce from their fingers :-)

The FirstGrill sponsors this year are:

Many of these items will be available for guests to touch, try, and sample. Others will be given away as prizes in the drawing. Like other FirstGrill events, no one is allowed to leave until all the... [more] - FirstGrill 2014: Sponsors

 

May 29,2014- iPad Mini Cases...

We have been huge fans of the Apple iPad since Day 1. After the iPad 2, we skipped the next few upgrades. It wasn't that we didn't like it; just the opposite. The iPad 2 was good enough for everything we need the tablet to do: surf the web; send/receive email; watch movies. We didn't at that point need the latest and greatest. However we knew that someday, something would come along which would be so cool that we would open our wallet and say to Apple "Here... take our money!" Well, that day has come. The "cool gadget" that finally got us to part with our hard earned cash is...mentioned at the end of the article.

Before we could play with the gadget, though, we needed to upgrade our iPad2, because the iPad2 didn't support it. So...the iPad Air or iPad mini Retin? We came down on the side of the iPad mini Retina, because it was cheaper, smaller, and different enough from the full-size iPad that... [more] -iPad Mini Retina: Cases

 

May 22,2014- EXO Labs On UNITRON...

The UNITRON inverted microscope is pretty cool in and of itself. When paired with the EXO Labs Camera (ELC), this vintage instrument went from old-school analog to high-tech digital, and from cool to awesome.

What is even better is that the transformation happened in a trice because the EXO Labs Camera is as easy to set up as it is to use. The ELC's adapter lens is sized to fit into a standard eyepiece socket. All we had to do was take off the eyepiece, insert the camera, and we were... [more]- EXO Labs On UNITRON

 

May 20,2014- Vintage Inverted Microscope...

Microscopes and telescopes are amazing devices because they can "transport" us to other worlds at the speed of light. This is why we constantly scour Craigslist for vintage optical instruments. We like retro optical-tech as it is typically very well-made, (usually) still functional, and (some) can be had for pennies on the dollar. Of course, it helps to stick with well-known names like Zeiss, Leica, Nikon, and the like. However, every once in a while we happen upon a piece with a name we do not recognize, but has a deal so good that we cannot not pass it up. This was exactly the case with the Unitron MiC3-616 inverted biological microscope we scored a couple of weeks ago.

This beauty was a little grimy when we got our hands on it. While in desperate need of a good cleaning (it, not us), the optics (eyepiece, objective lenses, condenser, etc) had no scratches, mold, or moisture-related issues. The mechanicals (gears, turret, knobs) were definitely a little stiff, but they all moved without any grinding...an excellent sign. Best of all, the electricals (lamp, switches, wiring, etc) were complete and functional, which is great because... [more]- Vintage Inverted Microscope

 

May 16,2014- Lynx Edicions :HBW...

In this age of the internet, digital books, and iPads, Lynx Edicions has forged a successful paper path. They are able to do that by being the world's go-to source for wildlife guides and references, one of which is the Handbook of The Birds of The World (HBW) series. HBW is the first work ever to examine in detail—verbally and visually—all the living species of birds in the world. It is also the first to attempt to portray every member of an entire Class in the Animal Kingdom. Fantastic!

The HBW collection is a 16-volume authoritative text (over 13,000 pages, more than 10,000 maps, and clocking in at 15 million words) with precise illustrations and photographs (1,000 or so plates, over 20,000 bird figures). HBW is the combined work of 277 pre-eminent specialists and 33 illustrators from 40 countries. The photographs are the original contributions of... [more]- Lynx Edicions: Handbook of The Birds Of The World

 

May 14,2014- Glow-in-the-dark Rocks...

After our recent post on the EXO camera stand, we started getting comments and suggestions on geology gear. That took us by surprise as we didn't realize that RainyDayScience readers were also avid rock collectors. As we had stated on several occasions, while we do have a rather extensive and well cataloged rock collection, we are not rock collectors. Our collection is from from AMEP. However, after reading some of the emails on fluorescent rocks, we found ourselves intrigued by the topic of fluorescent minerals. As we do have fifteen samples which are suppose to glow under the appropriate lighting conditions, we decided to take a look at the phenomenon of "glow-in-the-dark" rocks.

Our first task was to do some research and acquire a good UV light source. Our search soon pointed us to Ultraviolet Tools in TX. They are one of the world's leading ultraviolet lighting manufacturers and have a large selection of... [more]- Glow In The Dark Rocks

 

May 12,2014- Urban Safari: The Fens...

The Fens in the Back Bay is one of the gems of the Emerald Necklace and a treasure of Boston. It is also the latest expedition in our Urban Safari series. Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect of New York City's Central Park, transformed a stagnant saltwater marsh in the Back Bay into an urban oasis to the benefit of residents, wildlife and people, over a hundred years ago. We have passed by the Fens countless times on our way into the city, but have never really stopped to enjoy it the way it was envisioned by Olmsted... deliberately, leisurely, and on foot. Last week, we did just that.

We set up "camp" close to the Muddy River section of the Back Bay Fens, where you will find the Emerald Necklace Visitor Center. From the Visitor Center, the Museum of Fine Arts and Isabella Steward Gardner Museum are just a few minutes walk away. The spot is a nice starting point because there is plenty of on-street parking, especially if you arrives before 10AM (when the MFA opens). Biking and walking paths wind throughout the Fens. Red Sox fans, out of town or otherwise, may be interested to know that... [more]- Urban Safari: The Fens

 

May 5,2014- Urban Safari: Heron Hunting...

Urban safaris are something we started doing when we joined the Franklin Park Zoo a few years ago. Since then, we have had many "adventures," some of them in Boston, others in cities around the country. This year, we got off to an amazing start with a Bald Eagle on Jamaica Pond and many Snowy Owls on Plum Island in January, and more eagles on the Merrimac River in February. The outings slowed a bit in March and April, but now that Spring has finally arrived, it was time to venture out again.

Outfitted with our highly portable Nikkor 18-300mm VR zoom lens, a sturdy tripod, and a tip that a Great Blue Heron has been spotted at the Arnold Arboretum, we went on a "hunt" for the bird this past weekend. The outing was a rousing success. We got both photos and videos of the large avian at various locations in the Arboretum performing a variety of... [more]- Urban Safari: Heron Hunting

 

May 1,2014- Sugru Update...

Fixing things is one of the many uses for the magical material that is Sugru; making things better or more useful are the others. We were clued into the stuff a few years ago by readers who had played with it and thought it would be a good fit for RainyDayProjects.

Since that time, we have fixed a LOT of stuff with Sugru. Some of it have stayed fixed, some of it not. Along the way we have learned what works and what does not. We also have been compiling a "wouldn't it be great" list of things we wanted to be able to do with Sugru. One idea was to... [more]- Sugru Update

 

April 28,2014- Boxster Hardtop Fix...

We usually wait until May to take off the hardtop and the snow tires. However, when the temperature hit 70º a few weeks ago, we decided it was pretty safe to get the car ready for Spring. Spring Prep consisted of: a quick check of the pads and rotors; some lithium grease for the joints on the front end; and a vacuum of the interior. This was the second season on these WinterForce snow tires. The alignment done last season really made a difference as the tire wear was very even.

When removing the hardtop from Boxster, we ran into a slight problem: the release lever on the driver's side moved, but the hardtop didn't release. What we discovered was that the tech who last serviced the car had snapped the cotter pin (which connects the lever to the shaft) when he replaced the hardtop. We briefly considered making them fix it, but we didn't want them to mess it up even further trying to get the top off. It took us a while to remove the top, but once we did, we were left wondering, how should we fix the lever?

The normal solution would be to replace the cotter pin. The issue was we were unable to insert the pin...conceptually easy, but... [more]- Boxster Hardtop Fix

 

April 24,2014- NYIAS...

Yes, we go to the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) to sample the free food and booze, but we also go with a theme in mind. This year we were particularly interested in getting an overview of the current state of available user interfaces (UX) for in-car infotainment systems. We wanted to know because Apple will be moving into this space with CarPlay in 2015.

Having walked around the show, we are confident in saying that most car companies should not be be designing user interfaces for infotainment systems. There majority of implementations were cryptic, multi-leveled, and a labyrinthine mess. Most of the onscreen text was difficult to read, and many of the controls were, let us say, close to impossible to operate without looking. Don't even get us started on the placement of the... [more]- New York International Auto Show: CarUX

 

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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