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The finches are BACK!!!



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May 31,2006 (WowUsWednesday 3:56PM)

Many of you wanted more details on the Onkyo IPod dock...so here it is.  We mounted the guts of the Sonnet USB charger to the inside of the emptied box. 

It is a pretty simple project, but it is the basis for powering the iPod, so it was why we did this one first.  We'll add to it over time.

Polaroid, the company that first wow'ed the world with instant photography, announced a 10 megapixel digital camera for $300.  While this is almost a doubling of the price/performance ratio of a just a year ago, we look forward to the day when users can upgrade just the imaging sensor, not have to buy a whole new camera, to get better image resolution.

Not that we don't like new gadgets, but it seems we never get comfortable with a camera if everytime we want a higher resolution sensor, we have to learn a brand new set of buttons.

Wouldn't it be better if we could change CCD sensors similar to how we used to pick different ASA speed films?  Slower speed film for higher resolution, faster speed film for action shots. 

Six year ago, a company called SiliconFilm had a similiar idea.  They even had a vaporware product called (e)Film which would be backwards compatible with film SLR cameras.  It never shipped, but the concept made a lot of sense.  We hope someone would pick this idea up and run with it again.  We think it makes a lot more sense than replacing the entire camera just to get a better photo.


May 30,2006 (TechTuesday 1:55PM)

Increasingly, folks use their iPods and MP3 players not just for listening to music, but also for podcasts and audio books.  Services like iTunes and Jiggerbug have made it pretty easy to purchase digital audio books online.  However, there is still a pretty significant market for a product such as the PlayAway.

The PlayAway is a self-contained digital audio book.  It comes complete with a flash based digital player, headphones, and is preloaded with the data.  The player is powered by one AAA user replaceable battery. 

The PlayAway is about the size of the RAZR phone.  It is light weight and will be perfect for the beach this Summer.  Unlike audio files purchased from iTunes, you can pass this one on when you are done with it!  We'll have more on this once we give it a listen :-)

The interns are finally done with comparing the Motorola RAZR cell phones from both T-Mobile and Verizon.  Here is the FirstLook review of the RAZRs themselves. 

They should have the FirstUse write-up compare the T-Mobile and the Verizon service around the city of Boston in a June.  The review will have a quick rundown on the user interface of both service.  There will also be a comparison of the photos and videos taken with each camera. 

We have recovered from our Memorial Day Weekend festivities...but it appears that our wireless router has not.  We'll be working on installing a new one today.  Hopefully, we'll have it working by tomorrow.

For the month of June, RainyDayMagazine will have a "guest editor".  His name is Eliot and he will be making all of the decisions on what products we'll be reviewing and how they will be covered.  Eliot will also be coming up with the RainyDayPuzzlers when he feels he wants to give some stuff away.

The wireless network wasn't the only thing that went south over the weekend.  Our 27 year old Onkyo cassette player also decided it was a good weekend to take retirement.  The fact that we used it maybe 4 times in the last 9 years shouldn't be a reason why it didn't want to work when we needed it! 

To honor its memory and to keep its shell from entering the landfill just yet, we decided to gut it and convert it into... what else but an iPod dock/ charger/ wireless transmitter.  Once gutted, the box has plenty of room.  We kept the wires to the AC switches and a few other controls so we could use the original buttons on the front panel to turn on/off the devices inside the box.

There are a lot stuff we can put in this big empty box.  We first added an audio splitter so the output from the iPod can be directed to a few different places (wireless headphones, Logitech WMS).  We also added an AC charger to power the iPod when docked.

We are using Logitech's WMS to transmit the music wirelessly from iPod in the Onkyo box to the stereo system in the front entry area.  Our only issue at the moment is the cassette tray has to be in the "open" position for everything to work.  We need to remove the cassette spindles in the back to make room for the iPod if we want the door to close.

If you have an old piece of audio gear with a front that you really like...why toss it?  Gut it and we will show you what you can fill it with to keep your stereo system retro looking while sporting the latest tech gear :-)  We'll write-up this project when we get everything just the way we like it.  In the meantime, if you have a project of a similar nature...drop us a note.  We would love to see what you have done!


May 26,2006 (FoodFriday 8:58AM)

The RainyDayKitchen folks put on quite the FirstGrill event last Sunday!  We have recovered from our food coma and wrote up our comments (Prep, Coleman grill, Thermos Grill, the Event, the Movie) just in time for Memorial Day weekend.

If you need to get a portable grill for your tailgating parties this season, both the Coleman RoadTrip and the Thermos Grill2Go are great choices.  If you need to move the grill around a lot, the RoadTrip is the one you need.  If you also want to cook pancakes or eggs on it for breakfast, the Grill2Go is your baby.

For amazingly delicious meats, you can't go wrong with Kobe beef from Morgan Ranch or steaks and sausages from the Buffalo Guys.

Go check out the write-ups and see if there are anything else you might need to complete your grilling gear for this holiday weekend and the Summer!

Friday is a good day to give away some stuff ... maybe we should call it "FreeStuffFriday?"  To most, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of Summer.  To many, Summer means "sun, sand, and the beach".

We have assembled a collection of Summer Gear for 2006 which will help both you and your digital gear enjoy the Summer. Today's RainyDayPuzzler is to identify as many products as you can in the photos above.  Somewhere in the photo is a HUGE clue, you just have to find it.  We'll announce the winner next Saturday.  The usual entry rules apply and the interns decisions are final.  Send your answer with the subject line "SummerStuffPuzzler" to us by next Friday.  The email filter will be programmed to chuck everything else after that date.  Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!  We are done until Tuesday :-)


May 25,2006 (CraftTechThursday 2:16PM)

We are familiar with glue guns, glue sticks, and double-sided tape.  When we first saw the Xyron 900, we weren't quite sure what to make of it.

The Xyron 900 looks a lot like a printer...stuff goes in one end and comes out the other.  In this case, what happens in the middle takes a lot of the mess and tedium out of something we all do...applying glue to the back of things.  Go here to get a closer FirstLook at the Xyron 900.  Check out the short video clip of it in action at the CKC Scrapbooking Convention.

If you don't need to design your own cutting patterns, the WishBlade may be more than you need.  The Personal Cutting Systme will cut pre-programmed fonts and shapes up to 4" in size.

The cutting principle is the same as the WishBlade... a moving blade on an X-Y plotter framework.  Unlike the WishBlade, this unit is totally self contained... no computer needed.

The Personal Cutting System was also extremely easy to use.  We were able to cut the letters and backgrounds perfectly the first time out.  We are totally hooked on playing with our Xyron gear, but we will take a break and write a FirstLook on the PCS soon.

Now that we have these small shapes, we need some easy way to assemble them all.  The 900 laminator can be used to put adhesive on the back of the letters we just cut.  However, for the little tasks, the smaller sticker makers may be a better choice.

The unit above is the Xyron 250.  It is hand cranked like the 900, but it was designed specifically for letters and small shapes.  The shapes are fed in from the front and picks up the adhesive as it makes it way through the applicator.  Once they exit from the rear, they can be peeled from the wax paper and applied.

Some have commented that while it is true the machine does make it easier to apply glue, we didn't show anything which made it unique.  Well, we decide to try something a little more difficult... putting adhesive on the back of a piece of tissue paper.

As far as we know, there isn't any way to get adhesive onto tissue paper (glue stick, spray mount, etc...) that will not tear the tissue.  We were able to do it with Xyron 250 on the first try!


May 24,2006 (WowUsWednesday 8:43AM)

Going back and forth between Boston and NYC is something we do often.  The trip usually takes about four hours...sometimes less if we drive the Boxster and the weather is good.  With the rising price of gas, we are thinking... why bother driving if we can leave that to someone else, be pampered, and maybe even get some work done along the way.  Should we go Greyhound? Acela? The Shuttle? One of our readers clued us in on the LimoLiner.

The LimoLiner is 28 seat luxury transport service between Boston and New York City.  They offer all of the amenities of Business Class travel without the hassles.  They have just announced the availability of high speed wireless Internet on all their vehicles.  We booked a reservation on the LimoLiner for a trip to NYC this coming July.  We'll tell you all about it...maybe even during the trip.

Everyone here loves spicy food.  Some love it more than others.  When we read about a "variable hot sauce" from Dave's Gourmet, we knew we had to try some!

The split-bottle design allows the user to dial up the desired "hotness" of the sauce...clever!  It would have been a great addtion to the FirstGrill event this past Sunday.  I guess we'll have to come up with something just to test out all the spices... this is a crazy job.

There is a large collection of other spicy goodness on the site.  If you love stimulating those nociceptors with large amounts of capsaicin... and who doesn't?  Then you need to check out Dave's offerings!

Want to send something a little different than the typical e-card?  Check out IGotNewsForYou.com!  This service will let you mock up a front page with personalized news snippets and articles.

Their web interface is easy to use.  The content can be as tame or as racy as you think appropriate.  So if you are tired of sending kitten photos and puppy videos to your girl or because somehow you didn't realize today was your five weeks and four day anniversary... and you were suppose to do something...send her something that may just get her to laugh out laugh... just make sure it SFW :-)


May 23,2006 (TechTuesday 10:57AM)

We got a lot of emails asking about the StressEraser.  Instead of responding individually, we thought we would just post some initial observations here.

One of the reason why this device is easy to use is because of the instant feedback.  The wave pattern gives the user realtime info on the activities of the "stimulating" and "pacifying" nerves. 

We could immediately see if something we were doing was causing more or less nerve stimulation. By signaling to us when to exhale, it helped us regulate our breathing and focus our mind on the proper feelings, enabling us to generates those nice regular sine waves (right photo). 

The finger sensor measures tiny changes in pulse rate which is a reflection of the activity of the overall nervous system.  The StressEraser keeps a running tally of how many "point" were achieve during each session and the total for the day.

The goal stated in the manual is for the user to reach 30 points per session and 100 points per day in order to to feel the benefits from using the StressEraser.  Some were able to reaching 50 points in a few minutes...it is not hard if your main job is "relaxing".


May 22,2006 (MakersMonday 11:17AM)

Some of the Xyron folks were in Manchester NH on Saturday for a CKC Scrapbooking Convention.  A few of us thought we should go check out what this phenomenon was all about.  It would also give us a chance to take a look at this new WishBlade cutter you have been pestering us to review.

Ok, the first thing we realized when we walked in was these scrapbooking folks are exactly like the gamers and the Mac heads we know... they are INTENSELY committed to their interest.

They attend classes and workshops.  They pack booths at the show floor.  Most importantly, they BUY lots of stuff.

We sat in on Beth's class for a while and saw the Xyron products (DesignRunner, 900 Laminator, cutters) in use.  We then made our way to the Xyron booth and had a most illuminating chat with the folks there.  They showed us all their gear... yes, including the WishBlade.

We took some videos of the WishBlade in action.  The files are a bit large so download may be a bit slow if you don't have a broadband connection.

The WishBlade is one cool machine.  It works just like a plotter except it has a cutting blade instead of a pen. The cutter can be used to make more than just patterns, it can also be use to make cool 3-D cards and other objects.  We will definitely take a much closer look at this device and see how far we can push the capabilities of this unit.

The RainyDayKitchen's FirstGrill event over the weekend was just amazing.  Both the Kobe beef from Morgan Ranch and the sausages from the Buffalo Guys were a huge hit.  All the guests had a chance to try their hands on the various grills...as well as some of the other new gear (i-Roast2, EspressoPRO, fitness scales, etc...) in the RainyDayKitchen. 

Some of the staff and guests were determined not to leave until all the food was gone.  We'll have the complete write-up by the next FoodFriday edition of RainyDayMagazine.


May 21,2006 (StressFreeSunday 9:17AM)

The FirstGrill event is today.  Folks are coming from various parts for the festivities.  Our friends Candy and Andy will not let a little flooding in their driveway deter them from a RainyDayMagazine food-fest!  Hey...we now know people who have their own island!

The mystery second product of Friday's ProductPuzzler is a StressEraser from Helicor.  It was pretty easy to use right out of the box.  The StressEraser has a real time on-screen display of how your breathing affects your body. It also has indicators to tell you when it is the best time to exhale to calm your body.

We are really excited to try this product.  Some of us really NEED to try this product.  A few will be REQUIRED to use this product :-)  There will be a detail write-up on the StressEraser in June... unless we have all reached a higher plane of consciousness, in which case, we may be able to just transmit our thoughts to you directly.

Wendy Rubin, Michael Chang, and Carl Jensen all got the correct answer.  Since Michael and Carl have both won things in the past, we are giving the prize to Wendy.  With the Digital Foci case, Wendy will have one less thing to stress about when she travels.


May 20,2006 (SportsSaturday 7:17PM)

Some of us had a previous life in the world of biotech so the name Nalgene was quite familiar to us.  When we started seeing the same name pop up in the outdoors and fitness magazines, we weren't surprised. Their expertise in strong polycarbonate containers was a natural fit.  We are happy to report that Nalgene has decided to extend their product line into other areas of outdoors related hydration.

This new product is called "Swift" and it's geared toward cyclist, much liked the CamelBak Lobo.  There are some difference (magnetic valve clip, insulated container compartment, etc...).  The most notable is the clear water level window (red arrow) for checking how much liquid remains.  We'll have a FirstLook in June and more on it over the Summer.

Michael Chang and Adrian Quan both correctly identified the shoes as the Mion Current.  Michael's email was time stamped first, so we'll be sending Michael something from our Nalgene collection.

There is still a chance to win...the other product is still unidentified.  Here is another clue ....the mystery gadget in action:

We have been waiting for the Mions for about six months! The Mion Current is like nothing we have ever seen before.  However, we do know a little something about its heritage. 

We reviewed another shoe by it's designer (Martin Keen) a while back.  While Keen has moved on to Mion, his style and approach is unmistakeable. We'll have more on these shoes soon!


May 19,2006 (FirstGrillFriday 3:17PM)

Santa Bob dropped off a few goodies today.  They were a little out of the ordinary so we thought it would be a good opportunity to use them as the basis of a ProductPuzzler.

If you could identify (product name and company) either one of those (just one entry please), we'll send you a little something from our RainyDay Pile-O-Stuff.   Send the entries via email with the subject line "ProductPuzzler" if you want the interns to read them... otherwise put whatever you want in the subject line.  It'll be a good test for the email filters :-)

The FirstGrill Event is this weekend.  It looks like the timing for the event will be perfect.  The crazy weather we have been experiencing should be gone by the end of today.  Fortunately, all of the food and gear we needed for the event made it here on time.

The Kobe Beef from Morgan Ranch was delivered by FedEx yesterday.  The quality looks absolutely amazing.  The marbling on the steaks are the most we have ever seen.  We can't wait to get them on the grills! 

The original schedule was to unpack and assemble the grills yesterday, but our little SoftSocket adventure threw the plans off a bit.  We unpacked the grills this morning and will be assembling them today. 

Both the Coleman and the Thermos grills will require some final assembly.  We'll let the interns have at them and see how they do by lunch time.

The Coleman RoadTrip Grill LXE appears to require less work, but we don't know for sure.  All we can tell at this stage is there are less pieces in bubble wrap as compared to the Thermos unit.

The Thermos Grill2Go had a bit more stuff under the hood.  Both of them came pretty much in the state you see here.  They both look quite transportable...as long as you have an SUV.  After this FirstGrill event, we'll take them on the road and see how they fare.  I guess it would mean more grilling...it is going to be a long, hot Summer :-)

The interns took one look at the grills and went out for coffee.  We couldn't blame them as the assembly instructions were sparse for the Coleman and non existent for the Thermos.  This didn't fazed the more experienced in the group.

The Coleman Roadtrip was pretty much all assembled.  It just needed the handle inserted, wheels attached, and propane valve installed.  Total time: 15 minutes.

The Thermos Grill2Go took a little bit longer.  The grill itself was factory assembled and did not require any work. The stand came in three pieces and had to be assembled.  It was a bit unwieldy until we figured out that it was easier to work with it on the floor instead of trying to stand it up while putting it together.

Once we got the stand together, the rest came together quickly.  Although things were pretty obvious in how they should go together, it would have been a bit easier with SOME instructions.  Total time: 35 minutes.

The two grills are now ready for the FirstGrill event this weekend!  I think it is time to get some lunch...and some propane.


May 18,2006 (TechThursday 6:26PM)

We had removed all of the chrome wheel bolts and replaced them with the rusty ones before bringing the tires to the installer to get them flipped around (see Porsche Puzzler).  Then it rained for a week.  Today was the first chance we had to put them back on. 

We thought it would be a 10 minute job...six hours later, we are finally finished.  What happened???  Well, we were down to the last three bolts when the SoftSocket we were using failed.

It failed in such a way that the top piece of the socket became firmly wedged against the wall and the head of the bolt.  We could drive it in this condition with no problems, but if we ever had to take the tire off, it would be impossible.  There was no way we could leave things in this condition...go here if you want to find out how it all ended.

When we first heard about the Optimus OLED keypad/keyboard, we thought it was cool.  So much so that we were ready to plunk down some cash for the "pre-order" for June delivery.

Well, it appears that our bean counters were wise in not letting us order stuff that is still in the "concepts" stage.  Gizmodo has an update on the state of "production" of the Optimus keypad...and it is not looking promising.  The price has increased, the delivery scheduled pushed back, and the feature list is increasing.  This is starting to sound like a project gone out of control.

If you are like us, you have a good collection of contact information on a stack of business cards collected from the various conferences, conventions, and trade shows.   We are also willing to bet that you have every intention of entering the information from cards into a contacts database...but have not found the time in the last five years to do so.

Well, procrastinate no more!  Get yourself one of these Plustek OptiCard 820 and an intern.  Give them the stack of cards that have been collecting in a box under your desk and let them go at it!  The scanner is simple to use, works well, and will fit in a briefcase.  What more do you want???  Yes...that is a business card from when John Sculley was the CEO of Apple.  It just goes to show how much work the interns have ahead of them.

We have accumulated a few gadgets in the office that we thought we had better take a FirstLook at before things started to fall too far behind.

We'll do more with this ThermoHawk just because it is so easy and so much fun to use!  We are sure there will be folks with legitimate uses for this really cool piece of gear, but we are just happy to point it at thing and say "hey... don't touch THAT!!!"


May 17,2006 (WowUsWednesday 8:56AM)

A sunny day!!!  After a week of record rain and widespread flooding, we are finally getting a beautiful day.  The first thing we did was to check on the RainyDayGarden.

All this water has really kicked things into overdrive.  There will be a lot of weeding for the interns today!

Most of the flooding around Boston were isolated, unlike some of the area around the state and New England. 

Parts of downtown Peabody are still under 11 feet of water.  The water level in the Merrimack River in Lowell reached as high as 58 feet (4th highest on record) before starting to recede.

With all the water around, it reminded us of this "self-watering" planter from Eva Solo we got last year, but never used.  These pots work by using a simple "wicking" principle for keeping the plants watered.

The Eva Solo planter works by suspending the soil and plant above the water.  The water is drawn up from the bottom by capillary action into the soil.  This is different than the hydroponics method used in the AeroGarden.  These planters will also work perfectly well as a vase.

We are going to give these planters a try this year.  We will take two of the plants that we often forget to water and transplant them into these planters and track their progress over the next several months.


May 16,2006 (MusicTechTuesday 9:56AM)

The iPod universe got more goodies from JBL last week.  We have reviewed JBL's gear (OnTour, SoundSticks 2, Drive&Play) in the past and have always found them to be of top quality. 

One of the many things which separates JBL from the rest of the pack has been their innovative styling.  We are happy to see Radial and the OnTour Plus are following in that tradition.  The JBL Radial will be available in June.  The OnTour Plus is available now.  We'll get you a closer look at the Radial once the unit is shipping.

If you like your music without wires, then you need to check out the Saitek wireless headphones.  We have been playing with the Saitek A-350 wireless headphones for a few weeks now and found them to be much better than the IR wireless ones we have tried in the past.  These wireless headphones work on the same principle as the wireless phones and other wireless music transmitters.

Like them, these headphones works with any music source.  We have tried it with the iPod, DVD player, computer, TV, etc...  If the device has a headphone jack, it will work with the Saitek A-350.  We'll have a write-up of these cool headphones as soon as we get them back from the interns.

While not strictly music related, we have been doing a head-to-head comparison of the Motorola RAZR phones from T-Mobile and Verizon for the past several weeks.

We had always thought that while the services may be different, the phones would be the same.  Not so.  There were a surprising number of differences between the T-Mobile and the Verizon RAZR.

Since we have strayed from the "music" theme, we might as well mention the nice Speck cases we got for the RAZR phones.  We first became aware of Speck when we saw their stuff at the Boston MacWorld.  We gave them a try and really liked the Speck cases for the iPod nano.

Speck also has a  complete line (soft, hard, fun) for the RAZR phone.  The interns got a few just so they would have some variety...apparently it is important to match the phone's case with the day's outfit.


May 15,2006 (MayShowersMonday 9:56AM)

Some may have heard there has been a bit of rain in New England this past week.  Many may have received more water than they needed for their garden. We sure did.

The office cat has been going a little stir crazy the past few days.  She bolts out every time someone comes in, but instantly realizes her mistake and demands to be let back in.  We are considering embedding her with her own RFID tag so she can come and go as she pleases.

Just how much rain did we get?  Well, this was the first time the Eva Solo Rainy Gauge had overflowed.  At least the irises doesn't mind all the water.

The rain stopped briefly this morning and we heard the finches at the front entrance making a ruckus.  A few of us decided to see what all the noise was about.

Apparently, the office cat, was on the railing looking up at the nest...and that was too close for Papa Finch.  We got out the ladder and climbed up to see if the finches are about to be proud parents for the second time.  The answer is "Yes!"


May 14,2006 (SportsSunday 10:46AM)

There was no winner to last Saturday's Porsche Puzzler.  Quite a few came close, but nobody got the major problem so we decide we couldn't give away the set of Silver Porsche Wheel Centers just yet.  There will be another chance at some point.

Porsche Puzzler Answer: There were two problems with the rear tire.  The first problem was the installer had put the front rim on the rear tire.  This was the reason why the new rear bolts (left red arrow) were protruding so much further then the old bolts (right red arrow).

Most readers were closer on the second problem, but nobody got it exactly right.  Quite a few answers suggested the tires were "unidirectional".  We asked Pirelli and TireRack (where we had purchased these tires) and their answers were ..."The Pirelli tires that you purchased are NOT directional. They have an asymmetric design .... The tread design may appear to be running backwards on one side of the car, but this is the way the tire was designed." Thus, putting them on the other side of the car would not have fixed the problem.  All four tires were mounted with the inside facing out...they had to be remounted.  The installer was quite embarrassed when we went back and showed them the problem.  They did remount and re-balanced all four tires free of charge.


May 12,2006 (FoodFriday 10:46AM)

Last Friday we showed the EspressoPRO in action.  Today we'll show how we get the perfect grind for the espresso maker and we'll also complete the rest of the coffee obsession with the FirstLook and FirstUse reviews of a coffee roaster called i-Roast2.

The Capresso Burr Grinder give a consistent grind and is a perfect companion for the EspressoPRO.  Burr grinders gives a much more consistent grind than their blade counterparts.  It also does not generate coffee dust, which can clog the fine mesh filters of an espresso maker.

Roasting coffee was a lot simpler than we thought.  The machine was easy to set up.  15 minutes was all it took and the result was definitely worth the effort.  If you love drinking coffee, you will enjoy it even more if you roast it to just the way you like it. 

The RainyDayKitchen staff will be hosting the First Grill of the Season event next weekend.  The guests will get some first hand exposure to some new and interesting summer grilling gear.  We have grills from the following vendors:

  1. Coleman RoadTrip Grill LXE (gas)
  2. Thermos Grill2Go (gas)
  3. Weber OneTouch (charcoal)

Our guests will also have a chance to take a closer look at some of the new kitchen gear such as the All-Clad Stainless Steel Wok, the Waterless Cooking System, and the Epicurean wine/champagne preserver.

They will also have a chance to sampling some new sausage offerings from the Buffalo Guys and some American Kobe beef from Morgan Ranch.

We'll be serving four different kinds of buffalo sausages (Polish, Bratwurst, Andouille, and Hot Dog).  The sausages from the Buffalo Guys are free of gluten (...especially important for our friend Rachel), MSG, Nitrates, or other strange stuff.  We have had meats from the Buffalo Guys before and we can say speak from experience...they are delicious.

If you are a steak lover, then you probably have heard of the fabled Japanese Kobe Beef.  The folks at Morgan Ranch have been producing Kobe Beef since 1994.  We are looking forward to sampling their offering!

Some may remember back last month we got in a few fitness scales because we wanted to see if they would be useful in helping us get into Summer Shape.  Some of us have been weighing ourselves everyday.  Others have walked past the scales as if they were radioactive.

We are thinking of putting them out during the FirstGrill event and see what our guests think of them, but the idea was quickly voted down:-) In any case, we should have the FirstLook of the Soehnle unit posted this weekend.


May 11,2006 (CraftTechThursday 3:46PM)

We had no idea that the "scrapbooking" crowd was so... so scrappy!  As soon as we said we were going to take a look at the Xyron stuff, emails began coming in "strongly urging" that we get off our butts and get the reviews posted!!!  OK! OK! Some of us here hadn't even heard of this phenomenon until a few weeks ago... give us a break :-)

Lucky for us we are not entirely new to printers and printing related technologies.  Products like the Xyron Design Runner is, when striped down to its basic function, a printer. 

It is a well designed printer, especially for its target market.  It also appears to be EXTREMELY easy and intuitive to use.  So easy that it will most likely pass the "My Own Mother"...MOM for short...test.

Images, text, and designs are loaded into the printer via these DesignRunner Discs.  They are the exact size of a SD card, but they are not the standard SD cards.  They cannot be read by standard SD card readers.  We can understand the business model, but it is a bit of a bummer that we can't just upload our own designs using a standard SD card.  Xyron is pretty responsive to their customers and we hope future versions will use a standard interface.  Wouldn't it be great to be able to just take the SD card from your digital camera and print a pattern with this printer???

The Design Runner appears to use the bubble jet printing technology. As explained by How Stuff Works"In a bubble jet printer, tiny resistors create heat, and this heat vaporizes ink to create a bubble. The expansion that creates the bubble causes a droplet to form and eject from the print head. A typical bubble jet print head has 64 or 128 tiny nozzles, and all of them can fire a droplet simultaneously."

Another advantage of bubble jet printing is that it is VERY quiet.  This video of our first printing efforts does have sound...really.  We are already enamored with this product.  We really like the compact design and the ergonomic feel of this Design Runner.  We don't yet know much about this world of scrapbooking, but we LOVE tech gear.  It appears there are some pretty cool stuff being made for the folks in this market.  So expect to read a LOT more about this whole scrapbooking thing in the coming weeks!

Not EVERYONE spent there entire day yesterday playing with the printer, cutter, and laminating gadgets.  Some of us did some work and assembled stuff. 

We got the Dremel Workstation yesterday... some assembly required.  Like all assembly project, we first try to do it without reading the instructions.  We find that is the best was to get to know all the parts and understand how they fit.  We had a few starts and stops, but in the end, the WorkStation was successfully assembled.  The Dremel WorkStation is a nice piece of gear!  It is like a "third hand" but with some added features.  We'll go more indepth on this piece of accessory this weekend.  Somebody just got all excited about having successfully laminated the office cat... I'm pretty sure they meant a "photo" of the office cat, but I better go check.


May 10,2006 (WowUsWednesday 2:16PM)

Santa Bob just pulled up and dropped of today's deliveries.  One of the items was something we had been looking forward to for a couple of weeks.

It is the Dremel WorkStation we told you about back in April.  We were going to make something similar for the 400-XPR, but since Dremel has one specially designed to work with it, we thought we would save ourselves some time and effort.  Now we have to come up with some projects to test this thing out.

However, first we'll have to put it together.  Since all the interns are busy "scrapbooking,"  I guess I'll have to tackle this job myself.  We'll have something more for you tomorrow on this Dremel WorkStation once I get it set up.  BTW...if you can tell us what else we got from Santa Bob today, we'll ask him bring you a little something as well :-)

When our friend Kathleen asked us why we have never done any articles on "scrapbooking," we gave each other blank stares and asked "scrap what?"  The conversation went in another direction, but when we got back to the office the next day, the task of researching this topic fell on one of the lucky interns who happened be the first to say "Good Morning !!!" in an enthusiastic volume which is usually tolerable after the third cup of espresso.

It seems we were the last people on the block to be clued into this $2.5 billion dollars a year industry :-)  We have a bit of catching up to do, so we decided to do it right.  We went and got ourselves a collection of gear from Xyron. 

They have a large collection of tools, dispensers, and machines for every scrapbooking task (printing, cutting, sticking, etc...).

We will definitely be adding a "scrapbooking" category to the new RainyDayProjects section (Fall 2006).  Apparently it has been a perfect "RainyDay" kind of thing for a lot of folks :-)  One of the interns mentioned something about a scrapbooking cruise...


May 9,2006 (SportsTechTuesday 6:16PM)

Some photographers go out West and bring back beautiful scenic images of big sky, open country, and majestic mountains.  Others capture the ruggedness and realities of living so directly with nature.  Boston MFA's upcoming exhibition, Laura McPhee: River Of No Return (May 13 to September 17), showcases an artist who manages to see something a bit more.

Laura McPhee's images are big...as big as Kodak paper will allow.  Her images are stunning in detail...as detailed as can be when an 8x10 view camera is in skilled hands.  And when those details are examined, the viewer may be startled to find out what the image really is. 

What first appeared to be beautiful mist on a mountain lake actually turned out to be a cyanide evaporation pool from a mining operation.  There are many such images with contradictory realities in this 40-piece exhibition.  We highly encourage you to go see this exhibit when you are in Boston.  Do read the titles carefully, you may be very surprised at what you are really looking at.

Brunton's motto is "Get Out There" and they mean it.  They make a wide variety of high-end adventure gear (optics, GPS, stoves, power packs) specifically designed to enable folks like us to get out, enjoy ourselves, and make it back to tell you, our readers, about it.

When we are "out there," sometimes we like to get a little closer to things of interest...when we can't get there physically, we can now still get there virtually by using a pair of these Brunton Echo binoculars.

If you do a lot of weekend trips, this Aeronaut from Tom Bihn will be perfect for you.  If you want something that will let you pack quickly and go with you onto the plane, this bag will be perfect for you.  If you can't make up your mind as to what kind of bag you need, this bag will be perfect for you.  If you.... get the idea???

What's really great about this bag is not any of those things in particular.  This bag is great because this will be the bag you will use most often.  What's the point of owning a great piece of gear if it just sits in the closet? Go check out our FirstLook to see why you should order an Aeronaut for all your upcoming Summer travels.


May 8,2006 (MovieMonday 1:35PM)

Normally we would shut down the office and be at the front of the line for a movie like "Mission: Impossible 3."  However, ever since the lead actor (ahem) has let his personal beliefs and public comments spoil our "movie star" illusions of him, we just can't get ourselves to PAY to see any of his movies anymore.  We'll still watch him for free, but we can't make ourselves put any more money in his pocket.  Oh well, it is a good thing that X-Men: The Last Stand is less than a month away.

We are happy to announce that Stanley Cohen is the winner of the Neuros MPEG-4 Recorder2 giveaway.  Stanley's idea was to place the Recorder2 in a tethered or remote-control aerial balloon with a downward-looking camera to take aerial videos...it is an extension of the KAT project we were going to do this Summer.  

We chose Stanley's idea amongst a pretty strong field of entries.  However, the final point which tipped the voting in Stanley's favor (besides him sending his entry in on the back of a $20 bill) was that his idea is within the skills of most readers...and most of the interns here.


May 7,2006 (Weekend Edition-5:35PM)

After we replaced rusty wheel bolts on the Porsche Boxster with the Boothe Design chrome wheel bolts, we couldn't just ignore the rusty ones :-)  Instead, we said..."Hey, what a perfect chance to try out the new Dremel Stylus!"

This is not a quick job.  It took about 15 minutes to get all the rust off the head, polish the anti-seize collar, and buff one bolt. It'll probably take a few days to finish them all.

NOTE: For the folks who have sent in answers to yesterday's RainyDayPuzzler, we have added a new clue.  If you want to submit another answer...you will not be disqualified:-)


May 6,2006 (Weekend Edition-11:35AM)

Some of you have noticed we have added a "FinchWatch" link to the upper right of this page. 

Thank you for all the emails and comments!  The last three finches will probably be gone by this weekend.

A few of the interns will be out trekking the Emerald Necklace and testing some gear as part of the extended SpringOuting.  Here are some recent additions to the gear list...a rugged wrist worn digital compass and chronograph called the Enduro from HighGear.

The other cool piece of gear we'll be testing is The Buzz from Tom Bihn.  If you haven't realized it by now, we LOVE the gear from these guys.  They design all their bags based on function and manage to deliver them as high quality products in innovative forms. 

Others will be detailing the Boxster and getting it ready for the first top down ride of the season.  We started replacing the rusty wheel bolts with the chrome beauties from Boothe Design yesterday.  The wheel hanger was a HUGE time saver!

The front went on with no problems, as did the rear.  However, when we completed the rear, we noticed something odd.  It took us a little while to realized what the problems were. 

To solve the RainyDayGarage Porsche Puzzler of the week, look closely at the photo above.  If you can identify ALL the problems (yes...there is more than one) with the the REAR wheel in the photo, we'll send you something from the RainyDayGarage guys' bin of tools and toys :-)  This one is a little more difficult than our usual puzzlers...so don't waste you time just guessing.  Since our interns have been a little overwhelmed lately with the puzzler responses... they kindly request that you put "RainyDayPuzzler" in the subject line of the email and just ONE answer per person please, additional answers will be discarded unread by our interns.  We'll post the answer next weekend.  If there are more than one correct answer, we'll have a drawing for the prize.

NOTE: The RainyDayGarage guys wanted to give you one clue... there is NOTHING wrong with the bolts from Boothe Design, they are perfect.


May 5,2006 (FoodFriday-3:35PM)

The last item for this FoodFriday is a device from Epicurean International Products for preserving wine and champagne.

This system is different from other units on the market in that it can both pump air into the bottle or remove it depending on whether it is Champagne or wine.  It looks like we will have to open a few bottle of wine and Champagne this weekend to test out this device.  Sigh...

Chinese woks have been traditionally made by hand hammering high carbon steel into shape.  The bottom of the wok is round which makes stir-frying possible.  We have had our wok for over twenty years and have made countless meals using it...including our annual Chinese New Year banquets.  So you could imagine the skeptical looks and the raised eye brows when we said we were bringing a new wok into the RainyDayKitchen. 

If the wok wasn't from the high end cookware maker All-Clad, it probably wouldn't have received a second look.  If the wok didn't have the traditional "round bottom", it definitely wouldn't have been touched.  Fortunately for the wok...it had the proper "credentials" and was allowed into the kitchen :-)

The look of this All-Clad wok may be similar to the traditional Chinese wok, but the All-Clad technology behind it is 21st century.  The construction is 3-ply (stainless, aluminum, magnetic stainless).  The interior is stainless so it won't react with what is in the wok.  The internal aluminum is for fast and even heat distribution.  The external magnetic stainless surface is so it can work on all type of heating surface...from conventional gas stoves to induction cooktops, something which cannot be done with a traditional wok. 

We look forward to giving this new piece of gear a thorough testing!  The All-Clad Round Bottom Wok should be available by August 2006.  The RainyDayKitchen will have the results well before then :-)

Making espresso at home or at the office has not always been that convenient.  There are expensive and often temperamental units available for those who love their morning shot.  However, we wanted to see if there was something out there which it is simple to use, convenient, and makes great espresso.

We think we have found it with the Capresso EspressoPRO.  The EspressoPRO can use pods or regular grind coffee.  It can also make hot water for tea, hot chocolate, and Americano coffee.  There are also attachments for frothing milk directly into the cappuccino!  We have posted the FirstLook and FirstUse reports.  We only made espresso in this first try.  We'll have an update on the cappuccino making soon.

We really like the overall look and design of this EspressoPRO unit.  The size and simplicity will allow it to fit in well with any decor.  

The RainyDayKitchen is pretty well equipped.  Even so, we are always curious about new gear and approaches to making a healthier meal.  Many of you readers have asked about stainless vs aluminum vs non-stick.  We are a big fan of stainless steel, both for its properties and its appearance.

We will be reviewing several brands of stainless steel cookware in the coming months.  Our first set is this "waterless system" from BNF.  We got this set from a site called ABetterAbode.com.  They have a HUGE selection of products for the home.  They also have FREE SHIPPING, which for a set like this (35 lbs) can be quite a savings!  We'll have a FirstLook in a couple of weeks.


May 4,2006 (SpringTuningThursday-11:15AM)

We have a pair of finches that come back to the RainyDayGarden and nest every year.  A few years ago, their nest was raided by some starlings.  Some here (you know who you are... the same folks who have trouble thinning out seedlings) insisted we put up protection of some sort for the finches.

Well it appears the new steel cage is working fine.  A new charm of baby finches are happily bunched up and chirping their little hearts out... much to the curiosity of the office cat.

Even though it is May, we have not had a chance to put the summer tires on the Boxster yet.  One problem is on most nights the temperature still drop down to the mid 40's.  We didn't want to put the summer tires on until the temp stayed above 50º.

The other problem is our wheel bolts always get REALLY rusty over the Winter.  We clean and paint them every Spring, but can't seem to keep the rust from coming back.

This year we decided to try something new.  We have decided to replace all of the rusty bolts with these gorgeous bolts from Boothe Design.

We got a shipment of chromed wheel bolts from them yesterday.  The guys at RainyDayGarage were amazed at the quality of the bolts.  These bolts are so nice we are going to have to clean the car before we can put them on :-) BTW, if you can tell what else we got from them and how much, we'll send you a little token for your efforts.

UPDATE:  We got Noah Lambert's email (timestamped 3:22AM) correctly identifying the other Boothe Porsche goodies as the SoftSocket and Wheel Hanger

The socket is so we don't scratch the bolts.  The hanger makes it a snap to align the holes when replacing the bolts.  Noah asked for a 997 Turbo as his prize.  We are going to send him one, along with everything Porsche is selling in '06.

Another task the RainyDayGarage guys perform every Spring is cleaning the convertible top and protecting the interior of the Boxster with some kind of UV screen.  In the past, they usually use ArmorAll and Scotch Guard, but this Spring some readers asked them about a company called 303 Products Inc.  

We didn't know anything about them so we checked out their site.  Apparently, 303 products does not contain any silicone oils, waxes, glycerin or petroleum distillates.  Those additives, while giving a shiny coat, can actually damage synthetics and vinyl by leeching out plasticizer. 

303's claim is their product is the "only effective UV screening treatment for vinyl".  We are going to give these product a try.  Check back in the Fall to see what we think of them.

Tom (Powell, OH) on PPBB posted this little gem on what it means to REALLY detail a car.  Think you know how to detail a car?  You know NOTHING!

Paul's car care program has 61 steps and ends with a hand applied wax finish that is harder than concrete and will last about six months.  His handiwork is not for everybody.  If you have $10,000, Paul will be happy to wash and clean your car with the best products on the PLANET :-)  Paul will also go to wherever you are to clean off any bird droppings should you be so unfortunate...we are sure there is a fee for the follow up service.


May 3,2006 (WowUsWednesday-12:32PM)

Here are some photos we took back in November 2000 from the Boston Harbor Hotel, showing the "Central Artery" portion of six-lane Interstate 93 cutting the city in half. The Artery opened in 1959 and was designed to carry about 75,000 vehicles a day. By 1991 it was carrying upwards of 200,000 a day. "The Big Dig" was begun to put all Boston traffic underground.

In 2002, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge was completed, and the Big Diggers opened the bridge to foot traffic for one day prior to opening the bridge to vehicular traffic. Much of the old steel
overpasses were in the process of being dismantled at this time. RainyDayMagazine was, of course, there to record the event for posterity.

This weekend, we saw a view from the North End into the City that the residents of Bean Town haven't seen in almost 50 years. The Big Dig construction is just about finished, but the construction of the
"green-belt" that will take its place continues. But still, the entire highway has now been moved underground! Yes, it took almost $14 billion dollars ($11.5 billion more than originally estimated), but in
twenty years who is going to remember?

When we came back from the Spring Outing, there were a few cool gadgets waiting for us at the office.  The first item was from i-Rocks USA.  This little gem (IR 8200) is a USB card reader. 

Normally, we don't get too excited over these thing, but this reader is a little bit different.  The design make it similar in size to many of the USB drives on the market.  So instead of being stuck with a fixed sized USB drive, just insert a larger memory card when you need more storage...brilliant! 

The other cool item we got looks like one of those small flashlight for your keychain.  It is actually the reverse of a flashlight.  It is a light reader.  More precisely, it is a "non-contact infrared meter" called the ThermoHawk.  It detects emissions in the infrared range and converts it into a temperature reading. 

You just point the ThermoHawk at an object and it will tell you how hot or cold it is.  We are not quite sure what we'll use it for yet, but it sure is fun to use!

The interns asked if they could take it to a bar with them tonight to see if it really works. We are not entirely sure what they have in mind, but we'll wait for their report.   In the meantime, see if you can tell us which temperature reading goes with which item.  First one to get it right...gets something in the mail.

UPDATE: Carl Jensen was the first RainyDayMagazine reader with the correct answer... 130ºF for the AeroGrow lights and 106º for the Jura EspressoPro.  Some didn't see the "1" in "113º F" and incorrectly assumed it was ""13º F" for the ice.  It would have to be a pretty cold fridge to get the ice down to 13º F :-)

"Carol, what do we have for Carl as a lovely parting gift?" 

"Today... Carl will be taking home the i-Rocks 8200 USB 2.0 Flash Card Reader! "


May 2,2006 (TravTechTuesday-11:32AM)

We took a lot of gear with us on the RainyDayMagazine Spring Outing this weekend..  Some (BeyondFleece, Julbo, Brunton Echo) of the gear are new and some (Kata, Technica, Keen) we have used before.  

Even though the weather was sunny, the morning temperature was still in the low 50s.  The BeyondFleece jacket was perfect for hiking the Freedom Trail.  The light weight material used did not weigh us down. We really appreciated the windproof outer shell on the bridge.  For a closer look at the details of this jacket, check out our FirstLook review here.

We have had experience with both the Technica and Keen shoes on past outings.  Although most of paths were paved, quite a bit of downtown is still a mess due to the Big Dig.  So we chose footwear for this outing which were already broken in.  Both were light yet supportive...just right for hiking with day trips. 

Many travelers only think to bring a pair of binoculars with them when they head out to the country.  However, hiking in the city is a perfect opportunity to use this piece of gear.  There are a lot of historic sites to visit and a lot to see in a city such as Boston.  Many have details (weather vanes on top of steeples, building facade, etc...) which are only accessible with a pair of good binoculars.

The Brunton ECHO binoculars brought them in for us up-close and personal.  If you do decide to hike around your city, this is one piece of gear that is almost as important as the camera.

Both the Technica boots and Keen shoes were right at home in such an environment.  We didn't bring the CamelBaks, but chose to take the Nalgene OTG bottles instead.  For eye protection we decided to go with the Julbo Dolgan sunglasses.  To track our energy usage, we hooked on a couple of BioTrainers.  We found that one of them must be malfunctioning because one of us expended 1400 calories while another had used just 77 :-)

For carrying our GPS, digital camera, cell phone, and misc items we went with the Kata S-312 sling bag.  We have been using this bag more and more because of its size and ease of use.  The bag hangs at just the right level for easy access to the digital camera, yet provide superior protection due to the heavy front padding.

The Julbo Dolgan sunglasses were a last minute addition to the gear list.  It turned out to be an excellent decision.  The wrap-around protection was perfect for walking past the sometimes dusty BigDig construction sites still dotting downtown Boston.


May 1,2006 (Monday-10:32PM)

The weather this weekend in Boston was perfect. We had a great time being tourists in our own city:-)  Our stay at the Onyx Hotel was FABULOUS.  Everyone was knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful.  They knew all about the area, its history, and more importantly...the best local bar for a pint.

We met many of the staff over the weekend... including the hotel's friendly four months old puppy Daisy.  The Onyx is a pet friendly hotel.  The folks at the Onyx will take great care of you as well as your pet.  Go here for a closer RainyDayMagazine look at the Onyx Hotel.

Hiking around the North End and the surrounding area was a lot more scenic now that the highway is gone.  The view looking back toward downtown Boston is completely different...so bright, sunny, and open!

So much have changed in the North End since the highway which cut it it off from downtown had been dismantled. We've posted a few write-ups now that we had time to unpack.

Speaking of unpacking...we took the Tom Bihn's new Aeronaut bag with us to test for the weekend.  This bag has got to be one of the most versatile weekender we have ever used. 

We are not sure exactly how to categorize this bag.  Is it a duffle? A backpack? Or a soft suitcase?  We'll have a full review of this bag soon.  In the meantime, if you want more info, head to the Tom Bihn site here.


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