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August 30-31,2008 (WeekendEdition)

Labor Day weekend is upon us once again!  There is a slight hint of Fall in the air, but it was still warm enough for T-shirts and shorts.  While Gustav is bearing down on New Orleans, the weather here in New England was more pleasant.  Nice enough to get us out of the office and to take a drive out to World's End in Hingham. 

On the way to World's End, we realized none of us had lunch yet.  Luckily, we were just passing by the Hingham Lobster Pound when hunger struck.  As the locals know, the Lobster Pound is THE place to go if you are looking for... [More]- World's End Hingham


August 29,2008 (FloralFriday)

When our editors Lisa and Jay got back from the Festivals in Edinburgh, one of their neighbors asked them if they had seen the Journal because a photo of their sidewalk garden was in it! 

The first question Lisa had was "We are in the Wall Street Journal?"  No, but to us it was just as cool :-)  Read all about it here! [Permalink] - Highland Gardens


August 28,2008 (TechThursday)

Not sure what all is going on with the sudden increase in needed repairs around the RainyDayOffice this month (water heater, washer, telescope mount), but it has certainly kept us busy.  Someone just noticed the iMac we purchased about a year and a half ago had developed these odd vertical white lines across the screen.

The lines have increased to a solid white band on the left side, obscuring the Apple drop-down menu.  However, if we change the screen resolution to 1024x768, the full menu bar will once again be available.  It appears to us this problem points to a problem with the video display hardware or the LCD screen itself.  One observation which hints that the LCD itself may be fine is... [More] - iMac screen problem


August 27,2008 (WasherWednesday)

One of the perks of having our office in a building with a basement is we can have a Kenmore washer and dryer down there to use whenever we want.  This also means that we have to deal with any problems when they arise.  Recently, one of the editors noted the machine was making a gawd-awful racket, shaking like it was possessed, and leaking water.  Since the washer is about 20 years old, we thought maybe it was on its way out.

This was, of course, was the perfect opportunity to get out the tools, see what the insides of a washing machine were like, and to see if we could fix the problem.  Our first move was to disconnect the power to the washer...water and electricity always make for a shocking combo.  So off we went in pursuit of figuring out how to get the control panel off the washer.  After careful examination, we realized it was just two screws (hidden by years of lint) which held the panel in place.

After removing the two screws, we were able to lift the control panel free.  The panel was designed to... [More] - Kenmore washer repair


August 26,2008 (TelescopeTuesday)

There was a Celestron CG-5 ASGT mount for sale on Craigslist a few weeks ago.  The seller had too much equipment and was looking to pare down his collection.  We had been looking for a GoTo mount, so we worked out a reasonable price and drove for about an hour from Boston to pick it up. 

The mount, parts, and tripod were exactly as described.  We were set to do the deal when the seller thought it would be useful to power it up and demo some of the basics.  Well, long story short, as with all demos...what worked perfectly 10 minutes ago will break once you try to... [More]- Celestron CG-5 ASGT mount


August 25,2008 (MacTVMonday)

In Q1 of 2009, the United States will be converting all of the TV broadcast signals to digital.  For the portion of the public with analog TVs, it will mean either upgrading to a digital TV or adding a converter box to their current configuraton.  We were in that camp until our 60" projection TV decided it was time to retire. Folks here have been discussing what we should get as a replacement.  Some suggested we go with the biggest flat panel we can find (we would in a second if we could use the savings from their voluntary salary reduction for the purchase).  A few even suggested we forego TV all together (we let them go last week). 

The interns suggested we check out Elgato's digital tuner and use the computers as the display...hmmm, we really should be paying these interns.  Elgato is not new to us.  We have just never had a chance to take a look at... [More] - EyeTV


August 24,2008 (WeekendEdition)

The image on the left is the one taken on Friday night and the one on the right taken on Saturday.  We took both using the Nikon D40 and the Meade 2045 telescope. 

One parameter we did not control for in this comparision was the exposure time.  The exposure time will affect the amount of noise and contrast in the image.  We know the one on the right was taken at 1/30th of a second.  It is fairly obvious by looking at... [More] - More Moon Shots


August 23-24,2008 (WeekendEdition)

Last Thursday night we made our first attempt at photographing the moon using the Nikon digital camera coupled to the Meade 2045 telescope.  The results were acceptible considering we really didn't know what we were doing and were learning as we went.  One thing we did notice was that getting the moon in focus via the viewfinder of the camera was not that easy.  In this day and age of "autofocus", the viewfinder is more used for composition than for critical focusing.

Folks in the RainyDayPhotography department mentioned they had an angled viewfinder for the Olympus OM film system and perhaps we could adapt it for use with the Nikon D40.

The Olympus angled viewfinder is a high quality piece of gear.  Most of the parts are made of metal, no play in any of the parts, and the action is smooth.  On the side is a... [More] - Angled viewfinder


August 22,2008 (FirstShotFriday)

We took the Nikon-mounted telescope out last night for our first astrophotography session.  Moving the rig outside was a bit of a challenge.  We see now why it's good to have an observatory :-) 

We had to wait until after 11:30 before going outside because we were watching the first ever Olympics BMX finals in the office.  By the time we got things set up, the moon was high in the sky.  It was past full, but plenty of craters were still clearly visible.

We took a whole series of shots at different exposures.  The best ones were with the shutter at around 1/30 of a second and using the self-timer mode.  Focusing was a lot trickier... [More]- Moon shot


August 21,2008 (TelescopeTechThursday)

The weather has been perfect this entire week, warm during the day, cool at night, and not a cloud in the sky.  Taking advantage of the remarkable stretch of good stargazing conditions, we have been taking the Meade telescope out every night.

Mostly we have been looking at Jupiter and the moon.  As we are just starting out in Astronomy, we spent a great deal of time playing with all of the different eyepieces and getting a better understanding of the basics of the scope.  However, our eventual goal is to get comfortable enough the telescope to take some photos with it.

When we purchased this Meade 2045, it came with accessories for attaching a camera to the telescope.  One is a normal T-mount with a Nikon adapter.  The other is an Off-Axis guider (OAG).  The OAG has a small mirror to reflect an image up to the eyepiece so one can check and correct any... [More]- Astrophoto prep


August 20,2008 (WowUsWednesday)

No doubt some have heard about the "Bigfoot" carcass found by a couple of yokels. The incredible part of the story is not their claim that they "found" Bigfoot, but their thinking they could get away with it.  One of these guys is actually a police office, for god sake.  Has he never seen CSI on TV?  But this post is not about that.  It is about the fact that if folks want to find something amazing all they have to do is just look up in the sky!

We don't remember who sent us this image of a "heart" made of stars, but we filed it away because we thought it would be perfect for a "WowUsWednesday" post.  There is no need to go making up fake "discoveries" using a rubber gorilla suit.  There are plenty of wonderous things waiting to be discovered just by looking up! 

The folks in the RainyDayPhotography department have been reading up on Astrophotography so they can experiment with the new telescopes using the Nikon D40.  Their first attempt will be some shots of the moon.  We'll see if they can find it.  [Permalink] - Heart of stars


August 19,2008 (TelescopeTuesday)

We know the Olympics are still going on, but both the full moon and Jupiter are high in the New England night sky this week.  Jupiter is so bright that it is easily visible to the naked eye at dusk.

Clear skies and warm weather seemed a perfect opportunity for us to setup the Meade telescope and use it for a FirstLook at both the moon and Jupiter.

When we purchased this Meade telescope back in March, it came with a few cases of accessories (objectives, filters, etc...).  In this FirstLook, we hope to try... [More]- Meade 2045 FirstUse


August 18,2008 (LiquidMetalMonday)

Remember the James Bond movie Goldfinger where one of the Bond girls was painted gold?  THAT project was what first popped into our minds when this Liquid Stainless Steel items from Thomas' Kitchen Art showed up at the office.  Unfortunately, we were not able to convince any of our editors to let us do that to the interns.  JUST KIDDING!!!!  This stuff is not designed for use on humans, but for updating the look of kitchen appliances without having to actually update the appliances.

A few readers suggested we check out this stuff after reading about the stainless steel Advantium oven installation project from a few weeks ago.  They thought the old stove would look better if it matched the new oven and suggested we paint it using a refinishing product called Liquid Stainless Steel.  They did confess that... [More] - Liquid Stainless Steel


August 16-17,2008 (WeekendEdition)

At this point, pretty much every one on the planet knows about Harry Potter and Michael Phelps.  Like the boy who survived, Michael Phelps managed to pull victory out of certain defeat at the last possible moment.  In this instance, that moment was a difference of 0.01 seconds.  The same thing happened a few days later with Dara Torres, except this time she lost to Britta Steffen of Germany by 0.01 seconds.

While watching the events, we got to wondering: just how fast IS one one-hundredth of a second?  We know that light travels at a little faster than 186,000 miles a second.  So, in 0.01 of that second a photon would travel 1,860 miles, which is about the distance between Boston and Rapid City, SD.  OK, perhaps that example didn't really clear anything up.  Maybe the following examples will make it a little easier to relate to 0.01 seconds:

  • blink of an eye: 5 times/sec = 0.05 blink in 0.01 sec
  • hummingbird wings: 3.3 beats/sec = .03 beats in 0.01 sec
  • bumblebee wings: 130-240 beats/sec = 1 to 2  beats in 0.01 sec

So, 0.01 seconds turns out to be about the time it takes for a bumblebee to beat its wings once or twice.  Wow, those were REALLY close races :-)  [Permalink] - One one-hundredth of a second


August 15,2008 (FeynmanFriday)

A few of us recently saw a play by Peter Parnell called QED, a really funny and really amusing play about Richard Feynam. People who know his name might know it from the Nobel Prize he won in 1965 for his work in quantum elecrodynamics (QED), or they might know it from his being the guy who explained why the O-rings caused the Challenger disaster, to wit: "when they get cold they break." 

The play was the result of an initiative call the Catalyst Collaborative@MIT (CC@MIT).  Its goal is to examine science and its role in society via entertaining and thought-provoking means.  QED's run at the Central Sq theater ended on August 9th.  We didn't hear about it until its last week or we would have mentioned it here. Attending the play got us thinking about Mr. Feynman, and we're not joking*.

* This is a little bit of witticism, because he wrote an autobiographical tome entitled "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" Like I said, a little bit of witticism.

Today we want to bring your attention to two terriffic sets of CDs - original recordings of Richard Feynman's lectures on various topics in physics.  Trust us when we say that you don't have to know, understand, or even like physics to enjoy these lectures.

Each set contains both a book and a collection of CDs.  The books contain original photographs and diagrams for readers who want a more visual experience.  We liked listening to Feyman because his excitement about physics really comes through in his lectures.

Physics geeks who don't want to revisit the basics may find the second set, Six not-so-easy Pieces, more to their liking.  In this set, Feynman lectures on Einstein's Theory of Relativity.  We just loaded this set on our iPod.  We'll let you know how we made out in a few weeks. [Permalink] - Feynman Lectures on CD


August 14,2008 (TurnItOnThursday)

The interns sorted through quite a few responses to yesterday's RainyDayContest.  Most readers went with the obvious answer of "lighting the pilot light."  However, the correct answer was "connect the exhaust vent."  Danny W of Florida was the only one with the correct answer...so Danny, you are the winner!  Your prize is the way cool BionicGrip from Loggerhead Tools.  It is a handy tool for lots of projects around the home!

Some of you were wondering which model water heater we had purchased.  To tell the truth, we didn't really pay much attention when selecting the unit as all the ones in Home Depot were from GE.  The one we chose was a 40 gallon unit with a 9 year warranty.  It also came with a one year in-home service warranty. 

The new GE unit has one feature which was not on our ten-year old unit,  a piezo-electric lighter.  No longer would we have to stick a match under the tank to light the pilot light.  In fact, the entire burner assembly is not even accessible

To fire up the pilot light, all we had to do was turn on the gas, put the dial on "Pilot", and push the green lighter button a few times.  The pilot flame came on and we were good to go!  It took about an hour to heat up the 40 gallon tank and we all got our well deserved showers.  Ah...clean is good! [Permalink] - Firing up the water heater


August 13,2008 (WaterHeaterWednesday)

Getting the new water heater into place was a lot easier than moving the old water heater out of the way.  To prep for the installation of the tank, we positioned everything and test fitted all the pieces of the kit.

When full, the heater will weigh over 500 lbs, so while it was still liftable we took the opportunity to place the plastic catch tray underneath. 

Next step was to attach the compression fittings to the two water pipes.  The water-tight fit is accomplished by a nut "squeezing" the internal ring against the pipe.  The other end of the connector is threaded so it can accept the flexible stainless steel hose.  The key to using compression fittings is to avoid... [More] - Install New Water Heater


August 12,2008 (TakeItAwayTuesday)

When we made the trip to Home Depot for the new water heater, we were confronted with one decision... whether to get a gas unit warrantied for 6, 9, or 12 years.  We decided to go with the 9 year warranty because we thought 6 was too soon to have to do this again and difference in cost of the extra 3 years for the 12 didn't seem justified.

The cart we borrowed from the mail room came in handy for moving the tank around as the unit was still pretty heavy even though it was empty.  Once we got the unit down to the basement, our first challenge was how to get it out of the box.  One suggestion was to lay it down and slide it out, but just ripping the box ended up being the easiest method. 

The new unit was about 3" taller than the old unit.  We mesured and marked where we should be making the cut in the copper pipes for attaching the flexible tubing.  We also double-checked and made sure the... [More] - Removing Old Water Heater


August 11,2008 (MopItUpMonday)

Most home water heaters have a life span of about 10 years.  The one we have in the basement of the RainyDayMagazine office was replaced around 10 years ago (almost to the day).  Some of the editors in the office noticed a big puddle of water in the storage area last week.  By Thursday it was clear the water was from the water heater.

To prevent any damage, they turned off the cold water and gas feeds to the hot water tank.  This did not stop the water leaking from the tank, but it did slow it enough for them to decide what to do next. 

They debated whether they should get it fixed so they could take a hot shower during the day or whether they should wait until the rest of the team returned from... [More] - Leaking Water Heater


August 9-10,2008 (WeekendEdition)

The crew held the fifth annual RainyDayMagazine SausageFest this weekend.  Kristin from L.A. flew in to help out with the event.  We were thrilled to have her, even after she told us we needed to drop her off at Logan Airport at 4:30 AM for her return flight on Sunday morning. 

The timing of the event was perfect as our friends from Italy, Toby and Francesca, were passing through town on their way to Martha's Vineyard and were able to drop by for a few bites. 

SausageFest is an event where we invite folks to find some interesting sauages, bring them by, grill them up, and share them amongst all who attend.  We all rank them at the end of the feast and the winners in the various categories (Crowd Pleaser, Most Exotic, Best non-meat, Best Homemade) get to bring home fabulous prizes from... [More] - SausageFest 2008


August 8,2008 (PhenomenalFriday)

It is not often we get totally blown away by staged events, but the opening ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Olympics did just that as it was nothing short of phenomenal.

It was a world class show of China's creativity, whether it was 2000 Tai Chi masters positioning themselves in huge circles executing ancient martial arts moves in unison or as rectangular boxes behaving as pixels on a digital display.  If you missed it, you can see snippets of it here, but to truly appreciate the scope of the event you will need to see it in its entirety. [Permalink] - Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony


August 7,2008 (TechThursday)

We have been a big proponent of mind-mapping for notes-taking, general organization, and brainstorming.  The PersonalBrain is the software implementation of this technique.  We have been using  it for our various mind-mapping tasks past six years.  One feature we have been asking for is a Mac version of this great piece of software.

When Apple moved to the Intel processor, we knew that it would just be a matter of time before the PersonaBrain will be available on OSX.  We are happy to say that day has arrived!  Actually, it arrived over a year ago, but we were just too busy to notice.

In any case, we recently downloaded version 4.5 for OSX, installed it on our PowerBook, and will be checking out its new features over the next few days.  There will be a full review once we have had an opportunity to merge all the brains we have created these past years. [Permalink] - Personal Brain for OSX


August 6,2008 (WaitIsAlmostOverWednesday)

Three years ago we mentioned a game called Spore.  We haven't heard anything about them since.  A few days ago, we got an email from Spore saying they are now "getting ready" to ship.  OK... who are you again?  Oh, right, the guys who created SimCity!

Back then, we were excited about a game where we could create creatures and let them interact.  We are still intrigued, not enough to download the Creature Creator, but we may give the game a try if it actually ships.  Readers...if you do end up giving this a try, let us know what lovable hopping, swimming, strutting creation you managed to "evolve." [Permalink] - Spore Creature Creator


August 5,2008 (Tuesday)

The OtterBox 3500 is a great container for our Lensbaby gear.  It is clear, crush-proof, and water-tight.  We have had it out in the field for a month now and the setup has worked pretty well.  Each individual Lensbaby item was protected by its own pouch.  This prevented the gear from scratching each other when in the OtterBox. But, getting to them was a bit of a pain.  

We thought, wouldn't it be great if there was an insert for the OtterBox which we could customize for the Lensbaby and its accessories?  Then someone remembered we had saved the excess foam removed from the Pelican case.  We could definitely use that for this project!

As it turns out, the foam was perfect.  To get the rough dimensions, we placed the case on the foam and ripped off a block thta was sized just a bit bigger than the... [More] - OtterBox insert


August 4,2008 (OtterCaseModMonday)

We have been having a LOT of fun with our Lensbaby gear.   For the first few weeks, we were just using the main lens without any of the close-up or telephoto attachments, learning how to get the focus to the spot we want.  There are a lot of possible adjustments to the Lensbaby.

The various knobs took a little getting used to as they all have the same feel.  To use them properly, you have to look to make sure they are the ones you want.  All of these experiences with the lens and accessories had been in the studio.

Recently we have been spending more time with the close-up attachments.  Some of the images weren't planned, but they turned out interesting nonetheless. 

In July, we started to take the lens out of the studio more and more.  To protect the lens, we packed it in... [More] - OtterBox Lensbaby case

August 3,2008 (WeekendEdition)

Since the microwave weighed in at about 85 lbs, we made sure we called in some muscle for this job.  With Steve and Jay on hand, we were pretty confident that lifting the microwave wasn't going to be the problem. 

The two steps where this project could go south would be: 1. drilling the holes for the mounting and 2. installing the bracket.  To make aligning things easier, GE designed the templates to be attached directly to the cabinet and wall.  Once attached, all we had to do was drill where indicated.  The giant hole in the wall did come in handy.  It meant we didn't need a stud finder :-)

The holes on top and the bracket on the wall had to be sufficiently aligned with those on the microwave for everything to be properly anchored.  The problem was... [More] - Advantium Installation


August 2,2008 (WeekendEdition)

A while back, a GE Advantium microwave oven showed up at the RainyDayMagazine office.  The folks in the RainyDayKitchen had been asking maintenance to install it for the past six months.  We finally got tired of waiting and decided it was time for the editorial staff to take matters into our own hands.  How hard could it be?

GE certainly made it as easy as they could.  With the microwave came all of the normal documentations (plastic-coated tip sheet, user manual, oven specific cookbook). 

In the box was also the installation booklet, templates, and all of the mounting accessories.  The one item which appeared to be missing was the wall bracket.  Fortunately, in prepping the unit for installation, we discovered the wall bracket was attached to the back of the unit, which in retrospect, made perfect sense :-)

As none of us had ever installed one of these things before, we thought it best to... [More] - Advantium Install prep


August 1,2008 (FeedingFrenzyFriday)

Last night the Museum Of Science in Boston had a preview of Wild Ocean, the new IMAX film which opens today.  We love the MOS and we always want to help spread the word whenever we can.   However, we almost didn't go to it because the event was at the end of the day, we were tired, etc... Anyway, we went and were glad we did! 

Wild Ocean is a spectacular film about the annual movement of the huge school of sardines (were talking billions of them) which makes it way along South Africa's Wild Coast.  This migration also feeds many of the inhabitants (dolphins, sharks, birds, whales, and people) in that region. The footage is stunning, and shows what more of the ocean could be like if... [More] - Wild Ocean


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