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November 30,2008 (WeekendEdition)

One of the many assignments our visiting intern/art student had to complete by Monday was a series of charcoal drawings.  It meant we had to clear off a corner in the office and gave her some space to work, but she was quiet as a mouse all weekend. 

It's messy work, but our girl was up to the challenge.  The exercise was to do the pieces quickly, to learn to see the essence of the shape, and to develop the technical skills to capture it in quick fluid strokes.

Our intern/art student finished 29 pieces during her visit.   While she was hoping to have 50 of them done by the time she had to leave, it was enough for us to put together a quick movie to show the work.

Someone mentioned that Wacom had sent a few of their new graphics tablet over to us last week.  They thought it might be interesting to see what someone with talent would be able to do with one of these new-fangled digital tools :-)   So our intern went back to school with a new Bamboo graphics tablet and promised to send us some comments when she has had a chance to put it through its paces.  [Permalink] - Charcoal Teapots


November 29,2008 (WeekendEdition)

Many of you expressed interest in the quality of the video coming from the Wild Planet ATV-360.  So today, we loaded the batteries (6AA in the vehicle, 6AA in the remote controller) and let Sarah take it for a spin.

There are a lot things to power: video display eyepiece, external mic, video camera, and remote controller.  The camera on the vehicle is not remotely controlled.  Its desired angle must be manually adjusted.  Being able to control the angle remotely would be very helpful, but for cost reasons, we can understand why they left it out.

Getting accustomed to driving the vehicle by looking through the eye piece was not as hard as we first thought.  It took no time for Sarah to get comfortable in maneuvering the ATV.  We all took turns and were surprised at just how easy it was to steer.

The black and white video came through without any lag.  We took a shot through the eyepiece to give you a sense of the quality of the image.  However, it was actually a LOT sharper than what you see here and certainly sufficient for steering the ATV remotely.

The ATV-360 was surprisingly easy to learn (it took just a few minutes) to control.  Being able to see from the vehicle's point of view has a lot to do with that.  An obvious extension to this mobile video vehicle would be IR night-vision capability.  We don't think it would take that much to add the feature. In fact, it will likely be our first hack to this fun toy.   [Permalink] - Video ATV FirstUse


November 28,2008 (ForgetAboutItFriday)

Today is of course the biggest shopping day of the year.  It is called "Black Friday" because retailers hope to be "in the black" with the money they make in sales from this one day regardless of how business was all year.  In exchange for fire sale prices, bargain hunting shoppers have been trained to wait in line for the stores to open and to tolerate large crowds.  We have realized it is best to just say "forget about it" and avoid participating in this frenzy all together.  If you must go, stay clear of the crazy ones or risk being trampled.

The best deals are often not the least expensive, the best products are likely not the cheapest, and the best stores are definitely not always physical.  We are going to take the next few days off and relax.  Have a great weekend and don't eat too much pie!  [Permalink] - Black Friday


November 27,2008 (TofurkyThanksgiving)

Roasting a Tofurky may not be the first thing most people think of when preparing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  However, the cooks in the RainyDayKitchen are nothing if not non-traditional.  This year they decided it would be a good opportunity try preparing a Tofurky in addition to the turkey.

Tofurky is made from, among other things, soy protein.  It is low in fat, nutritious, cholesterol free, and entirely without stupor-inducing triptophan.  Properly prepared, it is both great tasting and good for you. And it comes stuffed!

We purchased one of the newer pre-stuffed Tofurkies.  It will stay fresh, uncooked, in the fridge for 30 days.  Prepping the Tofurky was fairly simple: remove plastic casing, place in roasting dish with suggested vegetables, make basting liquid, cook for 75 minutes (Note: we used a convection oven so we reduced time accordingly to 60 minutes.)

We also made some traditional sides: mashed potatoes, sausage cranberry stuffing, green beans w/almonds, maple-roasted carrots, and pies.  Lots of pies - apple, lemon meringue, chocolate pudding!!!

All three of the convection ovens (Cuisinart, GE Advantium, Jenn Air) were put to the test.  We cooked the Tofurky in the Cuisinart, the sides in the Advantium, and the regular turkey in the Jenn Air

The pre-cooked Tofurky was ready in about an hour.  The Butterball turkey was pre-cooked as well.  The reheating time is normally 2 hours, but since we used a convection oven, the total time was only 90 minutes.

The pre-cooked Butterball turkey was amazingly juicy.  The Tofurky was a hit with the vegetarians.  The carnivors did give it a try and proclaimed it "tastier than expected."

We started our prep work at noon and by 2PM we were sitting down to eat.  The biggest time savers were definitely the pre-cooked turkey and Tofurky.  The other was Carolyn's mom brought us two fantastic home-made pies :-)  The lemon meringue pie was especially fabulous. Thanks, Nan!

We wish all our readers a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Remember, the Holiday shopping season starts tomorrow.  So eat well, rest up, and be ready to get out there, shop for bargains, and help jump start this economy.   [Permalink] - Tofurky Thanksgiving


November 26,2008 (WTFAWWednesday)

If you are always saying "where the f' are we?"  May we suggest that you drop some not so subtle hints this Holiday Season for a decent GPS unit?  There are quite a few good ones on the market these days.  We have reviewed quite a few of them (NavMan, US GlobaSat, CoPilot, HK Guide+Play, Magellan, Navigon, etc...) over the years. 

The Navigon units (7100, 2100Max) are our current favorites.  The latest in the Navigon line is the 7200T.  Here is a quick FirstLook at the unit and what comes in the box.  The GPS unit comes with a car charger, pouch, and a suction cup mount.  The maps are pre-loaded but can be updated via the microSD card.

Each generation is a bit better than the last.  The improvements are features which are more than just bells & tweaks.  They make the device more functional and easier to use.  The highlights of the 7200T are voice input, 3D views, free real-time traffic info, and Bluetooth cell phone support.  We'll have a complete run down on them in our next write-up. 

So if you see a great deal on the Navigon 7200T this Black Friday.  Grab one for yourself and maybe one as a gift.  This is one GPS you will not quickly outgrow.  [Permalink] - Navigon 7200T


November 25,2008 (TelepresenseTuesday)

Every so often we get something in the office that looks like so much fun that we would rather play with it than do the photo shoot.  Then someone reminds us we are grownups and need to set an example for the interns.

A box with the label Spy Video ATV-360 showed up on our desk yesterday.  At first we thought the folks at DARPA had inadvertently sent us something from their lab, but the Wild Planet logo on the packaging clued us in that we would not be compromising national security if we opened the box.

The Spy Video ATV-360 is a remote-controlled mobile video probe which can send images back to a head-mounted display (HMD).  The controller communicates with the ATV wirelessly.  The HMD is wired to and is powered by the controller.

The entire setup (ATV and controller) requires 12 AA batteries.  This is not surprising as shooting videos on the move is probably fairly power intensive. 

We are eager to see what the images look like through the eye piece.  There are so many potential ways we can get ourselves into trouble with this thing!

There is alot of potential to this "toy" as a source of parts for DIY projects.  We'll play with this some before we let the guys with the screwdrivers have a go at taking it apart.  What would you build if you had one of these to take apart?  [Permalink] - Video ATV 360


November 24,2008 (MeteorMonday)

Those in Alberta Canada who looked up at the right time were treated to a fantastic sight this weekend.  One lucky police cruiser had its eyes on and captured the streaking fireball as it made its way across the sky.


The hunt is now on for finding any of the pieces which may have survived the flight through the Earth's atmosphere and reached the ground.  If you are in the area, get out there and join the search!  [Permalink] - Meteor Over Alberta


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