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i hardly slept at all last night, so worried was i about the furnace pumping cold air instead of hot air inside the house. i kept checking the nest app on my phone, watching the temperature reading slowly go down to 59 degrees (where i set it at nights) before the furnace would fire. when the furnace did go off (i could hear it) i stood on the vent to check whether it was hot or cold air (hot). relieved, i could finally asleep. but then around 7:00 i heard the furnace again, but felt a cool breeze from bed. sure enough, when i went to go stand on the vent, cold air was coming out.

i put on my clothes, grabbed a pair of scissors, then went into the basement. unfortunately i was so freaked out about the cool air that i reset the temperature on the thermostat so i wasn't able to read the error code (it was simply flashing amber, which meant normal heating mode). with the scissors, i found a spare 16x20x1 filter (for my old furnace) and cut it down to 14x20x1. this was an idea i'd been toying with all last night, figured if it worked i could recycle some spare filters, saved me from having to visit the hardware store today.

i turned the furnace back on and went upstairs. heat was coming out from the vents, which was a good sign. i waited. after a few minutes, cool air began blowing. i didn't panic right away, this is normal with my furnace, it pumps a minute of cool air before and after every heat cycle. but it seemed a bit long, so i went back downstairs to check. it was flashing 8 reds, which meant something was wrong with the flame sensor. but a few seconds later the furnace turned off the fan and the status light became a green standby. so maybe what i saw was just the ending of a normal heat cycle.

i chatted with sunmeng briefly about her office hosting gig last night for their chinese new year gala. as i suspected, her company managed to snare her into performing with the office lady bellydancers she'd been teaching for the past month.

on the next heat cycle, i waited anxiously to see what would happen. after a few minutes of heating, cold air started blowing out. so the new filter had no effect. i went back into the basement (so much back and forth since last night, there was a trail of snowy footprints to match the fresh snow that was beginning to fall). originally i wanted to remove the flame sensor to clean it, but what are the odds of a barely 3-month old furnace with a busted flame sensor? besides, it was kind of a challenge to remove, so i decided against it. i tried a test where i cranked the heat up by 10 degrees to see how the furnace would perform. after a few minutes, i saw the furnace thumping like it's trying to draw air, then i noticed the burners went out because the diagnostic light was flashing red 8 again. whatever the problem, the thumping seemed to be related. at that point i gave up, figured i'd let the professional handle it.

i called my father who in turned called xiao wu, who told him he might be able to swing by my place in the afternoon.

after a hot shower (figured i'd make good use of the warm bathroom before my house plunges into the cold), i did some cleaning in preparation for the HVAC repair man visit. i finally took down my circa 1990's college aiwa stereo from on top of one of my kitchen cabinets. i haven't used it since forever and it just takes up space. in its place i put an assortment of glassware (vases and jars).

it got cold in the house with the thermostat set to just 59 degrees. the furnace did cycle a few times, but fortunately all with a minimum of heating that it didn't trip off the flames. what if the repairman doesn't show up today? would i have to suffer through a weekend without heat?

around 3:00 my father called me to let me know xiao wu would be coming to my place in 20 minutes. i went outside to shovel a bit more snow from the sidewalk until he arrived. i took him to the basement and explained the problem, firing up the furnace remotely via wifi to the nest thermostat upstairs. the first thing he noticed when he took off the cover was that the water pump wasn't working. he pulled some rubber tubes from inside the furnace, blew into some to force the water to drain, and made sure nothing was kinked. that seemed to do the trick and i began to hear the gurgling sound of water being pumped into the main water drain up on the side of the wall.

that was one problem fixed but it wasn't the problem i saw. i put back the cover and we waited for the thumping i saw earlier. it took a bit longer than before, but thump it did. xiao wu took a minute to think what was wrong and determined that the furnace wasn't getting enough oxygen. fortunately on either side of the furnace box are covered holes. he cut out the insulation, put a plastic cap over it, and cut out a small slit with a knife. that seemed to do the trick, now with air being from outside the house and from the basement itself. i offered to pay but he said not to bother, since the furnace was so new, so this tune up was part of the original installation cost.

after he left, i stayed outside a little bit longer to shovel a bit more ice and snow with my neighbor renee before coming back inside. even though the temperature was only set to 60 degrees, it still felt toasty, like a properly heated house. later i went to star market to get some snacks and drinks for the super bowl on sunday.

for dinner i heated up a portion of the vodka sauce i made a few days ago along with some rotini/penne pasta mix.

my furnace did something strange this morning: it kept firing but only the fan was going, not the heater. that meant the furnace was actually cooling down the house instead of heating it. i noticed it when i was using the bathroom and felt cold air blowing out from the floor vent. i checked the thermostat and the temperature had dropped down to 56 degrees. i fixed it by setting the temperature down so it'd shut off the furnace and set the temperature up again to kick start the heater. that seemed to have fixed it and a minute later hot air was blowing out from the vents again. i've never experienced this glitch before, and i don't know whether it's related to the furnace or the nest thermostat. hopefully this doesn't happen again.

things seem to be getting back to normal as many more parked cars were missing this morning. i went out to reclear a path on the sidewalk snowbank and spent a little time reducing the size of said snowbank. i also shoveled off the snow from my portion of the backyard deck.

the dial on my circular polarizing filter for my lens has been getting hard to turn lately. so i decided to dab a little bit of bicycle oil (triflow) into the seam. now it's super easy to turn! later i did the same with one of the solar-powered tibetan prayer wheels i have in my kitchen. the gears inside seem to be a little sticky so it'd never spin on its own, so i dribbled a bit of oil into the axle and now it spins like crazy.

my parents came to pick me up in the afternoon. we stopped by burger king to grab some late lunch to go. i spent the rest of the day in belmont. my mother was busy knitting and watching old mission impossible episodes on netflix. i swapped out the microSDHC card on my father's phone with a new one i'd bought a few weeks ago. we also did some preliminary research on building a metal trellis for the backyard wisteria using pipes. after some chinese sauerkraut with rice for dinner, i got a ride back to cambridge.

in the late evening i began to notice the same problem i had this morning with my furnace, that at one point instead of blowing out hot air it'd only blow out cool air. i could temporarily fix it by resetting the temperature, but that's only a brief fix before cool air starts blowing from the vents again. i pulled out the furnace manual to look for some answers. apparently there's a diagnostic light that can indicate various conditions. i went to the basement to check it out. it was slowly flashing amber, which meant a normal call for heat. after 5-6 minutes though, it began to flash red 4 times. according to the manual, that meant the limit switch had been triggered. also the air blower will continue to run, just like in my case. it could be one of several problems, one of them being a dirty filter. so i pulled out the filter and sure enough it was covered in dust. since i didn't have a spare filter handy, i brought it back inside the house and vacuum-cleaned the filter for a quick fix. i re-installed the filter and fired up the furnace again. all seemed to be okay, so i went back upstairs.

i left too soon, because minutes later i felt cold air coming from the vents, despite the fact that the thermostat was still in heating mode. i went back downstairs. the furnace was flashing red, meaning there's a problem. instead of 4 flashes, it was flashing 8 this time. this meant the flame was lost during the heat cycle. causes include low gas pressure, faulty gas valve, or dirty/faulty flame sensor. of the three, cleaning the flame sensor is the only thing i can do on my own. but i was really hoping it was just a filter issue, which seemed like the easier thing to fix. also a lost flame error wouldn't explain why the fan continued to blow (that's an indication of 4 flashing red issue, heating limit triggered).

another weird thing that the furnace seemed to be doing that i never noticed before is it periodically "explodes" like there's a vacuum inside the furnace and suddenly it sucks in the front cover of the furnace causing a rumbling noise. this may be nothing, or could be another symptom of a busted furnace.

since it was getting late, i decided to call it a day and go back upstairs. a potentially broken furnace in the middle of winter can be a buzzkill, and i was in no mood to do anything else after that. tomorrow, i'll visit the hardware store to get a new filter. if that doesn't fix my problem, i'll try cleaning off the flame sensor. if that doesn't work, i may have to call the HVAC guy.

the day after the blizzard of 2015, it's understandable that nobody wanted to move their cars. but when i woke up this morning, i saw that the spot right in front of my house was empty. however, in its place was a chair! this neighborhood has never used space savers. the curb belongs to everyone, nobody owns the curb. but moments later i saw that the chair was removed. all was right with the world again. unfortunately sometime later, an adjacent car drove away, and in its place the driver had put a chair. oh no!

with this much snow, it takes a few days to completely dig out. today i worked on expanding the sidewalk and digging out a path through the backyard to the basement. i could've also cleared the snow from the backyard deck, but first my upstairs neighbors have to clean out their floor first before i want work on mine (otherwise all their snow falls on me and i have to clear out twice). while i was at it, i also cleared away some snow from the two empty parking spots directly in front of my house. whoever dug them out didn't do a thorough job, leaving snow banks that will eventually solidify if not removed.

one thing i wanted to do was to take a total snowfall measurement. but with the snow being so light and the winds create snow drifts, it was hard to know which snow-covered area of the backyard was the most accurate spot to measure. i found an area that seemed to be right in the middle - not too low, not too high. the measurement in my cambridge backyard: 23in. i heard the official snowfall total for boston was 24.6in, the 6th largest snowstorm ever.

paul seemed to be home but spent the day hiding in the house instead of helping me dig. when steve came home, i heard the two of them clearing snow from the backyard deck. they shoveled everywhere except my deck. would it have killed them to do that as well? i did after all clear the sidewalk and the backyard. it's not a big deal, there's just a bit of snow i can probably clean off with a broom.

all this shoveling the past week has rendered my right arm (particularly my forearm) in a sore state. i probably also need to get a new shovel at some point: the one that i'm using, the handle is loose, and the metal blade is about to fall off.

i had some cereal for breakfast in the late morning, then got hungry enough in the late afternoon to heat up a pair of hot dogs. for dinner i made a prosciutto vodka sauce with rotini. that was probably the wrong choice of pasta (penne is the ideal pairing). it wasn't that good (the canned crushed tomato i used had too much herbs, the vodka was old) but filling.

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all this talk of (deflated) balls on the news, i went out in search of my own balls - cedar balls that is, for my dresser drawers. i checked target online and they didn't have any in stock at the somerville store. i walked to the nearby dollar store, hoping they might carry some. all they carried were an assortment of artificial air fresheners, but i really wanted the natural freshening power of scented wood. i did however leave the store with a pair of county fair drinking jars (a dollar a piece). only when i got home did i notice the warning on the glass, "no for hot products."

i tagged along with my parents on a supply run to the restaurant depot and costco. i myself didn't get anything until a final stop at the assembly square ac moore where i bought a six-pack of bell wide mouth one quart mason jars for $6, to further my fermentation/pickling experiments.

after dropping off the supplies back at the cafe, my father and i unboxed the new samsung printer that'd arrived earlier. it's much smaller that i'd imagined, a whole mess of features crammed into a cube. no time to play with it, my father will set it up tomorrow.

i went with my parents to belmont where i had some squid nugget soup for dinner before getting a ride back to cambridge. it would've been an early night for me where it not for accidentally logging into facebook and getting sucked into reading other people's updates for over an hour.

i had a weird dream that i was commuting in the early morning to a new job. intent on walking, i bumped into some former coworkers at a bus stop and decided to take the bus instead. arriving at the job site, i spent the whole day eating at the outdoor cafe instead of actually going inside the office. once it was time to leave, i climbed onboard the bus like everyone else. inside was like a large trailer dotted with seats, with the floor covered in wall-to-wall carpeting. i fell asleep and woke up at the terminal, not really sure where i was, but groggily got off to find my way home.

by playing around and releasing the rear brake pads just a little bit, i seemed to have fixed the scraping sound. now the front brake pads are making a noise! but overall a better riding experience. i went to the cafe in the late morning to see if i could fix the LCD TV my aunt gave to my sister. it's a sony KLV-S26A10 (26"), manufactured in 2005. unfortunately it doesn't have a built-in digital tuner (only an analog tuner) so can't receive any channels over the airwaves. not even sure if my sister watches broadcast television anyway, but buying a small new HDTV isn't that expensive, around $200 or less. i'd be willing to give her my amazon digital antenna.

i found a 3 drawer plastic sterilite cart (minus the wheels) that a neighbor had tossed out. in excellent condition, with just a bit of a kitchen smell that i'm hoping to treat with some cedar balls. next i went to the nearby rite aid to pick up my 90-day losartan refill. after i revealed my birthday (for identification purpose), the indian pharmacist there told me, "you look remarkably well for your age. i would've guessed maybe you were in your 20's. what's the secret?"

for dinner i cut up half of the romaine lettuce and made myself a big bowl of chicken caesar salad. i'm talking a full 4 quart pyrex bowl of salad, mixed with a grilled chicken that i cooked on the foreman and cut into smaller pieces, freshly grated parmesan cheese, croutons, and a handful of dried cranberries. i feel like going on a salad kick. i never ate salads in china, the chinese think eating raw vegetables is unsanitary and unappetizing. i did make my own salad once or twice with ingredients my parents smuggled into the country when they visited, but nothing like the salads i can make here back at home, where there are endless ingredients.