t
o
n
y
a
n
g
'
s
 
w
e
b
l
o
g


JUN

29

2016

i went to get my motorcycle inspected. unlike cars, all massachusetts motorcycle inspections expire at the end of may. this makes sense since most riders put their bikes away in storage for the winter before taking it back out in the spring. i'd been riding with an expired inspection sticker. i was a little bit afraid i'd get pulled over, but i had a legitimate excuse since i just got the bike out this past saturday. nevertheless, better to get it inspected sooner than later, less risk of getting a ticket.

i went down to the newly relocated riverside motorsports on mystic avenue. i never had any problems with them in the past but customers service today was terrible. i ended up waiting more than 20 minutes just to get an inspection. when i went into the shop there was a guy speaking with a customer on the phone. the conversation was about a repair, the shop guy was saying it'd take 2 weeks for the parts to arrive and another 1 week to fix the bike. apparently the customer must've asked if the work can be done sooner than that, and the shop guy gave him a lengthy lecture on how he didn't want to overpromise anything. then when he finally got off the phone, it took a few seconds before he even registered i was standing there and asked if he could help me. i told him about the inspection and he said either he or somebody else would come right out. so i went out and waited, but nobody came out to see me, even though i saw a few mechanics walking by. i finally went back inside to see what was going on. the same guy was behind the counter, no hurry, said he'd be right out. i waited for 5 more minutes (inside this time, where it was air conditioned at least) before he came by to do the inspection.

the worst part of this whole ordeal is that motorcycle inspections are sort of a joke. it's basically to check if my lights and horn are working, that's the extent of it. something that takes just a few seconds to do ended up costing my more than 20 minutes of waiting. i think the guy tried to make it seem more worthwhile by peering underneath the bike with a flashlight, but it was all for show. i paid the $15, got a new sticker, and left. maybe next year i'll get my inspection done at greater boston motorsports in arlington instead.

i've been meaning to cut the cord for a long time. i tried last year, when my 1-year comcast cable/internet combo package expired. but the price difference wasn't that much, from $60 to $70/month. i decided to keep my package, despite only getting the channels i could get for free over the airwaves (the package did also come with HBO however, although i rarely watched). and to be honest, i wasn't watching that much tv anyway, mostly the news and a few prime time shows. as for the channels i didn't get, i didn't miss them all that much, and i could still watch my favorite cable series by downloading them.

now another year has passed, and per the annual tradition, comcast had increased my bill once again. instead of $70, my new bill was now $100/month. that was simply too much for essentially nothing. i should've checked earlier, because the rate changed started in june, so i already overpaid by a whole month. i gathered up my comcast xfinity equipment (cable box and remote) and went down to the comcast office to cut the cord. i'd keep my internet service but cancel my cable. my new monthly dropped down to $60.

if only there was some competition! unfortunately for residents of cambridge, comcast is the only game in town, so they basically control the cable and internet market. there's dsl internet but it's so much slower than cable internet. there's satellite cable but reception can be weather dependent and you need a clear view of the sky which i don't have.

since i didn't have a cable box anymore, i brought out the HDTV antenna which previously had been in my bedroom. i let the tv do an autoscan and it managed to find 43 channels. more than half of those channels were false positives, so i was left with about 20 actual channels. a few i deleted, like some home shopping networks. of those channels, half were spanish language channels, which was surprising. are there really that many hispanics living in the boston area? my local CBS affiliate channel 4 (actual channel 4.1) didn't come in so clearly until i moved the antenna. i'll give it a try for a while, maybe if there's too much digital noise i might upgrade to a powered antenna.

i went to the dollar store to pick up some paper sandwich bags for my mother. i also got a fly swatter, some reflective snap bands, and a strand of battery-powered led lights shaped like colorful flowers. returning home i got some more blueberries from star market.

i went down to michael's store to troubleshoot his printing problem. there's no simple fix, just a combination of running a windows virtual machine on the mac trying to connect to a usb printer. over time the usb port will just bug out and stop working. the only solution seems to be a computer restart but even then michael says that doesn't always work, and can be a hassle when it's really busy. i suggested getting a wireless printer so at least the printing can bypass usb.

my father dropped by with the broken briel espresso machine so i could take a look at it. we ended up taking it apart to see if there was any damage on the inside. visually, the inside components look spotless, nothing seemed wrong. but when we plugged it in, the thermoblock just wouldn't heat up. i even tried measuring it with the infrared thermometer and the block stayed at room temperature.

after my father left, i ate the piece of leftover fried chicken he dropped off. lounging on the couch, i soon fell asleep with the laptop on my stomach. i didn't wake up until 7:40am, covered in a thin layer of sweat as it was a slightly humid and warm day. for dinner i microwaved an ear of corn (thoroughly soaked in the sink) for 5 minutes, served with some salted butter. delicious enough that i will be eating more corn in the near future!

the thing i miss most about cable is the channel lineup feature. i think that information can be pulled from the airwaves as well, but my panasonic HDTV doesn't support it (my digital-to-analog tv box in my bedroom does have this function though). so i was basically watching tv blind, and had to go online to tvguide.com to get the lineup. another thing is many local channels have satellite stations, e.g. channel 5 is 5.1, but there's also 5.2. to get from one channel to another, i have to surf through a bunch of satellite programming first. it'll take some getting use to, but the fact that i'm saving $30-40/month is worth it. finally, it's strange only having to turn on the tv to watch tv. i've been brought up where in order to watch tv, you need to turn on both the tv and cable box.

i spent the evening researching espresso machine repair. periodically i'd go into the kitchen to detangle some wires and probe some leads with the multimeter. i thought the thermostats might've gone bad but they have good continuity. i tested the leads of the thermoblock, 18 ohms of resistance (within range) with continuity. finally i found the location of the thermal fuse, which may be key to fixing the espresso machine. i'll have to somehow detach it tomorrow to see if the fuse has been blown.

today marked the start of 4 more additional weeks worth of road work on beacon street, after they discovered gas pipes had to be replaced as well, as they put it, "in order to conduct necessary but unforeseen gas service line repairs." this work was more extensive and required the whole street to be shut down. of course somehow they botched closing off the streets, as a traffic jam started to form on my road. not so bad when it's a compact car, but there were also semi's that could only escape by backing up down a one way street. fortunately my motorcycle was parked on a side road behind some cars, no danger of getting accidentally dinged.

after lunch i went to the community garden to water my plants. on friday night somebody from the garden called me asking if i could help water their plot while they were away. it wasn't even a plot that was directly adjacent to mine, so not sure how they decided to call me. i never met the person either, but being that i'm a nice guy, i said sure anyway. i didn't water all weekend and the 2 days of hot weather had wilted my pepper and basil plants. a lesson seasoned gardener would've panicked; but i knew if i gave the plants enough water, chances are they'd be resuscitated. i spent a good long time thoroughly saturating the soil. the pepper seemed to have revived, the basil still looked weak. hopefully it'll spring back to life once it absorbs enough water. i also watered the other plot, but none of his plants were wilting like mine.

my 2 tomato plants seemed to be handling the heat rather well. the wild tomato showed zero sign of wilting, already used to the harsh conditions. the goliath bush had a little bit of wilting on the lower leaves, but otherwise okay. as for my 6 eggplant seedlings, apparently they love the heat too; all of them were fine, except the leaves seem a little yellow, less than full green. maybe that will change as the season progresses.

i stopped by the cafe to take some photos of a refrigerated display cabinet my parents were thinking about selling. my godmother's son alex was there moving some furniture he has stored in the cafe basement. my parents also told me they needed to buy a new espresso machine immediately, as their backup machine suddenly died today (the briel that i helped them buy 7 years ago). their original machine was a fancy commercial grade rancilio that costs thousands of dollars, but they're tired of it constantly breaking down and requiring costly repairs. the briel - bought for $400 - actually makes better tasting espresso than the rancilio, with a very thick layer of crema. the problem was it stopped heating, even though all other functions seemed okay.

after everyone reassembled in belmont around 3pm, we left a bit later to the burlington bed bath & beyond. my mother stuffed her purse with a collection of bb&b coupons (i used to have a big cache as well, but tossed them out when i was doing early spring cleaning).

we stopped at the burlington market basket to do some grocery shopping first. my parents were in search of sugar free jones' black cherry soda, which none of the MB seem to carry anymore. and often the case whenever we visit one of these large MB, we also picked up some fried chicken for dinner.

when we finally went to bed bath & beyond, there weren't that many people there shopping, judging from the relatively empty parking lot (especially compared to MB). browsing the espresso machines, we almost decided on a keurig rivo, but decided against it since it can only use proprietary pods. in fact, there were a lot of machines that use special pods. i personally don't like them, you trade authenticity over convenience, and they cost more in the long run because those coffee/espresso pods can get expensive if you end up drinking a lot.

we ended up buying a delonghi ECP 3420 espresso machine for around $100 after coupon. it wasn't the best, but if it can make a functional espresso, it'll do for the moment. i was also hoping that somehow the briel can be repaired, or maybe we can score a better machine on craig's list. we also bought a verismo (starbuck's espresso machine line) milk frother ($60); espresso machines typically have a frothing attachment, but a dedicated frother does a better job in less time.

scrubbing bubbles foaming bleach is the best: after reading that it was safe for vinyl, i spray some on my mildewy curtains as i was taking a shower. i didn't even have to do anything, but after a few minutes, i looked and most of the mildew was gone, like magic!

taking the motorcycle to belmont, i had to refamiliarize myself with the road condition after being on a riding hiatus for nearly 7 months: memorize locations of new potholes, sandy patches, uneven surfaces, steel plates, and other riding hazards. the good thing about the motorcycle is i'm not sweaty when i arrive at my destination, nor am i tired (since i don't have to pedal).

after eating some leftover shumai, i went out into the backyard to chop down some bamboos. this past winter was cold enough that a lot of bamboos were killed off. it gave us a chance to reevaluate our bamboo strategy and we decided to get rid of most of them to open up spaces to plant some trees instead (a lot less invasive).

i went to work with the industrial-sized pruning scissors. i cut the stalks as close to the ground as possible, then later sprayed the stumps with round-up herbicide to hasten their demise. some bamboos were coiled with the wisteria vine that've taken off this season; i had to cut back some of the wisteria in order to extract the bamboos. i ended up with a tall pile of bamboo stalks which will have to pruned down to manageable sizes if we want to throw them away.

i came in after about an hour working in the hot 80's degrees weather. soaked in sweat, i took a shower (i brought a change of clothes).

for dinner my parents made 韭菜盒子 (large chive + vermicelli + egg filled dumplings). i rode the motorcycle back home around 8pm, in anticipation of the season finale of game of thrones.

a most satisfying episode, starting with a death of a bunch of characters, none of which i really cared about (good riddance). cercei becomes queen (sweet metal goth reigning outfit), jon becomes king of the north (courtesy of lady mormont's inspiring speech), samwell goes to college (maester school), tyrion becomes hand of the queen, daario gets friend-zoned, daenerys sets sail for westeros with her mega army (unsullied, dothraki, iron islands, dorne, highgarden, plus 3 full-grown dragons), arya begins her one-woman assassination campaign, winter is coming, and R+L=J confirmed. next season can't come soon enough!

my father had never been to an ikea store before. as for me, my very first ikea experience was back in august 2002, at the hicksville ny store. i've also been to the elizabeth nj ikea a bunch of times. i've also been to a bunch of ikea stores in asia, from taipei, to shanghai, to chongqing.

i figured i'd have to wait another day to finally get out the motorcycle, but my father moved the cars and i was able to get it out. unlike thursday, the bike started effortlessly, didn't even have to turn on the choke. it was still daylight out by the time i rode it back to cambridge. just like old times!

i woke up to the news that britain was leaving the european union in a narrow 52-48% victory. so the cost of reclaiming their so-called national sovereignty was a country in turmoil. most immediate were the markets, as the british currency took a nosedive as well as their stock market (which in turned affected all other markets around the world, for the worst). the fact that scotland and northern ireland voted to remain in the EU could potentially mean they split off from the UK: scotland would become independent (something they voted up last year in a referendum where sensible voters decided staying with england was the better choice), northern ireland would rejoin ireland. people are also worried that britain's exit would open the door for other countries to leave the EU as well. not only did UK destroy itself with the vote, but perhaps the whole of the european union too.

some pro-brexit voters were having buyer's remorse the day after, not thinking that their vote would matter and that britain would never seriously leave the EU. why a brexit referendum was ever on the table is the fault of pro-EU prime minister david cameron, who used it as a political maneuver to silence critics, and couldn't have predicted it'd end so disastrously; he of coursed resigned today.

by coincidence, donald trump just happened to be in scotland. not for any political reasons despite the fact that he's running for the president of the united states; rather he was there for a ribbon cutting ceremony to a new trump golf course (one question: was tax money used to facilitate this trip?). while britain was in turmoil, trump was gleefully opening a resort, which shows how tone-deaf he is to global events. trump even congratulated britain for leaving the EU, despite the fact that scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay.

this should be a lesson to american voters who see a candidate like trump and think, "how could anyone ever vote for someone so unqualified?" the answer is - as seen in the case of britain - when you let people decide for themselves, sometimes they don't make the right choice (a lot of it has to do with the spread of false information, but also there seems to be an anti-establishment streak that's taking over the western world), and end up hurting themselves without realizing it.

i went to the garden to water my plants then rode to market basket to pick up a bottle of scrubbing bubbles foaming bleach bathroom cleaner ($3.99). i had a bottle before i left for china and it disappeared when it came back (mary must've done something to it, or my parents used it up when they cleaned up mary's mess). it's my cleaner of choice for the bathroom, especially mold and mildew in between the bathroom wall tiles and also removes soap scum. unfortunately there's a bit of persistent mold around the bath tub edge that will need to be recaulked.

i did some more cleaning around the house, particularly vacuuming up the areas i missed the last time, like the kitchen dining area (a thoroughly underused part of the house) and underneath my living room magazine rack and bathroom side table. i want to get all my vacuuming done so i can finally return my parents' dyson vacuum, which i've had at my place since returning from china.

after some hot dogs for dinner, i spent the evening digging through my vacation photos. i took a total of over 46,000 photos, and there are still a lot of images i haven't sorted through before. looking over them made me yearn to be back in chongqing again. if only i could find a job there! or ideally a short term job. as infuriating china can sometimes be, it's also a place full of interesting things.

i've finally gotten used to my new kitchen LED recessed lights. the first few days after i initially installed them last week, i was still getting used to the slight color shift (2700k vs 3000k). but now they seem perfectly normal, and i can't tell the difference between the new lights and old lights anymore. the bulbs are only set to 80% via dimmer switches, so it's kind of amazing that they can be even brighter yet use just a quarter of the electricity. i really can't wait to see my next electricity bill, although to be honest, with longer summer days, i don't open my kitchen lights all that much. if i really want to see a change in my electricity bill, i might want to replace that old fridge from the early 90's: not energystar compliant and condenses water out a back hose.

i made an english muffin egg and chicken sausage sandwich for lunch today. i cooked the egg in some butter on a small frying pan while baking the chicken sausage pieces in the toaster oven. later i toasted the english muffin. every time i eat chicken sausages i wonder to myself: what are the casing made from? can't be from chicken (they have small intestines), but i can't imagine they'd be from some other animal either. whatever the answer might be, it won't stop be from enjoying delicious chicken sausages!

eversource sent me certified mail last week with an urgent message to get my gas pipes inspected. apparently they do this every 3 years. the letter said they exhausted all their efforts to reach me and this was the final notice before they might be forced to shut off my gas service due to uninspected pipes. however, i just had my gas meter replaced back in early february, so wouldn't they have tested it then? so i finally called them this morning. the woman i spoke with said i didn't need an inspection since i just had my meter replaced, but she had to confirm this with her supervisor, and told me she'd call me back. less than an hour later i got a call but i didn't find out until much later. she didn't leave a message, so i'm assuming it was just to tell me i didn't need an inspection.

when i used the bathroom this morning, there was no more bloody stool. was this an end to my rectal issue? only time will tell. hemorrhoids are finicky things due to where they're typically situated, an area of the body that gets stretched daily.

i went to the community garden in the early afternoon to plant the vegetables i picked up yesterday: thai basil, thai chili pepper, and a bush goliath tomato. this late in the season they don't sell six packs anymore (at least not at home depot), as any seedlings of that size wouldn't have enough time to reach maturity. unlike last time, there was actually another gardener there, an older woman whom i haven't seen before working in a centrally located plot. she wasn't one of those friendly gardeners, never bothered to say any greetings. later a gay couple wandered into the garden, sat on a park bench for a while, admiring the scenery before leaving. although there were a bunch of seedlings in the pepper and basil plants, i didn't bother separating them out, but instead plant the whole thing. i also spent some time supporting the larkspurs and hollyhocks with tomato cages, as they seemed to be toppling from growing too tall and thin. after watering my garden i walked back home.

i biked to belmont around 2pm. i was hoping to take out the motorcycle today. i found the battery still trickle-charging in the house and installed it back onto the bike. there shouldn't have been an battery issues but i couldn't get the bike to start. i decided to wait until my father returned home, maybe the bike needed to be leveled in order for the engine to kick in after a 6 month hiatus.

when my parents returned home around 3:30pm, my father and i were out in the backyard pruning some bushes. the lilacs were overgrown and need a trimming, and some stray walnuts and maples needed to be cut down (walnut in particular was overshadowing a hydrangea plant that never saw enough sun to bloom).

we had chinese dumplings for dinner. earlier i finished the bag of lychees (lizhi) i brought back from new york. afterwards we ordered new solar shades online for the sun room after taking some final measurements. the final cost turned out to be $450, $65 of which was additional shipping since one of the roller shades was oversized. they're scheduled to arrive the first week of july. once we install them the sunroom will be usable again, as currently the southern-facing room is too hot ever since we uninstalled the old roller shades last year.

my father helped me restart the motorcycle. the trick was turning on the choke, something i'd completely forgotten about. but as the two cars were already in the driveway, it would've been too much hassle to get the bike out from the garage, so i decided to retrieve it another day (most likely saturday). i'm not particularly itching to get back on the motorcycle. despite it's small size, it's still a hassle to find a good parking spot in my neighborhood. and at least one neighbor has already complained when i park defensively and take up a whole car spot. also, motorcycles are inherently dangerous, and i've become quite risk adversed the older i get. but maybe all that will change once i get back on the honda. it just takes one ride to fall back in love with motorcycling again.

my mother called me at 10:40am. "where are you?" she asked. i was scheduled to meet them (my mother and 2nd aunt) at the cafe at 10am with housing forms i was supposed to get from the cambridge library. i was still asleep when she called. must've been because i didn't get a good night's sleep the night before. i quickly got out of bed, took a shower, and biked down to the library. i picked up the forms (a thick stack of paperwork) then cycled to the cafe. i arrive by 11:20am, completely out of breath. my aunt is trying to get public housing. the forms i picked up was for a place in cambridge, which isn't due until the first week of july. she was trying to sign up for another place in boston (right in chinatown), with a submission dead of thursday. i helped her fill out that form. afterwards i had a lychee bubble ice tea and a bowl of spicy sesame noodles for lunch before returning home.

i was watching the cleveland cavaliers championship parade on television. apparently 1.3 million people showed up for the event and the city was just a sea of people. i'm trying to remember how many people showed up for the red sox world series championship parade back in 2004. the official mayor menino's count for that event was 3.2 million people, but the route was much longer, and the red sox had a much longer wait for that championship (86 years).

i changed the screen cover on my iphone 5s. the old cover had been peeling from a corner and had gotten to the point where i couldn't clearly see the screen anymore. i cleaned the phone the best i could, use a kitchen paper bowl and some alcohol, followed by a lint-free cloth, then removing any additional dust particles with some tape. my first attempt was a failure: too many bubbles, and it wasn't even the right size (i think the cover was for an iphone 4; i only got it so i could cut it down to size to use as a screen cover for the 3" LCD on my dSLR). the second attempt was better (the right size at least).

i went with my parents sometime after 2pm to 1) return a few things at ac moore, 2) buy some vegetable seedlings from home depot, 3) visit the super market basket in chelsea, and 4) return a few things at ocean state job lot. we ended up spending over $40 on seedlings, which is the typical cost of indoor greenhouse maintenance (mostly electricity bill increase), but for far less plants than compared to if i grew my own. so i think growing my own seedlings is a far more economic option. after that we decided to stop for food at riley's roast beef.

i had the barbecue pulled beef sandwich which was okay. the sandwich itself is kind of sparse, not even a piece of lettuce, just a mound of meat between two buns. it did come with some coleslaw, corn bread, and a drink. my father got the seafood platter, my mother the classic roast beef sandwich. i've never been a fan of riley's roast beef. i find it sort of bland, and the roast beef always seem to be on the raw side that it makes me gag a little bit when i eat it. both my parents' order came with onion rings and fries. the rings were super hard for some reason, hurt my teeth just trying to eat it.

as it was already 3:30pm by the time we began eating, we decided not to go to market basket since it'd use up too much time. besides, it was approaching rush hour, and we didn't want to get stuck in chelsea. instead we went to ocean state job lot instead. my mother had more time to browse. i picked up a container of round-up herbicide and a t-shirt.

back in belmont by 6pm, my father and i were busy in the backyard planting the seedlings we bought earlier. we got 2 cherry tomatoes, 3 different variety of hot peppers, a japanese eggplant, some sweet basil, and a clump of thai basil. my father separated out the thai basil so we could get more plants. later we put up a clothesline for my mother. my father stayed outside, playing around with a rotary saw blade kit he bought from harbor freight earlier. he came in minutes later and said he nearly has an accident when the saw blade flew off the dremel tool and buried the blade deep into the dirt (instead of, say, his skull). he was going to use the rotating saw to trim so bamboo stalks.

my father later assembled an ikea ingolf bar stool my mother and sister had bought on saturday. since we had an early dinner, nobody was particularly hungry so i got a ride back home to cambridge, along with my 3 plants (a tomato, a hot pepper, a thai basil).

i suddenly had a case of the hemorrhoids late last night. it coincided with a bout of constipated diarrhea, if that's even a thing. as i kept going to the bathroom, it became more and more painful. i had some old hemorrhoidal cream stashed in some bathroom drawer that i managed to find. it didn't seem to do anything. it hurt so much that i had to sleep on my side, to prevent any pressure on my rear end. i had a hard time sleeping and by 6am i was still partially awake.

after i finished the last of my bagel for lunch, i went to market basket to get some groceries. i purposely bought only 12 items so i could use the 12 items or less lane.

once i dropped off my groceries, i went out again to walgreens. that's my local pharmacy of choice when i need to buy something embarrassing. i was there to buy some preparation-h. the one i have at home is just some generic store brand hemorrhoidal cream; i wanted to get something name brand; i think my ass deserves the very best. i returned home and tried the new cream. i didn't really that much difference, maybe more of a slight tingle. by that point my bowels had already calmed down since this morning.

one thing i never noticed is that my old hemorrhoidal cream contains shark liver oil (glycerin 12%, petrolatum 18%, shark liver oil 3%, phenylephrine HCl 0.25%). shark liver oil? what else is there, grounded deer antlers and tiger bones? but i did some research, and that's actually a real ingredient often found in hemorrhoidal creams, despite the fact that sharks are becoming endangered from overhunting. it's used as a moisturizer, but has no scientifically proven medical benefits otherwise. shark liver oil is not found in my new preparation-h cream however, although it used to be, before a recent reformulation.

i did 2 loads of laundry, a bunch of dirty clothes followed by my bedsheets. despite not really sleeping too much last night, i didn't take a nap today.

for dinner i heated up 2 nathan hot dogs, which is ironic, since i was just down in coney island this past weekend. tonight's highlight was the series finale of person of interest. although it was sad to see the series end, i think it was also time. i just love and cast and hope to follow them in their future endeavors.