i spent the day repeatedly searching the FCC licensing database to see if my ham radio call sign was ready yet. the volunteer examiners told us last night to check today, but apparently the paperwork hasn't gone through yet. i was afraid maybe there was a mix up with my name (they notoriously butcher chinese names) so i tried every iteration but still there was nothing. i also searched for licenses that were granted in massachusetts for today but there were none, so it looks like it's not just me.
i found my tetras swimming about the tank this morning, the trauma of the algae removal chemicals having worn off finally. later in the late afternoon i performed another water change, not really to dilute the chemical, more to clean up the cyanobacteria that have quickly grown back since sunday's cleaning. i was afraid this would traumatize the fish once more, but they didn't seem to mind, moving to one side of the tank while i siphoned the other. afterwards they were swimming around the aquarium as if nothing happened, and i sprinkled a few fish flakes as a treat.
this morning was the coldest day so far this year, with temperature in the upper 30's. out in the suburbs there were frost warnings, but i'm not sure if cambridge was affected. there's nothing really left in my garden anyway that i want to keep; i just need to go back sometime this week and cleaning out some more dead plants, maybe prune back some perennials in anticipation of the coming winter.
the cold weather dampened my enthusiasm to go outside so i stayed indoors all day. not that it was any better, but at the very least it was warmer (68° and dropping). i had thoughts about getting some groceries but i'll do that tomorrow when the temperature is supposed to be in the 70's. i still haven't turned on my heat yet. usually that doesn't happen until the final weeks of october, but i personally like to hold out until november.
i spent most of the day studying for my ham radio exam. i take a practice exam first, and then study up on any wrong answers. it's almost like a game, my goal is to get a perfect score. so far my best was 3 wrong questions out of 35. i haven't studied for an exam since college. the internet was just starting back then; nowadays, when i have questions about something that the manual doesn't do a good job explaining, i can easily just google the topic to get more info, anything from a wikipedia description to a youtube video. it's a great way to study and i feel like i'm learning even more than what's prescribed in the study manual.
li came home around 9pm, with a suprise guest: LJ, my chinese astrophysicist roommate from 5 years ago. i knew she was in town for 2 weeks because 1) she and my roommate work in the same department back in shanghai, and 2) she's currently living in the apartment above my grand uncle. i thought maybe she'd contact me to at least say hi, but that never happened. she also invited li to dinner at her place yesterday, which hurt my feeling a little bit, even though i probably wouldn't have gone even if she did ask. LJ is the same roommate who blew up my microwave, and also the one i brought to new york city to see the mermaid parade. she still remembered that parade (i'm happy it made such an impression on her), asking me if i went this summer. it seems like she had fond memories of boston from her 2 months here. another one of her memories was seeing the 4th of july fireworks, which she told li was a must-see. now she's back in shanghai, married with a 2-year-old. this trip was one of the only two times she left the country in recent years. we all chatted for a little while in the living room before li walked LJ back to her place. he came back a short time later via bicycle.
i did some research for li today and recommended he get a refurbished canon rebel T6s (760D) along with an EF-S 18-135mm IS STM lens. it'd set him back $800, but it sells on amazon for $1000, so he saves $200 going refurbished. canon factory refurbished is as good as new; i bought my 60D and 18-200mm lens as refurbished (although the 60D/18-200mm i have now are new because i lost my original back on the highway of litang, western sichuan). i suggested he wait until black friday and see if there's an even bigger sale on the camera & lens combo.
the T6s is a little over 2 years old (compare that with my 60D which is 7 years old), and is a great camera. it's the more expensive version of the T6i, and includes an LCD info screen and a few additional minor features. design wise it resembles a miniature version of the 60D, except the T6s has half a decade's worth of new camera technology upgrades, including additional cross-type AF points, enhanced ISO (up to 12800), touchscreen LCD, and wifi/NFC. the only thing it's missing is a custom dial mode and a slightly slower fps (5.0 fps compared to the 60D 5.3 fps). if i had the money i'd be tempted to buy just the T6s body (though an STM lens would be good for movies; canon refurbished sells just the body for $650); it'd be nice to have two working cameras so i don't have to be switch lenses out in the field (though i'm used to it by now). though not a big deal, i've recently noticed a few dead pixels in my 60D.
my mother called me at 7:10am this morning. i already knew what it was about: the roofers had arrived and were already tearing down the old shingles. i packed up my things and left for belmont via motorcycle. i would've gotten their faster except there was some morning traffic. i'm never up at 7am so it was interesting seeing the world at that time of day. a lot of yellow buses and children going to school apparently. the sun had just risen and the sky was still bands of dawn colors. there was a chill in the air, and i wished i wore something more than my light jacket, though the windshield blocked most of the breeze.
i finally arrived by 7:30am. the sides of the house were draped in black tarp, 5 men were peeling the old shingles from the roof with special flat toothed shovels. the old shingles they'd toss down and slide gently to the ground. i couldn't get in from the front so i had to go around and use the back door. it was dark inside the house because of the tarps. my parents were just about to leave for work. i went back out again to set up the action camera so i could take a time lapse video of the roof work.
i stayed in the living room, listening to the sounds of shingles being ripped apart. one of the workers asked if he could plug his extension cord into one of the inside outlets. the manager arrived at some point, asked to see the attic space where one of the support beams was cracked. with the shingles removed, rays of light were shining through cracks in the roof planks. so hardly anything sits between the inside attic and the outside elements except a few wooden boards and a layer of shingles. the manager and another worker fixed the beam by cutting a square hole in the roof itself to move in a new beam after removing the old one by pulled out all the nails holding it in place.
my father returned by 9am and we went outside to take a look at the progress. all the old shingles were removed except for on the sunroom. they were in the process of cleaning up some of the old shingles (tossing into the dumpster) in preparation for the next stage which was laying down a sheet of moisture barrier. i finally saw the new shingles and they looked terrible, even more blue than i'd feared. it was already too late to complain about it though. maybe it will look better once installed.
my father went back to the cafe around 10:40am. the sounds changed by that point. instead of ripping, it was occasional hammering and thudding, as they began moving packages of new shingles onto the roof. later it was more hammering as they began to layer the shingles.
around 11:30am i went outside again to see the progress. 3 guys were putting the new shingles on the front side (north) of the house, starting from the bottom up. 1 guy was working on shingles on the back of the garage. the 5th guy was in charging of hauling up shingle bundles. every now and then i'd hear a very loud thud, like somebody taking a fall, but i know it's just the guy dropping off the bundles. every now and then i'd see a red truck outside, the manager returning to inspect the work. the new shingles don't look that bad, on this subdued overcast grey day, more slate than blue, sort of reminds me of the color of my own house. maybe under direct sunlight it will look more blue than gray.
my father came back home around noontime. i forgot to bring my power cord so only had a limited amount of hours on my macbook pro so i was being sparing with my computer use. the sun out for a little bit, and for a while the temperature felt warmer than the actual 59°F. one of the workers (the youngest one) asked me if he could use the microwave. i brought him inside where he heated some central america dish of red sausages, rice, and a puffy white arepa. it smelled pretty good and i was tempted to ask him what it was but didn't want him to feel pressure to share. my father made some pork-filled fish balls soup for lunch. i found out why my father picked blue as the shingle color, because he thought it'd match the blue of the solar panels. unfortunately he forgot that LG panels are actually black.
around 1pm there was a brief lull as the hammering stopped and the workers ate lunch. around 1:30pm work began anew, with 3 guys on the roof putting down shingles while the other two either brought up more bundles of shingles or were cleaning up. carrying up the shingles was especially strenuous, as each bundle easily weighed anywhere between 60-80 lbs. throughout the day every now and then i'd see the manager in his red truck pulling up to the house to inspect the work before leaving again, perhaps to a different job site. he reminded me of titus' construction worker boyfriend mikey (mike carlsen) on kimmy schmidt.
by 3pm they were mostly done. one worker was up on the top of the roof installing the shingle covered ridge vent. the manager came by one last time to pick up the check. one of the neighbors came by to admire the new roof and asked me how much it cost as he needed to replace his roof as well (35+ years). the workers spent the next hour cleaning up, including going around the yard with a magnetic wheeled sweeper to pick up any loose nails (mostly nails from the old shingles). they finally left close to 4pm, after working nearly 9 hours.
the moment they left, my father and i went out with gloves on to toss some stuff into the large dumpster still sitting out on our front lawn. the contract specifically said we weren't allowed to toss anything into the dumpster, but we'd paid for it, and figured it was our right to throw away some junk, which was mostly construction material anyway, like broken windows and damaged wooden fencing, nothing hazardous or chemical. but just to cover our tracks, we sort of tried hiding our additions with some shingles, but it was still pretty obvious, so we ended up not bothering with subterfuge. the workers also left behind an unopened bundle of shingles as well as a box of coiled nails.
just as my father and i were about to leave, my sister showed up. she saw the new roof and didn't complain, so that was a good sign. and why would she complain? it was partially her fault that she didn't make herself clear when she called the roofers to change the shingle colors and they never did.
even though i wasn't the one who was working all day, i still felt super tired by the time i returned to cambridge. after a shower i nearly fell asleep on the couch, and the only reason why i didn't was i was afraid my roommate would return home and find me asleep in the living room.
i forgot to feed the fish early this morning. i found them still hundled underneath the driftwood, still traumatized by the algae removal chemical i added sunday morning even after a did another subsequent water change. when i sprinkled the fish flakes, they were acting pretty jittery, dashing up to the surface to feed.
i spent the rest of the evening studying up for my technician ham radio license test which i've decided to take on wednesday night at MIT. i made that decision last night when i discovered you could take practice exams (35-questions multiple choice) online directly through ARRL, which helps tremendously with studying. the first few times i've taken it i got 8-10 questions wrong, which is barely passing, but that was without reading key chapters in the manual, and more just based on my own knowledge.
li was gone this morning by the time i woke up, going through the back, and once more leaving the door open. it didn't bother me as much this time as it was warm outside. yesterday i thought it was going to be rainy today but it turned out to be a normal day with temperature in the mid-70's. i left for belmont a bit before noontime. i saw the construction dumpster in the driveway but didn't realize how big it was. it was as long as the dumpster and was "parked" in a slant so it was only partially on the driveway but mostly on the grass (though they did put down some boards so it wouldn't kill the lawn). we were hoping to toss out some old windows into the dumpster but our contract said we couldn't do that because of recycling reasons (though we may ask the contract directly, maybe there's some wiggle room).
my mother made scallion pancakes for lunch. at 1pm the patriots-jets game started in the meadowlands. new england normally makes mincemeat of our division rivals, but this is a team with weaknesses (particularly in the defense), so it wasn't a foregone conclusion that the patriots would win. i don't understand the ongoing animosity that patriots fans have for the jets. yes, under eric mangini and rex ryan there was reason, but the jets under todd bowles is a different team altogether. i actually like bowles, his calm stone-face could give taciturn belichick a run for his money. new england didn't play well initially, with new york scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter to make the game 14-0. but the pats found their bearing in the second quarter, tying the game 14-14 going into halftime, including a malcolm butler interception that seemed to change the momentum in new england's favor.
during the break i went out into the backyard to move away some things (potted plants, etc.) so they wouldn't get in the way of the roofers scheduled to begin working tomorrow morning. that's when i saw the dead animal on the grass. i thought it was a bird at first, then i saw the long tail and knew it was a rat. it was missing the front half of its body, maybe an owl caught it in the middle of the night and dropped it. it wasn't very large, a small-medium at best. i left it for the time being. i also pruned back some dead plants, removing stalks and cutting some iris leaves.
i watched the second half of the game with more confidence that the patriots would eventually win. the final score was 24-17, still a little close, with the jets having several opportunities to tie the game, but a win is a win.
li left the house this morning from the back door. that's not a big deal, except he didn't close the door when he left, and this morning's temperature was in the 40's, so a lot of the heat inside the house escaped from the open door. it was 78°F yesterday, and this morning the room temperature was 71°F. hopefully it's just a one time thing but if he does it again i'll need to talk to him about it.
i went to the somerville home depot in the early afternoon in search of stainless steel #10-32 x 3/8" machine screws for mounting the rack to the rear wheel axles. i checked out the angle finders, a tool i wish we had when we were measuring the parking lot lines (but we did okay i think using our crude method of iphone compass and bent template wire). i also bought a brass hose mender, as the hose connector in my backyard needs to be replaced since it sprays everywhere whenever i water the garden. hoping my upstairs neighbors will fix it is pointless, because paul didn't even know how to repair his toilet fill valve when it broke.
i returned to cambridge, stopping by the porter square michael's to get a plastic storage box for my father's collection of radio antenna adapters. while i was there, i also got some yarn for my mother (they were having a sale on cozy wool yarn, $2.99 when typically it's $6.99). i filled the tank at the speedway gas station before going to the cafe. while i was there my mother packed me a late lunch (i only ate a yogurt today). my father also had a spare plastic hose mender he gave me to try. if the plastic one works, i'll return the brass one i bought today. no point spending a lot of money fixing my neighbor's garden hose.
back at home, i scooped out all the sichuan paocai so i could add fresh vegetables to ferment. i washed then chopped the chinese cabbage into quarters and left them to dry. later i also peeled a bunch of carrots i bought from aldi's, before chopping the cabbage into smaller pieces so they could fit in the jar. i managed to fit everything. there was enough fermenting liquid but i added about a cup more brine along with a handful of sichuan peppercorns.
li came home late, around 8pm. i didn't feel hungry until almost 10pm, where i heated up some hot dogs for dinner.