with just 2 days left before GC arrives, i spent all of today cleaning. cleaning not just for him, but for wangyang as well who will arrive about a week later with her son. GC's lived here before, so i don't have to make that much of an effort to clean for him. but since wangyang will be staying in my bedroom, i've got another week to clean that out as well (typically i just cram it with all my junk when i have a roommate and then move everything out when they're gone).
there really isn't that much cleaning, i've kept the house in good shape for the most part. there's just a lot of clutter and it's all about organizing and throwing some stuff away. like tossing out all my old issues of consumer report magazine, no reason to keep those. i also fixed my magazine stand by inverting the bulging bottom hardwood panel.
i spent a good amount of time cleaning the windows: the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, the guest bedroom. after cleaning with windex, i apply two coat of rain-x before buffing the glass to a transparent shine. it also gave me a chance to open up the windows and let some cool breeze into the house.
at some point bruce texted me asking if i wanted some strawberries. i went over to his place to get some, apparently they got too much from the farmer's market. they were sweet as is, no need for additional sugar. i ate the whole box in one sitting, throwing away the leafy stems into the kitchen compost box to feed the fruit flies.
i replaced the screen protector on my canon dSLR. not sure when it happened, maybe from last weekend, but i managed to scratch the plastic film. not a little scratch, but a full of smudge that obscures the center of the screen. i replaced it by cutting to size an iphone screen film protector. the fit isn't perfect, but it works, protects the LCD. i should look into glass screen protector on ebay, probably don't need to replace as often and clearer.
i biked to rite aid in the afternoon to pick up my monthly prescriptions. i stopped by the dollar store to grab some dinner mints, my latest unhealthy obsession. they're made with inverted sugar, which i had to look up because i had no idea what that was (and still don't really).
we didn't set a record on this first official day of summer, but we did manage to make 40.52 kWh, which is more than i thought with the all the bright but overcast sky. with just 9 days left in the month, we're on course to make 1100kWh of electricity for the month of june.
i had some yogurt and granola for lunch, then the rest of my leftover quinoa and brown rice chicken medley for dinner. it's been nearly 3 weeks, i'm due for a haymarket visit tomorrow, check out their summer stock of vegetables and fruits.
sleeping back in my bedroom, i was disoriented slightly until i got my bearings. i opened the window to get some breeze but it was actually too cold so i closed it. there was a slight weird smell, probably the accumulation of dust over the past half year where the room was disused. after a good vacuum, i'll light some scented candles and open a few windows to air our the room. i'm only sleeping here temporarily, as i'll be giving up the room to wangyang and her son when they arrive the sunday after next.
after watering the front and back yard, i had some final leftover sausages for lunch. i weighed myself this morning, down to 146.8 lbs., thanks to brown rice and quinoa. i biked down to the community garden to water my vegetables. the healthiest plant in my garden? milkweeds. taller than all other plants, they're also ready to blossom, forming flower bud clusters. even when i was growing milkweeds in my old plot, i don't think i ever got them to the point where they flowered so i'm very excited. i also noticed one of my tomatoes already have some small fruits. tomatoes need to fruit early in order to avoid late season blight. i also pruning back some lemon balm (giving my rosemary more sun) and rampant spearmint, and snipped the flowers off of my thai basil plants to induce more leaf production.
i biked to belmont in the early afternoon to wash a blanket using free electricity from the sun. i passed the cafe along the way to drop off the kitchen compost bucket i picked up yesterday. my mother told me my father had already gone home, thinking i was there, bringing back some pan-fried raviolis (i already ate lunch). while i was leaving i saw my father pulling into the parking lot. after talking with him briefly, i continued to belmont.
while the blanket was spinning in the washer, i was upstairs watching the world cup game between iran and spain. i was rooting for iran. because spain had tied with portugal and iran had won their match against morocco, spain was in in the very real danger of not advancing if they lost the game. for iran, all they had to do was to prevent spain was scoring. unfortunately that's easier said than done, as spain is one of the favorites to win the world cup trophy. i'd forgotten how spain plays, but it's really kind of beautiful yet annoying at the same time. the whole team plays as a unit, passing to one another, with the strategy of not giving the ball to the opponents, like 90 minutes of keep away. to iran's credit, they kept spain to just a single point, but that was all they needed to win the match, 1-0. i didn't watch the whole game, during the half i tossed the wet blanket into the dryer and went into the backyard to do some yard work.
i did some weeding in the garden plots, figured out i can quickly sift the soil with the cultivating tool. afterwards i planted the potted peppermint and lemon balm underneath the grapevines. i finally moved the goldenrod plants from the western side of the house to the southern end amongst the spiderworts, ornamental grass, and hostas. not sure how they'll do this season as the stems are all crooked and lopsided from being trampled and moved, but they'll grow back strong and beautiful next year. as for the western side, we may end up planting a screening tree there. next came the watering, which can take some time, from watering the bare patches of growing grasses, to the garden plots, to our new trees. i managed to flush out another bunny, after my father and i chased one out on monday. i just hope it's not the same one. chasing a rabbit out of the backyard is a two person job, so i didn't bother.
it actually didn't take very long to tumble dry the blanket (about 20 minutes or so). afterwards i turned on the air conditioner to make use of the surplus electricity, but turned it off in the late afternoon when it started to get grey outside.
when my parents returned home, my mother refried the fried raviolis for my dinner, but my parents just had regular boiled dumplings. i also had a bowl of sweet red bean soup. these were tiny red beans (tic tac size) which i've never had before. finally, there was some cubed watermelon.
after biking home, i moved the old philips tv out to the curb. i was feeling sentimental before and toyed with the idea of keeping the tv, but after lifting the set and realizing how insanely heavy it was, i'm happy to see it gone, there's no way i'm ever going to use it again. even the largest HDTV this days is many magnitudes lighter than this behemoth.
44.57 kWh isn't bad considering how cloudy it got later in the afternoon. i already knew we wouldn't set any records today when production was already jumping up and down by late morning.
after a shower, i watched the expanse on mobdro. aliexpress sent me e-mail letting me know that the TYT transceiver has been shipped out. i also ordered a WEme USB 3.0 to SATA/IDE adapter for $18, so i can consolidate the data on some old IDE drives onto SATA drives (arrives on friday).
my mother called me to let me know my father was stopping by to collect the bag of glutinous rice i got back in april from the good fortune supermarket in quincy
. apparently she's going to wrap more zongzi (even though the dragon boat festival was yesterday), after i made a stink this weekend over how she sold out all the zongzi she made and i only got to eat a few. she also asked me to tell my father to get some chocolate ice cream. while i was still on the phone, my father was already out back with the 2m ground plane antenna and a coil of cable. i could smell cigarette smoke on his breath. he kept wanting to figure out a way to mount an antenna, but i live in bandwidth dead zone: in the time that i've lived here, i've had problems not only with my phone reception (AT&T back in the days of nokia candybar phones) but i still have ongoing issue with with OTA HDTV reception. before he left, i told him the chinese aliexpress seller (QualityEx) contacted me last night and said that the TYT TH-9800 quad band transceiver was in fact the newer plus version (his advertisement called it "pro"). with that piece of info, my father decided to order: the TH-9800 ($201), HH-9000 quad band antenna ($35), and a programming cable ($12). the antenna and programming cable we could've gotten cheaper through other sellers, but buying it through just one vendor guarantees everything will arrive at the same time. apparently they have a US warehouse as the estimated delivery time is only 4-13 days. i've never ordered anything through aliexpress before so this will be a new experience.
i've got the next few days to tidy up the house before GC arrives early saturday evening. it's good that he's a repeat roommate, no surprises. what i'm not looking forward to is his love of seafood and stinking up the house with his cooking smell. cleaning up the place for the roommate's arrival also helps me clean up the place for wangyang's arrival in less than 2 weeks.
the big project was recaulking the bathtub, which seems like something i do every year. but since there was some mold in the tile grout of the bathroom wall, i decided to clean that up first, as it's a pretty sloppy job; afterwards when everything's dried i can do the caulking as the final step. for tiles, i've found that scrubbing bubbles foaming bleach works the best. i spray onto the grout and then use a brush to scrub off the mildew. i also sprayed onto the caulk. after a while i went back into the bathroom to rinse the foaming bleach off the walls. gone were the mildew on the grout, but gone also were most of the mold on the caulk! scrubbing bubbles worked its miracle once again. the caulk was so clean in fact i decided not to recaulk, it looks fine as is.
my father convinced me to throw out my 27" philips tv. really, when will i ever use it again? and if i did want an old tube tv, i still have a 20" samsung TXG2045 tv in the basement (which i actually got for free off of craig's list back in 2010). i also thought a had a 20" emerson tv/vcr combo set but when i went to look it was gone, so i must've thrown it out at some point. it's just that this tv has brought me a lot of joy. it works perfectly fine, except it's large and heavy and needs a DTA converter to get an channels over the airwaves. i feel like i bought this tv while i began living in cambridge, but i looked through my blog and can't find any mention of it. i could find when i bought this tv, but i checked the manufacture date on the back and cross-referenced it with my blog to pinpoint the date of purchase as december 2002, nearly 16 years ago. i wish i could give it a proper viking funeral, set it on a pyre in the backyard and set it ablaze. but nowadays i need to get a special large appliance sticker from cambridge in order to properly dispose of an old tv set.
i tested the 2m ground plane antenna my father dropped off. i hung it from a hook i nailed to the top of my deck. not sure why, but i could only ping 70cm repeaters. i couldn't even reach the 2m belmont repeater the next town over. however, using the stock baofeng antenna, i reached belmont without any problems. trying simplex on 2m naturally didn't do anything; 70cm i could get intermittent noise but no voice. i then moved the antenna to the living room, pointing out the windows. performance was a no go.
i removed the bottom tray of my refrigerator and washed it in the tub, caked in years of food particle and sticky spills. i put it outside to dry. based on my father's suggestion, i used a toothbrush and some bleach spray and cleaned out the black mold from within the folds of the refrigerator door gaskets. i did a load of laundry, washing the sheets from the guest bedroom: tonight i'll be sleeping in my own bedroom for the first time this year i believe. i had a small blanket i also wanted to wash, but i'm going to do it at my parents' place tomorrow, to take advantage of the free solar energy. afterwards i'll let it air dry outside.
in the late afternoon i went out for the first time today. the weather was pleasant, not the stifling hot and humidity of yesterday, but a drier heat. in fact, i had my windows opened to air out the house and let in some breeze. i thought there'd be construction on beacon street but maybe they were finished because i didn't see any road crew. they're supposed to be digging up a section of the road again, but so far the roads are okay.
i went to the cambridge public works office to get disposal stickers not only for my philips tv but an old air conditioner in the basement as well. either the guy was new or doesn't often do these permits. it took a while, seemed like there was a lot of unnecessary bureaucratic paper work get to get these 2 stickers. each one cost me $25. originally i was going to pay by credit card, but there was a convenience fee, so i opted for cash (luckily i had that much cash on hand). the guy told me that sometimes metal salvage crew might pick up the AC for scrap metal; in case that happens, he said cambridge can reimburse me for the $25 fee, but it just takes a little more paperwork. as for the old tv however, nobody takes those anymore except the city disposal. the next tv pickup is this thursday, while the AC won't get picked up until july 11. while i was there, i also picked up another kitchen compost container for free (my parents wanted one for the cafe).
afterwards i went to market basket for some groceries. i left with exactly 12 items; i actually had 13, but put back the the bottle of chili garlic cholula hot sauce because i wanted to checkout in the express lane (actually that was for the best: i never tried chili garlic before, which turns out to be the least spicy of their hot sauces; i'm curious about the sweet habanero which i've never seen in the stores).
my macbook pro froze up today, nothing that couldn't be fix with a manual reboot. i think it crashed from overheating as the bottom of the laptop was pretty hot (full disclosure: i was downloading a few things so that probably had something to do with it), but this is typical during the warmer summer days. but isn't typical is once i was back online again, the battery status disappeared from the menubar. when i went to the preference panel to turn it back on, the battery display flashed for a split second then toggled itself off again. there's definitely something wrong with the battery/power functionality of the OS. a fresh install of the system would most likely fix it, but i've sort of learned to live with an inaccurate battery status. once i get my mermaid parade photos all sorted out, i may decide to reintall the system after all. best case scenario is i fixed the problem, worst case i default back to the time machine backup.
solar-production-wise it was an exciting day, as i could've sworn we'd hit a new production record today. the sky remained cloudless for much of the day. i did see one or two small clouds, but they made no significant impact to the over performance of the panels. by day's end we made 50.32 kWh, which is just the 2nd time this month we hit 50kWh+, and the 5th time overall, just 300Wh shy of a record. tomorrow is another sunny day but i heard there will be high hazy clouds. the next 3 days all look to be sunny. it'd be perfect if for the first official day of summer we can hit a new record.
for dinner i made two dueling recipes: a crispy baked chicken thighs recipe i found online (there was a MB sale on chicken thighs this week), and a sample package of knorr southwestern chicken brown rice & quinoa meal starter (given our during the harvard square may fair). i made a mistake with the chicken thigh purchase, i bought boneless skinless, which means no crispiness. the baked chicken was okay, but i kept on thinking how much more delicious it would've been marinated and then cooked over a live wood charcoal fire. the instructions for the brown rice & quinoa called for chicken to be cooked with the rice but i cooked my chicken separately, then mixed it with the rice once everything finished cooking. the rice was okay, but nothing to write home about. too bad i have a few more packets left.
throwing out the trash tonight, i saw two teenage boys leaving the upstairs condo. these were older than the boy i saw last week, i think the whole family is here, is that means 2 adults and 3 children are currently living upstairs. for the most part they've kept the noises to a minimum, with the exception of night time tv noises and the running of the AC's. also during the day i can hear footsteps upstairs.
i tested the 70cm ground plane antenna with my father in belmont. we tried it in the past, but with low-powered transceivers and poor antenna, and had forgotten what the results were, so this was a retest. there was zero activity on 2m, which is expected since the antenna is 70cm. on 70cm i could hit all the local 70cm repeaters: MIT, boston, weston, waltham hill. MIT and boston were clear, there was a little static on weston, and on waltham the display would light up indicating signal reception but i heard back nothing. i had the antenna jutting out the top of my living room window taped to a selfie stick. facing north towards my solar-powered neighbor, there was too much obstruction from the leafy locust tree, and reception wasn't as good as when i had the antenna pointing northeast through a better clearing. trying 70cm simplex, i could receive my father's more high powered transmissions but he could barely hear mine, just intermittent signals with a lot of noise. also, using just the stock antenna i can ping the MIT and boston repeaters loud and clear and my father can hear me fine from belmont.
after watering the front and back yard, i grabbed my things and motorcycled to the community garden to do some watering, leaving directly to belmont afterwards. i was surprised to find a few striped mallow flowers; this is just a sneak preview as i have plenty of plants so eventually my garden will just be covered with these flowers. there was also another gardener there, a woman whom i didn't recognize working one of the shady northwestern plots. neither one of us made an effort to say hello. she seemed to be doing some heavy duty terraforming, making frequent trips to the shed to gather different tools.
it was a hot and humid day, the sort of day that felt soupy and hard to breathe. that's why i opted to take the motorcycle, i would've been sweat soaked had in been bicycling. in belmont, the air conditioner, fan, and dehumidifier were all running. for lunch i had some cold sweet rice porridge with sweet potato and dates.
i convinced my father to drive down to the winchester mahoney's to look for possible remainder flowering cherry trees we might still be able to buy. unlike the last time we were there a month ago (also a monday), there was very little customers today.
most of their ornamental japanese maples were gone, but there were still a few left. there was one tall 7-8' specimen, 'red emperor,' that looked like it was on red fire sunlit from behind. the cost? $800, not factoring in the cost to hire a team to move and plant it. i also like the japanese maple 'golden full moon,' which have roundish maple leaves. the one that they had was already sold ($600 for a 4ft specimen) but the owner must've forgotten about it. they sold a bunch of peonies, all yellow, which my parents have only discovered this year and now can't seem to get enough of yellow peonies. these were itoh peonies 'bartzella,' a container costs $80 each.
i wasn't confident we'd find any kwanzan flowering cherries, but we actually saw three specimens. one of them was a 10 ft tree selling for $300; given the size, it didn't seem like a bad deal. unfortunately it was already sold, but like the maple i saw earlier, the owner must've forgotten about it to the point where it was already sending out suckers from the root balls and leafing out from the bottom as well. we did find another kwanzan of similar height and price, but the reason why it wasn't sold because it looked diseased (cracked bark). the third kwanzan we found was also available, but it was easily 15-20 ft, and the wind had toppled it to the ground. it was only $400 which seemed like a bargain, but the cost to transport/plant a tree of that size would easily double the price, so another reason why nobody wanted it. there were also a lot of yoshino cherries, but they have pale pink-white flowers which we don't like.
which checked out some of their other tree selection. we were particularly struck by the sweet bay magnolia, with lush white flowers that looked like they'd be very fragrant and they definitely didn't disappoint. the scent reminded me of tea flowers. my father wanted to get one, but wasn't sure if it'd survive our new england weather. we also saw a very good looking crabapple, 'sugar tyme.' it'd be worth getting except the flowers are white and we wanted a deep pink.
we wanted to ask somebody if they did any special tree order (like for a wintersweet). we asked two didn't clerks who didn't really know, but one of them referred us to their manager who was busy on the phone. we decided to leave without asking.
back at the house my father and i continued working in the backyard. while watering the garden, i flushed out a bunny. together with my father we managed to drive it out of the backyard but we had to chase it all over the yard, from the west side to the south out to the east side.
my mother didn't want to cook so we went to get some takeout from burger king. when we tried to get into the store from the back, the door was locked with a sign. apparently they were closed except for the drive-thru. no reason why, but my father figured they were understaffed (maybe some employees didn't come in to work) and only had enough workers to manage the drive-thru. instead of making an order, my father drove directly to the pickup counter. the employee told us we had to go back and order from the menu station. fortunately there weren't any cars and we were able to backup. what was supposed to be a quick trip ended up taking a lot longer.
back at the house i quickly ate my whopper so i could rush home and beat the incoming torrential rainstorm. i got home just in the nick of time, under a canopy of dark ominous clouds and strong winds. it did rain eventually, but nothing like the downpours that the doppler radars were showing.
my refurbished 1TB western digital external hard drive ($30) arrived today (waiting on the doorstep). i reformatted it so i could use it as my time machine backup. it took 4 hours to copy the time machine data from the old 2TB drive to new 1TB drive, from 9pm to 1am.
i went to bed last night at 2am (reading circe
on my phone until i couldn't open my eyes anymore), woke up around 10:40am, nearly 9 hours of well-deserved sleep. i noticed when taking a shower that the reddish bands on my upper arms where i received the strongest dose of the sun's radiation had faded to brown. i was waiting for the pain of sunburns, it didn't happen last night when i showered, and it didn't happen this morning. all and all, i escaped relatively unscathed given the round-trip was such an ordeal. i spent a little time sifting through the thousands of photos i took yesterday, marking a few as highlights, before finally getting dressed and heading out the door. i motorcycled to belmont. it was already a hot day, the sun baking everything in sight. i wore only a t-shirt with jeans, bringing a pair of shorts to change.
i found my father outside watering the front lawn with the sprinkler. the spread of the sprinkler was too wide and it sprayed water onto the front door as well. while my father continued watering into the backyard, my mother made some chicken noodles for lunch. she told me they wanted to have a father's day dinner at the brazilian moqueca restaurant in inman square. i didn't want to, wasn't that impressed with the food the first and last time we went back in february, wouldn't it be better just to stay home? or better yet, get some takeout. but my mother insisted.
i found a box with the nest thermostat along with a complimentary google home mini speaker. while i was setting it up my mother asked me why we needed another speaker after i bought that tiny dodocool speaker just last week. it wasn't until i plugged it in, set it up quickly with my phone, and demonstrated the real power of the speaker did my mother understand. the google home isn't so much a speaker as it is a smart listening device that you can talk to. hey google, what's the temperature? hey google, what's the temperature in taipei, taiwan? hey google, how do you say hello in chinese? hey google, how do you say hello in korean? hey google, play some music by teresa teng. my mother was pretty amazed by the technology, testing it out herself. the volume was loud, almost too loud. its grey soft fabric design sort of lends itself to being kind of hidden, in the background until you need to talk to it. when it activates, soft colored led's glow on the speaker surface. currently we can only use english but once google updates the software to chinese, it will be even handier.
later i linked the google home mini to our smart plugs so i can go, hey google, turn off the living room light. i also linked it to the nest thermostat, so it can pull the indoor temperature. hey google, what's the temperature inside the house? (though it's response was kind of long: it also told me what the thermostat heating was set at.)
my sister came home in the afternoon after hiking with hailey who was still wet. they stayed outside in the backyard for a long time, my sister playing around with her new iphone (7 $730, upgrading from a 5s), waiting for her dog to dry. they left around 4pm, my sister to meet up with us again at 5:30pm at the restaurant.
we finally turned on the portable air conditioner after my father cut a new length of tubing to catch the water in an external basin. attached to a smart plug, we were able to get an energy reading: it uses around 950W of power, so about 1kW per hour, which is a lot. we also learned it can't auto restart after the power is shut off, which means we won't be able to control it through the smart plug (or we can, but can only turn it off, not back on again; i might also have a raspberry pi solution with an infrared transceiver).
we left for the restaurant around 5:15pm, but arrived 5 minutes late. my sister made a reservation though and the place was only half full. my sister texted me that she would be late because she took a wrong turn. she didn't show up until 5:50pm, that's a pretty long wrong turn. we ordered a pitcher of sangria with 4 appetizers and 3 entrees: steam mussels, cod cakes, crab cakes, plantains, fish moqueca, tripe soup, and seafood rice.
the food this time around was much better, maybe because it was a weekend crowd and the restaurant brought their A game. like the plantains, last time they felt like leftovers, this time they were fried to perfection, crispy and sweet on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside, i've never had plantains this good before. they gave us a pot of hot sauce which we thought was just your typical mild sauce, so scooped a whole spoonful for the cod cake, but then i tasted it and realized it was some kind of homemade habanero sauce and warned everyone, stopping my sister (who has the lowest spiciness tolerance) before she accidentally got a mouthful.
after we finished eating, we went next door to the dollar general store, which used to be a family dollar. all of these chains have dollar in their names, but they're not true dollar stores, only dollar tree is (where everything really costs a dollar). dollar general was surprisingly well stocked, almost like a tiny department store.
afterwards i returned with my parents to belmont, when it would've been easier to just drop me off at home, but i had to retrieve my motorcycle first. riding back to cambridge, i stopped to take a photo of the sunset. dave and christine were supposed to be back today, but they told me not until late. i wrote dave an e-mail reminding him of street cleaning tomorrow and not to park on the odd side of the road or face getting towed.
we almost hit 50kWh today, just 400Wh shy. the cumulation of high wispy clouds throughout the day was just too much to overcome to hit a high record.
started this morning with errands: went to michael's to get a plastic compartment box for my growing collection of electronic parts; stopped by the community garden to water my plants, met christine (she too has pink lupines), saw me in my motorcycle gear and said my presence added some street credibility to the garden, she told me she used to have the plot near mine (which beth inherited then gave away) but gave it up because of the medium lead level and encroaching raspberries; stopped by the house to drop off the box, making more room in my bag; went to microcenter where they were having another sale on pi boards, i got a pi zero w for $5, a google voice kit
(usually $25, now just $4.99, but it's v1 so it's not designed for pi zeroes, apparently the manufacturer seems to be dumping their old stock because there were plenty of kits, i almost decided not to get it), and on a whim i bought a raspberry pi 3 b+ for $30, tried to score a free 16GB microSD card but the coupon i had was expired almost 2 weeks ago; finally came home where i spent 15 minutes watering the front and back yard.
wanting to mix things up a little, i added an egg to my grilled chese & ham sandwich; i also didn't grill the bread, just toasted it in the oven.
i left again sometime after 1pm, first to get some gasoline, before stopping at the cafe to drop off some remaining tongbaechu kimchi, some extra containers, and my mother's pom-pom makers. my 2nd aunt was there, my mother was making more savory zongzi because someone at my aunt's church ordered two dozen. my father decided to return to belmont with me so we could go to home depot.
he ended up getting some pipe fittings for another antenna project (he wants to mount an antenna to the house chimney) and some polyurethane cement sealant. i was looking for cam connectors, but my father actually found one earlier and gave it to me; it was a little smaller than the size i wanted, but it might work. i still just bought a package (4) of cam connectors just in case. i also checked out their selection of hardboards. 4x8' is actually pretty large and would need to be cut in order to fit in the car. i wouldn't need it today, but somewhere down the road, when i repair the bottom of my magazine holder and the wooden 5-drawer dresser i found many years ago that i now use as extra kitchen storage.
while my father returned to the cafe, i stayed in belmont to water the plants and add more protective cups around emerging seedlings. rabbits continue to wreck havoc despite the barricades to prevent them from getting into the backyard. i also saw a chipmunk, so that's yet one more critter to be worried about (although i think chipmunks are not as destruction on plants compared to rabbits, they're more like squirrels, digging the random hole). the backyard neighbor - now done with urban chicken raising - bought a large netted trampoline for their high school aged children. while i pruned some diseased grape leaves, i had to listen to them noisy playing on the trampoline and playing loud offensive gangster rap.
i tested the radio antennas before i left. i brought my baofeng radio this time, communicating with my father's baofeng at the cafe. his radio was attached to the chimney-mounted antenna, while mine was connected to the ground plane antenna mounted onto a tall bamboo pole. we couldn't hear each other on 2m, not even static, but 70cm was loud and clear. when i switched to the shorter ground plane antenna (with the longer feed cable), 70cm was more staticky, while there was still no signal at 2m. on a whim, i decided to try the baofeng with the stock antenna. this was weird: although i couldn't transmit at 2m, i could hear my father just fine, very clear. we could communicate both ways on 70cm, but there was just more static. it also depended on where i was standing inside the house and how i held the radio, whether vertical or horizontal, and what direction. but it was definitely strange, the elevated ground plane antenna should be performing better than the stock antenna, not worse.
when i returned to cambridge, i moved the large 27" philips tube tv out of my bedroom, replaced with the 32" samsung HDTV that was formerly in the guest bedroom. even though on paper the 32" is larger, because of its widescreen aspect ratio there's actually less screen real estate than the 27". that old philips served me well, it'd be a pity to throw it out. i'd move it to the basement, but i just don't have any room. i really should talk to alex about throwing out some of his old boxes of junk. they've been in my basement for the past 15 years, and i don't think he's ever going to come back from tokyo to collect his things. in the meantime, the large (and heavy) television sits on my dining room floor. as for the HDTV, what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality: after scanning the airwaves for channels, i was amazed by how many clear channels i managed to get, including telemundo. it couldn't however receive univision. NBC shows up as channel 8, while in the living room NBC is channel 15. the reception is so good, i may be spending more time working from my bedroom from now on.
the black silicone repair self-fusing bonding tape i ordered from ebay arrived today. i used it to cover the broken housing of an abus combination bike chain i found on the street last month. it worked pretty well. the other solution was to get my hands on some sugru repair putty, but that stuff is expensive, $4-5 for a little piece of silicone clay that has a shelf-expire and will expire within a year. i bought this spool of silicone tape for just $1.57.
i had an early dinner of zongzi at 6pm, with hopes of being in bed by 10pm, as i need to wake up at 4am tomorrow to catch the 6am megabus leaving south station to go down to new york city to watch the mermaid parade in coney island. i'm sort of regretting my decision now, it's going to be a long day. i looked at mermaid parade photos from 2016, and it wasn't that exciting. all this effort, just to watch a parade for 2-3 hours, then rush back to boston. if i had a longer time i'd try to visit flushing for some ethnic taiwanese food, but my return bus is at 7pm, and to get to flushing from coney island is like on the opposite end of the train line. who knows, once i arrive in new york city, i might decide to blow the parade and go eat delicious chinese food instead. i'll be back in new york next month anyway, when i bring wangyang and her son for a visit. i think they'll probably want to do more touristy stuff in manhattan, but maybe i can sneak away for a few hours to go eat.
it's almost 11pm. i have to go to bed!
i called masssave this morning to ask about the status of the nest thermostat we ordered almost 2 weeks ago but still haven't received. a check of the status online said it was still pending. that made me a little worried that the order wouldn't be fulfilled because one of the criteria for receiving the discount (just $99 for a nest v3) was you had to be a residential customer of eversource, and we were buying it for the cafe (commercial). i was concerned when we ordered but i checked and couldn't see any conditions, and the order went through without any problems. only later, when i saw the fine print on their online catalog, did i see the residential customer stipulation.
i got an agent right away (missy). she checked the order and said the reason for the delay was they were out of stock, but a new shipment was coming in tomorrow so we can expect to receive the thermostat soon. what i'm most excited about isn't the thermostat, but rather that it comes with a free google home mini speaker. though i'm not thrilled with the speaker's ability to spy on your private conversations, i do like the idea of pairing the speaker with my smart plugs and controlling light switches via voice.
trying to finish up my ham before it spoils, i made after grilled sandwich for lunch. my palate seems to be healing, eating wasn't as painful today.
i did some more cleaning today, moved the small wire shelving to the kitchen. now i have more space for kitchen equipment. but where the shelving used to live in the living room now seems so empty. all i know is i could always use more shelving and cabinet space.
i cleaned the aquarium. it's almost been a month since the last cleaning, and that was just a quick water change. this time, i disassembled the filter and replaced the activated carbon. i was going to remove all the plants to clean them in the sink, but turns out none of them had any algae. the only algae was on the glass, which i scrubbed off with a sponge; it actually took some effort to remove it, this type of algae bonds to the glass very tightly (even then i still missed a few spots). i don't quite understand what happened - maybe the tank finally reached the proper balance - but i'm happy that i no longer have to worry about algae outbreaks. this could all change of course come summer, when the room temperature is higher. but i think enough java fern is growing now that hopefully they will use up all the nutrients first, leaving none for the algae.
afterwards i took the bucket of dirty water i siphoned out of the tank and used it to fertilize my houseplants and seedlings growing outside on my backyard deck. nothing goes to waste! and i think dirty aquarium water probably has some nutritional content for the plants.
my upstairs neighbors finally left around 4pm. if i had to guess, i'd say they're going to the cape for the weekend. once they were gone, i rode my bike down to the post office to mail the american girl doll t-shirt to frances' daughter. it's weird to send something to norway that isn't in a big box, just a normal envelope this time. afterwards i went to michael's to buy a set of clover brand pom pom makers for my mother (i had a 50% off coupon).
when did they begin construction on the beacon street cycle track? seems like years. so it's ironic that the city road crew continues to work on it, such that they park equipment on the cycle track, or leave supplies like a stack of trees. it's almost like they actually don't want people to use the bike trail. if you ask me, it's a waste of money. i do like the new trees though, but i already noticed some neighbors don't water them, so some trees might be dead in a few months.
i spoke with my father who told me that the baby bluejay had died. he found it torn in half in the backyard. he guessed it was the work of the neighborhood cat, who we occasionally see. in fact, that might explain the carcass of a small rat i found a few years ago. only a cat would kill something then leave it behind after playing with it. i am definitely not a cat person. on a more positive note, he did see some other younger bluejays along with the adults. all the fledglings were able to fly, so hopefully the rest of them will survive into adulthood.
i didn't realize how cloudy it'd get today. this morning up until 10am we were on pace for a recording setting production day. but then everything crashed, and it was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. final production number for today was 30.06kWh; at least we broke 30kWh+.
i heated up bruce's meat sauce and finished it with some rotini and penne. when it comes to pasta, i like the classic italian spaghetti noodles, but i also come to really like the rotini. their spiral shape traps more hearty sauce than penne pasta. i ate while watching the first episode of DS9 off of amazon prime. DS9 is my least favorite of the star trek series, but many people with better scifi tastes than mine have said DS9 is the best. the series premiered back when i was still in college. rewatching it now nearly 2 decades later, i can appreciate the nuisances of the storyline much better. avery brooks' performance is still terrible; he emotes everything like he's doing a play instead of playing it naturally for tv. only after he grows a goatee does he get better. the later seasons of DS9 were much better, the jem'hadars are one of the best scifi alien races.
just when i was thinking that maybe wangyang wasn't coming to boston next month since it's only 2 more weeks before july, she messaged me today asking if i was still free next month. she wanted to confirm because she was about to ask her new company for vacation days and then buy her plane tickets afterwards. i congratulated her on her new job, it didn't take her long to find work just as i thought. she asked how she should fly in; i suggested she both arrive and leave from boston. she wanted to visit new york city during her time in the US, but if she wanted to return to shanghai via new york city, the logistics of transporting their luggage from boston is just too daunting; better to keep boston as a base, and logan airport is more easier to get from the city compared to JFK or laguardia.
2 hours later she wrote back, got authorization from her boss, bought the tickets, hainan airline direct flight, july 1st to july 14th. she asked if i wanted anything from china. i didn't hesitate, immediately sent her a photo of the romano soap box i've been keeping. when i told her the reason why i wanted the soap (it reminded me of chongqing), she laughed. i suggested she might be able to find the brand at carrefour supermarkets, but she said she could just order it online.
so now i'm under pressure to not only clean up my place in the next 2 weeks, but also come up with a itinerary for when wangyang and her son arrives. i was going to clean anyway in anticipation of GC's arrival next saturday; not now i also have to properly clean my bedroom since wangyang and her son will be staying there. for 2 weeks in july the living room will be my home.
before the storm arrival, i took a quick trip to market basket in the morning to get a few things. i made a grilled cheese & ham sandwich for lunch, forgetting that the roof of my mouth was still tender. i had to eat gingerly, biting down from the side with my molars to prevent the crunchy crust from touching my palate.
it was actually sunny early this morning, but by mid-morning clouds started to fill in and it was overcast for the rest of the day. there was hardly any storm, at most a sprinkle. we still managed to make 27.73kWh despite the sub-optimal conditions.
i spent some time today retroactively updating some empty blog posts. the older the post, the harder it is to update. and i actually write more on days when i don't do very much versus days where i do a lot of stuff.
my upstairs neighbor david told me they're leaving town tomorrow afternoon and won't be back until late sunday. they're telling me this in case packages arrive, which there will be a high likelihood if they're sending me a message. i thought i heard the rumblings of guests, and all day i could hear somebody upstairs while dave and christine were supposedly off at work. later in the early evening i saw who it is, a teenage boy, most likely one of their sons. with free housing in cambridge for 3 months, of course they would invite guests. i expect to see more throughout the summer. they've all been relatively quiet, although the night time AC noise still annoys me.
for dinner i steamed 3 zongzi. i'm very particular about my sauces, and with savory zongzi i must have my yeo's sweet chili sauce. 3 was probably a little too much in hindsight, 2 would've been enough. afterwards i watched another new episode of the expanse: kind of a weak episode, seems like the whole hour was just spent watching james holden descend into the ring while talking to phantom miller.
by 10:30am we'd already surpassed as much production as all of last monday, showing you how much weather can affect generation. today's trendline was off compared to the record set more than 3 weeks ago, so we weren't going to break that record, but there's still might be a chance we can reach 50 kWh, which would be pretty good.
i walked down to the community garden in the late morning to water my plants. the zucchini squash had sprouted another seedling, and in just 2 days they seemed to have outgrown the clear plastic container. i dug out the smaller seedling and relocated elsewhere in the plot. the 2nd attempt at seeding cucumbers have finally sprouted after a week had gone by. i also chatted with the gardener in the corner plot behind the raised bed by the entrance. he put in a lot of work in his garden and i asked him if he'd gardened before; actually this is his 4th year and 3rd plot shuffle. when i returned home i watered the front and back yard.
i heated up 2 slices of leftover pizza for lunch. something i ate within the past day or two scratched up the roof of my mouth so it was sensitive. afterwards i rode the motorcycle down to the cafe to take photos while my mother made the meat zongzi. however when i arrived, she told me she'd already finished making them early this morning. i left with 5 refrigerated meat zongzi.
i arrived in belmont sometime after 1pm, with a list of things to do around the house. i went down into the basement and turned on the dehumidifier. i could've done it through the smart plug, but i wanted to see the machine for myself. the humidity sensor said 52%, the dehumidifier was set to 50%. it was using just 70W.
it bothered me that the brackets of the sensor lights were still unpainted and black, so i covered them up with some paint and did some touchup work on the lights themselves. i didn't have to hang them up this time, just sat them flat on a piece of cardboard to dry.
i moved the aquatic Cyperus alternifolius plant to the larger pot, filled it up with fresh water, and added about a dozen mosquito bits kernels (a teaspoon supposedly covered an area of 25 sq. ft), which arrived in the mail today. even though we don't have a problem with mosquitoes in the backyard, this will prevent mosquito larvae from incubating in the water. a while back my father asked me about what types of fish we can get for our potted aquatic garden. not even considering that the water will get awfully hot during the summer, there's the question of what do you do with the fish come winter. my father said he'd just throw them out, but i thought that was too inhumane. he wanted fish to eat the mosquitoes anyway, but if we can control them through chemical means, we don't need the fish anymore. however, i would like to grow some other aquatic plants. some duckweed would be nice, there's also enough room for a lilypad. i just don't know where to buy aquatic plants locally. the only place i can think of is a pet store that sells aquarium plants.
intermittently throughout the day i would also water the lawn and various plants in the backyard. my father said he watered this morning, but i don't think he watered enough because there were a lot of dry patches, especially those out in the full sun. an unintended side effect of watering was flushing out at least one rabbit. if what we thought yesterday was true - that the rabbits are just trapped in the backyard because they can't get out - then there should at least be two rabbits, when i only saw one. maybe one of them managed to get out, hopefully through the door and not through some undiscovered hole underneath the fence. the one rabbit (more like a bunny) that i did find, i tried to chase it so it would escape through the fence door which i left opened. this is really a two person job and the rabbit was slippery, but it just wouldn't leave. not for a lack of trying, at one point i saw it scrambling in the corner by the hawthorn tree trying to escape, but made impossible after i stapled a wire mesh onto the corner. unfortunately i discovered that rabbits had eaten up at least one of my smaller lupine plants. i wasn't that sad because lupines seed a lot, but it takes 2-3 years for it to grow big enough to escape rabbit predation.
i made more ring cup protectors for the seedlings around the new perennial bed. some protection for the remaining lupines, newly emerging korean melon seedlings, and new morning glory and sunflowers.
i'd washed the solar panels 10 days ago and today it needed another washing after i noticed how much pollen was on them, especially the ones mounted on the sunroom. it's really for my own peace of mind since some rain is expected tomorrow (though intermittent and not steady and might even miss our area).
my father asked me to test the antenna reach between their house and the cafe. using the taller antenna, i was able to receive him just fine on both VHF and UHF (using 5W), but he couldn't hear me on VHF and barely heard me (but with a lot of static) on UHF (despite the fact that i was transmitting at 20W). with the shorter antenna it was even worse. i couldn't hear him at all on VHF, and just barely in UHF, and of course he couldn't hear me.
finally, i washed my motorcycle before i left. what i really wanted to do was to remove the windshield and try to buff the scratches off of it, but i decided to tackle that project some other time. i just washed the bike, didn't have time to wax it. it was pretty clean them, felt like a brand new ride, even though i typically keep it in pretty good shape to begin with. i returned to cambridge by 4:30pm.
i've been watching BBC's 'killing eve the past few days, it's my new favorite show. only 8 episode this season, but already renewed for a second season. sandra oh's character really annoys me, but it's something we haven't seen a lot of in crime dramas, the investigator who's a complete mess. the show is also refreshingly funny at times, despite the fact that we're following the exploits of a psychopathic assassin. villanelle is like a female hannibal lecter, charming and deadly at the same time, it's hard to turn away. i'm currently on penultimate episode 7.
monitoring the basement dehumidifier at my parents' place via the smart plug, i noticed it was now using 550W of power. most likely it's because it's running the condenser. it's about the same amount of power used by the TCL dehumidifier. could it be both machines use the same amount of power? and the only reason the TCL used so much that first day (11kWh) was because the basement was humid and it needed a lot of time to dehumidify. because all the days after that, the TCL was only using 3kWh of electricity a day. so maybe the TCL was fine after all and we returned it for nothing. but our old de'longhi seemed to be still working. when my father went down in the basement after work to check out the machine, he saw it was properly pumping water into the sink.
despite a few drops we still managed to break 50kWh+ today at 50.34kWh. it's the first time this month, and the 4th time overall (last month we broke 50kWh+ on three occasions). for the past 9 days production has increased every single day with the exception of yesterday. it's the 5th consecutive day where we made 40kWh+, which ties a record we made back in april.
even though i had some zongzi, i'm saving them for tomorrow, while i tried bruce's meat sauce with some pasta. i still can't believe this was once a pot roast but rendered into a sauce form. it was very good, i could taste some wine. bruce told me there were olives but i couldn't taste them, but i did taste something spicy which i like. i heated up the whole sauce but only ate half, deciding to freeze the rest as i won't be able to eat it until next week, i have too much other stuff to eat.