from almost never drinking coffee to having the equivalent of 3 espresso shots every morning, that's what's happening this week. jittery yes, but that may just be my imagination; what isn't imaginary is the urgent need to go to the bathroom 10 minutes after finishing my coffee. it wasn't the yogurt because i didn't have any today. maybe the almond milk was spoiled, but it smelled and tasted fine. i think primary suspect is coffee. i must be one of the lucky 30% of the population that ingests coffee as a fast acting laxative. this is going to come in handy for future long trip preparations: wake up in the morning, drink some coffee, go straight to the bathroom. also for lunch i had a pork floss pastry and another italian sausage.
i went to the cafe in the early afternoon primarily to see if my father would be free for us to go out and buy a multi-ladder, but also to do some garden refuse clean-up along the border of the parking lot. my mother also got me to do some neighboring mulberry tree pruning with a pair of oversized loppers and a step ladder. my sister's been harping about this tree for months now, saying how the low branches would scratch the roof of her car.
it took less than 48 hours but the black plums have already started to reduce into liquids. my mother showed me the small jar on her desk while my father brought me down to the basement to see the remaining 3 jars. so far no molds yet as far as i can see, maybe the sealed nature of the fermentation will kill off any harmful bacterias.
my mother also agreed that we should go buy a ladder, if nothing else, to beat my sister to the punch as least since she was also planning on getting one. my father and i went to harbor freight at the fellsway plaza in medford. 17ft franklin mult-ladders usually cost $140, but i had a coupon for just $110. earlier i'd determined the distance on the front steps of my sister's place using a laser measure to make sure a 17ft would be the right size. we looked everywhere in the store for the ladders but finally saw them in front of the store by the cashier. they only had two left, one in black, one in red. we picked the red one because the black ladder looked a little scratched. in its compact form, the multi-ladder was still light enough for one person to carry it, but it still had some weight on it. it was small enough we could fit it in the sedan's trunk with the back seats folded down.
we went next door to OSJL so i could look for some yarn for my mother. they did some major cleaning since the last time i was here, now everything is organized and well-stocked. i found the yarn and sent my mother a few photos. she called me back and we coordinated back and forth until i picked 5 skeins of amazing wool yarn for her and my 2nd aunt (at $3/skein, my aunt was at the cafe as well).
since we had time and we were in the area, i wanted to show my father the aldi food market. it's still really hard to describe aldi. it's kind of like a really cheap supermarket stocked with off-brand food items. they also some some really random stuff, like deck nails and gardening tools, along with toys. it's never crowded either, with stop & shop just on the other side of the strip mall, and places like costco and market basket within the vicinity if you have a car. what i found really exciting was right next door an ac moore crafts store was soon to come. there used to be one in assembly square before they got kicked out and trader joe's took over its place. with their departure, the only nearby crafts store seems to be michael's, but glad to see ac moore coming back, if nothing else to have some competition.
we left aldi with some pork rinds, some plums, and some insulated socks of all things. we finally went back to the cafe (4pm), hitting some light traffic along route 16.
the first thing we did when we got back was to try out the ladder. it came with instructions which i tried to make sense of but decided to skip it as the ladder seemed pretty intuitive in function. we brought it over to my sister's place and set it up on the steps so i could reach the wooden decorative arches over the doorways. these need to be scraped and sanded before painting. it was actually pretty easy to set up, everything seemed self-explanatory. the multi-ladder is a more stable platform compared to a standard straight ladder or regular step ladder. if we can find suitable tarps to cover the steps while i scrape, i can begin prepping as early as tomorrow. prepping is the hard part; actual painting will just take a few hours. the multi-ladder seems so useful, we should've gotten one years ago.
i finally rode home close to 5pm. going home any later, i'm liable to hit traffic and could have a hard time finding parking once i got back. i finished watching episode 5 of bodyguard. for dinner i have more corn and ribs. at this point i'm pretty ribbed out, even though i have more for one more serving. i think it's going to be a long time before i want to eat ribs again.
hurricane florence remnants grazed past cambridge today, darkening the sky, sending downpours that flooded local streets, serious enough that i received a loud EMS alert on my phone warning of flash flooding. it was so dark in fact that today was the lowest solar production we ever had (5.19KWh), not since mid-april was it lower (4.42KWh). there was so much rain that it flooded the storm drains and the streets became rivers. i watched as empty trash cans floated on the water like boats.
i made another cup of coffee using the moka pot, this time adding more boiled water in the lower chamber. i used a package of fresh coffee, new england coffee brand colombian supremo. i heated half a cup of almond milk for 20 seconds in the microwave before pouring in the coffee. to that i scooped 3 teaspoon of sugar, which was definitely too much. today's brew was much better in flavor, not as bitter, and i could better taste the coffee.
i came home with plenty of leftover barbecue last night, so i'm going to be eating well for the next few days. besides coffee, i had a curry beef pastry, a sausage, and some scallion pancakes for lunch. when evening rolled around, i heated up 4 ribs and ate a barbecued corn on the cob while waiting.
i continued testing the repaired MBP, still no problems. i opened up the case and swapped out the 4GB memory with the 8GB, still no problems. i'll test it one more day before replying to the repair shop to let them know the computer is finally fixed. still later, i added the secondary 500GB hard drive, still no problems.
i dug out my old dell hackintosh. it's been a few years, the battery level was down to 0% so i gave it a charge. my father's interested in taking it with him when my parents go to taiwan next month. running OSX 10.6.8 with a 1024x600 screen and weighing just 2.6 lbs., it has a 1.6GHz intel core solo processor, 2GB of RAM, and surprised to find a 1TB hard drive. the machine is like a time capsule of the time i spent in china from 2013-2014. there's only 5GB of space left on the hard drive, but i think the bulk of the storage are photos which can be easily erased (i have multiple backups anyway).
my father sent me photos of his plum wine project. he managed to stuff 2 fido jars (5L and 4L) and a 5L glass wine bottle, as well as a smaller jar missing a clamping lid. i'd later find out they ended up using all the black plums from the case we bought on saturday. that just means i'll need to go back to haymarket if i want more plums. the jarred plums along with heaps of sugar will take a few months to reduce into sweet wine if everything goes according to schedule. my biggest concern is mold, not sure how clean those jars were, having sat in the cafe basement (and one in my house) all this time.
i woke up feeling a little dizzy for some reason, and was hoping maybe the coffee might make it better. i brewed my first cup using the moka pot. i read a bunch of online instructions beforehand and the preferred way seems to be preboiling the water before adding it to the bottom chamber, which i did using my electric kettle. once that happened though, i had to use a towel to hold the base as it was hot. i put espresso coffee ground into the basket, assembled the moka, and set it on the gas stove, adjusting the flames just wide enough so it didn't spill out beyond edge of the top chamber. since the water was preboiled, it brewed the coffee fairly quickly. once i heard something, i opened the lid to find coffee sputtering out of the stem in the upper chamber.
even though this pot was for 3 servings of espresso, the moka pot only made enough coffee for half a single tea cup. i took a sip and immediately disliked it: black and bitter, who would really drink this? i like my coffee with a lot of milk and sugar anyway, so i added some almond milk i had in the fridge. i added enough to turn the black to brown, but that also cooled the coffee to the point where it was barely lukewarm. i added 2 teaspoons of sugar but it was still pretty bitter. i drank it all anyway, almost like medicine, while eating some greek yogurt. less than 15 minutes later i was in the bathroom. could've been the yogurt, could've been the coffee, might very well been both.
i've been entrusted with negotiating a better deal for my parents' heating oil and cable/internet services. for oil they use fawcett, which unexpectedly showed up last week to fill the oil tank without asking first. i called to ask about the details and to get a contract to lock in a rate (currently $3.19/gallon). the woman i spoke to also said she was going to send us another booklet of coupons. we have a week to decide if we want to sign the rate lock contract. next i called verizon FIOS. my parents' 2-year internet/cable contract will expire the first week of october. they currently pay $100/month, but nearly $30 worth of that bill is just to rent the 2 cable boxes and the wireless gateway router. we can buy the router from verizon ($150) but they won't sell us the cable boxes, something about serial number registration and whatnot. bottom line is they weren't willing to cut us a deal, and can't promise the rates won't increase, nor tell me how much of an increase if it does. their only advice was to check the monthly bill, which can only be accessed online. so the rest of this week i'll be calling some other heating oil companies and getting in touch with comcast to see if we can get a better offer.
i've seen the forecast for the rest of the week and i don't think it's going to get any warmer from here on out. so i decided to uninstall my window AC unit from the living room. there are two advantages: for some reason the AC is right below a malfunction gutter overflow so i no longer have to have endure the crash of water whenever it rains; and getting rid of the AC gives me greater security as i can finally lock all my windows. putting the AC away isn't all that hard, except there was still a lot of rain water collecting inside the unit, so i had to drain it all first. later i took it outside and tried to clean the inside with a hose, but it really needs a thorough wipe down, something i don't have the time for. instead i drained it a second time and put it away in the basement for the season.
i planned on going to belmont to mow the lawn, but decided to wait for the mailman to come by and redeliver my macbook pro. typically the mailman doesn't show up until midafternoon, but by 2:30pm i couldn't wait anymore so i went out in search of the mailman, hoping that he'd give me my package directly from his van. when i found him and showed him the redeliver slip, he said he already left the package back at the post office. had i known earlier, i would've been able to pick it up this morning and not waste most of the day waiting for it to arrive! so i grabbed my bike and rode down to porter square to get my package.
i only tested the thrice-repaired macbook pro briefly when i got back home. it restarted fine, i unplugged and plugged it in a few times without problems, managed to shut down and restart again with zero issues. it seemed fine, but i'd like to test it some more before i'm satisfied, but so far it looks promising. i left it plugged in while i grabbed a few things and took the motorcycle to belmont, stopping at the cafe to pick up some things my mother left behind. earlier my father drove my mother to chinatown to see if she could change her primary care doctor. she can, but only during a specific window that happens between october and november. but when they came back from chinatown, she bought some duck that she forgot to take. afterwards, they went to binbin's house in burlington to visit zhangyu, and wouldn't be back in belmont until the early evening.
i didn't start mowing the lawn right away, first i had something to eat. i only had a yogurt and coffee, and there was all this delicious leftover barbecue waiting at my parents' place. i had a sausage, a rib, and a custard (apparently from chinatown). only then did i go outside to start mowing. it was the perfect day to mow, since we're expecting a lot of rain tomorrow, so the grass will get a good thorough watering.
my parents came home around 5pm. my father and i repotted the jasmine plant, dividing it into 4 containers. for soil, we used a combination of home compost, some leftover potting soil, and a bag of topsoil. the compost was too wet and came out of the bin in odorless clumps. we put all the potted jasmines underneath the grapevine trellis so it wouldn't drain in the rain come tomorrow.
my father has been researching battery desulfator in hopes of reviving a brand new battery he bought a while back that he left uncharged for a long time and now it's completely dead, won't take a charge no matter which charger we use. apparently all batteries could use a little desulfation to improve performances and extend battery life.
for dinner we had a combination of leftover barbecue along with a box of chinatown braised duck. i was eager to return home to further test out the newly repaired macbook pro.
i tested the repaired macbook pro some more, using it for 30 minutes. never once did it seem unstable, or crash, or overly hot. tomorrow i'll swap out the RAM's (4GB to 8GB) and either put back the DVD-ROM drive or the secondary 500GB hard drive.
i made myself a new activated carbon insert for my shoes to use as a deodorizer. i made one before but the activated carbon (actually pellets) i used were bad and didn't really seem to do anything. for this new one i used the activated carbon for my aquarium. i know this is good because when i put a grain in water it bubbles up immediately, compared to the pellets which don't do anything. i was trying to measure out 50g but the teabag filter i was using could only hold 42g.
also tonight i bought a new replacement lawn mower blade from amazon.com. our lawnmower is long overdue, grasses cut with the old blade gets shredded, which make the lawn more susceptible to diseases. the oregon 95-057 at $12.47, compatible with the craftsman blade part 189028.
i completely forgot the emmys were tonight (monday), typically award shows are on sunday nights. i watched, happy to see mrs.maisel win all the awards it was nominated for with the exception of tony shalhoub (he has plenty of emmys from his monk days). the americans also won some awards, including best actor in a drama series for matthew rhys. i thought keri russell had a good chance, but the best actress category was stacked, including sandra oh. claire foy ended up winning, which i didn't agree with, although i've never watched the crown so who knows.
WWY contacted me out of the blue, said she bought a VPN service (later i found it she got it from lihui), asked me for some recommended websites. before i did that however, i asked her to chat on something other than wechat, which is monitored by the chinese government. she uses skype in the office, and i was able to find her name in the directory, but when i tried chatting with her it didn't go through. they either use it locally or somehow incoming/outgoing traffic is blocked. we finally got through on whatsapp, with me using the desktop version of the app. finally i was able to give her some website suggestions, reddit.com and yotube.com.
i woke up a bit before 7:30am to get ready to go down to harvard square by 8am to catch the annual boston hub on wheels ride down storrow drive. there was of course nobody there when i got to the north harvard street bridge except some police officers who'd blocked off the street to prevent car traffic onto soldiers field road. using timestamp data from past photos, i had an idea when the riders would arrive, and when everything would end. i remember it's always been sort of foggy and cold, but this morning was actually quite sunny already and warm. the hub on wheels ride is probably more exciting riding then watching, but it's close to my house so not much effort to wake up and see. i had my 70-300mm telephoto lens looking for photo ops. i didn't contact julie beforehand but i just assumed she and chris would be riding and was happy to spot them and yell out my greetings when they went under the bridge. by 8:50am most of the riders had already passed. i rode home cutting across harvard square and harvard yard.
traveling to belmont, this was just my second time riding the motorcycle with the new windshield. it felt like i had a brand new bike, made me want to ride more the rest of the season. it was also my first time riding with the new windshield during the daytime. i didn't have to put up with scratched shield glare, the improved visibility was refreshing.
i ate some cold leftover rice porridge mixed with some pork floss. i discovered BBC's new thriller bodyguard yesterday and before even finishing the first episode i already downloaded all 4 existing episodes for my mother. she told me this is the kind of show she likes to watch. i also found chinese subtitles from the zimushe.com website. even though she can understand english, having the chinese allows her to follow the show 100%. especially this particular show, where the lead actor (richard madden) has a thick scottish accent that even i sometimes have a hard time understanding.
i helped my father take down the DBJ-1 antenna from the chimney so we could trim it to get better SWR numbers. the problem with antenna trimming is unless you hit it perfectly, you don't know when you have the best results until after you've past peak numbers, and by then the antenna is already trimmed to much and the only way to fix it is to redo the antenna. and that's exactly what happened. initially my father was testing the antenna indoors, but that's not an accurate condition, so he set up a mount outside in the middle of the lawn. he trimmed the antenna by 1/8" at a time. we saw the numbers coming down on the SWR meter. the best we got was 1.30 at 146 MHz, but my father kept trimming hoping to get even better numbers, but after that point the SWR increased instead of decrease, to the point where it's only slightly better than the original DBJ-1 antenna before we started trimming. we mounted it back onto the chimney thinking the elevation would improve the antenna but it actually made it worse. now the only way to fix it is to reattach a 17" section of AWG16 wire to the end of the antenna and then retrim it again.
our retired family friend 90+ years old mr.huang sees himself as a bit of an inventor and has been working on a perpetual motion machine for more than a decade. in fact, my father's first foray into solar energy was back in 2006, piggybacking a shipment of glass solar heating rods on mr.huang's chinese delivery of equipment and parts. that of course didn't go so well for my father, because the rods were so poorly packaged most of them were shattered by the time everything arrived, and the main hot water storage tank was completely missing. anyway, quite abruptly mr.huang announced that he was quitting his experimentation (not surprising, perpetual motion machines don't exist in real world conditions) and asked my father to come to his apartment and take whatever equipment or material we wanted, since he was getting rid of everything.
so my father and i left at 1:40pm, to the rindge apartment near alewife. i can't remember the last time i was here, must've been nearly 40 years ago, when my family first arrived in the US. i don't remember much, but i do remember there was a very distinctive apartment smell, of which now there was no trace of, as these apartments have been renovated all these decades later and are now much improved. the demographics have changed too, for whatever reason there seems to be a lot of eritrean immigrants living here.
besides mr.huang, his daughter and his lady friend were also in the apartment. the floor was covered in sawdust. the living room seemed to be where he'd built his contraption, now mostly disassembled and in parts. a smaller bedroom served as storage, with more materials and equipment. we figured he'd give us a few tools, but he was serious about getting rid of everything. whatever we didn't take, he'd probably throw out. there was a drill press, a benchtop sander, cordless drill, and various boxes of sockets and wrenches and drill bits. there was also a wooden panel mounted with about 100 LED lights, using for measuring energy. mr. huang told us earlier while taking apart his device, a heavy piece of equipment hit his shin and now it was all bruised up.
while were were piling up the equipment onto a homemade wheeled dolly, mr. huang's daughter fired up their imac. apparently they had an animated slideshow presentation to go along with the contraption mr.huang had built. in fact, he'd even secured a patent for the invention, but they wouldn't allow him to file paperwork for the perpetual motion aspect of the machine. much of the slideshow i wasn't sure what was being demonstrated, but i got the gist of it, that he'd somehow invented an engine that utilizes potential energy. the engine could be configured for various energy sources, whether wind/wave/water/manual.
it seemed very rudimentary yet at the same time just a concept as i don't think they actually managed to build this engine. what surprised me the most was the sheer enthusiasm everyone had for this project, which for me still sounded a lot like fantasy. it seemed father and daughter were working closely together in this endeavor, and even his lady friend was very passionate about what he was doing. although i don't believe in what they were building, i was impressed with their energy and passion. and how many people can say they own a patent on something?
we slowly moved everything downstairs, my father moving the car closer so we wouldn't have to carry it all. while he stayed with the car, i went back upstairs with the daughter and lady friend for one last time, this time to grab the drill press.
instead of going straight home, i suggested we fill the empty propane tank sitting in the trunk for the barbecue later today. the closest refill station was the medford uhaul on mystic valley parkway. after refilling, we finally returned home by 4:20pm. my mother was about finished watching all 4 episodes of bodyguard and was asking me when i could get the next episode (airing in the UK tonight).
we got back right in time for the start of the patriots-jaguars game. new england didn't seem to be playing very well, but i was confident they'd mount some sort of comeback later on. while that was happening, i was helping my father with the barbecue. this was our first time using the grill since cleaning out the burner tubes and installing brand new carryovers and ignition switch. it was way better than what we had before, but once the italian sausages when on the grill, the dripping fat would still cause flare ups, though nothing as bad as prior to our repairs. the grill also wasn't leveled, so the oil drips would run down one leg of the barbecue instead of into the grease catch cup. at the very least we could finally follow the grilling instructions for the ribs: grill (450°F) 15 minutes per side before cooking (barbecue, 350&def;F) on low heat. we couldn't do this in that past without the meat getting horribly charred from the high heat. this time around, the ribs were crispy on the outside, juicy and tender on the inside.
midway i noticed the grill temperature was dropping; turns out the existing propane tank ran out of fuel. luckily we caught it in time before it dropped too low. my father swapped it out with the newly refilled tank, but accidentally knocked over a small pyrex lasagna tray perched on the barbecue side shelf, which shattered into a million pieces onto the flagstone. fortunately pyrex trays are easy to come by, nothing that can't be replaced.
after a couple of ribs, a barbecued corn, and a sausage, i was already stuffed. for dessert my father and i finished the black mission figs i bought on saturday. already they were growing moldy, which i washed off in the sink. figs are weird: seemed the closer they are to being rotten, the sweeter they become.
riding home in the dark felt nice. the windshield definitely acts as a good windblock, yet at the same time the low height gives me an unobstructed view over the shield. since street cleaning is tomorrow, there was no parking to be had outside my house and i ended up parking 2 blocks away in my usual faraway spot.
i tried out the new moka pot gasket that arrived on saturday. it was a perfect fit. it also came with a replacement filter but the old one seemed okay so i kept it. i was tempted to brew a cup of espresso, but didn't knowing i wouldn't be able to sleep afterwards (i have low caffeine tolerance). i will definitely brew a cup tomorrow morning to try out the new gasket.
i spent the evening with the giants-cowboys sunday night football game playing in the background. dallas ended up beating new york, the giants didn't score a point until the 3rd quarter.
my aunt told my mother yesterday she was diagnosed with some kind of carpal tunnel syndrome (due to intense knitting) and wouldn't be coming into work for the next 2 weeks. so while my mother manned the cafe this saturday, my father came to pick me up at 10am on an supply run. we were pulling a trifecta today - costco, restaurant depot, market basket.1 going to any costco on a weekend can get crazy but it wasn't too bad. my father tested out a few recliners for my mother, but decided she should come herself to check them out. they were all big though, built for bigger-sized americans, i don't think my mother would even be able to put her feet on the floor sitting in them. next step was restaurant depot - not really a place for browsing, we grabbed what we needed then paid and left. finally the nearby chelsea market basket. it too was crowded, but compared to the somerville store, this was pleasantly uncongested.
close to 1pm, my father was going to drop my off at home, but i said i'd help him unload the supplies from the car, but afterwards he'd drive me to haymarket in boston where i could buy more black plums, then stop by chinatown cafe for some chinese takeout for a late lunch. while we were unloading the car, my mother scolded us for forgetting a few things, including cookies and trout. we also got the wrong brand of lasagna.
we left for boston after 1:30pm, cutting across cambridge via broadway over the longfellow bridge into the city. my father hadn't driven here in a long time (the lengthy longfellow bridge construction essentially made the bridge impassable due to detours and shifting one-ways), and was surprised to see all the new buildings popping up in kendall square.
my father stayed in the car on union street while i quickly jumped out to buy the plums. besides being unusually dense and sweet (these plums have yellow flesh), my father wanted these plums to prepare a traditional sweet plum wine by grandmother used to make. the only ingredients would be the plums and sugar, not even any water or yeast, just natural fermentation. he told me the story of one of his friends tasting my grandmother's plum wine and getting completely drunk. at 5 for $1, i was originally going to buy $10 worth - 50 plums - but when i got there, i noticed they had cases, and asked how much for a whole box ($15). "how many plums in case?" i asked. "a lot," the vendor smiled, "a lot." i decided to get a case, which made the vendor very excited as he clapped his hands to cheer on my decision. instead of handing me the box though, he tossed it to me. i caught it, but he sort of realized what he'd done in his zeal, and quickly asked if i was okay. before i left, i also bought some potatoes from another vendor, 3 lbs. for $2, i got a dollar's worth which was 3 large spuds (my pick, he didn't even bother to weigh them).
we then circled around haymarket and headed to chinatown via the surface road along the greenway. the area was crowded with pedestrians as well as cars. my father said he and my mother should come here one of these weekends. there was a surprising amount of traffic and it took us more than 20 minutes to drive the 1.5 miles to the chinatown cafe. was it crowded everywhere in boston today? because there was also a line at the cafe. i was getting my usual salt and pepper porkchops, while my mother asked me to get the seared duck on rice noodles. after i paid i noticed something was wrong with the order, that i was getting the soup instead of noodles, and had to ask the cashier to change it. the duck took a long time to prepare, and when it was finally done, it looked nothing like what i ordered. i didn't see any rice noodles and there was hardly any duck, mostly other vegetables. i went back again to argue that maybe they got my order wrong, but they told me that was what i ordered. slightly gaslit, i accepted what they said and returned to the car, my father waiting on hudson street. i still wasn't convinced and wanted to go back and order the duck again, but my father convinced me it was okay as we headed back to cambridge.
today was supposed to be sunny but the weather was overcast for much of the day. the sun only peeked out by late afternoon, and by then there was hardly any point, as most of the day's prime production hours were lost in the thick clouds. the final solar production total for today was just 15.45 kWh, most of it being generated after 2:30pm.
my father was going to drop me off back at my house, but i decided to go to the cafe and eat there, so i could also explain to my mother what went wrong. of course this wasn't what my mother ordered, as she picked away at the takeout, eating just the duck. there was some kind of rice noodle on the bottom, but they looked like packets of noodles wrapped in fried tofu, it was something we'd never seen before, perhaps a cantonese specialty. so not only did we forget some things on our errand run, but now we also got my mother's lunch order wrong, it was turning out to be a bad day for her. the one positive was my aunt showed up, said her hands didn't hurt anymore, and that she could return to work. as for me, it was 3:30pm and i was finally having my first meal of the day. at that point i could've waited a few more hours and just eat everything for dinner. the porkchops were very good, i ate too fast and could feel it balling up in my chest, and only managed to eat half of it because i was full.
as for the black plums, we removed the produce stickers and washed and dried them. there was a label on the box that said the plums may have been treated with fludioxonil and chlorine, both as a fungicide. they may also be coated with vegetable oil and/or mineral oil wax. we didn't really save too much by buying a whole case: $15 would've gotten me 75 hand-picked plums, while the box contained 79 plums total, so we got 4 free.
i could've walked back home, but my father gave me a ride so he could pick up the 5L glass fermentation wine jar that used to belong to my grandfather (perhaps my grandmother had even used it at some point). there's not much good tv on a saturday, all the local stations seem to be broadcasting college football games, which i have zero interests, even preempting the news in the early evening. i wasn't very hungry and finished my leftover porkchops later in the evening while watching the latest mission impossible movie on my laptop.
1 don't remember the date, but i think there was one time when we pulled a quadfecta - costco, restaurant depot, market basket, and 88 supermarket. not only did it take a few hours but there was hardly any space left in the car afterwards.
i made a trip to market basket in the early afternoon before leaving for haymarket in boston. it was warm enough that i changed into some shorts and a t-shirt. they were all out of the larger speckled pluots, but one vendor still had the smaller yellow ones for 5/$1. i bought 10. also: 4 avocados for $2, 10 black plums for $2, box of blueberries $1.50, 2 boxes of black mission figs $2, box of multicolored cherry tomatoes $1, 4 bunches of scallions $1, and 1 bunch of cilanto $1.
i biked directly to the cafe to unload my haymarket haul. i left with a container of fried rice for dinner.
finally i went to star market, where they were a few things on sale, including classico tomato sauce and stouffer's frozen lasagna. they already have their autumn decorations and halloween candy on sale.
after reading up on the emerald ash borer, i'm now obsessed with ash trees. yesterday while walking to the cafe i saw my first ash tree on linnaean street. i knew it was an ash because for some reason it had an embossed identification tag. and then just today i discovered another ash tree, this one on harris street. i first became aware of it through it's distinctive samaras all over the ground, and then when i looked up the leaves and bark seem to correspond to an ash tree. native ash trees are critically endangered in the united states due to the ash borers.
i've been sleeping really late every day this week, anywhere from 3-4am. i'm going to try and get some earlier sleep tonight, catch up on my backlog.
after having so much success cleaning out my travel mugs, i did the same to my 40 oz. takeya insulated bottle, my daily thirst quencher. there was a bit of crud at the bottle of the bottle that i tried to scrub away with some baking soda and water, but it just didn't work. after emptying out the bottle, i poured a bit of white vinegar to the bottle and swished it around a bit. like magic, the deposits quickly dissolved. so both baking soda and vinegar both are good at cleaning, but for different things: baking soda works for tea/coffee stains, while vinegar works for hard water deposits. how i got deposits at the bottom of my takeya i'll never know. makes me wonder what i've been drinking all this time whenever i fill up with tap water and ice.
i arrived in belmont by 12:30pm, the first time i left the house in 3 days (due to the rainy weather). i was there to install my new windshield. when i took it out of the box, i was surprised by how small it was. it was crystal clear, compared to my old foggy shield. i spent 40 minutes just transferring the hardware from the old windshield to the new windshield. these brackets will need to be repainted sometime in the future as the black paint was flaking off. i was so happy when everything fit perfectly, because i'd noticed that the new shield is slightly wider than the old one. i was worried that somehow i got the wrong size or they changed the specs and the old hardware wouldn't fit anymore. i then spent another 40 minutes installing it onto the motorcycle, which is a 2-person job. i had to get a towel so i could balance the shield on the front of the bike while i tried to thread in the bracers and screws. i noticed a few fine scratches where the sharp corners of the mounting brackets rubbed up against the polycarbonate, nothing that anyone would notice; but it shows that the shield does scratch (just not shatter). i was finally done by 2pm.
the new lower "low boy" windshield took some getting used to. first of all, it's smaller than the previous custom windshield, to the point where it feels like it's not even there. my eye line sits a few inches above the top of the shield, so i now get a completely unobstructed view of the road. the shield does block the wind from my chest, but it doesn't block my face, so i wonder if my face will get too cold riding in fall and winter. however, if i hunch down just a little bit, i can get my face completely behind the shield. it feels like a combination of riding with a windshield and without one.
i went to the cafe to show my parents my windshield handiwork. my father warned me to be careful about cleaning the windshield, and never clean it with a scouring sponge. as if he had to say anything, i'm going to baby this windshield. afterwards i went to the somerville rite aid to pick up my prescription. because it was so closely timed to my last prescription pickup, the pharmacy wouldn't refill it yet until next week and told me to come back then. i left with some krave lime and chile beef jerky at my mother's request.
my A1433 apple thunderbolt to gigabit ethernet adapter ($13) arrived in the mail today. however when i took it out of its bubble wrap i realized it was a A1463 thunderbolt to firewire 800 adapter. i had to double check my ebay purchase history to make sure i didn't make a mistake; the seller had sent me the wrong adapter! i wrote him back, he replied immediately, very apologetic, said he'd send out the correct adapter tomorrow and that i could keep the wrong adapter. elsewhere, L2 computers finally sent out my macbook pro today, due to arrive on saturday. all that gentle prodding this week seemed to have helped. at this point my expectation is so low, i'm almost expecting it to come back still broken after all these weeks. it will be a true miracle if it's actually completely fixed this time.
i want to go to haymarket again tomorrow, but my cargo bike was still in belmont. so i decided to walk down to the cafe when my parents close up shop and get a ride back to their house so i could grab the bike. we ended up going to burger king first to grab some takeout because arriving in the belmont. i was afraid we'd be stuck in traffic due to rush hour, but my father went on a back road shortcut that bypassed all those cars trying to get onto route 2 by alewife station.
i was shocked when i turned on the television and saw the news: 20+ houses were burning in andover and lawrence after an over-pressurized gas main flooded homes with natural gas. the local news stations were trying to get crews out to the merrimack valley, but couldn't get there fast enough due to rush hour traffic. the view footages were from helicopters. one house in particular, we watched as a small fire licked the entrance way at first but eventually burned the house down entirely within the span of an hour, despite the fire trucks arriving to put out the flames. another house simply exploded, the entire roof (with lovely solar panels) looking like it was dropped back down. there wasn't enough fire trucks to put out all the fires, which were happening all at once. the total reports of house fires shot up to 70+. it was like an apocalypse happening in those towns. my father called a family friend of ours who live in andover but he didn't answer his phone.
i biked home around dusk, the soft colored glow of the setting sun on the horizon disappearing behind me as i pedaled back to cambridge. all the local channels were still broadcasting the merrimack valley disaster coverage. as if things couldn't get any worse, they also shut down electricity in those towns to prevent spark ignition of gas leaks. all residents of those towns were told to leave their homes and go elsewhere, which was easier said than done as the highways were still clogged even hours later. all the while hurricane florence was battering the southern coastal states and news of manafort making a plea deal with mueller.
i downloaded episode 22 of the 2nd season of star trek: the original series, "by any other name". that episode is special in that it features a then-23-years-old barbara bouchet in one of her many american television cameos from the 60's. this was before she went overseas to europe to become a cinematic sexpot. i vaguely remember that episode, beautiful aliens with no emotions, turning people into salty dodecahedrons. i found a copy of an HD remastered version of the episode; though still shown at 4:3 aspect ratio, the clarity is pretty amazing, like watching a brand new show.
unexpectedly, there was more rain today than there was yesterday. it rained for much of the day, preventing me from running my errands, including going to belmont to install my new windshield. all that will have to be done tomorrow.
instead i did some work with the raspberry pi, installing a MQTT server and trying to get a DHT11 temperature/humidity sensor to work. i installed all the necessary libraries to test the DHT11 but i couldn't get a reading. all 4 power pins on the raspberry pi were used up (433MHz transceiver pair, infrared transceiver pair), so i had to power the temperature/humidity sensor from a secondary breadboard powered by a MB102 power supply IC. i never got my infrared transceiver setup to work either, so maybe the problem is conflicting software on the pi. i'll try running the sensors off of a clean raspbian install from a different pi3.
craving some snack but wanting to stay healthy, i made myself some indian popcorn in the afternoon. it was a major production as i had 3 fans running in the kitchen trying to blow out the smell. it's called indian popcorn because i add heaps of indian spices (garam masala), but i didn't have enough salt so it still tasted bland. the first time i had indian popcorn was probably in 5th grade, when an indian classmate brought some to school. it was the most delicious popcorn i've ever had, and ever since then i've been chasing after that same taste but still haven't found it yet. i popped 3/4 cup which i poured into my largest pyrex dish but managed to eat almost the entire bowl in a single sitting.
i watched the italian-spanish crime-thriller ricco (1973). on paper it sounds like a great story, former mafia boss's son getting out of jail and wanting revenge on his father's murderer, but the lead actor - the expressless christopher mitchum - son of robert mitchum - is quite terrible, and seems to be in the movie only to cash in on his famous last name. everyone else however does a good job, including of course barbara bouchet, whom i'm a big fan. the dialogue is dubbed in english but had the option for either (original?) italian or spanish audio, which actually sounded worse. this film also features death by acid, gogo dancers, moka pot cameo, dated judo moves, striptease diversion, bocce balls, henchman castration, hero dying in the end, and gratuitous closeups of bouchet's assets.
since i didn't get any groceries, i had to eat what i had in the house. fortunately there's still plenty of food. in fact, i could probably go a few weeks before i'd finally run out of food. granted, much of is processed, but they keep longer than fresh food. i was going to heat up a lasagna, then thought maybe i'd have some ramen, but finally settled on some xi'an paomo.
i've been trying to figure out the best way to clean my contigo travel mug. i did it once before using a technique now lost that resulted in a perfectly clean inside. i thought the secret was a vinegar + water soak, but i left it for most of the day and there was still brown tea stains. i then tried some baking soda mixed with water, enough to make a slurry. it didn't do anything at first until i started scrubbing with a bottle brush. i noticed it right away, all the areas i scrubbed with the baking soda mix was now clean. it took 3 cleaning but eventually i got the inside looking like a brand new mug. i also have an old contigo that no longer insulates; i remember it too was dirty on the inside, so i tried cleaning that one too until it also looked brand new.
not sure what possessed me, but next i tried cleaning my old moka pot. various coffee drinking roommates have used it. the one who used it the most was italian marco, and he was also the one to melt the plastic handle (i don't mind, it gives me fond memories of his stay). eliza was the last person to use it. she discovered it was leaking from the side, the result of a faulty gasket. not sure why i never replaced it, but i went online and bought some new ones for $6 (3 gaskets, 1 filter disc, arriving saturday). the hardest part was figuring out which moka pot i had. i thought it was the 1 cup version, but turns out it's the 3 cup, each cup being smaller espresso sizes. i read a wikihow saying to use a cream of tartar paste to polish the aluminum moka. i tried it but i didn't really notice any improvement. i next went with the baking soda slurry which seems to work better, especially on the interior surfaces (i had way more baking soda anyway, compared to the tartar cream). later i read baking soda is too abrasive, and cream of tartar is better because of its high acidity, which can also be used to polish silverware.
i didn't see it, but L2 computer wrote me back after i wrote them 2 messages this week and haven't gotten any response back. they said they were testing my machine to make sure it was actually completely fixed this time (and stable), and would either ship out my MBP end of this week or next week. i was afraid i was getting ripped off and they'd already sold my machine for parts.
there was perhaps a bit of rain in the morning but it was dry for the most part, though cloudy throughout the entire day. i of course did nothing but stay inside the house, too lazy even to get groceries though i still had enough food in fridge (my cargo bike is in belmont anyway). i'll go tomorrow, along with the library (to return that robert moses graphic novel) and the pharmacy (pick up the prescription refills that my doctor authorized today). if it's dry enough i'm also going to take down the AC, i don't think we're having anymore heat waves.
GC contacted me via wechat, it took me a while to realize where the chime noises were coming from. he asked if he could get a receipt for his 2 month stay, that his university would be able to reimburse him for the amount. so actually his summer in cambridge was mostly free, and i don't feel bad at all charging him what i did. in fact, i probably could've charged him more if i knew his school was paying for his rent.
my father called in the evening to let me know my replacement windshield arrived today. i had a feeling it would, but it showed up late (after 5pm) so i would've wasted a whole day if i'd gone and waited. i will of course install it tomorrow, excited to have a brand new clear windshield.
i downloaded a copy of bob woodward's fear, the trump exposé. i also snagged the audio book, which sounds like some kind of political thriller. one day a movie will be made about this administration. the book makes some of the actors sound much smarter than i would've believed. so much stuff happened behind the scene, trump is merely the public face, and though he sometimes seems to exert his executive power, the true power are his handlers, who cajole and placate trump into doing what they think should be done. it's really pretty fascinating.
i discovered a few days ago that i still had a spare ESP8266 modeMCU board, despite ordering 3 more off of ebay. i also found a temperature/humidity sensor, it'll give me a chance to code my own manual IoT device without using a commercial paid service like ubidots.
i had a ham and honey mustard sandwich for lunch, some guacamole and chips as an afternoon snack, some oven-baked french bread pizza for dinner. i didn't make too much trash this week, so i didn't bother throwing anything out. i have some compostable waste but i seemed to have solved my fruit fly problem when i stopped using the green bin for a few weeks.
after making a ham & cheese sandwich for lunch, i biked to belmont in the early afternoon. rain was in the forecast, but there seemed to be a period of lull in the evening that i might be able to bike home. already there was a light drizzle by the time i arrived; i put a plastic bag over my bike seat so i wouldn't get soaked. my mother made some noodles so i had a second lunch.
when our barbecue grill replacement parts arrived, my father and i went out to install them. the new ignition starter worked immediately once i put in the battery. my father had thought the old starter might still be okay, and that it was a grounding issue, or perhaps all the AAA batteries we used were faulty. as for the carryover tubes, these new ones were the perfect length, but much thinner than the originals. they also came with more screws and washers than needed. after we installed them and lit the burners, i don't really know if they do too much. supposedly they're supposed to "carry over" the gas and the flame, but each burner already receives its own supply of propane and once one burner is lit, the heat from the flames will automatically ignite the other burners. they do however cover up the side holes on the burners, which are slightly larger on the near ends, which reduced the orange flames.
i contacted ed fong - the maker of the DBJ-1 antenna - to ask about our antenna performance. what i really wanted was an okay to return the antenna for a replacement, but fong wrote me back and told me to call him directly. he picked up right away and knew who i was immediately. he said the fix was simple: just trim the end off of the antenna, a quarter inch at a time. "what if i trim too much?" i asked. he said it was just a simple matter of soldering back a new length of wire. it wouldn't look good, but would revert the antenna back to factory condition. he asked what SWR meter i was using, i told him a surecom, he said those aren't very accurate (he told me the SWR he uses but i didn't recognize the model). he said he tests all his antennas before shipping, and sort of intimated that our DBJ-1 was fine, but if i wanted to trim it so that i get a perfect reading with our SWR meter, that was okay too.
later when it looked like it'd stopped raining, my father and i climbed the roof to install the chimney antenna mount. by the time we finished it'd started raining again. still later, my father went onto the roof again to install the DBJ-1 antenna, without trimming, just to see if it'd perform any better mounted at the most optimal location. the SWR meter revealed there was hardly any chance, so we will definitely need to trim the antenna at some point to get better measurements. performance wise it seemed to be the same as our DIY ground plane antenna, and despite the antennas being so close to each other, there doesn't seem to be any interference.
after dinner it was raining even harder so there was no way i could bike home. instead i put the bike in the garage and got a ride from my father. in order to capitalize on seasoning opening excitement, there were two monday night footballs tonight, jets vs. lions, and rams vs. raiders. only watched the first game, rooting for matt patricia's detroit. unfortunately the lions lost big, 48-17.
i managed to set up a pirate box using a raspberry pi zero w. i also used a 64gb card to give it more space. it was pretty easy to install, just flash the piratebox image (v.1.1.4) onto the card and start up the pi. i logged in using SSH to edit the settings. conceptually it's interesting, but it's difficult to use in real life. after connecting to the pirate box wifi network, the interface is done entirely through the browser. i'd imagine the pirate box to be a wireless repository for movies and books, but it's more of an anonymous bulletin board where people can upload small files. but the difficult comes in actually connecting to the pirate box network. i can do it on my macbook pro, but when i tried using my android or apple phone, because the network doesn't have internet access, the phones will then try to connect to a different network. i managed to get it to work on the phones, but only for a few minutes before it connected to a different wifi network.