i was waiting for leon and his family to leave before heading out myself. he told me last night they were going around 11am, and when the time arrived i heard sounds of footsteps. i went outside to intercept them but they weren't leaving until 1pm. instead they dropped off a bag of groceries on my doorstep, things they didn't finish eating, like a carton of eggs, an unopened box of cereal, and a bottle of wine (moonx red cabernet sauvignon). he asked if i had any milk, i said just half & half, which was perfect because they only needed it for coffee. i went upstairs to say good bye to li ting, she was busy packing up their things. they still needed to go to the library to return some children books, then return the rental car somewhere around copley square. they got a good deal, $400 for a 10-day rental. afterwards they'd grab an uber to the airport. they get back home tomorrow, on the same day that li ting's parents are arriving from china to stay with them for 3 months. li ting asked if i wanted a crab trap, i said okay. i asked leon what their plans for next summer, he said they might go back to beijing, the last time was 3 years ago. he said he may even enroll his kids in chinese school, which if i was a kid i would hate.
it was a little chilly and overcast outside. i didn't even survey the backyard, which is something i've always done, not even to check the perimeters or water the plants. i did take a quick glance at the lotuses, no new aerial leaves. instead i spent most of the day indoors, first putting together a 5 tier wire shelf by the basement entrance (for garden tools and supplies, as well as a place for my father's solar-charged marine battery), then cleaning the sunroom and moving everything down into the basement, including another wire shelf.
the caribbean parade is one of the highlight photo events of the year. ever since i got my upgraded 80D back in the end of june, i was eagerly awaiting this day, having a chance to really put the camera to the test. we were also gifted with perfect parade weather, temperature in the high 70's with a cool breeze.
by the time i woke up this morning, steve and paul were already gone. it dawned on me late last night that leon and his family weren't coming back on friday. but surely they'd be back today saturday, since that's when their flight was? and all their belongings were still upstairs, including whatever they ordered from amazon. but i had no idea when they'd come back. maybe they changed their plans, decided to stay in DC an extra day or two. regardless, i wrote them a nice good bye letter and taped it to the door, just in case they got home and i wasn't here.
i biked down to the community garden to water my plants, figuring that'd be good enough to earn a few days of neglect. i also watered renee's plot, as she told me she wouldn't be here this week. i don't know why she even bothered asking, because her garden is mostly weeds, a real eyesore (like her rat-infested backyard). afterwards i went to walgreens (formerly rite aid) to pick up my prescriptions, which were ready yesterday but i forgot to get them.
by the time i got back there was just 40 minutes left before my departure time. i showered, ate a honey cake for breakfast, got dressed and packed up my gear. jeans and a polo shirt, my 55-250mm lens along with the 18-200mm lens. i almost thought about leaving the 18-200mm at home, or taking the wide angle lens instead. i ended up bringing it because these caribbean parades can get crowded and i needed something for close-quarter work. i was about to leave around 11am when i remembered that the boston caribbean parade never starts on time. though advertised at 12pm, it's always started at 1pm. so i held back until 11:30am, studying my route on google map in the meantime.
i traveled on the outskirts of harvard square to get onto memorial drive then across the BU bridge into mission hill then roxbury, taking the same route i took last sunday to get to the dominican parade. that turned out to be a good dress rehearsal as i biked down familiar roads. once i exited heath street, i traveled down columbus avenue, cutting through egleston square, towards the direction of franklin park. i went up elm hill avenue and parked in the same place i did last year, homestead street. i then walked up elm hill avenue to get onto warren street, following that down to MLK jr. boulevard, the start of the parade route.
even though i left the house late, it was still too early by the time i got to my spot, with more than 30 minutes to go, assuming the parade starts on time at 1pm, which often it doesn't.
i had a liver ultrasound appointment at MGH gastroenterology at 9:30am followed by an appointment with my GI doctor bahn at 10am. i was told not to drink or eat anything 2 hours before the ultrasound. i left the house at 9am, heading into boston on my utility bike, planned on visiting chinatown and haymarket afterwards, do the whole circuit.
there were easily more than 2 dozen people in the gastroenterology waiting room, but i only had to wait a few minutes before my name got called. a hispanic technician brought me to an exam room, where i was asked to lie down on the exam table and lift up my shirt so she could take some measurements with an ultrasound wand. when i found out she was dominican, i told her i went to the parade last weekend; she told me her husband was there to do some audio stuff.
i was getting a liver elastography (fibroscan). unlike a regular ultrasound, this one made repeated thumping noises on my stomach (like the sound you get from tapping a watermelon). i was staring at the ceiling initially but then craned my head so i could see the monitor, where there was an image that looked like tiger stripes.
afterwards i saw doctor bahn. he told me the fibroscan looked normal: my liver was soft (a damaged scarred liver would show up as hardened) but with an elevated fat content that points to fatty liver as the cause of elevated iron levels in my blood, nothing more serious than that. he did dangle the idea of a biopsy to be 100% sure, and would've ordered one if i insisted, but in light of all the evidence i agreed with his diagnosis, and didn't think it warranted further testing. he said i was borderline overweight, and if i lost just 10 lbs. it might very well reverse the fatty liver.
when i told him that back in july i weighed as little as 138 lbs. he was shocked; when they weighed me today i was 150 lbs. i'm convinced that having a roommate actually makes me snack less, because i don't eat indiscriminately when others are around. but once i start living alone again, all pretenses are gone and i eaten whenever i want, which includes snacking. i left after making an appointment a year from now, a followup to see my progress.
my upstairs neighbors came back in the early afternoon, but not the ones i was waiting for. instead of leon and his family, it was steve and paul back early from wherever they went. i figured they'd be here temporarily, before their tenants returned, but the more i waited the more it seemed like they weren't leaving, or staying around until their tenants returned, which seemed like a strange thing to do. maybe something happened to the house and they wanted to speak to leon, who knows, but my imagination was working overtime trying to figure it out. i could've easily just intercepted stevepaul and asked them, or send leon an e-mail, but decided to let it play out.
after a yogurt and a smoothie for lunch, my mother called me to go to assembly row to redeem her $20 coupon from the columbia outlet store before it expired at the end of the month. she dropped off half a watermelon while i loaded up the back of the car with rocks and bricks i had lying around in the backyard.
we tried parking right in front of the store like last time, but that was just a fluke, and there were no open spots. we ended up doing a large loop and parking in the big lot across the street from assembly row. after spending some time at the store, my mother realized when she went to pay that her coupon had already expired just yesterday. she left with a fleece vest.
after getting dropped off back at my place, i rode the bicycle to market basket to get a few things: cases of polar pomegranate seltzers, can of garbanzo beans, boxes of triscuits, bag of salad. when i came back, i swept all the fallen acorns from the backyard and threw them away. i also went to renee's alleyway and moved all her trash cans so they weren't immediately below my windows.
the tub has been slow to drain the past few weeks, i finally had to plunge it today. my technique is with a double plunger, one to block the overflow, the other to do the actual plunging. it's actually pretty fun, like unblocking a dam, and then hearing the satisfying gurgle of a cleared drain. not sure if i succeeded, won't know until i take a shower later tonight. if plunging doesn't work, i may have to resort to chemical means to eat through all that hair and soup scum.
GC got in touch with me tonight via wechat. he has an astrophysicist friend coming to cambridge to do some research for 3 months. i may actually have someone already lined up for october to december (3 months). when i asked him when his friend was coming, he said 9/9 until mid-december. that's almost 2 weeks away, and he still hasn't secured a place to stay yet? that seems a little irresponsible, and raises some warning flags about his friend. i told GC i would ask around, try to confirm the arrival of my potential fall roommate.
for dinner i ate half the salad mixed with half the can of garbanzo beans, with a thousand island dressing mixed with russian when i ran out. i cut up the watermelon half my mother gave me and ate half of that, saving the rest for tomorrow. i watched the pre-season game between the patriots and the panthers. tom brady actually played tonight, but for only a quarter. next week is game 4 of the pre-season, and then after that the regular season begins.
i stopped off at the cafe in the late morning to deliver a watermelon and an english cucumber. my parents made sushi and i took home two boxes for lunch and dinner.
i fell asleep on the couch around 4pm while reading making sense of the troubles. i woke up at 6pm, covered in sweat. it was supposed to rain today, but we got a shower at most, even though the sky darkened up in the afternoon.
for dinner i ate the other half of the sushi, a box of california rolls. eaten with a wasabi shoyu dipping sauce along with slices of ginger. eating sushi leaves me with a clean feeling i don't get with some other foods.
i went to water my community garden plot in the early afternoon. i bumped into helen, who gave me some golden raspberries and introduced me to flowering ironweed. afterwards i followed a female monarch butterfly around the garden, trying to get some good snapshots. it seemed to like zinnias, flying from one patch to another, but wouldn't open her wings.
from there i biked directly to belmont. it was an excuse to get some exercise, but also so i could to see if the woodchuck had breached our defenses. i'm happy to report that at least for today we were able to prevent the woodchuck from getting into our backyard. i could see some empty patches where it tried to dig across the eastern fence, but it couldn't get through the 6in deep of wire fencing. it also didn't try to get across from the chicken wire fencing behind the cypress tree, which was blocked by 4 bricks. later i switched out the bricks with some large boulders i found in the backyard.
i removed a wilted leaf from the southern squash patch. slicing the stem open, i found a fat vine borer worm. i left it alongside the bird bath, hoping maybe some bird might eat it. but not satisfied with that outcome, i took out the fresnel lens i always have in my wallet packet and torched the sucker using the power of the sun.
at least 4 new lotus leaf sprouts have formed. some are growing from underneath the pots, and a few seem like they might potentially be aerial leaves as well. i guess i'll find out in the next few days. out of curiosity i took a look at the underside of the aerial leaf. unlike the coin leaves, it doesn't have as much red pigmentation.
the bottle gourds are also racing to the finish line, trying to set some gourds before the growing season is over. one gourd in particular is far larger than any of the other gourds and seem to be getting bigger every day. my father says at some point we have to prune off some of the gourds otherwise none of them will ripen in time; my own philosophy is to let them grow naturally, in case we have a warm autumn and can harvest more gourds. bottle gourds are purely decorative: we tried eating one once, the bitterest thing we've ever tasted, not fit for human consumption.
after watering the plants i took a survey of the buttercup squashes. i left by 3:30pm. i stopped by the cafe to report to my father the status of the backyard. i also got a bubble ice tea while i was there. my mother was cooking up some sushi rice and was going to make some sushi but the rice wouldn't be ready until half an hour. so i waited, but when she took out the rice, it was overcooked. she also forgot to defrost the imitation crab meat, so sushi will have to wait until tomorrow.
i got back home by 4:40pm. it was warm inside the house but cooler outside so i opened the windows to get some fresh air. i was tempted to turn on the air conditioner. after this week the temperature doesn't seem like it's going to get hot anymore (70/80's), i'm tempted to uninstall the AC, get a jumpstart on my autumn preparations.
with brexit just months away and north ireland soon to find itself in a difficult spot, i've been researching the troubles, downloading a few books as well as movies. i watched hunger (2008) with michael fassbender. a little tough to stomach, but interesting nevertheless, including a 17-minute single take dialogue scene between bobby sands and his priest. after that i couldn't stomach another northern ireland movie so i trashed all the ones i downloaded, including michael collins (1996) with liam neeson. i'll do some reading instead, including making sense of the troubles by david mckittrick.
for dinner i heated up 15 pizza rolls. i was going to make some pasta but i wasn't that hungry, and eating all those carbs on a hot night isn't very pleasant. afterwards i had some watermelon i brought back from the cafe earlier.
it was trash night and i threw out all my old kombucha scobies from the fridge. they're probably not even viable after all this time. the last time i made kombucha was january 2015, so more than 4 years ago. if we ever decide to make kombucha again, we'll just get a fresh one online or locally via craig's list.
i went to market basket this morning to get a few things for my mother: bean sprouts, bananas, avocados. i also got a watermelon. coming back to the house to get my stuff, i noticed joseph's contractors were back at work again. friday was supposed to be their last day! maybe they were here to collect their equipment.
the avocado was to make some sushi, after i told my mother this weekend i was craving some california rolls. they used to sell it at the cafe but not before the city came down on them and said they needed a raw seafood preparation license in order to sell sushi, even though at most they only ever had imitation crab or cooked eel, never anything raw.
unfortunately the avocados weren't ripe enough, so my mother wouldn't be able to make any sushi today. i dropped off everything at the cafe before continuing to belmont. i took the trek utility bike today to get some exercise but also it might rain later today and i didn't want to move my motorcycle from a good parking spot.
the first thing i did when i arrived was to check the perimeters. nothing had been breached, all barriers intact.
i brought some korean soup buns from the cafe but i had rice porridge with kabocha squash and leftover ribs instead, along with some diced tomatoes. my father made some jasmine tea with the flowers from our plants.
we spent a chunk of the afternoon cleaning out the basement. we didn't throw out too much, more like consolidating and reorganizing. we ended up emptying two metal shelving units. the plan was then to move the metal shelving unit from the sunroom down into the basement, along with all the kitchen accoutrements, with the final goal of decluttering the sunroom. but it was insanely hot today, heat index close to 100°F. i tried avoiding going out, but the few times that i did, the oppressive humidity and heat was so thick it felt like a wall.
in the late afternoon the oppressive humidity let up a bit, as the sky suddenly turned cloudy, blotting out the sun. it seemed like we might get some serious weather, maybe a torrential downpour, but it was a sprinkle at best. i did hear the rain barrel catch some water but only enough for the first barrel.
around 5pm i went outside to check the perimeters again. i was shocked to find the eastern fence had been breached. even though i piled some bricks along the bottom edge of the fence, the woodchuck simply dug underneath them like they were nothing, even pushing out a brick. having exhausted all other methods, the only solution now was to burying some wire fencing beneath the wooden fencing. while my father was making dinner, i was outside cutting up a 4ft length of metal fencing. i wasn't wearing gloves and in my haste to get it done quickly, i cut my knuckles on the exposed wires not once not twice but three times, bleeding all over my left hand. i had to go inside and put on a latex glove to keep the dirt from getting in the wound once i started digging.
i checked the southern fence and was surprised to see the woodchuck had also once again tried digging underneath the fencing from our side of the yard. once again, it tried at two different locations, both fortified with fencing so it couldn't get out. like the last time it got in, there didn't seem to be any damage, it was more like reconnaissance, trying to make new tunnels so it can come back at another time. it probably panicked once it realized it was potentially trapped and left through the original hole by the eastern fence. just to make sure however, i went around the yard with a stick, thrashing some shrubbery to make sure the woodchuck wasn't hiding in the yard and that i might accidentally trap it inside.
my father came out to help me bury the wire fencing. it was a little difficult to dig, as we had to climb over the pile of logs to get to the space at the fence bottom. we also discovered a small tree root which we had to snip off with some pruners. we ended up burying half of the wire fencing, about 6-7in. worth underground, which seemed to a good enough depth for the southern fence perimeter. because this was the front side of the wooden fence, there wasn't a bottom rail that i could push the top edge of the wire fencing under, so instead i had to staple the wire fencing onto the wood fence to keep it in place. we also piled some logs in front of the fence to block any visible gaps so the woodchuck wouldn't be tempted to dig through.
my father had dinner ready by the time my mother came home from the cafe. i applied some liquid bandage on the cuts on my knuckles: it hurt like crazy when i brushed it on but once it dried it was fine, better than putting 3 bandaids across my fingers.
i got a phone call this morning at 9am, from a number in winchester i didn't recognize. normally i'd just ignore it, but for some reason i decided to answer it. at first i thought it was a wrong number. then the guy on the phone said he was in front of my house and said something about installing a dryer. only then did it dawn on me: this was the electrician here to do the dryer hookup. somehow he managed to get in upstairs but steve and paul were nowhere to be found so he called me, the emergency contact. it would've been nice if steve or paul had told me the electrician was coming. also: who opened the door for them?
i ended up texting steve to let him know his electrician was here waiting for him. i also e-mailed them. i went outside to speak with the electricians. he was kind of ticked off because he was here as a favor on a sunday morning, and they weren't even here. it wasn't until almost 10am did paul finally call back the electrician. paul and steve were actually coming back today, but not until the afternoon. later throughout the morning i heard the electricians banging around upstairs and the basement. if i hadn't known, i might've called the police because i wasn't expecting anyone to be at the house.
while chatting with renee outside, i saw joseph arriving. i thought he was done, but he was back to pour some more concrete after renee complained about the unleveled walk.
i debated long and hard this weekend as to whether i wanted to go see the dominican parade this sunday in JP or go furniture shopping with my parents on tax-free weekend. in the end, after my mother decided she didn't want to get a new sofa after all (too much hassle), it made my decision easier. i had a greek yogurt for breakfast, used the bathroom one last time, applied some sunblock on my arms and face, then finally leaving via motorcycle around 11am.
i was trying out a new route this time, same old way across the BU bridge to get to jamaica plain, but getting off of the jamaicaway at riverside and looping around to get onto south huntington avenue and onto heath street. i then take heath all the down until i hit columbus avenue, then i navigate to ritchie street along marcella playground to find parking. i arrived by 11:30am.
i could see the police already barricading parts of the street. i walked south along columbus avenue, towards egleston square, then kept walking until i reached franklin park. i was hoping to see the front of the parade, but it seemed to be getting sparser the farther i walked, the only people around were locals camped out on lawn chairs on the sidewalks waiting for the parade to start. so i headed back to egleston square.
not sure when i first realized my mistake. i should've realized something was wrong when they closed off only the western side of columbus avenue (southbound). kept looking south, thinking the parade would approach from there, but then i heard commotions from the north. that's when i realized the parade was coming from the north to south, from centre street. i got my geography mixed up, thought centre street was to the south.
so i ended up waiting longer for the procession to arrive, when i could've just waited at jackson square (in hindsight, that's where i remember watching the past parades). but where i was from egleston square was just as good, uphill so i could see the parade slowly making its way southward. i was also standing south facing north, which made for good light exposure on this sunny day. it was nearly 1pm before mayor marty walsh started approaching egleston square.
i've been to the dominican parade just twice, once in 2007, once in 2010. i remember the parades were small but lively. in the nearly a decade's time since my last visit, the procession seemed to have expanded. it's still a small venue, and i didn't see that many other photographers if any at all, which meant i got all the attention from the posing parade marchers. i was also probably the only asian person there.
i had my 55-250mm lens, which seems to be my go-to lens for parade photography. i also carried my 18-200mm, but i only used it once before the parade started to get some architecture photos. could be just my imagination, but the 18-200mm is not as sharp as the 55-250mm lens. i never noticed it before because i didn't have anything to compare it with (other than my 70-300mm, a lens i almost never use now), but since getting these new lenses, i'm very pro 55-250mm. i shot in aperture priority, f/8, exposure compensation stepped down to -0.7. ISO was set to auto, but in hindsight i should've put it on 400 or 800, because occasionally the exposure evaluation would get it wrong and shoot in ISO 100 with a low shutter speed when i want a high shutter speed to capture the action. that tip will come in handy next saturday when the annual boston caribbean parade happens. i also had my earplugs, which i always carry in my camera bag: you need them to keep from going death when a speaker car goes by.
there were a bunch of girls wearing different colored dressed. they looked interesting but i didn't know the story. later i found out they were supposed to be muñecas sin rostro, faceless dolls, something indigenous to the dominican republic.
instead of flatbed speaker trucks, here at this parade they had speaker cars with towers of speakers either mounted on car roof our wall of speakers mounted on an open hatchback.
the procession had passed egleston square by 1:40pm. i went back down to ritchie street to retrieve my motorcycle, about an 8 minute walk. from there i retraced my steps, going back to cambridge via heath street, my new found shortcut to jamaica plain and dorchester/roxbury.
back at home i bumped into margot. we got to talking about laundry and she asked me if i had a washer and dryer. i told her yes, i had an stacked in-unit model, and then decided to give her a tour of the house, as she'd never been inside before, at least not since i moved in more than 17 years ago. her house is the only one of the 4 similar units that i haven't seen before, other than through the windows, although i have been to the 3rd floor of that house when i was house hunting back in 2002.
i packed up my things and got ready to ride to belmont, but i ran into joseph, we was loading up his truck. i asked him to send me the photos of the finished gutter work (he was supposed to do that a month ago). everything seemed to be happening all at once, as steve and paul showed up. i was hoping i wouldn't run into them but glad i did, because i was able to learn they'd only be here for one night, leaving tomorrow for a weeklong plane trip somewhere. of course they didn't apologize for not being here this morning and i had to be the point man for their electrician work, even though they didn't tell me about it beforehand.
i arrived at my parents' place by 3pm. i saw my father driving away in the opposite direction. my mother told me he was going to the cafe to help my godmother's son finally move his motorcycle after all these years (at least half a decade?). it'd been sitting in storage all this time, taking up space. originally it was in the shed, but then moved outside hoping it'd give weiwei the impetus to move it. but years later it's still sitting there. we've asked him to move it every single year, and every single year he said he would, only to break his promise. until today.
my mother and i watched the whole move on webcam. there was a point where it looked like he wasn't going to move the bike (seized carburetor, rusted wiring, who knows), but then we saw weiwei get on the bike and finally ride it away.
my sister came home with hailey and showed her the solar fountain. her dog then spent the rest of the day biting the sprinkles until we finally had to call her inside, otherwise she'd be outside indefinitely.
a perimeter check showed that the woodchuck didn't break through the renewed defense on the eastern fence.
in the late morning the kids upstairs were ringing my doorbell. i thought they were just messing around but they actually had something to give me: a tin of dutch stroopwafels. they were packing up their rental SUV, getting ready for the 8 hour drive. they were leaving a little late, wouldn't get there until 7-8pm, and maybe even later if they hit traffic along the way. the kids then came into the house to play with some of my gadgets (light switch remote, infrared temperature gun). the parents told me that stroopwafels are best with coffee. leon said they'd be back on friday, and maybe do another barbecue if they get back early enough. he also said an amazon package was arriving today and asked if i could bring it in for them.
after they left i started making lunch: scrambled eggs (2 eggs, half & half, chopped scallions), kielbasa sausages (heated until crispy in the toaster oven), some watermelon cubes i already had on hand, and a mug of decaffeinated hazelnut cream coffee. i thought the stroopwafels were just going to be waffle cookies, i wasn't expecting they'd have a soft filling on the inside. for my money, i think i still prefer the italian pizzelles (remind me to get some the next time i'm at the supermarket).
in the afternoon i walked down to the community garden to do some watering. wayne was there, he never seems to remember me even though he's called me on several occasions in the middle of the night asking if i could water his plot for him while he's away. i secretly covet his plot: should the day arrive and he ends up giving his own garden, i'm going to try to get it through the lottery. anyway, while i was there, i saw a few butterflies: red admirals and american ladies.
in all the years i've lived here, i never thought to put up a clothesline in my backyard. the problem is i hardly get any sun during the summer, and never thought it was even possible to dry clothes out there. but clothes can dry even without the sun, as long as it's dry outside. on a few rare occasions that i've had to dry clothes on the line (like when my dryer broke), i just draped them over the back of chairs or made makeshift clotheslines in the kitchen.
just so happens i had a coil of clothesline rope i bought from the dollar store a few days ago. so i went online and researched proper clothesline knots. i ended up tying a bowline knot on one end, and a midshipman's hitch on the other end. the advantage of the hitch is that it's adjustable, but still won't slip. i practiced a few times last night, looking at different diagrams to make sure i'd done it correctly.
after i put up the clothesline, i did a load of laundry, including the bedsheets from the guest bedroom. unfortunately i started too late, after 3pm, and didn't hang the wash up until around 4pm. i thought i'd need a ladder or one of those clothesline poles, but i found out i can just as easily reach the rope while standing on the built-in deck bench. once night came around, i didn't want to leave the clothes outside because it would remain wet from the dew. luckily the sheets were dry by the most part, just some clothes, so i ended up draping them on the back of chairs to air dry indoors.
there's still 2 weeks left in august, but if we keep our production constant, for sure we'll break last august's numbers. already we've had 10 days above 40kWh+; last august we only had a total of 10 days of 40kWh+. we might even challenge last month's production, which set the record for the single highest production in a month.