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GC and i have a weekend routine of making a trip to market basket sometime in the late morning. he needs the service of my cargo bike to bring groceries back, and i go along just to have something to do, picking up a few things as well, though i typically go again later in the week (typically monday or tuesday). the weather was surprisingly cold with temperature in the 70's, after a heatwave last week with a still hot and humid 80's yesterday at the beach.

market basket didn't seem very busy today, maybe a lot of people were on summer vacation, judging from the short checkout lines, although the bike rack was nearly full. i grab a few things for making tuna fish sandwich next week. GC always seems to get the same things: stocks of on seafood, including a bag of frozen shrimps, a package of frozen mussels, and two packages of white fish; a large cut of beef; vegetables including tomatoes, green peppers, garlic, scallions, and lettuce. judging from the food he buys he eats pretty healthy although a bit bland in its consistency. he rare gets any junk food, but when he does it's typically ice cream.

i left for harvard square soon after we came home, to visit the nearby verizon wireless office. i thought about inviting GC for some IHOP, but i wasn't sure how long i'd take taking phones and was also afraid IHOP would be busy during peak brunch time. maybe another weekend, besides we already had a big buffet lunch yesterday. i parked on the bike rack by the harvard science building then faced the gauntlet of tourists in harvard yard to get to harvard square proper.

for some reason i was expecting a large crowd at the verizon office but it was empty. the handful of salesman standing around the showroom floor seemed confused to see a customer. i actually had to approach one of them instead of them asking me if they could help. the guy i spoke with seemed knowledgeable enough, but the answer he gave me seemed wrong. i was asking about the motorola moto G4 plus XT644 i was thinking about getting for my father, but i wanted to make sure it worked on verizon. the phone itself is advertised as working on all carriers (AT&T, t-mobile, verizon, sprint) but i read conflicting reports online of people having trouble activating their moto G4. anyway, the guy said that all new phone things days support all the carriers (GSM & CDMA). that sounded fishy to me. but i also asked if the service to upgrade from a simple flip phone to a smart phone was free, and he said yes. that's all i really cared about.

cutting through harvard yard again, i retrieved my bike and returned home. GC was watching westworld in the living room, i told him i was leaving for belmont the rest of the afternoon. i changed to the faster fuji bike and made my way to my parents' place. along the way i visited a neighboring yard sale (nothing interesting) and found some free books on the sidewalk (nothing worth keeping).

my mother warmed up some leftover noodles for me for lunch when i arrived. she told me how she almost fell through the ceiling while she was up in the attic, accidentally stepping on a loose plank that flipped up, hitting her in the teeth and causing her to smash her knees and her knuckles, which were now all bruised up. despite her injuries, after i finished eating, she pushed me to take her on the bike path beside the belmont high school, the one she always sees but never visited before.

the path is actually an extension of the minuteman bike trail. i'd taken it once a long time ago, back when they were first installing it and the path wasn't yet complete, making a detour out into an office park. a lot has changed since then, and now there's a boardwalk that takes you into the mystic river watershed with a host of lovely native flowers. it's actually very nice, nothing like the overgrown dump i saw back in 2011. the path also goes directly to alewife station and connects to the minuteman trail, forking either to arlington (arlington center) or somerville (davis square).

GC's coworker showed up again around 8:45pm to watch another new episode of game of thrones, right when GC and i were about to finish watching another episode of westworld. "should i remove my shoes?" i heard him ask, which seemed strange because he's already been here before and you always assume you take off your shoes in a chinese person's home unless notified otherwise. i watched to see if he brought anything this time, as advertised. at first i thought he arrived empty-handed again, but fished out 3 bottles of sierra nevada pale ale from his backpack. just 3 bottles, no more, no less. you figured if you were going over to somebody's house you bring a six-pack at least. i had some cream puffs thawing on the coffee table and this coworker helped himself without asking. none of this bothered me, but he probably didn't know he was under a microscope and being scrutinized on everything he was doing. at least brought beer even though i typically don't drink beer (if he brought hard cider though, he'd score points for being considerate since that's what we drank last sunday).

i went down to the community garden this morning to check up on my plants. a few small tomatoes that reddened enough that i picked them off and ate them on the spot. the eggplants are of a size that can be harvested but i'll give them a few more days to fatten up still (though they seem like they're lengthen instead of gaining additional girth). i wasn't expecting it since they're new transplants, but there might be a possibility i might actually see some monkshood flowers this season and it looks like there might be some emerging flower buds.

returning home, the front garden looked a little parched so i spent some time watering the plants around my house. for some reason there seemed to be an awful lot of mushrooms (mainly puffballs) sprouting in the backyard. i always wonder if puffballs are edible because i often seem them chewed up by squirrels.

we were leaving for revere beach via MBTA at 11am. i didn't think li was coming until GC told me he texted him to say he was coming after all.

it ended up taking us a little over an hour to get to revere beach via red-orange-blue MBTA lines. the longest wait was at the orange line stop at downtown crossing, in hindsight we should've gotten off at park street and taken the green line one stop to government center instead. the blue line was crowded, probably a lot of people heading to the beach on this hot day. i'm now of the opinion that strollers are the bane of public transportation, especially these modern day ones that are built extra large or can seat several toddlers, blocking exits and causing unwanted congestion and mayhem on the subway trains. the blue line is the line i ride the least often, so it was interesting seeing all the stops i didn't recognize. we finally arrived by 12:20pm.

the first time i visited the revere beach sand sculpture competition was 10 years ago, when i came with julie. the last time i was here was in 2015, when i came with bruce. both times were on a weekday, both times were by car, that's why it felt so strange for me to coming here via MBTA. i believe 10 years ago it was more of a competition but now it's sort of evolved into a full-blown festival, with food trucks and sponsors hawking merchandise and services, with live music and some carnival rides. sure, there were more people than on past visits, but part of the spectacle when one comes to revere beach is the people watching.

it's really amazing the level of craftsmanship involved in each sand sculpture. sometimes the subject matter can be kind of abstract (almost like the stream of consciousness doodles one would draw in school), but there's no deny the expertise involved. as there are some sculptors from abraod (one russian, two canadians), the festival can be touted as an international event. what always made me curious are artists who come from areas of the country and the world not known for their beaches. where do they then learn how to sand sculpt?

a bit after 1pm we left revere beach and went to the flaming grill and supreme buffet, a 20 minute walk through lovely residential revere. it's probably the cheapest buffet with the widest selection you will find in the greater boston area. i've only been here for dinners, but their lunch rate - even for satuday - is just $9.99 per person. i love buffets but i don't like bad buffets, and they're typically more about quantity than quality. you basically get what you pay for. i had to consult google maps several times in order to navigate, as i'd never walked to flaming grill before. eventually we found it after a long trek (at one point crossing a busy semi-highway that didn't seem like it was designed for pedestrian crossing) in some hot but dry weather.

i brought GC here knowing he loves seafood. i saw him spooning a pile of green mussels onto his plate. he came back with two plates of food, including some teppanyaki (which i've never had here before). as this was the lunch menu, they didn't have the crab legs, but those would've only interested GC as i'm not a big fan. nevertheless, the selection they did have was still plenty given the price. my 4 plates of food works out to just $2.50 a plate, which is a steal. i was going to treat but we then decided to split the bill equally.

fortunately we didn't have to trek the 20 minutes back to revere beach station, as there was a closer MBTA station, beachmont, that was only 8 minutes away. we walked around the perimeter of the defunct suffolk downs racetrack, passing by rows and rows of empty stables behind chained and barricaded fencing. i'd never been to this area before so it was all very new and exciting. next to the station was a place called beachmont roast beef which i might have to come back one of these days and try. the train arrived by 3:20pm, taking us back into boston. i decided instead of getting off on the orange line, we got off at government center to take the green line one stop to park street before catching the red line. we finally arrived in harvard square by 4pm.

a long day speaking with 2 solar installers, neither of whom provided me beforehand information on their visiting agent and what they'd be doing. first up was level solar at 11am. JOHN was our agent, sporting a level solar polo shirt. we soon realized that level solar was not the right company for us. for one thing, they're primarily a solar lease company. he kept talking about PPA's until i finally stopped to ask him what that stands for. they exclusively use panels from certainteed, a company i'd never heard before, and rated at 285w, less than the cheapest chinese-made hanwha qcell 295w panels. they use optimizer/inverter technology with everything mounted on the outside of the house so their technician can better monitor the panels (this is only necessary if your panels are leased). finally, their software for checking the panels can only do total output, not per panel. it just didn't sound like a good fit. my father had to leave around noon, which was also the time we wrapped up the meeting. JOHN took photos of the attic and electricity panel box. he said his site surveyor would come sometime next week, unannounced (unless i wanted to know beforehand), and then pushed for another meeting next friday 11am.

i stayed in belmont to wait for the next appointment which was at 3pm. my father came back home around 2pm. we waited in the hot house, finally turning on the crapping sharp floor unit air conditioner which doesn't really work. when 3pm rolled around, i got a call from luca of united solar telling me that their consultant would be 25 minutes late. it gave me a chance to ask who exactly was coming. somebody named frank, and he was only a site surveyor, just hear to do measurements and take photos.

frank ended up arriving in a white van 45 minutes later from their malden HQ. he had a serious expression and didn't smile very much, never even bothering to apologize for being an hour late. we first went in the basement so he could photography and measure the electricity panel. we asked him some questions (what panels do you use?) but he couldn't really answer any of them, passing the buck to the salesguy, which means another scheduled visit until we can finally get a price quote. next frank worked his way to the attic. it was already a hot day, and up in the attic it was easily over 100°F. unlike JOHN, frank actually climbed into the attic to take more detailed photos and measurements. we gave him some paper towels when he came back down, drenched in sweat. finally he went outside to survey the roof. he brought ladders but we had our own so he used that instead. while he was up on the roof measuring and photographing, my father and i were down below, sometimes watching, sometimes acting busy to pass the time. he was finally finished by 4:30pm, in which point my father and i promptly left. my mother was biking home but i wasn't going to wait because my potential next roommate was coming to my house at 6pm to see the place.

as GC and li wouldn't be here until another hour at least, i had time to take a shower and relax a bit. i heated up some leftover youyugen soup i brought back from belmont for dinner. thinking about the two solar companies that showed up today, neither of them seemed right. level solar was primarily a solar lease outfit so that wouldn't be a good fit. united solar annoyed us with being late and sending out a surveyor when we thought we'd be speaking with a sales agent. now the only we're left with was boston solar, and the agent i spoke with on the phone (john) still haven't gotten back to me with his contact info, although his surveyor was arriving monday afternoon, and an appointment which john himself is scheduled for the the first day of august.

GC and li finally showed up. i'd never met li before, a young man in tinted-glasses with spiky hair. he had a way of squinting his eyes and enthusiastically nodding whenever he agreed with something, which was often. at first i was a little taken aback when he said he wanted to see the place first. i was under the impression that he was in a difficult position because he wanted to rent a room above my grand uncle's place in december so didn't want to renew his lease which expires in september. his original plan was to sign the lease anyway but break it to move in december (forfeiting his $500 deposit). but staying for 3 months at my place would be a temporary bridge so he wouldn't have to renew his lease. he seemed to like the place, which is easy to do when he's currently sharing an apartment with 5 other people. he also heard from GC that i've been taking him out every weekend, which is just a perk of staying here. li said since he's arrived in boston back in february, he hasn't really gone anywhere. when i asked him if he's decided to live here, he said he'd have an answer by tomorrow, which was a strange answer, but i figured he'd want to sleep on it before deciding.

li chatted a little bit with GC in the living room. i found out li's originally from guangzhou province, so naturally he speaks cantonese. unlike GC who's associated with the nanjing university astrophysics institute, li hails from shanghai. i asked him if he knew AT, the very first chinese astrophysicist to live at my place more than a decade ago, and he said yes, and that AT is now a manager at their institute. it was interesting seeing the dynamic between li and GC; as li's currently working on his phd, he looks up to GC since he's a postdoc and has already gone through all the things li's going through now. li seemed like a good guy so i invited him to come with us tomorrow to revere beach to see the sand sculptures then get some buffet for lunch. he said he'd think about it and let us know in the morning, since he has two telescope viewing time reservation proposals to write this weekend. li left shortly afterwards, riding his bike which he locked to the front porch railing.

i finally finished words of radiance today while waiting for the solar consultants to arrive. once again i experienced goosebumps while reading one of the remaining chapters last night. now i can't wait for oathbringer, the third book in the series, which won't come out until mid-november. the anachronistic dialogue is still jilting at times, but the overall story is sound and the payoff epic.

today marks the beginning of a marathon session of meeting with 4 various solar energy vendors over the next few days: new england clean energy today, level solar and united solar tomorrow, then boston solar monday. i made the boston solar appointment this morning when a consultant (john) finally got in touch with me. he told me something very interesting: that direct energy solar was actually going out of business, that they weren't even doing commercial installs anymore, and employees were getting laid off, including our former agent jonathan. i don't know if it's just industry gossip, but if it's true, maybe we were lucky not to sign with them.

i knew john was calling from home because i could hear his children in the background. it reminded me of the clip of the children bursting into the room during their father's BBC interview. i tried to get a price quote from him, but like all these sales associate, they require a face-to-face consultation before they do that, which at this point is a waste of time. the appointment on monday is just for an engineer to do some measurements; the actual meeting won't be until august 1st, as john is booked up all next week.

i went to water my garden this morning, while GC was still in the bathroom. it was already a hot and steamy day. i'm rarely there during the mornings, so it was interesting to see that my plot was already sunlit while dave's more eastern plot was still in partial shade. perhaps my plot get the same amount of sunlight that he does, except i get more morning light and he gets more afternoon light. i was there for nearly half an hour, watering then doing some weeding then taking some photos. i figured GC had already left for work but was surprised to find him just leaving the house around 10am. it probably makes me a hypocrite for saying this, but i can't stand lazy roommates, especially one who's morning routine coincides with mine. i will be glad when he finally leaves in 3 more weeks.

my potential next roommate contacted me this morning. name li, he wanted to know if he could drop by sometime to check out the place. as i probably wouldn't be home today until later in the evening, i told him he could visit tomorrow after work.

i made a salmon cream cheese bagel for breakfast, then left by around 11:20am. first to porter square star market to buy some cherries on sale (final few days), where there was also a marching band marching through the supermarket. not sure the special occasion, but i ignored it for the most past, though did take a few snapshots. then to the hess gas station on mass avenue where i filled up the tank. i've noticed the motorcycle has been acting a little weird the past few rides, like not enough gas is going into the engine and feeling like it's going to peter out. not sure what's causing it, maybe excess oxygen in the intake. hopefully refilling the tank fixes this problem.

i arrived in belmont with a few minutes to spare before our 12pm appointment. my father was already home. we were outside looking at possible conduit pathways when roy arrived. roy began by taking some measurements outside the house. we thought maybe he'd have to climb the roof (we didn't see bring any ladders) but used some creative ways to get his numbers, including stretching out a tape measure (easy because my parents' place is only a single floor) and counting shingles. he also did something i'd never seen before: he had a device mounted on a long extendable pole that apparently measures the light exposure and roof tilt.

afterwards we went inside so he could crunch some numbers. roy seemed more like an engineer than a salesman. he fumbled with his laptop, using the wifi hotspot from his phone to get online. he said his company had done a few installs in belmont, but was surprised when he told him belmont requires panels to have a 1 foot offset from the edge of the room. he called the town looking for answers but after a few redirects ended up on an answering machine. he also went in the basement to check our electricity panel and the hot water heater. he didn't say this, but i had a feeling he thought we were specing out a system with too many panels (27+) that we didn't need, covering our current energy usage by 200%. at one point his laptop died (overheating?) but he managed to revive it sometime later after doing a partial presentation from his phone.

new england clean energy uses 3 different types of panels, priced from least to most expensive: hanwha qcells 295 (chinese), LG 320 (korean), and sunpower 335 (american). roy had samples to show us (not the LG's though). up until this point i thought LG's were the only companies to have all-black panels, but that's not the cause. sunpower has them too, and a type that doesn't even have the lines so you can't even see the individual cells.

the price he gave us for an LG 320 27-panel system was $33k before any tax incentives. he didn't offer any additional discounts. the only thing that made the price somewhat bearable was he told us about the mass solar loan program, something we'd never heard about before. apparently the state his a low-interest loan program where people with lower incomes who can't take advantage of the full tax credit can apply for a loan that pays 20-30% of the principal of the loan (which can amount to $6000-9000 worth of savings based on our system). the only catch was the paperwork takes a while (about a month after signing, provided you're able to qualify and secure the loan), and with their backorder of current installs, actual installation won't be until probably 4 months down the line, sometime in november.

roy finally left after 2pm. my father left soon afterwards to pick up my mother and the dog.

i love praying mantises but it's uncommon here in new england, at least i haven't seen them all that often. i've definitely seem them elsewhere, from costa rica (2003) to southeast asia (myanmar 2005), to china (zhaoxing dong village guizhou 2006, changshou 2013). i've also seen mantisflies before, which are not related to true mantises. the very first time i've ever seen a mantis here in massachusetts was actually in norwood back in september 2005, in a parking lot of all places. the next month i had my second mantis sighting at ponkapoag bog. the first time i'd ever seen a mantis in belmont was june of last year. then this month alone i twice spotted tiny brown mantis babies (6th, 13th). today while watering the garden i finally spotted my first adult mantis in belmont (actually subadult since the wings haven't developed yet), a green male european mantis. i grabbed the dSLR and spent some time documenting it.

the one cool thing about mantises is they seem more intelligent than your typical insect because of the way their head swivels to look at you. and their pseudopupils make it look like they're staring right at you. this particular mantis was a subadult because its wings haven't fully formed yet. it was a male from the longer abdomen. my educated guess is its a european mantis but i wasn't able to see the characteristic "eyespots" on its armpits. it was still a small specimen at 1 inch long. all around various species of bees were visiting the lavender, but i think the mantis would be no match for the larger bees; it was probably hoping to catch a smaller drone fly.

i asked GC if he knew this li guy who was interested in seeing the place tomorrow. he looked at the name and said he's one of the guys he plays badminton with on a weekly basis. i told him the situation and just so happens they have a game tomorrow afternoon. i asked GC if he could bring li back to the house in case i was delayed. i then texted li the plan.

JUL

19

2017

jonathan from direct energy solar called me this morning. at first i didn't understand what he was saying but then it hit me: he was telling me that his company was no longer doing residential installs, and now focused exclusively on commercials. the company-wide announcement was made a day after we met with him, that's why the engineer never came last week. so just like that, all those e-mails and discussions and phone calls and meeting was for nothing. i asked him if he could recommend some other solar companies. he told me boston solar and united solar were two companies to look into. i called my father to tell him the bad news. then i got in touch with the 2 aforementioned solar companies asking for quotes. later i contacted 2 additional companies based on good online reviews, level solar (which has a huge presence in new york) and new england clean energy.

every single one of these solar companies decided to call me just before lunch. i was on the phone with ryan from boston solar when i heard the sound of call waiting. new england clean energy (hudson) left me a message so i called them back. while i was talking with amy (making an appointment for thursday for roy to pay us a visit), i heard two more call waiting interruptions. one was from a new york area code (islip) so i assumed it was level solar, the other a number from athol, perhaps united solar. none of them left a voicemail but level solar sent me an e-mail with some contact info. as it was already lunchtime, i waited until the early afternoon to call them back. i talked with a young man named norrin, who was adamant that i speak face-to-face with an agent first before giving me a quote. i made an appointment for friday 11am. later in the afternoon, united solar called me (from a brookline number, not the one from athol) and we made an appointment for friday 3pm. so just in a span of a day i managed to talk with 4 different solar energy companies and book appointments with 3 of them. i made more progress in a day than we did the past few months. hopefully these appointments will go quick, since we're already familiar with how solar works. we just need prices.

maybe not going with direct energy solar is a good thing. jonathan did say they weren't the cheapest (nor the most expensive), so maybe we can get the price down even further; although the price direct energy gave us was the lowest of all the solar companies we've talked to so far (amergy, american solar).

i planned on going to market basket to get some groceries. tonight i was thinking of making either chicken lasagna or chicken tikka masala (boneless chicken thighs were on sale) (a more complicated recipe that involves broiling on a non-stick wire rack). as it was a hot day, i didn't want to cook, so finally decided some tuna fish sandwich would be best. then i realized i actually have a lot of food in the refrigerator. yes, mostly breakfast food, but there was enough in the house that i didn't need groceries this week. so i ended up not going. the only time i left the house was to move the bicycles to the basement and relocate my motorcycle onto my street before covering it up.

GC came home around 6:30pm. he immediately paid me next month's rent. i rarely have a roommate who pays on time. he explained to me why it was only 3/4th of the total because he would be leaving for amherst either on the 10th (thursday) or 11th (friday), depending on whether or not a former classmate can come pick him up. originally i was just going to charge him for the entire month regardless, but i didn't contest his reasoning. no sense making him pay for a week he's not here, and he won't be coming back either, going directly from amherst to logan airport on his way back to alabama.

shortly after GC came home, it suddenly started to rain. torrential downpour, the kind that quickly flooded the streets. it didn't last very long, 20-30 minutes at most. glad i didn't go water my garden plot since this more than takes care of the watering.

for dinner i made some sausage oatmeal. earlier, for lunch, it was an onion bagel with salmon cream cheese. GC didn't do any seafood again tonight, so it meant another stink-free evening. he retired to his bedroom after dinner, even though earlier he was asking me about westworld on HBO.

i noticed the light in GC's bedroom were closed around 9:30pm. did he go to sleep already? but when it came time for my own bedtime, i noticed they were open again. then around 1:30am i heard cooking in the kitchen that last for an hour. GC is a slow (and loud) chopper, it could take him 15-20 minutes to chop all the vegetables for his stew. at least he wasn't whistling, which is something he likes to do occasionally. i was curious to investigate but decided to give GC some privacy as he works out his new weird schedule. he's gone in 24 more days anyway (3 more weekends).

the last time i watered my garden plot was back on wednesday, followed by a thunderstorm and morning rain on thursday. i did visit the plot on friday (twice in fact), but spent the weekend away from the community garden. i finally went down today to water my plants. a few days of neglect wasn't going to be a problem, not after all the rain we got last week. watering today meant i wouldn't need to come back tomorrow if i didn't feel like it.

tomatoes are progressing, and one of the eggplants is over 5" long now. eggplants are kind of weird because they don't produce a lot of fruits per plant, not like tomatoes. they're also slow to grow, another thing they don't have in common with tomatoes. but they love the heat more than any other vegetables, and it seems like the hotter it gets, the better they do. they don't get blight like tomatoes, which makes me wonder if i should plant more eggplants than tomatoes next season. eggplants do get flea beetles, but i never had them here in the community garden (i did get them in belmont, but a couple of diatomaceous earth treatments took care of that problem.

my mother told me that somebody else is looking to stay at my place for 3 months, from september to november. i said no immediately, but it's easy money. as much as i hate living with roommates, the cash it provides is hard to say no to, especially since i still don't have a job. plus this guy regularly goes to the cafe so my parents have chatted with him and they think he's a good guy, spends most of time at the office, even weekends. that sounds like an easy roommate. if this roommate does end up moving in, i may possibly have gone this entire year where i had a roommate every single month (though not the entire months).

my mother told me something else: she said she doesn't want to do thanksgiving this year because she always has a fight with my sister. i don't see why i have to suffer not having my annual turkey meal because my sister has to make the holidays all about her and throws a tantrum. it's the only holiday i look forward to every year, the only thing that's remotely sacred in my life. you don't mess with thanksgiving!

my father finally managed to chainsaw one of the plum tree stumps. the heartwood is the hardest part of the tree, and at times the chainsaw just wasn't making much traction. what made it even more challenging was a large nest of carpenter ants had taken up residence, and the vibration from the chainsaw caused them all to abandon the nest and swarm everywhere. i don't think carpenter ants bite, but it was still a gruesome sight seeing those large ants everywhere.

maybe GC's been busy, but since we finished watching breaking bad, he's been spending more time in his bedroom than out in the living room after dinner. tonight he took a break from seafood, which meant i didn't have to suffer any fishy smells. i didn't see him after that, and he's never been one to say good night, just goes straight to bed which i find a little rude but i've had past roommates do this as well so i don't take it personally.

last night i watched the latest episode of twin peaks before going to bed. talk about hatewatch: i really despise that show with a passion, despite tuning in every sunday. we're already on episode 10 with just 8 more episodes to go. i'm hoping it doesn't get renewed for another season so finally the show can be put out of its misery.

GC asked me this morning if it was okay for his coworker friend to join us to watch the season 7 premiere of game of thrones on HBO. i hesitated briefly but said sure; it probably wasn't GC's idea but rather his friend's. i was chatting with GC until 2:30pm before i finally left for belmont via motorcycle. i could've also biked but on a hot (though dry) day like today, better to motorize and save myself the agony of a sweat-soaked arrival. i found my mother knitting in the air-conditioned living room (barely cool, the floor unit is a piece of crap and waste of good summer electricity), watching her korean soap opera on netflix, with a face mask on.

i purposely didn't have any breakfast or lunch so i could finish the leftover quiche. there were two slices left and i ate them both, regretting it afterwards as it was definitely too much.

my father came home while i was in the backyard watering the garden. we managed to harvest a single zucchini, the first of the season. the plants themselves - composed of 3 seedlings - are taking over RB1, overshadowing the hot peppers and eggplants. so far the zucchinis have remained parasite-free - no signs of squash borers - but a few zucchinis developed strangely, like maturing only halfway while the rest atrophies and then turns yellow and rots. maybe those were just the early fruits that didn't grow correctly. all the new small zucchinis look fine.

i returned home after dinner. GC had beef for lunch (before i left) but cooked up one of his signature smelly seafood noodle dish for dinner. he's been cooking with the window now which makes it less odorous but i could still smell the strong stench of shrimp.

it was already 8:45pm and his friend wasn't here yet. i'd thought maybe he'd even show up earlier and have dinner with GC, but apparently they're not that kind of friends. i ran out quickly to the liquor store after taking a shower to grab some hard cider. when i came back i noticed the foyer light was on, which meant his friend had already arrived. he friend came empty-handed, and sheepishly said he planned on bringing something but forgot. not a big deal, but if you're coming to my house to watch my HBO and i don't know you and you don't even bring anything, that makes you a freeloader. the friend (originally from shandong) seem to know me, or at least my parents, because he tried to rent one of the apartment rooms above my grand uncle's place but was denied. i wasn't sure if he was one of the annoying pairs that said they'd come but didn't and made my parents reserve the rooms for them for 6 months before my parents had no choice but to rent them out to other people on the wait list. later GC came out with some ice cream sandwiches.

at this point i'm sort of hatewatching game of thrones. maybe hate is too strong, but i definitely don't enjoy it as much now ever since it's become this international cultural institution. i liked it better when not everybody was watching it or pretending they were. the stories have become predictable, following the typical tropes: the unstoppable assassin out for revenge, a power struggle between siblings, the young scholar discovering a piece of crucial information, the repentant warrior, and the conquering hero returns to her birthplace. i'll still watch the series, but only because i've always watched so much.

i was actually worried that HBO's server would crash because too many people were streaming the episode. i logged in a few minutes before the premiere and was surprised that it loaded up without any problems. GC's friend left soon afterwards, going to the roof of the astrophysicist building to see if he get some photos of the aurora potentially happening tonight.

i've been researching VPN's again. earlier today i was trying tunnelbear, a really cutesy and simple VPN that has a free service (sort of like a trial) of 500MB of data. tunnelbear makes VPN fun. i downloaded a random 170MB file off of torrent and it was very fast, i didn't notice any slowdown. it even has an obfuscation tool called ghost bear, which is essential in places like china that routinely bans VPN. at $60 for an annual plan, it wasn't too expensive (typical going rate), and worth the price if it kept copyright holders off my back. i almost signed up for a paid account until i read on their website they don't allow P2P activities like torrenting. i'm not sure how i was able to do it earlier, but they block ports and could potentially ban you for violating their rules.

i then looked into vpn.ac. i used them when i was in china last year and i didn't have any problems. they cost $58/year, which is a few dollars cheaper than tunnelbear. i almost re-signed with them until i read they have a bandwidth limit of 1TB/month. it's not a hard limit, and if you go over slightly there are no penalties; it's just in place to avoid downloading abuse. chances are i would never go over that limit in a single month (my total usage for the 3 months i was with them was only 39GB), but just the idea of a limit makes me wary knowing that there are other VPN's out there with unlimited bandwidth.

so i kept on searching. one important criteria is the service has to have an obfuscation tool. this isn't a big deal for normal web usage in the US, but it's vitally important in china, when that seems to be the newest way to bypass their great firewall. vyprVPN ($60/year) uses chameleon, TorGuard ($60/year) has stealthVPN. both support a multitude of OS platforms, as well as VPN routers. but in the end, TorGuard seems to be the better choice as it's specifically tailored for torrenting, and as such, doesn't keep logs of any kind (vyprVPN keeps metadata logs for 30+ days).

i took GC to the somerville artbeat festival happening in davis square, giving him another chance to familiarize himself with our many nearby squares. i had to stop the bike on beacon street because the rear brake was sticky. glad i stopped, because out on the curb somebody had thrown out a bunch of travel books. many were wet from the rain a few days ago. i picked up a copy of a 2000 lonely planet guide to the yucatan, as well as a 1998 handbook called "shopping in china." pretty outdated, but still interesting to read to see what commerce was like in china nearly 20 years ago. there was no mention of chongqing in any of the chapters, it mustn't have been a big deal back then.

it's been a while since i last visited davis square. ever since julie moved out of the neighborhood, i don't visit as often. and when wings work went out of business (december 2012 was my last visit), i had zero reason to go to davis. it was nice to be back though, seeing all the new businesses, like kung fu ice tea or the fresh b supermarket.

the last and first time i went to the somerville artbeat festival was back in 2009. it must not have made an impression because i completely forgot it. it was mostly handicrafts, with a smattering of food vendors in the central square area. the most interesting thing i saw was a pair of young women typing poems on typewriters for tips. not since the mid-80's have i seen a real typewriter in action.

we stopped by star market on our way home to grab some cherries that were on sale for $1.49/lbs. that's probably the cheapest i've seen it this season, even cheaper than the $1.57/lbs. price a while back. the weird thing is the sale is only at the porter square star market, the one across the street from me sells them at $1.99. GC also bought some ice cream.

we dropped off our things at the house before continuing to market basket, our next destination. i picked up a few ingredients for making quiche, which i planned to do at my parents' place tonight for dinner. i left for belmont via motorcycle soon after we got back.

i started making the quiche around 4:30pm, it wasn't actually in the oven until well after 5pm, with approximately 40 minutes of baking. it was the second quiche i've been this week, and i haven't gotten sick of it, but i only had one slice. my parents thought it was okay but my mother said she still prefers eating asian food instead.

i finally finished watching episode S02E04 of preacher, which featured an incredible single take fight scene at the end.