it's been so cloudy and rainy this past week, i'm starting to forget what it felt like to see the sun. this lingering october overcast coincides with our purchase of 2 new solar panels, still unable to test them fully. i brought back the 6-cell 50W solar panel - which i will now call the 20W panel - and connected it to one our smaller batteries. i also got a chance to test our rgb strip light with one of the rgb controllers that arrived yesterday. these rgb lights are not addressable so they all glow with the same color. my next project is to get my hands on some WS2812B/WS2813 lights.

a lot of the smaller lotus leaves have turned brown, but the one healthy lotus with the big floating and aerial leaves is still going strong, but even that one has started to yellow bit. my repotted columbines are getting bigger, they were stunted when grown in the plastic cups. i should transfer them to the ground before it gets too cold so they can have time to set some decent roots for the winter. it goes without saying that the rain barrels are at maximum capacity, given the amount of rain we had. some rain water i found in a bucket showed that about 1.5" of rain fell over the past few days.

i checked out our hydrangea, looking for flower buds on the terminal ends of stems. they all just look like more leaf buds. i'm not going to worry too much about it, i'll find out come next season whether we get any new flowers. in the meantime i just have to remember now to prune any of the stems.

i told my mother about the new breaking bad movie on netflix. she started watching the first few minutes of it but couldn't remember a lot of details. that made me suspicious so i started quizzing her on key moments. the death of hank. the death of gus. jessie's imprisonment. she failed to recall every single detail, which made me realize she's missed the final few seasons of the show. i stopped the movie and made her rewatch breaking bad from the middle of season 3, beginning with half measure.

we hung the led grow lights from the ratchet hangers that came with the lights, for easier up-and-down adjustments. we had to shorten the 4 wire suspension cables. i learned of a technique where you string 2 wires length-wise and clip them together with a carabiner clip. the first one was easy because we reused the lanyard clips. the second one we used the lobster claw clips i got last week, looping them together with wires. it looked fine but when we hung it up, one of the lobster claw clips snapped apart. these are made of metal but of an inferior metal, meant for earrings and necklaces, not for suspending grow leds. instead my father removed a few links from a fluorescent shop light hanging chain and used them as hooks for the wires. i got a chance to see the wall mounted shelves, now stocked with garden-related supplies. finally i saw the 4x2 ft pegboard my father got from the cafe basement. it's a good sign, we just need a way to hang it up and to buy some pegboard hooks.

the rain that'd been promised all this week but disappointingly never arrived day after day finally came today. good for the lawns, bad for the people. there wasn't much to do today, just moseyed about the house, eating healthy snacks (carrots and celery), catching a few episodes of SVU in the background, filling up the remaining backlog of blog entries.

some ebay purchases came in the mail today, it's been a while, i still have more than 2 dozen things i'm waiting to arrive. ebay was like my dollar store fixation before it started charging sale taxes on all purchases (it's a massachusetts state thing, starting in october). 10x 4.5cm clear suction cups ($1.79, for window mounting flexible solar panels), and 2 mini 3 key RGB led strip light controller (75&cen;t bare wires, 75¢ 12V plug).

also arriving in the mail was my replacement meterk clap-style digital multimeter. i bought it back in may for $22, just because it had a clamp for indirectly measuring the current. but it was unwieldy and hard to read, and as it turned out, it was also defective, unable to measure DC voltage. i contacted meterk nearly a month ago, because supposedly the meter had a 2-year warranty. i wasn't confident anything would come of it, so was surprised when they replied and said they'd send me a replacement meter free of charge, and i didn't even have to return the broken meter. a few weeks later i still hadn't gotten the replacement, so i e-mailed them again. a different person replied, said the previous person had gone on vacation, but she'd send me the replacement in a matter of days. the new one seems to be working, but the lcd display is still too small given the size of the device, and has a shallow viewing angle. the little DKMHA turquoise-colored multimeter i got my father back in november 2017 for just $12.50 is much more usable.

for lunch eggs-kielbasa-sauerkraut-tea, for dinner leftover beef barley soup. every time i eat the soup it changes: today it had the chunky consistency of canned beef stew (dinty moore). i was going to eat everything in one serving, but wisely decided to split the portion; i now have some more beef barley soup for the future.

i watched el camino, the netflix produced breaking bad sequel movie. it's mostly the story of how jesse pinkman survived the days after he escaped from the neo-nazi prison. the film could stand on its own, but far better if you'd already watched the 5 season series. fan service interspersed throughout the film, and some cameos from old favorites. i watched half of it while eating dinner and finished the rest from the netflix app on my phone from bed.

i wrote emma back this morning, accepting her offer of a refund minus $12 for the cost of the hypothetical return postage. i was tired of negotiating, and my desire to return the 50W panel was more out of stubbornness because i wanted her to admit that her US seller label was a lie. her last deal was actually the best deal: i'd get a $19 refund, and could still keep the 50W panel. it's like paying $12 for the panel, which i checked on ebay, you can't get for less than $30. but definitely there's some false advertising on her part, but i should've been smarter and checked the specs, because according to the specs there was no way this panel was 50W. even if i didn't see the specs, this panel only has 6 monocrystalline solar cells. assuming each cell generates a little over 3W of power, 6 cells would mean roughly 18W maximum, the equivalent of a 20W panel. in fact, if you search ebay for 20W solar panels, these same 6-cell panels pop up - but at least those sellers are being honest with what they have.

since i was keeping the 6-cell 50W solar panel after all, i decided to check just exactly how much power it could get out of it. we'd only tested it once on saturday, and once we saw it couldn't possibly generate 50W, we sort of stopped testing. i knew it wasn't defective, because at the very least we got 6W out of it. i found my usb power tester (purchased back in february 2016 for testing usb cables) and plugged it into the usb port on the back of the panel. it read 3V, not enough to charge anything, since a typical usb has 5V. it was no fault of the panel though, as today was an impossibly grey day. in fact, we're not scheduled to see the sun until saturday, more likely sunday. i tested the direct voltage of the panel from the alligator clips, it read nearly 15V, slightly off from the 18V i saw the first time (once again, due to cloudy conditions). as a control, i tested the usb power tester connected to an usb charger, which read 5V. connected to my phone, the voltage dropped but i was reading some current values, which meant it was charging. later i found a short strand of usb string lights; these don't require the full 5V to glow, and i was able to turn them on, proving the panel worked at least.

i didn't want to eat eggs-kielbasa-sauerkraut again, so i heated up a chicken stuffed with cheese broccoli in the oven for lunch while i used the bathroom and took a shower. it was good but the serving size was too small, felt like i was rationing or on a diet. my sister dropped off a pretzel in the afternoon, and also left me with some sourdough bread. some of the bread i ate, while saving the rest for dinner to go with my leftover beef barley soup.

it was also supposed to rain today but it stayed dry more than it was wet despite the clouds. i biked to walgreens briefly to pick up snacks: smoked almonds, altoids, twix. that's my version of scratch tickets, cigarettes, and beer. the cashier - a middle-aged townie lady (whom i've never seen before) with a raspy voice like she had throat cancer - asked me if i had a walgreens card. when i showed her my phone, she shook her head. "i don't know what to do with that, hon," she told me. "i can't scan a phone." stores have been scanning loyalty cards off of my phone for years now, but obviously this woman believed otherwise. i didn't try to challenge her since the customer is always wrong, so i punched in my phone number instead, easier anyway.

while channel surfing on youtube tv, i got caught in the SVU vortex. i used to watch a lot of SVU, and many of the early season episodes (when stabler was still on the show) i've seen every episodes. haven't watched it in a while, but it's kind of like my comfort food, even though the subject matter can be troubling (sex crimes). all of the law & order stuff, i could watch at any moment, at any point in the episode, and it'd still be good.

in the evening i had a bright idea and decided to see if the 6-cell 50W solar panel could charge under bright lights. the brightest light i had in the house was the halogen fixture above the bathroom sink. i lifted the panel with the usb meter and phone attached. the meter was showing high voltage (up to 5V) while the phone was actually charging. i turned on the amperage app and saw measurements upwards of 1200mA (but averaging around 430mA). but the moment i pulled the panel away from the halogen lamp, the voltage would drop and the charging would stop. so i discovered two things: that bright indoor lights can charge the panel, and that i can use the panel to actually charge my phone. it's kind of handy to have, even though a portable battery backup would probably be easier, but it wouldn't be free like solar panel electricity. and you'd need bright sunlight. you could also do it with a bright indoor light, but if you're indoors and have electricity to turn on the lights, you'd also have electricity to charge your phone. i'd be curious to see if the panel could in fact actually fully charge a phone.

i coincided my leftover beef barley soup dinner with the start of the giants-patriots thursday night game. i feel for the players, who have to play again on short rest, but the good thing is they have the weekend to relax, and so do i since my sunday will be free because i don't have to watch the game. the barley had thickened up into large clumps at the bottom of the crockpot bowl, but reconstituted themselves into recognizable grains once i heated them up. the soup is much thicker the second time around, more chili than soup. by the time i finished a large bowl (plus bread) i was so full i could explode. i also reached that point where i don't know if could eat beef barley soup again tomorrow night.

i wouldn't say the game was awful, but new england's offense once again seemed listless. new york actually tied the game at 14-14, when their rookie quarterback daniel jones threw a beautiful long catch to golden tate who fumbled the ball in the air a few times before catching it, escaping two defenders as he ran into the end zone, and then new york scored again on a tom brady fumble. that last play was the costliest, since it looked like josh gordon rolled his ankle trying to play defense and stop the giants player from scoring. the game was a battle of attrition, and the giants couldn't maintain the momentum against the patriots defense, finally allowing pats offense to show signs of life in the second half, including a long bomb catch from edelman that was nearly a touchdown. final score 35-14, patriots go up 6-0 on the season. the win is fine and all, but i'm sure all of pats nation would rather have a healthy gordon given the choice, since the offense is depleted enough as it is. an antonio brown would be sweet right about now, if only he wasn't such a garbage person (amazing player, terrible human being).

emma contacted me again - perhaps for the last time - to let me know she was issuing the refund. she asked me to accept it right away, as doing so would also close the return dispute, which apparently is very important to her. later i gave them a good rating. i did earn a working 20W solar panel for just $12.

emma - my ebay contact for trying to return the defective 50W low charge panel - wrote me back with yet another way to not have me return the panel. she said it'd cost $12 for postage and insurance to send back the panel, so she could refund me the $18 and i could then also keep the panel. that option made more sense, but then i remembered the panel doesn't even work well, it'd still be a waste of money. i also asked her for the return address, which she seems reluctant to tell me. my guess is there is none, at least none in the US, even though the item was advertised as a US seller. more than likely the return address is someplace in china. but let's say there is a US address, i don't think it'd cost me $12 to ship it back.

this morning i did a load of laundry while scrubbing clean the tub with some baking soda. i like cleaning with baking soda, how there's absolutely no odor, not even a scent. to me that feels clean. my father called to ask me to go with him to binbin's place to clean up the fridge, throw out the trash, set some timers, and move the car. what i didn't realize was my sister was also going, so i opted not to go. i hurriedly biked down to market basket in the early afternoon as rain was approaching to get some groceries for the next few days as it's supposed to rain non-stop until late saturday. there was already a light drizzle, it wasn't too bad, more so when i was returning home since i didn't much care by that point.

beef barley soup

1.5 lbs. chuck pot roast, cubed
1.5 lbs. potatoes, cubed
8 oz. baby carrots
1 onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
black pepper
2 bay leaves
6 cups beef broth
1/2 cup merlot
2/3 cups pearl barley

brown cubed beef in pan before adding with rest of ingredients into slow cooker. wash pan drippings with wine then pour into slow cooker as well. cook on high for 6-7 hours.

since it was cold, grey, and wet outside, i thought it'd be fitting to make some slow cooker beef barley soup. i bought too much pot roast and trimmed off a pound to freeze in the fridge. the hardest part was browning the beef. i added too much to the pan and ended up boiling the meat instead of browning, stinking up the whole house with the smell of cooked beef. i then added all the ingredients to the slow cooker and set it on high to cook for the rest of the day.

i finally used up that big roll of AEP brand commercial plastic wrap. my parents gave it to me when i first moved into this place 17 years ago, nearly 2 decades. now i have to decide what new brand of plastic wrap i want to get. i kind of like having the commercial stuff, so much of it that it'd last for decades and that i always knew i had it on hand. it's a big box, and people always laugh when they see it for the first time. it takes up space but i've made room for it in my kitchen. maybe i want to get another box of commercial wrap and using it for the next 20 years.

when early evening came around, i tasted the soup. it seemed oily and watery with an umami sweetness. the original recipe called for tomato paste which i didn't add, but decided to add some anyway to thicken the soup and the cut down the sweetness. recipe said 2 tbsp of paste, but i ended up adding the entire 6 oz. can. it thickened the soup but also made it taste sour.

the beef barley soup was finally ready to eat by 9pm. the sourness from the tomato paste had mellowed out but the soup flavor wasn't anything particularly special. i could've added all the beef since it shrinks when cooked so it didn't look like i had a lot of meat in my soup. i also could've added more barley. it's called beef barley, neither which ingredients show up very much in the soup. it's mostly a vegetable soup, with the tomato paste and chopped celery-potato-garlic. i used generic white potatoes when i should've used something else like a russet potato, which would break down in the soup and thicken it; in this case the diced white potatoes kept their shape, more like daikon radishes than potatoes. i can definitely eat it for the next few days but i wouldn't call this recipe a success. afterwards i could still taste the umami flavor in my mouth.

my father dropped off the returned items at my place this morning on his way to market basket for a supply run. i called him up while he was still shopping to let him know the 50W solar panel had already been delivered at belmont today; he said he'd go check it out afterwards.

i received e-mail from the previous ebay 50W solar panel seller. ebay has a 30 day return policy on most items, but requires you to negotiate with the seller to reach an agreement before ebay will step in. this particular ebay seller - identifying herself as emma - doesn't seem to want to give me a full refund. already she twice suggested i take a partial refund (of just $5, when i paid $30) and keep the panel which doesn't even really work. today she suggested i sell the panel at my "local second hand store" and then she'd refund me the difference. i think she's just trying to run out the clock so she won't have to honor the return agreement, but i just have 2 more days left of negotiations before i can officially ask ebay to step in and refund me my money.

i made a scrambled eggs-korean kielbasa-homemade sauerkraut lunch along with some loose leaf rooibos tea. learning from my mistake last time, i used a mesh tea ball infuser to hold the tea so i don't drink a mouthful of leaves with every sip. it worked surprisingly well, and there rooibos was strong enough that i was able to reuse it and brew a second glass.

after lunch i biked down to amazon drop off center in central square to return the adjustable gooseneck led grow light that arrived on saturday. i used to be able to drop off amazon returns at the nearby UPS store, but nowadays ever once in a while a package has to be returned at the drop off center. i don't mind, it's an easy ride via bike, and i don't return things all that much.

today's temperature was in the lower 60's but when i came back from central square i was hot enough that i stripped down to just a t-shirt and jeans as i went out again, this time to belmont, where i planned on doing some yard maintenance (should've done it yesterday), but also a chance to see the new 50W solar panel.

i knew my father had been home because the solar panel package was no longer on the front steps. i was surprised he didn't set it up, only took it out of the box to inspect it. size-wise, it has 16 (4x4) monocrystalline cells, so roughly half the size of the 100W panel we have outside (9x4). i brought it into the sunroom where it was large enough to prop against the edges of the window frame. i rummaged through the cable box and found a short length of 10 AWG wire to temporarily connect the 50W panel to the CMG controller attached to the 35Ah harbor freight deep cycle battery.

when i measured the 50W solar panel with the multimeter beforehand, it read close to 18V. however, when i connected it to the CMG-2420, the controller read 12V. that's when i realized the controller voltage shown is actually for the battery, not the solar panel. to see that, i needed a wattmeter to be connected between the panel and the controller (unfortunately my father took the spare wattmeter to the cafe to work on the wiring).

that made me suspicion though, so i went to the basement to take some readings of the 62lbs. solar charged 85Ah duralast deep cycle marine battery that we use to run our water barrel pump. the wattmeter, the controller, and the voltmeter all read around 13V. when i probe the wattmeter source (input) connector, it read 13V, just like what it said on the display. however, when i disconnected the wires and measured them directly with a multimeter, it read 20V.

the temperature in the grow room isn't that high (68°F, just a few degrees higher than the rest of the basement) but it's the elevated humidity that makes it feel uncomfortable and hotter than it actually is. the oscillating floor fan helps a little, but the humidity still heightens a faint mildew smell. just have to run the diffuser some more to mask the odor. i noticed a second jasmine has started to show yellow leaves at the bottom; i ended up raising it a bit higher, maybe it just needs more light, because it can't be the temperature or the humidity, which is ideal for jasmines. my father had also set up a folding table so we can have something to work on.

the most important thing i had to was to sow some grass seeds on the front and back lawn. with rain coming later tonight and into saturday, it's the perfect time. the center patch of front lawn needed the most help, most of it turning yellow during the late summer drought. i was hoping it'd come back but most of the grass there was already dead. i raked in a bag of top soil then hand sprinkled grass seeds into the mix. this was from a bag of generic brand (OSJL) seeds i found in the basement, not sure if they're even viable. if nothing grows after a week, i'll know my answer and need to go out and buy some fresh seeds. afterwards i watered the area with the wall faucet, before i decided to switch to our rain barrels, since they'd fill up anyway once it started raining, so better to use as much as possible. besides, it's all free anyway, rain water pumped via a battery charged from the sun. i wasn't sure if it was possible, since i had to connect two hoses together that started from the other side of the house, but it worked flawlessly.

next i started patching all the bald spots in the backyard. all of them came courtesy of my sister's dog peeing on the lawn, a patch of yellow for every place she went to the bathroom. i first raked the areas with a cultivator just to clear out the dead grass and loosen the dirt, then i added either some top soil or compost, before sowing the grass seeds, mixing everything together, then watering. i also had a bag of leftover commercial grass patch mixture (a combination of fertilizer, newspaper pulp, and seeds) that i used to patch a few larger spots underneath the maple tree. like the grass seeds, i'm not sure how viable this patch mixture is. i ended up using about a fifth of our rain water supply.

my yard maintenance wasn't only solely about lawn care. i also cut down most of the goldenrod flowers. i noticed bees had stopped pollinating them, which was a good sign that the flowers were going to seeds. i had to throw them away before that happened, to keep the goldenrods from spreading everywhere. the only patch of goldenrod still around is by the southern fence between the two flowering trees. i pruned back the ground ivy growing beyond the brick border edge. finally i stapled back the wire mesh underneath the eastern wooden fence door, which has a tendency to fall off every so often. the mesh is there to prevent animals from crawling underneath the door (mostly to keep out rabbits).

there's still a lot of activity in the backyard this early in october, before we've experienced our first frost. temperature has gotten cold at nights on several occasions (upper 30's) but enough to kill the plants. the daytime temperature is dropping, but only to around the 60's, and the sun - though getting lower everyday - still feels plenty warm when shining directly.

hyacinth beans are one of the plants that seem to be doing well this late in the growing season. a lot of the magenta-colored pea-style flowers have fallen off, leaving behind a pod that will hopefully produce some viable seeds for next season. cherry tomatoes are still growing, i pick a few to eat whenever i go out into the backyard. elsewhere, bigger sized tomatoes are on the vine, very slowly maturing. if we do get a frost, we'll collect all of them and let them ripen indoors.

the big hydrangea bush growing in the southeastern corner of the yard is most likely a bigleaf hydrangea, based on what i've read. bigleafs form next flower buds late in the growing season. so far i haven't seen any flower buds, but some new lateral buds might be potential candidates. this year we only had a single flower because the season before the plant didn't grow many stems, and only one seemed to have survived into this season. bigleaf hydrangeas will only flower on old stems. [editor note: i discovered that hydrangeas form flower buds at the stem tips. i was looking in the wrong area. i'll check again next time.]

of the 8 mason jar solar string lights that i ordered a few weeks ago, 3 of them leaked water and shorted out the lights even though they're advertised as waterproof. now it appears another outdoor jar is leaking as well. they're cool products, but could use some work in the quality control department. so now only half of the jars are working outside. even then, i'm still tempted to get some more, maybe from a different vendor, but i think it's all the same. i still haven't properly tested the lid to see where the water is getting in. i may be able to fix it with some waterproof silicone lid rings.

it was nearly 5pm by the time i left; if i stayed a little later i would've met my parents coming home. traffic was congested but it wasn't a problem on the bicycle. i kept passing the same car as they sped ahead of me, only to stop at the traffic light, while i continued to pedal forward.

i had an uninspiring dinner of soup from a can, since i didn't have time today to get groceries. i'll do that tomorrow, still not sure what i want to make yet.

marti came home late last night, so this morning i left her package on the doorsteps so she could find it. after the cold weather yesterday that saw my room temperature plunge to 61°F, i sort of expected today to be cold as well. so when i biked down to michael's to look for lanyard clips however, i was surprised by how warm it was. i couldn't find any lanyard clips in the jewelry making aisle, but i did pick up a box of lobster claw enclosures. i had a 60% coupon which dropped the price to about a $1. i changed into a pair of shorts when i got back home before biking (fuji) to my parents' place.

my sister was there when i arrived. she told me that hailey had destroyed the large plastic tray while playing with the solar water fountain outside. i had some leftover rice porridge for lunch.

i helped my father set up a shelving unit in our basement grow room. these are elfa brand, which i never heard of before but sounded fancy, like they're italian.

the hardest part was figuring out where the studs were inside the wall. we did that yesterday but when we checked again today, we were getting different readings. not sure if it's because there are too much background interference or it's because we need to upgrade our stud finder. after we marked our spots, my father began drilling. thankfully the 3 areas where we thought had studs turned out to be true. as for the other areas, we secured those points using metal winged toggle anchors. once the top track was securing anchored, the vertical bars simply hung off of them without additional screws. brackets went into the bars, and we used leftover wooden planks of varying sizes for the shelves.

i brought the diffuser into the basement to mask some of the mildew odor. it wasn't so bad today, but i think it was because we worked with the door open in the grow room, which provided enough ventilation. i added some lily-of-the-valley essential oil scent to the diffuser.

the bucket of water we use to water the grow room plants with have been dosed with mosquito bits; not to control the mosquitoes, but rather to keep fungus gnats from taking hold in the soil. the water i get from our rain water barrel, feels like i'm getting water from a well every time i do it, except instead of well water, it's actually rain water.

another thing we did was to move all the led grow lights to one power strip, and all the fluorescent lights to another strip. the idea is sometimes it's hard to see clearly under the led grow lights, so whenever we need to check on the plants, we can simply turn off all the led's and then temporarily turn on the fluorescent lights.

i noticed a few yellowing leaves on one of the potted jasmines. it'd be annoying if we did all this work to keep the jasmines alive during the winter and they end up not surviving into next season. my father did notice that the jasmine flower buds - yes they're still flowering - aren't as large as when they're growing naturally outside.

the second CMG-2420 solar charge controller arrived in the mail today. i won it in another ebay bid for $5.50. my father went downstairs into the basement to swap out our old generic blue controller with this new one. unfortunately it was already 5pm and we weren't getting any sun so we couldn't see the controller in action.

i arrived today via fuji bike, fearing that it might rain in the evening by the time i was returning home, and that i could either leave the smaller bike in the garage or take it with me if i got a ride home. but the doppler radar showed that it wasn't going to rain until probably 8pm at the earliest, so after dinner i managed to bike home without getting rained on. even though i'd just charged up the batteries on my front wheel light, it went off after about a few blocks. when i got back home i checked the lights in the basement. doesn't seem to be a battery or battery case issue, seems more like a wire pulling problem. i jostled the lights and they seem to be working better now, i'll test it again over the weekend.

i got home in time to catch monday night football between the browns and the 49ers. after kansas city chiefs lost to the colts last night, only new england and san francisco are the only two undefeated teams this season. former patriots backup QB stud jimmy garoppolo did us proud, spanking cleveland to a 31-3 victory.

yesterday i saw the tree removal letter from the town of belmont; today i noticed they'd spray painted a white X on the tree trunk, marking it for removal. so it's really going to happen. the question now is: how soon? and what will they plant in its place?

my mother prepared some wontons for lunch. i ate while watching the start of the patriots-redskins game. i'd only get to catch 30 minutes before we left for binbin's house in burlington. usually we go there via local roads but today we took the faster route via 95.

we were there to see them one last time before they return to china on tuesday. we were also there so they could give us some house maintenance info (security code, keys, etc.), so we could take care of their house and their car for the next year. a part of me wanted to stay home and watched the football game, but this was something i just had to be there. who knows, worst case scenario, we may not see them again in the US if they can't get their visas. besides us, my aunt and uncle also came, as well as my sister. jason's parents were there, hard to gauge how they feel, but we suspect they're secretly happy, as their original plan was for their son to return to china once he finished school, they never thought he'd choose to stay in the US. anderson seemed very happy, told everyone he was going to china, not fully realizing the ramification of what was happening. he's been to china before, but as a toddler and a baby, and couldn't anything. all he knew was he didn't have to go to kindergarten (though will continue school once in china). everyone tried to be optimistic, but there really was no promise they'd get to return. we didn't stay long, left before 4pm, since they probably still had a lot of preparations to make before leaving.

coming back, we stopped off at a roadside KFC/taco bell (woburn) to get some fried chicken for dinner. 8 pieces for $16! kind of a ripoff. afterwards my mother stayed in the car while my father and i went next door to batteries plus bulbs to check out their battery selection. we have more batteries than we know what to do with, but i was kind of hoping it see if they carried any lithium batteries (i didn't see anything). they also carried an assortment of led lights, just the kind of store we'd be interested in, if it weren't for the fact that we can buy everything much cheaper online.

when we came home from burlington the new LED grow light was waiting for us on the doorstep. after feasting on some fried chicken (i had a thigh and a breast), my father and i went downstairs to set up the new light.

it was simply a matter of replacing the XECCON light with this second iplantop light. but the hanging wires from the iplantop lights were too long (such that the suspended light would dangle precariously close to the top of the plants), while the XECCON hangers are just the right length. so we ended up switching out the wires for one of the iplantop lights, while my father jerryrigged some new shorter hanging cables with leftover wires. something else we talked about yesterday was the idea of keeping the XECCON light. sure, it underperforms with only 100W of actual wattage, but its use of COB leds is something different and the light color is actually more pleasant to the eye compared to the blurple hue of the iplantop lights.

with the dual iplantop grow lights glowing (for a combined actual wattage of 320W) we actually don't need any of the T8 fluorescent lights so we turned them off. the only other lights is a 40W led shop light that goes over the two topiary ficus bushes and a square 45W grow light that hangs suspended from above the tall water reed.

because we ate so early, my mother made some mexican fried corn for a small second dinner before i returned to cambridge. afterwards i returned home to catch sunday night football, a game between the undefeated chiefs versus the colts.

i'm using october 5th's production graph as the new benchmark. it didn't rain today but the sky was overcast for much of the day. despite nearly a week of miserable results, we're still tracking ahead of last year's numbers, as last october was pretty bad production-wise.

i've been studying the darkness sensing circuitry and managed to streamline it to the point where it doesn't use any wire leads (other than the 2 leads from the 9V battery). i'm just a few steps shy of building my own solar-powered led night light. it's more of a learning exercise since i can easily buy one from any dollar store.

when i saw our new 50W solar panel, it was much smaller than i'd imagined. my father had already hooked it up to our 35Ah battery. instead of MC4 connectors, this panel came with a small junction box that had an USB plug and a standard 12V plug. my father had jerryrigged a standard 12V adapter with two wires coming out of it into the controller to charge the battery.

we decided to hook up the solar panel to the wattmeter to get a better idea of the power output. the wattmeter said it was only generating 6W (0.5A x 12V), in full sun no less, not the advertised 50W. we took a direct reading of the panel (carefully inserting the probes into the 12V plug) which showed 18V, not 12V. why the voltage drop? when we checked the wattmeter-controller setup in the basement, it was reading 14V; not 18V but also not 12V either. so the new panel seemed off. we couldn't figure out the voltage drop, but i theorized that maybe there was a tiny safety controller in the panel junction box that was keeping the voltage at 12V whenever it encountered a load.

the solar panel current was unexpectedly low however, and when i read the specs (not sure why i didn't before), it said the maximum current was only 1.1A, with an open circuit voltage of 20V. so even if everything was operating at peak efficiency, we could still only achieve 22W maximum, not the 50W advertised. this was just a 20W panel being sold as a 50W. even the solar cell count was off. this one only had 6 monocrystalline cells, while our 100W panel mounted outside had 36 cells (9x4). to achieve 50W, a panel should have around 18 cells.

we opted to return this underperforming 50W solar panel and get a new one instead, one that's actually 50W. after some searching on ebay, i found a US-based seller that carried flexible 50W monocrystalline solar panels for $54.45. the going rate for panels is about 1W/$1 so this was a fair price. besides being waterproof, this panel also used MC4 connectors, a larger gauge wire that's standard for large solar panels. specs-wise, the working voltage was 18V while the working current was 3A for a maximum wattage of 54W. there were a few cheaper vendors but they all shipped out of china, so who knew how long it'd take to arrive. this way the panel would hopefully arrive by next week.

after finishing some noodles for lunch, i went into the backyard to take a survey. i was happy the lotuses had survived despite the nightly cold weather. the 3rd aerial leaf is slowly opening. one thing i noticed is that some aphids have invaded the stem, which i removed easily enough with some fingers.

my father and i readjusted the shelves on our grow room wire shelving units. we raised the middle shelves so they were near the top, then capped the ends of the top posts with double hanger rails. we hung the led grow lights from the bottom of the relocated top shelves, and laid 2 rows of fluorescent T8 shop lights on top of the hanger rails. the 45W led light still hung on top of the papyrus reeds, while the led shop light hung over the topiary bushes.

not trusting the efficacy of the XECCON grow light, we decided to get yet another grow light, and maybe possibly return the XECCON. it didn't take long to decide. we weren't going to get a light with reflectors: they produce more PAR but only in a small concentrated area. a regular led grow light would cast a wider beam. nothing really stood out in terms of quality for the price, so we decided to get another iplantop grow light for $69, scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

i noticed my parents had received a letter from the town of belmont's tree warden, informing them that the partially dead maple tree growing in front of their house will be removed. finally! i've been writing to the town every spring, asking them to at the very least remove the very large overhanging branch above the driveway, but they always refuse, saying that the tree is still alive (even though it's covered in lichen) and to remove that branch will rob the tree of too much nutrients. but it's so obvious that it's a safety hazard, glad they finally came around. i should've realized something was up when i noticed wood shavings around the tree, like maybe somebody was doing some work on it, but i didn't see any cut branches. they probably were going to do some pruning, but decided it was better just to remove the tree altogether. the letter didn't say when they'd take down the tree, nor if they were going to replace it with something else. there was also no mention of if they were going to fix the sidewalk, which has since buckled from the underground tree root to the point where you can wheel over it anymore.

my father found a neighborhood female gingko tree that was setting fruits and collected a few. the last time i saw gingko fruit was in 2008 when i went with john to prospect park in brooklyn, and saw some asian women collecting them in the park. though they're an asian delicacy, the thing most people recognize about the gingko fruit is how bad they smell. i remember they were pungent, but smelling them again, i don't remember them to be this bad. they smelled like stinky blue cheese. imagine having a gingko tree fouling the neighborhood with the smell of feet.

without even paying much attention to it, but today's solar production graph was a perfect bell curve. i'm thinking about using it as the default production value moving forward.

i needed transistors to make a darkness sensing circuit. a lot of videos and write-ups i saw online mentioned the BC547 transistors, which i was about to buy on ebay, but decided to rummage around in my electronics parts collection to see if i had any lying around. sure enough, i came across some 2N series transistors. apparently transistor availability is regional: in europe and india, BC547 are more common, while here in the US, 2N-series are more common. i bought these 2N transistors not so long ago, in 2012, from the porter square radio shack no less. it was probably the last time i purchases electronic components in a store than online.

armed with my newfound transistors (i only needed one, i picked 2N3904), i built a functional darkness sensing circuit. i'm still not quite sure what i did, i need to study the circuitry a bit more to make sense of it.

it was sunny in the morning but cloudy again by the afternoon, so much that i thought it'd rain again and didn't bother going out today. the only thing that would've gotten me outside was to check out the new 50W solar panel that'd arrived in belmont, but i can simply wait until tomorrow morning. for lunch i finished the rest of the baked potato wedge fries i made last night. eating all those potatoes can't be good (not when it comes to losing weight) but at least they were baked, not fried (although i would've preferred the latter). in the afternoon i ate another soft pretzel as a snack. marti's victoria secret package arrived, i brought it in for her while she's away this weekend.

while doing some research on photoresistors (or light-dependent resistors, LDR's, as they're also called in the parlance), i came across a youtube video showing a simple way to test an LDR with an led wired onto a breadboard. i first tested the LDR individually (off board), the resistance increasing the darker it gets. that'd mean it'd turn on when opened, off when closed. i want it to do the exact opposite, but haven't gotten to that part yet, although i did watch a video about it, even though i couldn't follow all the steps. also for some reason a lot of these youtube DIY electronic videos are made by indians, sometimes with very thick accents that're hard to follow. i do however appreciate them for trying to share some knowledge. i got the led to work with the LDR but when i tried to power on 2 led's in series it didn't work. it did however work when i connected the led's in parallel.

i had a glass of black tea tonight (glass instead of insulated tumbler because it cools faster so i can drink it sooner), which can only mean one thing: the cold weather has arrived, as i now transition from cold drinks to hot drinks. lacking food imagination nor any desire to eat healthy on a friday night, i made some instant noodles instead (with an egg and some chopped cilantro). i had a nectarine afterwards while watching a youtube tv recording of CBS' sitcom the unicorn starring walton goggins. it's actually a very funny show, i'm definitely adding it to my watchlist.

i watched stuber which was a lot better than i expected. the buddy cop trope is a familiar formula, except in this case one half of the duo is a reluctant uber driver helping a nearly-blind lasik-surgery cop seeking revenge for the death of his partner. i'm not usually a fan of kumail nanjiani and his annoying pakistani character he seems to play in everything he's in, but it works in this case. i've seen dave bautista in guardians of the galaxy so i knew he had good comedic timing, but he also has good screen presence in this film, and has these mixed race features where he can play anything from white to hispanic to asian (kind of like the rock). stuber is also very good at subverting expectations: the big bad is a small asian man with incredible martial arts skills, they go to a strip club which turns out to be filled with male strippers, the strong muscular cop who's rendered helpless due to eye surgery. the ending makes it so that a sequel could be in the works if the film does well; i would definitely watch it if it came out.