i woke up before 9am thinking my father would need my help to shovel the sidewalk around the cafe and my grand uncle's place. however when i checked the webcams, i couldn't see him, so he must already be outside cleaning the snow. i got dressed and went outside to shovel my own sidewalk. there was about 1/2 inch of slushy snow that i quickly removed. later in the morning i saw paul going outside. perhaps feeling guilty that he'd neither raked the leaves nor done any snow shoveling, he shoveled a path into the backyard instead.
i felt a little down today, thinking about the unresolved solar installation situation. i wrote lucas an e-mail asking him to urgently call me back tomorrow morning. this thing is like a terrible weight hanging over me, and until i can get it fixed, i feel like i can't enjoy anything.
as my parents had some kind of neighborhood open house festival at the cafe in the early evening, i didn't go to belmont today. instead i stayed home watching sunday afternoon football. for lunch i made a grill cheese and ham sandwich. for dinner i ate the leftover salt and pepper porkchop rice i brought back from chinatown yesterday.
in my spare time i went back and retroactively updated a few missing blog entries. backlogged missing blog posts are the worst, chances are i'll never go back and fill them in.
li texted me at 10:30am concerned with the falling snow and asking if we could take public transportation instead of riding our bikes. i agreed, and was going to suggest that when he was scheduled to arrive at 12pm. instead we decided to meet at harvard square. after some granola yogurt for breakfast, i left, arriving early at 11:50am since i had the shorter walk. li arrived at noon. he said he left at 11:30am, but stopped by his office first to pick up his camera. we were there just in time to catch the 12:05pm dudley 1 bus leaving harvard square.
we were heading into copley square to catch the speedo santa run at 1pm on the same day as the first snowstorm of the season. the snow was on the heavier side and you needed an umbrella to not get wet. we got off at hynes convention center and walked to copley square. li had already been through a partial new england winter when he arrived back in february, but a snowy winter was still a novelty to him.
we stood on the southeast corner of dartmouth and boylston, waiting for the run to begin. the one cop directing traffic at the barricade did a poor job, allowing cars to turn down boylston despite pedestrians crossing at the light. one fellow cop made a comment which the first cop simply ignored.
the speedo santa run goes by fast, as it should, since the runners are in their underwear running in the cold. from the moment we saw the first runners on boylston to see them go by again on newbury only takes about 8 minutes total. maybe it was due to the bad weather, but this year there seemed to be a lot less participants, i counted just 60-80 runners (years past: 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2014 2015 2016). i helped li adjust his camera beforehand, setting his white balance, changing his ISO to 1600 and putting his focus to AI servo. i also quickly demonstrated pan shooting and told him the important of keeping his lens dry of water (otherwise there will be blurry water spots in the photos).
when the run started, it was just a flurry of shutter clicks. water and fog had gotten into my viewfinder so i could hardly see, but i knew my lens was dry so the photos would be okay. i'd also set my ISO to 1600 to increase my shutter speed because the sky was a dark grey overcast. it took all but just 2 minutes for the swarm of speedo santas to run by.
we quickly hurried across to newbury to catch them on their way back. about 2 minutes later, the first of the santas started showing up. 4 minutes later they were all gone. it was cold enough that my camera felt sluggish as the shutter struggled to keep pace with how fast i was firing off shots (i don't remember it happening last year when it was much colder, so cold that i had to bust out my columbia puffy winter jacket).
"what now?" i asked li, knowing already we were going to chinatown. we walked down commonwealth mall towards the public garden, then through boston common in the direction of chinatown.
there was a lot of photo ops, with trees coated in snow, and especially at night when all the christmas lights would be lit. i was almost tempted to come back around sunset, were it not for the miserable wet cold conditions. li kept complaining about how his fingers felt frozen, but that's just the price you pay being a photographer.
li was thinking hei la moon dim sum again, but he heard a rumor from a coworker that they stop serving dim sum at 2pm. we arrived in chinatown around 1:45pm, but went grocery shopping at jia ho supermarket first, which took 20 minutes. by the time we were done, it was already past 2pm. instead of risk going and finding out they weren't serving anymore, i suggested we try someplace else. that someplace was the chinatown cafe on harrison avenue. it's one of my favorite places in chinatown. though typically i go there for takeout, they also have places to eat, and i knew on a saturday afternoon it wouldn't be busy.
i ordered my usual R45 salt & pepper porkchops with rice, while li got the 3 treasure rice, which featured smoked duck, roasted crispy skin pork, and braised chicken. we got a booth and it was a cozy place to have lunch on a cold day. nearby was two young chinese families with children. li's food arrived first even though he ordered after me (his meats were already prepared); i grabbed his order for him since he was in the bathroom. i used the bathroom as well and came out just in time for my food to be ready.
eating at the cafe, it seems they give me even more porkchops than a typical takeout, as i stared at my porkchop mountain. li said there was a dearth of good chinese food around the harvard area; if there was a restaurant like chinatown cafe, he'd eat there everyday. i told him the problem was the high rents in cambridge, that for a place like chinatown cafe to survive they'd have to raise the prices on their food, but americans typically view chinese food as inexpensive. li told me once that it's not hard for a chinese person to survive in boston, with access to asian supermarkets and asian restaurants. the food portions were so large that neither li nor i could finish and we ended up taking the rest home for dinner.
from there it was a 12 minute walk to south station, where we caught the red line and 7 stops to harvard square. the subway was running a bit slow for some reason, maybe the snow on the tracks at charles station. whatever the case, it took us 17 minutes to get back to harvard. i suggested to li that he takes the bus back home, saving him the 20+ minutes of walking, and he had a choice of 4 different routes that all go by his place. as for me, i waited for the 73 to take me to belmont.
i found my father outside working on clearing snow from the cars, then later plowing the driveway and sidewalk with the large-size snowblower, before moving the honda into the garage. though it was messy, there didn't seem to be a lot of snow. there were reports as much as 7 inches, but i think the final accumulation in these here parts will be around 3 inches.
we had dinner early, around 4:30pm, as my father had to go back to my grand uncle's place to take care of him overnight. i wasn't very hungry since i ate just 2 hours ago, but i ate again anyway. we called my sister to come pick us up as her car was the only one with 4-wheel drive. she seemed reluctant even though she agreed earlier, and finally arrived close to 7pm, didn't even get out of her car, just called us from outside.
my sister dropped off my father first before dropping me off. since i was already dressed, i quickly shoveled the sidewalk when i got back. it didn't take long, the snow had a slushy consistency, with melts on the bottom that made it easy to scrape off the pavement. there was a misdelivered christmas card for my neighbor neil which i dropped off in his mailslot, narrowly missed slipping off their icy steps.
my riding season officially ends once the first major snowstorm of the winter season arrives and that is scheduled for tomorrow saturday. a dusting i can handle, but we're supposed to get anywhere from 4-7 inches of snow - enough to plow - so it's a good idea to put the bike away. besides, i hardly ride it that much anyway, just commuting back and forth between belmont. not having the motorcycle outside leaves me one less thing to worry about, and allows me to get back into bicycling, which in turn will give me some exercise as i've seemed to have put on some pounds going into the winter.
i called my father to let him what i planned on doing since i'd need his help. i got dressed and went outside to start the motorcycle. the temperature had dropped to freezing overnight and there was a risk that the engine wouldn't start, but i've had good luck the past few weeks despite the temperature dropping. unfortunately my luck ran out this morning as the bike sputtered and i knew immediately the battery was dead. i managed to wheel the motorcycle across the street so it was right outside my house before i cracked open the seat to get to the battery. i brought it inside to trickle charge, not knowing when it'd be ready, but i figured it'd be at least a few hours.
while i waited, i had time to call lucas for united solar to ask him for an update. the call went to voicemail, i left a message. i wrote him e-mail last night, he'd yet to respond to that either. i put the bicycles away (including paul's which had sat outside underneath the tarp since spring with flat tires) then brought out the shovels on standby. i also swept the leaves from the front steps and the sidewalk.
around 1:30pm the LED on the trickle charger had changed from steady red to blinking green. it wasn't fully charged yet but i was hoping there was enough juice to at least start the engine. i reinstalled the battery and the bike started just fine. i left it to warm up a few minutes with the choke on before finally leaving.
first stop: gas station to fill the tank. because i removed the battery, the fuel gauge had reset, but i remember i was close to empty anyway. i decided to fill the tank with unleaded plus ($2.739/gal for 2.213 gallons). second stop: my parents' garage to get the stabilizer to add to the fuel for winter storage. i also wiped clean the bike since i wouldn't be washing it. i accidentally brushed my hand on the hot tailpipe and burned it a little bit, but luckily it was cold enough outside that it naturally iced the wound. final stop: the cafe, where i'd be storing the bike in my grand uncle's backyard shed.
my father spotted as i slowly rode the motorcycle into the backyard. that was the easy part. hard part was turning the bike around so it'd go into the shed tail first, and then once inside the shed, to move it the side of the shed where it'd be out of the way. i couldn't 3-point turn the bike around so i ended up just riding in a tight circle in an open area until i had the bike positioned correctly. once in the shed, we discovered there wasn't enough space to maneuver the bike. we jacked it up so we could push it perpendicular for a few feet. we then moved out some old bicycles, which finally gave me enough space to maneuver. once close to the side, we jacked up the bike once more before gently pushing it closer to the wall.
i turned turned the fuel to off and ran the engine until dry, to empty the carburetor while in storage. the engine took a long time to sputter to death, and i had to stand outside the shed for fear of carbon monoxide poisoning. when the engine finally seized, i opened up the choke and restarted the engine a few more times to make sure there was no more fuel left. as the bike was hot, i didn't put the cover on it. i figured i'd come back on monday to do that, and to also remove the battery.
my sister ended up giving me a ride home because she was going to the dollar store.
in the evening i finally had time to test the two garlic presses i got, the x-chef and the zyliss. the zyliss looks more industrial and looks like it could press more than one cloves at a time, but it's big. the zyliss is more streamline but can it press as well as the x-chef?
first i tried an unpeeled garlic clove, skin attached. because the zyliss has a studded press that matches the holes, there doesn't seem to be as much waste compared to the x-chef, where it just has a flat-faced press. the x-chef also seems to have a lot more pressed garlic elsewhere in the press than actually out the holes. when i removed the skin, that's when i saw there was still a lot of garlic bits left over, on both the zyliss and the x-chef. it seems like in order to avoid waste, the best method is to press peeled garlics.
so next i tried it with peeled cloves. the zyliss pressed the garlic so it looked like there was nothing left. with the x-chef, there a some skin. i thought i made a mistake and tried it again with another peeled clove and it still did the same thing. i checked the zyliss, and there was a very thin peel layer as well, but pressed so thinly it was nearly invisible.
zyliss garlic press with peeled clove:
x-chef garlic press with peeled clove:
x-chef garlic press with peeled clove (2nd try):
so in the end, which one is better? i think they work equally well. the amount of garlic squeezed out seems to be about the same, although definitely the zyliss pushes out more because of the studded press. the x-chef is easier to squeeze because of its industrial size, but it's also a lot bigger. the x-chef also came with a rubber garlic peeler (which i didn't use). i was going to return the x-chef press, but i'm going to see if my sister wants it.
so with all the garlic i pressed i used it to make a dip with olive oil and some salt. later i made myself a grilled ham and cheese sandwich for dinner.
i tried to get in touch with lucas from united solar all day, calling in the early and late afternoon. both times no answers, went to voicemail. out of options, i tried calling their main office, but nobody answered as well, but i left a message anyway. i'm really worried at this point. come monday it's going to be the 11th, and if we don't get the solar installed this year, we may never get it installed.
al franken resigned from the senate late this morning after mounting pressure from fellow congresspeople to step down after weeks of alleged sexual harassment allegations. i'm not sure how i feel about that. i've always like franken, found him to be witty and funny and humble. however, if these allegations are true, then he should at the very least be censured. the things he's accused of doing pale in comparison to the allegations over trump (e.g.bragging on audio about assaulting women) and roy moore (e.g.pedophile), and one is the current president while the other looks to be elected the arkansas senator next week. i hope the senate does go forward with an investigation over these allegations so franken can be exonerated and make a run for congress again. i also feel that franken was sacrificed by the democratic party so that they can have the moral highground when they accuse republicans of being the party of sex criminals. whether that will sway voters over to the side of the democrats is unknown, and given voter's ability to rationalize and be hypocritical of their own cherished beliefs, i sort of doubt it.
in the afternoon i went to the community garden to do some more cleaning. unfortunately the cambridge city crew was there working as well, a group of foul-mouthed townies adding fresh soil to the new raised beds. they were loud, yelling at one another from across the garden, goofing off more than they were working. i dug out some creeping buttercups then called it a day. i then biked to rite aid to grab some snacks: altoids ($1.79/box), ferreo rocher collection ($5.69 BOGO), and roasted almonds ($3/can).
back at the house i did one last round of raking for the final yard waste pickup next week. i was prompted to do so because earlier today the cleaners came by and did our gutters. but they did a terrible job, clumps of rotting leaf debris everywhere. i ended up with 3 bags of leaves. i ended up working in my t-shirt because i didn't want to get the rest of my clothes dirty. temperature was in the 40's but i warmed up enough after all that raking that i didn't mind once it came time to bag everything.
my sister came to pick me up around 5:30pm for dinner at koreana. my mother was in the car as well after my sister went to go pick her up. my aunt was treating, since my both my sister and mother have december birthdays. my father was supposed to meet us there and he actually arrived before we did despite the traffic and dearth of parking spots. my mother had picked the venue, but if she had asked me, i would've recommended gyu-kaku in harvard square for korean/japanese barbecue.
afterwards my father took my mother home so he could take a shower before spending another night at my grand uncle's place taking care of him. my sister ended up giving me a ride back home. after a shower i watched thursday night football between the saints-hawks.
i finally upgraded to bbedit 12.0.2 tonight, after previously using v10. a few things are different, but much of it is the same. i spent a lot of time tweaking the colors, as i accidentally erased my customized settings from the previous version. v12 feels faster, and i like how it automatically closes brackets and parentheses for me when i'm blogging.
i went to walgreens to get a few things, before heading to union square to deposit steve's plumbing repair check, and finally to market basket for some groceries (yogurt, granola, ham & cheese ingredients). i always go to walgreens whenever i need to get something embarrassing (hemorrhoid cream, athlete's foot medication),
since it's just far enough away that i don't often visit. they did have a sale on tilex shower spray, and i picked up a bottle as i seem to have a recurring problem with soap scum and mildew on my shower curtains (later i discovered MB sells the same thing, but at the same low price without a sale).
in the afternoon my father brought home the bosch drill set i ordered for my sister 2 weeks ago which finally arrived. the lithium ion batteries came partially charged but we charged them to full. the two drills - a driver drill and an impact drill - seem well made and slightly heavier than i'd imagined. they have handy LED lights to see where you're drilling and a battery level indicator. i'm curious to see how an impact drill operates since i've never used one before. the one strange thing was the set came with a carrying case, but the straps inside are positioned in such a way that it's impossible to figure out how the drills attach. i'm still confused as to how both drills can cost just $89 but the driver drill alone is $129. i keep on wondering whether i got a previous model, but so far i haven't found any differences. i think i just got lucky, found a black friday deal. currently the two drill set costs $169 on amazon.com, which is still a bargain compared to getting the drills separately.
i also helped my father upgrade his amateur radio call sign to a vanity call sign. it was a little technical because he needed to create a new FCC account using his FRN. but when they awarded him the license, they automatically created an FCC account for him. the problem was how to get into the account without the password, which the FCC never sent. i finally fixed it by registering a personal question/answer and using that to reset the password. once i did that it was easy just to submit the online form to upgrade the call sign, which should take about 2 weeks.
after dinner my father left for my grand uncle's place. my grand uncle was supposed to leave for the senior home today, but the nurse called and said either the room and/or paperwork wasn't ready yet, and he'd need to wait a bit longer. that means my father will have to be there to help him get up every few hours to use the bathroom.
i have a second raspberry pi 3 (rpi3v2) which has been sitting unused gathering dust. i finally decided to investigate using it as a OSMC/kodi device to stream online content. it's a little technical but nothing i haven't done before. i haven't played around too much with the rpi3v2 so erasing the memory card was no problem (i didn't however copy the .bashrc file, which is the same copy as on the other rpi3). but to erase the card turned out to be a little tricky because NOOBS was installed and had partitioned the card into 5-6 different parts. i figured it out by erasing each partition separately, before using the SDFormatter app to wipe the card and consolidate all the partitions. i then copied NOOBS onto the card, booted up the raspberry pi, and had NOOBS install both raspbian and OSMC.
i spent the rest of the night playing around with OSMC. to access the good streaming addons i needed to redirect OSMC to use a different repository. i'll have to do some more research. i also need to install some form of VPN to protect the streams from prying eyes.
i woke up at 8am in anticipation of the plumber's visit. i went down to the basement to check the pipes, the catch bin was nearly full so i emptied it.
frank called me a little bit after 8:30am, said he was on his way. he called again 20 minutes later, said he just arrived at the star market parking lot. i ran out to meet him with the visitor's parking permit as we drove back to my place. along the way i explained to him the problem, which i thought would be a quick fix, but he saw it as something more substantial, that we may need to drain the plumbing from the whole house before we could get started.
i showed him the water main in the basement. after the initial inspection to see what he was getting himself into, he asked if he could use my bathroom first.
back in the basement, frank turned off the main valve located at the bottom of the plumbing close to the wall. "do you hear that?" he asked me. i heard nothing. "that valve isn't working. water is still running." that might be true, but 3 ft above that was another valve the previous plumber sean had installed, a much better ball valve, which would stop the water from coming into the house. frank shut off that valve as well.
the other problem was the water already inside the pipes from the rest of the house. we needed to flush all that out so water won't pour out once we disconnect the water main pipe. we went outside to turn on the outdoor spigot where the water initially came out in a steady stream but quickly petered out. i went inside to turn on the cold water faucet in the bathroom but by that point nothing was coming out. that's a good sign. frank also wanted me to turn on the water upstairs but i didn't think anyone was home. he said it was okay, as long as nobody used the faucet while we worked. earlier i sent paul a warning text and an e-mail, just in case he might be home.
one last thing was to turn off all smoke detectors, because his torch would be creating a lot of smoke. we only have one in the basement ("you should really think about getting a hardwired detector," frank said) and i couldn't figure out how to remove the battery so we just left it outside for the time being.
frank then unscrewed the spigot above the ball valve. some water poured out which he caught with a bucket, but not much, and eventually the plumbing ran dry, which was a good sign that we flushed out enough water in the pipes to work. with a small piece of rubber tubing the length of a straw, he became to siphon the small amount of water that was still in the pipe above the ball valve. it didn't seem very efficient, i think he could've easily done it with a longer tubing. the final bit left in the pipe he sucked out with his mouth, spitting the water into the bucket.
next frank turned on his heavy-duty propane tank (i think it was propane) and fired up the torch with a stubborn lighter. i love playing with fire as much as anybody else, but propane torches always scare me, that i'm always inches away from setting the whole house on fire, or maybe the tank exploding. frank began heating up the brass pipe fitting. he did it for a long time and i was afraid he was going to melt the pipes but the fitting would not come loose. at one point he had me nervously hold the propane torch with gloves while he gently tired to pull apart the piping but it still wouldn't budge. could the previous plumber had used some more advanced way to fuse the pipes together?
things weren't looking too good until frank put the spigot back in place and gently struck it upwards with a mallet while i continued to heat the brass fitting. that finally seemed to do the trick as we managed to release the piping. "there's no solder in here!" frank exclaimed when he looked into the copper pipe. he said the previous plumber didn't do a good job sealing it and it was a miracle the pipe wasn't leaking even more. he said sean should pay for this repair and he (frank) saved sean some serious liability claim had the pipe did burst and flood the basement.
frank went about cleaning up the plumbing, using an emery cloth to sand the outside of the copper until it looked shiny and new (he even sanded it vertically, said that helps to draw in the eventual solder), and a fitting brush to clean the inside of the pipe and brass fitting. he then applied some flux to both ends of the pipe before socketing everything back into place.
next came the soldering, as he fired up the torch again. my job was to hold the lamp so he could see. once again he was having problems, as the soldering wasn't taking. "i might have to remove this whole section and install a new brass fitting," he said. sometimes pipes get heated and repaired enough times that it loses its ability to fuse properly. frank said he'd try something else, something calling "buttering" which is just to apply even more solder. that seemed to work better. while he soldered, he used a paper towel to haphazardly flick off the excess molden solder. at one point some solder flew in my direction. "sorry," frank said.
buttering seemed to do the trick. frank put back the spigot as well (applying new teflon tape and some teflon paste). he asked me to go and close all the faucets (outside, inside) before he slowly turned on the water. i heard the gurgle of water coming back into the plumbing. the newly fused joint was not leaking anymore. a success!
we went outside and turned on the outdoor spigot. nothing came out at first, before a few spurts then a steady flow of water. we did the same inside the house, first some gasps of exhaling air before water came out. frank used the bathroom once more before he packed up his things. i helped him carry his tool box, which must've weighed 80 lbs. easily.
we sat on my front porch as he wrote out an invoice. at one point he was crunching some numbers with a calculator, which is never a good sign. the final cost came out to $232.75, $12 of which was in parts (for the solder, teflon tape, flux). it was a little more than i was expecting, for a job that after seeing frank do it once, i could easily do myself in the future. when i paid $100 last time for him to remove the cleanout drain at my parents' place that felt more like a bargain since that wasn't something we could do. but repairing a leaking pipe? it looks easy, something i could do myself. let's just say $200 was for the lesson. besides, my upstairs neighbor would be paying 60% of the bill, so it wasn't that bad. paul actually came out of the house while we were still outside. frank explained to him what we did, but i could see paul feigning interest, my upstairs neighbors are the least handy people i've ever met.
i wrote frank a check and thanked him for coming out. i went back inside the house to scan the invoice and drop off a copy for steve.
i didn't leave the house the rest of the day. i had some oatmeal for lunch then for dinner i heated up a can of soup.
i called lucas once in the early afternoon (he didn't answer) and once in the later afternoon, where i finally reached him. he gave me a tentative install date of the 20th, but nothing finalized yet, and said he was trying to schedule an install on one of these saturdays, since our project has been on the wait list for such a long time. i said i'd call him back either thursday or friday to check again.
i went down in the basement to try out the self-sealing silicone tape that arrived a few days ago. i wanted to patch up the water main pipe which i discovered weeks ago that it was slowly leaking. i thought the silicone tape would be sticky but it felt more like dry stretchy rubber. it did however stick to itself. i put a loop of tape above the top of the shutoff valve, but noticed it was still wet. then i realized the leak was actually coming from the solder joint further up. i figured i could just remove the tape and reuse it but by that point it'd already fused together with itself and i peeled off the tape in usable clumps instead of a single strip.
i applied new tape and right away it didn't seem like it was working, as water trickled out from underneath the tape. i figured maybe i didn't stretch it out enough, so i removed the tape to put on a new layer, hopefully with more stretch.
before i did that though, i noticed a thin cobweb coming out from the pipe. i went to go brush it away but my hand just passed right through it. it took my brain a few seconds to realize what it was: a pressurized jet of water shooting out from the pipe! whatever i did actually made the leak worse. i applied a new layer of tape. it stopped the stream of water but it didn't fix the leak, as water trickled down from the silicone wrap. i put a bucket underneath to catch the drips and wrote my upstairs neighbors an e-mail.
technically this was a mistake made by the plumber who came to replace our water main last year. he should be the one to come out and fix the leak, free of charge. i waited to hear back from paul and steve. my neighbors are really good at not taking responsibility for anything when it comes to house maintenance. paul gave me the number of the plumber and said i could call him. when i did i just got a message saying the subscriber wasn't taking any calls at this time. steve resent me the contact information, that's when i noticed the phone number was off by 1-digit. i tried calling again and managed to get in touch with sean. he said he could come take a look. sometime next week. the thing with our plumber is he actually lives in new hampshire. i don't know how my neighbors found him, but for a plumber you want somebody local, who doesn't take a week a make a housecall.
sean asked me to send him some photos of the leak, which i did, but he didn't write back. getting anxious, i decided to call my own plumber, frank from arlington. he did a good job removing the cleanout drain at my parents' place a week before thanksgiving. the work didn't seem too hard, i figured he'd get it done in under a hour, quick and easy. so i called him and he answered right away. i asked if he remembered me, and told him i had a small project in cambridge if he was interested, a leaking pipe. he wasn't able to come out today (his car was in the shop) but he could be here tomorrow morning at 8:30am. i figured i could wait 24 hours. he then asked for directions. apparently frank is very old school, doesn't do GPS or google maps (of course doesn't own a smart phone), and apparently don't regular maps either. fortunately he was somewhat familiar with the porter square area (coming in from arlington), and we agreed to meet at the beacon street star market tomorrow morning.
i informed paul and steve, and wrote sean a courtesy text as well, telling him i was going with a local plumber since i couldn't wait until next week. he was fine with the decision, but said he could come out friday if it still wasn't fixed.
so what was supposed to be a simple morning ended up with a lot of drama. but i booked a plumber, and hopefully by tomorrow everything will be fixed. the other important thing i did was to write lucas from united solar another e-mail asking him for a schedule update. i'm starting to get that sick feeling of being swindled, since i'm always the one contacting him, and he never seems to call me back with any updates. with just 4 more weeks left in december, this solar project must be finished this year otherwise my parents won't be able to claim the tax credit, which is a pretty big chunk of change (30%).
i went to clean out my community garden plot around noontime. i was hoping to do this in the morning but ran late because of the plumbing drama. i just did a quick clean up, still need to come back later this week to pull up all the invasive buttercups trying to take over. i was there for less than 30 minutes, came back home to finally have some lunch (oatmeal). later in the afternoon i rode the motorcycle to my parents' place to do some yard work there as well. the last garden refuse pickup is tomorrow, so i spent some time moving out nearly a dozen yard waste barrels, besides doing some final front lawn raking and pruning the wisteria and ivy vines.
my father has been carrying everywhere the two ham radio catalogs that i received last week, circling things he wanted to buy, including an MFJ 1699S HF/VHF tape wire mobile antenna ($70). domino's pizza has a special 50% off all pizza deal so we could an extravaganzza pizza along with a chicken caesar salad. i believe domino's doesn't actually make a lot of money off of their pizzas, but instead all the profit comes from the other dishes (salads, sandwiches, appetizers, drinks) which aren't worth the advertised price. normally we'd go pick it up, but tonight we decided to get it delivered ($2.50 + $3 tip). later there was some drama as the store owner called me asking if he could have the credit card number again because they charged us an extra $11 by mistake. it sounds pretty shady even though the owner called me back from the store phone, but my father had left by that point (to take care of my grand uncle) so i didn't have the credit card we ordered with. instead the owner said next time i pay he'd give me store credit.
i was nervous when i left the house and immediately raced down to the basement when i got home (cold but the motorcycle thankfully started without a hitch, condensation billowing from my mouth as i rode), fearful that the plastic catch bucket would overflow. fortunately it didn't, but in 5 hours it managed to fill half the bucket. i emptied it and then put it back, hoping it'd big enough to last overnight and not overflow.
my sister wanted my family to go out for mexican brunch today, a day after her actual birthday on saturday. i didn't want to go, but was guilted into participating by my mother. besides, my sister had already moved up the time, after i objected initially because it was too close to the 1pm kickoff between the patriots and the bills. the reservation was at 11:30am, i woke up around 10:30am, had just enough time to use the bathroom and take a quick shower before i had to leave for belmont. temperature inside my house was a cool 60°. i didn't want to turn on the heat just to warm up the bathroom, so i grabbed the space heater and turned it on instead, gave me just enough warmth to be comfortable. the bathtub drain was working normal for the time being, as it should given how much i plunged it last night.
the place my sister had selected was acitrón in arlington center. we arrived a few minutes late but that wasn't a problem because the restaurant was mostly empty, except for a handful of tables near the front of the restaurant. my sister had been there before and ordered two plates of appetizers (elotes and sopes surtidos) along with her enchiladas. my mother had the vegetales omelette, while my father ordered the huevos con nopales and chorizo. i got the huevos con cochinita pibil.
i didn't like the food. i was looking forward to typical brunch fares - belgian waffles, bacon, home fries, pancakes - so my expectations were not met at all. my parents ordered orange juice but it tasted like something from a can (cocktail mix?) as there was no orange flavor (more like pineapple) and a lot of ice. my mother asked for extra spicy and they gave her a small dish of chopped up jalapeños but it was a bland kind of spiciness. my sister started getting angry with our complaints (she doesn't take criticism well, even when not directly directed at her), but she should've picked a place that everyone would like, not only her.
back at my parents' place they had a market basket tiramisu cake for her. it was okay but they didn't use mascarpone cream cheese and the cream they did use was overly sweet.
patriots won the game against the buffalo bills but the big news is rob gronkowski's late hit on a defenseless bills defender, which might result in a fine and/or suspension. elsewhere, 450 miles away in chicago, former patriots backup quarterback jimmy garoppolo was starting his first game with the 49ers. san francisco ended up winning the game with 5 field goals versus the bears 2 touchdowns. chicago didn't even score any points in the second half. the jimmy garoppolo era in SF has begun!
my father left for my grand uncle's place after dinner for the 4th consecutive night in a row. yesterday he slept in my sister's godmother's empty apartment room (she won't be back until after the chinese new year) instead of on the floor of my grand uncle's. my father's doing this until my grand uncle can get a spot at one of the nearby nursing homes, where they can give him 24/7 supervised care.
i went home soon afterwards to an empty house, which was a weird feeling. there were still times i felt like i had a phantom roommate. i spent the rest of the evening watching the eagles-seahawks game. seattle ended up winning, which means philadelphia now ties new england and minnesota as the only 10-2 teams (depending on how pittsburgh plays tomorrow night, they're currently 9-2).
i found a new favorite show, hulu's future man. i don't subscribe to hulu so i either have to download the episodes via torrent or more conveniently stream it from the showbox app on android. the premise is hard to describe, but it's funny (and profane) enough that i'm often laughing out loud at all the pop culture in-jokes. it's as if this show was custom-designed for my particular taste. eliza coupe is in it, and i love her from happy endings, and future man is along similar lines in terms of the fast-paced humor, just with a lot more f-bombs.
i went on a supply run this morning with my parents, first to costco, then the chelsea market basket. driving towards everett, we saw a migration of chinese people walking towards costco, each one dragging a suitcase behind them. they're going to costco to stock up on gifts to bring back to the mainland, which primarily consists of bottles of fish oil. i don't know how much costco makes from selling fish oil to the chinese but judging from the chinese pushcarts filled with fish oil, it must be a fortune.
next was the chelsea market basket. crowded on a weekend obviously, but compared to the somerville MB, this one was a calm oasis, with plenty of parking spots and wide aisles so customers aren't trapped in shopping cart congestion.
coming out of market basket, we spotted a SUV stacked with some serious antennas. not sure if they're for amateur radios or CB, but i took some photos to study afterwards.
arriving at the cafe to dropped off the supplies, i called li to come and pick up his orders, one of which was a google phone. i also brought his bath towel. later i went with him to his apartment to pick up a key.
in belmont i ate some market basket fried chicken. it was good in the beginning but afterwards i felt a little gross.
my mother picked up a rechargeable wet & dry amopé foot file for $30 at costco after being enthralled by a live demonstration. design-wise, it looks like something apple would design, with its 90's turquoise imac palette. after charging it up, i gave it a try, seems to be pretty effective, didn't even know such a thing existed. i can understand using it dry but wet? which is better?
after returning home i went out to get some stuff from star market. really it was just an excuse to take a photo of the anti-trump vandalism by a house on beacon street. there's one place frequented by townies who smoke and drink on their narrow doorsteps. on one of the windows is a trump sign, which is essentially a big middle finger to the gentrifying liberal population. they had the trump sign up for more than a year, it's very discreet, yet apparently it ticked somebody off enough that not only did they spray paint "trump is next" on the house (which i'm assuming is a rental, poor landlord), but also went crazy on the truck parked outside, painted with obscene graffiti and smashed window shield. i'm no trump supporter, but i don't agree with all this property damage. if anything, it will further entrench these townies towards trump, and it casts liberals in a bad light. i read online that some people believe it might be a false flag stunt, that the townies themselves did this. i'm more of the opinion that some social justice warrior went berserk.
despite the fact that today was moving day, i was dismayed to see that li wasn't entirely packed yet. did he plan on coming back and having lunch, before spending some more time packing? i left for the cafe via bicycle around 11:30am, to wait for li to get out of his meeting so we could drive back to the house and move his stuff. when he showed up around 12:15pm, he had lunch first at my parents' place before we left. i didn't eat yet, i was going to wait after we finished moving. we went to go see the apartment afterwards. one of his new housemates and coworker was at the house, boiling some dumpling for lunch.
we came back to my place, where i sort of nervously hung out in the living room while li was gathering up his things from his bedroom, the kitchen, and the bathroom. to his credit, he seemed to be packing pretty fast, like he had a plan. 15 minutes later he was done, and we started moving things to the front door, and then onto the car. good thing i had the honda element, because a smaller car wouldn't have been able to fit everything, he had so much stuff. even he was surprised.
we drove to my grand uncle's place, where i parked the car outside. i was backing up slowly when the car suddenly lurched backwards at high speed. i was really lucky i didn't smash the car parked behind me, it was a miracle. li's roommate was still home and came downstairs to help him move all his stuff into the house. li and i shook hands and i returned to the cafe.
my original plan was to bike home and continue to clean my community garden plot. but when i arrived at the cafe this morning, my mother said my father needed my help to take my grand uncle to see the doctor later in the afternoon at 2:20pm. so instead of going home, i waited at the cafe for half an hour before i went back to my grand uncle's place, where my father was already there helping him out of bed and dressed. it took some time getting down the stairs, the both of us lifting my grand uncle as he baby stepped down the stairs. the whole time i was thinking why we didn't go out the back entrance where there was a ramp access. the only problem was we'd have to cut through my sister's bedroom, and it's such a hoarder's mess that it'd be impossible to navigate a wheelchair through it.
at the harvard vanguard clinic i pushed the wheelchair while my father led the way and checked in my grand uncle. we took the slow elevator one floor up to the second floor. the waiting room felt familiar because i used to have harvard vanguard as my insurance and came to this cambridge clinic for a few years. for some reason it was completely empty, which is unusual, but afterwards people started trickling in. they saw my uncle right away, my father pushed him inside while i waited outside, reading about the michael flynn guilty FBI plea on my phone using the free wifi.
my father pushed out my grand uncle and we went downstairs to get an x-ray before coming back upstairs. once again, we didn't have to wait long before somebody came to ask my grand uncle to come in. once again i waited outside, reading an issue of the new yorker, about ghost scams happening in new york chinatowns. when my father came out, he said my grand uncle had a minor lung infection (causing excess phlegm build-up) and his doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics.
we got dressed (people in the waiting room where watching my father helping my grand uncle put on his jacket, which took a few minutes) then went downstairs to pick up the prescription from the clinic pharmacy. earlier i saw former coworker mick; now i spotted cambridge mayor denise simmons picking up some drugs. the pharmacy only gave my father 3 pills, to be administered every other day due to my grand uncle's age. we drove back to cambridge, where i helped my father hold my grand uncle as he slowly climbed the stairs back to his house.
it was almost 4pm and i was looking to get home before it got dark, as i didn't bring my bike lights, not thinking i'd be either at the cafe or out of the house the whole day. i didn't eat yet all day and my mother said she had some chicken curry. in the end i decided to eat quickly before rushing home. later i realized i had my fuji bike, which has the built-in light-up wheels, so i didn't have to worry about lights. there was also several packages from amazon: 2 were for my former roommate li, 1 was for me: a digital scale for my mother, a multimeter for my father, some bosch drill bits for my sister's bosch drills (not arriving until next wednesday apparently, found out yesterday), and a zyliss garlic press for myself.
i got home a bit after 4:30pm. i immediately went through the house checking for things li left behind. his situation is special but not unique, when a former roommate moves elsewhere instead of returning home. in cases like these, roommates typically can afford to take everything. in li's case, most of the stuff he left behind were food items he didn't want anyway.
the one thing he did forget accidentally was his bath towel and his little body scrubbing pad. i texted him a photo, he asked if could bring it to the cafe tomorrow or he could swing by and get it himself. he also had a tory birch package on my doorstep when i got home. after the inspection, i changed the bedsheets and vacuumed the room (ended up vacuuming the whole house while i was at it), i plan on sleeping on the guest bedroom tonight as my reclamation ritual.
how did i end up going from zero garlic press to two garlic presses? well, i bought the x-chef garlic press as a black friday deal ($7.99). when i finally received it, it was a lot bigger than i imagined. i was willing to love it and adopt it into my expanding collection of kitchen utensils, but then i saw a sale for the zyliss garlic press ($10.50), which looked much more sophisticated, so i ended up ordering one, figuring i would either return the x-chef or the xyliss, based on which one i liked best. right away, i like the design of the zyliss much better, even though it doesn't have a separate basket for the garlic that the x-chef has. i won't know which one is better until i test them both with real garlic, and unfortunately i don't have any large cloves in my kitchen, only some tiny ones that really should be thrown out. hopefully i'll get some garlic tomorrow so i can do a test.
i didn't eat the rest of the night, the curry was my single meal of the day. i did drink the bottle of nantucket nectar i grabbed yesterday from the harvard lecture, orange mango flavor. actually, that's not true, i did finish the leftover thanksgiving turkey that's been in my fridge for over a week. it didn't smell bad and i didn't have any symptoms afterwards so it was safe to eat after all. i ate while watching the 2-hour season premiere of agents of shield. i also drank the coconut juice li left behind.
i checked the FCC licensing database and noticed they had updated my operator class to amateur extra (they didn't send me an e-mail however). they also assigned my father his call sign, which means we can legally talk over the VHF/UHF bands and use local repeaters. i wasn't able to get ahold of my father to tell him the news; he was staying over at my grand uncle's place for a second night because my grand uncle is too weak to get out of bed to use the bathroom in the middle of the night so my father has to be on standby duty to assist.