after a lunch of yogurt and coffee, i rode the motorcycle to belmont, where my parents had just returned from visiting our relatives in burlington. temperature was in the lower 40's - warm enough that i thought i didn't need my handlebar mitts - but i regretted my decision halfway to my destination when my hands became ice cold. the lesson i learned is when riding in the winter, better to have them instead of not, even if they do look kind of ridiculous.
it was a monday but the neighbor's house building contractors were nowhere to be found. they have a strange schedule, they're not always here, and occasionally they work on the weekends. i had some lukewarm glutinous rice porridge when i arrived, with black sesame glutinous rice balls.
my father and i tackled another project: upgrade the ceiling light fixtures in the basement. more exactly, replacing the porcelain lampholders with new ones that have an embedded outlet. now it's easy to convert any ceiling light fixture into an outlet - just get a 2 outlet socket adapter. but there are two problems with using an adapter: they only turn on when the light is on and they're not grounded (2 prongs instead of 3). that's where the embedded outlet is an advantage. for some reason we had 4 boxes of leviton porcelain lampholders with grounded outlet.
replacing the fixture was nothing new - we've done it before when one of the porcelain base cracked a few years back. the hardest part is just figuring out which circuit breaker to flip to turn off the electricity to the basement ceiling lights. B controls the two lights by the boiler furnace, F governs the lights by the laundry and the utility sink, and the breaker that controls the kitchen light and basement stairwell light also controls the fixture closest to the rear basement door.
we ended up replacing 3 fixtures: the one by the boiler furnace, the one by the oil tank next to it, and the fixture by the rear basement door. inside the ceiling junction box there were just two wires (live and neutral). we needed a third missing wire for the ground, but the new fixture was designed in such an ingenious way that once screwed onto the ceiling, it used the metal junction box itself as the ground. the fixture by the back door had been retrofitted with a standard two socket outlet because my father needed an outlet. it was also the power source for the verizon FIOS box on the other side of the basement. once we replaced the outlet with the new porcelain fixture, the plug was taken up by the FIOS box.
my father was playing with our old sony digital 8 camcorder. purchased in the early 2000's, it was advanced at the time, including IR night video mode. we got all sorts of batteries for it as well as a screw-on wide angle lens. he was charging a particularly large lithium ion battery which seemed to charge okay but couldn't its charge. i looked up prices online for new batteries, a pair of near equivalent batteries cost just $25-30. he was also looking at some old videos he had converted to digital format, and that's when i showed him they shall not grow old, the WWI documentary by peter jackson, with its fixed footage using advanced restoration methods like deep learning to interpolate missing frames to increase the frame rate and using forensic lip readers to recreate silent dialogue.
during dinner i tried some of the glutinous rice wine had made. this wasn't from his most recent batch, but rather from a jar that he's kept for over a year. it had that telltale fermented glutinous rice flavor but also very sweet, like a dessert wine, though a very high but unknown alcohol content.
i rode home after dinner. my hands were okay for the first half, but freezing by the time i got home. i measured the temperature of my fingers with the infrared thermometer, around 60°F, but this was after i'd already warmed up nearly a minute. i was happy to see my dusk to dawn porch light working as expected. i don't know why it took me this long to get one of these light bulbs. i was approaching it too technical, using smart bulbs and even thinking about rewiring a smart light switch. the answer was easy: just get a daylight sensing bulb!
i've got a bunch of shows i've been trying to catch up on. i watched national geographic's mars. i didn't realize it was the final episode (6) of the 2nd season, and from the way it ended, it seemed like the series finale as well. mars is a weird show, half scifi drama, half documentary. the fact-based portion of the show is boring and often preachy, and i skip through them to get to the story. later i watched showtime's escape at dannemora. not knowing what they did wrong to land themselves in jail, i can help but root for convicts richard matt and david sweat as they make their escape from prison. of the few civilians we see in the show (mostly prison workers), they all seem terrible, especially patricia arquette's portrayal of dowdy joyce mitchell, the cranky prison tailor shop supervisor who's perpetually complaining. the only good guy in all of these seems to be her husband lyle, who has no idea his wife is having illicit relationships with two convicts, helping them with their escape and enlisting them to kill him.
i also have a show backlog that i haven't been able to work through. i'm trying to watch them so i can erase them from my computer, clearing up storage space. there's castle rock (from august), set in the stephen king multiverse, it's the sort of show that's right up my alley, but i've unsuccessfully tried to watch a few times but couldn't get into it. i'm probably just going to read the synopsis on wikipedia and then erase it. there's the first, the sean pean drama about going to mars (yes, another mars show). it seems to be less about the scifi and more about the human interactions as astronauts prepare for a mars mission. it's another one of those slow burn shows, hard to get into even though i'm sure it's probably very good. tell me a story has a decent pedigree, created by kevin williamson (though based on a mexican tv series) and starring kevin wolk, kim cattrall, and danielle campbell, who's like a clone of katie holmes. it's supposed to be a modern day mashup of several fairy tales (three little pigs, red riding hood, hansel and gretel) though if i didn't know about it beforehand i would've never guessed. finally, there are several seasons of outlander i need to work through. i'm a quarter finished with season 2, but still need to watch all of season 3 and the current season 4.
after getting some green mountain hazelnut keurig coffee ($4.99) for my mother from star market, i packed up my things and headed to harvard square to catch the bus to belmont. there was a bit of rain so i had my umbrella. according to the transit app, i arrived right on time,
but the bus didn't show up, and the schedule board said the next one was another 20 minutes. my sister texted me about that time, asked if i needed a ride. initially i said no since i was already at the bus station, but after a minute of thinking, i decided to go for the ride after all, exiting the station and waiting by brattle street.
in the backyard i collected some fallen hawthorn berries for future sichuan paocai spice mixes. i noticed a garlic sprout in one of my garlic boxes. mild weather causes them to germinate but they will stop growing once it gets cold again. for best results, i should cover up the sprouts to protect them from freezing. elsewhere, my sister and i found 2 rabbit holes by the fences. i used planks of wood and rocks to block them up. rabbits just love coming into our backyard to feed on the plants. now that everything is dormant, it's easier to spot rabbit holes, though i haven't seen any rabbits in the backyard for a while now.
for lunch i had some rice porridge mixed with oatmeal. i mixed in some pork floss and ate some pickled radishes.
it was an afternoon of football, waiting for the 4pm pats-steelers game. i played with the 538 interactive playoff projection chances chart to figure out what-ifs scenarios. new england needed the win to stay within the playoff bye hunt; pittsburgh needed the win just for a chance to get into the playoffs. it was also a crucial game for them as there's been murmurs that coach mike tomlin's job might be on the line if they don't get into the post-season. anyway, the steelers ended up winning 17-10. patriots had a chance to tie the game in the final minute and sent it into overtime, but they couldn't score a touchdown. it was a strange game, with the pats plagued by a barrage of uncharacteristic penalties. receivers also had a case of the dropsies on key possessions.
the pats have looked vulnerable all this season, especially having lost to bad teams they should've soundly beaten: jaguars, lions, titans. dolphins at miami is a special case as it's now confirmed that they're new england kryptonite, but the pats should've won that game last week. and now losing back to back for the first time in so many years, it's definitely a warning that their super bowl hopes might be jeopardy. i've watched all of their games this season and it's been painful. new england doesn't dominate like they used to. teams are still weary of them given all their past success, but which each loss, opponents are beginning to lose their fear. so now the patriots are either in the 3rd or 4th spot, with the chiefs and texans with playoff byes. if the pats win out their last two games and the texans lose one, new england will be back in the no.2 spot.
my sister returned to belmont after dinner to pick up her dog. there was less than a quarter left in the game by that point, so she waited for it to finish. afterwards she gave me a ride back to cambridge in the heavy rain.
is it crazy that i want an mp3 player to listen to my music? does that make me a dinosaur? i know people use their phone these days for music as well, but i grew up with walkmans (then graduated to mp3 players once they were available) so i'm comfortable with the idea of having separate music. the four advantages i see with a dedicated mp3 player versus just using your phone is 1) i don't use up precious phone battery life (i need the phone for other stuff, like calling people, texting, directions, and web surfing), 2) i don't use up precious phone storage space (i need those for photos and apps), 3) i can listen to FM radio (something both my iphone and oneplus one can't do) and 4) an mp3 player is lighter and i can just take that with me if i want music (although honestly, i'd probably bring my phone anyway).
the very first mp3 player i ever got was a rio 500 purchased most likely in 2000. this was way before i even had a phone, which didn't happen until april 2002 (nokia 8260). the player had 64MB of internal memory of which i added another 64MB of external. the two storage allowed me to create A-side and B-side playlists. i found interesting tunes off of napster during the heydays of unregulated online digital music. i upgraded my mp3 player years later in 2007, when i got the sansa express with 2GB of internal memory (15x the rio 500) and a slot for an external card as well. either i used it all the time or it just wasn't made very well because 2 years later i noticed the buttons weren't working correctly anymore. but i still kept on using it until i finally upgraded again in 2011 to the 4GB sansa clip+ with a memory card slot that allowed a 32GB expansion. that's a great player and i took it with me everywhere, including china. when i accidentally left it in my running shorts and put it through the wash, i actually asked my parents to send me another one (in hindsight, i could've easily found a cheaper and just as usable version in china, but i didn't think of it at the time). when i lost my sansa clip+ in 2015, i discovered my old one was still working. i also discovered rockbox, a 3rd party firmware which adds more functionality to the clip+, making it feel like an entirely new player.
i still use my sansa clip+, which weighs just 24g. not really for music these days, more for FM radio as i don't have any other radios in my house besides the shower radio (which i listen to daily, alternating between sports and public radio).
after some blueberry granola yogurt and a cup of hazelnut coffee for lunch, i took the motorcycle to the cafe. i've been there every day this week. from amazon tracking i knew the IMINOVO motion sensor night light had arrived. it was smaller than i'd imagined, especially compared to the motion sensing clamp light rigged we set up. we put it in the basement to try it out. since it uses an older ir-sensor, the light didn't turn on until you were almost on top of it; compared that to the radar-sensor light, which turns on the moment you step into the basement. if the IMINOVO was cheaper i might've been tempted to keep it, but at $11.88 i'm going to return it.
the other thing that arrived was a pair of 10ft usb extension cord for the wyze cameras. my father and i went to my sister's place to make the switch to the front door cam. turns out at 10ft it's a bit of a stretch, but the 16.4ft cord that arrived yesterday works perfectly. we also tested the radar-sensor motion light bulb in the stairwell. even though it might get triggered by my sister walking around in her room, it's still a good solution.
after my father left, i changed some setting on the RT-AC68U router. as i found out yesterday, several people have reported wyze connectivity issues when paired with the asus RT-AC68U. some people have fixed it by turning off "airtime fairness" under the professional tab of the wireless setting. the front cam was already working before i made the change. the back cam worked more reliably after i moved a potted plant that was blocking the cam, but it would still refuse to connect on occasions. after i adjusted the setting, both cameras seemed to be working better. i also turned on QoS last night with streaming video priority. it may also be my imagination, but after a few days of poor connectivity, newly set up wyze cams seem to stabilize eventually.
unrelated to the wyze cameras, i tried activating the DDNS, which hasn't worked in a while. without DDNS, i can't log into the router remotely using the asus router app. i think there's an asus server conflict as i had an factory set address assigned to the router when i first got it before i changed it to a vanity address. i think it's just a simple matter of contacting asus to get them to change it.
amazon tracking told me that the four LOHAS dusk to dawn light sensor bulbs ($17.09) had arrived in belmont. as it was still early (2pm), i rode the bike to belmont just to get the bulbs. across the street, the new house is coming together nicely. they've already hammered in the walls and today they would probably finish the roof by the end of the day. my mother said the whole construction costs $600k, about the price of buying a new house (though still a bargain, given how expensive it is in belmont). i spoke with the chinese owner, who comes by every day to check on the construction status. he said the whole won't be completely finished until april, that there are still a lot to do, including things like landscaping. he said every day he checks the weather, no so much now, but back when they were digging the foundation, if it got too cold the ground would freeze. he also lucked out that haven't gotten any considerable snow yet this season.
temperature was in the lower 40's but it was a really nice day for riding. tomorrow's forecast will be even warmer with temperature in the 50's. days like these makes me glad i didn't put away the bike yet. barring a big snowstorm, i may be able to ride all the way into january if i'm lucky.
i installed one of the LOHAS bulbs into the front door porch light at my parents' place. it didn't turn on but that's a good thing, means the light sensor was working. when i returned to the cafe, i took down the smart bulb from my sister's porch and installed a LOHAS bulb. once again it didn't turn on, which is what i wanted. back at the cafe my father and i replaced the 16.4 ft extension cord from the back wyze cam with the 10ft cable, which works just as well.
my 2nd aunt was having issues with my uncle's t-mobile prepaid phone (old-school candybar-style) and brought it to the cafe hoping i could solve it. when calling, it gave a short message that the number could not be dialed. my father and i went to the alewife brook t-mobile store. there were two employees, one was helping out a woman, the other one was just standing there texting, ignoring us, even moving further down the store so he wouldn't have to deal with us. the first employee didn't do much either, just shrugged when i asked if the other guy was on his break. i had to ask him (darius) for help. he tested the phone, said it was dead, and the solution was to get a new phone. we were able to leave when i noticed i was getting signal bars again and brought it back for him to check out. he said the signal was cutting out intermittently, but the basic problem was a hardware issue. so my father and i were out the store when i tried calling the phone itself. it said the subscriber couldn't be reached. so we went back to the store for the 3rd time, and only then did darius finally do a check on the account. he must've been one of the least helpful customer service person i'm come across in a long time, and i'm tempted to file a complaint but i'm sure his days at t-mobile are numbered anyway. my father and i had to sleuth the answer ourselves, which was basically there was no more money left on the account, even though my aunt say's it gets automatically deducted from her bank every 3 months. my father paid $10 to reactivate the phone to get it working again. the problem is t-mobile uses a 90-day schedule but the money from my aunt's bank get drawn every 3 months. so at the end of each quarter, the phone will lose service for a few days before the money comes in.
i returned home by 4pm. it didn't seem all that dark, but the sun was setting at 4:12pm, and as soon as i installed the bulb, it turned on. the test will come tomorrow morning when it should turn off on its own.
i finally finished watching nightflyers. i'm warning you right now that there will be spoilers from here on out. it was a terrible show, and the final few episodes i hate watched, especially after gretchen mol's character dies for real at the end of the 9th episode. if by some miracle the series get renewed (i very highly doubt it), i won't watch it anyway with mol's absence. it's a terrible show, with a terrible story, and many plot holes. the show does however looks great, and that was another reason why i kept watching, despite all the shortcomings. like when rowan and auggie both murder people onboard the ship, but by the following episodes all seems to be forgotten and everything is back to normal. or how thale tries to kill murphy, but they later become friends (which is never explained), but then murphy sort of disappears for the rest of the episodes, before finally showing up again just to be killed by auggie. and it's obvious that captain roy eris is an android (especially since he survived the lab autoclave) but nobody makes that connect and seem surprised to find out later when rowan chops him up with an axe while the rest of the bridge crew just stand and watch. i can't recommend nightflyers at all, unless you're really into good-looking scifi and gretchen mol. it reminds me of american horror story, how everything seems to be bits and pieces with no real coherent story, more style than substance.
back in early november i jarred some sliced pears and ginger to make a fruit kvass. 6 weeks later i'm finally trying it out even though it should've just been a few days of fermenting. the first jar had some white yeast on the surface, which i think is harmless, but i scooped them off with a spoon anyway. the kvass smelled very vinegary and tasted just like it smelled, mostly carbonated sourness with a hint of sweetness. it reminded me a lot of kombucha, just no scoby. i drank a glass but a part of me was worried about accidentally ingesting botulism (though i think under these acidic conditions that couldn't happen). the only side effect was a few burps afterwards, no upset stomach, which was my other concern. i ended up filtering out the liquid and dumping all the fermented fruit.
i had a late dinner (9:40pm) of white cheddar shells, i've been eyeballing the box in my cupboard for weeks, finally had a chance to eat it. i typically add a cup of frozen kale into the boiling pasta to make it healthier. i also ate one of my very ripe fuyu persimmon: i made a hole when i removed the produce sticker and managed to simply suck out all the gooey sweetness on the inside. actually, i wanted to go down to haymarket today to look for some more cheap persimmons (especially hachiya, they seem to be better flavored), hopefully some other time.
after a salad and chocolate milk for lunch, i biked down to the cafe in the afternoon to try and debug the malfunctioning wyze cams at my sister's place. i can only see the video streams intermittently, even on local wifi. as a test, i set up a 3rd camera, and put two pan cams right next to the router. even then it had problems streaming. later back at home i discovered some people who had problems connecting their wyze cams to an asus RT-AC68U router. there are certain settings i can try tomorrow.
i'm going to return the IMINOVO light/PIR motion sensor LED night light when it arrives tomorrow because i discovered a cheaper solution: a motion sensing light bulb in a simple utility clamp light. i had one in my basement that i brought to the cafe. i used the radar bulb i got from my sister yesterday. because it uses radar instead of infrared, it's super sensitive and can sense through walls, and was suitable for my sister's place, but in the basement it was a perfect fit. walking around upstairs won't trigger it, but coming downstairs, once you're within the light of sight, the light will immediately turn on. a simple solution to a simple problem.
the other thing i did today was attend a branding consultation at 3pm. it's a requirement as part of cambridge's small business grant program. it was a complete waste of time however, spent two hours listening to my sister blather to a trio of branding consultants: a social media expert, a graphic designer, and somebody else who's job i wasn't quite clear on. two of them were millennials, the third as well. they talked about SEO and taking control of your branding and mentioned instagram every other sentence. "you don't have to post something everyday, like three times a week is fine." they represent everything i hate. i did learn one thing: that you can actually get a job being on instagram all day. one of the girls said it like it was a badge of honor instead of a tremendous waste of time playing a virtual popularity game. while my sister chatted away like a moron, i said very little and kept a stone face. while i just wanted the meeting to be over, my sister seemed to enjoy the sound of her own voice. at one point i made a bet that she would eventually bring up her dog, and sure enough, before the meeting finished, she mentioned she had a dog and had to show everyone a photo. i will never attend another one of these meetings as long as i live. i'm going to imagine it never happened.
after the meeting i set up a second wyze cam at the cafe with the newly-arrived usb extension cord. it replaced the rear foscam, which worked well enough, but the wyze has more fancy features (like recording). one problem we discovered was that while the pan cam has great near 360° view, it doesn't have very good vertical POV. i had to tilt the camera on the base in order to see all of the back of the cafe, but that meant see less of the parking lot once the camera was turned the other way.
i then went to my sister's place to troubleshoot her cameras again, once i noticed they were offline again. i even updated the router, hoping that would fix the problem, but it didn't. i finally gave up, returned to the cafe, gathered up my things, and biked home. by then it was close to 6pm. when i logged into the wyze app, i noticed the cafe cams were all down. the only cam that was up was the front door cam at my sister's place, and it was only on intermittently.
for dinner i ate another third of the fried chicken from last night, whipping up a quickly sweet and sour sauce to mix with the chicken. i still have another third left but i'm all chickened out, i'm looking to eat something different tomorrow.
one good thing that happened today was i found my lost grocery bag. it was just a few houses down, on the side of the road, tossed with some leaves. i spotted the blue canvas right away.
i had all the ingredients i needed to make a jar of sichuan paocai. i haven't made since september 2017. last time i boiled the water in a stock pot but this time i just measured it out in cups from the electric kettle. halving the portions from last time (18 cups for 2 5L fido jars), i measured out 9 cups of hot water and added 3 oz. of paocai salt (purchased in chongqing, it's essentially just fine salt) (using the fermenting ratio of 3 cups of water per 1 oz. of salt). also different this time around was boiling the special packet of paocai spices to bring out the flavors instead of just adding them as-is into the brine.
the spice packet just listed the ingredients but didn't specify the portions. so i took it upon myself to find out exactly how much of each ingredients so i could then recreate the spice packet in the future. the larger pieces were easy to sort out (orange peel, anise, cardamon, dried chili pepper, hawthorn berries), the small ingredients (pepper, coriander, peppercorn, fennel) took a lot longer and required some fine sorting.
|sichuan paocai spices (泡菜香料)||(1 jar of paocai)|
10 hawthorn berries (5g)
1 star anise (2g)
1 dried chili pepper (1g)
1 orange peel (3g)
1 red cardamon seed (1g)
1 tbsp coriander seeds (4g)
1/2 tsp white peppercorn (2g)
1 tsp sichuan peppercorn (2g)
1 tsp fennel seeds (1g)
some of the ingredients are surprising: hawthorn berries? is that just for some sweetness? fortunately my parents have a hawthorn tree in their backyard and i can collect some berries. and cardamon? not just any cardamon, red cardamon, AKA chinese black cardamon, AKA amomum tsaoko, AKA 草果. apparently it's widely used in sichuan cooking, though in what dishes i don't know. the packet contains some sichuan peppercorn (AKA prickly ash), but just a small amount. it also has a piece of dried chili pepper, but most authentic sichuan paocai would definitely add more hot peppers.
i ended up boiling the spices with an additional 1 tbsp of red sichuan peppercorns in 1 cup of water. i realized i made a mistake, because i should've just used 8 cups for the brine, then added a cup of boiled spice liquid to make it a total of 9 cups. afterwards i left the brine to cool to room temperature before stuffing the fido jar with vegetables later today.
i ate a bowl of yogurt with granola and fresh blueberries for lunch. i made myself a cup of aeropress coffee, making sure not to dilute it too much before adding some half & half and sugar. this cup tasted much better, strong coffee flavor than the past few brews.
around 1:30pm i rode the motorcycle to the cafe. today's temperature was in the 30's. my new winter starting technique is to open the choke, turn on the lights, wait a few moments, then finally starting the engine. so far i've managed to start successfully, but we haven't had another cold morning since saturday, when my battery died and the morning temperature was 20°F. because the battery had gone out a few times, the trip odometer was all messed up and i couldn't use it to gauge my fuel level, so i went to the speedway and filled the tank before arriving at the cafe.
i went to the cafe to check on the status of the wyze cams at my sister's place. for some reason i have intermittent success trying to connect to them over the internet but they work fine locally via wifi. it may just be a matter of too many people sharing the same router, but the router they have new is a real workhorse so i wouldn't suspect it to be the problem. i ended up just power cycling the cameras, hoping they'll be better now. i also installed the color-changing smart bulb on my sister's porch. this way it can turn on and off during dusk to dawn, since her window camera needs properly lighting to see at night. i rode back home sometime after 4pm.
|sichuan paocai (四川泡菜)||(1x 5L fido jar)|
3.2 lbs. chinese cabbage
1.9 lbs. daikon radish
1.1 lbs. carrots
12 thai chili peppers
sichuan paocai spices
9 cups boiled water
3 oz. salt
1 tbsp sichuan peppercorns
1/8 cup chinese baijiu
3 tbsp rock sugar
missing this time around is ginger, which is more for eating than anything flavor related. the recipe that XL originally taught me back in changshou was just chinese cabbage, carrots, and ginger. plus lots of of hot peppers (sichuan people love the spicy). in my own personal ingredient i add daikon radish, which i personally don't really like for sichuan paocai (they get soft, i prefer the crunch of carrots; daikon is important for korean kimchi however) but my mother enjoys it.
due to the boiled spice ingredients, the brine had a brownish yellow color. i'm hoping once mixed with the release water from the vegetables, that the color will get diluted.
a more discerning paocai chef would wash all the ingredients and letting it dry before adding it to the fermenting jar, but i've found it to be an unnecessary step. cabbages are bundled up anyway, so contagions can't easily get inside, and i peel the carrot and daikon radish, so contagions on the skin are removed. making sichuan paocai is definitely a lot easier than korean kimchi.
i started with a layer of chopped "cubed" cabbage, then a layer of wedged carrots and cubed daikon radish sprinkled with a few hot peppers, before i repeated the layers two more times. i started adding the flavored brine cup by cup. when i got close to the end i realized i made a critical mistake: all the spices would be on top of all the layers instead of mixed throughout because i didn't added them while i was layering. actually, when XL taught me the technique, all the peppercorns were placed at the bottom of the jar initially before anything else was added. i wasn't going to take out the ingredients and relayer them so i just dumped all the spices into the jar once i had all the layers and brine in place. i then closed the lid and gently shook the jar back and forth, which 1) released trapped air bubbles and settled the vegetable content, and 2) made the spices sink to the bottom, at least the small pieces. so everything worked out in the end.
i also forgot to added the chinese baijiu, and ended up pouring in 1/8 cup. i used to do 1/4 cup, but that seems like too much waste of a perfectly good baijiu. later before i went to bed, i realized i forgot the rock sugar, so added about 8 rocks, which will eventually melt.
for dinner i made general tso's chicken, after the success i had with general tso's pork last week. i had 1.79 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken thighs that i cut up and left to marinate in the fridge in a bowl of chinese cooking wine (1 cup) and soy sauce (1/4 cup) at 6pm.
i started frying around 8pm. it took about 45 minutes to fry all that floured thigh nuggets, working in 3 batches, 15 minutes per batch. the fried nuggets themselves are pretty delicious as is, maybe with some dipping sauce. the smaller chicken bits are easier to fry compared to the large pork bits last time. when i was finally done, i only used 1/3 of the fried chicken, into a pot of sticky sweet and sour general tso's sauce.
i was supposed to go with my father on a market basket supply run early this morning but because my mother had an acupuncture appointment, it was postponed until later in the morning. i biked down to the cafe at 10am hoping to debug the nest malfunction. i kept thinking about something xiaowu the HVAC guy said to my father,
that the common wire was only 18VAC when it should be 24VAC. using a multimeter, i pulled off the nest thermostat and measured the voltage across certain wires. across Y1 and Rc it was 24-25VAC, and likewise between W1 and Rh. but when i measured Rc to C (common), it was 18VAC, just like my father said. i then climbed a ladder and checked the voltage across the cable splices in the ceiling, between the wires from the thermostat to the wires from both roof AC and basement furnace. the readings were the same as before, which meant the problem was further up the electric food chain.
i put the amateur HVAC work on hold as we left for market basket. my sister's godmother tagged along as well. one of my canvas grocery totes fell out of my bike basket when i went to the cafe earlier, and we retraced my steps hoping it still might me on the road. we never did see it. the bag wasn't anything special, and in fact i found it on the streets to begin with years ago, so in a way it was returning back to where i found it.
we returned a bunch of cans and bottles but when we went to pay i forgot to take out the deposit slips. i also wanted to get some cabbage to make sichuan paocai but i didn't like the look these american cabbages, so i'm going to get them from chinatown instead, even if they are more expensive.
back at the cafe, my father and i moved the ladder out back so we could climb to the roof. i took a voltage measurement between Rc and C: it read 24-25 VAC. that meant there's something definitely wrong with the wire. fortunately we had 2 more spare wires on the cable run, so instead of orange on C, i switched to white on C. back downstairs, i connected the blue wire that went down the common in the nest thermostat to the white wire that went up to the AC.
i took a new reading between Rc and C: 24-25 VAC! just what we wanted. anxiously i put the nest thermostat back onto the wallplate and waited to see what would happen. good news and bad news. good news: the wiring diagram now recognized the C. success! bad news: it was clicking the basement furnace non-stop, to the point where we had to turn it off. the only way to keep it from clicking was to ironically remove the C wire. it'd still click, but at least it could ignite the furnace, which it couldn't do with the common wire in place. it should've worked! but it didn't. and i couldn't think of a reason why. all the voltages were correct, yet it still didn't work. this was something only the HVAC guy could solve, and he was out on holiday vacation on the west coast, wouldn't be back until after christmas.
my father was willing to live with the occasionally clicking furnace (i.e. with common wire detached), but i suggested we return to the old mercury switch thermostat, to see if it'd also make the furnace clicking sounds. the old thermostat was easy to put back, the screw holes on the door frame were still there. once properly wired (easy, just 2 wires, Rh and W1), we turned on the furnace to see what would happen. the old thermostat performed flawlessly, igniting the furnace when we wanted to, turning it off when we didn't. there were no clicking sounds, everything worked.
it was 1:30pm by the time we finally finished and i had something to eat, half an egg salad sandwich and a walnut cake my aunt lili had bought over when she was here earlier. she'd invited us for korean dinner tomorrow night but it ended up getting cancelled because my sister moved her personal chef assignment to wednesday as well.
i spent the next hour setting up my sister's wyze cameras. the $20 stationary wyze cam i ordered arrived today; i'm replacing her front door pan cam with this one since she doesn't need the pan function. but first i set up a pan cam facing into the backyard. ideally we'd set it outside so we can use the night cam (using it indoors behind the glass window causes glare and you can't see anything in night mode), but there was no good place for use to put the camera. we finally rigged something up with a wooden plank on a shelf for the camera to stand on. next i replaced the front door cam with the stationary wyze. it has a unique design, like a desk lamp, but articulate enough to molded into any angle. it has a magnetic base and it came with a metal disc that can be glued to the wall to allow the camera to attach anywhere. i tried gluing the disc to the bottom of the window frame but the numerous ridges there did allow me to glue the disc completely flat. so i ended up just gluing the camera base to the window itself using sticky tape, which seemed to do the work. i also have a 3rd pan cam for a window on the side of the house but we need to wait until i can get a longer usb extension cord.
before i left, i went down to the basement and took a measurement between the Rh and W1 of the furnace. for some reason it read 28 VAC. i thought nothing of it at first, but only when i got home and looked up the error on the nest did i see it was an overcurrent issue. it may have nothing to do with the 28 VAC reading. another thing i could try is restarting the nest thermostat. maybe it's just a single case of turning it off and on that can fix it.
besides the groceries i got earlier, i also returned home with a container of leftover stew my sister made and some sourdough bread. i took the long way home just to see if i could find my lost grocery bag. i didn't find it.
the hours between 4:30pm to 6pm is most often the time of day where i struggle to stay awake. it's dark outside, it's cold in the house, there's nothing on television, so it's easy to crawl on the couch and fall asleep within minutes with the laptop heating my stomach.
i bought some usb extension cables for the wyze cameras, a pair of 16.5 ft cables ($12.89) and a pair of 10ft cables ($7.99). i also got an IMINOVO light/PIR motion sensor LED night light ($11.88). my father asked me to look for one for the cafe basement, an unlit dark corridor that just happens to have a wall outlet mounted close to the ceiling. originally i wanted to get a motion sensor plug (like the westek motion activated light control), but it seemed kind of expensive for what it does, and i still needed to get a light for it afterwards. the IMINOVO has got some really good customer reviews. it's advertised as a night light, but it's actually pretty bright, the equivalent of a 25 watt bulb.
i didn't eat until late, almost 9pm. i normally don't pay any attention to supergirl on the CW but found myself watching it because of the elseworld storyline. afterwards i tried catching up on my backlog of nightflyers episodes.
riding the motorcycle in the cold is a feat of endurance, although it wasn't that bad today, with temperature in the 30's. it was also a bright sunny day with not a lot of wind. the moment of truth came when i went to start the motorcycle. i tried twice, both unsuccessful, until i realized i didn't turn on the choke yet. that seemed to fix it and on the third try the engine purred to life. i gathered up my things, attached the handlebar mitts, then pushed back in the choke before i rode to belmont.
the sherpa-lined insulated handlebar mitts made my hands feel particularly warm. i can't see any of the controls (turn signal knobs, horn, high beam, throttle, clutch, front brake) but i've been riding long enough that i know their position from touch and memory. the only parts of my legs that felt cold were the gaps above my wool socks. then there's my face. i didn't mind the wind blowing past the top of my head, but i could imagine it getting uncomfortable for long winter rides (which i'd never make, i'm not a masochist). wearing a full-face helmet instead of an open-face one would solve it, but i'm of the opinion that a full-face helmet block a lot of your senses (sight, hearing) and gives you a false sense of security when you should really be more alert when on a motorcycle. or maybe a ski mask.
last week the neighbors' had finished the first floor of their house; this week they built out the second floor, including the gables on either ends of the house. all that's missing are the walls and the roof. whatever the style is, it's definitely not a ranch house, and once finished, it will eclipse the view looking out our living room window. at least for us it's north facing so it's not blocking our sun; their neighbors in the back - also a recent mcmansion - will be out of luck when most of their southern facing windows get blocked by the house.
i had some vietnamese pho broth with regular noodles for lunch. my mother was streaming some korean crime drama on television while knitting a pair of double-sided hats, while my father was watching continued taiwanese election coverage on his tablet. i roasted a bag of hazelnuts in the toaster oven. i downloaded the photos my mother took in taiwan and japan and uploaded them to their google photo account. i covered the barbecue grill and dumped some kitchen scraps in the compost tumbler. my sister stopped by in the late afternoon with hailey before leaving. i kept repeatedly checking the motion alert videos on the wyze notifications tab, seeing when people left the apartments and customers at the cafe.
after dinner i played the chinese-subtitled version of the new predator movie for my parents and give my mother instructions on how to watch the chinese-subtitled second season of the mrs. maisel (she's already watched the first episode of season 2 earlier and seemed to like it).
having learned my lesson from this morning, i remembered to turn on the choke before i started the motorcycle. i also turned on the lights for about a minute beforehand, to allow the battery to warm up (at least that's my thinking). the bike started effortlessly. however in the dark i couldn't tell that i had my fuel petcock shut off, but i noticed the bike was starting to feel sluggish, and finally turned on the fuel. i cranked the throttle a few times to allow the engine to warm up then i returned home.
using the inverted method, i made myself a cup of coffee, filling the water to the 1 mark. once i plunged the coffee into the mug, i added some more hot water to make up the difference, filling the rest with half & half. once again, the coffee tasted diluted. i'm not sure where i'm going wrong. am i adding too much water during the steeping phase? or am i diluting too much in the mug? i need to experiment more to figure out the best method. unfortunately i can only drink a cup of coffee a day maximum, otherwise i can't sleep.
i cooked up the last of my diced ham for one final western omelette while the patriots-dolphins game started at 1pm. playing in miami seems to be new england's kryptonite: tom brady has a 7-9 losing record when playing our conference rival down in florida. so this was a tense game, especially since the game was close and the lead kept on changing hands. the game went down to the wire, with the patriots seemingly in a position to win with just seconds left in the game. but then the miami miracle happened, in a play that seemed impossible, as miami players kept tossing the ball to one another until the final receiver broke free and ran into the endzone. rob gronkowski was in the back field playing safety, and to swat down any hail mary passes, didn't have the speed to catch up to the speedy dolphin (gronkowski even tripped over himself a bit struggling to tackle the receiver). once again the dolphins beat the patriots in miami.
by that point i already had my jacket on, ready to go down to the cafe where they were having some kind of neighborhood business event (holiday stroll). i could've taken the motorcycle, but decided to go by bicycle instead since it was more reliable and i wouldn't have to worry about a dead battery.
i went to the cafe at 9am to check on the down internet before my 2nd aunt arrived at work. i was going to take the motorcycle but the cold 20°F temperature killed the battery and i couldn't start the engine. i tried cranking it a few times until i heard the hiss of a completely dead battery. i ended up riding the bicycle, a little more work, but at least it gave me some morning exercise.
my mother gave me a cafe key a while back but i've never used it. i thought it was for the back door but turns out it was for the front. the first thing i did was to check the furnace in the basement. it was surprisingly quiet, given how noisy it was yesterday. next was the internet issue. i reset the wifi router first but it still didn't work, said i was connected to the network but without internet. i had to power cycle the cablemodem which ended up fixing the problem. i'm not sure why the internet went down, but i wonder if having 3 web cameras running simultaneously had anything to do with it. i ended up unplugging the basement foscam which i just added yesterday. it wasn't a very good camera anyway, was previously the cafe rear camera, until the image went all solarized. it's actually a refurbished unit, and had some vignetting issue on the lens when it first arrived.
when i heard the furnace in the basement clicking repeatedly again, i decided to turn up the heat a little bit to stop it from doing that. that should've fixed the problem but the furnace was having a hard time igniting, alternating between the clicking sound of the igniter and the wooshing sound of the flames lighting but then extinguishing again. it got so bad i ended up turning off the furnace completely because i was afraid it was going to break. i called my father to let him know, but when i turned the furnace back on, it managed to successfully ignite and the clicking was gone. so i thought. clicking was minimized, but while it was heating it would occasionally still engage the igniter. my father called the HVAC guy (xiaowu) who told him he might be able to come by in the afternoon.
i saw my aunt outside but instead of coming in she started walking down the street. i unlocked the front door to see what was going on. she was looking for the newspaper, which i already brought inside. the final reason why i was at the cafe this morning was to give my aunt the moto E4 phone i set up for her yesterday (nearly losing my own phone in the process).
i spent some time showing her the different apps. she regularly uses an ipad, so the functionality isn't all that different, save the calling and messaging apps. i also showed her the transit app, which shows real-time gps-enabled updates of the buses, so she no longer has to guess when the bus will arrive. my only concern is once she goes home, she needs to set up the phone to access her wifi. unfortunately it's the default 16-character comcast password, and can only be found underneath the cablemodem. i told her to call me when she got home so i could walk her through the process.
i biked home by 10:45am. i removed the motorcycle battery so i could recharge it, hopefully be able to ride by later today. i was meeting li and his wife at harvard square at noon so we could go into boston to see the speedo santa run. i had less than an hour to get ready. originally i was going to make breakfast but i had to go without as i didn't have enough time. after using the bathroom and taking a shower, it was time to go.
as i was crunched for time, i ended up riding the bike into harvard square, parking by the science center (where i lost and then found my phone yesterday) and walking across the yard to the square. i thought maybe li might be waiting by the bus stop and when i craned my neck to take a look, i spotted him just as he was calling me asking where i was. i crossed the street to meet them at the no.1 bus stop. the parked bus opened its door after a few minutes of waiting and we climbed onboard heading into boston.
we got off at the hynes convention stop and walked down to copley square. we briefly stopped in a dunkin' donuts so i could get li's wife a classic DD coffee (sugar & cream). a new england staple, this was her very first time trying it. she liked it, with the added benefit of keeping her warm on this cold day. we went inside old south church to take a look. there was a musical rehearsal but we were still allowed to go in, the old wooden floors squeaking noisily as we gingerly walked around in the back.
occasionally i do a head count of my tetras to make sure all 11 fish are there. when i did one today i noticed there were only 10 fish in the aquarium now. not sure how the 11th tetra died, whether from natural causes or i accidentally killed it during a cleaning. i have noticed that the tetras have been very skittish for a few months now when they used to be fearless. maybe the death of one of their members made them more cautious.