i spent the day at home, as my parents were at the cafe getting ready for the annual neighborhood holiday stroll event. i was going to stop by, but when i saw the crowd of people already at the cafe through the webcam, i figured one less person wouldn't make much of a difference.
the whole day was gearing up to the chiefs-patriots game at 4:30pm. recent events have revealed new england's vulnerability especially on offense, and victory was not assured, especially against a very good kansas city team. it almost seemed inevitable when the patriots finally lost, but the game was close and new england had chances to tie or take the lead. two egregious referee calls cost the patriots a pair of touchdowns: a fumble that would've been an easy touchdown had the play not been called dead, and a touchdown that was ruled out that couldn't be challenged because the pats had already used up all their challenges already on crappy officiating. since the ravens won today, it's pretty much all but assured baltimore will get the number 1 seed while the patriots get the 2nd seed. currently all the top seeded teams in each AFC division has beaten new england in the regular season: ravens, chiefs, texans. the texans are the weakest opponent, followed by the chiefs. kansas city plays tough but they're beatable. the team nobody wants to play is baltimore. hopefully the pats use these last 3 games of the regular season to tune their offense.
i heated up a leftover slice of pizza for lunch, but i already knew what i was getting for dinner: poke! i went to the corner poke shop during halftime around 6pm, there was only a couple waiting for their order. they charged me $16 this time when i remembered it was $15 before (and it said $15 on the menu). i didn't have to wait too long before i got my order and hurried back home, the tv still on, the door unlocked. it was good, like a flavor and texture party in my mouth - spicy, sweet, salty, savory, soft, crunchy. the serving size seemed too small, i could've easily had another bowl or two. it got me thinking maybe it'd be cheaper to make my own poke, but the advantage of buying it is the variety, something i can't easily achieve at home (fried chicken? that in itself would take me forever to make). still, if i can get my hands on some good quality sushi fish, i could make some raw fish poke, and maybe dress it up with some homemade korean kimchi. for the the crunch, i can always make pork tonkatsu, which would be similar to the fried chicken.
i watched the penultimate episode of watchmen tonight, so good. nobody else i know seems to be watching it though, so i can't discuss it with anyone. instead, i follow the watchmen subreddit and read various online recaps.
the wind chill was in the 20's but the only thing that hurt were my fingers, i was otherwise bundled up. apart from the cold, it was a nice day for a bike ride, the sun once again shining up above against a deep blue sky. when i got to my parents i was happy to see that about half of the neighbor's solar panels were still covered in snow. if only they weren't too proud to have asked us for advice, we would've warned them about leaving such a large gap at the bottom edge of the roof that the naturally sliding snow off of the solar panels would all get clumped together and stick. it's a common design flaw, we see it with a lot of installs, it's probably a safety and installation feasibility issue. my father actually went out into the backyard this morning and cleaned off the light layer of snow that fell yesterday.
i came with my package of the squirrel buster standard ($28) birdfeeder which arrived this morning. i eagerly opened up the box to set it up. just as i suspected, it was an open-boxed item, hence the cheaper price. everything was included, but it looked like it'd been used, there was water spots on the inner plastic insert and bird seed dust on the base. there was also a few scratches on the insert, but nothing that was visible when assembled, and i'm sure there'll be more "bumps and bruises" once it's put outside. the standard is one of brome's smaller feeders, holding just 1.3 lbs. worth of seeds (only the mini holds less at just 0.98 lbs.). i think it's just the right size, not too small and not too large. i had some bags of bird seeds in the basement but they were old and i felt a little bad using them. they were also a mix, so besides black oil sunflower seeds, there was also millet and cracked corn.
i hung the feeder outside, it's hanger suspended from a long bamboo pole between two shepherd's poles, with more than enough clearance (18"+) that squirrels can't get to the feeder by hanging off of something else. later i added a clear baffle to keep off some of the rain and snow, even though the feeder extends far enough it's still not entirely protected from the elements. now we wait for the birds to come. the backyard used to be very bird friendly before we chopped down the dead plum trees which removed a place for birds to shelter. since then we planted new trees which will hopefully encourage more birds to visit. there are definitely birds in the backyard because we provide them with bird baths during the warmer months. as long as the temperature isn't freezing, birds can come to drink and bath.
we left around 12:20pm, to visit binbin's house to pick up her mail and to do a supply run at the waltham costco and market basket. along the way we kept our eyes opened to solar panels. some were completely devoid of snow, but most of them still had snow coverage, some more than others. we consider ourselves lucky: we don't have a steeply angled roof that snow naturally rolls off with ease, but our roof is low enough that we can clean off the snow if necessary, unlike a lot of people with high roofs where it's impossible or just too dangerous.
when we got to binbin's place, her neighbor tom brady had parked his car in their driveway. i don't think he was trying to be a jerk, i think he did it so that others would think somebody was home. just like he told me, he left their mail inside the house, separated into 5 neat piles of increasing importance. we went through the house opening up any under-the-sink cabinets with plumbing to keep them from bursting if it got too cold. the chance of that happening is very low since the heat is still on inside the house (set to 60 degrees), but it doesn't hurt to try. while my father and i were in the basement inspecting the furnace and turning off the shutdown valve for the outdoor faucet, my mother went upstairs and said it was very warm, a combination of the forced air heat rising plus sunday windows. we decided to close all the upstairs registers other than the ones in the bathroom, to stop wasting forced air heat upstairs where it'd naturally go anyway.
i also moved some timer lights closer to the window so the house looked more lived in. finally, my father went to start up the car, no problems. afterwards we hooked up a trickle charger to the car battery to keep it from draining. that was a challenge because there didn't seem to be any outlets in the garage, until we saw one in the ceiling for the garage door; i ended up climbing the roof of the car to get to the outlet with an extension cable for the battery charger. i went to tom's house to ring the doorbell but like all the times before, he's never home on the weekends. we left the stack of mails.
i kind of regret reminding them to cancel their internet service. true, it probably saved them $100/month for service they weren't going to be using anyway, but without internet, you can't really live in that house. otherwise, it'd be a nice retreat, so close to the burlington mall. maybe if we switched to an unlimited data plan it could be doable, but within internet wifi, it's almost like a prison.
my mother decided we only needed to go to costco, not market basket. google map was telling me costco was very busy, but when we arrived, it wasn't too bad, maybe we got there after the previous wave of customers had already left. we ordered a pizza 3/4 of the way through our shopping trip. i picked it up right when my parents were coming out of the checkout line. even though we went home immediately, the pizza was already cold by the time we got back. my mother heated up slices in the toaster oven; i was too hungry to wait and just ate it cold.
later in the evening my father prepared some taiwanese ramen for dinner. my mother kept saying how delicious the choya plum wine was, and promised she'd get a big bottle the next time she visits a liquor store. she said it reminded her of the holidays in taiwan, when they'd drink plum wines like this.
my parents were worried how cold it was getting outside (26°F) but i've biked in colder temperatures. the secret is wool mittens, which i packed in my bag but didn't use this morning. with mittens my fingers didn't freeze and i slow-pedaled back to my place, not particularly concerned about the cold. unfortunately my headlight ran out of juice again and i rode in the dark. i still had rear lights - on my helmet and on the bike - but oncoming cars had a hard time seeing me, especially if they were making left turns at intersections. i vowed to order a new headlight when i got home, one that can warn me when i'm about to run out of battery.
my suaoki U3 400A jump starter was waiting on the doorstep when i got home. smaller than my smart phone but 1.5x as thick, it's also much lighter compared to my other jump starter. this one seems a lot easier to carry around, although the EC5 jumper cable is still this large dongle of wired alligator clips and jump start circuitry.
i went across the street to get some apples from star market. honey crisp apples were still on sale ($1.99/lbs.) but sugar bee apples had jumped up in price to $2.99/lbs. after eating a honey crisp apple when i returned home, i didn't like it at all. too much sourness i thought, once you've tried a sugar bee, you can't go back to any other apples, not even honey crisps. modern apple breeding has spoiled me to all other apples.
i didn't set foot outside the house today. i didn't think it'd snow but there was some flurries in the afternoon that dusted the road in white. i made a few more online purchases: 2 pairs of flannel-lined khakis, i've been wearing a pair all week long, it's my new favorite winter pants, so comfortable and warm, don't have to bother with wearing an additional layer of thermal underwear underneath when i go outside. from amazon, i got another acurite thermometer/hygrometer ($5.34), a roku universal remote ($18.99, currently my parents have a combination of 3 remotes to control their living room tv), and a container of star tron enzyme fuel treatment for my motorcycle engine. i think i have some old stabilizing fluid still left but that thing must be around 2 decades old, better to get some fresh fuel treatment.
yogurt and granola for lunch, a brick of frozen stouffer's lasagna for dinner. streamed the latest episode of NFL 100 greatest all-time team (defensive backs & special teams) from an illicit feed of the NFL network, then watched the end of the nuggets-celtics game via youtube tv. snacked on hazelnuts throughout the day, dabbled in some cheetos, drank a few glasses of black tea, and ate a sweet bee apple.
the sun actually came out today, almost forgot what that was like. for lunch i finished all my leftover turkey, managed to make 3 rollups. afterwards i went to star market to pick up some more sugar bee apples along with some hazelnuts. i also got some cheetos, one of the least healthy things you can eat.
my original plan was to ride down to the cafe and drop off the apples before heading out to fresh pond to photograph a few winter king hawthorn trees matthew told me about. i haven't been on the bicycle since the snow, even though i've seen others riding. conditions weren't bad, the streets for the most part remained cleared with decent bike lanes. when i got to the cafe, my aunt and uncle were there. they managed to try out the sugar bee apples, likewise when my mother returned from her walk. they all said it was super sweet and crispy, good qualities for an apple. my mother even called me 2nd aunt to tell her to get some from star market.
i got a chance to talk with tom brady today. no, not that tom brady, a different tom brady who's binbin's next door neighbor. apparently he's responsible for picking up their mail while they're away. he was happy to hear from me, because he had no way of getting in touch with binbin (they didn't leave him with any contact information). he told me that he didn't realize he was supposed to get their mail, and only found out when he spoke to the mailman who told him the mailbox was full and all subsequent mail was being kept at the post office. so tom ended up going down to the local post office, which he discovered doesn't actually deliver mail to the town, but rather its the job of the post office the next town over that's responsible for this town.
anyway, it was a very lengthy process, but he finally got the mail. he left it in their house, all sorted. he said he didn't see anything important (that is: IRS or MA state letters), at most some letters from the condo association letting everyone know of an increase in the condo fee. i asked if he saw any letter from NH, he said he didn't, but also he wasn't looking too carefully. i told him we'd be down on saturday to pick up the mail, and that in the future he can just leave the mail in the house (he has a key), didn't have to sort them. we also traded e-mail addresses as well as phone numbers. the number i called him at, he actually almost never answers, and it was by pure luck i managed to get ahold of him.
it was already getting cloudy when i left my house, but now completely overcast by the time i left the cafe for fresh pond. from outside it looked like it'd rained, but that was just the slowly melting snow piles.
when i arrived at fresh pond opposite the honda dealership, i saw the winter king hawthorn trees right away. what i really wanted was a high contrast between the red berries and the white snow, but the paths had already been cleared, so the hawthorns didn't look their best. i got off my bicycle and took some photos. a bunch of robins descended onto the trees, eating the berries.
afterwards i rode up to huron avenue to go home. along the way, i saw a few kids sledding down the shallow hill (with what little snow remained). i saw a goldfinch up in a tree, as well as a squirrel sitting on a branch lazily eating an acorn.
i noticed the sacramento street underpass was finally opened after months of renovations. i took a peek earlier, and when i turned around, a city contractor was sitting in his truck pointed with his finger that i could go across. i waved him off, said i just wanted to check it out. now back at home, and with a craving for cheap unhealthy snacks that can only be found at the dollar store, i used the underpass for the first time since mid-july.
i was expecting something brand new, but the underpass looked much like it did before. even the old murals were still there, though one side of the wall had been repainted due to graffiti. it was also kind of dirty on the inside, a lot of unswept dead leaves and some garbage. the only improvements i saw was they patched some of the crumbling concrete. it was a patch job, with the amount of time the underpass was closed, i thought they were redoing everything. it took them 5 months to patch some concrete that would've taken any other contractors at most a week to finish. the city of somerville should be ashamed of itself for wasting taxpayers' money, and for seriously inconveniencing neighbors for nearly half a year.
the dollar store was crowded. not sure if it was because new traffic from the opened underpass, or maybe it's because a lot of kids hang out their afterschool. i grabbed some gummy snacks and a pair of gloves. returning home, the sun was just about to set, the landscape was bathed in this golden light. luckily i had my camera and took a few shots. in the sky i caught a cooper's hawk circling around (i think it was a pair, i only photographed one). around the neighborhood i spotted rooftop solar panels, most of them were snow covered on the bottom row of panels.
it was the first time this month that we managed to hit double digit production. the total so far for the month of december stands at 32.81 kWh. it took 5 days to accomplish what we could make in a single day under sunny conditions. the total production for this month is going to be the worst of all times if this trend continues.
i received a few packages today: another wyzecam with a wyze sense kit and a digital caliper (valorbros brand, $12.79). i didn't touch the wyzecam, instead i was playing around with the digital caliper, which i've never had before. what we'd do with it i don't know, maybe measure wire gauges. it seems to be pretty accurate after i zero'ed out the numbers. i was surprised to find the jaws ending in blade edges, someone might get cut if they're not careful. i thought the thumb roller was broken at first because it felt flimsy and loose, but apparently that's the way it was designed. the LCD screen seems big enough as-is, i don't need a bigger screen. the cardboard sleeve that came with the caliper is actually not the model i bought, but everything on the inside is correct.
for dinner i heated up half a jar of leftover spicy tomato sauce while boiling a frozen bag of cheese raviolis. i had it with a can of taiwanese mango beer, while watching the thursday night football game between the cowboys and the bears. both teams were 6-6, but chicago was the more desperate team, trying to secure a wild card berth. the game was important for the cowboys, but the NFC east conference is such a joke, either the cowboys or eagles could theoretically advance to the playoffs even with a losing record. bears ended up winning 31-24, but the score doesn't show that the game was never really that close, dallas barely had a chance.
it's so hard to wake up early in the mornings when its cold, compounded by the fact that i don't typically sleep until 3-4am. today was the first day after a lengthy snowstorm, where the romanticized beauty of the fresh snow-covered landscape is quickly replaced by the reality of dirty slushy snow and overnight flash frozen snowcrete. supposedly were due for some sun, but other than a slight brighting in the morning, the day was pretty much grey throughout.
in the backyard, squirrels were busy eating from their buried scattered hoards. due to the abundance of acorns this year from the neighbor's large backyard oak tree, all these squirrels were super fat. squirrels don't hibernate like some other new england rodents (chipmunks, woodchucks), and remain active throughout the winter, which i imagine can be tough. i know they put away food during autumn, but when there's a lot of snow on the ground, how do they even find it?
in the early afternoon i went across the street to star market to buy some apples and hazelnuts. there was a sale on honey crisp apples ($1.99/lbs.) but there was also a similar sale on a new type of apple called sugar bee which i was curious to try. the two things i noticed right away were how big they were and how many had a pretty red color (almost like a red delicious) that i don't see on honey crisp apples.
i tried a sugar bee apple as soon as i got home. they're crispy (crunchy) and juicy like honey crisp apples, and very sweet, like a red delicious, but with a more complex flavor, not a single hint of sourness. the flesh also had a yellow color to it. i liked it so much, i'm going to buy some more tomorrow and deliver them to my parents.
i took the silicone ring off of a mason jar moonshine pour spout and put it on one of the solar mason jar lid string lights to see if it'd leak. apparently that was all it took to keep the jar completely waterproof. i then went online looking to find cheap silicone rings (for regular mouth jars). amazon had a good deal of 48 rings for $11, but they were 3" in diameter, slightly bigger than the typical jar opening. plus, i really didn't need 48, maybe more like 20 rings. instead of risking it, i went with something more traditional, found an ebay seller from china that sold 10 for $4. true, it'll take a few weeks to arrive, but i'm in no hurry. if they work, i may in fact order 8 more solar mason jar lids and seal them with silicone rings to make sure they're completely waterproof.
i made some turkey rollups for dinner.
in keeping with my streak of buying something online everyday during the holiday season, tonight i went to the gap outlet to score some cheap pants and a turtleneck. there was a 60% off everything sale, combined with an additional 15% plus free shipping no minimum. the turtleneck i couldn't figure out what size so i ordered two to try on, will return the other one in store. i also got a pair of gloves with a double fingerless outer layer.
it was while searching for physical gap outlet stores that i discovered the one at the former arsenal mall (now renamed arsenal yards) was still open despite all the demolition and construction all around the area. not only that, but a look at the map showed chipotle was still there, just moved across the street. and the old navy store had returned as well, that was the only store my other still visited during the mall's waning days. there was also a shake shack. there were also coming soon stores slated for 2020 and 2021, though they all seemed rather weak. a european wax center? a santander bank? a t-mobile? an ulta beauty store? can you really tout those as attractions? there were also some future bar restaurants: city works, condesa, tendergreens, the gallows, none of which i'd heard before, and none of which would interest me anyway. a poke shop was scheduled to open, though i already have 3 nearby poke options around where i live. a tori jiro restaurant - the first in the US - is also in the works for fall 2020; that one actually looks interesting, might be worth a visit for authentic japanese chicken barbecue. finally, the crown jewel of the businesses the developers managed to attract, a roche bros. supermarket is slated to open fall 2020. i've yet to visit a roche bros., and i get it confused with wegmans all the time, another relatively new grocery chain i've yet to visit either.
always on the lookout for cheap two-way radios and other ham related items, i came across the eton elite executive (EEE) digital shortwave radio for just $100 on amazon (usually it sells for $150). not sure if it was a lightning deal item, or just a holiday price reduction. it'd be something for my father to play with. i used to have a small analog shortwave radio that my friend manny gave me one christmas, but never really used it (can't even remember receiving any shortwave radio broadcasts), and ended up lending it to my grand uncle to listen to the radio but never got it back. with modern day SDR dongles able to do much of the work of the shortwave radio (and beyond), there's still something to be said about an actual physical radio that just works without all the technical setups of SDR's.
i looked at the eton elite executive in the past and it seemed too expensive, or at least similarly priced to other shortwave radios with single side band (SSB) that had more features (like the tecsun PL880 for $150 or the c.crane CC skywave for $170). so the EEE not only picks up shortwave, but AM and FM as well; FM includes RDS support, which displays song and artist information. SSB allows the EEE to hear ham radio chatter on common bands like 20m and 10m. the EEE also receives aircraft bands (118-137 MHz VHF bands). however it doesn't receive any NOAA weather broadcast channels (around the 162 Mhz frequency range), although our cheap baofeng radios can get them just fine (and realistically, if you're ever in a situation where you're monitoring the weather, you probably should also have a two-way radio handy just in case, which the baofeng is perfect for). the EEE doesn't receive the rest of the VHF (2m) band nor any of the 70mm band, which means it can't be used as a police/fire scanner. in regards to radio models, the CC skywave does support NOAA radio, while the tecsun does not but it does have 3 dedicated tuning knobs which makes signal scanning easier; neither of those radios support VHF/UHF bands, nor support RDS on FM.
i finally got around to updating the cafe website, more than a year later after i first started. what was the holdup? i basically had everything set up since february, using a wordpress template. all that was missing was some photos. even though wordpress made everything easier, there was still something about it i didn't like. i couldn't really figure out how to customize some of the settings and it'd do buggy things i didn't understand and couldn't control. for example, i wanted the menu categories in a certain order, and i labelled them in such a way that it should follow what i wanted, but every once in a while i would sort everything in alphabetical order again.
so what i did instead was to create a simple 3 column layout using responsive CSS columns that was pretty much the menu, which is what most people are looking for anyway when they do a search. it's responsive, so if you look at the website on a phone, the columns reduce to either a double or single format. it has a few cosmetic bugs, but it works for the time being, better than what i had before which was just a filler page for all these years. while i was at it, i also made a new favicon using the cafe logo. it was nearly 3am before i finished.
my mother called this morning to let me know my snow shoveling services were not needed today as my father had already cleared what snow had fallen with the snowplow around the cafe. she also said i didn't need to go to belmont either and clean the snow off of the solar panels, as that can wait until tomorrow. the part about the cafe i heeded; the part about belmont i didn't. word on the street was whatever snow didn't get cleaned up today would freeze solid overnight. and when wet snow refreezes over solar panels, it's impossible to remove.
the snowfall this morning was more impressive. yesterday morning the snow that fell overnight was already getting soaked by the rain. the snow falling today was more pure snow instead of wintery mix, and easily clung to objects already soaked from the weekend. judging from the sidewalk condition, my upstairs neighbors must've done some early morning shoveling. for lunch i made myself some turkey rollups. i found out i did have hoisin sauce in my fridge.
when my mother called again in the early afternoon saying that my father was going on a supply run to market basket and if i wanted to go, i asked if he could pick me up and drop me off in belmont afterwards. as they really didn't need anything other than eggs - which i had nearly a dozen at home - she sent me sister to pick me up and give her my eggs.
it was still snowing but light enough that nothing would stick, or so i thought. the landscape was pretty, with trees covered in snow, but i could only partially appreciate its beauty, as i was thinking more about the clean-up and how soaked and wet i'd be afterwards, nothing something i was looking forward to.
i was happy to see the neighbor's solar panels completely covered in snow. they might have more panels, they might have a more angled roof, they might have the better sun exposure, but at least in this one case we're better than them: our roof is low enough that we can clean the snow off of our solar panels instead of waiting for mother nature to slowly melt everything.
i'd brought my new EX7000 pro action camera to take a time lapse of the cleanup. the one caveat was i couldn't use an external power bank when the camera is inside its waterproof housing, which meant i only had an hour's worth of battery. there's only a few options for the time lapse duration: 1, 5, 10, 30, or 60 seconds. i chose 1 second.
i started from the left (west) side of the house, standing on the step ladder to clear the edges of the roof before pulling chunks of snow off of the panels. the snow was much easier to move than yesterday, but the thaw and overnight refreeze had created some rough frozen ice layers on the bottom edges of the panels, which had a tendency to grab onto the snow and prevent it from simply sliding off. after i cleared as much as i could, i used the extension ladder to get to the panels further up on the roof, as well as the side panels above the sun room.
next i moved to the sun room roof. i hindsight, i should've first cleared the snow from the bottom edge of the roof from the step ladder, but i went directly to extension ladder, which made it awkward trying to clear the snow as i was right up against it. that made it twice as laborious, as i had to hold the foam snow broom in awkward positions and kept having to extend and reduce the pole. the sun room roof also has a shallow angle, so the snow won't slide off on its own and needed to either pushed or pulled. even after all that hard work, i could only really clean half of the sun room panels.
then i moved to the right (east) of the house. there are only three solar panels on that side which made easy work, but i also had to clear the snow off of the steps afterwards from the mounds of falling snow.
finally i climbed the roof to access the areas i couldn't get to from the ladders. for this part i asked my sister to spot me, who'd been waiting inside for me to finish up so she can go home. i just needed her to pass me the tools and to hold the ladder when i came down. climbing the roof to clear the snow off the solar panels is a last resort because there's an element of danger involved (snow, ice, roof, not a good combination), but cleaning from the roof versus from the ladders is so much faster. if i could climb the roof to clean every single time, i could clear the panels in just 15 minutes instead of the hour plus it now seems to be taking me. with a shovel i cleared the snow trapped between the main roof and the sun room roof. i then used the foam roof rake to simply push the snow off of the panels.
instead of dying down, the snow seemed to be picking up. so much so that a fresh dusting of powder was recoating the panels i'd so painstakingly cleared. by that point though i just wanted it to be over, go home and get out of my wet clothes.
afterwards i went to go retrieve my action camera. i wasn't surprised it had turned off after exhausting the battery. it did put up a valiant effort, creating a 74 minutes time lapse (reduced to just 2-1/2 minutes of footage) before finally dying (on a battery rated for just 60 minutes of use). it had recorded most of the clean up however, just missing the final few minutes but by then i was mostly putting away the tools. we left soon afterwards.
i made it back home by 3pm. apparently i wasn't too tired from cleaning off the roof, because i shoveled what little bit of snow there was on the sidewalk before deciding to dig out one of the open parking spots that was now covered in 6-8" of snow. i was afraid if it wasn't cleared out, it'd freeze overnight and then never get cleared.
i set up the EX7000 pro to take another time lapse out my living room window, hoping to capture the sunset. i was happy to see it worked with the external battery.
the time lapse video was okay up until it got a little dark, in which case the image quality got very muddled, like it was having a hard time processing in low light.
for dinner i had some more turkey rollups. just 2 wasn't enough, so instead of eating some more, i heated up a can of soup (chicken dumplings) a short time later. on cold days the body craves warm food, not cold food. i've also stopped snacking, not for a lack of trying, but because i've exhausted all the snacks in my house.
i got a chance to further explore the EX7000. first of all the two instruction manuals that were included in the box - quick start guide and user manual - are pretty much useless. they're multi-lingual editions so there's actually very little content, and what info they did have isn't complete. for example, there's a motion detection setting, but there's no instructions on how to use it. to make matters worse, there doesn't seem to be a lot of info on his function online either. there's also a WDR option, which i had to find out what it was by doing an online search, since it's not explained in the manual. WDR apparently stands for wide-dynamic range. some of the option names in the manual don't correspond to the actual names in the camera. anti-shaking in the manual corresponds to stabilisation in the camera, but no explanation as to how it works. but the stabilization is legit, it works by using a combination of internal gyroscopes and cropping the picture to provide more leeway data to create the stabilized image. i went to the manufacturer website which has a page on the EX7000 pro, but it's essential just an ad, rehashing a lot of info found elsewhere, with no additional info or product support for the camera.
other than those gripes, there are plenty of good things about the EX7000. for one thing, it has a tripod mount underneath the camera, so i don't have to use an adapter or bracket to attach the camera to a tripod. besides a much larger screen, the FOV is also wider compared to the SJ4000. i have to step it down from wide to medium to match the same coverage as the SJ4000. however, when i use the stabilizing option, the FOV is further reduced to narrow, regarding of what you set the field of view to. you can also change the ISO and exposure compensation settings on the EX7000. i noticed that the date and time keeps changing. at first i thought it was because i changed out the battery, but the timestamp gets messed up regardless. i don't like you can't see the time and date anywhere, unless you turn on the timestamp and take a photo/video with it.
i've been trying to buy a squirrel proof birdfeeder for a while now. i've had my eyes set on the squirrel buster standard but amazon was selling it at $42.50, the most expensive it's ever been. i was hoping maybe the price would drop during the black friday sales but no such luck. however while searching elsewhere for cheaper prices, i found an ebay seller (openboxguys) setting them for just $27.99 with free shipping. the listing is a little weird, the title doesn't mention the brand or model, it's actually buried in the description, though the product images are definitely for the squirrel buster standard. so i decided to save $15 and give these guys a try. hopefully it can get here this weekend so i can install it in my parents' backyard. especially now after we've had this winter storm, birds are having a hard time finding food.
i didn't believe the weather forecast, thought it was overblown, figured by the time i woke up this morning, the rain would've washed away everything, even after seeing what i saw last night. but what i saw this morning was a bonafide snowstorm, the first of the season to kick start the month of december.
it was my mother who actually woke up phone with a phone call, said my father was leaving the house to come pick me up and told me to get ready. i didn't even have time to have my ritual morning poop, as i quickly got dressed and gathered my things. because of the work i did last night, our sidewalk was the clearest in the neighborhood. it was raining and the landscape was a slushing mess full of icy puddles.
my father and i went to the cafe to help with the snow removal. my sister had already started, cleaning up her own front steps before working on clearing out her car. while my father went to start the snowblower, i cleared the sidewalk with a shovel, the snow already compacted into hard slush from the early morning foot traffic. it's one thing to clear the snow after a storm, it's quite another to do it right in the middle. it wasn't snowing but a freezing drizzle would make sure i'd be completely soaked when it was all over.
while clearing the snow from the sidewalk, i witnessed a cyclist smash into the back of a car parked on the street. it was the cyclist's fault, he wasn't looking when he was turning, and ran straight into the car, which was far enough from the intersection that had the cyclist been looking he would've had time to avoid the collision. the driver didn't even get out of the car to check if his vehicle was damaged, just wanted to get away from the scene of the accident. the cyclist parked his bike against the side of the building and took out a tool to adjust his dropdown handlebars, which got bent forward in the crash.
there is something peaceful about snow removal, similar to the feeling of mowing the lawn. but cutting the grass is easy compared to shoveling snow, especially the snow we had today which was the wet heavy slushy kind, the kind that breaks backs. i already knew my body would be hurting tomorrow, during the third phase of the storm, when the rain transitions back into steady snow for much of tuesday morning into the early afternoon.
we left sometime after 11am for belmont. my mother had already cleared the driveway so there wasn't any shoveling to be done. however, we still needed to clear the snow off of the solar panels. the across the street neighbor's panels had self-cleaned because their roof has a steeper angle, but even then, there was a snow jam at the bottom of roof, covering up 7 panels. even if they wanted to, their roof is simply too high to clear off the snow, they're entirely up to the mercy of mother nature.
i think we were out of practice so had to relearn a lot of the solar panel snow removal techniques we acquired last winter. my father thought we could just use the stepladder but the only real way to get to the panels further up on the roof was to use the extension ladder resting up against the house. this was one of the hardest types of snow to clear, the wet heavy slushy kind that preferred to stick instead of all sliding off in a spectacular avalanche. so how much snow accumulation did we actually get? hard to gauge since it's a snow and rain mix, but judging from the snow depth on the panels, about 3" fell in belmont.
we started on the right side, then the left, and finally in the middle clearing the panels above the sunroom. by that point we were using two foamed snow rakes, one to pull and slide the snow off of the panels, another person to clear the snow off of the bottom edge of the roof. of course it didn't help that it was still raining and my clothes already soaked. i had to change gloves at one point because the wet freezing gloves were too unbearable.
by the time i finished and went back inside it was almost 1pm. i stripped out of my wet clothes. fortunately my jacket kept my upper body dry, but my pants were soaked and my mother found a pair of my father's sweat pants i could wear while waiting for my pants to dry. i had some leftover turkey for lunch. my parents tried the sample size choya japanese plum wine i bought for thanksgiving but forgot to take out.
throughout the rest of the afternoon it would alternate between rain and snow. no point worrying about what it was doing to the solar panels, as more snow is expected tomorrow morning, so i'll be back again tomorrow afternoon to do another round of roof snow clearing.
my father and i had to treat a thai chili pepper plant and a potted thai basil for aphid infestation. we put the hot pepper in the bathtub and gave it a shower with a sprayer before spraying on some insecticidal soap. the thai basil we removed about half of the leaves before taking it to the bathtub and spraying with insecticidal soap as well. the pepper definitely had it worse, and may not be worth saving if it continues to deteriorate, if nothing else, at least get rid of it so the aphids have nothing to feed on. the basil had some bugs on the fresh leaves, which we removed by pruning. the leaves were very lush and succulent, seemingly better than if they'd be grown outside, the grow lights are definitely working. not wanting to let them go to waste, we washed the leaves and had them for dinner later.
my sister made a surprise appearance on her birthday, on her way to her friend's house for dinner. because she nearby, she was able to give me a ride home afterwards.
instead of having turkey rollups for dinner, we had turkey rice porridge and turkey and basil stirfry. we still have more turkey but my mother froze the rest to keep from spoiling. what was left over she gave me to eat this week. my father made some more bing since they ran out.
my sister texted me around 7:20pm, said she was waiting outside. i gathered my things, put on my still-wet jacket, and returned to cambridge.
a package was waiting for me on the doorstep: my dbpower EX7000 pro action camera that i bought from amazon for just $20. even though it's feature packed, the low price made me leery. even at its original price of $50, it's still cheaper than most other cheap china-brand action cameras. i got it to upgrade my 4-year old SJ4000 cam, but also because of the touchscreen, something the SJ cam doesn't have. the EX7000 feels more substantial, weighing slightly more (83g compared to 62g of the SJ4000), and the body seems to be metal but a check online revealed it's just a very hard plastic material. what i like most is the smell though, has a nice new car smell.
the EX7000 only has one button on top of the camera that controls on/off/record. it's got a large 2.45" touchscreen which takes up the entire back of the camera, compared to the SJ4000 which only had a 1.5" screen. i turned on the camera briefly to check it out, but the battery indicator flashed low, so i decided to fully charge the battery before further delving into the camera. for just $20 the EX7000 not only comes with 1 battery, but actually 2 batteries and an external charger that runs on USB.
once the battery was charged, i also put in the memory card. i got a 128GB samsung microXDHC ($17) just so i can record without worry too much about running out of memory. i couldn't find the memory card slot and had to look it up in the instruction manual, and even then it wasn't very clear where it was. it's located along the side of the battery compartment, but it's not labelled anywhere, and you basically go on blind faith that the little gap you see there is for a memory. i didn't need to reformat the card, it worked as-is. the camera also seems to support exFAT, which was the card format.
the interface was fairly intuitive, but i didn't understand some of the options (WDR, image stabiliser, motion detection, slow motion, photo lapse, sequence). the camera arrived with 4K24fps as the default video setting, but i lowered it to 1080p30fps, which i heard was the sweet spot. i recorded a few test videos and imported them (by removing the memory card) onto my laptop for a closer look. though the videos looked good on the 2" LCD, i wasn't really impressed with the quality when viewed on a larger screen. it seemed a little soft, lacked focus, which could be a result of it being slightly dark in my living room. i'll test it tomorrow during the daytime to see the difference. still, given i only paid $20, i think the quality lived up to the expectation. overall i'm happy with the upgrade and can't wait to put it to some use.
today was cyber monday. the first time i heard about cyber monday was back in 1996, right out of college and working as a web designer. i thought it was a joke at first, and to call it cyber monday? what was that even mean? was is cyber? something futuristic? no wonder the expression was coined in the 90's. back then, the infancy of online shopping, who would've thought cyber monday would become such a big deal 2 decades later? i scoured amazon.com all day, looking for deals, but nothing really piqued my interest. i was hoping to score an instant pot 60 duo plus if and only if they sold it at the amazon prime discount price of $55 (which i almost bought back in july but waited too long and the deal expired). i also don't know why, but i'm always on the lookout for good deals on led grow lights, even though we already have so many.
but i couldn't resist not buying something, so by the end of the evening, i spent $36 (lightning deal) on yet another wyze cam v2 along with a wyze sense starter kit. i really got it for the starter kit (which amazon doesn't sell on its own, but wyze does sell it for $20), and i debated long and hard if it was even worth it, but finally decided it was, set it up at the cafe as a security monitor to know when the doors are opened. i also got a digital caliper for $13. that one had been on my wishlist for a while, but i found other calipers with bigger displays. but those cost $20+, while cheap plastic digital versions cost $7. i decided to go the middle road, get something stainless, but doesn't have the big display. if seeing the numbers is an issue, i'll return this caliper and upgrade to a better one, but we only ever have some sparing need for calipers, i don't think it'd make much of a difference. they sell something very similar at harbor freight, but at $13 the one i got is cheaper, and it has also fractions, something the HF one doesn't have.
while at my parents i rung out my wet gloves in the sink. i was horrified when dirty brown water dripped out from the gloves. when was the last time i washed them? so when i got back home, i soaked them in some oxi-clean powder, hot water for the gloves, cold water for my wool knit cap that i also decided to wash. i was only going to presoak them for an hour or so, but i forgot about them until after midnight, where i gave them a quick wash in the sink with some woolite before finding places for them to air dry around my forced hot air vents.
i heard if you hold the clutch when you start the motorcycle, you have a better success rate because it's less taxing on the battery. that didn't work this morning as i was forced to use the jump starter for the 4th time. when you need to jump start the battery every single time you ride the motorcycle, that's kind of a good sign to put the bike away for the season.
when i arrived in belmont i put the motorcycle away in the garage to wait out the snowstorm that's due to arrive later in the afternoon. final storage will be in the toolshed behind my sister's place (to make room for the garage), maybe move the bike later in the week if and when the weather clears up. i'd still like to wash the bike if i can, perhaps even change the oil even though that's more of a wishful fantasy.
my father had sprinkled lime all over the lawn as an end-of-season fertilizer. i was confused when i saw it because i thought the white powder was snow.
there was a lot of leftover turkey but i had leftover scallion pancakes for lunch instead. i also had some pecan delights, which is a knockoff of turkish delights, but with pecan instead of pistachios. the soft candy wasn't as soft as real turkish delight, but it packed a lot of flavor (maple, cherry, apple, peach).
earlier this morning my parents took tangtang to alewife to catch her go bus back to new york city. because she wasn't here, my sister was finally able to bring hailey to the house, and she left her dog here while she went on a nanny job.
my sister came back around 3:30pm. since it's her birthday tomorrow, my mother proposed we have an early dinner at spring shabu in brighton, the place we tried to go on friday night but was too crowded. we left around 4pm. large clumps of snow began falling by the time we arrived.
spring shabu was still crowded, but not so much that we had to wait to get a table. of course we were also there early, at a time not typical of the dinner rush. by the time we left there was a small number people waiting outside. the last time we were there was back in april, not sure the reason, i think maybe because my 2nd aunt just wanted to treat everyone. maybe because i'm gone there a few times, but it's lost its novelty. it's always the same things (even though there's a lot of it), and actually a little less, like they didn't have the mini chicken wontons. i think eating here just once a year would be enough shabu shabu. i was done after two plates of vegetables and tofu. i was so full in fact, at one point i thought i might vomit. even during thanksgiving i didn't feel as engorged as i did tonight.
we left around 6pm, shocked to see so much snow outside. our clothes reeked of shabu shabu smoke, my mother said next time to wear her worst outfit. at belmont my sister dropped off my parents, picked up her dog, and then give me a ride back to cambridge.
after a shower and a change of clothes (i changed into my thanksgiving clothes which still smelled of wood smoke but better than that oily shabu kitchen smell), i settled in to watch the sunday night football game between the patriots and the texans. new england lost, but had a sudden charge of offense that probably put the fear in the hearts of houston fans. i didn't think the patriots would go through the season with just one loss, but i didn't think it'd be against the texans, i thought that was a gimme for a win. this puts new england second in the post-season ranking, as baltimore vaults to the number one position even though they also have two loses, but they beat new england a few weeks ago. while watching the game, i made peace to the fact that maybe this isn't our year, just too many setbacks to overcome. our solid defense in the first half of the season seemed to flailing as of late, and our offense still isn't clicking with only a handful of games left in the season. here's hoping for a ravens lost and for the patriots not to lose anymore games, which can be a challenge, as new england faces off against the kansas city chiefs next weekend. at least we still have the celtics!
throughout the evening i heard the rumbles of plow trucks outside. i took a peek just once, didn't seem like there was too much snow, not sure what all the plowing was about, they probably been waiting all season, just some over-eager contractors trying to rack up the hours.
after the game, around midnight, i went outside and shoveled the slushy snow off of the sidewalk. there was probably about an inch of slush at most, and it was already transitioning into a light rain, though most of the stuff falling from the sky were clumps of wet snow from branches. the slush was heavy but thankfully not that much. there will be a brief overnight lull, but come sunrise it will begin raining again throughout much of the day, until the evening, when it will transition back to snow. i'm just hoping everything will get washed away tomorrow so i don't have to do any shoveling.
would i be lucky again this morning? temperature was in the 30's but the overnight temperature had dropped into the 20's. choke on, petcock engaged, key inserted, i pressed the motorcycle ignition button. the engine struggled but it wouldn't turn on. so this would be my second attempt at jump starting my battery with the extended positive cable lead. if i was able to do it last night in the dark, certainly doing it in broad daylight would be no problem. however when i attached the battery pack to the jumper cable attachment, it made an error sound and flashed a red LED. afraid i might've done something wrong, i quickly removed the cable clamps. but turns out i just forgot to turn on the battery pack when i connected the jumper cables. i did it again, and this time it gave me the green LED light and i was able to start the bike without problems.
the biggest challenge of winter riding is the cold. having a windshield really helps to block the wind. i remember when i rode my old honda rebel during the cold season, even with multiple layers it was still a struggle keeping my body warm. after that, freezing hands are the next concern, since the handlebars are exposed to the elements. but ever since i came back with motorcycle handlebar mitts from china in 2014, my hands have been toasty warm, so long as i remember to use my mitts. with torso and hands taken care of, the next concern is the face. i can always duck down so the top of the windshield blocks the wind from my face, but usually i ride with my face fully exposed. this is compounded by the fact i wear an open-faced helmet. this morning it was so cold, tears were streaming down my face involuntarily, if anyone saw me they'd think i was crying.
when i got to belmont i found my father by himself in the living room. tangtang was probably still asleep in the guest bedroom. earlier my father drove pansusu to alewife so he can catch the go bus to new york city. my mother left even earlier to pick up my 2nd aunt and go to the cafe. soon after i arrived my father left to relieve my mother of duty so she and my aunt can return home and make scallion pancakes for tangtang for lunch. their original plan was to take her shopping, but she said she had 3 papers to write and needed to stay home and finish them (due on monday).
while waiting for my mother to return home, i went and cleaned the garage a bit to make room for the motorcycle i'll be putting in temporarily storage tomorrow to wait out the 72-day mixed rain/snowstorm. i rewrapped the garden hoses (to the best of my ability, some of them were already pretty stiff from being in the unheated garage) and put them in a refuse bin. i gathered up the snow shovels. finally i took out the mower and gave the front lawn one final mow to clean the leaves (i had it in recycle setting so it'd just return the clippings back onto the lawn). i then went to the backyard, dumped out the bins of leaves, and shredded everything with the mower. i dumped the bagged pulverized leaves into the compost bins. say what you will about our ugly DIY-pruned backyard maple tree, but every year it provides us with a lot of leaf refuse for composting and mulching, so it's still an important tree.
my mother and aunt got back right when i was finishing up. i could smell the oil frying from the kitchen exhaust vent. i love scallion pancakes but it was too much of a good thing, and i was already full after having 3 pancakes (cut up into quarters). i prefer the pancakes without eggs, which i thought was weird, but it was something tangtang asked for, as it's one of the varieties of taiwanese-style scallion pancakes. even though my mother and aunt came home just to make pancakes for tangtang, she could only eat so much as well. she had a glass of apple cider (from a gallon jug), which was one of the drinks i bought for thanksgiving. apparently it's one of her favorites and it seems to be all she drinks, so that turned out to be a good choice. she thinks it's too sweet though, and dilutes it with some water.
while tangtang returned to her room to continue working on her papers, my mother asked me to roast another bag of hazelnuts, which she now says is one of her favorites. around 2pm my godmother came by to ask my mother for help casting on a new knit project. the three of them sat in the living room knitting the rest of the afternoon.
at 3pm my aunt reminded us that we should be roasting the turkey. it took 20 minutes to preheat the convection oven while i pulled the brined bird out of the bucket (which my mother had brought back when they came home) and put it on a roasting rack. every thanksgiving so many people end up taking leftovers home that we're left with hardly any turkey. so this year we decided to get a second smaller bird and roast it over the weekend so we can replenish our turkey supply. while the one we had for thanksgiving was a 21.5 lbs. giant, this one was a smaller 16 lbs. turkey. it went into the oven around 3:30pm, to be done in 2-1/2 hours. at the 1 hour mark i opened up the oven to drizzle some dripping turkey juices onto the skin to crisp it up, and then every 30 minutes after that.
my godmother left when it got dark, but not before meeting tangtang who finally came out of her room. she was wearing her winter jacket because she said it was so cold in the bedroom. she hadn't been working but instead had been sleeping this whole time. my godmother gifted tangtang a scarf and a sherpa wool reversible oversized vest. my godmother left right when my father returned from the cafe with my sister's godmother. my sister showed up an hour later after feeding hailey and leaving her at home.
november wasn't that great in terms of production - a third of the days we only made single digit kWh of electricity - but we did end the month beating not only last november's numbers, but also beating october 2019's production by about 1 kWh. here's hoping we get some good numbers in december but once we get past the winter solstice, the day length will slowly begin to increase again. the official start of winter is also the beginning of the end of winter as well.
the first thing my father did when he got back home was to make the bing with the dough he'd prepared earlier this morning before he left for the cafe. around 5:30pm my mother was crying that she thought the turkey was done even though there was still another half hour of roasting, but when i looked inside the oven, the embedded turkey thermometer had already popped, so it was time to take the turkey out.
after we finished eating, my sister said she was going home to her dog. that immediately brought the evening to a close, as she was the ride for my aunt and her godmother. as for me, i had to prepare myself mentally for the cold ride home as the temperature had dropped to 32°F by that point. i tried starting the bike without jump starting it but it didn't work, no surprise. then for the third time i got a chance to jump my motorcycle battery with my custom terminal extension. each time i do it i get better with practice. i closed everything back up, put the handlebar mitts on, strap on my backpack, and rode back to cambridge.
once again, the parking spot i've been parking in for the past few days was still available. even though it looks sizable, it's probably too small for a standard-sized car to fit in. i noticed the upstairs lights were on, steve and paul were back in town again. i noticed the wire fencing on our front yard was gone, most likely the handiwork of paul.
i ended up buying a mi fit 4 for around $20. maybe i might use it, or maybe give it to my mother as an upgrade for her mi fit 2. it's being shipped from china but said it'd arrive by december 15th, so who knows if that's true or not.