kevin went to sleep late last night, i was already in bed (12am) when he finally signed off (1am). i got out of bed just to make sure everything was okay. it kind of sucks when you can't trust your roommate to use the bathroom without making a mess, but it's happened more than once (peeing on the floor, leaving shower running, leaving bathroom light on), so my confidence in him is at a low.
kevin woke up at 7am, i heard him in the kitchen, so i turned on the heat. he left by 8am (according to router client list). i turned the heat back down before returning to sleep, but at 8:30am the scheduled heat started running. i didn't realize this until 9:30am.
for lunch i made some scrambled eggs with a side of kielbasa sausage, washed down with some black tea since there was nothing else to drink in the house. i'm trying to eat healthier, but a lack of imagination and ingredients made me resort to the simplest recipes.
i called my 2nd aunt to ask her what she wanted from market basket: snapple iced tea, milk, scallions. as for me, i was there to get a bag of salad and some tomato sauce. it was cold this morning (20') but by the time i went out in the early afternoon it was 31°F. the roads were a little treacherous, any snow that didn't melt yesterday was now a solidly frozen and slippery obstacle, i kept to the center of the road whenever possible, where salt and traffic cleared the ice. i forgot to bring my bungie netting to secure the 12-pack case of snapple, but luckily i had some bungie cord wrapped around my rear bike baskets and use those to gently tie down the ice tea before carefully pedalling to the cafe, avoiding icy patches and pot holes.
while i was there, i also set up 2 yellow sticky traps in the potted plants. i don't know if there are any fungus gnats, but the sticky trap will catch them if there are. i returned home a little bit before 3pm.
my luxauto 1000W led grow light arrived today. i actually watched the UPS truck parked outside delivering packages. the delivery man seemed to visit every house but mine. a minute later i received an e-mail saying the package was delivered. i went out and found my box on my neighbor's doorstep.
the luxauto light was longer than the 3 led lights we currently own. it was also in black while the others are white. the luxauto felt heavier, weighing at 6.18 lbs. the power draw is 180W (according to specs, i'll need to do any actual measurement at some point). when it got here it was freezing cold, i let it warm up a bit before plugging it in the kitchen. even though it only has 96 LED's, when i turned it on, it was like having a magenta sun in the kitchen. people outside probably could've seen the unnatural glow coming from inside the house. i think the reflectors really help the light to focus each one of the 15W LED's. it's impossible to look at it directly without fear of permanent eye damage. i used my camera to examine the lights. the reflectors are kind of pretty, makes the light look like an array of colorful crystal light fixtures. two of the LED's are dim, those would be the IR LED's. not bad for a $54 light.
today was another cold yet sunny day, good for solar production. there must've been some clouds in the morning because there was a brief hiccup in the graph this morning before it shot straight up by 9:30am. nevertheless, it wasn't able to excede the midday maximum from a few days ago; there could still be lot areas of packed snow blocking the panels along the edges, preventing us from achieving the maximum production. we didn't do too bad today, but day's end we still managed to make 30.42kWh. we keep this up, we may just beat last year's january production record of 550.50kWh. this january we're currently at 341.78kWh, we still need 209kWh to break that record. we can do it if we average 19kWh per day of production for the rest of the month. tuesday-wednesday-thursday looks to be sunny clear days, we should be able to make 30kWh each, cutting the difference down to around 110kWh.
kevin returned home by 6:30pm, immediately went to the kitchen to make dinner, i heard the sound of shells rattling in a box, looks like he's having pasta tonight. he finished cooking by 7pm, retreated to his bedroom to eat. as for myself, i made another spaghetti and meatball sub, this time with a plate of salad (russian dressing) and some ginger beer. i asked kevin why he was up so early this morning (given that he went to bed so late), he said he couldn't sleep so decided to get up and go to work. i ate while watching the lakers-celtics game. kemba walker has never beaten lebron james, he's 0-28, until tonight that is, when boston spanked los angeles to a tune of 139-107. the lakers looked low energy, were missing shots, had none of theit signature dominance. the celtics on the other hand were coming off of a 3-game losing streak and was hungry for a win.
the mi fit app tells me i only i slept for 4-1/2 hours last night, before the alarm clock went off at 7am. i checked the cafe webcam and saw that the snow plow driver did come in the early morning and cleared the parking lot. that meant i didn't need to go to the cafe and clear the parking lot manually with the snowblower. that also meant i could sleep a bit later. but since i was already up anyway, i jerked myself out of bed. it wasn't the getting up that was hard; it was getting up in a cold house that was the challenge. i got dressed and readied myself to begin clearing the snow off of the solar panels.
when i checked the solar panels late last night, they were all covered. i was hoping there'd be some melting today but it was early and the panels were still covered. there didn't seem to be as much snow in cambridge, but it looked like it snowed about 4" in belmont. it was the soft fluffy type of snow, but because it was too thick, it wasn't as easy to push or pull off.
i started with the sunroom from the step ladder, clearing the bottom edge first. i then moved to the east side of the house with the extension ladder, where i cleared the 5 panels on that side. though the roof was in shadows when i first started, by that point the rising eastern sun was beginning to shine on the westernmost panels. from the way i was leaning on the ladder, i couldn't clear any of the sunroom panels. so i moved the extension ladder to the front of the sunroom, and managed to clear all the snow from those panels. i mostly pushed the snow off, with only the bottom few panels i pulled. with the step ladder, i first cleared the bottom edge of the western roof, and my reach was long enough that i cleared the first row of panels as well. finally, with the extension ladder, i cleared the rest of the western panels but clearing the few remaining main roof panels above the sunroom roof.
i started at 7:23am and finished by 8:36am, a little bit over an hour. i was shooting a time lapse video and had just enough juice in the battery to capture the whole event. when i took down the action camera the low battery icon was flashing ominously. my sister called me at 8:20am, said the cafe sidewalks needed to be cleared. i told her what little additional snow fell last night, she could clear on her own, but she said her hands hurt. last night i walked over a mile to the cafe in the snow and shoveled so much (at 3 locations) that my clothes were soaked and then i got up at sunrise to clear the solar panels and my sister was bothering me with a tiny amount of sidewalk snow that's going to all melt later today? sometimes i think she's incapable of thinking what other people are going through. and here i thought she was calling because she was offering me a ride back to cambridge!
i also shoveled the front of the house again, the snowplow had blocked the driveway. the chinese wife of our german neighbor waved hi to me and said if she could ask me a question about our solar panels. "is it worth it?" she inquired. i told her since my parents got the panels, they haven't had to pay for their electricity. not only that, they make additional money from energy credits. i was telling her more but i could sense she just wanted a simple yes or no answer. i told her we used united, she made a snide comment, "oh, we want to use a state registered company." i told her united was licensed.
too nervous to the use bathroom this morning, i had no problem going now after i finished with the snow clearing. afterwards i took a shower.
i had an opportunity to check the grow room. nowhere as many fungus gnats compared to a few weeks ago. the chive planter traps had some gnats, but nothing like before when the traps were completely covered with insects. the traps that seemed to have the most gnats were the ones in the lemongrass pot. i don't know if i'll be able to break the gnat fungus cycle when i do the 3rd and final soil drench, but as long as i keep up this regimen of letting the soil dry for 10+ days before a Bti watering, i think eventually it'll kill all the gnats. i took some sticky traps with me, going to set up a few at my place and in the cafe.
i ended up taking the 73 bus back to cambridge. i left by around 10am. earlier (9:30am) when i checked the client list of my home router, i noticed kevin had already left, which prompted me to turn off the thermostat, no point heating an empty house. i arrived in harvard square around 10:30am. when i got back home, judging by the snow on the doorsteps, i don't steve neither steve nor paul bothered to shovel anymore after what i did late last night. i sprinkled some salt later on to melt what little snow remained.
i made one final english muffin sandwich for lunch.
keeping my eye on the solar production, i noticed we weren't hitting the maximum despite a sunny clear blue sky day. checking the layout view of the solaredge admin page, i saw production wasn't uniform, meaning some panels were partially eclipsed by the snow. fortunately by around 11am, production finally turned constant, meaning whatever snow remained on the panels had all melted away.
a warmish (40's) sunny day after a snowstorm, a lot more people seemed to be out and about. it gave me a chance to do some people watching from my living room window.
i discovered a new show on the national geographic channel (which we get through youtube tv): life below zero. i'd heard about this show before but never seen an episode. i was surprised it's already in its 13th season. there's something about on a cold day watching a show about the lives of people living in even colder (alaskan) weather that actually makes me feel warmer by comparison. a native american man was taking his son into the wilderness to teach him survival skills; a woman with an arctic base camp needs to maintenance her runway; another woman learns how to dogsled; and finally a man who recently bought several acres of property goes snaring for rabbits. i think it's a show my father would like (i bookmarked it in his youtube tv account) because every once in a while they show a wood burning camping stove.
kevin hurried home in the evening, rushing to his room as if it was an emergency. he popped a frozen meal in the microwave and in about 5 minutes his dinner was ready, this was the extent of his cooking for tonight. i didn't seem him much the rest of the night, he was in his room busy with what i assume is work, perhaps a fit of inspiration.
the 2 football teams i was rooting for - tennessee titans and the green bay packers - both lost in their conference final game. heading into the super bowl are the kansas city chiefs and the san francisco 49ers. i have reasons to root against either teams: chiefs' qb mahomes is a young upstart that needs more seasoning before he deserves a super bowl victory, while a 49er's win would only remind patriots nation that we let jimmy garoppolo go for aging hall fame qb tom brady who became more of a prima donna the older he got and who has currently left the team in a lurch without knowing who our next starting qb will be while brady pursues free agency. i expect a lot number 12 patriots jerseys will be tossed into bonfires if brady signs elsewhere. anyway, the only good thing about new england not being in the super bowl is patriots fans can watch the game without going through an emotional rollercoaster.
eliza e-mailed me in the afternoon but i didn't see her message until later in the evening. she told me she had some sad news: our friend carl passed away last month from lung cancer, and our friend jerica passed away as well just last week, from breast cancer. i didn't know them as well as eliza, who first met them as coworker friends, but i saw them a bunch of times whenever i hung out with eliza. carl was one of the funniest person i ever knew, jerica one of the most kindest. the fact that they're gone forever is just so extraordinary because both of them were full of life, i could never imagine people like that ever dying. and both of them dying so close to one another, and both from cancer, what are the odds? this double tragedy should remind us all to cherish the time that we have with friends and family, because you never know when they might be gone forever.
i went to bed early, around midnight. i copied the latest episode (3) of the outsider onto my phone and watched it in my bedroom. the first two episodes had promise, but i really didn't like this latest one. i don't really like the holly gibney character, the high-functioning autistic super-sleuth. also turning the loud-mouth angry detective into the next big bad seems like low-hanging fruit. of course he'd be the guy. i'll still watch the series, but not as enthusiastic as before.
kevin was already in the kitchen with all the lights on making breakfast by the time i woke up at 9:30am. i knew he showered because there was two wet foot prints on the bathroom carpet and he didn't turn the hot water completely off so it was still dribbling from the shower head. i didn't know what his plans were for today, but when i heard the sounds of his backpack zipper, i knew he was going out. he left by 10:30am, destination unknown, but the fact that he took his laptop meant he was going to the office.
today was a weird day: i had nothing to do but wait until the snowstorm later in the evening, so i could go clean up by around 11pm or so, when it starts to taper off. i had a english muffin sandwich for lunch, washed down with a mug of hot chocolate. it was cold enough that i turned the heat on to 65°F (normally during the i endure a brisk 60°F), and roasted some hazelnuts in the oven while vacuuming the house to warm up.
in the late afternoon i informed my sister of my plan: shovel my own sidewalk around 10:30pm, walk down to the cafe and shovel the sidewalks there, then get a ride to belmont (there was also the option of catching the 75 bus) where i'd spend the night and wake up at sunrise to clean the snow off the solar panels, before finally taking the bus back to cambridge.
kevin woke up around 7am this morning, i could hear him in the kitchen. since i was awake, i turned up the heat a few degrees before falling back asleep. when i checked the router's client list, his laptop and phone were gone. i honestly don't understand how he can already be here for 3 weeks and still haven't figured out a morning routine yet. okay, maybe the first week he was jetlagged (which i don't believe), but that doesn't explain the past 2 weeks where he still wakes up at all random hours.
i was still in bed when my 2nd aunt texted me around 9:30am, asking me to call her. i did immediately, she told me she couldn't turn on the heat in the cafe. i checked the nest app and sure enough, the cafe thermostat was set to ECO and the temperature had dropped to 55 degrees. i quickly turned it on, one of those rare cases when i was able to fix something remotely. i was playing with the settings last night, noticed the thermostat had put itself in ECO mode. but there's the nest putting itself in ECO mode when it senses nobody home, and manually setting the nest to ECO, which was what i did. not only did it essentially turn off the thermostat, but because i never set a base temperature, it kept on dropping. thankfully it wasn't on a sunday when the cafe is closed, and my aunt was able to catch it in time.
i got dressed to bike down to michael's to pick up my online order of superglue. i wore my fleece puffy vest over a sherpa wool hooded sweatshirt, and a fleece trapper's hat on top of that. i didn't feel cold at first, but when i was traveling on the bike, my arms felt cold, that sherpa wool is not a windbreak. it was also so cold i was starting to get an ice cream headache and felt lethargic (later i found out it was because my back brake pads were frozen in place). instead of a seperate counter for online pickups, i had to wait in the regular line. it's still new enough that they haven't ironed out all the kinks yet, and it took some fumbling to finally get my order from the online merchandise locker.
next i biked to the dollar store to pick up some snacks for later tonight, when my sister asked me to dogsit hailey for a few hours. i got some gummy candy and a few beef jerkies.
finally i went to walgreens, to ask about the prescriptions i tried to refill over the automated phone service last night, but was denied for some reason. the pharmacist said two of the orders when through, but one of them seemed to be stuck. he fixed the error and said he'd have that refill done in a few minutes while i browsed the aisles.
i got home before noontime where i made another pesto ham egg cheese english muffin sandwich for lunch.
i had to go back to the dollar store when my sister asked if i had any spare batteries for her electronic mousetrap. this time i brought out my columbia interchange jacket, which i only wear in extreme cold conditions. that jacket is plenty warm, but sometimes i wonder if a down-filled heavy-duty parka would be even warmer? i'm just used to wearing winter jackets that leave me feeling slightly cold, since normally i'm walking or biking if i'm outside, and i can warm up rather quickly. but it'd be nice to have a parka, though then my feet would feel cold by comparison, so i'll need to invest in some insulated boots as well.
i biked to my sister's place around 4pm, first making a stop at the cafe to check on my 2nd aunt. i basically reassured her that it wasn't going to snow tomorrow, because she gets really skittish at the slightest sign of snow and will then decide not to come to work. i told her she probably wouldn't see snow until the evening. at least she'll get a break on sunday, while i'll be the one busy with work shoveling three properties.
for just the second time this month (and this year), we had a perfect production day. compared to the result about a week ago (jan.9), you can clearly see that the daytime amount is lengthening both at sunrise and sunset. we're also peaking above 6kW, which is important to keep in mind since it wasn't until late may of last year did we finally get the correct inverter and was able to generate electricity above 6kW. 2020 will be the first year where we can produce our maximum potential electricity for the entire year, so it'll be interesting to see how much more kWh we can make versus 2019. on the graph i plotted the line for jan.31st of last year, the first time that month where we surpassed 32kWh+; note the distinctive production plateau at 6kW.
after my sister left for work, hailey retreated to the bedroom, and i was left by myself in the living room, streaming a c-span interview that conan o'brien did of robert caro from april 2019. i also checked my router client's list periodically, noticing that kevin was already back home before 5:30pm. i turned on the heat, but later thought maybe he went to the supermarket (he seems to go every other day, prefers his ingredients fresh) because i didn't see his phone, but sometimes he's home with the phone off, and i couldn't take the risk of not turning on the heat when he could be freezing inside the house, so i figured it was a small price to pay.
i used the flir camera to scan my sister's place, at least to the best of my ability before the camera stopped working again. just being there tonight i could already feel how chilly it was. the infrared camera revealed very poorly insulated walls. this house would be a good candidate for pump-in insulation, but logistically it'd be difficult since it shares spaces with a commercial restaurant. something to think about for the near future. now the only place left to scan with the infrared camera is my parents' place.
at exactly 6pm hailey came out for her dinner. i gave her a cup of dog feed along with a squirt of her joint medicine. i coaxed her back into the living room with some dog treats then returned home before 6:30pm. the house was dark, just as i suspected, kevin probably went to the supermarket. while i was putting my bike away in the basement he must've just came home because all the lights were suddenly on.
after kevin finished eating dinner, he did a load of laundry, seems to be his routine, wash his clothes every week. he also asked me if i had any super glue, just so happens i got some this morning, but i lied and said no. he said he needed glue to make the wood project for his girlfriend, and showed me the wood slices he bought off of amazon (kind of expensive, about half a dozen for $17). he said he wanted to glue a piece of dowel onto the wood, i'm still not quite sure what he's making, he's still being vague. i told him to check out michael's or tag hardware in porter square for glue and screws.
it would've been a nice quiet friday night were it not for the fact that kevin pissed all over the bathroom floor again for the 3rd time. i knocked on his door to tell him what happened, he was in his room exercising with his dumb bells, listening to music. he didn't seem to believe me and came into the bathroom to see for himself while i was on my knees wiping up the urine. first he denied it, then said it was probably water, but i assured him it was his urine, as it was all over the walls and the back and front of the toilet. he volunteered to clean but if he doesn't even know how to pee correctly, how would he even know how to properly clean up? he's been peeing sitting down to prevent dripping on the floor, but i think it makes it worse, because ever since he switched to the sitting position, he occasionally pees directly onto the floor. i told him to stop and just pee normal, but clean up any drips afterwards. i said i already cleaned a pee-soaked bathroom three times already, and don't want to clean it again. i don't think he understood what i meant: if he does it one more time i'm going to kick him out.
kevin went to bed early, before 11pm. i wonder if that means he's going to wake up early tomorrow and go to work?
i've been keeping my eye out for good led grow light deals on amazon. we currently have 3 (2x 1000W iplantops, 1x 1000W xeccon) which are all being used; once i begin growing some seedlings towards the end of winter, we're going to need another light, whether at my parents' place (running out of room) or my place. i ended up buying the luxauto 1000W: retails for $108, but there was a half-off sale bringing the price to just $54, plus some taxes. i also had some credit left from the eton shortwave radio i returned a month ago, further lowering it to $29. in the back of my mind there was also my $200 reference bonus, so after an hour of comparison research, i decided to get the luxauto. it's been on my radar from when i was researching cheap but good led grow lights. it ranks amongst the highest in terms of PAR value, but that's misleading because it uses reflectors, which amplifies the light but makes them too focused, more like spotlight when i want a flood light. so i'm leery, and still might return it if it doesn't seem good. but at $54, it's the least expensive led grow light in our collection. the luxauto 1000W is a few inches longer and slightly more narrow, which is good when you have a rectangular growing area (instead of a square). at 24" height, the center PAR value is 565, compared with 516 of the iplantop or 447 of the xeccon. the graph however doesn't show the falloff value, which i imagine to be worse than either the iplantop or xeccon, since those lights don't use reflectors. the luxauto employs triple chips leds (like all the led lights we own), but only 96 of them. there's a few IR leds but no UV, which i don't mind since i believe the UV kills the beneficial Bti bacterias. it's due to arrive on monday. when turned on, it draws 180W of power, comparable to running 3 T8 fluorescent shop light.
so much for morning routines: kevin didn't leave for work until 11:40am today, so what was the point of creating a heating schedule when he doesn't even follow it? at this point i give up, i'm going to turn up the heat at 8:30am, and turn it back off by 9:30am, just so that when i wake up the house is warm. i don't care about what kevin does, if he wakes up to a cold house let him complain to me.
the house managers presented the impeachment articles to the senate today. it was all very solemn, senators like to think of themselves as somehow better than the house, more civilized, more refined, but both sides are garbage. thankfully it didn't take too long, and there was still enough time left for my noontime news broadcast to show me the weather forecast: cold tomorrow, some snow then rain saturday night. what i really want to know is when the rain will stop on sunday night, so i can start my shoveling circuit: my place, the cafe, and then the solar panels at my parents' place.
i decided to jazz up my english muffin lunch with a layer of pesto: a ham and egg parmesan cheese english muffin sandwich with a spread of pesto. the pesto had a nice savory sweet flavor, i think i've found my new everything spread. afterwards i had some orange slices.
i went to market basket in the late afternoon for some groceries. it's the third time in 4 days that i've visited MB. i got some ingredients for next week's lunch and dinner, decided to try my hands at making some meatball subs. there was a sale on ready made frozen meatballs so i'm kind of cheating but anything that can speed up dinner prep is a good thing.
kevin came home by 7pm. i can tell from the amount of chopping sounds i hear from the kitchen whether he's making a big dinner or a small dinner. today there was just a little chopping. when i finally went to the kitchen to heat up a brick of lasagna, i found the kitchen countertop to be unusually clean and there was only a few dirty dishes in the sink. turns out he was heating up another frozen pizza in the oven. the chopping noises were some broccoli and other vegetables he cut up to put on his pizza. unfortunately he didn't add them to the pizza in the oven, and only realized his mistake when he was decorating his pie with cold vegetable slices. he offered me a piece (without cold vegetables), it was good.
i finally hooked up the flir infrared camera we borrowed from matthew. for whatever reason the connection is very sensitive and would break from the slightest jostle, maybe also because i'm using a usb-c to usb-micro adapter; took me several tries to get it work, and even then it'd lose the connection after a few seconds. it's already been a few weeks, i think the reason it took me this long to use the camera was because i was afraid of what i'd find. but there was no surprises, places where it saw as cold were places i already knew: around the windows, baseboards, back door. i guess the cold baseboards surprised me the most, but there's nothing i can do without tearing up the walls to put additional insulation. what i have now is good enough, definitely better than what i had before, as witnessed in my winter gas bill savings.
kevin has been here for almost 3 weeks, and i'm still trying to figure out his morning routine. he seems to be waking up later and later, but i think i finally nailed down a working schedule. on average he wakes up at 9am. so i've adjusted my nest thermostat heating accordingly, turn it on at 8:30am and back off an hour later, to perfectly coincide with the time that he gets up.
when i got out of bed around 9am this morning he was already up, eating in the kitchen with all the lights. he left for work a bit after 9:30am, forgetting to turn off the kitchen lights. this has happened a few times (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, foyer); one more time and i'll need to have a talk with him. he's not the type of person who turns off the lights after he leaves the room. i hate people like that, especially since i for all the utilities.
my christmas cactus bloomed over the weekend, after i noticed small flower buds a few weeks ago. it flowered late this season, normally i start seeing flowers around november. i think it's because i kept it outside during the summer, where it really filled out. years past it's always been on the thin side, which i think induces it to flower earlier than later. after the first flush however, i don't get as many flowers after that.
my backyard neighbor kate was getting her large oak tree pruned today. she sent out e-mail monday to get permission (if needed) for the tree pruners to come into our backyard. i said sure, but she needed written permission, and gave me a form to sign. the sound of chainsaws alerted me that they'd started working this morning. they trimmed off a lot of the lower branches, which now allows even more light to come into my south facing kitchen during the winter. i think however during the summer it'll still be shady.
one of the windows in my living room has developed a gap; this is what happens when you buy cheap vinyl windows instead of more expensive quality ones. not sure how long windows last anyway, these are almost 20 years old, so maybe they already reached their lifespan end. the gap is such that it allows a cold draft to come in. i've sort of patched it with a strip of foam weather seal, but it really should be caulked. i was thinking about going out today and getting some, but i remember i already had some in the house. they were in a plastic box, and while i was rifling through the items, i realized one of the caulk tubes had leaked, getting silicone oil everywhere. i spent some time cleaning everything up, tossing out that tube of silicone. i did however find a tube of clear acrylic latex caulk, which was exactly what i wanted. judging from the weight there was still a lot, but the nozzle was clogged with hardened caulk which i had to dig out with an awl. the nozzle had been cut in the past exactly to deal with this sort of thing. once the caulk was flowing again, it was just a simple matter of sealing the window gap. it came out as while but i believe it turns clear once cured. either way it doesn't matter, should be better than the foam strip i was using before.
after an english muffin sandwich for lunch, i biked down to my parents' place to perform the second soil drench on the grow room plants. temperature today would reach the 50's but i was still bundled up as there wasn't much sun starting in the afternoon.
i brought in the mail and did a maintenance round. the kitchen didn't have a rancid oil smell like last time, maybe it was the warm weather, maybe the ventilation helped; i'd still like to borrow my sister's ozone machine and run it in the kitchen to remove any remaining odor traces.
looking in the counter cabinets, the mousetrap wasn't flashing (which meant no mouse) but i didn't trust it and checked for myself and sure enough there was a dead mouse inside, which i buried in the backyard.
i filled the bird feeder last wednesday and filled it again today. it was doing that thing where only one of the three compartments was draining seeds out to the feeding dish. i ended up dumping out the seeds to see what the obstruction was, it was several large dried berries. i filled the feeder back up and hung it up again.
finally i went to the grow room. there was hardly any fungus gnats. the few that i saw were lurking at soil level, not like it was before when gnats would fly in my face. this only after the first of 3 phases of soil drenching treatment. i collected all the yellow sticky traps so i couldn't accidentally stick to one while watering the plants.
i started with the tabletop plants first: a tray of cactuses; 3 long containers of various chives, garlic chives, and scallions; a small hot pepper plant (it's probably close to dead, almost no leaves, what's left is aphid-infested); and a thai basil. the basil i sprayed with some insecticidal soap in the sink as well, along with the thai chili pepper plant. i also drenched the prayer plants, saving the orchids for later (last). i already had a bucket of Bti-infused water i made from 9 days ago (during the first soil drench), i wasn't sure how effective it'd be, but the water looked pretty cloudy, which i took to be a good sign (full of bacteria). i also made a bucket of fresh Bti-infused water.
i then moved on to the larger plants, mainly jasmines and one gardenia. instead of moving them out of the grow room, i watered them in situ. this time around the drenching went much faster. instead of thorough soaking the entire pot, i just watered enough of the surface so that it was soaked before moving on. i used 3 buckets of Bti-infused water last time; this time i only used 2 buckets. finally i watered the orchids, which involves pouring in the water, letting it sit briefly, before pouring the water back out.
next came the sticky traps. instead of saving some of the gently used traps, i decided to throw them all out and use new ones. this would also make it easier to gauge how many more fungus gnats there are. i still had some leftover traps from last time (ordered from amazon), but cut up one of the traps i got off of ebay. these came in smaller 15x10cm sheets, which when divided makes 8 traps. instead of a waxy white paper back, these just had a thin translucent plastic back. these didn't feel as sticky as the previous traps, but just a bit of stick will capture fungus gnats. traps made from these smaller sheets were easier to handle because each trap had a non-sticky edge to grab onto. i still had to scrub my fingers with a metal scouring pad and dish soap to remove the sticky residue.
so i'm going to wait 10 more days before doing one final Bti soil drench (so the weekend of the 25-26th). this combination of Bti soil drench, letting the soil dry out a bit, and yellow sticky traps, just might end up working. however, only for fungus gnats. we still have a problem with aphids attacking the pepper plant and to a lesser extent the thai basil and ficus topiary. there also seems to be some mites on the jasmine and gardenia (hopefully the insecticidal soap spraying over the weekend has slowed them down). finally, i brought the pothos from my parents' bedroom (where it doesn't get much light or warm temperature) down to the grow room as well.
i got back home by 3pm. united solar did send me the check for "reference bonus", which i cashed ($200) using my phone app. it was from a roofing company, so that's a third business these guys do, besides solar installations and general electrician work. a bit later i went to star market to stock up on some sugar bee apples.
kevin came home at 6:30pm, immediately turned on all the lights in the kitchen while making dinner. i started making my own dinner after he finished, around 7:30pm, which was basically heating a square of lasagna in the toaster oven.
i called my 2nd aunt asking her if the cafe needed anything from market basket. she gave me a list (half & half, bean sprouts, IBC diet root beer, cabbage, frozen peas), i went on a supply run, picked up some english muffins along the way, paid with the company debit card. at the cafe i watered the plants with some Bti-infused water and deactivated the infrared illuminator smart plug. i returned home before noontime and made myself an egg & ham english muffin sandwich for lunch.
i finally tried a cosmic crisp apple today, about $1.75 per apple, so fairly expensive as far as apples go. it's smaller compared to the sugar bee, and when i got it out of the crisper i noticed it was bruised on one side. what does a high end apple taste like? first bite i was surprised by how sour it was, i was expecting it to be sweeter. and it wasn't that crispy (despite the name), a little waxy, but maybe because i kept it in the fridge for too long. the skin was also a bit tough. after the initial shock, i started tasting a familiar floral flavor, like rosewater, but not quite. apple-wise it's okay, but the sugar bee is still king in my opinion.
i've been on a crusades history kick the past few weeks, ever since i picked up a copy of in distant lands: a short history of the crusades by lars brownworth. it's amazingly succinct and well-written, and i wasn't surprised when i looked up the author and discovered he hosts a crusade history podcast as well. unfortunately i can only read a few pages a night before falling asleep, so it's going to take me a while to finally finish the book. i'm currently about to read up on the 4th crusade. not satisfied with just reading, i was curious about finding some crusade-related movies. the only one i could think of is the 2005 kingdom of heaven. i remember seeing it when it first came out, but didn't remember much, and not really knowing the crusade's history, didn't fully appreciate the characters. now with some crusade history under the belt, i rewatched the movie again, this time the longer director's cut. the film takes some liberty with the actual history, but it's by far the most ambitious crusade-related movie i know of.
i ate 2 bricks of lasagna in the evening when i could've done with just one. kevin came home at 8pm and immediately started making dinner. i'm keeping my eye on this weekend storm, supposed to drop as much as 3 inches of snow starting saturday night before transitioning into rain. i'm hoping the rain will wash away most of the snow, still waiting on a more accurate forecast the closer we get to the weekend. trying to figure out if i need to shovel or not.
the 70's of this weekend was like a dream as temperature this morning dipped into more seasonable 30's. the heat even kicked in and there was a brief morning flurry. the sky was dark and grey, there would be no sun today.
i woke around 9am but stayed in bed before finally getting up close to 10am. surprisingly, kevin was still asleep, a far cry from when he first arrived and would wake up at 6-7am to leave for work. i'm not complaining too much, since he went to the office this weekend. but like an encore of yesterday morning, the moment i started using the bathroom, i heard him getting up. i finished abruptly so he can use the facilities, which he did just seconds after i vacated, didn't even wait for the air to clear. thankfully i had the foresight and courtesy of spraying some freshener first. he finally left for work 40 minutes later.
i did a load of laundry, washing kevin's bath towel as well which smelled so badly you couldn't go to the bathroom without getting a whiff. i could've done it over the weekend, but i wanted to wait until it was a cold day, so the residual heat from the dryer could warm up the house. i also used the oven to roast some hazelnuts.
i realized today that if i was following the weekly soil drenching schedule, then i should've doused the plants yesterday. but i felt some of the soil and they were still moist. at the same time, i can't wait for the soil tops to dry out without another Bti treatment since that would allow the gnat worms to mature into pupae then a new cycle of adults will emerge. i decided i will go back on wednesday, when the weather will be warmer, to perform the soil drench, regardless if the soil is still moist or not. but hopefully giving it a few more days will allow more drying to take place. and when i drench this time, i'll try not to overdue it.
the only thing i did today then was getting some market basket groceries. i decided to make two recipes this week: first a lasagna, then later a quiche. after a week of salad, i crave warm food with plenty of protein and carbs.
i've got a few hachiya (egg-shaped) persimmons ripening on my kitchen counter. they're ready to eat now, but how? they're soft enough on the inside that i cut a little hole and tried sucking out the pulp, which only got me so far. i ended up partially peeling the persimmon and slurping up the sweet pulp that way. if you never had a persimmon before, not only is it pulp on the inside, but there's a surprising crunchy middle section as well.
there was hardly any production today, 2.26kWh was it. we are already in the period where day length is increasing on both ends - earlier sunrise, later sunset - but you won't know it from today's action. hopefully we get a really nice sunny cold winter day this week to prove it.
28 oz. canned tomatoes
2 6 oz. can tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
16 oz. lasagna noodles
13 x 9" lasagna dish
15 oz. ricotta cheese
16 oz. mozzarella, diced
2.5 oz. gorgonzola blue cheese
parmesan cheese (topping)
meat sauce: sauté onion and garlic, add ground beef cook until brown. add canned tomatoes and wine and remaining dry ingredients. simmer for 30 minutes. remove bay leaves. layering: preheat oven to 375°F. cook lasagna noodles. mix eggs with ricotta cheese. noodle layer + ricotta layer + mozzarella blue cheese layer + meat sauce layer. repeat. top with parmesan cheese. bake for 45 minutes. let cool before serving.
i started making my lasagna at 6pm, hoping to have it ready by 7:30pm, just in time for the bulls-celtics game. kevin came home at 6:30pm. he was going to make something, but when he went back out to get some more ingredients, i told him he could stock up the freezer with frozen pizza, which probably swayed him and he decided to have frozen pizza instead once he got back.
total rookie mistake, i didn't cool the lasagna noodles long enough so they were still brittle when i drained them. they ended up cracking into pieces and wouldn't stay flat when i tried to put them into the lasagna dish. the lasagna didn't go into the oven until 7:30pm. kevin was so impressed he took some photos. he shared a slice of his puffy crust supreme pizza, it was pretty good, very salty which is what i like. when the lasagna was finally done baking, i let it sit for 15 minutes before cutting into it. i was ready to give kevin a piece, but he only took a small bite. i ended up having two pieces of lasagna (from a split of 8).
he stayed in the living room for most of the night. i learned that the two undergraduates living in my grand uncle's apartment won't leave until may, which means kevin can't move into that apartment until then, which means another month here. i don't think i ever had a roommate for 5 months. thankfully the winter season always feel like it goes by quick, which is what i'm hoping for. kevin probably doesn't mind staying here another month but i like to see him gone sooner than later. maybe my sister's godmother will finally get her housing notification, in which case kevin can finally move out.
kevin also asked me if we can speak english in the house, so he can practice. he said at his office, he and his office mate do this. i didn't want to say yes because i know for a fact that his english is not very good, and i don't want to try deciphering his english, or him trying to understand my fast english. basically, i don't think he's fluent enough in english to make it so it won't be a pain in the ass for me to try and communicate with him. between chinese and english, i will naturally default to whatever language i think you're most fluent in.
i tried going to the bathroom last night but was too constipated because i held it in too long (watching the titans-ravens game), so i was looking forward to some relief this morning. but a minute after i settled in, i heard kevin coming out of his room and asking through the door if anyone was in the bathroom. i answered yes but after that i was so worried that kevin needed to use the facilities that i experienced drastic perform anxiety. i quickly finished up and vacated the bathroom, with kevin occupying it seconds later.
while waiting for kevin to finish with the bathroom, my sunday morning was interrupted once more when i got an e-mail from victor asking for my help, something about borrowing my foot. so i told kevin through the bathroom door i was going out for a minute and walked down to victor's place. he wasn't expecting me so soon, he brewed some coffee and we drank and chatted a bit before finally going out. the help he needed was for me to step on the brake pedal while he adjusted his newly installed brake line, hoping to bleed out the air.
knowing nothing about how car brakes work, it was a learning experience. when i bumped into victor yesterday on my way to deer island, he had already taken out the old brake line. i always though it was a simple hose (like in movie trope of cutting the brake line) but it's actually a long thin metal tubing, custom shaped to adhere to the contours of the inner wheel well. he was worried about how to shape the replacement line, but in the auto parts store he saw they sold copper brake lines which are more malleable. he'd already installed it, he just needed me to slowly pump the brake while he released the brake fluid. he saw that the fluid was flowing into the brake line because it was bubbling in the well, but i still wasn't feeling any pressure on the brake pedal and could push it all the way to the floor without resistance. he looked in the wheel well and saw brake fluid was slowly trickling out from the connector. he tightened it until it no longer leaked then had me slowly open the brake line release nut while he pumped the brake.
previously he tried unlocking the nut but it didn't work. he sprayed it with some penetrating oil and i suggested a socket wrench instead of a combination wrench. that seemed to do the trick, a gentle push on my end loosened the nut. he kept asking me if i was seeing anything: i had my eye on trained to where it leaked previously and didn't notice that fluid was pumping out the other end (the release nut end). i quickly tightened the nut. we did it again, but this time i knew where to look. the moment brake fluid starting leaking out, i tightened the nut back up. i went inside the car and tried the brake, what a difference, now there was resistance; so what i felt before was what happens when somebody cuts your brake line.
while we were working on the car we saw my roommate kevin leaving for work. victor impressed him by reciting a piece of chinese poetry. it was my first time hearing kevin speak english. after the brake line was repaired, i returned home.
although i didn't have to, it was so warm today that i thought it'd be nice to bike down to my parents' place to check up on the house, at least bring in the mail. it was so warm i only wore a t-shirt. i didn't even bother with a helmet, giving my hair a chance to blow in the wind.
there was a strong smell of rancid oil in the kitchen so i turned on the range hood. i opened some windows to air out the house and allow the warm air to get inside (it was 79°F in the sunroom). i checked the mousetrap, no dead mouse. in the basement i took a peek at the heating oil level (3/4 full).
i went into the backyard and took a garden survey. though it's only mid-january, it felt more like late-spring early-summer. best thing was there was no bugs. the wind was so strong that it blew off the southwest corner rain barrel from its cinder block pedestal. i didn't have to fill the bird feeder since i already did it on wednesday; i didn't see birds however, maybe because it was too windy. the dead mouse i left outside was missing; i was happy some critter took it, but later saw it'd simply gotten blown away by the wind; i ended up burying it. not much else was going on in the backyard. i noticed buds on both the hydrangea and flowering cherry tree, but not yet swelling. the only thing that seemed to be growing was a patch of cilantro.
finally i checked the grow room. the yellow sticky traps caught more fungus gnats, but still nothing like before. originally it was going to be a simple inspection, but after spraying the hot pepper plant with insecticidal soap, i ended up moving everything outside to get sprayed, since it was so warm.
this time i sprayed but didn't wash off the residue, figured it could protect the plants even after it dried up. i watered a few plants that looked dry (with the Bti-infused water), but at some point later this week i'll need to do another soil drench to kill off the latest batch of gnat worms.
i returned home by 2:30pm, with just enough time to settle in for some playoff football. the 3pm game was between the texans and chiefs, i was rooting for the texans. houston pulled out ahead quickly and in just a few short minutes were already up 21-0. kansas city could've easily folded, but there was still plenty of time left in the game, and good teams always find ways to come back and win, which was exactly what the chiefs did, final score 51-31. the 6pm game was between the seahawks and the packers. the packers are one of the few playoff teams without any drama this year, who just very business-like and quiet gained the 2nd seed in the NFC. i like both teams, but russell wilson is super entertaining, and one of the few things this year that managed to beat the 49ers. game was close, but green bay ended up winning. next week i'm rooting for them to beat san francisco, and for the titans to beat the chiefs. titans is my pick to go all the way, whether they do or not is a different story. of the 4 remaining teams, they seem the weakest link, but they beat both the patriots and the ravens, they could be a cinderella story in the making.
i made one last salad to close out the week. as much as i enjoy salads, it's difficult to eat them when the weather is cold because it doesn't warm you up like a hot meal. salads are better for the summer; in the winter, i like something a little more hearty.
i was up until 3:30am finishing watching the premiere 2 episodes of HBO's the outsider based on the stephen king novel. so good, i can't wait until next sunday's episode, but i'm tempted to read the book to find out what happens next. the acting is top notch, goes from a simple murder investigation (though no grisly child murder is ever simple) into the realm of the supernatural (a disfigured hooded figure appears at every crime scene, how can the suspect be at two places at the same time?). not having read the book, my theory is the murderer is a time-traveling shapeshifter or an inter-dimensional observational evil being.
i woke up in the middle of the night to check on the status of the taiwanese general election. democratic progress party (DPP) incumbent president tsai ing-wen was expected to win over kuomintang (KMT) party candidate han kuo-yu. my parents went to taiwan specifically to vote for han even though they already knew his chances weren't very good. the unknown was taiwan's parliament, whether it might secure a KMT majority, thereby curbing's DPP's power. but by late morning it was announced that not only did the DPP win the presidency, it also gained a parliamentary majority. what a change from the 2018 election, when the KMT won overwhelmingly. the reason why is quite obvious: citywide anti-china protests in hong kong then the subsequent violent mishandling made taiwanese voters re-evaluate creating closer ties with china (the KMT platform). if the KMT doesn't shift away from china (and attract younger voters, who predominantly vote DPP), it may never win another taiwawnese election.
i finally got a chance to speak with kevin this morning (9:30am). i asked him if he had any plans today, he said no. i told him in that case he might be interested in visiting deer island; he'd expressed an interest in seeing the ocean (his china hometown and his schools were all inland), and although we did see the water from the boardwalk that one time i took him into boston, that was only the harbor, you have to go further out to actually see the ocean. i also added that with today's rare warm january weather, it was perfect for an "island" visit. but then he said work was getting busy and he had to go to the office today. i didn't press him after that, his loss i suppose.
kevin was still home when i left at 11am. originally i planned on leaving around 10am, but since i was going solo, i was in no hurry, and had some yogurt and cereal for breakfast before finally walking down to harvard square around 11am to catch the MBTA. starting last weekend, the red line is closed at porter square until april. i wore a hooded sweatshirt as a precaution; despite the warmth, it was also very windy, and i was afraid it'd be cooler along the coastline; but i immediately regret my decision, figured i could just wrap it around my waist if it really did get too hot.
when i got to orient heights, i couldn't for the life of me figure out how to actually get out of the station, or more precisely, how to get out on the correct side. and even after i figured it out, i also had to decipher where to get onto the 712/713 bus. fortunately i had some time before the next bus was due to arrive, so it wasn't a full blown panic, and there was hardly anyone around to witness how baffled i was. because the way the MBTA fare is structured, the bus ride was considered a subway transfer, so the entire trip - all 1-1/2 hours of it - was just $2.40.
riding the bus, some of the sights looked familiar - belle isle seafood, withrop town center - but others not so much. i recognized enough landmarks that it felt familiar. i even knew that when we got to the intersection of washington avenue and shirley street, that the bus should've taken a right instead of a left, and i got up to ask the driver about it before another asian man got up to ask the same question. it was just a strange detour, but afterwards i went back to the right direction. the guy was looking at me and smiling, and seemed like he wanted to say something, but i think he was trying to figure out if i was chinese or not.
as we approached shirley point - the entrance to deer island - i could see the waves crashing up against the sea walls, spraying a few cyclists who were riding by. that was how windy it was today, almost as if a violent storm was approaching. i asked the driver if this happens a lot, she muttered something but basically ignored my question. later i saw another bus that had streaks of dried salt spray all on one side of the bus.
i arrived at deer island around 12:30pm. i spent the first few minutes just watching the waves crash against the coastline houses. i wonder if those houses are expensive, i wonder what it's like to live in one of them. maybe not so bad when the seas are calm, but on days like today, or when we have a terrible winter storm or summer hurricane, i can imagine it'd be a real nightmare. one of the houses had a weber barbecue outside. i was surprised it hadn't been washed away but i noticed the lid was gone.
so i started my (clockwise) walk around deer island. it was exciting, like the feeling i used to get when i did a lot of naturing, the expectation of seeing something new or surprising. even though it was warm, i was glad i brought my hooded sweatshirt because of how windy it was, and be a bit chilly in the shadows.
since it was the weekend and the weather was nice, there was a lot more people, but still not crazy, deer island really isn't on the tourist map, mostly just locals, joggers, dogwalkers, families out enjoying the weather.
one thing i wanted to see was deer island light, a small light tower built on top of some exposing rocky outcroppings. in 2016 they replaced the old tower with a simpler one built on a metal frame. devoid of character, it's more utilitarian than anything evoking a sense of history. it has an automated fog horn that can be triggered using marine VHF radio. i did think about bringing my baofeng radio to test it out, but decided against it, not sure the proper maritime rules for turning on the fog horn when not required.
and yes the birds! winter time is a good time to visit the seashores as we get bird visitors that normally live up in the arctic. i saw flocks of eiders, common goldeneyes (yellow eyes, white patch by their snouts), greater scaups (with their blue bills), herring gulls, great black-backed gull, and brants. i also learned something: best time to see some of these wintering sea birds is during low tide. as the ocean waves recede, it exposes seaweed covered rocks that contain food for the feeding birds.
i got back to the entrance by 3pm. the next bus to arrive wasn't until 10 more minutes. i leaned against a sea wall, hoodie bundled tightly to stay warm from the winds, drinking from my insulated tumbler which contained some warm bengal spice tea. with the sun soon to disappear, the temperature started to drop. i had thought about staying long enough to watch the sunset, but for that i would've needed a warmer jacket.
the bus took be back to orient heights. in hindsight, i should've walked the short distance to constitution beach to get some photos of the landing planes. to go inbounds, i had to talk the stairs to cross over to the other side of the train tracks, i basically followed where everybody else seemed to be going. i got off at state street station, then grabbed the orange line one stop to downtown crossing. i don't remember ever being in state street station before, it felt unfamiliar to me. from dtx it was a simple matter of catching the red line back to harvard square. i finally got home a little bit before 5pm, the sun had already set by then.
there was a package waiting on the doorstep for kevin. judging by the size and weight, i knew immediately it was a set of dumbbell weights. he had mentioned it to me a few days ago, i thought it was just for fun, didn't realize he'd actually order them. had i known, i would've told him no, because they'll damage the wooden floors in the bedroom. i'm not quite sure where his mind is. maybe he has a fantasy that by the time his 2 year stint is over, he'll go back to china all jacked and nearing his phd.
kevin came home around 6pm. i warned him about the dumb bells, said he needed to keep them on some sort of padding (like a thick piece of cardboard) otherwise they'll damage the wooden floors. he didn't ask about my trip to deer island, but did tell me he had hot pot with a coworker for lunch, just an at-home cook at his friend's house. so when i invited him earlier, he had no intention of going since he had other plans, he should've just told me. i'm going to post some deer island photos on wechat so he can see what he missed. it's not every day we hit 70 degrees in january.
later kevin asked me where he could find a custom woodworker. he said in china they have these services where he gives a carpenter some basic plans and they made whatever he wants for him. i told him custom carpenters exist here but they're incredibly expensive, not something he can afford, and they probably waste their time on nailing together some simple wood object. when i asked him what it was he was trying to make he didn't give me a clear answer. later i found out it's supposed to be a valentine's day present to his girlfriend of 2-months back in china.