it's been a little over a week since i doused it with drain-o max gel, but my bathtub was slow to drain again, even worse than before. when i showered last night i was standing in ankle deep water by the time i finished. so after my morning shower, i blocked the overflow outlet with a wadded up plastic shopping bag and started plunging the drain. it didn't take long before i heard a satisfying gurgle and the tub was free of water. let's hope it keeps for a little longer than a week compared to last time.
i also did a load of laundry this morning.
i biked to the cambridge library in the late morning to drop off the two ham radio books before going to market basket to see if they had rice crackers. i couldn't find any, left with a package of ground beef (for dinner) and some ingredients my father had asked for (ritz crackers, cilantro, bean sprouts). instead of going home, i biked directly to the cafe to drop off the groceries. a private arborist was removing a large front yard tree of the condo next door, before trimming a large tree in the backyard. my 2nd aunt showed up before i left, which surprised me, because technically she wasn't supposed to work today. apparently she came to see my mother, until i told her my mother was still recuperating from her return trip and was sleeping at home. i left with a few stale muffins, one of which became my late lunch.
i spent the rest of the afternoon into the evening studying for my amateur extra exam. i finally passed my first practice text late yesterday afternoon after my 8th try, and i barely passed with 13 wrong answers. i took it again late last night and passed once more, with just 12 wrong answers. that's still really close, but each time i take the test i get a little closer. my best score so far is 9 wrong answers.
i realized something today: where is my renewed registration? i remember putting the new registration sticker on my motorcycle, but i should've also received the registration certificate. i looked everywhere, but there's a good chance i threw it away. the cost to get a duplicate registration? $25. it only cost $20 to renew it!
for dinner i made a meat sauce to go with some rigatoni. i served myself a huge bowl of pasta, which scared my roommate, who didn't think i could finish it all. li himself made an italian sandwich, trying to finish the deli meats he bought before they go bad.
i couldn't find my pyrex ramekins after all, but the show must go on, as i cobbled together a mix of different-sized ramekins and did the best that i could. who knows, maybe some people want a smaller sized flan, while others might want a bigger sized.
i started making my flan preparation the moment i got out of bed around 9am, but i didn't start cracking and mixing and boiling until almost 10am.
the flan mixture was perfectly portioned, i had nothing left over. i filled the trays with boiling water from the electric kettle. i should've boiled some water on the stove as well, because the water in the first tray had turned lukewarm by the time i filled the second tray and was ready to pour the caramel into the ramekins. 1/2 cup of sugar makes enough caramel to fill roughly 6 ramekins. i probably ended up melting close to 2 cups of sugar to fill all the ramekins. everything went into the oven by 11am.
as i recall, it takes at least 2 hours for all those flans to finish baking in the oven at 350°. i took the flan out of the oven by 1pm, most of them with a nice brown crust, a sign of a well-done flan. i moved them into cooling racks, then later back into the trays so i could store them in the fridge for the next few days.
i went to belmont in the afternoon to do some cleaning before my mother came home later tonight. there wasn't much to be done, i'd already cleaned the house last week when the energy auditor came to inspect the house. it was mostly moving pots and pans from the kitchen into the sunroom.
for dinner my father heated up two trader joe's indian curries in the microwave oven and pan-fried some raviolis.
my mother's flight from hong kong (cathay pacific CX 812) was supposed to arrive at 8:55pm, but it estimated to arrive early tonight at 8:15pm. my father said we can leave as late as 8pm, since it takes some time for the plane to taxi, and then to get through customs and pick up the luggage.
everything was normal until we arrived at the airport around 8:20pm, i'd never seen so much traffic at logan airport before. at first i thought maybe there was an accident that's causing all this car congestion, but then i realized it must be due to thanksgiving, everyone trying to get out of town early, but inadvertently creating this bottleneck. as evidence to support this theory, once we arrived at the international terminal (E), everything was calm again. i thought my father was going to park in central parking, but we ended up parking in a smaller lot just outside of the terminal.
we waited in the lounge area. there's free wifi at the airport (just a captive portal page with legal disclaimers you need to click through). my mother came out of the gate around 8:50pm, pushing a stroller stacked with luggages. while my father went to go pay for the parking ticket at the automated kiosk, my mother seemed like she was about to cry, thinking about my grandmother back in taiwan. in the car on the way home she told us my grandmother asked her not to leave and to stay with her and take care of her (currently my california aunt is in taiwan temporarily taking care of my grandmother until christmas).
back in belmont, while my mother was unpacking, i left and returned to cambridge via motorcycle.
this morning i helped li replace his front wheel tire, which was in bad enough shape that it was showing cracks on the sidewalls. he bought a replacement a few weeks ago, but it's just been sitting in the kitchen. he'd told me before he'd never changed a tire before but that wasn't quite true because apparently he did it once as a kid but still remembered how to do it. i basically stood nearby and supervised as we worked out in the cold backyard. fortunately the old and new tire were easy to take off and put on respectively, using a trio of plastic tire levers. i have metal ones as well but they have a potential of marring the metal rim.
my father showed up around 2:30pm and we left for the malden 88 supermarket to pick up some ingredients for thanksgiving next thursday. before we went inside i saw some green bikes outside and instantly recognized them as station-less bikeshare vehicles (limebike), the latest rage in china, and now apparently making it's way to the US, at least to malden. they work with an app, and the bikes have built-in GPS that allows you to find them and activate them through the app. they don't have to be put back into stations, you just leave them where you are when you're done riding. there was a pair of limebikes but also one ofo bike, a competing service. these bikeshare programs begin just a few weeks ago (end of october), and only in malden, as a test pilot program for this year. why they decided to try it out so close to winter i don't know; once there's snow on the ground, most people won't be biking anymore (if they're even biking now with the cold), and if there's a lot of snow, the bikes run the rest of getting buried. from what little i saw of the bikes, they seem pretty cool, and the limebikes even have solar panels in their baskets to charge the battery that runs the GPS unit inside.
returning home, we saw green limebikes everywhere, seemingly abandoned by the side of the road. we must've spotted half a dozen at least. it seemed like a random but intriguing business model, it'd be interesting to see if they can be sustained. already in china these GPS share bikes are getting some pushback because these bikes litter the cities and the local governments have already issued decrees that no additional bikes can be added to their fleet.
we found lights and television on at my parents' house. at first i thought my father forgot to close them when he left for work this morning, but turns out my sister had been home and left hailey behind. my father heated up two bags of store-bought frozen chinese dumplings for dinner. my sister showed up and ate some dumplings with us. they weren't very good, the storebought varieties always have a weird sweat taste that's not found in homemade dumplings. i got a ride back to cambridge when she returned home.
li wasn't home, he told me he got invited to a pre-thanksgiving dinner by his fellow cantonese coworker. later when he came home he said it was only old people there, a house in arlington, hosted by a tufts dental professor. it wasn't all for naught, they did have turkey, but at it american-style, slices with gravy.
i looked for my pyrex ramekins at my parents' place yesterday but didn't find them, and when i got back home i searched again in my own place and didn't see them either. so once more i searched at my parents' and once more i came up empty. that makes me think maybe they're at the cafe for some reason, but the only person who might know where they are is my mother, and she's still in taiwan and hasn't replied to us when we tried to contact her. i have two choices: not make flan this thanksgiving or go out and buy a dozen new ramekins.
confident i'll pass the general exam, i've been studying up on the amateur extra exam instead. i don't have the license manual so i'm studying by the questions pool alone. on my third try i failed with a score of 29 correct (21 wrong, 51% correct). on the fourth try, i failed yet again, this time with 33 correct (17 wrong, 66% correct). the passing grade is 13 wrong answers or less. i'm close, a few more days of intense studying, i should be able to pass. there's no way i can get a perfect score, and just reading some of the questions and answers, there are so much more theories and terms and equations, i doubt anyone with as little time as i have can expect a perfect score. all i need to do is pass.
my sister texted me this morning, asking if i was going to buy a turkey. i didn't need any reminding as i went to the nearby star market with my cargo bike. the selection there is always limited, but i was surprised to find some fresh turkeys for sale. unfortunately the larger of the two shady brook farms turkeys was over 27 lbs., a little bit too much turkey, especially given we have less guests this year (bin bin and her family will spend the holiday in their new house with her parents, or go to her boss's house like she did last year).
i decided to try the larger porter square star market. they had more turkeys and i found a decent 22 lbs. shady brook farms bird for just $19.18 (sale price 88¢/lbs.). i also grabbed a bag of clementines ($4.99) and some celestial seasoning teas (green ginger, bengal spice, $2.50 each). i tied the turkey to the back of my bicycle with bungie netting then rode to the cafe to drop off the thanksgiving cargo.
my roommate li was there getting some beef noodle soup for lunch. he's there quite often, at least once a week, and i've bumped into him a few times. i briefly discussed with my sister what she was making for thanksgiving. as a personal chef, if we don't allow her to make something, she takes it as a personal insult, and every year she and my mother get into a fight over food selection. but often times the things she makes, nobody wants to eat. the trick is to steer her in the direction of making something everyone can enjoy.
i returned home where i ate the last of my bagels while watching the news. i then continued studying the general class license manual, the test just next week. i still haven't gotten a perfect score on the practice exams, but i pass it every time, so i'm fairly confident i'd pass the exam if i were to take it today. there are some math calculation questions that i'm just going to try and memorize the answers instead of memorizing the formula and bringing a calculator, but i can't memorize all of them, so if one of them shows up on the test, i might get it wrong. but any word questions i shouldn't have any problems with.
i tested the 70cm ground plane antenna with my father at the cafe. i taped the small antenna to a 28in. selfie stick and stuck it out the top pane of my sliding living room window. my father didn't have the super gainer mini diamono antenna (he takes it off the car, afraid it might get stolen) so just had the stock antenna on the baofeng. he went out into the parking lot, where he had a better view of the sky. we were able to transmit and receive with about a 50-60% clarity, with a few intermittent breaks. so a) that small 70cm DIY ground plane antenna works after all, and 2) even the baofeng stock antenna is effective enough to work with the 70cm ground plane antenna. when we tried the 2m frequency, we couldn't get anything, at most some static.
around 3pm i heard some interesting chatter on the boston police scanner, on the roxbury mattapan radio, but the incident happened in JP. there was something about 303, and everyone on the radio kept saying it. code 303 turns out to be "use of deadly force" as there was a shooting involving police and perpetrators. another officer said he didn't know whether it was red or blue, not sure what that meant. there was action at bragdon and miles street, school and arcadia, and on washington. jake 9-10 and jake 4-25 were the parties involved (jake is district 13 jamaica plain).
i walked down towards harvard square around 3:30pm for a lecture titled "enchanting huashan in the global spiritual circuit: intersecting modes of making sacred space" by david palmer and elijah siegler. it was held in the CGIS building (K262) and i went a new route via irving (saw some contractors installing a heated driveway) then through a shortcut behind some harvard buildings.
it seemed like a low turnout at first, but soon the room filled up with over 2 dozen people. it sounded interesting, and as i've been to huashan, i was intrigued to know more about it. the lecture however wasn't that good. it seems like a publicity push to coincide with a new book authored by the lecturers. in the book, they track these energy tours of american taoists to huashan, a famous taoist mountain. they framed it from anthropological and religious viewpoints, when it really should've been just an exposé about the bunk of new age spirituality or maybe a story about western appropriation of asian culture. words like "ontological individualism" and "cosmological attunement" were bandied about, which is just academic jargoning. the lecturers also spent a good deal of time reading from their own book, which i never like. nevertheless, i ended up spending nearly 2 hours there, too polite to simply leave. i finally did get out of there when the man sitting next to me happened to get up to leave.
afterwards i went to the verizon office to ask them about removing caller id block from our phones. it's something my father asked about ever since he got his moto G4 smart phone. because his number is blocked, it's an inconvenience when he calls or text because nobody knows who it is unless he adds a special unblocking prefix to the number called. the store was so quiet inside, like a library or a church, compared to the hubbub outside. there was a handful of service reps but 3 were helping out with 2 customers while the rest seemed to be restocking the shelves. i waited, patiently, enjoying the serenity and the warmth. a couple came into the store, the man wanted to exchange his new pink iphone to another color. when it finally came to my turn, the service rep took some time to figure out how to remove caller id block but he eventually found it (with my help, because i saw the option on his tablet computer before he did) and removed them from all the phones.
next i went to the shake shack to get a vanilla milk shake, something i'd been thinking about before the lecture. i was afraid it was crowded but it wasn't too bad and the service was quick. maybe a little too quick, because the shake i got was a little off, didn't have that classic vanilla bean flavor, more like buttery golden vanilla. it was also super thick, and i had a hard time sucking it up through the straw, as i made my way home across harvard yard.
i should've thought larger and gotten a burger from the shake shack as well, but i had the last of my pulled chicken waiting for me in the fridge, which i turned into a sandwich. i was pretty hungry by that point, my stomach was gurgling the whole time i was at the lecture.
alex wong skyped me in the evening. i discovered at one point he tried to take the ham radio license exam in japan but abandoned the idea because had to remember all the technical terms in kanji. he wanted to get the license because he wanted to get a two-way shortwave radio, but now he's just go to use his SDR to listen to shortwave chatter.
i recently discovered hamstudy.org as a great tool to preparing for the amateur radio exams. i finally signed up for a free account using my google account, and took the 50 question extra exam for the 2nd time. i managed to get 31 questions correct (19 wrong, 62% correct) which was still a failing grade but better than what i did the first time a few days ago (42% correct). another great thing i discovered is that hamstudy has a brief explanation and occasional hints for every question, which is super helpful. hamstudy is actually sponsored by icom, one of the three big names in ham radios (the other being yaesu and kenwood). it makes sense icom wants people to pass their exams, as these are all potential future customers.
it was a rainy day, in the afternoon my father picked me up and together we went to market basket in search of a thanksgiving turkey. they didn't have any fresh turkeys, just frozen ones, and none reaching 20 lbs. so i said we should hold off, either wait until market basket get some new stock, or go elsewhere. afterwards we returned to belmont. we emptied the oven (typically used for storage) and baked a slab of barbecued ribs for dinner.
i helped my father order a 100ft spool of RG8X coaxial cable off of ebay before getting a ride back to cambridge. i looked for my glass ramekins but couldn't find them, leaving empty-handed with an empty pyrex dish.
the big news today was revelation that democratic senator al franken sexually harassed leeann tweeden back in 2006 when he was still just a comedian on an USO tour by "forcibly [kissing]" her without her consent. although it could've been easily brushed off as a he-said-she-said moment, the fact that she also had a photo taken of her sleeping on the military aircraft while franken pretends to grope her breasts over her flak jacket makes the allegations undeniable. franken did the smart thing by apologizing and saying he was asahamed of his actions and going a step further by saying an ethics investigation should be made and he'd cooperate fully.
tweeden is a regular contributor to fox news so read into that however you want, though it in no way excuses the sexual harassment. but when is a joke poking fun of women in a sexual way just a joke and when is it more serious than that? that's what i want to know. that tweeden said she's been haunted by the incident for the past decade makes me suspicion. in her line of profession - a public figure in the broadcasting and entertainment industry - she's never encountered anything worse than franken making fun of her by kissing her once without permission than pretending to grope her while asleep? of course this will be politicized, given how the republican party has been seen as the party of sexual harassers and pedophiles with trump as the president and all the recent news about republican senate candidate roy moore in alabama.
i've been waking up later and later, though that's probably due in some parts to sleeping later and later (3am typically), but also because it's so cold in the house i just don't want to get out of bed. but having a strict wake-up regimen is what separates me from other lazy people, at least in my mind.
i've been taking the general license practice exam as often as i can, whether on my computer or on the phone. i'm at a point no where i 80% sure i can pass, but i'd like to up my score. i still haven't had a perfect score yet, the closest i got was 2 wrong out of 35 questions (9 or less to pass). i typically get between 4-6 incorrect. there are still 2 big chapters i haven't read yet, chapter 4 components and circuits and chapter 5 radio signals and equipment. those are perhaps the 2 densest chapters, full of formulas and theories. at this rate i've answered enough questions from those chapters that i might even need to read them and still pass, but i still like to. once i'm sure i can pass the general, i want to study up on the extra class license. it's a longshot to passing but better to have fighting chance than none at all.
i tested the 2m ground plane antenna using the short UHF cable, from my living room and also from the backyard porch. i couldn't receive or transmit on either 2m or 70cm, although on the 70cm i could hear some static but that was about it. from the backyard porch i was able to receive transmission from the quincy repeater loud and clear (heard the automated repeater message). but i tried to contact my father through the repeater, we couldn't hear anything. the only thing i haven't tried is sticking the antenna outside my living room window out on a stick; maybe i'll try that tomorrow.
i moved my motorcycle to the front of the house (it was parked a block away last night) and put the cover over it as there was a forecast of rain for tomorrow. i realized it was trash day this morning but i forgot to take out the trash, i got my schedule mixed up. my upstairs neighbors seem to be away (though their car is still parked outside), as 2 days worth of newspaper was piled outside their front door. that must've been the sounds i heard 2 nights ago, when they were getting up early to leave.
i had a salmon cream cheese bagel for lunch and thought about what i was having for dinner. i felt in the mood for some more carbs, and thought how delicious it'd be to have some spaghetti again. then the idea of making a chicken pot pie crossed my mind, but i only had a single pie crust in the fridge (maybe a spinach ricotta pie in the near future). i finally decided i'd finish the rest of my leftover pulled chicken from nearly a month ago if you can believe it, saving a trip to the supermarket for either tomorrow or friday.
i upgraded to masOS high sierra today (10.13.1). i heard there was going to be HVEC support but when i tried to play an HVEC video through quicktime, it still didn't work. other than that, the new OS seems to be similar to the old OS, i don't notice any difference. that i think is a good thing, i don't like it when new versions of the OS change the GUI just for the sake of changing. OS GUI worked fine before, no need to retweak it.
i performed another water change. i noticed the tetras were acting kind of funny, hiding at the bottom of the tank instead of swimming around. that usually means something is wrong. i did a count and it seemed like i was missing a tetra. did one die? or maybe i accidentally sucked it away with my tank vacuum? when i reached in the aquarium to clean the cyanobacteria, that's when i felt it: the water was vey warm (81°). so warm in fact that it was actually steaming, and the tetras were getting cooked. the optimal temperature is in the lower 70's. high temperature would most definitely contribute to the bacterial bloom. i quickly lowered the setting on the tank heater and poured in 2 gallons of cool 60°F room temperature water. after cleaning the tank i did another count and it seemed like the 11th fish had returned.
i watched the movie mayhem (2017) today, heard good things, starring steven yeun and samara weaving (she's great in netflix's the babysitter), but i didn't like it. something about it was decidedly low budget in a bad way, like it was shot on video, and the acting felt unnatural and forced. the premise was interesting at first - a virus that causes coworkers in a quarantined office building to temporarily go into a homicidal rage - but the storyline seemed to lose steam. the actual eponymous mayhem didn't seem all that much. there was also a lot of spitting and spittle, which i have an unnatural revulsion to, which might have added to my dislike.
li came home around 6:30pm. said he was tired from 3 days of astrophysics conferences but it was finally over. he quickly whipped up some rice porridge for dinner. as for me, i made a pulled chicken sandwich with a submarine bread and some provolone cheese. it wasn't bad and the chicken is still good to eat.
my father called me in the evening, asked me to listen to one of the GMRS channels. i could barely hear anything until i switched to my 2m ground plane, and just caught the tail end of a conversation (50-60% clarity). the weird thing was i thought i heard them signing off with call signs, but i didn't recognize the pattern and knew it was amateur radio call signs. at first i was excited, maybe it was foreign operators transmitting from far away due to some quirk in the atmosphere, but then i did some research and discovered that licensed GMRS operators have call signs as well. my father overheard one of them saying something about waltham. it's strange that we were able to hear them (my father heard them super clear with his outdoor mounted 2m antenna) given that in our own GMRS radio tests, at best their range is just a quarter of a mile.
looks like the 2nd half of november is prime reading season, as i got my hands on two much awaited books: oathbringer by brandon sanderson and artemis by andy weir. and this morning i ordered from the library 40 watts from nowhere: a journey into pirate radio by sue carpenter which will arrive next week.
i tried my hands at taking an extra class license practice exam. unlike the other two classes, the extra has 50 questions (from a pool of 712 questions). a passing grade is 13 wrong or less. it took a while to take because i'd never seen any of these questions before. i ended up getting 21 correct and 29 wrong, a score of 42% (failing). a few of the questions i knew the answers for sure, but most of them i didn't and had to take an educated guess. a lot more names and terms i've never heard before (but i'm sure i'll remember them once i see it once or twice). a lot more technical questions, especially about repeaters, which was never something i had to study for on the general exam. with a bit more studying, and a few more practice exams, i might be able to barely eke by an extra class passing grade.
i couldn't sleep last night, worried about the two things i had to do today: find a plumber to unclog my parents' kitchen drain and clean the house in preparation for the home energy audit later in the afternoon at 3pm. of the two, finding a good plumber was the more difficult task.
i spent the night in bed intermittently checking my phone: taking the general license practice exam (the test is next wednesday night) and then researching the questions i got wrong (pv cell voltage, multiplier vs mixer, log-periodic antenna, usb speech processor, frequency allocations, WARC bands, germanium diodes, IC operational amplifier, bypass capacitor, decibel scale, coaxial cable attenuation, dielectric cable loss), reading reddit, figuring out if drain-o crystals would be a viable option to cheaply unclog the drain (no it wouldn't not guarantee to work and the chemical lye can be dangerous to work with), checking to see if any xiaomi phones are compatible with verizon (looks like no), exploring antenna analyzers (the good ones are around $300), and reading up on some patriots news. the wifi would go down periodically as well for some strange reason and i'd have to crawl out of bed and walk across the cold kitchen (59°F) to reset the router (i should replace that cheap $20 tp-link router).
at 3:30am i received good news from the FCC: my vanity call sign went through (i received my assigned call sign 10/26, applied for the vanity 10/27, received notification of acceptance 18 days later), from this day forward i shall be known as november one hotel alpha oscar on the airwaves.
i finally went to bed at 5:30am, after hearing my upstairs neighbor waking up at 4:30am. when morning finally arrived (daylight anyway), i didn't want to get out of bed, but finally did by around 9:30am.
i wasn't expecting it to be raining the whole day, but rain it did, starting in the early afternoon, right when i was testing out the 2m ground plane antenna from the backyard porch landing. the test was unsuccessful, couldn't receive nor transmit to my father at the cafe. was it the antenna, the feed line, or simply bad location? who knew. afterwards i moved my motorcycle and put the rain cover on. i was going to go to belmont to clean the house for the energy audit tomorrow, but wasn't sure now with the rain. but my father said he could come and get me after work in another hour. that was enough time for me to clean the aquarium. i did a thorough cleaning this time, taking out the driftwoods and the aquatic plants and giving them a thorough scrubbing in the sink, before siphoning out 2 gallons worth of fish tank water mixed with cyanobacteria globs.
my father showed up around 2pm. i showed him the spots where i tested out the antenna last night. we figured out i could use a tripod and a selfie stick to make an antenna tower in my living roof. i'd give it a try later in the evening. in the meantime, we took the 2m ground plane antenna along with the feed cable so we could test it back in belmont.
using a short 50cm UHF cable, i was able to test the ground plane antenna nearly directly attached to my baofeng radio. it was able to hear the chatter on the waltham hill repeater, something i couldn't do with the same ground plane back at home, but i was able to get reception using the stock antenna. in the end my father discovered that the problem had to do with the old feed cable. one end had a newly soldered UHF plug, the other end was the old original plug that had oxidized over the decades and was no longer fully conductive. the fix was just to abrade the connector with some sand paper. once we did that, the 2m ground plane attached to the feed line was able to pick up waltham hill repeater reception again.
there was a lot of chatter on the waltham hill repeater this late afternoon; normally it's silent until 5pm, when the supposed owner of the repeater (i'm assuming he's the owner since he's always on) comes on. we used the chatter to test our various antenna reception.
we discovered that our outdoor 2m ground plane antenna mounted 20 feet up in the air on a bamboo pole can pick up NOAA weather forecast from WX7PA6
i contacted lucas from united solar, asking for a schedule update. when i talked to him last back in october, he said mid-november would probably be the time they'd come to do the solar installation. he wrote me back, said they were booked all this week, but that next week (thanksgiving week) looks like a good time. lucas told me he'd know definitely by the end of this week. the thing i'm afraid of is united solar suddenly going out of business, it's happened before to many bigger solar companies. but i'm happy to hear they're still around.
what was supposed to be a quiet afternoon and evening turned out to be quite the disaster when the kitchen sink stopped working. it was slow draining yesterday, then my father used some drain clogger on it overnight. instead of unclogging the drain, it made it worse, because it must've loosened the greasy deposits, which ended up blocking the drain completely. no amount of plunging would unclog the drain, and if anything, it brought up this dirty black grease water from the deep dark recesses of the kitchen plumbing. it didn't smell bad fortunately, but it did have a very strong distinctive odor, like a seaweed-covered beach. i scooped out the water from the sink then we drained what water remained in the cabinet plumbing by releasing the trap. then my father used a plumbing snake to try and dislodge the obstruction, but it couldn't go any further than the junction that connected the pipe to the main sewage drain. we then went down to the basement to remove the cast iron cleanout cap. this was something i was dreading because it meant a big leaking mess but i didn't have to worry about that because we couldn't release the cleanout cap no matter what we tried, even using a length of pipe around the pipe wrench handle to increase our torque, with both my father and i pulling down on it.
after dinner we close the trap underneath the sink and tried to melt the obstruction away with pots of boiling hot water. that ended up not working either, and left us with hot water in the pipe that we couldn't drain until it cooled. when my father went down to the basement to feel the pipe, the hot water wasn't even reaching the cleanout cap, meaning the obstruction was much farther up in the plumbing. we finally gave up, my father tasking me with the job of finding a plumber tomorrow morning. it's an easy fix if we can only remove the cleanout cap.
it was still raining by evening when got a ride back to cambridge. to think i was going to bike to belmont! i would've never made it back.
i set up the 2m ground plane antenna station in my living room by the window elevated on the tripod + selfie stick. neither my father nor i could hear each other, zero transmission and zero reception. i tried bending the radials downwards (it was perpendicular to the main antenna before) based on my father's direction but that didn't do anything. i then removed the antenna from the tripod and attached it to the baofeng using the short length of UHF cable. i couldn't transmit anything either, but i was able to receive loud static on 70cm (UHF) if i had the antenna pointed 45° out the window. i then went outside with the antenna and was finally able to hear my father at 70cm by standing on the sidewalk. reception was good if i pointed the antenna to the clear sky but also if i just held it straight up. i was also able to speak to him standing on my front porch with the antenna vertical. at 2m (VHF) i was able to hear intermittent voice with high static if i pointed the antenna 90° counterclockwise to where i was pointing it before, due west. so the good news is we know the antenna works and we can operate on simplex; bad news is reception is heavily dependent on location, and the best location so far seems to be in front of my house where i have the best view of the sky.