t
o
n
y
a
n
g
'
s
 
w
e
b
l
o
g


the blisters on my right hand itched something fierce last night. i scratched at it in the dark, didn't care if i was turning my palm into a bloody mess. when i finally woke up this morning i was expecting to see a crime scene but instead my hand was fine. the blister however seemed to have spread. the weird thing about these blisters is they first appear underneath the skin. after a while they erupt, break the skin, and slough off. i can reduce the itching if i put my hands underneath cold running water. i also have that super strong topical cream my dermatologist prescribed to me, because i'm afraid to put it on. but who knows, maybe i'll try it tonight. i still don't know what i touched. it has to be gardening tool related, or perhaps bike handle related, because i haven't touched anything else. i've been careful when handling gardening tools, ever since the first blisters appeared on my left hand, putting on gloves every time, so i don't know how i managed to get the itch on my right hand.

when i finally got out of bed a bit after 10am on this sunday morning, i saw that karen was getting ready to go out. she said she was going with her friend paula on a walk on the minuteman bike trail out from alewife. i thought she meant the minuteman historical trail. before she left, she told me the doorknob of her bedroom was broken. i went to go check and the doorknob slipped right off, dropping onto the floor. one of the screws keeping the doorknob attached to the spindle must've fallen off.

after karen left, i went into her bedroom on my hands and knees trying to look for the missing screw. that's when i realized what a mess her room was. floors covered in hairs and dust, food crumbs, toenails, balls of used tissue, overflowing garbage, and the worst part was she spilled some coffee all over her desk and it dribbled onto the floor. so i spent the next hour cleaning up her room, wiping with the duster, vacuuming with my shark, and cleaning up her coffee disaster. i even had to cut the strands of hair clogging up my vacuum head (the pains of living with someone with long hair). after all that i still didn't find the screw. i wrote her a note for when she came back, asking if she'd seen the screw someplace.

i managed to make a temporary fix using a short piece of wooden skewer and some electric tape to keep the doorknob attached to the spindle. i didn't have a spare set screw, but figured i could buy a few online.

only then - 11:30am - did i finally have some time to use the bathroom and take a shower. the tub was slow to drain again, even though i unclogged it just a few days ago with liquid drain-o gel. it seems like i'm unplugging it every 2 weeks or so. as a temporary fix, i heated up a kettle of boiling water afterwards and poured it down the drain, hoping it'd melt some soap scum.

temperature today was in the lower 60's when i left the house around noontime. i thought it'd be warm enough to just wear a long-sleeved pullover, but there was still a bit of a chill in the air that i took my jacket. on huron avenue i met a birder with a scope set up pointing to some trees. i stopped to ask what he was seeing and he saw a pair of baby owls and their parents. i looked in the scope and sure enough there they were. the babies looked a little full-grown already, none of the fuzzy puffiness of young owls. i didn't get a good look at the adults, just the back.

when i arrived in belmont i had some pan-fried wontons for lunch. my sister was there, trying to get my mother and/or me to join her in walking her dog; neither of us wanted to go.

another weekend day, another day too lazy to do anything constructive. i was hoping to plow through some overdue blog entries, but i only managed to write a few paragraphs at best. it's hard to retroactively update posts. either i write everything right away, or the memories just sit there until they fade, with just the photos to remind me.

i decided my mother should get the new 2017 ipad. i did the research last night and it was a choice between the asus zenpad 3S 10 or the new ipad. if it was just for me, i would pick the android tablet because of its flexibility. but the deal breaker came down to software updates. i read a lot of discussions where people were desperately waiting for asus to update the OS from 6 to 7. and with the mediatek chipset, i doubt there'd be a lot of third party ROM development going forward. should android 8 ever come out, i'm not optimistic i'd see it on the asus tablet. on the other hand, apple is very good with software updates for their products, supporting them for many years afterwards. then i discovered the possibility of installing showbox onto an ipad. it's a little involved, but if it works, then there's no need to go android (that was one of the perks of the android system, side loading apps you can't find in the google store).

i tried installing showbox (called moviebox in iOS) with my mother's soon-to-be-replaced ipad 2 using the mojo app but i wasn't successful. maybe the ipad 2 is just too old, maybe mojo was outdated. i'll try again when she gets her new ipad.

my father came home an hour earlier than usual. we were in the backyard doing some more pruning, including parts of the pussy willow, which has an entire central trunk that's rotted and hollow, and a few healthy branches leaning into the neighbor's yard and onto their detached garage, in danger of smashing it one day should the tree decide to split apart. we're trying to collect as much garden refuse as possible since this tuesday they're collecting again.

i brought home a can of downeast hard cider and a bottle of my usual woodchuck hard cider for my parents to taste test. i now realize the reason why downeast is cloudy is because the cider is unfiltered. i personally prefer the crystal clarity of filtered cider, it just tastes cleaner.

after dinner i went back to cambridge. earlier in the afternoon karen wrote to tell me that she in fact discovered that missing screw yesterday, and sent me a photo as proof. that's good, because i looked for these spindle screws online and they're hard to come buy. nobody sells them individually, so i'd need to buy in bulk, and after shipping, it'd set me back at least $15-20 just for a tiny screw. my better option would be to a set of used doorknobs and spindle that comes with matching screws. but now that karen has found the missing screw, i don't have to worry about it and just need to put the screw back in place to properly fix the doorknob.

i didn't think anyone was home but i found karen in the living room. she had the ceiling light turned on (she prefers that instead of the lamps). i asked her about her walk and realized she meant the minuteman bike trail and not the minuteman historical national park. i asked her when she was going to montreal. she will be leaving on the 12th of may (friday), and coming back on the 17th. she's trying to find a rideshare using amigo express (montreal is its hub), but if nothing pans out, she's willing to endure the bus ride. that means i have almost a week of the house to myself, which will be like a vacation for me. that's why when she asked me if she could a day later - june 1st instead of may 31st - i was immediately fine with it. there was a 7am may 31st (wednesday) united flight leaving boston, but she didn't want to take united on account of the recent bad publicity. the flight she will end up taking is a 11pm night flight leaving the next day (thursday), with a mexican carrier. the flight is a bit longer - with a short stop in mexico city - but in a familiar setting.

miguel was leaving at 6am, so i set my alarm for 5:30am. as he and karen were making final preparations and getting ready, i crept into the living room and waited while watching some morning news. approaching 6am he came into the living room to say good bye. he thanked me for my hospitality and welcomed me to his house in merida should i ever visit mexico. he also gave me back my key, along with a complimentary hand-crafted beaded figurine keychain of a quetzal. a few minutes later their uber car arrived and they left. i gave them a final wave from the door.

after using the bathroom and taking a quick shower, i climbed back into bed to continue sleeping. miguel texted me from the airport, thanking me once again. at one point i heard karen coming back to the house. i couldn't quite be sure because i was already semi-conscious. i fell into a deep sleep and did wake up until 11:20am. i got up and realized karen was still sleep as the door to her bedroom was closed. i puttered around a bit, left karen a note, then headed to my parents' place via bike around noontime.

it was a grey and slightly cold day (temperature in the lower 40's), looked like it might rain at any point, but the rain clouds were confided south of boston. the average temperature this time of year is supposed to be in the upper 50's. i had some rice porridge for lunch, then snacked intermittently as i surfed aimlessly online. my mother has been thinking about updating her ipad 2 to either the new apple ipad ($329) or an android tablet. the only thing comparable is the ASUS ZenPad 3S 10 (Z500M) ($299). same screen resolution with a higher memory spec. the only thing i don't like about the zenpad 3s 10 is it uses the cheaper mediatek chip, which don't seem to be compatible with a lot of 3rd party rom's. but if we're not going to tweaking the OS anytime soon, the zenpad is a perfectly fine tablet.

my sister and her dog showed up briefly in the late afternoon before leaving. after dinner i biked back to cambridge. the house was empty, not sure where karen went, but it gave me enough time to use the bathroom and take a shower. she came back around 8:30pm, having gone with her friend paula to a mexican grocery store in lynn, where she got me a ball of authentic oaxaca ("wa-HA-ka") cheese. i've had the cheese before but this time i could really savor it. it's chewy and stringy like mozzarella, but has a distinctive mild milk or butter flavor. when torn into slices, it resembles chicken. karen said you can just eat it raw as a snack, or melted on a sandwich, and that it also goes along well with grapes.

karen went to bed very early, around 9:30pm. i kept at it until midnight, then decided to sleep early as well.

of course karen wouldn't be going to work today, with her boyfriend's last day in boston. in fact, she's been going to work late most of this week, leaving as late as 10am. it was cold in the house this morning, temperature dipping to 63°F, but i don't think my houseguests noticed because they woke up late same as me. i did turn up the heat to 68°F when i woke up. once the both of them were up by 11:30am, the house became a noisy place as they chatted animatedly and loudly in the kitchen while making breakfast/lunch. i held on to the fact that miguel would be leaving early tomorrow and that later they'd be going out to keep me from being even more annoyed.

i shared lunch with them, my sole contribution a scoop of rum raisin haagen-daz ice cream onto each warmed up piece of apple pie. they made an omelette using leftover vegetables from the fridge. i casually asked what their plans were, and was dismayed to learn they intended on staying home the whole day. the weather was a factor, as today was both rainy and cold. there was an italian food demonstration at noontime i thought they were going to, but karen said they never reserved a spot.

however, they did leave after all, around 2:30pm, for harvard square, despite the rain. miguel really wanted another shake from the shake shack, and wanted karen to try it to. he'd also take her to newbury comics so she could find presents for her sister and family.

my father stopped by shortly afterwards to drop off the ingredients i needed to make korean kimchi. my mother requested i make some, as sometimes they sell the batch i made the last time, which was back in late january. i haven't made it since because fermenting cabbage has a tendency to stink up the house. my 2nd aunt also likes to eat it, says it's better than the ones she buys in the stores because my kimchi instead as soggy (that's because i let it reduce for 4 hours then pour out the cabbage brine).

i was still missing an asian pear and i wasn't sure if i'd have enough hot pepper powder, so i asked my father to take me to the korean grocery store in union square. i also got another head of napa cabbage (99¢/lbs.) because i only had about 4 lbs. worth of cabbage, and i wanted to make a bit more. i got a package of hot pepper powder and a large korean pear. only when i went to go pay for my stuff did i receive sticker shock: the pear was $5.99. in chinatown i could score asian pears at $2 for a bag of 6. this was outrageous. i asked my father if i should return it and substitute apple instead, but my father said asian pear had better flavor and i really didn't have any other choice. but throughout the ride back i couldn't stop thinking about how expensive the pear was, and whether it was really necessary, and that the price of all these additional ingredients actually made my homemade kimchi cost more than the store bought variety.

i began making the kimchi when i returned home. from the last two times i made kimchi, i figured out the key portions for 2 essential ingredients: 0.54 tbsp of salt per lbs of vegetable (cabbage plus radish), and 1.30 tbsp of hot pepper powder per lbs.

kimchi april 2017(4.5x 1 qt. pickle jars)

6.94 lbs. napa cabbage
2.54 lbs. daikon radish
5 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp salted shrimp paste
12 tbsp red pepper powder
0.21 lbs. ginger, processed
2 heads of garlic, processed
0.60 lbs. asian pear, processed
15 thai hot peppers, chopped
0.40 lbs. garlic chives, chopped

i'd salted the chopped cabbage and radish by 4pm, and would wait 4 hours of reduction before mixing in the other ingredients. once 8pm came around, it was time to finish the kimchi. the expensive asian pear was large enough that i only used half and ate the other half. i let karen and miguel try some, and they said it tasted like a very sweet jicama. earlier i had to run across the street to star market to get another head of garlic, as i only had one and needed two. once all the additional ingredients were peeled and processed and chopped, i added everything together (minus the reduced cabbage brine, which i poured out). i managed to completely fill 4-1/2 jars.

for dinner i finished some leftovers my father left me earlier when he dropped off the kimchi ingredients. karen and miguel came home around 7:30pm. they brought back a case of downeast cider. likewise, when i went to the supermarket earlier, i brought back a 6-pack of woodchunk amber cider. miguel took karen back to the shake shack, where he got the exact same malted vanilla shake he got yesterday ("why mess with perfection?" he said). they ended up spending a good part of their day eating through the menu, with a total of 3 burger orders (he actually texted me a burger photo in the late afternoon, rating the shake shack burger 9 out of 10). karen also got a beer there, as the shake she ordered was just too sweet.

we finished the evening drinking hard cider and watching arrival on HDTV. i'd seen the movie and didn't really like it all that much, but told miguel don't let my personal feelings interfere with his enjoyment. they also sampled the flan i made on wednesday. afterwards i taught him use to use torrent to download his own movies. they went to bed around midnight, but not before miguel came out to thank me for the past 2 weeks (although i wasn't really here for the first week) just in case he didn't see me tomorrow morning.

woke up this morning to learn that aaron hernandez - former new england patriots star tight end and current serving a life sentence convicted murder - had committed suicide in his jail cell. this came as a shock because he was just acquitted of a double murder a few days ago, which would likely help his appeal for the murder sentence he was now serving. during his time with the patriots, hernandez was a great player and fan favorite. matched up with fellow tight end rob gronkowski, new england had a formidable offense. i always liked hernandez more than gronkowski, as gronkowski was a goofball, while hernandez seemed more like a business-like player. that he was ultimately arrested for murder was shocking enough, but then supposed evidence of multiple murders? here was a someone who was living a double life: football player by day, serial killer by night. and how his suicide.

miguel asked if i'd be interested in some stuffed eggplants for lunch. i said sure, and he went across the street to collect a few more ingredients. he was gone for a while and when he came back i realized why: he discovered petsi's pies and was enraptured by the shop, said this was exactly what he was looking for. he ended up buying 3 different pies, a lime 'cheesecake' and 2 vareties of apple pies. we finished the lime cheesecake and finished one apple crumble pie after lunch. as for the stuffed eggplants, a lot of effort went into the recipe, from stewing to frying to baking, but the final result was a little bland. it tasted better after i doused it with some yucatan habanero hot sauce.

while miguel made plans to meet karen at the museum of fine arts after she got out from work (wednesday evenings free admission), i biked to belmont for dinner.

i was still in shock from the hernandez suicide, when i received my second shock of the day: bill o'reilly fired from fox news over sexual harassment allegations. i spent the whole day not knowing about it until i turned on the news at my parents' place. i thought the man was untouchable, as the face of fox news. i knew there were allegations in the past, but nothing happened to him then, and i figured maybe nothing would happen to him now. but more reports were coming out, how fox paid millions to women over the years to cover up o'reilly's sexual harassments. that seemed to trigger advertisers to flee in droves, which what was ultimately that did him in. it's one thing when it's a he-said-she-said battle about the validity of these allegations, but it's another thing when advertisers lose confidence in o'reilly and the network begins to lose money. the news brings me some joy because o'reilly was a terrible human being who spent years spouting lies and becoming a media demagogue to the right. but cut off one head of the hydra and another one will grow in its place. someone else will fill that vacuum that he formerly occupied.

we continued to have ham for dinner, this time stir fried with some spicy peppers. i found all my glass pyrex ramekins from thanksgiving, along with a large pyrex lasagna tray. i took all of these back with me so i could make the flan when i got home.

at this point flan making for me is fairly routine. i made 16 this time around, which i simply just doubled the recipe. in past recipes i messed up the portions, thinking that the basic recipe made only 6 not 8, and ended up with more flan mixture than i needed. this time around i got everything perfect, not a drop wasted. karen and miguel came back home while i was melting the sugar to coat the bottom of the ramekins. i baked the 16 flan for about 2 hours, until the tops had that had nice burnt finish to them.

wechat began pinging me early this morning. wangyang finally gave xiaoshen the tiny statue of liberty figurine i bought her, and xiaoshen was writing to thank me. wangyang also told me later that she delivered the gift. she also added that she saw a store at a shanghai outlet mall called tony wear and said she could send me some tailored pants if i wanted. i told her thanks but i was all set for pants.

the skin on my forehead hurts from the slight sunburn i sustained yesterday courtesy of standing out in the hot sun during the boston marathon. it looked really dark yesterday but has since faded a bit. also i'm starting to get those itchy blisters on my hands again. i'm trying to think what i touched to get them, i think it was the plastic spray nozzle. speaking garden hoses, diana contacted me today, said that she finally moved out all her perennials, and the community garden plot was free for me to do whatever i want with it now.

this was my plan for today: take miguel to market basket, get lunch at tasty burgers and shake shack (both harvard square), then climb washington tower at mt.auburn cemetery. he knew about lunch but didn't know what else i had planned, so naturally when paula boyfriend called him asking if he wanted to take a plane ride (her boyfriend is a licensed pilot), it was an offer miguel couldn't refuse. in hindsight maybe he should've, but more on that later.

of course i didn't mind. anytime i can have the house to myself is a good time. i used the bathroom, showered, then ate the plain dunkin donut donut miguel got for me when he went out for breakfast with karen this morning before she went to work. i always remember their donuts to be dry and cake-like, and my memory remains unchanged. whatever happened to krispy kreme? their donuts still remain the best donuts i've ever had. the closest store to boston seems to be located at the mohegan sun casino. and in new york (the state), the only store seems to be inside of penn station.

i went to market basket for groceries in the early afternoon. that's when i realized how cold it was at 50°F. the warm weather last week and all this weekend has put me in summer mode. i knew it would be cold today, but it still caught me by surprise. 50°F would be considered warm if i was still in winter mode, but not anymore. i think my short haircut also had something to do with it, as i'm used to a full head of hair to keep my head warm. i went back inside to put on my coat, my hat, and gloves.

i got back home right at the same time as miguel. he told me the flight was a disaster. everything was fine initially, but once they were airborne, he began to feel airsick from the turbulence. paula's boyfriend is an acrobatic pilot, so he was ready to do some aerial stunts, but miguel told him it wouldn't be a good idea so they ended up landing 30 minutes later. miguel treated the boyfriend to lunch, but he himself couldn't eat a thing, his stomach still reeling from the flight.

miguel left soon afterwards at 4:30pm to rendezvous with karen at longwood. it was actually his birthday today, and they wanted to try the daily catch restaurant they saw at the north end last friday. the restaurant itself wasn't anything special and didn't have many tables, but there was a long time of people waiting outside, and when they asked someone in line, he told them it was the best food he's ever had and the wait was worth it.

for dinner i heated up a container of three bridges grilled chicken and mozzarella ravioli and half a jar of classico italian sausage tomato sauce. i washed it all down with some polar ruby grapefruit seltzer and a bowl of strawberries.

i watered my plants last night after having not watered them this whole weekend, not since i got back from new york on thursday. i probably waited too long, because one of my mallows was all shriveled up. but never underestimate the resiliency of plants: today when i checked on my mallows, they were all fine, as if nothing happened.

wangyang sent me photos of the W head office in shanghai. when i was in shanghai prior to my arrival in chongqing, i never got a chance to visit the headquarter. not only is it interesting to see, but the thought of some of my former coworkers all in this office makes visiting a tantalizing opportunity. wangyang said she could see me around the place if i ever do visit. i told her i probably know more people in shanghai than in any part of china, although for my money, i would rather visit chongqing and sichuan. but the next time i'm in china, it'd definitely be interesting if i can work in a shanghai visit as well.

karen and miguel came back around 11pm. they said nothing about their birthday dinner, just came back inside the house complaining about how cold it was. miguel was particularly upset about the temperature drop, said it was impossible for people to live that this. somehow watching people suffering through the cold makes me feel warmer inside.

the last time i was at the boston marathon was back in 2015, a rainy day with julie. i wasn't there last april (2016) because i was in chongqing at the time. i like going because of the spectacle, and also it's good people watching.

google photos album

i introduced miguel to the sunday morning phantom gourmet food show before he and karen left with karen's friend paula to an outdoor outing (plymouth state forest?) on this easter sunday. he was mesmerized by the show, i think he would've preferred watching it instead of going out. they finally left by 11am, leaving the house all to myself.

i didn't leave cambridge until almost 1pm. i brought back 2 larkspurs i ended up planting in the perennial bed behind the garage. for dinner we baked a glazed ham in the oven. for some reason it released a lot of liquids and the ham ended up a little dry, but i thought it was still delicious.

turns out karen and miguel didn't go down to the south shore but up to new hampshire instead. a hot day like today (temperature reached 86°F), they should've gone to the beach instead of hiking in the forest.

anxious about not waking up on time made me wake up even earlier, as i kept on checking the time every 30 minutes or so. i was awake by 7am, but didn't finally get out of bed until 9am. immediately i began packaging up frances' latest shipment. taping up the box, weighing it, figuring out the postage, filling out the customs form, and finally printing the shipping label. the whole process took about 30 minutes. i debated whether to go to the post office first or visit yulia first. in the end i decided to bike to the store first, as i promised to be there by 10am.

i dropped off the fixed macbook pro. everything work as it should, even the printing, which i wasn't able to test last night. after that i biked to the harvard square post office to drop off frances' package. i returned home by 10:30am. i chatted with paul briefly, who was outside gardening. he asked me how i find my roommates, whether it was through airbnb, because it was something they thought about doing, to make some money should they ever decide to do some extended travel, or just during summer weekends when they're not home. he said they sort of entertained the idea of selling the house and moving to providence (rhode island).

both miguel and karen were still asleep. i went about gathering my things. i haven't had time to unpack since thursday and i finally got a chance to empty my backpack. i left 20 minutes later. today's temperature hit the low 70's. there was a trump tax release protest in cambridge common but i had a feeling there was going to be a low turnout as the original protest was supposed to be in boston (i assume there was a conflict with the marathon race security preparations for monday). my mother prepared some rice porridge breakfast for me when i arrived in belmont. i brought along the produce i got in haymarket yesterday morning, including the yellow nectarines, asparagus, and sweet orange peppers. i also brought the portuguese pastel de nata i got yesterday from chinatown.

karen contacted me around noontime, asked if they could borrow the bikes. had they spoken with me about it yesterday, i could've prepared the bikes for them. nevertheless, i had a suspicion they'd ask, so there were a few available bikes in the basement. but i get annoyed with people who don't plan ahead. it doesn't matter if their plan ends up being crap, but please have some foresight, especially if your plan involves me somehow.

later my father and i went to home depot to get some manure for the raised beds and some mouse sticky traps. last night my mother saw a mouse scurrying across the living room floor. it's one thing if they're hidden, but another thing when they're out when people are around. i'd read that the victor electronic mouse trap ($19.98) was a pretty good trap and they were interested in getting one of those, as a more humane alternative to snap or sticky traps. so i was pleasantly surprised to see that home depot had them in stock as well for a few dollars more. we decided to get one to try it out.

i was hoping we'd chop down the diseased plum trees, but instead we made some preliminary preparations and did some weeding in the backyard instead.

after dinner i was in a hurry to get home as i saw there was some rain in the forecast later in the evening beginning around 8pm. the bikes were in the backyard, chained together. paul had taken out his bike, which he parked underneath a tarp by the recycle bins. he did this last year and i never saw him ride the bike and i was the one who ended up putting it away in the basement for winter storage with 2 flat tires. hope he doesn't plan on doing the same thing this season. karen and miguel got back around 9pm. they'd just gotten back from dinner at red bones in davis square. i hadn't been there in a while, not since march 2006. miguel was raving about the ribs. they had brunch at some random place in union square, then biked to haymarket to buy some cheap produce (two bunches of asparagus were sitting in the sink). we watched a little bit of the ten commandments before they got drowsy and retired for the night.

i woke up at 8am to ride the bike into boston for my 9:15am MGH dermatology follow-up appointment. i arrived a bit before 9am and checked in using the automated kiosk. i was surprised to see that my appointment was at 9am instead, but i ended up in the waiting room until 9:30am before being led to an exam room. the doctor took one look at me, said my wart was completely gone, and that i didn't need any additional cryotherapy. since i was close to haymarket, i decided to pay it a visit to pick up some cheap produce. i got some asparagus, orange sweet peppers, a box of strawberries, and a box of blueberries.

i was surprised to discover that karen didn't go to work today, since i knew she also took monday off as well. in fact, a lot of latino coworkers in her department were skipping work today, as her friend paula said she was the only one in the office.

she and her boyfriend miguel made some breakfast and invited me to have some with them.

* karen calls her friend last minute, asking for a dinner invite

* we part ways at the north end