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hailey woke me up from the side of the bed at exactly 6am this morning, using her internal dog clock. i let her out in the backyard so she could use the bathroom before giving her 3 scoops of her dog food. afterwards she went back to sleep in my old bedroom while i continued sleeping in my parents' bedroom. i sent GC a text, wishing him a safe trip back to alabama (his flight was at 9am).

hailey woke up me again at 8am. i thought maybe she needed to use the bathroom again so i let her out, following her this time. i saw some things in the garden that i almost never see: morning glories! they're called morning glory for a reason, since they only open in the mornings then fade by noontime. as i'm never in belmont that early, i took the opportunity to snap some photos. there are two kinds, domesticated 'heavenly blue' with large 4" flowers, and wild morning glories (non-heart-shaped leaves) with small 1-1/2" flowers. there was also a wet metallic green sweat bee "sleeping" in one of the wild morning glory flowers that i hauled out the tripod so i could take some better photos.

beginning in the late morning, local networks began televising from boston, where counterprotesters were marching against a "free speech" rally on boston common. there seemed be like only a dozen participants in the nationalist rally, compared to the tens of thousands of protesters marching in the street from dorchester 2 miles away into boston.

around noontime hailey made a fuss to go outside so she could lie on the lawn and sun herself. after a while i thought she should come in before she gets a heat stroke but the moment i went outside she ran out into the middle of the lawn, looking for squirrels. i chased her around the backyard a few time, she was sprinting at high speed back and forth, before she got tired and ran back into the house. throughout the day she'd occasionally get bored with sleeping and come back into the living room asking to be let outside. one time i spotted a pair of female turkeys in the neighbor's yard. it was quiet this weekend, a lot of neighbors with kids have gone on vacation. i weeded some crabgrass before it got too hot and i went back inside.

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i bumped into mary while i was watering my garden plot in the late morning. she was there to take some photos of a few recent plants she added. while adjusting a brick, i discovered some termites living underneath. this felt familiar, not because my parents had termites one year, but because i remember also seeing them in my old plot as well. there's an underground termite infestation in the community garden, which could explain some of the rotten fence posts. nearby neighbors should be wary of their wooden properties.

i picked off a medium-sized tomato that had a bit of soft rot on one side, but i figured the other side should still be good to eat. it looked like some form of blight, but when i sliced the tomato in half, it was rotten all the way through. and i'm not sure if it's blight or maybe damaged caused initially by an insect because i thought i saw a hole coming in from the stem.

i thought my parents would be home in the afternoon but they took my 2nd aunt's shift tonight since she has to work every day all next week while my parents are on vacation. my mother might've been bored but my father didn't mind as he was waiting for his baofeng radios to arrive from amazon. there was a chance it might've arrived yesterday since it left the warehouse late monday night (for 2-day delivery), which would've given my father a day or two to test the radios. since it was arriving today, he'd only have a few hours to play around with it before taking them with him tomorrow morning.

i left for belmont, my mother telling me there were prepared to close the cafe early as soon as the radios arrived, to give themselves time to pack. a pair of replacement antennas had already showed in the early morning. so the rest of the day i waited with them, monitoring the progress online, which never changed, just said it was "out for delivery." morning turned to early afternoon then late afternoon then early evening and still the package was nowhere to be seen. i ate some leftover risotto i brought in two pyrex bowls.

there was a guarantee of delivery by 8pm, so we continued to wait patiently. when 8pm slowly approached, things began to look hopeless. while my parents were closing up shop, i called amazon directly asking them what happened to the delivery. i got in touch with logistics, who contacted the driver. logistics told me that in some areas (cambridge being one of them), amazon extend their delivery time to 9pm.

so i called my parents and told them what amazon told me. so after waiting the entire day, they waited another hour. an hour later the package was still nowhere to be found. while my father went outside looking to see if he could see an amazon van, i called amazon again. i got a dispatch, who patched me to logistics, who then called the driver, and then told me that all drivers were returning to the warehouse for the night, that there would be no more deliveries tonight. so basically we waited the entire day for nothing. i was a little angry, but what could i do? i asked if they could make sure they deliver it tomorrow before 10am, in which case my parents would still have time to take the radio with them. the logistics said they could guarantee anything as the drivers have a set route they typically take from the warehouse, but she'd make a note of it. it was a ray of hope at least, even if it might be in vain.

but while i was talking with the logistics person over the phone, i saw on the security webcam my father coming back into the cafe with an amazon box in his hands. before i could hang up with amazon, i heard the beeping of call waiting, my mother trying to get in touch with me to let me know they finally received the package. turns out just by dumb luck my father caught sight of an amazon van do the street and ran after it. the driver had 4 more deliveries to go and we were on the bottom of that list, but the driver was also being called back to the warehouse for the night. he ended up calling his dispatch to authorize the release of the package to my father. so a bad day with a happy ending.

my parents didn't get home until almost 9:30pm. they still had to pack, or at least my mother had to, as my father was too engrossed in trying to figure out how to use the radios. it worked right out of the box. we tested it in the house and the signal seemed pretty strong. we turned on CTCS (continuous tone coded squelch system) so we'd only receive and transmit on a specific signal tone (sort of like a privacy channel, though others would still be able to hear us, we wouldn't hear them and they couldn't talk to us). the UV-5R felt pretty substantial, had some metal heft to the weight, though still small enough to easily palm in one hand. it has a cool feature where the backlight of the display changes depending on whether you're transmitting or receiving (green, blue, purple). the original antenna was slightly longer than the length of the body of the radio, but we replaced it with the shorty bendable antennas. we also turned on voice activation on my radio, so i could test the transmission distance as i rode home soon afterwards.

i felt like a black ops commando or one of those fancy bicycle delivery hipster with my handheld radio. i rode as far as half a mile (about 2500 ft) before i lost the signal. it could've been because there was a hill blocking the line of sight between my parents' house and where i was. hopefully that won't matter on the cruise ship as the norwegian dawn is just 965 ft long. and that's without the use of a repeater, which would definitely boost the signal (though it'd require an amateur ham radio license).

back at home, i tried adding a channel to memory (128 channel settings) but after several attempts it still didn't work, not sure what the trick is. i also used the radio as a scanner. all of cambridge municipal departments (police, fire, EMS, DPW) use a fancy P25 trunk system so i couldn't listen to them. i could however listen in on somerville's police dispatch 470.53750 Mhz. it was interesting but boring, two cops relaying some street information.

i ordered a few things from amazon this morning: another replacement chainsaw chain (S50, $10.92, cheaper than last time) and a pair of AMOTAIOS 300 lumens led rechargeable bike front lights ($8.99 each, with additional 10% discount). i was going to just get one light but with the 10% discount if i buy 2 or more, i decided to get one for my mother, if she continues riding later in the year when it gets darker in the mornings and nights. this is the same type of light that the guy who came here a few times to watch game of thrones has. i was always amazed how bright his light was, as i could see the flashing of his headlight from my living room window. the headlight i currently use is a mini usb rechargeable flashlight attached to a velcro rubberflashlight mount. that headlight is only 25 lumens; the AMOTAIOS is 300 lumens, 10x as bright.

late morning seems to be the time where i'm most likely to be found watering in the community garden. i saw dennis outside his house waiting for a contractor and chatted with him. bruce must've of heard us because he came out as well. i saw the 3 monarch caterpillars his raising, one of which has just turned into a chrysalis. he hasn't had any lucky finding caterpillars the past few years but this season he managed to find 3. i took him to the community garden, where i showed him a patch of milkweed still growing from the edge of my old plot, now almost completely paved over with gravel. that milkweed wasn't in very good condition, with diseased leaves infested with aphids. i then showed him my plot, where i had a small stand of milkweeds; when the time comes, when he needs more leaves to feed his caterpillar, he can come and pick them from here. while bruce returned home, i stayed in the garden to water my plants. i didn't think anybody else had milkweeds, but while making a tour of the whole garden i found one plot that also had them, one with seedpods. i picked a few more tomatoes before leaving, as well as a picked cucumber i found leaning in the pathway of my plot (could i have left it accidentally the last time i was here? in any case, i took it).

i packed the tomatoes and cucumber into a small cardboard box stuffed with leftover packing balloons and strapped it to the back seat of my motorcycle with bungie netting to bring to belmont since i'm not a big fan of tomatoes and my mother would find a better use for them.

the mass solar loan technical application was approved this morning, which means my parents can now go shopping for a loan to cover the cost of installing solar panels on their rooftop. however, this comes at a time when my parents are less than 48 hours away from leaving for their bermuda cruise, and my father's latest obsession are portable ham radios, so the loans will have to wait until they come back.

while watering the plants in my parents' backyard, i noticed holes cut out from the edges of large chestnut sapling leaves. there's only one critter in the area that would do that: leafcutter bees! maybe they're using the makeshift solitary bee homes i made a while back with leftover bamboo stalks. i checked the cans but didn't see any activities.

i helped my father put the portable AC back into the living room. at first when we ran it it seemed cooler, but i think that was just our imagination because after a few hours i didn't really notice any additional cooling (though slightly more comfortable as it was less humid since the AC also acts as a dehumidifier). i think cleaning the condenser coils does nothing to enhance the cooling; all it does is it makes the AC more energy efficient, so it uses less power to give us the same amount of cool. to actually improve how cold it gets means either replacing the freon or swap out the condenser if it's gone bad. my money's on the freon but only a licensed HVAC repairman can do the work, and for the price (labor/parts) of fixing a portable AC, it'd be cheaper just to buy a new one.

my parents chopped up the heirloom tomatoes and sprinkled some "plum powder" (酸梅粉) on top of them to be eaten as a dessert. they tasted like regular tomatoes, i couldn't tell the difference between a store bought tomato. for dinner i had some 酸辣粉 my father and i bought yesterday from the malden 88 supermarket. it did remind me a little bit of chongqing, but there it's not as soupy and the spiciness level is even hotter.

i came home and opened up the watermelon that's been sitting in my fridge since sunday. i'm starting to get better at taking apart a watermelon the more i do it. it cut it into quarters then cut the quarter into cubes. at any one time i can only eat about a quarter of a large watermelon.

my father called me this morning, excited to let me know he's found some chinese documentation for the baofeng UV-5R dual band two way radio. he said he pretty much knows how to set up the radios for walkie talkie functionality (complicated, involving 40+ steps), and hopefully the radios arrive tomorrow so he can at least have 2 days to figure out how to use it. it's interesting to see how he's completely obsessed about the baofeng. before that, he was focused on researching ductless heat pumps. and before then, he was focused on gathering information for the home solar loan.

i went to my garden plot in the late morning to water my plants and to harvest some vegetables. i brought in all the empty refuse bins, which wasn't so easy since we temporarily only have one garden entrance. a curiosity seeker was there asking about the community garden and whether there was a wait list; i told her to check the tool shed for information about joining. i also bumped into wayne, first time this season. the first thing he said to me was, "are you done with the hose?" while i was watering my plants. i ended up harvest a bunch of japanese eggplants, one cucumber, a container of cherry tomatoes, and 3 heirloom tomatoes. i could've collected more but i couldn't carry them all back so saving some for another day.

around 1:30pm i went with my father on a supply run to the malden 88 to pick up a box of frozen dumplings. we stopped at the twin city plaza marshalls so i could look for a replacement insulated bottle. they still carried the one i had before - the 40 oz. exquis for $10 - but my father said it was too cheaply made and i shouldn't buy it again. i searched for something better. my criteria are it has to be large (around 40 oz.), has a wide mouth that can fit ice cubes, and a top that doesn't need to be completely removed to drink. the closest thing i found was a $13 32 oz. manna brand bottle with a creative cap that allows regular sipping but also can be completely removed to add ice cubes. besides the smaller size, the other thing i didn't like about it was it only insulated cold for 12 hours (the same rating as my contigo).

we then went to the malden 88 supermarket. for some reason it was more crowded than a typical weekday afternoon. they did some renovation, expanding their produce department. in fact, construction was still ongoing, with the sound of drilling up on the roof, with gaps you can see the bright sky outside, while people just casually shopped down below. the construction noises were loud and it seemed unsafe, but that's typical of an asian business.

i returned home in the afternoon, having not eaten anything all day yet. i fixed myself some oatmeal with the last of my chicken sausage. i finally ate around 3:15pm.

in the evening i made another batch of risotto with the leftover ingredients from last time. earlier i got an onion at 88, but then i realized i didn't have any chicken broth, so went across the street to get two cans (99¢ each), along with some honey nut cheerios. i had some leftover mushrooms that seemed they might've gone bad. they had a funky smell and a bit of a slimy feel. but i took the risk and used them anyway, figured i'd just cook out the spoilage. i also threw in a small cube of old blue cheese that i found in the fridge. i was going to throw it out, but figured adding it to the risotto might enhance the flavor. the hard cheese took some effort to melt down and afterwards i couldn't really taste it in the risotto. despite adding 2 ingredients that were suspect, i didn't get sick after i finished my finish, saving the other half for leftovers.

i've been researching SDR (software-defined radio), making turning my laptop or my raspberry buy into a radio scanner using an RTL-SDR dongle. i have an old diamond TVW750U but unfortunately it's not compatible with the RTL-SDR project (purchased 5 years ago, it's PC only and doesn't work with the latest versions of window). at some point i will buy an RTL-SDR dongle for $20.

every weeknight i make it a point to watch stephen colbert's late show monologue, given that the burning dumpster of donald trump's "administration" is ripe for ridicule. i then usually switch channels depending on who has the more interesting guests. tonight colbert had tiffany haddish, who's name i heard mentioned recently and there seems to be a lot of buzz about her. seeing her tonight i could see why, super funny and charismatic. she has a comedy special this friday on showtime.

i woke up early again, this time around 7:40am, after hearing my noisy next door neighbors tossing around their trash bins in our shared alleyway and listening to them make breakfast. i was due to wake up anyway however, having gone to sleep early last night around 11:30pm. unlike yesterday however, i didn't run any errands besides make myself some lunch. as there was street cleaning tomorrow and i had to move the motorcycle anyway, i rode to belmont in the afternoon to water the garden.

with my mother's help, we pulled out 4 large zucchinis the length of a forearm each. we should still be able to get a few more good ones within the next few weeks. small sections of our zucchini plants have died (not sure why, disease or pest) but the rest of the plants continue to grow at such a fast rate that they still continue to bear fruits.

the way my parents' living room is configured leaves little option when it comes to AC window placement during the summers. there's a large southern-facing double hung window but my parents like to leave it available so they can open it to allow in fresh air and sunlight. on the north side is a picture window with two double hung side windows. the problem is the side windows are too small to fit a standard size air conditioner unit. instead, they've resorted to a floor unit AC (aka portable AC), with the exhaust hose piped out the window.

the current floor unit AC they have is a sharp CV-P10MC. a big hulking machine, it takes two people to move it (although it does have some small wheels) and has a rating of 10,000 BTU. i don't remember when they purchased it, at least 7 years ago or later. it's never been very good at cooling, and there's been at least one summer when it got so hot we abandoned the floor unit and went with a window AC in the southern window instead. every summer we think about getting a new air conditioner.

my father has always been interested in opening the floor AC to look inside, thinking that maybe dust had collected on the condenser coils (those thin metal fins) and needed some cleaning. however, the way the sharp is designed, it's not very easy to open, and the most you can do in terms of maintenance is just taking out the two filters and clean them. so not sure why i never did it earlier, but i went online to look for instructions on how to open the unit.

the trick is knowing that the front coverplate is attached to the main unit with 6 clips, 3 on each side. the clips in the middle are the easiest to get to, but the ones on the top and bottom require some brute strength and a leap of faith to pop them free. once we struggled to free the clips, the coverplate was just an easy matter of lifting up and out (2 more top clips secure the coverplate but those don't need to be popped, just carefully slide the plate out).

what we saw inside was horrifying: two sets of condenser coils, the one on the bottom didn't look too bad, but the one on top was covered in a thick layer of dust and pet hair. but at least we knew what was making the AC so inefficient. why the top one would be so much dirtier than the bottom one we're not sure. and from this design, it looks like two AC's running every time we power it up, so technically it should be super cool. regardless, cleaning should be easy, or so we thought.

we dragged the AC to the living room and used the dyson vacuum to suck up the dust. none of it was coming off, because apparently there was also grease on the coils and the dust seemed to be glued on. so instead my used a combination of steel brush and plastic brush and gently scrubbed the dust, while i held the vacuum head down below to immediately suck up the debris. that worked well, but my father wanted to clean it even more, so we lifted the AC outside into the backyard so my father could gently scrubbed the coils with a toothbrush and some soapy water.

that wasn't enough, and he wanted to rinse down the coils with the pressure washer. i didn't think that was a good idea, since who knows what else was behind the condensers. i tried opening up the unit some more so we could at least see behind it but that would've been too much work, since it took us a while just to remove the coverplate. i also wasn't sure if there was dust on the other side of the condensers. finally i agreed to the pressure washer treatment.

while my father was getting the washer ready, i was covering the top part of the AC (where all the electronics sit) with saran wrap. that's when it happened: while tearing off a sheet of wrap, i ran my knuckle across the saw edge cutting blade of the saran wrap box. i cut myself so deep i swear i hit the bone. it took a second before blood began pooling out of my finger. i quickly ran inside to rinse my finger and put pressure on the wound. my mother asked if i needed to go to the hospital. then i got a chance to see the cut and it didn't seem that bad, like a deep papercut, not mangles like you would if sliced by a toothed saw. my mother put a waterproof bandaid on the wound and then i went back outside to continue covering the AC with saran wrap, like nothing happened. it didn't hurt all that much because its on a part of the body (between the nail and the first knuckle) that doesn't do any flexing.

my father sprayed the condenser coils carefully with the power washer. the water dripped down into the collection trays then out the back from the water release valve. we couldn't use the AC right away, allowing it to dry overnight, but i'm sure it's going to be better at cooling compared to what it was before. can't wait for some super cool AC!

we had rice porridge again for dinner. earlier i showed my father something i came across while researching radio scanners for listening to air traffic controller: the baofeng UV-5R dual band two way radio. i've never heard of it before, but apparently it's quite popular, garnering nearly 3000 reviews on amazon with a rating of 4.5 stars. the best part? it was only $24.37. it's apparently a ham radio but designed in a shape of a small walkie talkie. he'd been toying with the idea of bringing a pair of GMRS 2-way radios when my parents leave for their bermuda cruise on friday. but their range isn't very good, particularly through the metal hulls of a cruise ship. but a ham radio? operating on ham radio frequency out on the high seas? that's a different story. so after dinner i showed him again and he wanted to order a pair, especially since they're so cheap. after some discussion and research, we finally ordered two off of amazon, along with a pair of shorter inconspicuous antennas. ham radios are not allowed on cruise ships, as they may interfere with ship communication. but my father's hoping to sneak it onboard, and some people have gotten away with it, as these baofeng units look nothing like a traditional ham radio.

back in the days before cell phones, my father was into CB radios as a cheap way to communicate between family members. there'd be a unit at home, and another one in the car, as he went out to make deliveries. but as the price of cell phones became affordable enough that normal consumers can buy one (not just fancy millionaires with their 1980's car phones), CB radios were forgotten. and when GMRS radios came out, we were already entrenched in wireless phone technology, so it was something we never really played with. my interest in the baofeng is purely for its scanner capability, listening in on police and fire station chatter. the only downside with the baofeng is it doesn't pick up VHF airbands (108 to 137 MHz). the cheapest radio i found that could receive ATC traffic was the uniden BC75XLT for $80. but for $20 i could get an RTL-SDR dongle that can be used to receive all sorts of over-the-air bandwidth using software.

after returning home and taking a shower, i unwrapped the bandaid to put on a new dressing. some blood was seeping out but that was only because i'd gotten some water underneath the old bandaid. the wound didn't seem that serious and i thought about covering it up with that glue skin solution, but decided not to and just let the cut heal on its own.

i woke up at 7:30am, after a weird dream where RD popped into my subconscious. funny how i don't really dream about people i've met recently, but someone i knew more than a decade ago still occasionally makes a cameo. it was early for me, but i figured might as well begin my errands. first stop was biking to the porter square star market, where there was a sale on cherries ($1.77/lbs.) and watermelons ($3.77/large melon only this weekend). i bought a bag of cherries and 2 watermelons. i can with my large kelty backpack, putting one watermelon inside, while strapping the second watermelon to the back of my rear rack.

i then changed rides and rode the motorcycle to the nearby community garden to water my plants (i haven't visited in 3 days). next i rode to inman square, where i filled the tank at the speedway gas station (1.844 gallons, $2.309/gal).

when i returned home i also watered the plants in my own backyard. around noontime i strapped one of the watermelons back onto the bicycle and rode to belmont. not much was happening this sunday. my father was busy researching ductless heat pumps. my sister came home with her dog who promptly went outside and rolled around in something dead and was so smelly she couldn't come back inside the house; instead they just stayed out in the backyard, but later a little bit later.

i returned to cambridge after dinner. i wasn't sure if GC's friend was coming by tonight to watch another episode of game of thrones, since he never tried to contact me, despite GC telling him it was okay for him to come. so as 9pm approached, i waited anxiously, until i realized he wasn't coming after all. i got to enjoy the episode all by myself, with a bowl of cherries, a bottle of woodchunk amber cider, and a bag of fishsnacks. it was another episode that moved along at breakneck speed, like all the key plot points of a typical season all condensed into a single episode. jorah shows us. gendry shows up. the hound and the brotherhood shows up. sam leaves the citadel most likely heading back to castle black. jon pets a dragon, further cementing his claim as a targaryen. cersei is pregnant. tyrion and jamie meet secretly back in king's landing. littlefinger plays arya against her sister sansa. and a group of daenerys' best men head north to bring back the bodies of zombies as proof of the approaching undead menace.

i managed to open my timex weekender but i don't have the right watch battery. i ended up ordering it through amazon, hopefully it comes next week so i can get the watch working again. it feels weird to go out and not have a watch, even though most people nowadays use the clock on the phones.

my mother called me this morning around 9:40am asking me if i wanted to go with her and sister up to new hampshire to go hiking. it was a grey day, slightly cool. maybe i would've gone, but i was feeling lazy today and didn't want to spend hours in the car only to spend hours walking around the forest. i told my mother i'd be in belmont around noontime, but was in no rush to leave. around 12:30pm my mother called again, telling me she decided not to go with my sister and hailey, and told me to come to belmont via bike so we could go bicycling later.

when i arrived at my parents' place my father was out on the front lawn with the mower tipped on its side, trying to remove the protective skirt from behind the mower as it'd already been chewed up when it got trapped in the blade. my mother made me a bowl of chicken noodles for lunch. after my father finished mowing, he showed me the german zwilling nail clipper my godmother's visiting friend gave them. what's cool about it is the clipping head can rotate, so you can easily manicure some awkward angles. i know zwilling j.a. henckels from their kitchen knives. i gave the clippers a try and they cut nails like butter, so smooth.

the first time i went on a boston midnight ride was august 2011. that was a great experience and we had a huge crowd of people. i went again the year after that, this time with pau; that too was a great ride. the third and last time i went was 2015, and i was able to show off my disco fuji. there was another ride tonight, but i wasn't sure if i wanted to go as i was tired. but i figured why not, the weather's nice, and it was good exercise while touring boston in the process.

temperature was in the lower 70's with a balmy breeze. i left at 11:12pm, wearing a navy polo shirt and shorts. i thought about taking a jacket but i figured i'd be warm from all the riding. i'd been charging my batteries the past 2 days so all my lights were on maximum shine. i arrived at copley 19 minutes later. the group this year seemed much smaller, around 80 people, about half of what it used to be. i think part of it has to do with the monthly boston bike party that may be leeching off the millennial riders. i didn't know anybody here.

we didn't leave copley square until 12:10am. i bought a frozen bottle of water that i took a sip, repulsed by the salty taste. i must not have washed the plastic bottle well enough when i filled it up last. i poured out some cold water onto a tissue and wiped down the contaminated lip, which fixed the problem. there were a few kids riding BMX bikes without helmets or lights, showing off with wheelie tricks. i didn't see anyone who might be their parents or chaperones, their presence made me a bit nervous (worried about their safety).

we ended up hitting the usual spots: christian science plaza (reflection pool cordoned off undergoing renovations, just like the trinity church), passing by symphony hall, then through brookline, through allston-brighton, to cambridge. we stopped at the MFA which was new, but i was just there more than a week ago. i rode in front section of the convoy. with so many bikes crowding together, it was hard to do any real sightseeing, though much of the sights i've seen before. in the dark, i was more focused on following the riders ahead of me and not crashing into anyone. i didn't speak with anybody, just focused on my riding.

we didn't hit a lot of boston spots before arriving in cambridge by 1:30am. my watch had died unexpectedly, so for the longest time i thought it was still 12:20am. we made a big loop through harvard square to stop in harvard yard. while the group continued onwards (what i'm guessing is lechmere and then back into boston via the pedestrian overpass), i took a detour on oxford street to go home. i had enough excitement for one night. the ride tally count for today (including the trip to belmont and back) was 16.8 miles. i was expecting to see some weight loss when i weighed myself before my shower, but saw there was no change (148 lbs.). i'd put on some weight just within the past few days, with my homemade risotto, lobster roll, then two bowls of chicken noodles.

backing up more photos this morning, i made some chicken sausage oatmeal for lunch and didn't leave until 12:50pm. the route was fairly straight forward, head towards union square then sullivan square, cross the alford street bridge into everett, head east into chelsea, then across the mcardle bridge into east boston, towards orient heights and finally constitution beach.

i can't believe it's been that long, but the last time i biked to east boston was almost 5 years ago when i went to deer island with drew. since that time, they actually added a dedicated bike lane onto alford street across the bridge, making it slightly easier to ride but no less dangerous as cars still speed by. i never knew the alford bridge was a drawbridge and waited several minutes for the bridge to open then close. i didn't mind the wait, gave me a chance to talk some photos.

one of the greatest hurdle in getting to east boston is having to ride through the industrial dump on the southern end of everett facing the mystic river. it was just the way i remembered it, bumpy unevenly paved roads strewn with debris (asphalt gravel, broken pieces of vehicles, fallen bits of scrap metal). it make it more challenging, there's no real bike lane so you basically have to stick to the side of the road where most of the road trash are all the while avoiding passing semi-trucks that rumble by. i took the dexter-robin street shortcut which in the future i should avoid as these small side streets are narrower and bumpier. better to just go down broadway and take a right on beacham. i also took a wrong turn on beacham and went down behen and market. there wasn't as much traffic but it felt like i was getting lost.

once i arrived in chelsea, i took a short detour down broadway street to admire the tobin bridge. this is a very scenic area and i've seen it in a few films. nearby on winnisimmet street are the original cobblestones back when this area was the landing point for ferries traveling into boston. it'd be nice if they still existed (and at a cheap price) because traveling into this area is not so easy.

once i crossed the mcardle bridge i was in east boston. here i wasn't so sure where i was going. i traveled north to south down meridian street, knowing at some point i needed to turn left and go east. i'd plan on traveling down bennington street, but missed it and kept going, eventually making a turn down havre street, within eyesight of the former sumner tunnel tooth booth stands (since demolished and replaced with RFID trackers and cameras). i finally connected to bennington street and went as far as wood island station, navigation beneath the elevated route 90 turnpike exit to route 1A.

east boston is a fascinating place. it'd seem like a great place to live, so close to the city, with nearly half of all blue line stations located within its confines. despite that though, it's still a difficult place to visit, as getting here involves crossing over bridges, the most direct ones require tolls (and for motor vehicles only), the free bridges involve circuitous routes that take you into chelsea/everett/revere first. more than half of east boston is the logan airport. if you've ever arrived in boston via plane, you've already visited east boston.

another large section of east boston is swallowed up by an oil storage field, an additional piece of land reserved for the now defunct suffolk downs. actual residential and commercial areas aren't a lot, but what little that's left is densely packed and well populated. eastie is predominantly hispanic in demographics, and coming here can feel like you've left boston and gone to a hispanic country, with so many spanish businesses. there are many great places to eat, and most of them very inexpensive.

living with an international airport in your backyard means taking a plane can just be within walking distance. however, imagine the noises the people here must have to live through. and i thought my upstairs neighbors were noisy! imagine the sound of approaching and departing aircrafts, 24/7/365.

near wood island station i pulled out my phone to check the directions. according to the map, i was near a dedicated bike path. trying to find the actual path took a bit of sleuthing, as i was on bennington street but the path itself is a few streets over, behind the station. i was hanging out in neptune road airport edge buffer park when just by chance i spotted a spandex-clad cyclist disappear a few streets down. i followed and saw the sign for the east boston greenway. the greenway follows the blue line, ending northeast at constitution beach. it doesn't seem to get much use and seems brand new, as i was the only person on the entire way to the beach.

there was a gravel pitstop overlooking wood island bay marsh, with logan airport just beyond that. an elderly couple sat silently on one of the many benches. a romanticized information panel showcased all the different animals and plants one can see from this urban wild area, none of which i saw except for the floating marsh grass. i stepped over a short fence onto a grassy lawn to take some photos by the water's edge before continuing onwards, the beach just a short distance away.

i arrived at constitution beach at 2:10pm, after 1 hours 20 minutes of riding. i've seen constitution beach in the few times i've gone to winthrop, located near the orient heights T station. but always from the street, where you only see the crest of a small hill and don't actually see the sandy beach itself. there were plenty of parking (particularly on a weekday) and for a brief moment i wondered if i would've better off taking my motorcycle instead of biking (but then i wouldn't have been able to explore the greenway). there were people on the beach but strangely enough people just lounging on the grass patch between the parking lot and the sand.

since constitution beach is located just across the water from logan airport, i was picturing planes coming in close to the people on the beach. and during the time i was biking, i noticed a lot of planes above the skies of everett and chelsea. but the thing i didn't realize about constitution beach is despite the close proximity to the airport, none of the runways line up with the beach, so you would never see any flying overhead. actually, smaller planes do fly overhead, but none of the larger ones.

i saw a young man roaming the beach wearing a backpack, seemingly out of place. he said my camera and gave me a courtesy nod, that's when i noticed the high-powered binoculars he'd strapped to his neck. later i saw him again, sitting on some stone steps underneath the shade of a tree. i realized what he was doing: he was watching the planes. he also had a scanner radio where he could listen in on the air traffic controller. he said i'd just missed seeing an airbus A380, currently the largest commercial plane in the world, with a double decker seating capacity.

i left constitution beach at 2:50pm. i decided to follow the east boston greenway in the other direction, all the way to the terminus at jeffries point. it was a great ride, with almost no traffic in the path, felt like i had the whole greenway to myself. at a certain point the trail follows the elevated highways instead of the blue line train.

before i knew it, arrived in jeffries point at 3:10pm, with a view of boston across the harbor. the area has undergone some change since i was last there, with various construction projects building luxury apartments.

i continued on my way, up meridian street, crossing the mcardle bridge into chelsea, then williams street to beacham street, following that road until i came out on the other side of the everett industrial park.

inspired by the spanish sign advertising lobster rolls, when i saw the large mcdonalds at the end of beacham street on broadway, it was like a sign and i knew i had to stop and get food. besides, they also had vanilla soft serve on sale, and i needed something to cool off on this hot day. i got a lobster roll to go ($8.99) and a soft serve. this was a fancy mcdonalds, opened 24 hours, with uber delivery service, and self-service ordering kiosks. it also had 2 floors and i went upstairs to finish my ice cream before leaving.

the way back into somerville was familiar so not as scary. traffic in union square was light, as i finally arrived home. i took a quick shower before digging into my lunch.

ever since mcdonalds brought back their lobster roll, i've been trying to get ahold of one. it all began in 2015, when twice i tried (watertown, jamaica plain) and twice i failed. i was actually surprised when i asked them if they had lobster rolls and they said yes. it wasn't as large as i'd imagined, and there wasn't as much lobster meat as i thought. the bottom of the bread was layered with lettuce, so you're getting even less lobster. what lobster there was authentic and seemingly fresh, a whole claw along with some shredded meat. funny that i should be so excited about having a lobster roll as i don't particularly like the taste of lobster. but it was a unique experience, one that i will probably not repeat again. i washed it all down with some hard cider. for a more authentic lobster roll experience, i recommend the belle isle seafood restaurant in winthrop.

i ate dinner late, heating up some leftover risotto. it never tastes as good as when it's fresh, but i still made it work.

i continued consolidating my photo backups. besides the 8TB hub, i had 3 other smaller external drives attached to my laptop as well. there has to be a more automated and better way to backup photos, but i'm just doing it manually. i'm running into a problem where 2 different backups of supposedly the same photos will have different number of photos. this happens because i made edits and erased the bad ones (blurry, repeats) but also at some point i add additional photos i found from elsewhere. it's a real mess, and before i copy the files onto the central 8TB hub, i have to make sure all the photos are synchronized. essentially, i'm doing a photo archive audit.

i woke up at 8:30am to see GC off, although it wasn't a true farewell, as he's coming back from amherst to stay one more day in cambridge next friday before his saturday morning flight out from boston. he left promptly at 9am, carrying his small travel suitcase, his badminton racket across his back. he shook my hand, then said "bye bye" in a mockingly infantile manner (i think he thinks it's funny because i've heard him say it before, but it makes him sound like a moron).

GC didn't leave much behind, as he didn't bring much to begin with. even his food, he managed to eat most of it. on the kitchen countertop he left a bottle of chinese cooking wine and a container of salt. in the cupboard there was enough rice for one more serving, and some moldy pita bread. in the refrigerator a bag of cherries, in the freezer some mussels and some shrimps. this makes me fear that went he come back in a week, he's going to stink up my house one last time with a fishy dinner. i got a chance to clean up the mess he left behind on the stovetop. i put down some aluminum foil around the burners since i've never had a roommate who managed to cook without making a mess of that area. typically the foil cover would be enough, but the way GC cooks, he stews his food for hours, letting the water dribble out onto the stovetop and scorching the foil in the progress. and he did this every day for 8 weeks, leaving behind a real mess not only of the cover but also beneath it, where i discovered dried (and not so dried) patches of burnt liquids. he also used my pots in a makeshift steamer configuration, and probably had the pots over the stovetop when there was no liquids, further ruining my already ruined pots and pans. plus he managed to crack one of my plates because he steam cooked it until it dried up. an okay roommate, but too many annoying habits to him ever come back. hence the irony of him returning next friday.

i contacted li this morning, asked him if he'd be interested in the midnight boston ride happening this saturday. he said riding at night as a crazy idea, and said me might be interested once he moved come september. realizing it was a brush off, i didn't bother telling him that the ride is just once a year.

i am obsessed with constitution beach, ever since we passed it when we went to revere beach a few weeks back, and i looked it up online and saw it was a great place to take photos because logan airport is right across the water, so you can get these really dramatic shots that look like the plane is taking off from the beach. i want to go but i've come to realize i've grown increasingly lazy the older i get. there was that one summer when i went to east boston all the time to explore the area. where's that adventure spirit now? i almost went today, but then saw tomorrow's weather is actually nicer, so decided to postpone it until then. i'm planning on going via bicycle, which makes the trip twice as long, but i'll get a good workout, and it's easier to get around and explore when you're on a bike versus a motorcycle.

confidence renewed after successfully installing the screen protector on my father's moto G4, i installed a new protector on my oneplus one phone. the one that i currently have was a premium screen protector i ordered though oneplus ($5.99) when i originally bought the phone back in december 2014. it's actually not too bad, and i did a good job applying it, no bubbles or dust. but the protector was just a thin sheet of plastic, and over time it got scratched up, which you might say is the purpose of these screen protectors, but there are even better ones made from a thin sheet of glass that are even more scratch resistant. that's why i ordered 2 new screen protectors (made from tempered glass material) when i was in chongqing spring of last year. however, i never put it on because i was too afraid of messing it up as i had a fairly poor track record when it comes to this procedure. the trick is you need to secure the screen to the phone with tape beforehand for proper placement. the way i've been doing it before was i would put on the screen freehand, and i would always get the alignment wrong, and once you peel the protector and put it back on, dust always seems to get underneath. i did a pretty good job this time around, but there was a small dust grain, which i managed to clean up by gently lifting the protector and dabbing the dust with a piece of tape. i then managed to get a small piece of fiber stuck on the screen, and removed it using the same technique. once that was done though, i had a perfect screen, no dust, no trapped bubbles.

i watered my garden plot in the afternoon. the contractors were still there working on lowering the fence. before leaving the garden, i noticed one of the gardeners has a patch of what looks to be pink garlic chives, which i've researched online but couldn't find any place that sells them. i will have to ask if i can collect a few seeds.

from the garden i headed to market basket, to get some dinner ingredients, where i decided i'd be making some risotto tonight. along the way i passed by a mysterious flowering bush on ivaloo street. i've spotted a few times, but it intrigued me enough that i stopped to take a closer look. the flowers were white but with magenta sepals, and with an intoxicating clove-like fragrance which reminded me of fragrant viburnum. i didn't know what it was until i returned home and did some online searching. turns out it's a plant called harlequin glorybower, hardy up to zone 5, native to asia.

i didn't plan on spending too much at market basket but still left with $30 worth of groceries. i went over my usual budget because i was stocking up on toilet paper which was on sale. it also took me forever to check out because i realized i had more than 12 items and had to wait in the non-express line. then the woman in front of me realized she left her credit card in the car (who does that?) after they already rung her up, so i had to wait for the manager to reset the purchase before the cashier could ring up my items. afterwards i went to the indian grocery store next door, to snag a 6-pack of woodchuck hard cider. i always though this place was cheaper, but it's actually not, and i paid $11 for the drinks. the liquor store around the corner from me is actually cheaper.

i fell asleep on the couch around 5:30pm, figuring i'd just nap for half an hour, but didn't get up until 7pm, when i remembered i had to make dinner. i wanted to coincide my risotto with the start of the patriots pre-season game against the jacksonsonville jaguars. what i didn't expect was to be sidetracked with cleaning the mess of a kitchen GC left behind. besides the stovetop, several pots and pans were caked in oil and burnt liquids. i had to take a brillo pad and scrub clean all the exterior surfaces. only then, around 7:40pm, did i start making my risotto.

prosciutto & mushroom risotto (2-4 servings)
2 cans of chicken broth
1 cup arborio rice
2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 lbs. prosciutto, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of white wine
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
red pepper flakes
fresh ground pepper
scallions, chopped
bowl of frozen broccoli

i made risotto twice back in march, when karen was still here. i upped my game when i added some grilled asparagus. but i wanted to change it up some more, and i've always wanted to try making a prosciutto and mushroom risotto, since i love prosciutto and mushrooms. the steps were the same as always, except instead of adding italian sausages, i added the chopped prosciutto (1/4 lbs.) and sliced mushrooms (8 oz., about half a package).

here's a breakdown in terms of cost: 1/2 lbs. carando prosciutto $4 (used half), 16 oz. package of prewashed sliced mushrooms $1.87 (used half, manager special, they weren't as pretty, but they were going to get cooked up anyway so i didn't mind), 16 oz. bag of frozen broccoli florets $1.39 (used half), 2 cans of low sodium chicken broth 50¢ each, a leftover 6 oz. bag of shredded parmesan cheese $1.99 (used probably 1.5 oz.), half a leftover onion (price unknown), trader joe sauvignon blanc $2.99 (used a cup), and 16.9 oz. pastene arborio rice $2.69 (used half). the total comes out to about $7.50-8 to make this risotto. price-wise, it's much cheaper to make than a spinach ricotta cheese pie with ham, but i can usually get 3 servings (2 slices per serving) with the pie and just 2 servings (large portions) with the risotto. and risotto never tastes as good when reheated, compared to the ricotta pie.

i didn't finish cooking my risotto until an hour later, almost 9pm. the game had already started by then, and every once in a while i'd run into the living room to catch a glimpse. none of the stars were playing - no brady, no edelman, no gronkowski - but it was interesting to see how backup QB jimmy garoppolo performed, the future of the franchise should brady retire, though in all likelihood jimmy will be going to another team next year since other teams will be throwing big bucks at him to lead their team. jacoby brissett might be more of the future of the team but he still has some learning to go, as several of his throws had too much mustard and sailed over the heads of his receivers.

the risotto was good but the flavor wasn't as strong as when i used italian sausages, since most of the saltiness comes from just the small amount of prosciutto i added. the mushroom gives the dish an additional chewiness, but flavor-wise it doesn't really add anything to the taste. i could add an additional source of flavor (maybe a slice of anchovy?) or i could make a mushroom sausage risotto for next time, the best of both worlds. i could've also used the whole package of mushrooms, as mushrooms have a tendency to shrink when cooked. i added some scallions but it wasn't necessary, there's already a lot of flavor, it was more of a garnish. and as always, i love adding broccoli, so at least the dish has a little bit of vegetable. i washed down the risotto with a bottle of wood chuck amber, still the best hard cider in my opinion.

i finally backed up some of my photos, clearing up about 130GB worth of storage space on my macbook pro. for months now, i've been tossing files in order to clear up additional space for new photos. but i finally reached the point where i had less than 1GB left of space. not that i don't have the space, ever since i bought that 8TB external seagate drive during amazon prime day. i've had it for almost a month and only now finally using it. the photos i have on my laptop are backed up to external drives already; what i didn't have was a backup of that backup (i.e. a redundant backup), in case that external drive might decide to die. that's where the 8TB came it, it will consolidate all my photos, or at least the ones i've taken within this decade. that's always been a dream of mine to put all my photos in one place, as currently searching for any old photo is a real headache as my backups are scattered amongst half a dozen external drives (more if you count external bare SATA drives in docking stations).

the 8TB seagate backup plus hub is great. besides the large amount of space available, it also comes with a built-in USB 3.0 hub with two ports. this comes in real handy when i need to transfer data from various external hard drives. the drive itself was formatted in NTFS, but the first thing i did before using it was to reformat it to the more compatible exFAT. apple still doesn't play nicely with NTFS, and in the event of a crash, OSX can't even repair an NTFS drive, but it can repair exFAT. the backup drive typically sells for $190 but i managed to get it for $160, which comes out to $20/TB.