i went to bed last night at 2am (reading circe on my phone until i couldn't open my eyes anymore), woke up around 10:40am, nearly 9 hours of well-deserved sleep. i noticed when taking a shower that the reddish bands on my upper arms where i received the strongest dose of the sun's radiation had faded to brown. i was waiting for the pain of sunburns, it didn't happen last night when i showered, and it didn't happen this morning. all and all, i escaped relatively unscathed given the round-trip was such an ordeal. i spent a little time sifting through the thousands of photos i took yesterday, marking a few as highlights, before finally getting dressed and heading out the door. i motorcycled to belmont. it was already a hot day, the sun baking everything in sight. i wore only a t-shirt with jeans, bringing a pair of shorts to change.
i found my father outside watering the front lawn with the sprinkler. the spread of the sprinkler was too wide and it sprayed water onto the front door as well. while my father continued watering into the backyard, my mother made some chicken noodles for lunch. she told me they wanted to have a father's day dinner at the brazilian moqueca restaurant in inman square. i didn't want to, wasn't that impressed with the food the first and last time we went back in february, wouldn't it be better just to stay home? or better yet, get some takeout. but my mother insisted.
i found a box with the nest thermostat along with a complimentary google home mini speaker. while i was setting it up my mother asked me why we needed another speaker after i bought that tiny dodocool speaker just last week. it wasn't until i plugged it in, set it up quickly with my phone, and demonstrated the real power of the speaker did my mother understand. the google home isn't so much a speaker as it is a smart listening device that you can talk to. hey google, what's the temperature? hey google, what's the temperature in taipei, taiwan? hey google, how do you say hello in chinese? hey google, how do you say hello in korean? hey google, play some music by teresa teng. my mother was pretty amazed by the technology, testing it out herself. the volume was loud, almost too loud. its grey soft fabric design sort of lends itself to being kind of hidden, in the background until you need to talk to it. when it activates, soft colored led's glow on the speaker surface. currently we can only use english but once google updates the software to chinese, it will be even handier.
later i linked the google home mini to our smart plugs so i can go, hey google, turn off the living room light. i also linked it to the nest thermostat, so it can pull the indoor temperature. hey google, what's the temperature inside the house? (though it's response was kind of long: it also told me what the thermostat heating was set at.)
my sister came home in the afternoon after hiking with hailey who was still wet. they stayed outside in the backyard for a long time, my sister playing around with her new iphone (7 $730, upgrading from a 5s), waiting for her dog to dry. they left around 4pm, my sister to meet up with us again at 5:30pm at the restaurant.
we finally turned on the portable air conditioner after my father cut a new length of tubing to catch the water in an external basin. attached to a smart plug, we were able to get an energy reading: it uses around 950W of power, so about 1kW per hour, which is a lot. we also learned it can't auto restart after the power is shut off, which means we won't be able to control it through the smart plug (or we can, but can only turn it off, not back on again; i might also have a raspberry pi solution with an infrared transceiver).
we left for the restaurant around 5:15pm, but arrived 5 minutes late. my sister made a reservation though and the place was only half full. my sister texted me that she would be late because she took a wrong turn. she didn't show up until 5:50pm, that's a pretty long wrong turn. we ordered a pitcher of sangria with 4 appetizers and 3 entrees: steam mussels, cod cakes, crab cakes, plantains, fish moqueca, tripe soup, and seafood rice.
the food this time around was much better, maybe because it was a weekend crowd and the restaurant brought their A game. like the plantains, last time they felt like leftovers, this time they were fried to perfection, crispy and sweet on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside, i've never had plantains this good before. they gave us a pot of hot sauce which we thought was just your typical mild sauce, so scooped a whole spoonful for the cod cake, but then i tasted it and realized it was some kind of homemade habanero sauce and warned everyone, stopping my sister (who has the lowest spiciness tolerance) before she accidentally got a mouthful.
after we finished eating, we went next door to the dollar general store, which used to be a family dollar. all of these chains have dollar in their names, but they're not true dollar stores, only dollar tree is (where everything really costs a dollar). dollar general was surprisingly well stocked, almost like a tiny department store.
afterwards i returned with my parents to belmont, when it would've been easier to just drop me off at home, but i had to retrieve my motorcycle first. riding back to cambridge, i stopped to take a photo of the sunset. dave and christine were supposed to be back today, but they told me not until late. i wrote dave an e-mail reminding him of street cleaning tomorrow and not to park on the odd side of the road or face getting towed.
started this morning with errands: went to michael's to get a plastic compartment box for my growing collection of electronic parts; stopped by the community garden to water my plants, met christine (she too has pink lupines), saw me in my motorcycle gear and said my presence added some street credibility to the garden, she told me she used to have the plot near mine (which beth inherited then gave away) but gave it up because of the medium lead level and encroaching raspberries; stopped by the house to drop off the box, making more room in my bag; went to microcenter where they were having another sale on pi boards, i got a pi zero w for $5, a google voice kit (usually $25, now just $4.99, but it's v1 so it's not designed for pi zeroes, apparently the manufacturer seems to be dumping their old stock because there were plenty of kits, i almost decided not to get it), and on a whim i bought a raspberry pi 3 b+ for $30, tried to score a free 16GB microSD card but the coupon i had was expired almost 2 weeks ago; finally came home where i spent 15 minutes watering the front and back yard.
wanting to mix things up a little, i added an egg to my grilled chese & ham sandwich; i also didn't grill the bread, just toasted it in the oven.
i left again sometime after 1pm, first to get some gasoline, before stopping at the cafe to drop off some remaining tongbaechu kimchi, some extra containers, and my mother's pom-pom makers. my 2nd aunt was there, my mother was making more savory zongzi because someone at my aunt's church ordered two dozen. my father decided to return to belmont with me so we could go to home depot.
he ended up getting some pipe fittings for another antenna project (he wants to mount an antenna to the house chimney) and some polyurethane cement sealant. i was looking for cam connectors, but my father actually found one earlier and gave it to me; it was a little smaller than the size i wanted, but it might work. i still just bought a package (4) of cam connectors just in case. i also checked out their selection of hardboards. 4x8' is actually pretty large and would need to be cut in order to fit in the car. i wouldn't need it today, but somewhere down the road, when i repair the bottom of my magazine holder and the wooden 5-drawer dresser i found many years ago that i now use as extra kitchen storage.
while my father returned to the cafe, i stayed in belmont to water the plants and add more protective cups around emerging seedlings. rabbits continue to wreck havoc despite the barricades to prevent them from getting into the backyard. i also saw a chipmunk, so that's yet one more critter to be worried about (although i think chipmunks are not as destruction on plants compared to rabbits, they're more like squirrels, digging the random hole). the backyard neighbor - now done with urban chicken raising - bought a large netted trampoline for their high school aged children. while i pruned some diseased grape leaves, i had to listen to them noisy playing on the trampoline and playing loud offensive gangster rap.
i tested the radio antennas before i left. i brought my baofeng radio this time, communicating with my father's baofeng at the cafe. his radio was attached to the chimney-mounted antenna, while mine was connected to the ground plane antenna mounted onto a tall bamboo pole. we couldn't hear each other on 2m, not even static, but 70cm was loud and clear. when i switched to the shorter ground plane antenna (with the longer feed cable), 70cm was more staticky, while there was still no signal at 2m. on a whim, i decided to try the baofeng with the stock antenna. this was weird: although i couldn't transmit at 2m, i could hear my father just fine, very clear. we could communicate both ways on 70cm, but there was just more static. it also depended on where i was standing inside the house and how i held the radio, whether vertical or horizontal, and what direction. but it was definitely strange, the elevated ground plane antenna should be performing better than the stock antenna, not worse.
when i returned to cambridge, i moved the large 27" philips tube tv out of my bedroom, replaced with the 32" samsung HDTV that was formerly in the guest bedroom. even though on paper the 32" is larger, because of its widescreen aspect ratio there's actually less screen real estate than the 27". that old philips served me well, it'd be a pity to throw it out. i'd move it to the basement, but i just don't have any room. i really should talk to alex about throwing out some of his old boxes of junk. they've been in my basement for the past 15 years, and i don't think he's ever going to come back from tokyo to collect his things. in the meantime, the large (and heavy) television sits on my dining room floor. as for the HDTV, what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality: after scanning the airwaves for channels, i was amazed by how many clear channels i managed to get, including telemundo. it couldn't however receive univision. NBC shows up as channel 8, while in the living room NBC is channel 15. the reception is so good, i may be spending more time working from my bedroom from now on.
the black silicone repair self-fusing bonding tape i ordered from ebay arrived today. i used it to cover the broken housing of an abus combination bike chain i found on the street last month. it worked pretty well. the other solution was to get my hands on some sugru repair putty, but that stuff is expensive, $4-5 for a little piece of silicone clay that has a shelf-expire and will expire within a year. i bought this spool of silicone tape for just $1.57.
i had an early dinner of zongzi at 6pm, with hopes of being in bed by 10pm, as i need to wake up at 4am tomorrow to catch the 6am megabus leaving south station to go down to new york city to watch the mermaid parade in coney island. i'm sort of regretting my decision now, it's going to be a long day. i looked at mermaid parade photos from 2016, and it wasn't that exciting. all this effort, just to watch a parade for 2-3 hours, then rush back to boston. if i had a longer time i'd try to visit flushing for some ethnic taiwanese food, but my return bus is at 7pm, and to get to flushing from coney island is like on the opposite end of the train line. who knows, once i arrive in new york city, i might decide to blow the parade and go eat delicious chinese food instead. i'll be back in new york next month anyway, when i bring wangyang and her son for a visit. i think they'll probably want to do more touristy stuff in manhattan, but maybe i can sneak away for a few hours to go eat.
it's almost 11pm. i have to go to bed!
i called masssave this morning to ask about the status of the nest thermostat we ordered almost 2 weeks ago but still haven't received. a check of the status online said it was still pending. that made me a little worried that the order wouldn't be fulfilled because one of the criteria for receiving the discount (just $99 for a nest v3) was you had to be a residential customer of eversource, and we were buying it for the cafe (commercial). i was concerned when we ordered but i checked and couldn't see any conditions, and the order went through without any problems. only later, when i saw the fine print on their online catalog, did i see the residential customer stipulation.
i got an agent right away (missy). she checked the order and said the reason for the delay was they were out of stock, but a new shipment was coming in tomorrow so we can expect to receive the thermostat soon. what i'm most excited about isn't the thermostat, but rather that it comes with a free google home mini speaker. though i'm not thrilled with the speaker's ability to spy on your private conversations, i do like the idea of pairing the speaker with my smart plugs and controlling light switches via voice.
trying to finish up my ham before it spoils, i made after grilled sandwich for lunch. my palate seems to be healing, eating wasn't as painful today.
i did some more cleaning today, moved the small wire shelving to the kitchen. now i have more space for kitchen equipment. but where the shelving used to live in the living room now seems so empty. all i know is i could always use more shelving and cabinet space.
i cleaned the aquarium. it's almost been a month since the last cleaning, and that was just a quick water change. this time, i disassembled the filter and replaced the activated carbon. i was going to remove all the plants to clean them in the sink, but turns out none of them had any algae. the only algae was on the glass, which i scrubbed off with a sponge; it actually took some effort to remove it, this type of algae bonds to the glass very tightly (even then i still missed a few spots). i don't quite understand what happened - maybe the tank finally reached the proper balance - but i'm happy that i no longer have to worry about algae outbreaks. this could all change of course come summer, when the room temperature is higher. but i think enough java fern is growing now that hopefully they will use up all the nutrients first, leaving none for the algae.
afterwards i took the bucket of dirty water i siphoned out of the tank and used it to fertilize my houseplants and seedlings growing outside on my backyard deck. nothing goes to waste! and i think dirty aquarium water probably has some nutritional content for the plants.
my upstairs neighbors finally left around 4pm. if i had to guess, i'd say they're going to the cape for the weekend. once they were gone, i rode my bike down to the post office to mail the american girl doll t-shirt to frances' daughter. it's weird to send something to norway that isn't in a big box, just a normal envelope this time. afterwards i went to michael's to buy a set of clover brand pom pom makers for my mother (i had a 50% off coupon).
when did they begin construction on the beacon street cycle track? seems like years. so it's ironic that the city road crew continues to work on it, such that they park equipment on the cycle track, or leave supplies like a stack of trees. it's almost like they actually don't want people to use the bike trail. if you ask me, it's a waste of money. i do like the new trees though, but i already noticed some neighbors don't water them, so some trees might be dead in a few months.
i spoke with my father who told me that the baby bluejay had died. he found it torn in half in the backyard. he guessed it was the work of the neighborhood cat, who we occasionally see. in fact, that might explain the carcass of a small rat i found a few years ago. only a cat would kill something then leave it behind after playing with it. i am definitely not a cat person. on a more positive note, he did see some other younger bluejays along with the adults. all the fledglings were able to fly, so hopefully the rest of them will survive into adulthood.
i didn't realize how cloudy it'd get today. this morning up until 10am we were on pace for a recording setting production day. but then everything crashed, and it was a rollercoaster of ups and downs. final production number for today was 30.06kWh; at least we broke 30kWh+.
i heated up bruce's meat sauce and finished it with some rotini and penne. when it comes to pasta, i like the classic italian spaghetti noodles, but i also come to really like the rotini. their spiral shape traps more hearty sauce than penne pasta. i ate while watching the first episode of DS9 off of amazon prime. DS9 is my least favorite of the star trek series, but many people with better scifi tastes than mine have said DS9 is the best. the series premiered back when i was still in college. rewatching it now nearly 2 decades later, i can appreciate the nuisances of the storyline much better. avery brooks' performance is still terrible; he emotes everything like he's doing a play instead of playing it naturally for tv. only after he grows a goatee does he get better. the later seasons of DS9 were much better, the jem'hadars are one of the best scifi alien races.
just when i was thinking that maybe wangyang wasn't coming to boston next month since it's only 2 more weeks before july, she messaged me today asking if i was still free next month. she wanted to confirm because she was about to ask her new company for vacation days and then buy her plane tickets afterwards. i congratulated her on her new job, it didn't take her long to find work just as i thought. she asked how she should fly in; i suggested she both arrive and leave from boston. she wanted to visit new york city during her time in the US, but if she wanted to return to shanghai via new york city, the logistics of transporting their luggage from boston is just too daunting; better to keep boston as a base, and logan airport is more easier to get from the city compared to JFK or laguardia.
2 hours later she wrote back, got authorization from her boss, bought the tickets, hainan airline direct flight, july 1st to july 14th. she asked if i wanted anything from china. i didn't hesitate, immediately sent her a photo of the romano soap box i've been keeping. when i told her the reason why i wanted the soap (it reminded me of chongqing), she laughed. i suggested she might be able to find the brand at carrefour supermarkets, but she said she could just order it online.
so now i'm under pressure to not only clean up my place in the next 2 weeks, but also come up with a itinerary for when wangyang and her son arrives. i was going to clean anyway in anticipation of GC's arrival next saturday; not now i also have to properly clean my bedroom since wangyang and her son will be staying there. for 2 weeks in july the living room will be my home.
before the storm arrival, i took a quick trip to market basket in the morning to get a few things. i made a grilled cheese & ham sandwich for lunch, forgetting that the roof of my mouth was still tender. i had to eat gingerly, biting down from the side with my molars to prevent the crunchy crust from touching my palate.
it was actually sunny early this morning, but by mid-morning clouds started to fill in and it was overcast for the rest of the day. there was hardly any storm, at most a sprinkle. we still managed to make 27.73kWh despite the sub-optimal conditions.
i spent some time today retroactively updating some empty blog posts. the older the post, the harder it is to update. and i actually write more on days when i don't do very much versus days where i do a lot of stuff.
my upstairs neighbor david told me they're leaving town tomorrow afternoon and won't be back until late sunday. they're telling me this in case packages arrive, which there will be a high likelihood if they're sending me a message. i thought i heard the rumblings of guests, and all day i could hear somebody upstairs while dave and christine were supposedly off at work. later in the early evening i saw who it is, a teenage boy, most likely one of their sons. with free housing in cambridge for 3 months, of course they would invite guests. i expect to see more throughout the summer. they've all been relatively quiet, although the night time AC noise still annoys me.
for dinner i steamed 3 zongzi. i'm very particular about my sauces, and with savory zongzi i must have my yeo's sweet chili sauce. 3 was probably a little too much in hindsight, 2 would've been enough. afterwards i watched another new episode of the expanse: kind of a weak episode, seems like the whole hour was just spent watching james holden descend into the ring while talking to phantom miller.
by 10:30am we'd already surpassed as much production as all of last monday, showing you how much weather can affect generation. today's trendline was off compared to the record set more than 3 weeks ago, so we weren't going to break that record, but there's still might be a chance we can reach 50 kWh, which would be pretty good.
i walked down to the community garden in the late morning to water my plants. the zucchini squash had sprouted another seedling, and in just 2 days they seemed to have outgrown the clear plastic container. i dug out the smaller seedling and relocated elsewhere in the plot. the 2nd attempt at seeding cucumbers have finally sprouted after a week had gone by. i also chatted with the gardener in the corner plot behind the raised bed by the entrance. he put in a lot of work in his garden and i asked him if he'd gardened before; actually this is his 4th year and 3rd plot shuffle. when i returned home i watered the front and back yard.
i heated up 2 slices of leftover pizza for lunch. something i ate within the past day or two scratched up the roof of my mouth so it was sensitive. afterwards i rode the motorcycle down to the cafe to take photos while my mother made the meat zongzi. however when i arrived, she told me she'd already finished making them early this morning. i left with 5 refrigerated meat zongzi.
i arrived in belmont sometime after 1pm, with a list of things to do around the house. i went down into the basement and turned on the dehumidifier. i could've done it through the smart plug, but i wanted to see the machine for myself. the humidity sensor said 52%, the dehumidifier was set to 50%. it was using just 70W.
it bothered me that the brackets of the sensor lights were still unpainted and black, so i covered them up with some paint and did some touchup work on the lights themselves. i didn't have to hang them up this time, just sat them flat on a piece of cardboard to dry.
i moved the aquatic Cyperus alternifolius plant to the larger pot, filled it up with fresh water, and added about a dozen mosquito bits kernels (a teaspoon supposedly covered an area of 25 sq. ft), which arrived in the mail today. even though we don't have a problem with mosquitoes in the backyard, this will prevent mosquito larvae from incubating in the water. a while back my father asked me about what types of fish we can get for our potted aquatic garden. not even considering that the water will get awfully hot during the summer, there's the question of what do you do with the fish come winter. my father said he'd just throw them out, but i thought that was too inhumane. he wanted fish to eat the mosquitoes anyway, but if we can control them through chemical means, we don't need the fish anymore. however, i would like to grow some other aquatic plants. some duckweed would be nice, there's also enough room for a lilypad. i just don't know where to buy aquatic plants locally. the only place i can think of is a pet store that sells aquarium plants.
intermittently throughout the day i would also water the lawn and various plants in the backyard. my father said he watered this morning, but i don't think he watered enough because there were a lot of dry patches, especially those out in the full sun. an unintended side effect of watering was flushing out at least one rabbit. if what we thought yesterday was true - that the rabbits are just trapped in the backyard because they can't get out - then there should at least be two rabbits, when i only saw one. maybe one of them managed to get out, hopefully through the door and not through some undiscovered hole underneath the fence. the one rabbit (more like a bunny) that i did find, i tried to chase it so it would escape through the fence door which i left opened. this is really a two person job and the rabbit was slippery, but it just wouldn't leave. not for a lack of trying, at one point i saw it scrambling in the corner by the hawthorn tree trying to escape, but made impossible after i stapled a wire mesh onto the corner. unfortunately i discovered that rabbits had eaten up at least one of my smaller lupine plants. i wasn't that sad because lupines seed a lot, but it takes 2-3 years for it to grow big enough to escape rabbit predation.
i made more ring cup protectors for the seedlings around the new perennial bed. some protection for the remaining lupines, newly emerging korean melon seedlings, and new morning glory and sunflowers.
i'd washed the solar panels 10 days ago and today it needed another washing after i noticed how much pollen was on them, especially the ones mounted on the sunroom. it's really for my own peace of mind since some rain is expected tomorrow (though intermittent and not steady and might even miss our area).
my father asked me to test the antenna reach between their house and the cafe. using the taller antenna, i was able to receive him just fine on both VHF and UHF (using 5W), but he couldn't hear me on VHF and barely heard me (but with a lot of static) on UHF (despite the fact that i was transmitting at 20W). with the shorter antenna it was even worse. i couldn't hear him at all on VHF, and just barely in UHF, and of course he couldn't hear me.
finally, i washed my motorcycle before i left. what i really wanted to do was to remove the windshield and try to buff the scratches off of it, but i decided to tackle that project some other time. i just washed the bike, didn't have time to wax it. it was pretty clean them, felt like a brand new ride, even though i typically keep it in pretty good shape to begin with. i returned to cambridge by 4:30pm.
i've been watching BBC's 'killing eve the past few days, it's my new favorite show. only 8 episode this season, but already renewed for a second season. sandra oh's character really annoys me, but it's something we haven't seen a lot of in crime dramas, the investigator who's a complete mess. the show is also refreshingly funny at times, despite the fact that we're following the exploits of a psychopathic assassin. villanelle is like a female hannibal lecter, charming and deadly at the same time, it's hard to turn away. i'm currently on penultimate episode 7.
monitoring the basement dehumidifier at my parents' place via the smart plug, i noticed it was now using 550W of power. most likely it's because it's running the condenser. it's about the same amount of power used by the TCL dehumidifier. could it be both machines use the same amount of power? and the only reason the TCL used so much that first day (11kWh) was because the basement was humid and it needed a lot of time to dehumidify. because all the days after that, the TCL was only using 3kWh of electricity a day. so maybe the TCL was fine after all and we returned it for nothing. but our old de'longhi seemed to be still working. when my father went down in the basement after work to check out the machine, he saw it was properly pumping water into the sink.
despite a few drops we still managed to break 50kWh+ today at 50.34kWh. it's the first time this month, and the 4th time overall (last month we broke 50kWh+ on three occasions). for the past 9 days production has increased every single day with the exception of yesterday. it's the 5th consecutive day where we made 40kWh+, which ties a record we made back in april.
even though i had some zongzi, i'm saving them for tomorrow, while i tried bruce's meat sauce with some pasta. i still can't believe this was once a pot roast but rendered into a sauce form. it was very good, i could taste some wine. bruce told me there were olives but i couldn't taste them, but i did taste something spicy which i like. i heated up the whole sauce but only ate half, deciding to freeze the rest as i won't be able to eat it until next week, i have too much other stuff to eat.
my father had already gone to home depot by himself to pick up bags of top soil by the time i got to belmont; i'd wanted to go to get some cam connectors and possibly a piece of hardboard panel (all for repair projects back at home). while he was busy patching up more of our backyard lawn and later watering, i was by the western side of the house, pruning back the rampant raspberries and honeysuckles to inspect the fence. i discovered spots where rabbits could get into the yard and went about blocking them. my first thought was to staple some wire fencing, but the hassle of trimming the fencing (and not get hurt in the process) was just too much, so i figured instead i could get wooden planks and screw them to the bottom of the fence instead.
while searching for additional planks, i saw my father standing over a garden refuse bin holding a bluejay in hand. i thought i was imagining it at first. he was trying to free the bird, who got its feet caught in between the crack of a bamboo pole. it was a weird way to get caught, and probably the reason why it happened was because it was also a baby bluejay. it seemed amazingly calm given the circumstances. my father was able to free it, but it appeared lethargic, just plopped on the lawn, not really doing anything. my father was worried that maybe it got injured, and who knows how long it was stuck, although i did remember looking in the bin yesterday and i didn't see the bird there. i tried giving it some water until i remembered it probably gets all its liquid from the food the parent bluejays would feed it. my father tried to put it in a box for safety but when he went to go pick up the bird, it managed to flutter away a short distance. so maybe it wasn't too injured after all. but where were the parents? we decided to leave it alone, nothing we could do anyway. and if it indeed could fly, maybe it might fly up into the tree. later we heard the baby bluejay finally loudly calling its parents. an adult bluejay appeared, and soon after that the baby disappeared, so hopefully that's a good sign.
my father and i went back inside for some xuelihong noodles for lunch. my dodocool miniature speaker arrived and i demonstrated to my parents while we ate. it's small but has some weight to it so it doesn't feel like a piece of junk. there's about some rubber padding at the bottom so it doesn't slip when placed on a table. once i paired it up with my phone through bluetooth, i played some music and it was like a magic trick, we couldn't believe a speaker this small could be this loud. not bad for just $7 on amazon (i had a coupon though).
we decided to visit the waltham OSJL to return the TCL dehumidifier, but first we had to put it back in its original packaging. returning it couldn't be easier, one of the things i love about american consumerism. the clerk just took a peek inside the box to make sure there was an actual dehumidifier. she actually thanked us for packaging it up nicely even though we thought we just did a fair job; she said sometimes she gets customers returning things without the original packaging. she actually tape up the box and had one of the younger clerks take it away. with that $250 was put back on my parents' credit card.
we didn't do much shopping at OSJL: my father got a metal lawn sprinkler ($11), i grabbed a bag of bagel chips. afterwards we went to russo's for some produce. russo's isn't exactly cheap, but still probably cheaper than whole foods, and probably the most diverse produce market you'll find in the area. while my mother was paying, i reminded her of the senior discount, but the cashier said they were no longer doing that program.
back in belmont, everyone was busy doing their own thing: my mother was making some sweet dates zongzi for the duanwu festival, my father was outside testing out the new sprinkler; and i was preparing the solar-powered motion sensing LED flood lights to be painted. it's actually been more than a year since we bought these lights (i totally forgot we had two). they were supposed to be mounted to the side of the house, but we never got around to it. i think i'd wanted to painted the mounting block, which i finally did this february. then i got the bright idea of painting the lights as well, so they wouldn't stand out so much (from black to yellow).
after covering up the LED's and the motion sensor with blue tape, i gave each light two coats of yellow house paint. i specifically bought a new brush from the dollar store a few days ago for this occasion.
after that i went back to the western fence to secure the planks to the fence to block the rabbits from getting into the backyard. my father helped me, pruning back some more honeysuckle. its fragrance was so overpowering, hours later i still smelled phantom honeysuckle. how it looks like we're finally secure from rabbits.
i planted some yellow alyssum seeds in a hanging planter and some cupcake cosmo seeds in a pot. not sure if it's too late, but both flowers late in the summer season, so hopefully there's more time. and keeping them in pots prevent them from getting eaten up by slugs or rabbits (though hopefully rabbits won't be a nuisance anymore).
the last thing i did was to put more plastic rings around some new seedlings.
after dinner i casually looked out into the backyard, jokingly thinking wouldn't it be funny if i saw a rabbit after all the hard work we did rabbit proofing the backyard? but sure enough, there was a small rabbit eating white clover flowers from the lawn, along with a handful of robins and grackles pecking in the dirt, and even a mourning dove. how did that rabbit get inside? but my father said it might've been in the backyard already. minutes later i spotted a second rabbit. when that rabbit looked like it was eating one of the seedlings, i ran outside to shoo it away.
today's production was a little weird: staggered production in the morning, then nothing but steady generation the rest of the afternoon. no record set but by day's end we made 45.94 kWh.
i chatted with my neighbor across the street, the one with the solar panels. i learned that their 15kWh system is only for them, not shared with their 1st and 2nd floor rentals (those tenants pay their own electricity).
i swung by the community garden via motorcycle around 11am on my way to belmont. a sunny sunday morning, there were more than a dozen gardeners, more than usual. i met the gardener who inherited lynn's old plot diagonally across from me, an asian fellow named chris. he was there with his girlfriend, who wasn't as friendly and didn't introduce herself.
my father made scallion pancakes for lunch. i also had some sweet red bean soup. afterwards i went outside to do some yard work. first thing i did was plant some new cucumber seedlings. rabbits ate half of them before my father discovered what happened and put protection cup rings around them. this will put a slight delay in order cucumber crop as we wait about a week for the new seedlings to emerge. but it's still early in the growing season, so there's plenty of time to get some good cucumber plants.
my father was busy patching up bare spots on the lawn with his own concoction of topsoil mixed with grass seeds. he also showed me the spots on the sourwood that looked like they might be emerging buds. they're actually low on the trunk, and at first we thought it might not be sourwood, but rather just the original grafted root stock, but i think there was no grafting involved with this tree, that it was actually air layered so there's all sourwood.
we put some working into patching up the eastern fence. there are a few loose pickets and some pickets with sizable gaps at the bottom that's essentially entrances for rabbits. if we can somehow rabbit proof the backyard, it would go a long way into reducing the number of seedling deaths. we had a piece of an old fence that we didn't want, so we broke it down for parts, stripping off three pickets that looked to be in okay shape. after that was done, i took some time into cutting the right size of wire mesh and then stapled it to the bottom of the fence to close some additional gaps. later i went around the yard checking the perimeter for possible holes where rabbits might be digging in. actually, there was a small rabbit in the backyard all day, and when my sister came home with hailey, her dog actually chased it a few times but lost the rabbit in the thickets.
we dug up some bamboo stumps. back when we were cutting down the bamboos, my father decided to leave some stumps so we knew where to find the bamboos. in hindsight that turned out to be the wrong decision, and we should've cut the bamboo flush to the ground. what ended up happening is the stumps have become a real walking hazard, like teeth poking out of the ground. and now that they're dried up, they're as hard as rocks and impossible to remove. but i used a pruning saw to dig them out of the ground. i ended up ruining the tip of the saw, as i must've hit rocks at some point, and blunted the teeth. we did manage to finally dig up a few bamboo stumps, but there's more to remove.
when my father went inside to rest, i continued working outside, this time mixing a fungicide solution of 1 gallon water with 2 tbsp (1 oz) of bonide concentrated copper. the solution was actually quite beautiful, this lovely teal color, with no discernable odor. using a smaller cup, i poured it into a bottle sprayer and treated the grapevines, the cherry trees, the hawthorn, the peonies, and the maple. i'm sure i got some spray on my face and when i licked my lips later it tasted a little bitter.
the foxgloves are in bloom now, there is so much pink in the backyard. maybe there was a time when i would've been enamored with foxgloves, but we have so much now, i'm sort of jaded by them. some of the moonflowers and a few morning glories have also sprouted; i protected them with cup rings. likewise, nasturtiums have also germinated. 2 of the 5 dahlia flowers we planted have also broken through from the soil; hoping the rest of them will emerge soon as well.
li called me in the late afternoon, asked if i was at home. when i told him i wasn't, he said it wasn't important. when i pressed him about it, he said he wanted to use my washer and dryer. he had some personal matters he had to attend to, and was returning to china tomorrow, back in 3 weeks. this came as a shock; when we spoke yesterday he made no mention of it. he didn't say the reason why and i didn't ask, but i'm assuming it has something to do with his wife's mother, who's currently undergoing lymph node cancer treatment but their doctor already told them to prepare themselves for the possibility that her condition may be terminal.
my father was outside grilling a few things for dinner. but the delicious smell was coming from our backyard neighbor, who was grilling with some hardwood charcoal that had an intoxicating scent. makes me want to dig up that old weber grill from my basement just so i can use hardwood charcoal to grill some food. maybe that's something i do this summer when GC arrives in 2 weeks.
the star market hot italian sausages were okay, but weren't as good as the market basket sweet italian sausages with fennel. these italians seem to have a lower sugar content, so the skin doesn't get as crispy as the sweet fennel sausages.
today we had the highest production this month thus far at 48.14 kWh, even with intermitten wispy cloud cover at times. ever since last monday, the production has gotten higher every single day, which is a good thing. the past 3 days have all been 40kWh+ days.
li came by a bit before 11am so i could take him to the pride parade, something he'd never seen before. as a seasoned parade goer, i handed him some spray-on sunscreen as he was going to need it since we'll be out in the sun for hours. he recently came back from a trip to arizona and after just being outside 15 minutes he was completely tanned. the smell of sunscreen is one of the official smells of summer. li also took the chance to borrow my standing pump to inflate his tires; he has a small hand pump that takes forever and his office used to have a larger pump until it went missing.
it was a good day for a parade, with temperature climbing into the 80's, and plenty of sunshine. but as any photographers know, a sunny day is not actually the best condition for shooting as people's faces get obscured in the harsh shadows. but a sunny day beats a rainy day, at least when it comes to overall parade enjoyment. i wore my primark shorts and a white polo shirt.
we left by 11am and got to copley square by 11:30am. along the route we saw many businesses flying rainbow flags. there was a bit of congestion on clarendon heading into the square, but once we crossed newbury the car traffic was all blocked off and we had the streets to ourselves and pedestrians.
we parked our bicycles on the crest of clarendon street (clarendon and columbus), then walked back down to copley square to check out the parade preparations. we then returned to our station, standing outside of the avis car rental where there was shade. the parade started a bit late which was surprising, the pride parade is one of the most punctual events. li took photos of everything, while i could pick and choose since i've seen a lot of it all before.
this year it seemed it was mostly special interests. this has been going on for a while, but i've really noticed it today. banks, pharmacies, department stores, biotech firms, insurance companies, politicians, the list goes on and on. pretty much anyone who wanted to join probably could as long as they paid the fee. in fact, afterwards i heard this was the largest pride parade in boston's history, with over 300 organizations participating. the pride parade has been hijacked by corporate and special interests, and now more than ever it just seems like a big advertising opportunity, to show people, "hey, we're progressive, we stand with LGBT, but while we have your attention, would you like to buy some of our stuff?" and sure, i like free swag as much as the next guy, but the original message of the parade is very much muddled. they should just rename it "diversity parade" or something, since as li noted, "there's not a lot of gay stuff." actually, there was more queer presence on the sidelines, amongst the spectators, than there were actually marching the parade. and the demographics skewed young, which i suppose is a good thing, or maybe this was just a good way to spent a saturday.
it was already 2:30pm and the parade seemed like it wasn't going to stop anytime soon. i'd taken enough photos at that point, and seem enough to call it quits. li had already gone to the sidelines, sitting on a wall, tired from too much standing. sitting by the wall is actually not a bad way to watch the parade, and the people watching is spectacular. i suggested we break and head down to chinatown for a late lunch.
one of the best things about the pride parade is how much of the city gets shut down. it sucks if you're driving, but heaven for cyclists, as normally crowded streets are empty of traffic and you can bike free.
maybe i was too hungry (my stomach kept grumbling), but i was lacking food imagination. if not dim sum, then the only other option i can think of is vietnamese pho. li, no stranger to boston chinatown, knew of a cheap place to get "three treasure rice," which seems to be his favorite. quic pic BBQ (肥仔烧腊, 50 beach street) was actually in the heart of chinatown, nestled between the dumpling place that's always crowded and the live chicken slaughterhouse. i'd never been here before, a small shop with about 20 closely packed seats. the butcher working the front of the restaurant also doubled as the order taker when the cashier wasn't around. they were cantonese but could speak some mandarin. i got the 3 treasure combo but with rice noodles instead of rice ($8.75), with chashao pork, duck, and crispy skin pork as my three meat selection. the cashier actually brought our order to the table. mine came in a tall quart size foam container. because all the meats were on top, it was hard to get to the noodles. li's rice order came with a bowl of soup (mine didn't, figuring the soup already has broth). it was actually very good, or maybe i was just hungry.
afterwards we walked to jiaohe supermarket. since he had already gone grocery shopping recently, li said this was the least amount he'd ever purchased on a chinatown supermarket trip.
returning home, the easiest way was over the fieldler footbridge off of arlington street. to get there however, we had to cross the parade route, which was still going strong despite it being almost 4pm. but on bikes it was easier to get around, as long as you avoid the crowds. we finally found a gap at charles and beacon street.
with such a nice day out, even the banks of the charles river was crowded with people enjoying the weather. we crossed over into cambridge on the mass ave bridge. i got back to my place around 4:30pm, li continuing to his apartment. after a change of clothes, i was back out again, this time on the motorcycle to belmont, arriving around 5pm.
we tested our two old dehumidifiers, both de'longhi brands, to see how much electricity it used compared to the TCL. surprisingly, both consumed just 350-400W of power, compared to the TCL which uses 550-600W. at first my father thought the difference wasn't that great, but i managed to convince him that over time it'd cost us too much to operate this TCL dehumidifier. to add insult to injury, it was supposedly an energy star model, yet it consumed more electricity than our old dehumidifiers. finally i showed him how it was cheaper online and no mention of being energy star certified. we discovered both de'longhi models were energy star rated as well. one of them is clearly busted, the humidity readout is way off (thinks its 20% humidity when it's actually more like 50%). the other one still works but the pump might be broken. so now it seems like we are definitely returning the TCL and getting a different one.
i didn't stay too long in belmont, as my aunt invited us to her house in arlington so my parents could help her make some chinese dumplings for dinner. we left belmont around 5:30pm.
i got a chance to see my aunt's landscaped backyard; i'd only seen it in the fall. it would've been better to see it during peak spring, when the prairifire crabapple and pink dogwoods were in bloom. their sourwood was doing very well, much better than our bareroot specimen, which hasn't even sprouted any leaves yet and may be dead (though my father said he noticed tiny buds forming at the base of our tree).
my parents didn't think there was enough dough so my mother said we should stuff each dumpling with as much filling as we can. both matthew and my aunt wanted to learn, but my parents said it was easier (and quicker) if they made the dumplings. matthew did get to make some dumplings when he demonstrated his technique and my mother said they were okay. the trick to make a proper dumpling is to seal them so there are no gaps, otherwise the dumpling will fall apart when you boil them.
we ended up eating outside. my aunt is deathly afraid of mosquitoes but earlier matthew had sprinkled these natural citronella-infused pellets all over the garden that supposedly ward off mosquitoes.