more days!

i visited client N early this morning to deliver the projects. they were still telling me things they wanted changed. i didn't bother to remind them that i'd be out of the country in less than 48 hours. nevertheless, they seemed thoroughly impressed with the progress i've made (given the short amount of time). it also didn't hurt that i got a check for last month's work, which will pay for several months of automated scheduled billings while i'm gone. in fact, immediately after i left the office (with a big smile on my face knowing that i was completely done with work), i went directly to harvard square to deposit the check into my account. later i went to the dollar store to get some generic household supplies and to drop off a cd-rom for client P.

this being my last free day (tomorrow i plan on packing and then cleaning up the house the entire day), i was trying to figure out what i wanted to do with it. naturing? running? make a fruit salad? just vegging out with the AC on? in the end, i decided i'd play tourist for a day and ride my motorcycle all over town, taking photos of scenic boston so i'd have something to remember. before i could leave the house though, my father asked me to go with him to boston to pick up a shipment from china waiting at the docks.

this was the passive solar water heater my father had been talking about all year. apparently solar water heating is very popular in china and he found a place to buy one. each unit is fairly cheap, around US$200, but the problem is how to get it into the US since they have no american suppliers. fortunately we had a family friend who was shipping 700 lbs. worth of non-related scientific equipment back to the US (at a whopping cost of US$1000), so my father was able to piggyback his solar water heater order with this shipment. this was what arrived today, the first third, but it included the heater. when the delivery guy came out with the shipment, we thought he was joking: everything was crushed, things were spilling out from the boxes. we peaked into a box of glass solar heat collection tubes. without looking we already knew what we'd see just from the sound of broken glass: everything was shattered. they were packaged very poorly to begin with (a few pieces of styrofoam and a cardboard box was all the padding it had) and after shipping halfway around the world and passing through the hands of american custom officers, everything was reduced to trash.

the trip back to cambridge wasn't pleasant either, with massive detours around boston due to the big dig closure (i heard it'd be weeks before the tunnels will be opened again). from the car window i was able get a few telephoto snapshots of boston however.

north end

bunker hill

union square

back in the parking lot of the cafe we took an inventory of the solar heating equipment. the damage wasn't as extensive as we first thought: out of 24 tubes, only 7 were crushed. however, the large water tank that was supposed to arrive with the order was missing. i called the shipping office and they said there was nothing left on the docks. somewhere from the time it left china to when it arrived in boston, a large water tank went missing. with his dream of free solar heated water dashed, all my father could do was to throw away the broken tubes and move the rest of the equipment into the basement. included in one of the boxes was a framed plaque (in chinese) proudly advertising to others your use of green energy.

ang tao made some spaghetti when he came home, along with a pot of soup, which i sampled while waiting for my toaster oven pizza to cook. since i was going to shanghai (where he lives), i asked if he needed me to bring back anything for his wife. he said she likes some cosmetic products but he hadn't had a chance to go shopping yet. that got us talking about american christmas, and i explained how it's just an orgy of consumerism. he was surprised that here in america there was a policy of merchandise returns.