the sound of ice falling on the pavement was the background noise of the day. it seemed the sun decided to show itself today and the ensuing thaw melted off all those pieces of ice still clinging onto tree branches. they shattered onto the ground like hail stones, making me glad i wasn't outside. at one point it struck a parked car so violently that the alarm went off for several minutes.

after i went with my father to market basket, we paid a visit to the somerville target so i could buy some seedling mixture to grow my plants. all they had was potting soil, which isn't the right consistency for optimal seed germination. returning home, we even went to that gardening place in union square but they were closed today.

in the evening i was suddenly struck with inspiration and went to the dollar store to buy a bag of 16 oz. plastic drinking cups (42 count for $2). they're just the perfect size for me to grow my plants. my father dropped by briefly with the electric drill and helped me punch drainage holes into the bottom of the cups. we did them 4 at a time, like a karate demonstration. after he left, i started mixing my own seedling growth medium: 2/5 potting soil, 2/5 peat moss, and 1/5 perlite. into each cup i also sprinkled some slow release feeding pellets. i had enough dirt to fill up 33 cups but ended up just using 24 of them.

i ended up growing the following: sweet basil, cilantro, parsley, nasturtium, cypress vine, and white cabbage chinese cabbage (AKA bok choy AKA bai cai). mostly plants with a lot of leaves that don't produce fruits. the cypress vines i wasn't able to plant right away because the seeds needed to be soaked overnight. everything else i planted in 4 containers each: 2 for the red-blue grow lamps, and 2 for the GE kitchen & bath lights (this way i can tell which light source is the best). since i have 9 more dirt-filled cups ready to go, i might get some more seeds within the next few days. i was thinking maybe a dwarf tomato variety, just to see how well or badly it'd do.

watering the containers was a challenge. i put them in shallow trays of water, hoping the dirt would suck up the liquid like a wick. what i forgot was the water would only go as high as the water line, so i had about an inch of moisture at the bottom of the cups at most. i then had to change my method, almost submerging the containers entirely until the dirt start to rise up. it was a pretty messy affair and by the time i finished my tub was covered in dirt.

i read in a gardening book to cover up the containers with wet newspapers, but i thought it'd be better with just some clear saran wrap. i probably need some rubber bands though because the plastic had a hard time staying on the cups. i put them all in the guest bedroom, near the heating vent.

so it's on! hopefully in a few days some seeds will germinate and i can watch them grow and finally put all those fluorescent lights to some good use.

trash day tomorrow: a large box of magazines i put out on the curb this afternoon disappeared when i went out tonight to put out my recyclables. i hope they find a good home. also, somebody's been dumping their recyclables in my recycle bin! i know it's not my upstairs neighbors because they weren't home when it happened. i didn't look too carefully to see what they were; maybe it's embarrassing stuff they don't want to be associated with, so they leave it in my bin instead. speaking of embarrassing trash: i carefully cut up my grow light boxes and fluorescent tube packaging into smaller pieces before throwing them out. even though i'm not doing anything illicit, i don't want my neighbors to get suspicious when they see all these grow light boxes in my trash.

finally, my lonely planet southwest china guide arrived today. i got it as a reference, in case i ever wanted to retrace my 2006 china steps. however, i'm almost scared to look inside, afraid it might make me yearn to go traveling again. i'm also kind of worried that there will be too much detail, and that a trip to a place that i thought was kind of remote and special will now be common and opened to anyone who reads this guidebook. southwest china is however a pretty magical place, and in all seriousness, it's not to be missed. and if you need a guide and would be willing to pay for my lodging and travel expenses, i'm very much available.