it all started because i had a load of polyester blend clothes that needed cold water washing. i set the temperature dial to cold and turned on the washing machine. nothing. just this buzzing sound. i set the dial to warm and turned on the machine. water started running. i turn it back to cold. nothing again. i knew my washing machine was broken; it gets stuck in the rinse cycle (makes that same buzzing sound) and i have to manually dial it to the spin cycle in order to finish the wash. it's been like this for more than a year now. the problem mysteriously fixed itself during the summer though, but broke again a few months ago. now not only is the rinse cycle broken, but it won't even wash with cold water. figuring there was nothing i could do, i washed with warm water instead, calculating in my head whether it'd be better to fix the machine or just replace it. either way, it's going to cost me money, money i don't have right now.

after the first load, i did a second load of regular. purely for kicks, i put my hand into the water filling the machine. hot water. that's weird. could the cold water connection be broken? could that be why the machine isn't working? while the machine was running, i went down to the basement to check the pipes. it took a while to find where the connection goes into my house. two pipes, one warm, one cold. i traced the cold pipe back to a valve. for some reason a dirty black sock was hanging nearby. to my surprise, it was turned off. i turned it back on and went upstairs. normally the washing machine would just stop during the rinse cycle, but this time it continued all the way through. I FIXED THE WASHING MACHINE!

here's what probably happened: my upstairs neighbor accidently turned off my cold water for the laundry when he closed the water for our outside faucet during the winter (we do this so the pipes don't freeze). during the summer he turned it back on. that explains why the washing machine mysteriously started working again, but as soon as winter rolled again, it just as mysteriously stopped working - all because it didn't have any cold water. that's also why it kept getting stuck in the rinse cycle: that's when the machine drains the existing water and tries to refill it with cold water. so all this time (more than a year) i've been washing my clothes with hot water and i didn't even know it. fortunately i don't have a lot of clothes prone to shrinkage. but it's a good feeling to finally figure it out, and saved me from having to call a repair person.

another craig's list purchase: somebody living in somerville was selling a 48" shop light for $3. turns out he lived just a short distance away, a 5 minute walk. so i went out tonight after he got off from work to go pick up the merchandise. he had it in the original box with two fluorescent light bulbs already installed. i walked home carrying it on my shoulder like a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. up in the sky was the bright full moon, slowly disappearing in the earth's shadow. i wasn't going to bother checking out the lunar eclipse (i've seen them before, not too exciting) because i thought it'd be overcasted (like it often is around here when there's some astronomical event) but the relatively clear sky piqued my amateur astronomer interests. i went home and got my telephoto lens, running outside every 10 minutes to take a few snapshots of the fading moon.

as for the light, it worked fine. it's the cheap kind, the ones without an on/off switch, but that doesn't matter because i usually use it with an automatic timer. the two bulbs are generic warm white tubes, old enough that the ends are black and some intermittent flickering. the bulbs i'll replace with some plant lights. the only problem now is making some room.

as you can see, light color definitely makes a difference in healthy plant growth. when it comes to light, two factors are important: intensity and color. most plants like their lights as bright as possible (more wattage, more lumens) but also of the right colors. the warm ("yellow") kitchen & bath lights are okay and you can definitely grow with those, but in my experiment, i got better results with a combination red (normal grow light) and blue (6500k) lights. now i'm trying something where i have the warm kitchen & bath lights much closer to the herbs. this will maximize the light intensity and hopefully healthier plants. but if you're trying to start some seedlings for the spring and are shopping for the right kind of fluorescent lights, i'd recommend the red/blue combination.