as of last night, the toilet was no longer working. i had to manually flush with a bucket of water. the only thing to do was to replace the fill valve, which thankfully - after checking prices online - is pretty cheap, around $10. at first, removing it seemed like a pretty daunting task, but i've removed the entire water tank before (in order to paint the wall behind the toilet) so this was easy in comparison. the tank was already drained, but there was still about half an inch of water at the bottom. i sopped up the last bit of water with a sponge, which included a lot of leftover reddish brown sediment from the previous fire hydrant test. with the tank now completely dry, it was just a simple matter of turning off the water supply and unscrewing the fill valve housing.

my father was making a supply run in the late morning. i tagged along, which meant i could get a ride to belmont, instead of taking the motorcycle. i haven't been riding since my knife accident on wednesday. even though there's no reason why i can't, i thought it best not to do anything to aggravate the healing process. we went first to market basket, followed by reliable in union square (to pick up some mung bean sprouts). coming back we went by the large crowd of people (mostly young) waiting outside of neighborhood restaurant (25 bow street) for brunch. i had to wait at the cafe for my parents to finish making and steaming several dozen meatbuns before my mother and i drove to belmont.

the first thing i do whenever i go back to belmont is to inspect the garden plants. it seems like every week the caladium puts on a big show, sprouting some new and interesting leaves. i'm so in love with these shade loving plants, my only regret is not buying more of them when they were on sale at home depot for 50% off.

the second point of interest in the belmont garden are the calabash gourds. last week was just flowers, but this week i saw a few tiny gourds and one big one (a few inches long). all this action from just one plant alone; 3 others are trying to catch up. elsewhere in the garden:

in the afternoon my mother and i went to the arsenal mall. i went to home depot to buy a new fill valve. i got the hydroclean 660 ($12), which was double the price of a normal fill valve, but i felt my toilet deserved the very best in plumbing technology (especially for so little money). instead of a ball float, the hydroclean represents the latest generation of toilet valves with the use of a float cup. the hydroclean 600 is also unique in its use of an extendable tube (the j-tube) that creates jets of tiny bubbles to blast away debris and clean the tank. i then went with my mother to look for a new belt for my father. we went to old navy, marshalls, and filene's basement, but finally found a good black leather belt ($20) at the gap outlet. i haven't been inside the arsenal mall in a long time. as a kid, i went often since it was the closest mall to where i lived. my mental map of the place is from the 80's and 90's, when there used to ann & hope (a precursor to stores like target), a pet store, a bookstore - all now gone. say what you will about malls, but on a hot summer day it's a great place to take advantage of the free air conditioning.

my mother was impressed that i could still use chopsticks with my left hand; i was a little surprised myself, having never tried it before (until a thumb injury forced me to improvise). after dinner, i went back outside while there was still a bit of light to check out the blooming calabash flowers. tonight there was one male and two females. i was hoping to catch maybe a pollinating moth but no such luck. obviously there's some kind of pollination happening from the growing gourds, but it happens in the dead of night apparently, when nobody is watching. the flowers themselves have no perceptible fragrance (unlike moonflowers, which also bloom at nights), but it's doing something to attract potential pollinators.

my father drove me back to cambridge. even though i was happy to install the new toilet fill valve on my own, my father volunteered to help me put it in. i'm glad he did because we ended up running into a lot more problem than a broken fill valve.

installing the new fill valve was a simple affair. you don't even need any tools, since the included connector nut has wings for hand tightening. when we turned on the water nothing came out though. at first we thought it was the valve itself, but when we disconnected the braided connector and turned on the water, nothing came out. so there was something wrong with the pipes. i went down to the basement to check that the water hadn't been accidently turned off by my upstairs neighbor. the shutoff valves were all fine and open. the line actually splits the cold water between my tub and the toilet, and the tub was still working. so my father crawled behind the toilet with a wrench and took apart the valve housing. turns out the rubber washer had corroded and snapped off, blocking the water flow. my father dug out the stopper and put the hollow valve back into place. once i turned the water back on from the basement, the toilet was finally again.

my old fill valve sounded like running water after each flush. the new hydroclean 660 has a completely different sound. it actually scared me at first, a loud gurgling noise, like a monster hiding in the toilet. after a few flushes though, i started getting used to it, and the tank fills up quickly, so the sound stop soon afterwards. hopefully once i get a new shutoff valve installed, i can control the water pressure and maybe dampen the noise a bit.