i went to the harvard square may fair after a quick stop at my community garden plot.
a handful of gardeners were there but nobody seemed to be in a friendly mood. last season's delphiniums still haven't sprouted so i think they're probably all dead. i do however seem to have plenty of shasta daisies and the milkweeds i planted last year have all reemerged as well. my 2nd year transplanted money plant is also flowering (it's one of the pink-white mutations).
there seems to be less people at the may fair than in years' past: either i was there too early or maybe people had second thoughts about being in large crowds weeks after the marathon bombings. i don't care much for the music or the handicrafts or the fair foods (e.g. kettlecorn popcorn, italian sausages) - for me the only thing interesting was the sidewalk chalk artists. unfortunately the get growing festival was nowhere to be found (turns out the organizers decided to have it a month ago at the cambridge community center to coincide with the cambridge winter farmers market).
i rode the motorcycle to belmont, my first daytime ride. riding a motorcycle is empowering; whenever i feel emasculated riding a slow bicycle, i hop onto a motorcycle and feel like i'm back on top the 2-wheel food chain. nobody pays attention to me when i'm on my bicycle; everyone is trying to make eye-contact when i ride the motorcycle. guys nod approvingly, ladies groom their hair, children wave, and dogs bark. sometimes i feel like i'm in a one-person parade when i'm on the motorcycle.
i noticed the tree pruning truck parked outside my parents' house. andrew's brother todd (who does tree pruning) called me this morning to let me know he'd already seen the dead elm in my parents' backyard and would probably send over some guys today to talk with the backyard neighbor since it's easier to cut from that side. "probably" became "definitely," as i quickly went to go meet up with these guys. the older gentleman was john, his partner's name was doug. they checked out the tree from both my parents' side of the yard and from a backyard neighbor. this neighbor (tayvon) i'd never been formally introduced but i knew him as the guy who owned chickens and had noisy children. i took some photos from his yard. after the tree guys left, i stayed behind to check out tayvon's chickens. although belmont only allows a maximum of 5 "urban chickens" per family, tayvon had 10 in his coop because his downstairs tenants signed up for a permit as well. tayvon is so well-known in belmont as the chicken guy that school children from the nearby burbank elementary school routinely have field trips to his backyard to see the chickens.
later, when i was doing some weeding on the front lawn, i struck up a conversation with paul, who was admiring my motorcycle. he rides as well, a 880cc harley-davidson on loan from his wife's girlfriend who recently sustained a knee injury and doesn't ride anymore. he actually lives in the area and was doing some yard work for some neighbors (hence the lawnmower and the leafblower). he said he sees me all the time on my motorcycle, riding back and forth between belmont and cambridge.
the evidence was glaringly obvious but i only managed to connect the dots today. didn't it seem too much of a coincidence that radishes, arugulas, and lunarias all have similar looking flowers? the reason is because they all belong in the brassicaceae family, which also includes cabbages and broccolis. the 3 plants couldn't be any more different: radishes are grown for their roots; arugulas for their leaves; and lunaria for their dried seed cases.
i continued testing the 8" zeki tablet pc. i copied a few mkv and mp4 movie files onto a 32gb microSDHC memory card and popped it into the tablet. it played them all without problems and the default android movie player is both simple and well-featured. but that's just the function of the OS. as for the hardware, there were some shortcomings. for one thing, the screen has an extremely narrow viewing angle; never mind side-to-side, it's also limited up-and-down depending on how it's oriented. the low 800x480 pixels resolution isn't a limiting factor when it comes to video playback, since the screen itself is just 8"; in fact, the videos looked remarkably sharp, provided you can actually see it since you're viewing from the viewing angle sweet spot. i don't mind the 8" screen; not as big as a typical 10" tablet, but still better than watching a movie on a smart phone (4-5"). the built-in speakers are pretty awful; on maximum volume they're still tinny and weak. using headphones though, the sounds come in pretty loud and powerful. as i noticed yesterday, the back of the tablet gets warm after a short period of time. and nothing drains a battery more than video playback, and with its weak battery, you can maybe watch one movie/show before you need to recharge again.
next i tried a pdf book. after some searching, i found a pre-loaded app that could open the file. not sure if it was the app or the pdf itself, but it opened really slow, and because of the low resolution, the pages weren't rendered clear enough to read. pinch zooming chugged to a crawl, making the pdf unreadable.
apple's iOS comes default with all sorts of input methods for different languages, including chinese handwriting recognition. android OS doesn't come with any chinese language input methods, but an official google-made IME can be installed - provided you can access the google play store. unfortunately the zeki is tied to the amazon app store, so that didn't work.
the 8" zeki comes with numerous inputs and outputs. besides the microSD card slot, it also has a microUSB port (for PC syncing?) and a microHDMI connector. connecting the table to an HDTV works well, but the resolution is just an upscaled 480p. i could see it coming in handy for streaming netflix onto a TV that doesn't have internet capabilities, or showing a slideshow to an audience (since the screen itself has too narrow a field of view).
it goes without saying that my parents will be returning the zeki. my favorite feature is the external memory card slot, which makes loading photos and videos for viewing so much easier (versus, say, doing it on the ipad which is a multi-step process that requires conversion then syncing through itunes). but several other android tablets can do this as well, including ones from samsung and asus. this is also my first time playing around with the android OS and i like it. even though i didn't do very much, i like how it seems very customizable. but there are just too many dealbreakers to keep the zeki: poor battery life (rated at 2.5 hours, but significantly less in actual usage), extremely narrow field of view, and inability to do chinese input. there are also some few minor quibbles, like how warm it gets, cheap plasticky feel, and simply holding the tablet can make indentations in the LCD screen.
my mother's recent interest in birdwatching made me want to get a good pair of binoculars for my parents. and by good i mean around $100 (we're not talking $200-300 nikon grade glass here). they have a bunch of binoculars already, but none of them are any good: an old nikon 7x21 that has mold on the inside; a bushnell 16x50 which is way too high a magnification for birdwatching; and a soviet-era knockoff (toy?) binoculars i bought more than a decade ago in a urumqi bazaar. one thing you may not know about me is i love to comparison shop. i love it so much i made a spreadsheet of all the different features of a few likely binoculars candidates. i finally narrowed it down to the zhumell 8x42 short barrel ($110), with the bushnell H2O (roof prism) 8x42 in second place ($80). i really like the zhumell but i'd never heard of them before and they sound like they're probably a chinese knockoff. but the smattering of online reviews i've read said they're surprisingly good for something so inexpensive and closely match a lot of more high-end binoculars. i tried to sell my parents on the idea but with a possible tree pruning in the near future, they weren't in any mood to hear about spending money, and said the binoculars they have now are perfectly fine.
returning home, i had to park a little bit farther than my usual spot. from the lights upstairs i could see steve and paul were back home. they were gone for the weekend, which was like a restful vacation for me because that meant i could sleep without being interrupted by kitchen noises from above. so the past few days i slept so blissfully sound that i almost want to write poetry extolling how great it was, sleep so good it made me feel guilty afterwards.