todd called me at 8:00 this morning to let me know he'd come by my parents' place tomorrow morning and cut down the elm tree. i'll be happy when this is all over because i won't have to receive anymore early phone calls! the scheduling isn't ideal because we wanted to see the wisterias bloom for one last time, but better to just get this tree cutting out of the way. this will mean i have to wake up early tomorrow and get down to belmont before the tree cutters arrive.

the sky was dark but i risked it anyway to first go to the post office then back to the beermaking store. i returned the zeki tablet pc at the post office, $10 for the cheapest parcel shipment, an additional $3 for $170 insurance (just in case). it was also raining a little bit when i left for the beer store. i was tempted to return home, but i was already out and decided to continue with my mission, figuring the worst that'd happen is i'd get utterly soaked on my way back. for some reason, there was about half a dozen employees at homebew emporium, all seemed like they were just hanging out. i returned the 2 #10 bungs i purchased yesterday and got 2 #8-1/2 bungs ($1.60 each). i even brought a ruler to measure the inner diameter to make sure it'd fit.

by that point it was heavy downpours. i put my bag into a plastic shopping bag and pedaled home. riding in the rain is no fun for all sorts of reasons. this was cold rain too. i didn't mind getting wet, but the rain was affecting my braking ability and i had to be careful. it was hard to see anyway, with my glasses covered in rain drops.

i stripped out of my clothes and took a hot shower. my second shower of the day, if you count getting drenched by the rain. clothes are easy to dry, but shoes take forever and can easily stink if they stay wet for too long. hopefully it's a dry day tomorrow that i can leave my shoes outside.

the #8-1/2 bung worked perfectly. i'm not sure why i got 2 when i only have one bottle. i also tried the alcohol hydrometer in water solutions of salt and sugar. i wanted to see what would happen in an alcohol solution where there's also some sugar content.

dennis called me earlier to let me know bruce wouldn't be joining us for free lunch since he was under the weather. instead it would be just us two and his neighbor friend bill. i met them outside at 1:15. dennis drove bill's car, occasionally stalling the manual transmission vehicle since he wasn't used to driving it. we made our way to east boston, to rino's place, this little italian restaurant hidden away in a residential area. the place was packed when we arrived, even though i think the reason why dennis decided to leave so late was so we wouldn't run into the lunchtime crowd. there were a lot of business people and retirees. even though we had a reservation, we still had to wait outside a little bit for a table to become available.

rino's place (pronounced "reno" not "rhino") used to be a local secret until it got national media exposure. now the place is so busy, when dennis came here one night to see if any tables were available, the wait time was 3 hours. while waiting outside we saw the chef, a mean-looking burly fellow in a bikerstache, coming out of the sister bar across the street, yelling at somebody inside, "i'm the fucking boss, you do what i say!" so that's chef anthony!

the reason for the treat was dennis had a gift card he wanted to use up. i didn't eat all day so i was pretty hungry. between the appetizers and our main course there was a long wait, which we didn't mind since it let us rebuild our appetite. the daily special menu nearly equalled the selection on the regular menu, so we ended up ordering mostly from the specials. the food was good and the price very reasonable. the restaurant didn't empty out until nearly 3:00, so that'd be a good time to come in the future, even though it'd be kind of a weird time (between lunch and dinner). the lobster fritter was a culinary delight, almost like a dessert with the drizzled reduced sweet balsamic vinegar sauce, fried dough with stuffed lobsters. the portions on the main course were huge, and none of us could eat more than half (seems like a common problem, most people left with doggy bags).

it was raining heavily at times when we arrived in east boston, but the sky cleared up while we ate. then when we left, the sky clouded up again and the drizzle started once more.

i ate so much for lunch, i didn't have to eat the rest of the day. it even put me in a food coma, and i slept for half an hour while watching the evening news.

the swift reliant binoculars arrived at the watertown UPS sorting center early this morning (according to the tracking data) but then it was transferred to the USPS so it didn't get delivered to my house today, hopefully tomorrow. i checked my credit card balance again, the pending double payment went through even though the sales guy told me that was a mistake and would get fixed by wednesday afternoon. i'll need to call them again tomorrow. another $99 was taken out of my bank account via paypal. i called paypal, and they said it takes around 4 days for refunds to get processed, and hopefully tomorrow i'll get the balance in my paypal account. so as of this moment, i'm essentially pay 3x the amount for those binoculars. these better be worth it!

the zhumell short barrel and the swift reliant all seem to be from the same chinese optics factory. now there seems to be a third doppleganger, from a company called barska, which i've never heard before but apparently they've been in business since 1994. they sell a set of binoculars that look nearly identical to both the zhumell/swift; in fact, they sell 2 similar looking models, the huntmaster 8x42 and the naturescape 8x42. the barska huntmaster sells for only $89.99 on amazon, and had i known, i would've gotten these instead (i like the conservative all-black design a lot better). the only difference besides cosmetic is the huntmaster seems to be a bit heavier at 27 oz. instead of the 20.6 oz. of the swift reliant (both feature phase coating). the naturescape does however have the lighter weight (listed as 21.23 oz.).

NBC's hannibal is ultra-violent but it's surprisingly good, way better than FOX's the following. i'm surprised it's even on NBC, it seems too edgy. i would've loved to see this show on a premium cable channel, just so they could amp it up even more (and maybe a little sex, since the show is mostly about the violence). i could watch an hour of just hannibal lecter making one of his fancy dinner, regardless of his suspect meat ingredients. next episode seems especially good, when hannibal comes face-to-face with another serial killer and both are trying to kill each other. there's also person of interest, the season finale was tonight. will sarah shahi and amy acker become series regular next year? (i hope so!) the show may be billed as a crime drama, but there's a pervasive hard scifi edge with the artificially intelligent big brother that watches us all.