my new roommate arrived a bit after 9am this morning. my father and her friend went to her old apartment to help her move out her things. my father saw where she was living: a 3-story apartment house shared between 20 other mainland chinese students. even in the US, when chinese people get together to do something, it's always in bulk (quantity over quality). later my father told me that my roommate told them to ignore the other people living there, which seemed a little aggressive, and makes me even more curious as to what really happened there. but anytime you put 20 people together, not everyone's going to get along. haven't we learned anything from big brother?

i was surprised by how much stuff she had, even though she'd only been in the country since november. after my father and her friend left, and while she was unpacking in her bedroom, i got a chance to ask her some quick questions. for one thing, her english name is mary. she's a visiting scholar at harvard university, in the field of international economics. though she's lived and worked in shanghai for more than a decade, originally she's from inner mongolia, which might make her mongolian. after college she moved to lanzhou in gansu province (to be closer with her parents) and worked there for a stretch as well. this isn't her first visit to the US, she spent a year in california, and then some months in seattle. she has a 14-year old son back in china.

while mary was settling in, i told her i was going out to run some errands and won't be back until after noontime. first stop was at michael's shop, where i was dropping off the macbook pro. he wasn't at the store today but his sister was. i showed her the new machine and how to use parallels. unfortunately outlook 2013 was misbehaving and some things didn't work like registering a new customer. it means i may have to install a version of windows that can run office 2010, which is the version of outlook they currently have running with their customer database. but i won't have time to work on the computer this week, nor next week (when i'll be in new york city), so i decided to return the macbook pro for the time being, until i can pick it up the first week of february.

from harvard square i took the subway to chinatown, to pick up my china visa. i'm still kind of surprised by how easy it was for me to get it, despite not having an itinerary. compared this to the difficulty for a chinese person to get a US visa, where you need to provide things like bank statements, proof of home ownership, and finally a face-to-face interview. sunshine travels was fully staffed, but not a single customer besides myself. my agent selina handed me my passport. inside was my china visa, 10 year expiration date, 60 days limit per visit.

i called my mother from chinatown to ask her if she needed anything. i then went to chinatown cafe to pick up some lunch: spicy salt & pepper porkchop with rice (R45) - the usual - before stopping by the c-mart on lincoln street to get some tofu for my mother. i walked to south station and took the red line back to porter square.

i got home around 12:40pm. mary had told me she had some business around noontime, so i wasn't surprised that she wasn't at home. after a quick shower, i settled down to a relaxing lunch in front of the tv. before i finished eating however, i was surprised to see mary outside. she seemed to be fumbling for her keys so i opened the door for her. she was standing on the stoop with at least 8 bags of groceries. i noticed one of her bags was leaking, she hadn't seen it yet, a gallon of milk. i winced as it dripped all over my foyer area and quickly ran it to the kitchen sink. she must've dropped the milk at some point and ruptured the container; fortunately i had a empty gallon jug (for spring water) for her to transfer her milk.

in the mid-afternoon i told mary i was going out again. she said she wanted to give me the rent before i left. i told her there's no rush, but she insisted. i also got her wechat info, so i could contact her if i needed to (and vice versa, even though i hardly ever check wechat, i'm more of a classic QQ man myself - oh chinese social media!). she also asked me how to use the washer and dryer. while i was getting ready, she actually left before me, had some other business she had to take care of. mary isn't good at divulging details apparently. not that i care, but i knew where she was going, i could anticipate when she'd come back.

my parents passed me while i was riding the bike to belmont. i was going extra slow for safety reasons, and panting extra hard because of the strain of riding in the cold weather. but i don't mind, part of my daily exercise. when i arrived, my father showed me how he was trying to replicate the cinnamon pineapple recipe from the western grill. i didn't see any birds, but from the paw prints in the snow there seemed to be a lot of squirrel visitors below the suet feeder. two rambunctious squirrels then showed up, looking for scraps of food that might've fallen off, since they still haven't figured out how to climb the slinky pole.

my parents spent the earlier part of today cleaning up after my grand uncle after he had an accident in bed and desperately failed to get to the bathroom, creating a mess in the process. my father's trying to find a solution where my grand uncle can call him if he has another emergency. there are a lot of these emergency alert systems for seniors, but many require a monthly fee. of the ones that don't require fees - the logicmark freedom and lifelink prodigy are two examples - they're unexpectedly expensive - $200-$500 - and seem to require a dedicate phone line (lifelink can link through a cellphone using bluetooth but the process seems complicated and unreliable).

we're trying to find a alert system solution that takes advantage of the internet and can make simple calls via wifi. no such product exists at this time. i can understand why, since there's no money in making a system that's affordable and doesn't require any maintenance. while i was researching though, i can across something called the LG gizmopal 2. designed for young children (where the marketing term for these kind of gadgets are called "wearables"), it looks like a watch but you can make two-way calls with a press of a button to a small list of people (e.g. parents, nanny). the gizmopal also has a GPS tracking feature, but don't need it for what we want to do. the device itself costs $80, with a $5 monthly access fee, which is cheaper than adding a separate line. the only caveats are it currently just works with verizon (which is fine, we use verizon) and the wrist strap is designed for a child and looks to be too small for an adult. currently my grand uncle has a tracfone, but those things can be hard to use (even senior versions with bigger buttons), and in an emergency situation, it's a lot easier to just hit a single button and be able to talk to someone.

those wooden massage hammers finally arrived. they look nearly identical to my grandmother's hammer, except they have an unpainted wooden center peg instead of a red peg. it's amazing the things you can find (and buy) from the internet! my mother asked me to bring my grandmother's hammer with me when i go to new york city next week, to give to my uncle so he can give it back to my grandmother when he returns to california.

back in cambridge, i noticed the lights in the kitchen were all open even though mary wasn't doing any cooking. not conserving electricity is one of my pet peeves. mary was in her room, but came out a short time afterwards to ask me some questions. i was shocked to find her cooking with her crockpot in her room! turns out she tried to do it in the kitchen but couldn't find an open plug. i showed her the extension cord i normally use for electric kitchen appliances. she also had her own electric kettle, but it was actually part of a coffee brewing machine, the kind that keeps the coffee warm when it isn't boiling it, which is a total waste of electricity (oh pet peeve!). i showed her my own electric kettle setup, and how i pour the boiling water into my insulated thermos for later use. plus, when she came out of her room, she was wearing her winter parka. true, i never showed her how to use the thermostat, but she'd also placed one of her suitcases right on top of the heating grate, so she wasn't getting any heat.

she also asked if i had an surge protector for the desk; i took one from the living room for her to use. while i was in there, i saw that she had two laptops: a bulky black toshiba, and a slick macbook air-like HP, maybe an envy 13. she said she bought the smaller laptop while she was here in boston (not sure how much, at least $1000 i'd imagine).

mary had another question for me, concerning the frosted windows in my bathroom. at first i thought she wanted to know how to open them. but turns out she was concerned that someone might be able to see inside. "would it be possible to install a curtain over the window?" she asked me. would it be possible for you to leave my house immediately because i don't want to rent to a crazy lady? i thought to myself. first she wanted me to install bedroom locks. now she wants bathroom curtains. so high demand! i told her it was impossible for anyone to see inside. she still didn't seem satisfied with my answer, but she also knew i wasn't going to install new bathroom window curtains.

a few times throughout the night i found the kitchen lights all turned on with mary back in her bedroom with the door closed. i keep turning them off, hoping mary will catch on, but if she doesn't, i have to say something.

mary spent the rest of the night in her bedroom. i asked her about her schedule, she said she usually likes to go out for a run in the morning (around 7:30am) before work. i told her i used to do some running as well, and i had the perfect 5k route around a stretch of the charles river. but apparently 5k is too much for her. back at her house in shanghai, she lives above a school with a track field, and she usually does 5 loops around the 400m circle, for a grand total of 2k. while i admire her dedication to physical fitness, 2k is just not enough of a run. and she runs it slow too, 30 minutes.

it's after 1am and i'm about to go to bed but mary is still in her room with the lights on. maybe she just forgot to turn them off though. that would not surprise me at all.