2 important messages arrived for me this morning. one was an e-mail from hainan airline, my carrier to china. it was sent by a chinese person i didn't recognize, so initially i thought it was junk mail. it said because of "corporate plan," my flight schedule from peking [sic] to chongqing had to be rescheduled. so instead of the old time of 4:05pm, it was now 3:55pm, a full 10 minute earlier. they got me worked up for nothing; for a second i thought the flight had been cancelled, which is the sort of thing that happens regularly with chinese airlines. the second message came via wechat, my missing roommate mary finally got in touch with me after being gone for 23 days. she told me she'd be returning march 16th. i know she has a secretive personality, but would've it have killed her to tell me the time as well? i can't very well wait all day for her to show up. so i wrote her to ask what time.

so mary is coming back! a part of me wish that she'd just stay in china, having gotten used to solo living these past few glorious weeks. as much as her personality makes me cringe, having her while i'm gone means 1) there will be someone here to look after the house, and 2) i stand to make 2 more months worth of rent, so she's essentially funding my china vacation. the only problem i see is once she's back, i won't be able to ask anything about what she was doing back in china, because she won't tell me.

with temperature in the mid-50's but a sunny spring-like day, i biked down to belmont on my fuji. first thing my mother told me when i arrived was that the suet feeder had been empty since yesterday. i went out and added a suet cake, as well as filling the globe feeder with seeds. i didn't see any birds coming to the feeders today except chickadees. i wonder if that resident oriole will return, or maybe it found someplace else to eat.

i had some pan-fried raviolis for lunch, washed down with a can of chelmsford golden ale.

in the afternoon my father and i were out in the backyard pruning the maple tree. ideally it should be pruned every year, but every few years we must prune the maple otherwise all the emerging sucker branches will grow so tall it blocks out the sun in our backyard garden. it was warm enough that i stripped down to a t-shirt, but it had the unforeseen consequence of badly scratching up my arms from errant pruned tree branches while i was moving them around the lawn. it looks like i'd been in a knife fight or something.

my father did most of the pruning with either an electric chainsaw or industrial branch clippers; i cleaned up the downed branches. i also did some weeding whenever i saw a dandelion, and dug up a patch of garlic mustard. i picked up some stray dog droppings as well, and raked a bit of the lawn. every once in a while i'd take a survey of the maple and recommend branches that should be removed.

columbines and lupines are emerging from the soil. the one perennial i don't really see are the delphiniums. hopefully they emerge later in the spring season. one thing i regret due to my trip to china is i'll miss much of spring this year. i just hope i'll be back to see my perennials in bloom. i am however still thinking about starting some seeds indoors, the three italian essentials of tomatoes, peppers, and basil. i plant them and set them up at the cafe, either in the preexisting plant alcove or in the basement. the trick is to plant them right before i leave, so after 8 weeks when i come back they'll be big enough for transplanting (provided my father will take good care of them while i'm gone). i can also sow some early season seeds directly into the raised beds.

i finally got around to disassembling my panasonic lumix SZ20 camera. my parents had taken it with them to taiwan last year to get it fixed (by fixed i mean to clean the dust from inside the lens housing, something i wasn't able to do on my own). it came back cleaner, but it somehow lost the ability to focus on anything at the widest angle setting. still, it worked at all other focal lengths, so the camera wasn't entirely worthless. i took it with me the last time i went to NYC with my parents. i was taking some great photos, but when the lens was collapsing back into the body, something went wrong and it got stuck. i sort of gently pushed it back inside, but that must've made it worse, but now the lens won't expand at all. anyway, i got the housing open, and saw what the problem was: the other ring of the lens assembly is off its axis and wedged tight around the rest of the housing. there's no way i can budge it, the lens mechanism is essentially hosed.

for some reason i don't feel bad about it. i'm surprisingly unsentimental when it comes to my photo equipment (the photos themselves however i am quite sentimental about). when a camera breaks, it just means i'm in the market for a new camera (whether i can afford one is a different story). i've had my eyes on the SZ40, which is cheap now ($200) since the SZ-series is now at SZ100 ($699 retail). the SZ40 is very similar to the SZ20, except it has a 30x zoom (the SZ20 just 20x), and i love me some long zooms. knowing that the chance to fix my SZ20 are slim, it makes me more likely to buy the SZ40 before i leave on my trip. the thing is i might not use it a lot since i have my dSLR, but the SZ40 makes for a great backup should something bad befall my canon 60D.

we had dinner early, around 5pm, when it was still light outside. by tomorrow though it will be dinnertime, since we're adjusting our clocks one hour ahead tonight.

the new foscam we installed at my grand uncle's place crashed today. it'd cycle the data stream, like it was trying to broadcast video, but the fps would always be zero. weird thing was i could still get into the admin page of the camera itself, and could even initiate a reboot, but the camera still couldn't stream video. so on my way home i stopped by my grand uncle's place to reboot the camera by unplugging it. it didn't work the first or second time, finally began streaming again by the third attempt. i did notice it was awfully warm in my grand uncle's bedroom, but the camera itself was no warmer than room temperature. it worked for a while, but later when i went to go check it from my place, the camera crashed again. i went ahead and put in a return request through amazon. i actually prefer an exchange, but i think amazon just does returns.

mary got in touch with me regarding her time of arrival. on wednesday she'll arrive at the airport around 7am in the morning. she told me via wechat, but in a really strange and psycho way: she wrote me 5 responses that all say the same thing, but each one slightly different. i didn't notice at first, thought she made a mistake and hit sent 5 separate times, but then i went back and looked at each messages, and i realized they were all slightly different. spooky!

i made a new smoothie creation with one mary's kiwis: one peeled kiwi, half a cup of frozen kale, a cup of frozen mangos, and a cup of almond milk. there wasn't enough liquids so i added a touch of mango/orange juice as well. the final creation was okay, but the frozen kale was a little stale. kiwi seeds add a little surprising pop to the drink. i probably won't make this again though.

sunmeng helped me sort of find a chongqing apartment. it's been weeks since i asked her, and i was starting to get a little frustrated because she wasn't very helpful. the last time around she suggested a bunch of apartments that were out of my price range, places with multiple bedrooms and separate floors, nothing i needed. and all those places were for yearly lease, not monthly. i was about to get in touch with wangyan and have her help me (she was in charge of finding apartments for the korean and filipino employees when we worked together), but sunmeng and i looked online one more time (i had her focus on short-term rentals) and she called a few places. i won't pay for a place until i can see it in person, but i just wanted to know the price. in the guanyinqiao area, a monthly rental goes for 2400-2700RMB ($370-416). in the nanping area they're even cheaper, as low as 2000RMB ($308) possibly. now that i know a price range, i can operate from those numbers. sunmeng said she'd take the day off the day after i arrive so we can go apartment rental shopping.