the garden community notified me this morning that the city came by and chopped down the mulberry tree. had i known i would've gone to take photos. from the photos i did see, it seemed to be pretty surgical; they parked a crane in the driveway of the house next door, i'm not sure if they even needed to trample through my plot, although i assume there was a little bit of trampling. maybe there was a time when the removal of the mulberry would be a cause for celebration; this time however it was evidence that the garden path was really happening, and come spring all the plots along the eastern side of the garden will be paved over to make way for the pathway.

i put up my kitschy chinese santa head displays in my living room windows. i bought a bunch of them when i was in chongqing, but felt silly putting them up when i returned home. i actually hung up one head last year, but in a very inconspicuous spot. this year however, i've got all three windows covered. santa's beard is covered in glitter so now i have glitter everywhere.

in the afternoon i uncovered the motorcycle and rode out to modern homebrew emporium on mass ave to look for an airlock and corresponding grommet for my father's chinese suancai (sauerkraut) recipe. they had both types of airlocks for the same price - s-shaped and 3-piece - the guy told me that s-shaped don't evaporate as fast but they're impossible to clean, while 3-piece are easier to clean but evaporate faster. i ended up getting the 3-piece, only because i already have an s-shaped airlock somewhere at home. total price for airlock and grommet: $2.11.

from there i took rice street onto rindge then sherman, the route my 2nd aunt will take in the future if she walks to the cafe when she moves. speaking of moving, i stopped by the cafe to drop off the airlock, but my father and aunt were just about to drop off a check at the bank and visit the apartment to hopefully get the keys, i ended up going with them because i was curious to see my aunt's new place.

my 2nd aunt is moving with my 2nd uncle to the burns apartments located in north cambridge right next to matignon catholic high school. they used to live in the observatory hill apartment above my grand uncle's place (both places he owns), but my grand uncle can rent out that apartment room for far more money to visiting astrophysicists, so my aunt is getting push out. besides, it's time she got her own place, one where she didn't have to share the kitchen and bathroom with others, a place with a living room, regardless of where it might be. my aunt's financial situation qualifies her for low-income housing, and she signed up for places both in cambridge and boston. cambridge notified her of an available apartment weeks ago, but only this week was the place ready for her to move in. there was some paperwork to fill out and a money order check sent to the housing agency.

that was the reason we were going to the bank first. just by coincidence, the bank was right across the street from homebrew emporium. had i known, i could've saved myself the trip. while my father was in the bank, i decided to quickly run across the street and pick up another set of airlock and grommet. when i was there earlier i didn't get a good look at the prices. this time however i did see that the grommet itself cost 50¢, and using middle school algebra i was able to deduce that the airlock must therefore cost $1.49 (math geek this: [x + 0.50] * 1.0625 = 2.11). when i came out of the store, i saw my father was already driving away. didn't my aunt tell him i wasn't in the car? i had to chase down the car for fear of being left behind.

at burns apartments we waited for about 15 minutes while our case worker talked with another tenant. all the people who lived there were old, with various stages of disability, whether simply pushing an oxygen tank or dealing with obesity. by the mailboxes i saw a sign for a service where if the mail carrier notices that you haven't picked up your mail in a while, they can do a wellness check in your apartment to make sure you're okay. when the case coworker finally got to us, she simply told our forms and said they'd contact us. as we were about to leave, the manager asked us if we were all set. instead of just sending us away (she informed us that the other person was new), she gave my aunt the keys to her apartment, a resident welcome packet, and a key fob to open the front door.

with keys in hand, we went upstairs to the 2nd floor to see the apartment. my father and aunt had already seen the place a few days ago. my aunt didn't like the place at all, and when asked if there were any windows, she said she couldn't remember. the southeastern-facing apartment is about 400-500 square feet, an attachment kitchen to a living room, then a separate bedroom with a bathroom. the place is surprisingly clean, with no smells. the stove didn't have a hood, which means my aunt will be limited in her chinese stirfry cooking (most US homes don't have the type of hood necessary to properly vent chinese-style cooking).

i think my aunt liked the place a little better on her second viewing, but still not entirely happy. for one thing, she was expecting a balcony like some of the other apartments. i think she just doesn't like change. aside from the low rent, heat/water/electricity is also all covered. as for cable/internet, that may be something she needs to pay for, or maybe it's included as well.

living in north cambridge will afford her new opportunities. for one thing, the nearest supermarket (stop & shop) is just a 11 minute walk (0.6 miles) from her place. or if they don't want to shop there, the 87 bus drops them off in front of the somerville market basket, as well as the somerville target, and to the galleria mall. they are also a 15 minute walk away from davis square, and about the same distance to alewife station. one downside is now she lives 30 minutes walking distance away from the cafe (but she can get more exercise from walking).

before we left, we asked the manager for another key fob, and also for the superintendent to install the shades and replace the screen windows. back at the cafe my father showed me his suancai setup in the basement. he had it in a large empty soy sauce bucket (5 gallons), with the lid on. that's why i got him the airlock, but he said the lid has a screw-on spout that he can open up slightly to let the carbon dioxide escape. so he ended up not needing the airlock after all.

i rode to belmont. when my parents got back, i opened up the broken foscam FI8910W to show my father what was wrong with it. i ended up ordering a new stepper motor ($3.49), hopefully this will fix it. it's a little weird, but stepper motor 28BYJ with a test board costs only half that amount. i was tempted to just get that instead, but 28BYJ means 28mm diameter, and i need an exact 24BYJ 24mm for the foscam camera, so better to match the new part exactly to the original.

i also saw their new projection alarm clock ($28.99): large number display on the clock itself, and when projected onto the ceiling the numbers are even larger. they should've bought this a long time ago!

after dinner i returned to cambridge. there was a lot of moisture in the air which condensed on my windshield. i wiped off as much as i could with the sleeves of my jacket, but i still rode with my head craned up so i could see over the windshield.

my silicone lid seal rings arrived yesterday, i finally picked them up today. they fit on the standard ball wide mouth plastic lids, a little loose, but not enough that they'd fall out. of course with the ring in place, the lid can't screw entirely down. i filled a jar with water and tried to shake out the liquid, which surprisingly did come out. so i tightened the lid a bit more and that seemed to do it, perfect watertight seal. combined with my new airlocks and grommets, i intend to make some tabletop mason jar sauerkraut, amongst other fermented vegetables. as for the airlocks, i'm surprised how big they are, i thought they were smaller from the photos i've seen. i don't think they come in any other sizes. to install the airlock, i have to sacrifice one of the plastic lids by drilling a 1/2" hole for the grommet.