the house itself is only 2 stories, but to get onto the gutters of the second story involved setting up a ladder on the 1st story roof. to make it more complicated, we only had one ladder. first we did the easy part, which was cleaning the 1st story gutters. they haven't been cleaned out in a few years, so they were filled with foul smelly sludge. plants had also taken root. we fished out the muck with our gloved hands into buckets which we later brought down. to get to the 2nd story, we pulled up the ladder. the debris in the 2nd story gutter were drier but just as thick. there was also a squirrel hole, which some of the 2nd floor tenants have been complaining about hearing critters running around in the ceiling at nights. a nearly pine tree with overhanging branches that touch the gutter makes getting into the roof much easier. we hope it's squirrels, because the other option is rats, and they're more destructive and harder to get rid of. while lying down on the flat roof surface i got some sticky pine sap on my jeans.
i got home a little bit before 10am. GC was in the bathroom. after he came out, i did a small load of laundry, hoping to get rid of the pine sap on my jeans with a stain stick. it turned out to be useless, until later i tried rubbing the stain with some alcohol and that seemed to work better. there's still some faint spots but they're less noticeable now.
i went to the garden to water my plants. most importantly i wanted to check on the progress of my squash seedlings, currently protected by a ring of crushed eggshells. i'm happy to report that the seedlings were fine, but i don't know whether it's because the eggshells worked or that slugs haven't had time to find the seedlings yet.
back at home, i sent GC a link to a 2015 article about the super 88 food court and asked if he was interested in going. one of the good things about GC is he seems game to just about anything. i was ready to leave immediately (10:30am) but we decided on 12pm. the only hitch was i wasn't sure if super 88 was even opened today, but if i know anything about asian businesses, making a buck trumps resting for the holiday.
we went to super 88 via bicycles. i took the trek cargo bike just in case we bought any groceries. the weather was nice, a dry and balmy lower 80's, good day for biking. once in allston, we went down ashford to malvern to arrive at 88.
the place was surprisingly busy, or at least busier than when i visited on friday. we decided to get some lunch first before shopping. GC seemed indecisive with what he wanted to eat, so while he contemplated his options, i ordered the tteokbokki from the korean misono grill (tukbokgi, $8.99). GC settled on a chinese lunch combo of shredded pork with shrimp slathered in lobster sauce with some chashou pork.
after we finished eating (GC couldn't finish it all which wasn't surprising, but i was surprised that he still managed to eat more than half because earlier he ate some corn and a yogurt), we went into the supermarket. the only thing i bought was some preserved white prunes (from taiwan). i noticed that 88 doesn't exactly have that good a selection of fresh produce, at least compared to the asian supermarkets in chinatown, or the larger asian supermarkets in malden/quincy. there was also an awful smell because they were cleaning the fish department with bleach. nevertheless, 88 has a wider selection than the small c-mart i took GC to that time we were in boston. he didn't buy too much, some beef shank and some noodles. thankfully he didn't get any seafood, but i think it's because they were mostly frozen, and he rather get fresh refrigerated.
we loaded up our purchases in the back of my bicycle. the leftover chinese food in its styrofoam container ended up spilling inside its bag because it sat at a tilt on the basket, but nothing leaked out of the bag.
i left for belmont soon afterwards, around 2pm, via motorcycle. my parents were having a barbecue. my mother for some strange reason has been very reluctant to have one, even though i've been asking since may, when my grandmother was still here. finally she was forced into it because my sister already bought a bunch of food over the weekend. the barbecue wasn't until 5pm but my mother said my sister was going to pick up my aunt and her godmother at 3pm. my father had already barbecued a few things already, including the corn. i didn't like the fact that we were starting early but it meant i could go home early and get some rest before the fireworks later tonight. i barbecued the corn again, this time coated with barbecue sauce. my sister didn't arrive with the other guests until 4pm.
the 2 things i always need to have for a successful barbecue is barbecued corn (with korean barbecue sauce) and blue cheese burgers. and maybe some kind of sausage, typically italian sausage with fennel, but i also like taiwanese sausages. i was the last person to sit down and eat because i was grilling my hamburgers and didn't want them to burn. afterwards i brought out all the garden refuse bins and the 4 bundles of wisteria vines, as there was trash pickup tomorrow. i left by 7pm.
coming back home something caught my eye. i turned the motorcycle around to investigate. it took me a second to figure out what it was: a laundry octopus, or the official name, "ikea pressa octopus hanging dryer." i've always wanted one of these, from my days living in changshou. it's for drying small items like socks and underwear. the only problem is i don't have a clothesline but i've been meaning to install one on my backyard porch. once i do, this laundry octopus will come in handy.
we left at 9pm to go see the fireworks after GC finished watching season 2 episode 11 of breaking bad, the one where walt considers buying the car wash and jesse meets andrea. GC was on the trek mountain bike, while i rode my fuji. i brought out some bike lights but the spare mini usb front light didn't have any power left, so i got my flash light instead, which worked surprisingly well as it was superbright. i rode without wheel lights, figuring i'd wait until we came back to turn on the light show. the weather was perfect, a clear night with temperature in the dry 70's. worried it might get colder as the evening wore on, i wore a dress shirt over my t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
it took us 20 minutes to get down to the MIT area. along the way, we passed by groups of people making their way down to the charles river to watch the fireworks. there was a feeling excitement in the air. as we arrived in central square, the number of people was growing. outside of toscanini a line stretching down the block was waiting for ice cream. we got as far as vassar street on mass ave before we hit a police road block. we could've gone across the barricade but knowing there'd be a sea of people here afterwards, it was better to park the bikes on vassar instead for an easy getaway afterwards.
as soon as we parked i realized something: i forgot to bring my wide angle lens. i fished it out of storage back at home but forgot to mount it onto the camera body in my hurry to leave the house. i just had on my 18-200mm traveling telephoto which is great for daytime, but not so much in the dark. although the EF-S 10-22mm wide angle is not specifically designed for low light, just the fact that the lens itself has a 77mm diameter means it shoots at f/3.5 at its widest angle of 10mm, which turns out is great for dark settings. the wide angle is also great for crowd shots, something the 18-200mm can do with its telephoto reach but not so good in the dark even with IS compensation and ISO cranked to grainy maximum. i also brought my 28mm f/1.8 which is the best for low light but limited in its fixed focal length reach.
we walked down to the corner of mass ave and memorial drive, then walked a bit until the MIT lawn was directly to our backs. the place was already packed when we arrived, with people who seemed like they might've been camped out the whole day, with picnic blankets and folding chairs. we saw some police but in the crowd security was surprisingly light, although occasionally groups of unarmed national guardsmen would march through the crowd. we found a spot behind a curb, behind a father and his two sons sitting in folding chairs. initially this was a great spot because we could always step onto the curb for a more elevated view, but once the area in front of the dad and kids began to fill up (they said nothing when a large group of high school girls camped out directly in front of them), and once those people stood up, our trio got up as well. fortunately the kids weren't very tall so we could still see over their heads, which wasn't that necessary anyway since the fireworks were up in the sky with no obstructions.
there was great people watching. there was a rest station directly behind us with blindly floodlights which illuminated much of the area. a pretty korean girl by herself (though busy texting) kept standing next to us then leaving then coming back, as if she was waiting for friends who never showed up. her spot was taken over buy a group of college girls who arrived with blankets. it was good because it meant at least for that area i didn't have to worry about people encroaching into our spot.
i thought the fireworks was at 10:15pm but turns out it didn't start until 10:30pm. by then my feet were hurting from all the standing. when the fireworks began i suddenly forgot about my foot aches. after about 15 minutes of fireworks though, i started to get bored.
i made a mistake with my camera setting. typically i shoot in aperture priority, or manual if i have time to figure out the aperture/shutter/ISO values beforehand. however after the first burst of fireworks, i switched to shutter priority to see if i could get some photos of the moon, but the the fireworks started again and i began shooting once more, forgetting the fact that i was in the wrong setting. fortunately i had the shutter set to 1/30 sec, which by happy accident turned out to be fairly good at capturing closeup fireworks particular when there's a lot of light from nearby explosions. i may decide to shoot like this in the future, wide angle for crowds, then once the fireworks begin, switch to telephoto.
since i had my telephoto, i could take closeups of the fireworks. as there was very little wind tonight, the smoke from the exploding pyrotechnics stayed in the sky. lit by nearby explosions with sparks flying all around, it looked like a battlefield at times, to exotic jellyfish floating in the sky, to colorful interstellar nebulas. i didn't notice at the time, but there were tiny parachutes floating amongst the airborne pyrotechnics. they could be for delayed charges, but they were also used for these fancy illuminated strings that fell from the sky. i always wondered how they did that and now i know.
fireworks are perfect subjects for turning into animated gifs. you could convert them from a short movie snippet, or piece them together from a series of photos. i choose the photo series method because i normally have a habit of shooting multiple bursts anyway. the canon 60D has a continuous shooting rate of 5.3 fps (as a comparison the iphone 5s burst has a burst mode of 10 fps).
i used to piece the photos together manually in photoshop, but then discovered that google photos can create animated gifs too, so i've been using google recently. google photos usually does a really good job, and will even optimize each frame like stabilizing the image to compensate for handshaking. however, in the case of my firework photos, google photos had a really hard time overlaying each frame so the end results were gifs that introduced a lot more handshaking.
so i went back to photoshop for a manual approach. fortunately i discovered a few more automated features, like batch converting layers into individual frames and reversing the frames. i also learned to take advantage of adjustment layers that can apply the same effect throughout all frames of the animation (like lightening the crowds below). that worked for a while until i discovered that photoshop with apply geometric distortion correction (even if unselected) when using auto layout in the photomerge tool. that created quirky gifs that looked like the perspective planes were shifting. the trick is to just use the reposition layout. of course this only applies to these animated firework gifs. i still think google's smart animated gif creator is usually the better tool to use.
the fireworks ended at 11pm, as the crowd looked nervously over itself in anticipation for the sea of people leaving the area and going home. it'd probably be a nightmare if this was your first time there, but this wasn't my first rodeo, as i lead GC back to where we parked our bikes on vassar street.