GC asked me this morning if it was okay for his coworker friend to join us to watch the season 7 premiere of game of thrones on HBO. i hesitated briefly but said sure; it probably wasn't GC's idea but rather his friend's. i was chatting with GC until 2:30pm before i finally left for belmont via motorcycle. i could've also biked but on a hot (though dry) day like today, better to motorize and save myself the agony of a sweat-soaked arrival. i found my mother knitting in the air-conditioned living room (barely cool, the floor unit is a piece of crap and waste of good summer electricity), watching her korean soap opera on netflix, with a face mask on.

i purposely didn't have any breakfast or lunch so i could finish the leftover quiche. there were two slices left and i ate them both, regretting it afterwards as it was definitely too much.

my father came home while i was in the backyard watering the garden. we managed to harvest a single zucchini, the first of the season. the plants themselves - composed of 3 seedlings - are taking over RB1, overshadowing the hot peppers and eggplants. so far the zucchinis have remained parasite-free - no signs of squash borers - but a few zucchinis developed strangely, like maturing only halfway while the rest atrophies and then turns yellow and rots. maybe those were just the early fruits that didn't grow correctly. all the new small zucchinis look fine.

i returned home after dinner. GC had beef for lunch (before i left) but cooked up one of his signature smelly seafood noodle dish for dinner. he's been cooking with the window now which makes it less odorous but i could still smell the strong stench of shrimp.

it was already 8:45pm and his friend wasn't here yet. i'd thought maybe he'd even show up earlier and have dinner with GC, but apparently they're not that kind of friends. i ran out quickly to the liquor store after taking a shower to grab some hard cider. when i came back i noticed the foyer light was on, which meant his friend had already arrived. he friend came empty-handed, and sheepishly said he planned on bringing something but forgot. not a big deal, but if you're coming to my house to watch my HBO and i don't know you and you don't even bring anything, that makes you a freeloader. the friend (originally from shandong) seem to know me, or at least my parents, because he tried to rent one of the apartment rooms above my grand uncle's place but was denied. i wasn't sure if he was one of the annoying pairs that said they'd come but didn't and made my parents reserve the rooms for them for 6 months before my parents had no choice but to rent them out to other people on the wait list. later GC came out with some ice cream sandwiches.

at this point i'm sort of hatewatching game of thrones. maybe hate is too strong, but i definitely don't enjoy it as much now ever since it's become this international cultural institution. i liked it better when not everybody was watching it or pretending they were. the stories have become predictable, following the typical tropes: the unstoppable assassin out for revenge, a power struggle between siblings, the young scholar discovering a piece of crucial information, the repentant warrior, and the conquering hero returns to her birthplace. i'll still watch the series, but only because i've always watched so much.

i was actually worried that HBO's server would crash because too many people were streaming the episode. i logged in a few minutes before the premiere and was surprised that it loaded up without any problems. GC's friend left soon afterwards, going to the roof of the astrophysicist building to see if he get some photos of the aurora potentially happening tonight.

i've been researching VPN's again. earlier today i was trying tunnelbear, a really cutesy and simple VPN that has a free service (sort of like a trial) of 500MB of data. tunnelbear makes VPN fun. i downloaded a random 170MB file off of torrent and it was very fast, i didn't notice any slowdown. it even has an obfuscation tool called ghost bear, which is essential in places like china that routinely bans VPN. at $60 for an annual plan, it wasn't too expensive (typical going rate), and worth the price if it kept copyright holders off my back. i almost signed up for a paid account until i read on their website they don't allow P2P activities like torrenting. i'm not sure how i was able to do it earlier, but they block ports and could potentially ban you for violating their rules.

i then looked into vpn.ac. i used them when i was in china last year and i didn't have any problems. they cost $58/year, which is a few dollars cheaper than tunnelbear. i almost re-signed with them until i read they have a bandwidth limit of 1TB/month. it's not a hard limit, and if you go over slightly there are no penalties; it's just in place to avoid downloading abuse. chances are i would never go over that limit in a single month (my total usage for the 3 months i was with them was only 39GB), but just the idea of a limit makes me wary knowing that there are other VPN's out there with unlimited bandwidth.

so i kept on searching. one important criteria is the service has to have an obfuscation tool. this isn't a big deal for normal web usage in the US, but it's vitally important in china, when that seems to be the newest way to bypass their great firewall. vyprVPN ($60/year) uses chameleon, TorGuard ($60/year) has stealthVPN. both support a multitude of OS platforms, as well as VPN routers. but in the end, TorGuard seems to be the better choice as it's specifically tailored for torrenting, and as such, doesn't keep logs of any kind (vyprVPN keeps metadata logs for 30+ days).