today marks the beginning of a marathon session of meeting with 4 various solar energy vendors over the next few days: new england clean energy today, level solar and united solar tomorrow, then boston solar monday. i made the boston solar appointment this morning when a consultant (john) finally got in touch with me. he told me something very interesting: that direct energy solar was actually going out of business, that they weren't even doing commercial installs anymore, and employees were getting laid off, including our former agent jonathan. i don't know if it's just industry gossip, but if it's true, maybe we were lucky not to sign with them.

i knew john was calling from home because i could hear his children in the background. it reminded me of the clip of the children bursting into the room during their father's BBC interview. i tried to get a price quote from him, but like all these sales associate, they require a face-to-face consultation before they do that, which at this point is a waste of time. the appointment on monday is just for an engineer to do some measurements; the actual meeting won't be until august 1st, as john is booked up all next week.

i went to water my garden this morning, while GC was still in the bathroom. it was already a hot and steamy day. i'm rarely there during the mornings, so it was interesting to see that my plot was already sunlit while dave's more eastern plot was still in partial shade. perhaps my plot get the same amount of sunlight that he does, except i get more morning light and he gets more afternoon light. i was there for nearly half an hour, watering then doing some weeding then taking some photos. i figured GC had already left for work but was surprised to find him just leaving the house around 10am. it probably makes me a hypocrite for saying this, but i can't stand lazy roommates, especially one who's morning routine coincides with mine. i will be glad when he finally leaves in 3 more weeks.

my potential next roommate contacted me this morning. name li, he wanted to know if he could drop by sometime to check out the place. as i probably wouldn't be home today until later in the evening, i told him he could visit tomorrow after work.

i made a salmon cream cheese bagel for breakfast, then left by around 11:20am. first to porter square star market to buy some cherries on sale (final few days), where there was also a marching band marching through the supermarket. not sure the special occasion, but i ignored it for the most past, though did take a few snapshots. then to the hess gas station on mass avenue where i filled up the tank. i've noticed the motorcycle has been acting a little weird the past few rides, like not enough gas is going into the engine and feeling like it's going to peter out. not sure what's causing it, maybe excess oxygen in the intake. hopefully refilling the tank fixes this problem.

i arrived in belmont with a few minutes to spare before our 12pm appointment. my father was already home. we were outside looking at possible conduit pathways when roy arrived. roy began by taking some measurements outside the house. we thought maybe he'd have to climb the roof (we didn't see bring any ladders) but used some creative ways to get his numbers, including stretching out a tape measure (easy because my parents' place is only a single floor) and counting shingles. he also did something i'd never seen before: he had a device mounted on a long extendable pole that apparently measures the light exposure and roof tilt.

afterwards we went inside so he could crunch some numbers. roy seemed more like an engineer than a salesman. he fumbled with his laptop, using the wifi hotspot from his phone to get online. he said his company had done a few installs in belmont, but was surprised when he told him belmont requires panels to have a 1 foot offset from the edge of the room. he called the town looking for answers but after a few redirects ended up on an answering machine. he also went in the basement to check our electricity panel and the hot water heater. he didn't say this, but i had a feeling he thought we were specing out a system with too many panels (27+) that we didn't need, covering our current energy usage by 200%. at one point his laptop died (overheating?) but he managed to revive it sometime later after doing a partial presentation from his phone.

new england clean energy uses 3 different types of panels, priced from least to most expensive: hanwha qcells 295 (chinese), LG 320 (korean), and sunpower 335 (american). roy had samples to show us (not the LG's though). up until this point i thought LG's were the only companies to have all-black panels, but that's not the cause. sunpower has them too, and a type that doesn't even have the lines so you can't even see the individual cells.

the price he gave us for an LG 320 27-panel system was $33k before any tax incentives. he didn't offer any additional discounts. the only thing that made the price somewhat bearable was he told us about the mass solar loan program, something we'd never heard about before. apparently the state his a low-interest loan program where people with lower incomes who can't take advantage of the full tax credit can apply for a loan that pays 20-30% of the principal of the loan (which can amount to $6000-9000 worth of savings based on our system). the only catch was the paperwork takes a while (about a month after signing, provided you're able to qualify and secure the loan), and with their backorder of current installs, actual installation won't be until probably 4 months down the line, sometime in november.

roy finally left after 2pm. my father left soon afterwards to pick up my mother and the dog.

i love praying mantises but it's uncommon here in new england, at least i haven't seen them all that often. i've definitely seem them elsewhere, from costa rica (2003) to southeast asia (myanmar 2005), to china (zhaoxing dong village guizhou 2006, changshou 2013). i've also seen mantisflies before, which are not related to true mantises. the very first time i've ever seen a mantis here in massachusetts was actually in norwood back in september 2005, in a parking lot of all places. the next month i had my second mantis sighting at ponkapoag bog. the first time i'd ever seen a mantis in belmont was june of last year. then this month alone i twice spotted tiny brown mantis babies (6th, 13th). today while watering the garden i finally spotted my first adult mantis in belmont (actually subadult since the wings haven't developed yet), a green male european mantis. i grabbed the dSLR and spent some time documenting it.

the one cool thing about mantises is they seem more intelligent than your typical insect because of the way their head swivels to look at you. and their pseudopupils make it look like they're staring right at you. this particular mantis was a subadult because its wings haven't fully formed yet. it was a male from the longer abdomen. my educated guess is its a european mantis but i wasn't able to see the characteristic "eyespots" on its armpits. it was still a small specimen at 1 inch long. all around various species of bees were visiting the lavender, but i think the mantis would be no match for the larger bees; it was probably hoping to catch a smaller drone fly.

i asked GC if he knew this li guy who was interested in seeing the place tomorrow. he looked at the name and said he's one of the guys he plays badminton with on a weekly basis. i told him the situation and just so happens they have a game tomorrow afternoon. i asked GC if he could bring li back to the house in case i was delayed. i then texted li the plan.