the latest belmont electricity bill was finally available online. utility bills are always confusing, with all sorts of mysterious fees and charges. it took me a while to decipher what i was looking at, but for the month of march my parents' didn't have to pay for their electricity. not only was electricity completely free, but they also earned $32.34 in credit, which will be applied to next month's bill. we've finally reached a point in our solar installation where we can produce enough surplus electricity to cover all of our electricity usage
to not have to worry about electricity ever again. i was so excited i video chatted with my parents, still in taiwan. with 6 more days before they return, they don't seem to have anything planned except hanging out.
third time's the charm: i went to belmont again and finally remembered to take the soldering iron with me. i also checked the moustrap, relieved that there was no dead mouse today. outside, i spotted some reemerging lupines behind the garage. the last thing i did was to swap out the old broken verizon FIOS remote with the used ebay one that arrived yesterday, it worked without any problems. there might be a chance the old remote can be fixed (the channel buttons don't work very well) but in the meantime we have a working remote now. earlier i was at the cafe, dropping off some supplies (i went to market basket this morning to get some eggs and milk) and defrosting the freezer while i was there. i also went to my sister's place to let hailey out to use the bathroom but she barely came down the ramp before turning around and going back inside the house.
i came home at 12:40pm, riding back in just a long-sleeved pullover because it was so warm (temperature in the 50's). i made myself a prosciutto egg english muffin sandwich with a topping of baby arugula for flavor, paired with a fruit smoothie. there was a lot of thumping upstairs what sounded like construction noises. i bumped into steve while i was putting away the bike in the basement, he told me they were redoing the tilework in their upstairs bathroom. the contractor had his equipment set up on the curb, an extension cord snaking down from upstairs to power his tools.
i've got a list of personal projects, from cleaning the fish tank to seeding some flower seeds in plastic inserts. i decided to tackle the most complicated one - fixing the halogen light fixture - especially during the daylight hours so i can still see what i'm doing.
first i had to splice the new bi-pin socket to the old wires, since the wires that came with the sockets are too short. i snipped off the wires from a socket, but while i was stripping off the rubber covering, i pulled too hard and ended up pulling loose the entire sheath. also the wires are cheaply made, not copper, but some other material that's easy to break apart. the socket became useless and i had to toss it; good thing i had 9 other sockets. on the second socket i did a better job snipping the wires and removing the rubber covering. next i removed the plastic covering on the old wires, which wasn't so easy because the plastic had vulcanized over the years and didn't want to come off. the white wire was fine, but i mangled the end of the black wire and had to trim it back so i could get a fresh start. once that was done, i slipped on some heat shrink tubing before i wrapped the wires around each other. this was also difficult, because i didn't have a lot of exposed wires to work with (less than a centimeter each) and the socket wires were crap while the old wires (copper) didn't really want to wrap. i did the best i could, since i'd solder the connections anyway.
i never really soldered anything and i don't think i did a good job. i was afraid of heating the wires too much because it'd activate the heat shrink tubing at the far end of the wires (which wasn't that far). i ended up doing a chabuduo job, hoping for the best. i then slipped the heat shrink tubing over the spliced points and used the heat gun to heat the tubings. i've never played around with heat shrink tubing before, they're pretty fun. the final result looked okay, better than letting the wires be exposed anyway. i then pressed the socket into place, pulling out the wires at the other end of the metal neck tubing. i was pulling pretty hard which in hindsight was probably a mistake, but the splice points held strong, it didn't tear. there were two rusty screws holding the socket in place but they probably weren't necessary since it was a pretty tight fit to begin with, but i put them back anyway.
i connected the remaining loose wires with wiring nuts and went to the basement to switch off the bathroom electricity. i double-checked with the voltage tester just to be sure. i had the fixture reconnected to the wall wires and ready to mount, when i noticed the plastic covering on the wires coming out of the transformer were flaking off. this was not a good thing, because these are live wires once i flip the circuit breakers back on. so i removed the fixture and decided to cover up the exposed areas with some more heat shrink tubing. that worked very well, makes me feel safer knowing i did this. i didn't realize how hot the heat gun was and when i touched the metal fixture base it was pretty warm, so i had to let it cool down before mounting to the wall. with that done, i turned on the electricity in the basement and came back inside. in my mind i was expecting smoke and fire as my DIY electrician work failed spectacularly. instead, when i flipped the switch, the halogen worked perfectly, no sparks, no fire, just bright light.
the only thing i'm worried about is my poor splicing job. it could heat up at the frayed junction points. when that happens, i'll need to redo the splices. i guess i'll know because the halogen light will start flickering again. hopefully the heat shrink tubing will keep everything in place and prevent moisture from corroding the splice points.
solar production was okay until noontime when there was a sudden drop due to approaching storm clouds. it only began to rain in the evening. final production for the day: 23.76kWh.
i figured it'd take at least a few days for my MRA results to come in, but my doctor sent me an e-mail today, said everything looked normal, it's not renal artery stenosis. that's a little disappointing, because that would've easily explained my high blood pressure and could be fixed. but on the other hand, i don't need surgery, just need to keep on taking my pills.
i finally set up apilio.io so i could do multiple-if's IFTTT commands. there isn't a whole lot in terms of documentation, i just sort of fumbled my way through it. in IFTTT i created several applets: if i enter/leave my home location then make a web request, if sunset/sunrise then make a web request, if webhooks issue "light_on" then turn on lamp, and if webhooks issue "light_off" then turn off lamp. in apilio.io i created corresponding variables, conditions, and a logicblock that says: if i'm home and it's sunset then turn on the light, otherwise turn off the light. i waited until after sunset to see if it'd work. i was in the kitchen at the time but when i came back into the living room the light was on. success!
i finally made my risotto tonight. normally i just use half the package of italian sausages (3 sausages) but i used up the whole package. instead of squeezing out the meat from the casings and forming into tiny meatballs, i simply cut the raw sausages into smaller pieces, casing and all, to save time. i was afraid the sausage pieces would be too big, but once properly cooked, they shrink down in size anyway.
once everything was cooked, i added 3/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese. next time, i should just use 1/2 cup of cheese (as in the original recipe), 3/4 is a bit salty. i ate half, which means 1/2 cup of arborio rice, 3 sausages, a can of chicken broth, and 1/2 cup of white wine. i felt bloated afterwards.
i went outside tonight to test out the radar motion detector light bulb installed on my backyard porch. it worked amazingly well, just walking by the porch at night will trigger the light to turn on. it's also not overly sensitive that it can be triggered from inside the house. i'm still not quite sure how it works, so i went online to research. this radar sensor is a fairly new technology for the small device market. small sensor boards can be purchased for 99¢ on ebay. it works by using microwaves and doppler shifts. it's also amazing because apparently it's designed to sense bodies, not moving objects. in one youtube video, a tester was throwing things at the sensor which didn't trigger, but the moment he walk by the sensor, it'd light up.