this morning was a community garden work day, beginning at 10am. not too many people showed up, and a few that were there were working exclusively on their own plots instead of taking care of the common spaces. i was paired up with karen to set up the soaker hoses. if it was me i'd just leave them in year round, as putting them back in every spring means a small amount of collateral damage in tender emerging perennials. afterwards karen and i tried to even out the new metal trellis by the front entrance with the help of taller tim. it took some effort, a lot of rock shims and beating with mallet, and when it looked like we finally got it leveled, we discovered it wasn't leveled at all. everyone seemed to have enough garden work by that time and i finally left around 12:30pm.
i left for belmont and arrived a bit before 1pm. i had my 70-300mm telephoto lens but there weren't too many people by the owl site in fresh pond so i didn't bother stopping. my mother fixed me some chicken noodles for lunch. i wanted to do some maple tree pruning but my father was not inspired. it was a warm day but there'd be plenty more warm days especially next week.
my parents' electricity bill for april 2018 was available for download. this is the 2nd month where we had a surplus of electricity. even though we used more electricity than last month (when my parents were away on vacation), it was still more than twice as less as last april. belmont light said we consumed 187kWh, but that's not including the 129kWh of electricity we used directly from the solar panels themselves, so actually we used a total of 316kWh this billing cycle. like last month, we ran a credit, so not only did we not have to pay any electricity, but $32.45 was added to our $32.34 credit from march, for a total credit of $64.79. if we keep up at this rate - making $30 worth of credit per month - we may have so much credit we'll never have to worry about paying for electricity ever again.
the spring season is starting a bit later than usual because it was so cold in april. in the backyard there are some activities: pussy willow catkins are flowering, the quince is in bloom, peonies are emerging from underground, and a bush of dutchman's breeches has formed in the shady perennial bed.
while my mother went with my sister to walk hailey in winchester fells, i went with my father to the waltham costco to get a new car battery for the honda element. the waltham costco is smaller than the everett costco, but it has an underground parking garage besides a surface lot. we'd never visited the underground garage before, but my father knew that was where the car tires/batteries department was (separate from the main warehouse). there was nobody there when we arrived, but a young man wearing a mechanics jumpsuit came to greet us. the transaction went pretty quickly, the guy even found a newer battery for us. we exchanged it for our old honda battery, which meant we didn't have to pay the $15 core fee. but the price seemed off. when we looked online the battery was only supposed to be $75 but we were getting charged $90. both my father and i thought it was wrong, but when we asked about it, the mechanic verified that was the correct price.
we then moved the car and went upstairs to the main warehouse. there was so many empty parking spots, we wondered why we ever bothered to park outside, where it's always crowded. there was a bank of bottle recycling machines on the lower level, something we never knew. my father wanted to check the prices on chest freezers, but because of the smaller space, they didn't have any floor units.
we also checked to see if they carried any winplus led ceiling lights. my father wanted to get it back in february when we first saw it on sale, but didn't have time as my parents were leaving for vacation. but he told me if i did go to costco, to buy the light so we could try it. when they came back, we were disappointed to discover the everett costco didn't have any in stock (even though they still had a demo model), and when i checked online it seemed that costco didn't carry it item anymore. but good news: the waltham costco still had them in stock for $25 so we grabbed one.
we went to the home depot next door because they also sell freezers. the waltham home depot is very hidden and hard to find, there are no signs nearby to let you know there's even a home depot there. though next door to costco, it's actually built higher up on an adjoining hill, and the only way in and out is via a cul-de-sac road.
they carried the 21 cu. ft. GE freezer my parents got last week, but more expensive ($810, we paid $740). they also carried a smaller 14.1 cu. ft. version that sells for $585. they also had chest freezers, but the only one available was the larger version and my father was looking for something smaller.
afterwards we went to the garden department to check out their flowering trees. a popular item is their 4-in-1 grafted fruiting trees (in apples and cherries); seems like a cool idea but i can easily imagine pruning too much and losing a whole variety. we left with a small can of rustoleum white enamel paint for the bottom of the commercial freezer to cover up some rusty patches.
my mother was already back at home, looking online for cheap airfares to taiwan. she's decided they will go back for the month of october to visit my grandmother. by that time my grandmother will have already moved to her new apartment (actually moving next month). my mother found flights through cheapoair, traveling on japan airline (JAL), which she's heard good things about. i ended up helping her buy a pair of tickets for $820/each. unfortunately cheapoair doesn't allow you to select your actual seats (or maybe it's a JAL issue), just whether you wanted a window, an aisle, or to be sitting together. also, they charge you a seat selection fee ($30) regardless if you want to select your seats or not.
i help my father put the new battery into the honda element. it's nothing hard, just an extra pair of hands is helpful in seating the heavy battery. after we secured it, i could tell already it was working without even starting the car because all the interior lights turned on when i opened the door. my father started up the engine without issue and test drove the car around the block to make sure it was still working. he checked the battery voltage already, full battery, no need to recharge it. however, only later when we looked at the receipt and the price online did we discover that in fact costco did charge us for the wrong battery. our fitment is 11, but they charged us for a 9. i could see how they made that mistake because the product code is different by just a single number. that means we'd need to go back to costco to get a refund.
next we installed the winplus LED ceiling light. i wanted to be careful in removing the old circline fluorescent fixture, in case the winplus wasn't bright enough and we needed to put back the old light. that was the problem when we bought an LED ceiling fixture back in february; its 1100 lumens was noticeably dimmer than the fluorescent, that's why we returned it the same day. but my father was incessant on replacing the fluorescent (though in terms of energy consumption it was negligible, maybe a few watts less versus the circline), so he snipped the wires instead of trying to unwrap the old electrical tape connectors. the fluorescent fixture has never been removed, and was probably the original kitchen light when the house was built in the 50's. it still works, but the wiring to the ballast seemed frayed from age. with the winplus light partially suspended, we turned on the electricity to test its brightness. it was pretty bight, so after turning off the electricity again, my father went to work cleaning up the wiring for a cleaner fit before finishing the install. the finish on the winlight seems better. though the covering is plastic, it didn't feel cheap like the led ceiling light we tried before, this one felt thicker, heavier, more substantial.
what makes the winplus LED ceiling light unique isn't that it uses LED's; those are fairly common nowadays. what makes the winplus different is its smart capabilities. it has both light and motion sensor, so it can turn on when it's dark, or when there's people around. the different color LED's also allow you to change the light spectrum, from warm to cool. the light also has a timer, can turn off automatically when there's no activity, between 1 minute to 30 minutes. the motion sensor's sensitivity can also be adjusted, triggering when someone is very near or very far. all this is setting with a remote control. the only thing it doesn't have is IoT capability, so i can't communicate with it via wifi (xiaomi makes a ceiling light that has that called the yeelight that sells for $89).
the thing i've realized with most sensor lights is it doesn't always work the way you want. we realized soon afterwards that the 1 minute timer was too short a duration. when my mother was in the kitchen chopping some vegetables, the light began to dim, which indicates it's about to turn off. i expanded the range of motion sensing, but it's still possible for the light to think no one is in the kitchen. i fixed it by making it turn off after 5 minutes, but if you just run into the kitchen to grab something, the light will turn on automatically, but then stay on for 5 minutes before turning off. so the sensor technology still needs some maturing. another thing i noticed is even though the LED's are bright, they still shine downwards. for the most part the kitchen is entirely illuminated, but i can tell the peripheries are slightly dimmer. the brightest area is directly underneath the light, like standing underneath the sun. the fixture needs to be designed so that a certain number of LED's also point to the side as well, not just all pointing down.
it's cool that the color temperature can be adjusted. 100% warm is too yellowy, and 100% cool too blue, like being underwater. i like it somewhere in between, but my mother prefers a bluer hue to match the color temperature of the old circline fluorecent. auto on is pretty cool as well, especially since there's no light switch coming into the kitchen from the living room. but it surprises me every time, i'm so used to walking across the kitchen to turn on the light, i think maybe somebody turned on the light for me. the motion sensor is also pretty quick to trigger when someone walks into the dark kitchen (it's when someone is in the kitchen a long time that the sensor sometimes doesn't trigger). i don't know if these features are gimmicks, but worst case scenario the light can be used as a regular ceiling light, turned on and off from the light switch.
after dinner i biked back to cambridge. it was a little chilly but fortunately i remembered to bring a light jacket stuffed in my backpack.