i swung by the community garden on my way to belmont. i took the motorcycle, it's been a while since i rode, i was even afraid it wouldn't start. taking the bicycle would've give me more exercise, but today was shaping up to be the hottest day this week, and i'd save time on the motorcycle. also i figured i'd get my exercise from gardening. even though it was sort of rainy during the memorial day weekend, the garden still didn't look like it got enough water. my plant collars didn't seem like they did anything, there were a few new chewed spots. my only hope is for my seedlings grow fast enough that they can outpace the hungry mollusks. i discovered slugs seem to avoid eating my red chrysanthemum seedlings however. the eggplant leaves turned dark purple when i first planted them, but now the leaves are changing back to green. my milkweeds are doing very well this season, almost too well. they've started to spread, and i'm sure my plot neighbors will be getting milkweeds of their own soon.
next stop was the watertown home depot, where i picked up a light switch to replace my front porch timer switch. there are all sorts of options, from single to multiple poles, to 15 or 20 amperage, and residential or industrial. i picked a 15A single-pole preferred (leviton RS115 $1.29). i also browsed their outdoor plant department (located in the parking lot). last time i was there i regret not getting a pot of red columbines, so i bought one this time (2.72QT $6.98). i carefully selected the best one, i don't know who runs their outdoor garden department, but a lot of the plants were dry. they had some with a lot of flowers, but the leaves were turning yellow. i picked one that didn't have that many flowers, but did have a lot of flowerbuds, and more importantly green leaves. when i went to pay, they didn't have any plastic or paper bags, so i had to carefully pack the plant in my side bag, trying not to ride too fast as the columbine was just blowing in the wind. fortunately columbines are pretty sturdy, i wouldn't do this with too many other plants.
once i arrived in belmont, i watered the plants in the backyard which took more than half an hour. all the money plants were wilting, not from the lack of water, but from the intense heat. i went back inside close to 12:30pm to eat some leftover chicken wings for lunch. i then went back outside and spent the next 2 hours doing yard work.
we cleared out RB4 yesterday and i finally planted the remaining seedlings: 3 summer choice tomatoes, 4 habaneros, 3 hungarian wax, 2 thai basil, 2 eggplants. i dug all the holes first, then sprinkled some fertilizer, before planting. afterwards i cut plastic collars for all them. here in belmont it's not the slugs or snails i fear, but rather hungry rabbits, although i haven't seen any in the backyard ever since we uncovered that rabbit's nest and cleared away a lot of the brush and loose logs underneath the grapevine and elsewhere.
i cleared out RB3. half of the bed is filled with foxglove seedlings mixed with a few stray hollyhock seedlings. we decided to let those mature, it's not a good spot for growing vegetables anyway because most of the day it's shaded by the maple canopy. so we're only using half of RB3. i pulled out all the arugula (set them in a bucket in case my plants want to salvage the leaves), transplanted any hollyhock seedlings i found, then added a 50lbs. bag of black cow manure into the soil. i also prepared the half bed in RB0 (the other half currently taken up by my garlics), adding half a bag of manure and a 0.75 cu.ft. bag of topsoil. i didn't have time to plant anything in these new beds, but RB0 i will probably sprinkle some cilantro seeds while RB3 i'll plant some zucchini. i'll also grow some cucumbers in between the tomato cages.
i planted moonflower seeds along the cypress vine seedlings by the southern fence. i used up the whole package (an old package), if they all germinate, we're looking at a wall of pretty white flowers later in the summer. i divided up the columbines - there were actually 3 bunches - using a knife to cut the dense roots. the label called them aquilegia x 'origami red & white': aquilegia is just the scientific name for the genus.
i thought it was later but only 2:40pm by the time i finished up. had it been later i would've stayed but i decided to go home instead. my father stopped by in the late afternoon to drop off some beef soup my mother had made, along with some dried noodles. we went next door to star market to stock up on some drinks - polar seltzers and cokes on sale, 5 for $10 (must buy 5). it's easier with a car, the drinks are my parents' place anyway. afterwards i just walked home.
as the case with my community garden plot, my own home garden looked a little dry so i watered the front and backyard. i noticed that the nasturtium seedlings i planted about a week ago had already germinated.
i swapped out the timer switch with the toggle light switch i got earlier. it'd be so much easier if the circuit breaker box was located upstairs, but i kept running down into the basement to turn off and on the breaker for the porch light, i must've gone downstairs more than a dozen times. the wiring in the switch box is confusing. instead of 2 main sets of wires (live, neutral, ground), there are 3 sets, and two of them are bundled together for some reason i don't understand, and all the ground cables are wired together as well. i was also confused when i used the voltage electricity that the two wires going into the timer switch were both live.
only after i removed the timer switch did i discover that one of wire was actually neutral (i put some red tape on the live wire so i'll know in the future). once i made that realization, it was pretty simple afterwards. i noticed the other light switch isn't grounded, but thought it was important to ground this new switch because it'd be controlling a wifi smart bulb. but i couldn't figure out a way to take apart the bundle of ground wires so decided to not ground the switch for the time being, maybe pigtail a solution later using a spare wire. i only found out later that the switch is actually self-grounding, so it saved me the trouble of having to figure out a grounding solution. i also thought i had to get a new wallplate, but discovered that the timer switch was actually piggybacking onto a standard two toggle plate. when i turned the electricity back on and put in the smart bulb, it seemed to work.
end of the month coming and with harvard's graduation already over, the streets of cambridge (and most likely elsewhere in the greater boston area) are littered with treasures. already i've found a stock pot and some knives. today i salvaged a white honeywell turboforce HT-904 fan (they sell at target for $11.99). it must've been used as a kitchen smoke fan because there was some greasy dust. it was a simple matter of opening up the case and cleaning up the parts, as good as new. also a bunch of ebay items all arrived from china today, including 10pcs. 2 x 40 male double row pine headers ($1.35), 5V IR transceiver circuit ($1.67), and 48pcs. vulcanizing rubber tire tube patches (99¢). i have enough patches for the foreseeable future.
we broke the 1000kWh barrier today, topping off at a monthly total of 1022 kWh with a production of 47.31 kWh. with just 2 more days left, the question is will we reach 1100kWh, which was my production estimate for this month.
we also got the latest electricity bill from belmont municipal light. the electric bill for this month is $58.76, but because we made $106.04 worth of electricity credit, we didn't need to pay and had $48.06 worth of remaining credit added to our rolling credit total. that's not to say we only used 261kWh of electricity this month; we actually used more, but that electricity we use during the daytime directly from the panels don't reflect on the utility bill. things might be a little different once summer really kicks in and my parents put in their air conditioners and dehumidifier. i'm still of the mindset to save electricity whenever possible, but we're making so much now that we'll never run out of credit. and once the SREC checks start rolling in (about $240 for every 1000kWh we produce), that's even more money.
i spent the rest of the day waiting for my taotronics earphones to arrive. it was getting late, and i was expecting them to postpone the shipment until tomorrow, but it was still before the 8pm cutoff time. around 7:50pm i did a final check of the shipping status. surprisingly, it began to show me the GPS location of my delivery, and said the delivery person was in the neighborhood, and that i was the next house. i looked at the map and the GPS pinpoint was almost right on top of me. so i went outside, and that's where i saw a man wearing a reflective safety vest walking down the street, seemingly looking for an address. he was making 2-3 more deliveries before he got to me, but while i waved at him to get his attention, my upstairs neighbors dave and christine came home. after i got my package, we introduced ourselves. it was my first time meeting them. they told me they went to graduate school at MIT, and when they were first married they actually lived in arcadia street for a while, so they're familiar with the neighborhood, though much has probably changed. christine said living here in cambridge has been great, and david asked me if they're being too loud to let them know ("it's been a while since we've had downstair neighbors"). they were apologetic for monday night, when they were watching the rockets-warriors game (they are naturally golden state fans being from california). i didn't even notice if they were louder than usual, just the typical upstairs tv loud bass sound.
i was excited to try the new taotronic active noise cancelling bluetooth headphones (TT-BH22). it came in a nice hard shell case. when i opened it up, the first thing i noticed was a weird smell that reminded me of a musty first floor taiwanese house. inside the earcups are the letters L and R to help you differentiate which side is which. on the right side were buttons that looked like pause, fast-forward, and backwards. on the other side was a button i assumed was the on/off switch. i turned it on and a blue led came on, but i couldn't pair it with my macbook pro. that's when i read the instructions which told me that the pause button is actually the pairing button. i pushed it (the headphones said something but i didn't hear it) but it still didn't work. the secret is to hold down the on/off button for a few seconds to enter pairing mode. only then did i see the headphones in my list of bluetooth devices. i clicked on it and pairing was instantaneous.
design-wise, the taotronics are understated but that's what i like about them. the earcups can fold completely over for compact storage (that's the only way they'll fit in the provided shell case). they fit over my ears very well, and have padding in all the right places to feel comfortable wearing on my head.
i was afraid that the sound quality would be bad for a pair of noise-cancelling bluetooth earphones so inexpensive (retails $70, typically $60, i managed to use a $20 coupon plus some accrued amazon points to bring the price down to just $18). though it got its share of positive reviews online, there were critics who said the sound was off, or that the noise-cancelling feature didn't work all that well. well, after trying these headphones for the very first time, i just want to say: wow! the sound came on loud and clear, it felt like i was completely immersed in music. what have i been doing playing around with cheap earbuds when i could've been rocking to music with over-the-ears headphones a long time ago. i went through my itunes, playing all my favorite songs. it was like falling in love with music all over again, the difference was that dramatic.
i only noticed the noise cancelling feature later. could i tell the difference? i turned on my tv and couldn't hear the audio. i took off the headphones to make sure i had the tv sound turned on, so when i put the headphones back on, the tv sounds magically disappeared. it was amazing. if a $20-40 pair of active noise cancelling headphones can do this, what can a $200 pair do?
i ended up wearing the headphones for most of the night, it was more fun playing music than watching television. i was cooking dinner in the kitchen (heating up the beef soup my mother made along with a bundle of white chinese noodles), listening to my tunes. i discovered that active noise cancelling can actually be dangerous. what if something explodes in the house and i don't hear it? i knew i can also turn off noise cancelling on these headphones, but there were no mention of that on the flimsy multi-language instruction pamphlet. i looked online and found no answers either. there are only so many buttons, there must be some secret way. that's when i discovered that the button that i thought was the on/off is actually the noise cancelling toggle. the pause button is actually the on/off button.
listening with active noise cancelling (ANC) off makes the headphones sound less dynamic, less immersive. it's not bad, but once you've experienced the sound with ANC, there's no reason to ever want to turn it off. i also tested the headphones with the AUX cable. it works, even when the headphones is completely turned off, but you can still have the ANC turned on if you want. the sounds the same as the bluetooth, there's no reason to use the AUX unless the battery in the headphones run out and there's an audio emergency. speaking of batteries, supposedly it had 25 hours of playtime (not sure how i test for that, but i take their word for it; i read a review that said it's only 20 hours, but that's still pretty good).
another thing i discovered is trying to talk with ANC turned on. it sounds like talking when i have a cold and my sinuses are all blocked up. it's kind of a weird sensation, but it's one way to check for ANC.
overall i'm very happy with the taotronics TT-BH22. it's not something i'd wear outside, i'm afraid of getting into an accident by not hearing on-coming traffic, which is a real possibility. maybe wear it with ANC turned off (but that defeats the purpose of ANC headphones). i think for outdoor use, i still prefer non-ANC earbuds (which reminds me, i need to get a pair of bluetooth earbuds).