the aquarium was overdue for a cleaning. i've been meaning to clean it more often - like weekly - but i only seem to get around to it once a month, when the algae has caked the side of the glass walls that it becomes hard to see and thread algae overgrows the driftwood, choking the java ferns. i now just have 5 neon tetras left, from an original purchase of 11 fish. how it happened i don't know, the last time i counted i had 8-9 tetras. was it the dirty water? poor filtration? not enough food? who knows. i just know that tetras can live to be 10 years, and more than half of mine have already died in just 1 year. the one piece of good news is that my anubias nana seems to be doing very well (purchased nearly 2 years ago). originally just attached to a small piece of driftwood, it's since crawled across to the larger driftwood. unlike the java ferns, thread algae doesn't seem particularly attracted to the anubias foliage. it also seems to be doing well with the amount of light i provide. with the java ferns slowly diminished, i'm looking to add some more aquatic plants, hoping that the more plants i have, the less nutrients are available to the algae. i saved the fish tank water and used it to water my houseplants.

very few plants can survive the near dark conditions of my southern facing back porch french door window. many have tried, most of all died. however, some plants do make it. not sure if i say they thrive, but they manage to stay alive, despite my lackluster care. christmas cactus seem to do well. the diffused sunlight and cool conditions is ideal for flower production later in the season. the second plant that can live there are the prayer plants. i got my first one back in may 2007. it grew pretty well and i got some really nice foliage. however when i left for chongqing for a year between 2013-2014, nobody took care of my houseplants and when i came back all my plants were dead, including the prayer plant. so the one i have now is a new plant. over the years it's grown kind of leggy (it even flowered one time), so not only was it time to repot the plant, but to divide it up as well.

i'd already bought a bag of potting soil last week, and grabbed a few plastic pots from the basement. i also bought some rooting hormone powder, to replace my old powder which had long expired. removed from the growing shelf indoors, the prayer plants seemed even more spindly. i removed all the dead stems, and cut the living ones to smaller sizes so they can be repotted. before putting them into the dirt, i dipped the cut ends in some rooting hormone powder. i ended up with one large container and 4 medium containers. i plan on donating a few to my parents (for the grow room). one thing i discovered is that prayer plant roots form nodules underground. instead of throwing out the roots and nodules, i buried them in the soil as well, maybe they might form some new plants.

my mother called me in the afternoon right when i was dividing and repotting my prayer plant. she asked me to come down to the cafe to help my 2nd aunt set up her old LINE account on her new ipad. so after finishing up with my houseplant choir, i biked down to the cafe. for some reason LINE wouldn't recognize my aunt's username and password. i finally ended up logging in using her phone number to receive an authentication code. once i did that, i was able to log into her old account, plus all her previous chat transcripts were restored from a backup.

i also got a chance to check out the new 1000W XECCON LED grow light that'd arrived at the cafe. i brought the wattmeter so we could check how much power it was using. advertised at 130W, it was only drawing 100W, regardless if it was on vegetative or flowering mode. the mode selection is kind of weird. when turned on its defaults to vegetative, which should be bluish but it appears more of a whitish color with faint pink hues (like a pale fuchsia). the other toggle switch activates flowering mode. all the leds turn on in this mode, but the previous "blue" leds grow dimmer, and the wattage actually drops a tiny amount from 100W to 99W. flowering mode color is magenta, and afterwards everthing appears green to the eyes for a few minutes after the light is turned off. the leds are COB leds, the same kind on modern led gadgets, like flashlights and strip lights. supposedly they're brighter yet more energy efficient, though it's hard to quantify. the leds are definitely bright, but if you look at them from the edge, you can see them without getting blinded. there are also 4 leds that appear greenish: i'm assuming those are the UV and IR leds. i thought there'd be just 100 leds but there are actually 192 leds.

the 1000W XECCON only has one fan, and it's pretty loud. not as big a deal for us since it'll live in a basement grow room, but it can get annoying if you had to work nearby and listen to it all day. the leds are attached to a solid rectangular metal board which acts as the a heat sink. in other grow light assemblies i've seen large finned heat sinks but apparently these don't get hot enough to warrant something that big.

one of the weird things about this light is the enclosure says VANDER (vander life) even though it's sold under XECCON. nowhere does XECCON appear - whether it's the label or the packaging or even the one-sheet manual. the light itself is stamped with the model YT-ZEWB300NZ, which actually isn't any of the models mentioned in the manual. the closest match is YT-ZEWA300NZ, which accordingly to the manual is a 384 led grow light. a search online reveals a 2000W XECCON grow light which uses 384 leds: looks to be the same size enclosure, just with more leds and 2 fans instead of 1. the manual shows a YT-ZEWA200NZ model which uses 192 leds and looks similar to what we have except it has 2 fans. there does exist a very similar looking VANDER LIFE 1000W grow light which is currently unavailable on amazon. vander does sell another grow light advertised as also 1000W but it's in a square enclosure with only 96 leds. my educated guess is they're all the same company - vander, vander life, xeccon - and all the lights are haphazardly slapped together and equally carelessly advertised to make a quick buck. the fact that there was a 30% off coupon for this 1000W XECCON shows that they're trying to liquidate their inventory. makes me very suspicious as to the quality of their products.

before i left, i showed my father some cheap solar panels i found on ebay. the battery in the sun room definitely needs a panel larger than 1.5W to charge it up. the current going rate for solar panels is about $1 per watt: 50W panel sells for $50, 100W for $100. i was pushing for a panel that uses MC4 connectors, which meant it'd be waterproof. there were rigid frames or flexible panels, though i prefer the bendable kind because they're lighter. but there's also a whole category of low wattage flexible solar panels (10,20,50) that sell for super cheap; the only caveat is they don't use MC4, but instead have a simple non-waterproof junction box that features onboard USB charging ports and thin-wire leads that connect to either alligator clips or cigarette lighter, neither option making sense since without a controller you would never want to directly connect it to a car battery for fear of overcharge damage. but a 50W panel was only $31 (from a US seller no less) so my father decided on that model.

creamy parmesan dressing

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 shredded parmesan
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp worcestershire
1 tsp hot sauce
salt & pepper

i found a simple creamy parmesan salad dressing that didn't use greek yogurt as its base. instead, the primary ingredient is mayonnaise: maybe not as healthy but definitely tastes much better. the first 3 ingredients seemed basic: mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, lemon juice. somewhere in my cooking memory i remember you need an acidic ingredient (like lemon juice) to emulsify the dressing. the remaining ingredients were just extra, although the worcestershire seemed like a mistake as it darkened the dressing somewhat. it tasted so much better than what i made yesterday. i still have a bit of shredded chicken and lettuce left over to make one last salad tomorrow or friday.