i set the heat for 4:30am this morning, so kevin wouldn't wake up to a cold house. when i woke up at 6am he was already gone, but left the kitchen lights on, which i closed before going back to bed. my mother called me around 9:20am while i was still sleeping. i didn't realize what it was at first because i didn't recognize the default google pixel ringtone, it was pleasant. my mother asked if i needed a ride since it was so cold outside (14°F). rain and snow might be an issue, but cold temperature has never stopped me from biking, not even extreme cold. i take it as a personal challenge, a bad of honor.

i left by 11:30am, gave the weather a chance to warm up. by then temperature was in the mid 20's under a bright sun. the body experiences new sensations when riding in the extreme cold. i was bundled up but i felt it in my legs first, a slight chill (i just wore my flannel khakis, no thermal underwear layer). i was unfazed, knowing after a few minutes of pedalling they would warm up. i had on my wool mittens which kept my fingers warm but my thumbs starting to hurt towards the end, all by themselves. i don't think my eyeballs were freezing but the cold had crept behind my eye sockets and gave me a touch of ice cream headache. i could feel the area between my nose and mouth starting to freeze up, bits of stubbles turning to ice, along with the hairs inside my nostrils. i took it slow, the cold already takes a toll, no need to further exert myself.

i was late arriving in belmont because i was trying to log into my QQ account on my new phone. QQ wanted to verify who i was but the only way to do that was by sending a text message to my old china number from 2016, a number i've long since abandoned. to login with a different number i had go through a more thorough security check, one that involves giving them my US number (which they didn't accept) and providing my chinese identification number which i don't have because i'm not a chinese citizen. all of this was in very technical chinese writing which i had to decipher using google translate. finally i gave up. it still works on my oneplus one (OPO) phone, and i can also access it through a mac os app, but it requires the OPO to verify. so much for handing down the OPO to my mother. i'll tackle the problem again some other time, maybe get my roommate kevin to help. i don't use my QQ very much anymore, but i still have it for purely sentimental reasons, and it's my only connection to a large group of people i befrieded when i worked in china.

good news though: the nest app on my pixel phone finally worked. this after i spent over an hour last night texting with the nest technical support department. i was just glad there was somebody there i could chat with, and they even escalated me to someone higher up, who wasn't able to fix my either. they finally told me they'd hand it off to an engineer who would get back to me next week with an answer. i wasn't hopeful it'd work, so i was happy the problem just sort of fixed itself this morning. unfortunately, while trying to figure out a fix, i accidentally broke the "works with google" link so i can no longer control the thermostat using the google home mini speaker. i think i have a fix but i'm in no hurry.

it's been so cold there's still a little bit of snow on the roof, though nothing on the panels (i made sure of that on thursday). there was just a small piece of suet in the feeder so i dumped it out for the squirrels and put in a new one. with the suet feeder situated in such a way that it's pretty much squirrel-proof, the only critters that feed on the suet are birds (primarily woodpeckers) and they're light eater so i single block can last a month or two.

it's been nearly 24 hours since i've had the google pixel 3XL, i've played with it enough to get a feel for it. here are my observations and gripes:

  • i had a chance to listen to the audio this morning, i wasn't impressed. maybe the sound has too much bass, for me it didn't seem very clear. could just be i'm so used to the sound on my oneplus one, the sound on every other phone seems weird to me.
  • the screen using P-OLED. are they supposed to be better? because when i view it from an angle, it loses its brightness. compared that with the IPS screen on the moto G7, which is bright uniformly regardless of the viewing angle, likewise with the oneplus one, which also uses IPS. so because of that, i run the pixel with a screen brightness around 85%. it probably drains the battery, but anything less looks too dim.
  • i like the nearly all-screen design of the pixel (if you can disregard the big notch), but the edge is so thin, i often accidentally open an app along the edges when i grab the phone. it's a little annoying, and something i've tried to counter by increasing the icon layout margin using the nova launcher settings. i think it'll be better once the protective case for the phone arrives, which will add more padding along the edges.
  • even though the screen is bigger (6.3" versus the 5.5" of my oneplus one [OPO]), the pixel is about the same size as my OPO, just a few millimeters longer. i got used to the longer screen right away, but was startled to discover just how long it really was when i was setting up the phone and rearranging the app icons on the home screen. including the dock at the bottom of the screen, my OPO could fit 6 rows of icons; on the pixel 3XL i can fit 7 rows. the extra 7th row i didn't know what to do with so i temporarily put a search bar there.
  • i like the thinness of the pixel 3XL. it may just be because it currently doesn't have a case yet. it's the same thickness as the moto G7 (0.31 inches) but when i hold the G7 in my hand it feels much thicker (it also has a case). when my case arrives next week i'll be able to see if it adds any considerable thickness to the phone. the 3XL also weighs more than the G7 (6.49 oz. vs 6.07 oz.) but the G7 felt heavier.
  • battery life on the pixel 3XL isn't so great, even though it's listed as a 3430 mAh Li-Po battery. i wonder since the phone is an "amazon renewed" if maybe the battery is just old so it doesn't hold as much charge anymore. but if you ask me, i couldn't tell the difference between a new pixel and a renewed pixel, it looks completely brand new, not a scratch, not a dead pixel. the only way i could tell is because it simply came in a cardboard box and didn't include a lot of the google accessories that'd come with a brand new phone, just a knockoff amazon charger and USB-C cable. anyway, started using it this morning for 9:20am onwards, by 7:30pm it was down to 13% and was already giving me the low battery warning. so not even 12 hours. maybe i'm doing stuff that's draining the battery so i got rid of the animated background (even though it looked cool) and chose a darker wallpaper. it'll take some more time to figure out if anything else is draining too much juice.
  • i'm too used to the customization options on lineageOS, like changing the placement of the menubar clock and choose a different battery status icon, things i can't do with the default google android ROM, not even with nova launcher as the user interface. it's not a big deal but makes me better appreciate how much better (at least in terms of customizations) lineageOS is.
  • i don't like the placement of the volume and power buttons: power above the volume rocker all on the right side. every phone places their buttons differently. on my old oneplus one, the power was on the right, the volume rocker on the left. there must be some theory behind why they put the buttons where they did. maybe easier for predominant right-handed users? i'll learn to adjust eventually.
  • the pixel is faster than my OPO, but it's not something i can really sense since i thought my OPO was already fast enough. the one thing i noticed though is when i browse the reddit app, videos and gifs always play now. on the OPO, after a period of surfing, videos and gifs will partially play or stop altogether.
  • the pixel 3XL has a large notch on the top of the screen to make room for the phone speaker and 2 selfie cameras. because of the notch, there's very little menubar real estate, so at most it can only display 3 notification icons. i hardly notice the notch but most phones these days do away with it, or get creative by having a small teardrop notch (like the moto G7) or just a small round cutout for the camera.
  • something that's very simple and useful and cheap to add but is somehow missing on the pixel is any indicator LED light. on my oneplus one, the indicator would glow or flash different colors depending on different notifications. it was just a small thing but one that's very useful and i kind of that on the pixel. i did however set my mi band 4 to vibrate whenever i get certain notifications (like calls or text) so that's my new way of receiving notifications. i do miss the glowing led light though.
  • the main reason why anyone would choose this phone over something else that's just as comparable and cheaper (like the moto G7) is because of the camera. not so much the hardware (though the optical stabilizer definitely helps) but rather the software intelligence that goes into improving each and every photo. i'm just constantly floored by how clear and sharp and colorful the photos are. night sight is amazing, i imagine every phone will have something similar in the near future, unless google opens up its camera app magic, despite the fact that the app itself has already been ported to many other phones. it definitely makes me reconsider whether or not to take my dSLR with me everywhere, when the pixel camera works perfectly well, and sometimes even better. the one thing i don't like about the pixel camera is the image is flipped in selfie mode. i think they do it because it feels more natural to the phototaker, but i actually hate it for many reasons. for instance, if you have any words in the photos, they appear reversed. not sure if it's something i can change in the settings, but i can easily fix it in photoshop.
  • another reason for updating my phone (besides just replacing some outdated equipment) is finally consolidating my phone's call and texting capability with my online experiences. i didn't start using a smart phone until 2014. yes, i was a late adopter, and probably the impetus to get me to upgrade was because my sister had a spare iphone 5s. that year i spent in chongqing though, i did buy a simple smart phone (ZTE V975); just because everybody had one (i was using a nokia candybar phone up to that point) and i got it mainly to qq chat with a girl there. but i had a simple data plan and only used the phone sparingly, connecting onto wifi whenever possible.

    when i came back home to the states, i did my research and bought a oneplus one phone; i knew it wouldn't work with verizon, but i was hopeful i could get my family to switch our phone service to t-mobile. fast forward 6 years later, we're still on verizon (my sister is the lone holdout, threatening to remain on verizon on her own even though her single verizon plan bill would be nearly equal to our group family plan bill if we switched to t-mobile).

    but ever since i had a smart phone starting in 2014, i've always had 2 phones: the iphone 5s for calling/texting/gps and also photography (once i discovered how good the camera was) and the oneplus one for web surfing. the fact that i'm at home most of the time meant i always had wifi access so it wasn't difficult to live with 2 phones. but if i was going out, couldn't i just leave the oneplus one at home? i tried that a few times but discovered it'd mess up my gps tracking history because google thought i was at two places at once. so for the sake of gps accuracy, i always have to carry both phones no matter where i went.

    it'd always been a dream - 6 years dream - to consolidate my phone devices. what if i could have just one phone that could do everything? and i wouldn't have to carry 2 phones all the time? i probably would've stayed with the status quo for a few more years, but when i switched our family plan to unlimited last month, that got me thinking about a phone upgrade. plus my father's moto G4 plus started malfunctioning, so i had to shop for a new phone for him anyway.

    i wasn't going to get myself the latest flagship; upgrading from a 2014 iphone and android phone, anything made within the last 1-2 years would be a far superior upgrade. my one criteria is that the phone needed to have a good camera. i'd heard good things about samsung phones in terms of photo quality, and i briefly checked them out, but i didn't like the fact that i couldn't unlock the phone if i ever wanted to change the ROM at some future date.

    that left just the google pixel phones, which from reviews was touted to have one of the best camera phones if not the best. i knew they could be expensive, with the latest pixel 4 iteration starting from $530/$610 (depending on if you want the regular or XL version). but they also had the more wallet friendly 3a series, with a brand new unocked pixel 3a 64GB selling for $320. in the end i decided on the amazon renewed pixel 3 64GB for $260, risking buying a refurbished phone just to save a few extra bucks. phone was great, looked brand new, but the screen was too small, so i replace it with a piel 3XL for $280, just $20 more but with a larger eye-friendly screen.

    anyway, long story short, i'm still getting used to having just one phone that does everything. when i carrying the pixel 3XL around, i keep on thinking, where's my other phone? but i like the simplicity now, and having an unlimited plan means i never have to worry about data ever again, i can go online whenever and where ever i want.

if i was excited about yesterday's record production then today i'm doubly excited. yet again we had another day of record production, this time a perfect bell curve under a cold crystal clear sky. the sky did get a little milky in the late afternoon, but by then the panels had already done most of the work. we also reached a new milestone, something i could see was about to happen since yesterday: we broke the 40kWh mark with a final production of 40.49kWh.

we had beef and tofu stew for dinner, served with mantou buns and bread. afterwards my father helped me fill up the sichuan paocai jar. traditionally, once the fermenting brine has matured, it can be reused over and over again, just adding the necessary ingredients to keep it going. my mother had already dredged out all the pickled vegetables last weekend, so the jar was waiting to be refilled. i was afraid there wouldn't be enough brine so i whipped up a batch of extra using 3 cups of water with 1 ounce (weighed) of salt. my father helped me chop up the vegetables - chinese cabbage, carrots, daikon radish, tender ginger - while i sacrificed my right hand and used it to stuff the vegetables into the jar. we did it in layers, each layer then getting a sprinkle of sichuan peppercorn and thai hot chili peppers. we ended up not really needing the extra brine i created, but still used up about a cup to top off the jar so all the vegetables would be submerged. we then left placed it on a tray (to catch any leaking fluids) and left it to ferment. given how ripe the existing brine solution was (the jar opened up with a loud pop as waste carbon dioxide was released), it shouldn't take long for the vegetables to be ready to eat. but i like my paocai extra sour, give it a few weeks at least if not longer.

i went outside to the backyard to test the night sight on my pixel camera. it made the dark sky look like it was dusk and showed the stars. i wanted to see if i could try the astrophotography setting, but there's no way to choose that option, it just triggers automatically when the app senses you're outside shooting in the dark. i tried the google camera app on my father's moto G7 and it was able to take advantage of night sight as well. my father came out to try out the camera app himself, hoping to get a photo of the orion constellation.

i returned home by 8pm. kevin still hadn't come back from his ski trip. based on his schedule, i figured the earliest he'd be back would be 8:30pm (leave ski place by 5pm, 2-1/2 hours to drive back, another hour to have dinner), which gave me half an hour to use the bathroom and take a shower in peace. afterwards i tried the playground option on my pixel phone, interacting with augmented reality characters. amazingly enough, kevin came home almost exactly at 8:30pm.

this morning was one of the coldest days this winter, but kevin said there was no wind on the mountain top, just a lot of sunshine. he tried the beginner and immediate slopes on mt.cannon, but wasn't daring enough for the advanced slopes. his group - 9 total - actually left early by 3:30pm; this was because the ski place actually closes at 4pm, to reopen later in the evening for night skiing. they drove back and stopped in concord to have dinner at some american steak/seafood place. kevin ended up getting a burger, and was baffled as to how to eat it. i also discovered that everyone else who went skiing were non-chinese; kevin tried to get one of his chinese coworkers to come but he was afraid of injuries. it makes sense though, up until kevin, i never met a chinese graduate student who skied, it's not a popular hobby in china because they don't have many good skiing mountains.